A Miracle in Egypt

March 5, 2015

Samir_Khalil_SamirA miracle has occurred in Egypt, a blessing bestowed by God through the fruits of the martyrs of the Coptic Church. Samir Khalil Samir has written about it in, but he doesn’t call it a miracle. Those of us who see with the eyes of faith, though, recognize an outpouring of grace that should inspire all of us to more fervent prayer for the conversion of Muslims. I’ll come back to that politically incorrect phrase hated by the false ecumenists later.

Samir wrote this:

What Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb, Grand Imam of Cairo’s al-Azhar University, said at a conference in Makkah three days ago is one of the most important things that could have happened in the Muslim world. In his speeches, he spoke of the urgent need to revisit the teaching of Islam in schools and universities, and correct extremist interpretations of the Qur’an and the Sunnah

What Sheikh Tayeb now seems to have realized is that the matter must be addressed globally, in schools and university, among lay people as well as clerics. Work must be undertaken at all levels, throughout the Muslim world, wherever minds are educated, especially those of clerics who every Friday preach in the mosque, whose sermons are broadcast on radio and television, with much media influence.

This is the first part of the miracle. Al-Azhar University is the leading Muslim university and the top Muslim is calling for a re-examination of the teachings of Islam, a position tantamount to heresy for the ISIS crowd and deserving of assassination of the proponent by Islamic law, but one destined to light a path out of the insane darkness the extremists are imposing everywhere if enough Muslims respond positively.

Another important point Tayeb highlighted is a cause for division within Islam, namely “the bad interpretation of the Qur’an and the Sunnah”. Just to acknowledge this is a tremendous leap forward, an important act of self-criticism.

For the Christian, examination of conscience and self-reflection with repentance and a firm purpose of amendment of life is the first step towards conversion of heart. If Muslims begin to examine their religion seriously using the faculty of reason some genuine openness to objective truth may be a first step towards conversion of heart and an end to violence and war based on the Qur’an.

However, by virtue of our fallen human nature, we find this:

Regrettably, a few days before the conference, the grand imam himself had condemned the “barbaric practices” of the Islamic state, by calling for their “killing, crucifixion and chopping of the limbs” in accordance with the Qur’an. In doing so, he too took the Qur’an literally! Sadly, this ambiguity is present in the Muslim world. When, it suits them, people will quote literally the Qur’an; when it does not and they are criticized, they can always say that the Qur’an needs to be interpreted!

Nevertheless, that these ideas are even being floated cannot be chalked up merely to political motives nor to taqqiya. God is at work and we must redouble our prayers.

Samir ends this part of the article with this comment:

I do believe that what Tayeb said in Makkah is critical. If what he stressed about the Qur’an, namely its theological interpretative aspect, spreads across Islamic world, that would be a revolution.

The second part of the miracle involves what is nothing short of amazing, dumbfounding, and inspired.

Recently, something revolutionary happened: Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi ordered air strikes against the Islamic State in Libya. It is revolutionary because he gave the order after the killing of 21 Egyptian Christians. In the ongoing wars across the Muslim world, thousands of Muslims have died, but Sisi ordered the attack in retaliation for the killing of 21 Coptic Christians, acknowledging them as full citizens of Egypt.

President Sisi said that the Egypt had no interest in attacking or invading other nations but that it would defend itself and its citizens. The Egyptian leader suggested that Arab countries might want to fight the Caliphate together.

The Egyptian president also attended the funeral services for the decapitated Christians in Cairo’s Coptic Cathedral and decided to compensate the families who lost a husband or a father.

One could make all sorts of political observations on this subject, but here we have a Muslim president of one of the more advanced nations in the Middle East and North Africa openly claiming Christians as his people and standing for their rights. It is when leaders recognize people as having intrinsic value as human beings and take their obligations to their citizens seriously that we have hope that something right and just will come of it. If all power comes from God as Jesus told Pilate, then so does the grace to use that power to bring people together. Although Muslims in Egypt are killing Copts and destroying their churches on a regular basis, now their president has stood up in opposition to them and by his example is showing how he wants his people to treat one another.

I believe that these two things coming out of Egypt are a sign that God is hearing our prayers for the conversion of Muslims although many years may pass before we see major improvement in their behavior toward one another and toward Jews and Christians. We should not give up hope but redouble our prayers instead.

Immediately after 9/11 I called for mass praying for the conversion of Muslims in an online Catholic group I participate in. My request never saw the light of day. It was censored by the moderators. Yet Jesus instructed us in Matthew 5:44 to “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” The greatest good we can do, and in the interests of world peace, is to pray for the conversion of sinners. Most particularly now, we should pray that Muslims abandon what is counter to God’s law in their religion and come to the place where their eyes will be opened to the light and truth of Christ. Each of us has a part in this on our knees in front of the Lord. Failure to desire their conversion to Christ and actively work towards it by prayer could result in our hearing Jesus say to us in Matthew 25:12, “Amen I say to you, I know you not,” or in Matthew 7: 23, “I never knew you: depart from me, you that work iniquity.” Surely the one of the greatest iniquities we can perpetrate is that of not fervently praying for the salvation of our enemy. It is tantamount to wishing him in hell.

Image: Samir, S.J., Attribution: “Steenwerck – Forum « Jésus le Messie » 2014 – Père Samir Khalil Samir – 3” by Peter Potrowl – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Samir Khalil Samir (born 10 January 1938 in Cairo, Egypt), is an Egyptian Jesuit priest, Islamic scholar, Semitologist, Orientalist, Syriacist and Catholic theologian. Based in Lebanon (Université Saint Joseph) he is a regular visiting professor of several academic institutions in Europe and the USA.

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Thursday, March 5th, 2015 conversion, religion Comments Off on A Miracle in Egypt

Chaplet for the Conversion of Priests

June 18, 2014

Sermon of St. Martin, c. 1490, unknown Master, Hungarian, Tempera on wood, 101,5 x 89,5 cm Magyar Nemzeti Galéria, Budapest*

Sermon of St. Martin, c. 1490, unknown Master, Hungarian, Tempera on wood, 101,5 x 89,5 cm, Magyar Nemzeti Galéria, Budapest*


Back in 1999 when I spent an hour in Adoration one day, I was contemplating the sad state of orthodoxy in our diocese. The bishop at that time so strongly discouraged the preaching of Church teaching against contraception that any priest who dared speak the truth in the confessional or the pulpit was moved that very week to the opposite side of the diocese, sentenced to a small out of the way parish because of vicious complaints by parishioners.

Liturgical abuse was rampant. No traditional Catholic devotions were encouraged, and at one parish, the pastor forbid his priests to attend the three hour Sunday afternoon Adoration the laity had requested. It was left to the Extraordinary Eucharistic Ministers to repose the Blessed Sacrament when it was over at 3:00.

Bizarre doctrines could be heard from many pulpits on any given Sunday, such as, we can argue with God after we’re dead so as to justify our sins. Seminarians were screened so prospects who did not believe in women priests were never accepted. The lighting of the Easter fire was concelebrated with an Episcopalian “priestess” at the church next door in one rural parish, and the event was touted as great “ecumenism” in the diocesan paper. That publication was where I first learned that there were two Jesuses. The Jesus of History and the Jesus of Faith. That’s when I found out about the Bultmannian heresy.

The Extraordinary Form of the Mass was forbidden on the grounds that “it would confuse the Protestants and we Catholics had to present a united front to them because we live in the Bible Belt.” However, it was just fine with the bishop for us to drive three hours one way to attend it in nearby dioceses. And it was fine with him that we laity could educate others about the Extraordinary Form, but only because under canon law he couldn’t stop us from doing it. When Pope Benedict XVI issued Summorum Pontificum in 2007, the bishop had no choice but to provide the Traditional Mass, but he picked the most vocally opposed priest to do the job, and we were insulted from the pulpit every Sunday for one reason or another.

Things changed under a new bishop, who is orthodox but inherited a tremendous mess. All these years since that day in Adoration when the Lord inspired me to pray a chaplet for the conversion of priests, I’ve done it quietly and privately off and on. At first it was daily, but I fell prey to discouragement over the years. Sure, things are changing for the better but it’s too slow for me. I thought maybe my prayers weren’t doing any good and prayed that chaplet less and less often. Oh me of little faith!

This week I learned that the very popular pastor of a nearby parish was relieved of his duties a couple of weeks ago for embezzling money for quite some time. That parish was almost dead before he came there, and in the past four years since he has been there, it revived with more and more people joining. Everyone knows that his personableness, enthusiastic preaching and devotion to the suffering played a big part in the revival. This priest was also one of the best confessors I’ve been to which proves that no matter how much a sinner a priest may be, God can still use him to guide us wisely in Confession. Although I am not a parishioner, his loss leaves a big hole in my heart. I did not think about how much he could need my prayers and, for the most part, I rarely hear priests ask for prayers for themselves.

Our priests are always in danger of sinning big. Satan hates them with a vengeance because he knows the Mystical Body of Christ needs them. In Zechariah 13: 7 we read, “Strike the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered: and I will turn my hand to the little ones.” Indeed, last Sunday when we attended Mass in that parish, we saw that many people were gone – between 1/3 and 1/2 of the congregation. It won’t be until some time in August that a new priest will be assigned to the parish.

I am now resolved to return to praying my “Chaplet for the Conversion of Priests” regularly and want to share it with readers who may find themselves drawn to doing the same.

Explanation of the chaplet

First though, in case anyone is thinking, “How dare you imply that priests need converting?!!!”, I must say that everyone of us needs conversion of heart, priests included. As Jesus said to the Pharisees in John 8:7, “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her”, and they all slunk off in shame.

To convert our hearts means to repent of our sins and be determined to follow that narrow way to the narrow door (Luke 13: 24). That narrow way is made of God’s instructions to us which we find in Sacred Scripture and Tradition, in obedience to the laws of the Church whether liturgical or canonical, in constant purification of our desires so that Christ becomes the center of our lives in all things.

David cries to God in penitence, “If thou hadst desired sacrifice, I would indeed have given it; with burnt-offerings thou wilt not be delighted; a sacrifice to God is an afflicted spirit; a contrite and humbled heart, O God, thou wilt not despise” (Ps. 1: 18). “Thou wilt not despise” is a way of saying, “Thou wilt love and cherish and gather to Thyself.”

Moses said to his people, “Now, when thou shalt be touched with the repentance of thy heart – and return to Him – the Lord thy God will have mercy on thee” (Deut. 30: 1-3).

The prophet Joel tells us, “Now, therefore,” saith the Lord, “be converted to Me with all your heart in fasting, and in weeping, and in mourning, and rend your hearts and not your garments, and turn to the Lord your God, for He is gracious and merciful, patient, and rich in mercy” (Joel 2: 12).

Second, this chaplet also links the priests directly with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. The primary purpose of the priest is to offer the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, the re-presentation of the sacrifice of Calvary to the Father. He stands as an Alter Christus, a mediator in the place of Christ as Christ has ordained, and is the only one who can, by the power of the Holy Spirit, confect the Holy Eucharist. He is also the mediator in place of Christ when he administers the other sacraments. Our belief in the Blessed Sacrament is central to the Catholic faith. Without the priest, we would not have the opportunity to receive the great graces from receiving the Holy Eucharist, going to Confession, the Last Rites, etc.

Third, the Blessed Mother holds all priests dearly as her special sons. While we are all sons and daughters of Our Lady by virtue of Christ’s words in John 19: 26-27, the priests are especially dear to her. They are her children in the most danger all the time because without them the Church could not exist. (See the link above.) Satan seeks to destroy the Church any way he can.

When I pray this chaplet I am fully aware that I myself need conversion daily, and it becomes an earnest prayer not only for priests, but also for my own spiritual growth. It has no approval of ecclesiastical authority, just from my pastor at the time, but I have been thinking about seeking approval so that others may have a wide access to it.

Chaplet for the Conversion of Priests

  1. Using the Rosary, begin with the Crucifix and say the Anima Christi.
  1. Offer the next four beads for the welfare of the Holy Father and his intentions: Our Father and three Hail Marys.
  1. On the “Our Father” beads say: O Sacrament Most Holy, O Sacrament Divine, all praise and all thanksgiving be every moment Thine.
  1. On the “Hail Mary” beads, say: O my Jesus, truly present in the Most Holy Sacrament of the altar, I beg Thee, convert Thy priests.
  1. Continue the chaplet through the 5 decades in this manner. At the end say three times: O Sacrament Most Holy, O Sacrament Divine, all praise and all thanksgiving be every moment Thine.
  1. After saying this say 3 times: Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us and on Thy priests.
  1. Then say 3 times: Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for us and for our priests.

*About the art: There are two related panels, painted on both sides, in the Hungarian National Gallery which once were the wings of an altarpiece dedicated to St Martin and St Nicholas. One of the wings represents St Martin and the Beggar (outer side) and the Sermon of St Martin in Albenga (inner side). The other wing depicts St Nicholas and the Daughters of the Nobleman in Pataria (outer side) as well as the scene St. Nicholas Resurrects Three Deads.

The panel represents a legendary scene from the life of St. Martin. The Bishop, having given his clothes to a needy man, celebrates mass in poor, hastily acquired garments. At the elevation of the Host angels descend to cover his bare arms.

The altar table in the sanctuary, shown in great detail, is decorated with a picture within the picture: a horizontally arranged retable with a scene of the Crucifixion. This is of special importance in the history of the development of winged altars in Hungary, for it demonstrates that this early type of retables of which very few examples have survived, was still in use at the end of the fifteenth century. Seen against the embroidered white altar-cloth the shadows are effective. The artist’s representation of the missal is most realistic; also the representation of the mitre and the Gothic style objects made of precious metals, the ciborium between two candlesticks, the chalice and the paten, the latter only just visible under the edge of the communion cloth. Realism was not, however, an end in itself; the painter introduced these details to create an atmosphere of wonder before the legendary scene. The realistic characters are also imbued with piety. The portrait-like features of the male figure kneeling on the right suggest that it was he who commissioned the altarpiece. The painter’s endeavours to represent the interior in perspective, the sharp folds shown almost in relief and the subtle colour effects all place the master of this panel among the finest Hungarian painters active in the late fifteenth century.

–          Courtesy of the Web Gallery of Art

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The Cockle in Our Lives

February 10, 2014

Kiss of Judas, Fecamp Psalter, French Miniaturist, c. 1180, The Hague

Kiss of Judas, Fecamp Psalter, French Miniaturist, c. 1180, The Hague

The Gospel for the Fifth Sunday After Epiphany in the Extraordinary Form is the parable of the man who sowed good seed in his field, but his enemy came in at night and sowed cockle seed over it. Now what kind of person would do such a thing? The farmer’s crop not only provided his living, others needed it for survival too, and future crops depended on the seed. The malicious act of a hateful heart would hurt many.

This is exactly what Satan is about. Create as much pain and suffering as possible in ways that have far reaching effects. Discourage all kindness. Choke the light of Christ out from the midst of God’s children. Seize their water and make them shrivel and die, all the while masquerading as one of the authentic stalks of grain until the very last minute when the reality of being a fake naturally emerges.

Cockle and wheat look alike when growing until the heads mature. At harvest the cockle is uprooted, bound and burned. The wheat is harvested and stored in the barn, protected from the elements, safe. We can see the obvious spiritual reference to the Last Judgment here, but let’s back up a bit and consider the time of the two growing along side each other. If we identify ourselves with the wheat, what is God showing us here of how we are to live in this very imperfect world? Why not just rip up the cockle wherever it appears so that it can’t hurt any of the wheat?

We see here the permissive will of God in action. He isn’t allowing the cockle to grow alongside the wheat because it is good, but to save the wheat. Does this not seem contradictory, allowing something evil to exist along side the good to save what is good? Yet this situation is little different from Judas staying close to Christ and the other Apostles, who knew Judas was a thief and must have scratched their heads wondering why Jesus didn’t kick him out of the group. Not until the traitorous kiss in the Garden of Olives, did Judas appear to all exactly what he was, and to the bitter end threw away the chance for mercy.

Jesus kept Judas near him and treated him with love. Clearly this is what Jesus expects of us. By allowing us to suffer the effects of those committed to evil, Christ shows us how to grow in charity, to learn to forgive, to return good for evil, to suffer injustice for the love of God, to show how to bear wrongs patiently. And while cockle can never be turned into wheat, those committed to evil ways can be converted to the Lord through kindness and good example if they so will.

It isn’t easy, of course, to navigate the entrenched evil about us. It’s quite exhausting to control our reactions to all the traps laid to ensnare us into the ways of Satan. We do no great thing by living in peace with people who are good, kind, and seeking God as we ought to be doing. We all prefer those who love peace just as we do. But, as Thomas à Kempis tells us in Book II, 3,2 of the Imitation of Christ,

it takes great virtue to live in peace with obstinate, perverse, intractable people whose ideas are not like our own.

The cockle in our lives challenges us to love perfectly, returning good for evil. We can live among the wicked without scorning them since they are God’s creation and Jesus died for them the same as He did for us, and without being influenced by them. If, as martyrs by blood or by full submission to the will of God, we are able to open the hearts of our persecutors who test us relentlessly, and make it possible by our actions for them to accept God’s grace, we have followed well in the footsteps of our Master. Deo gratias for the cockle in our lives and let us look forward to being carried into the barn.

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Monday, February 10th, 2014 conversion, spirituality 2 Comments

Pillar of Cloud

November 12, 2013

Portrait of John Henry Newman by John Everett Millais, 1881 via Wikipedia

Portrait of John Henry Newman
by John Everett Millais, 1881 via Wikipedia

Lead, Kindly Light

“Lead, Kindly Light, amidst th’encircling gloom,
Lead Thou me on!
The night is dark, and I am far from home,
Lead Thou me on!
Keep Thou my feet; I do not ask to see
The distant scene; one step enough for me.
 I was not ever thus, nor prayed that Thou
Shouldst lead me on;
I loved to choose and see my path; but now
Lead Thou me on!
I loved the garish day, and, spite of fears,
Pride ruled my will. Remember not past years!
So long Thy power hath blest me, sure it still
Will lead me on.
O’er moor and fen, o’er crag and torrent, till
The night is gone,
And with the morn those angel faces smile,
Which I have loved long since, and lost awhile!

This profound poem by Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman (1801-1890) was written in 1833, a plea for docility to God’s will at a time when he was frustrated by not being able to get back to England and to his work after a sojourn in Italy. Its original title was “Pillar of the Cloud” with a fourth verse added by someone else later.

Various composers through the 1800s set it to melodies suitable for traditional congregational singing, but in the 21st century something new happened that elevated this poem beyond the usual church service to something even more compelling to a meditative listener, and this is exactly what sacred music should do – make the words and music inseparable as a cry of the heart to God.

"He led them by a pillar of cloud", illustration from a Bible card published between 1896 and 1913 by the Providence Lithograph Company, via Wikipedia

“He led them by a pillar of cloud”, illustration from a Bible card published between 1896 and 1913 by the Providence Lithograph Company, via Wikipedia

It was prior to his entering into full communion with the Catholic Church that Newman already, unbeknownst to him well on his way to embracing the entirety of Catholicism, wrote this poem. This fact is important to understand along with his situation when the poem was written if we are to appreciate fully the irony of God working in our lives.

Newman had fallen seriously ill in Italy and was burning intensely to get back home to continue his work at the time. Who among us has not felt that kind of burning?  In his own words he wrote:

Before starting from my inn, I sat down on my bed and began to sob bitterly. My servant, who had acted as my nurse, asked what ailed me. I could only answer, “I have a work to do in England.” I was aching to get home, yet for want of a vessel I was kept at Palermo for three weeks. I began to visit the churches, and they calmed my impatience, though I did not attend any services. At last I got off in an orange boat, bound for Marseilles. We were becalmed for whole week in the Straits of Bonifacio, and it was there that I wrote the lines, Lead, Kindly Light, which have since become so well known.

How often are we single-mindedly pursuing ends we have defined for ourselves, even considering them as holy purposes, assuming that what we are focusing on is within God’s will for us at this exact time? Blind to the loving roadblocks God places before us and not understanding what He is doing with us, we itch to get moving towards our goal, deceiving ourselves into believing that we are ready and that what we seek to do is what He desires for us.

Look at Newman, a great saint and gift to all seekers of the Truth. This is what I love about the saints – their humanity, their imperfectness, yet desiring above all to spend themselves for God and needing to conform themselves to the will of God.

First he becomes deathly ill while in Italy. God is saying, “Slow down, stop, listen to Me. I want to prepare you for My intentions, the salvation of many souls. I have work for you, indeed, but you are not yet ready.”

But Newman does not see the gift of his illness. God persists by delaying him for three weeks at Palermo. Then when he gets on the ship to Marseilles the poor man is stuck in the middle of the sea for a week going nowhere. At this point Newman turns and looks at God and makes a full act of submission. He sees that he is like the Israelites in the desert led by the pillar of cloud and out of this reflection he composes what has become a pillar of cloud for many Christians. Moreover, that pillar eventually led him, a devout and committed Anglican clergyman, into the Catholic Church with one of the greatest and most inspiring conversion stories of recent times to come out of England.

The full irony of this is that Newman had no idea at the time that he was leaving words of peace and consolation to many who are just like him. He did not know that in the frantic madness and ungodly pursuits of the coming centuries one of his great gifts to Christians would be a heartfelt poem of submissiveness to the will of God, a reminder to reorient ourselves to our Maker. He did not know that God’s plan for him was to lead him to Catholicism and that he was to be a formidable witness for the Faith. He simply poured out his heart to God and the Lord used him and his gift for his time and ours, and probably ages to come.

Newman also does not leave us on earth amidst our woes. The eschatological dimension of the final four lines remind us of our final destination. All we need do is follow that pillar of cloud fearlessly even though we cannot see what is in it just as Newman could not, and we arrive at the purpose for which we were created. As humans, we need constant reminding of it in as many ways as possible.

Let us stop and listen for a few minutes amidst the fracturing demands of the day. Invite the children and the grandchildren to hear this prayer. Consider its meaning for ourselves and our family, our friends walking with us on the way of salvation. Let us ask ourselves once again, are we watching for God’s intentions in our lives? Are we seeking His will? Are we looking fearlessly at the Pillar and willing to follow it docilely no matter where it takes us?

The embedded video is the premiere on April 5, 2012 of Dan Forrest’s composition, commissioned by the Tennessee Tech’s University Chorale conducted by Dr. Craig Zamer.  That it was the second premier of music set to this poem in six months, a composition by British composer Alex Patterson having debuted at St. Barnabas Cathedral on December 11, 2011, attests to the continuing inspiration of  Newman’s words.

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Tuesday, November 12th, 2013 Catholic culture, conversion, spirituality 4 Comments

Jesus, the Ultimate Empath

November 4, 2013

Jesus - Sacred Heart, Crown of thorns, Holy SpiritTo be an empath is to be able to feel what others feel. Literally. A lot has been written about this phenomenon in recent years, often by New Agers who think it is some kind of psychic phenomenon. I couldn’t find any reputable scientific studies on it, but rather lots of anecdotal evidence for its existence.

Mothers often say that they are connected to their children and know if something is wrong, even over long distances, and vice versa. Some people can’t serve in the medical profession because they feel the pains of the ill in their own bodies unless they turn away and block it. Watching surgeries on TV is not an option. Watching people receive injections is out of the question.  The worst part is feeling the emotions an abused person, child or adult, feels. The fear, anger, confusion, despair, and desperateness, the turmoil and anguish of someone who is or has been victimized are much more than words on a page or audio waves in the air to an empath as I’ve seen the term applied.

Some people might think empaths are crazy, but being crazy and being highly empathetic are not synonymous. If that were the case, we would have to consider that Jesus was not alright in the head, and that is not a possibility except in the eyes of a cold, hard, selfish world. Being an empath, or having a high degree of empathy for the suffering of others, is actually an aid to fraternal charity and to fulfilling the second Great Commandment. It is a great natural gift given to some for the supernatural good of others.

In meditation #64 of Divine Intimacy Father Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalene, O.C.D. writes:

Although Jesus was God, He did not hold Himself aloof from men. He willed to feel and experience all their needs, even their temptations, “without sin” (Heb. 4:15).

He shared with them a life of privation, fatigue, painful poverty, and suffering. Therefore, if we wish to attain to an effective fraternal charity, we must feel the sorrows, the poverty, and the material and spiritual needs of our neighbor; we must feel these in order to sympathize with him, help him, and even share in his trials.

We must sacrifice ourselves, our ease and comfort, in order to give ourselves to others. We shall be able to do this only if our love for our neighbor resembles the love of Jesus, that is, if it springs from our love of God. Only one who loves others for the love of God will have that strong, persevering, fraternal charity which never fails.

In other words, we must have the characteristics of an empath in order to imitate Jesus. Whether we come by these qualities by nature or by grace, we must apply them for the Kingdom. We cannot shrink from stink, dirt, filth, and neglect our brothers and sisters may live in. We cannot shrink from their pain even when they themselves are the cause of it. We cannot shrink from the unloved who have no notion of what love is and present themselves most unloveably. Otherwise, we are not walking in the footsteps of our Lord and we cannot bring Christ to them.

No one can ever be a better example of an empath to us than Jesus, because He is so intimately connected with the creation made in the image and likeness of Himself.  That’s us. Personally. Not a generic mankind.

His Sacred Heart burns with a love for each of us beyond our comprehension, no matter how intensely we have loved another human being. He is there beside us in every kind of suffering, even in our sinning and when others sin against us. We can hide nothing from Him. He is always reaching out to us, asking us to turn to Him, to convert, to enjoy the peace He gives us even in our misery. He is consistent, never changing in His love. He became sin on that cross, bore the suffering of all times and every person in his body and died for each of us. That is how we must be to others.

St. Teresa of Avila wrote that we are the hands feet, and body of Jesus. Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta, while seeing the suffering and dying in the streets of Calcutta, saw Jesus in them and thus, in herself, brought Jesus to them. It was the only possible answer she could give to Love that called to her from the gutters and byways. Any other response would have been unthinkable to one committed to God.

It seems to me that all the saints have been unselfish empaths who imitated Jesus no matter the cost. The quality of empathy was supernaturalized in them by grace, enabling them to do great things for God in the imitation of Christ, whether those things were hidden from the world during their lifetimes as with St. Therese of Lisieux or whether they were in full view of the world as with Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta. The suffering in this world they lifted up to God, all the while realizing they could only do so much, and that little only by His power. They were not crazy people, but eminently sane.

If we have been given the gift of being a natural empath, we should not shrink from it because it is too troublesome or painful, inconvenient or uncomfortable. Rather, we should direct its use by the grace of God toward the salvation of souls, following His will for us grounded in Truth, which is Christ. That is a journey of many steps, scraped knees, and broken bones. Ultimately, though, it can be a way God uses us to make us and others saints. In that we can find peace.

If we are not natural empaths, as we get deeper and deeper into a relationship with Christ, we will develop by grace the ability to share the suffering of others in our being. We will find in that the special contribution God is asking of us to bring souls to Him. When we bring souls to Him, we share in the peace and joy of all the saints. No earthly good or honor we might have bestowed on us can trump a single soul we bring to the Lord and whom we will share eternity with.

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Monday, November 4th, 2013 conversion, joy, spirituality 6 Comments

Behold, I Make All Things New

September 30, 2013

And He that sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new” (Rev. 21:5).

Christ Enthroned in Heaven - Giotto

Christ Enthroned in Heaven – Giotto

In Mel Gibson’s, The Passion of the Christ, Jesus says these words to His mother, gazing into her eyes after He had fallen on the Via Dolorosa. Ultimately, from the throne of the cross He did indeed make all things new.

I have often puzzled over these words because they are spoken in the present tense. The new heaven and new earth are, for us earthbound souls, in the future. But another way to look at these words of God relates to the conversion of sinners, which applies to all of us individually. The “thing” that is made new is our soul every time we repent and ask for forgiveness.

Whoever and however we are today, if we are living a Christ centered life, we are not the same as we were ten, twenty, thirty, or forty years ago. If during a time in our life we lived and made choices without reference to God, the moment we choose God over all else, Jesus begins making us new and He continues to work in us as long as we let Him.

Sometimes, though, we have sinned so grievously that a temporal accounting of our deeds must be made under the law. The new man must pay for the sins of the old man. A forty year old burden may be laid down when a capital crime is finally confessed. The seeds of sexual promiscuity may bring about serious health problems years later long after a person has changed his/her life for the better. Embezzlement of millions results in discovery and a long prison term begins. Disaster, shame, and scandal ensue with these revelations that warrant prison. Relatives and friends are hurt. But what can the positive outcome be of bringing sins to public light?

For the new man, what looks like disaster and shame becomes the opportunity for repentance, healing and peace. Reparation is his hallmark. Giving the burden to Jesus on the cross and accepting the punishment due with a contrite heart allows God to restore what we lost by living contrary to His laws. Some of the greatest conversion stories are those from people who behaved terribly wrongly and then embraced the Lord.

Even if we have not broken the earthly law, we may still have sinned grievously enough to bear a load of guilt and shame. My neighbor and I were talking one day and she said she has heard a number of times, “My sins are so terrible God can never forgive me.” If we hear someone say those words, we are hearing despair. We are hearing a person who is limiting God’s mercy. We are hearing a cry for help. We are hearing a person with a still active conscience. We are hearing a person ripe for conversion. At that point we must bring Jesus to the person; that Jesus who said as He was being murdered, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”

All the Alcoholics Anonymous groups and their various offshoots are full of repentant sinners Jesus is making new, sinners helping sinners recover from sin. Everyone in the line for confession in every Catholic church around the world is a recovering sinner who is being made new by Jesus, even when he is a repeat offender as so many of us are. The patience and infinite mercy of God allows us to be made new, finally to the point of eternal life.

What will I do today to help a fellow sinner encounter this mercy and love? Especially among my family and friends. We have been put in the paths of repentant sinners who have helped us along. Now we must consider what we can do for others, remembering Jesus’ admonition to us in Matt. 7: 1-5:

Judge not, that you may not be judged, For with what judgment you judge, you shall be judged: and with what measure you mete, it shall be measured to you again. And why seest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye; and seest not the beam that is in thy own eye? Or how sayest thou to thy brother: Let me cast the mote out of thy eye; and behold a beam is in thy own eye? Thou hypocrite, cast out first the beam in thy own eye, and then shalt thou see to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.

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Monday, September 30th, 2013 conversion, penance, spirituality 7 Comments

Magnetic Pull of the Holy Spirit

September 4, 2013

Holy Spirit Dove and SunToday I read the conversion story of Father Jurgen Liias at the Coming Home Network. I urge all readers to visit there and be inspired by his journey. One paragraph struck me because it put into words what the end result of all evangelization efforts should be: a state of spiritual completion, of fulfillment at the end of an arduous journey. It also made me realize once again, the precious gift God gave me of being born into a devout Catholic family and taught by nuns in my most formative years who knew their faith and truly loved Jesus. While others endured much struggle to arrive at an understanding of what it means to be fully Catholic, I was handed it on a silver platter as it were. 

Over the years I have read innumerable books, have had many searching conversations, watched hours of EWTN, listened to many testimonies and teachings — all of which have contributed to the decision to become a Catholic. But above all it has been a deep, constant magnetic pull of the Holy Spirit to come to the center of the Church. It is this deep intuitive sense each time I enter a Catholic church or religious community that I am in the Church, not a church. We speak in evangelical circles when a person of the Jewish faith becomes a Christian that they have become a “completed Jew.” To become a Catholic is for me to become a “completed Christian.” As I have already previously articulated, the driving vision of my ministry has been to build a church that was “fully catholic, fully evangelical, and fully charismatic.” I have come to the conviction that one cannot be “fully catholic” apart from communion with the See of Peter. For that matter one cannot be “fully evangelical” or “fully charismatic” apart from the rich and deep historical meaning of those words in the fullness of the Catholic Church. As has been said to me on a number of occasions by wise and mature Catholic friends, you need leave nothing behind of any Christian tradition that is of true gospel value. All of it comes only to fullness. To become a Catholic is to receive from my Lord His last providential gift from the cross: “Behold thy Mother.”

How beautifully and blessedly put. All around us many are on the same journey as Father Liias. They are feeling the pull towards the Church but maybe God is saying to them, “not yet” as He did several times in Father Liias’s life. Our friendship with them, our sharing the love of Jesus with them, our sincere seeking of the Holy Spirit’s leadership in our words and actions may be a significant factor in their final choice to enter true Christian unity as Jesus prayed for in John 17:21. I feel very safe in saying that if all Christians were united in the fullness of the Catholic Church as Liias expressed it, the consistent witness to the Gospel truth would lessen wars, corruption in government, poverty, and the threats to life and family.

Perhaps a worthy prayer throughout the day for all Christians could be, “That they all may be one; as Thou, Father, art in Me, and I in Thee, that they also may be one in Us: that the world may believe that Thou hast sent Me.”

This post is linked to Sunday Snippets where all are welcome.

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Wednesday, September 4th, 2013 Catholic Church, conversion 8 Comments

Pope Francis and Our Lady of Fatima

April 18, 2013

OurLadyofFatimaLast week Pope Francis asked the head of the bishops’ conference of Portugal to dedicate his pontificate to Our Lady of Fatima on May 13, 2013. Only a few peeps about this were heard on the internet. I kept watching to see if many caught the significance of this but it doesn’t seem so. Other items from and about the Holy Father have been given more notice.

Why Fatima?

We live in the most debauched age ever. Purity is openly ridiculed, marriage is being shaken at its foundations, and people seem to be trying to outdo each other in depravity. The ugly consequences of this are, among other things, the horrendous acts of the Kermit Gosnells of this world and the incessant screeching for gay “marriage.”

Our Lady is the purest creature of God, chosen to bear His Son. She is the most pleasing of all to the Holy Trinity, the most favored, most loving Mother to our Savior. It has become de rigueur in some parts to blaspheme her in portraits of elephant dung and impure images. She with the purest heart is dragged daily in the gutter.

Fatima is centrally about building devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary with all the implications for living a pure life, strengthening the family, converting sinners, and making peace in the world. An element of this message is Our Lady’s emphasis on hell, which many people don’t believe in any more, nor the devil.

Blessed Lucia wrote about the first secret, the vision of hell:

She opened Her hands once more, as She had done the two previous months. The rays appeared to penetrate the earth, and we saw, as it were, a vast sea of fire. Plunged in this fire, we saw the demons and the souls. The latter were like transparent burning embers, all blackened or burnished bronze, having human forms. They were floating about in that conflagration, now raised into the air by the flames which issued from within themselves, together with great clouds of smoke. Now they fell 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 fright (it must have been this sight which caused me to cry out, as people say they heard me).

The demons were distinguished by their terrifying and repellent likeness to frightful and unknown animals, black and transparent like burning coals. That vision only lasted for a moment, thanks to our good Heavenly Mother, who at the first apparition had promised to take us to Heaven. Without that, I think that we would have died of terror and fear.

We then looked up at Our Lady, who said to us so kindly and so sadly: “You have seen hell where the souls of poor sinners go. To save them, God wishes to establish in the world devotion to my Immaculate Heart.”

In a later appearance to Jacinta, Our Lady said, “The sins which lead the most souls to hell are sins of the flesh.”

The Consecration of Russia

In 1929 Our Lady came to Blessed Lucia, then a nun in the Dorothean convent at Tuy, and asked that the Pope in union with the bishops of the world fulfill her request to consecrate Russia to her Immaculate Heart. The promise? If the consecration was done Russia would be converted, many souls would be saved and the world would experience a period of peace. If the consecration was not done, Russia would spread her errors throughout the world, war would bring about the annihilation of entire nations, and the Church and many good people would suffer great persecution.

Pope Pius XI was the first Pope with the opportunity to make this consecration. He did not do it, nor has any Pope since. I am not criticizing (judging) the Popes because I don’t have the right to do so. I’m simply stating facts. For whatever reason, no Pope has fulfilled her request.

The most recent three Popes have placed a significant emphasis on Fatima. In 1984 Pope John Paul II consecrated the entire world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, but it was not done in union with all the bishops of the world and did not specifically mention Russia. He attributed his survival of the assassination attempt in St. Peter’s Square to Our Lady of Fatima.

Pope Benedict declared the Fatima messages to be relevant for our times saying:

Yes, I have read [the Third Secret]. [It refers to] a radical call to conversion; the absolute seriousness of history; the dangers which threaten the faith and the life of the Christian and therefore (the life) of the world (Jesus, November 11, 1984).

Both Popes visited Fatima. Now Pope Francis is dedicating his entire pontificate to Our Lady of Fatima. I believe this is why he is speaking out straightly and strongly about the devil so early in his reign. It is also an earmark of Ignatian spiritual warfare as well. The call to conversion and rejection of modern errors have been themes of all three Popes, as has been and continues to be the emphasis on the family and life.

Is this dedication of his pontificate by Pope Francis a sign that the consecration of Russia will be made as Our Lady requested? At the very least it is a sign that the Fatima message will be a driving force in his leadership.

The 100th anniversary of the Fatima apparitions is coming up in 2017. Will the bishops of the world be strong enough by then to join the Pope in a public consecration of Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary?

If we want to get the job done, we laity have to do what Our Lady said, which is nothing other than what Jesus said throughout the Gospels and preached silently from the throne of the Cross. Pray, do penance, convert. Our Lady told the children at Fatima to pray the Rosary every day, one of the many methods of prayer available to us. Blessed Lucia said:

The Most Holy Virgin in these last times in which we live has given a new efficacy to the recitation of the Holy Rosary. She has given this efficacy to such an extent that there is no problem, no matter how difficult it is, whether temporal or above all, spiritual, in the personal life of each one of us, of our families, of the families of the world, or of the religious communities, or even of the life of peoples and nations that cannot be solved by the Rosary. There is no problem I tell you, no matter how difficult it is, that we cannot resolve by the prayer of the Holy Rosary.

It is by the daily Rosary we will obtain the graces our Holy Father and the bishops of the world will need to make the consecration of Russia publicly and freely. The results of this act will be an astonishing outpouring of grace upon the world that we cannot even imagine. And we will experience a genuine period of peace, something which none of us has ever known in our lifetimes up to now.

God bless Pope Francis and may he be with us for many years.

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V. Praised be Jesus Christ!

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Thursday, April 18th, 2013 Catholic culture, conversion 5 Comments

The Satanist Saint

September 26, 2012

Military issue of coin of Diocletian, Wikipedia

Today the Church celebrates the more recent martyrs, St. Isaac Jogues and companions.  But this day for centuries belonged, and still does, to Sts. Cyprian and Justina, martyrs under Diocletian (245-305).  Although these two martyrs have faded from the view of many in the Church, perhaps in these days of glorification of the occult, wicca, and Satanism, we should take a closer look.

St. Cyprian’s parents consecrated him from infancy to the service of the god Apollo.  From age seven he learned sorcery and demonic wisdom.  At age ten he was sent to Mount Olympus to further his craft.  In that place were many idols inhabited by demons.  He advanced over the years by studying under various sorcerers at Memphis, Argos, Carthage, and Antioch.  By the age of thirty, the kinds of powers he was able to call up seem fantastic to us today, but they were real and effective at harming others. 

After his conversion he related a meeting he had with Satan himself and his many demonic servants in which Satan claimed him as a worthy follower and promised him great power and a place of high honor in hell when he died.  The fervent Christian soul is terrified by such things, but Cyprian relished his powers and applied them well to create chaos, hate, illness, and all manner of evil to others.  He was up for hire to anyone who wanted a spell cast on another and such was his relationship with Satan and his followers that he never failed.

St. Justina crossed the path of Cyprian through the lust of a pagan admirer.  She and her parents were Christians and on the way to church one day, a wealthy scion of a well-known family saw her and lusted after her.  As the weeks went by, he put great effort into stalking her and trying to seduce her, but to no avail.  This continuous failure increasingly frustrated and angered him to the point that, after a failed kidnapping attempt, he sought Cyprian out for help.

Cyprian made several attempts to pollute Justina with lust by ordering a series of attacks on her by demons under his command.  All failed because Justina, when suffering severe temptations against chastity, took refuge in prayer, fasting, wearing a hair shirt, and fleeing to the Cross.  Even the strongest demon Cyprian sent failed and when rebuked by Cyprian revealed that his impotence was caused by the invoking of Christ and His cross.

For the first time Cyprian, with all his knowledge of the black arts and with direct service from Satan had failed.  As he related after his conversion, this was the point where he knew and understood that the power of Jesus was greater than all the demons of hell.  He had signed on with the losing army.

Cyprian took all of his books on sorcery and every evil art to the bishop and begged to be baptized.  It would not be granted easily, however.  Cyprian burned every one of his books and evil tools, and with many tears and lamentations, began attending church.  He had been enveloped in the light of Truth and Mercy and saw the full wickedness of his ways. 

So firm was his resolve to become Christian that the bishop finally baptized him, observing his complete commitment and conversion.  Within a year, Cyprian became a priest, while Justina never ceased to pray for him throughout his full awakening to God’s love and plan for salvation.  The man who had devoted nearly his entire life to Satan now was a most fervent and virtuous follower of Christ.

Not long after, a group of Christians, among whom were Cyprian and Justina, were rounded up by the authorities and dragged off to prison.  The first few attempts to kill them failed as God worked miracles in the faces of their persecutors.  Finally, however, they were transported to Nicomedia and beheaded, but not without converting a few pagans along the way.

I am struck by this story from these aspects:

  • Parents have an huge influence over the direction their children take in life.  A parent using his authority to dedicate a child to Satan and his service has to be one of the most abominable acts on this earth.  How many practitioners of the occult, Satanism, and witchcraft have done this in these times?  The sheer number of books on the occult in bookstores ought to make us think about this.
  • The sign of the cross, true devotion to the Blessed Mother and Jesus, and the practice of self-denial are essential to overcoming temptation.  I wear a scapular and the medal of St. Benedict as a sign to Satan to stay away.
  • Prayers for the intercession of Sts. Cyprian and Justina are powerful for the conversion of those who practice the black arts today, or who have dabbled in the occult and astrology and have opened themselves up to demonic attack.
  • If we are going through life trying to do everything on our own  power, we are laying ourselves open to demonic attack.  Purity of intention and seeking God’s help in everything, as well as sound spiritual practices will make us victorious in Christ.

Whew!  Lord, keep the black arts practitioners away from me and shield me from the attacks of hell!

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V. Praised be Jesus Christ!

R. Now and forever!

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Wednesday, September 26th, 2012 Catholic Church, conversion, spirituality 3 Comments

An Appointment with Jesus

November 21, 2011

Priest hearing confessions, Philipp Schumacher (1866-1940) via Wikimedia

This post is linked to Sunday Snippets at This That and the Other Thing.

Do you want to be a saint?  I do.  I mean that I want to end up in heaven with God and all the others He created who are one with Him in charity.  Becoming a saint is impossible, though, if we depend on ourselves. Moreover, we must leave this world a saint in order to be one in the next.  Fortunately, nothing is impossible to God and His magnanimous love for each of His creatures.  All we have to do is cooperate with Him.

At the Last Supper Jesus consecrated all the apostles as priests.  In that event He set them apart so that they were no longer men like other men, but were instead to stand in His place in a special way.  That’s why we describe the priest as an alter Christus – another Christ.

Just hours after instituting the sacrament of the sacred priesthood Jesus was arrested, tried, and crucified thanks to the help of Judas. His remaining apostles, except for St. John, ran off and hid themselves behind locked doors.  Confusion, despair, grief and shame must have enveloped the souls of these newly ordained priests.  But inside of three days Jesus rose from the dead and came to where ten of the remaining eleven, including St. John, had gathered.  He didn’t knock.  He just came right through those doors as if they weren’t even there.

John 20:19-23 is a passage I love for many reasons, but especially because it tells of the institution behind those locked doors of the sacrament of Penance (Reconciliation), one of the ways we cooperate with God’s work in making us saints.

Now when it was late that same day, the first of the week, and the doors were shut, where the disciples were gathered together, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the midst, and said to them: Peace be to you. And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. The disciples therefore were glad [I think this is an understatement.  They must have been jumping up and down and hollering with joy], when they saw the Lord. He said therefore to them again: Peace be to you. As the Father hath sent me, I also send you. When he had said this, he breathed on them; and he said to them: Receive ye the Holy Ghost. Whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them; and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained.

And so it was that Jesus gave the apostles the power through the Spirit of Charity to stand in His place and forgive our sins, bringing us peace of heart.  Another aspect of the sacred priesthood where the priest acts as alter Christus.

This is why I look at every confession as an appointment with Jesus. Jesus is sitting behind the screen focusing His full attention on me and what I’m saying.  He hears not only the words but the language of the heart.  He gives the priest the grace to offer me useful guidance for amending my life just as He gives me the grace to confess what I’ve done that offended Him.

Jesus, one with the Father and the Holy Spirit, is the one who forgives my sins. The Roman rite Church gives the priest these theologically perfect words to remind me that my sins are forgiven in His name (1962 Extraordinary Form):

May almighty God have mercy on you, forgive you your sins, and lead you to everlasting life. R.: Amen.

May the almighty and merciful Lord grant you pardon, absolution, + and remission of your sins. R.: Amen.

May our Lord Jesus Christ absolve you. And I by His authority release you from every bond of excommunication (suspension) and interdict, in so far as I am empowered and you have need. And now I absolve you from your sins; in the name of the Father, and of the Son, + and of the Holy Spirit. R.: Amen.

The priest may add, time permitting:

May the passion of our Lord Jesus Christ, the merits of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and all the saints, whatever good you have done, and whatever evil you have endured, achieve for you the forgiveness of your sins, an increase of grace and the reward to eternal life. Amen.

In the Ordinary Form (1969 liturgical books) the priest says:

God the Father of mercies, through the death and resurrection of his Son has reconciled the world to himself and sent the Holy Spirit among us for the forgiveness of sins; through the ministry of the Church may God give you pardon and peace, and I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

Every confession sincerely done is an act of humility and trust in God’s mercy.  Every confession is a source of joy and of real peace, of resolution and of greater clarity and cooperation with God in ridding myself of rust. By looking at confession as an appointment with Jesus, I look forward to going.  I don’t worry so much any more about accusing myself of the same sins and faults repeatedly.  Nothing makes Jesus happier than to have somebody He died for coming to visit Him and giving Him an opportunity through free will to apply His healing grace.

Love is like that.  Love wants to bring peace and well-being to the tortured and stricken.  We are all tortured and stricken.  Love wants to heal, to rejoice, to pour Itself out on the beloved.  But Love forces itself on no one.

The beloved are you and I.  If we really love Him back, how can we not give Jesus the opportunity to love us through the forgiveness of our sins and the healing of all that afflicts our spirit? How can we refuse to cooperate with Him in making us a saint to live with Him forever?  How can we not make and keep regular appointments with Jesus in the sacrament of Confession?

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V. Praised be Jesus Christ!

R. Now and forever!

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Monday, November 21st, 2011 Catholic Church, conversion, penance, spirituality 11 Comments

Sabbath Moments

November 12, 2011

Awareness of God

Welcome to our weekly meme hosted by Colleen at Thoughts on Grace. Visit her to read other bloggers’ Sabbath Moments and join in or comment.

Death of a friend

A couple of weeks ago my friend Shirley passed away at age 98.  I have had many Sabbath Moments thinking about her last few weeks as related by her daughters and the pastor.  “Jesus, I love you,” was constantly on her lips.  She lost no opportunity to tell her family she loved them, and her friends, too.  One day the pastor came and sat next to her on the bed and asked, “Shirley, how do you feel about meeting Jesus?”  She answered, “I’m ready.”  She said it often in that last week.

At age 88 Shirley decided to become a third order Carmelite.  She was using a walker by then because of hip degeneration that left her bone-on-bone.  From my own experience I know how painful that was. Thinking of her physical issues, her daughter asked her in some dismay, “What are you going to do, Mom?”  Shirley looked at her and answered, “Pray.”

As I have been contemplating St. Catherine of Genoa’s writings on purgatory and the need for souls to be in perfect charity with God to enter heaven, Shirley comes to mind as an example I should follow.  I cannot know what hidden stains from faults God might have to cleanse away before she enters heaven, but I do know that she died in the most perfect charity of anyone I have personally known.  Detached from everything and every person in this world, but bound by that golden filament of charity to all of us, living and dead, she shows me both how far I’ve come and how far I need to go to begin in this life the way of being in total unity with God that St. Paul speaks of in 1 Cor. 13:13.

A conversion story

Tanks in Tianamen Square, 1989 uprising

This week the Rome-based Dignitatis Humanitae Institute received a guest whose remarkable history and conversion provided me with unexpected Sabbath Moments.  Chai Ling, twice nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, was a key leader of the pro-democracy movement in China that drew over 100,000 students to Tianamen Square in 1989.  You can read more at Zenit’s Ongoing Tianamen, but I want to focus on her retrospective of the events the day the world saw Chinese military tanks and soldiers violently suppressing their own people.

Twenty years after her Tianamen Square experience, Ling converted to Christianity and in 2010 was baptized.  She says (quoting Zenit):

“I had faced death, looked it into the eye, but I didn’t overcome it — in other words I didn’t have the peace nor the joy, just sadness, sorrow and fear,” she recalls. “But we had a duty, we knew we had to confront whatever we were confronting.

“Then, after I’d given my speech, I felt this huge warm sensation come into my heart — a sense of love toward the leaders of China, toward the soldiers, the people who were about to kill us. It was the most amazing feeling and I wished they had known how much we’d loved them.”

“Now I know that this must be how Jesus felt on the cross,” Ling says.

She remembers witnessing “a power, an amazing spirit” at Tiananmen Square, but at the time she didn’t know how to articulate it.

“I’ve since come to know that it’s the spirit of Jesus,” she says. “Then everything started to makes sense.”

I cannot help but wonder what the outcome would have been for China had all those students been Christian.  What if all of them at once would have fallen to their knees and prayed the Our Father together?  Would China be a force for good today rather than a force for death?

Every day 35,000 forced abortions take place in China.  Every day a large portion of those killed are girls.  Today in China 120 boys are born for every 100 girls.  That’s just the abortion angle of their culture of death.  Greed and corruption lead to shoddy construction that results in many deaths every time there is a natural disaster.  We could go on and on here.

As I observe the “Occupy Wall Street” partisan political movement I again wonder, what if everyone who has a grievance against the government fell to his knees and prayed the Our Father?  What if everyone did it daily and in public in groups?  Could we not be delivered from the forces of darkness in this country and in the world that are choking the life out of people and destroying souls?

The Roman Coliseum was the site of public mass martyrdom of Christians.  Because of those and many other lives freely given as Christ gave His on the cross, Europe, North Africa, and Asia Minor saw a rising tide of Christianity that eventually overcame the worst cruelties of their times.  Today we have the wonderful 40 Days for Life movement that involves small groups praying in front of abortion mills all over our country. Many lives are saved through this effort and many souls are won for God.

The love of Christ seeks to envelop the world and govern our actions.  It alone heals.  It alone converts those in darkness.  Even if it takes 20 years to bring about conversion as it did in Chai Ling’s case, His light shines no less brightly.  We are His apostles of love and light.  We cannot hide it under a bushel and call ourselves real Christians.  So many are waiting to put a name, as Chai Ling did, to the longing in their hearts.  How long shall we keep them waiting?

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V. Praised be Jesus Christ!

R. Now and forever. Amen.

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Saturday, November 12th, 2011 Catholic culture, conversion, Sabbath Moments 7 Comments

Joplin Tornado

May 23, 2011

Last night Missouri was hit by the worst tornado in its recorded history.  A funnel ¾ of a mile wide and six miles long tore through Joplin, ripping the roof off St. John’s hospital, blowing out its windows, and piling up mashed cars three deep.  A 300 lb. man was sucked out a hospital window.  X-rays were found in backyards of Springfield, Bolivar and Willard, all towns about an hour or so away from the scene. Large trees were twisted and shredded and steel beams took the shape of pretzels.  At least 90 people have died in this storm and entire neighborhoods destroyed.  Rangeline, the main drag, is unrecognizable.

St. Michael the Archangel Defeats Satan

We live in southwest Missouri in a house of less than 800 square feet.  We have no place to go on our property should we encounter such a storm.  All we can do is pray for God’s protection in these times.  Fortunately, the system that devastated so much of this area skirted the small town we live in, but I assure you I was asking God to send plenty of angels to guard us.  And not those effeminate looking ones depicted everywhere.  We needed St. Michael’s mighty muscle and we got it.

Perhaps most remarkable last evening was something that happened between the two major storms that passed through.  I looked up to see a strange pale yellow orange light through the window.  It was as if someone had put a colored filter in front of a camera lens.  Roger and I went outside to discover that the entire world was bathed in that light.  The sky from the north and west was full of this soft color and it affected everything it touched.  I’ve only seen this phenomenon a couple of other times and it’s always been evening storm related.  Amid the destruction great beauty shone.

Today I’ve tried to reach friends that live just a few miles south of Joplin but the phone calls won’t go through.  Many cell towers are down and land lines have been affected.  I will keep trying.

With last evening’s events fresh in my mind, I was struck by today’s Lauds psalm 28:7-9  where we pray:

The voice of the Lord strikes fiery flames; the voice of the Lord shakes the desert, the Lord shakes the wilderness of Cades.  The voice of the Lord twists the oaks and strips the forests, and in his temple all say “Glory!”

God did plenty of that yesterday.  When will all men glorify Him?

The next reading was 1 Chron. 29:10-13:

Blessed art Thou, O Lord, the God of Israel, our father from eternity to eternity.  Thine, O Lord, is magnificence, and power, and glory, and victory: and to Thee is praise.  For all that is in heaven and in earth is Thine.  Thine is the kingdom, O Lord, and Thou art above all princes.

Thine are riches, and Thine is glory: Thou hast dominion over all. In Thy hand is power and might: in Thy hand greatmess, and the empire of all things.

Now therefore, our God, we give thanks to Thee: and we praise Thy glorious name.

We often forget that everything belongs to God.  Even things we make, plant, or raise, because none of it can be done without His power.  Our conceit seems to know no end in today’s world.

I believe that God is visiting chastisements like these upon all the earth to wake us up.  Or rather, His permissive will is holding back very little of what He has set in motion because, as the conversation went between God and Abraham over Sodom, we have not enough just men among us. I wrote about God’s permissive will in Lent, the “Why?” of Suffering, and the Japanese Tragedy.

The state of the world today is why I personally am often praying Bible verses like the ones here and in my Three Favorite Scripture Verses, along with the ending of the Divine Mercy chaplet.  I believe God is not calling just me, but as many as will do so, to keep Him first and foremost in thought, word, and deed, praising Him.  This is the right relationship we must see restored for the good of man.

Remember the many people who started attending church after 9/11?  A lot of them quit after awhile.  Meanwhile, the good  along with the bad suffer, and we know that we do not know the day or the hour of our passing so we must always be ready.

Please pray for those who died or were injured in last night’s storm, and for consolation for their families.  May conversions result from this tragedy. Rescue efforts continue in Joplin where 50% of the area is ruined.

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V.  Praised be Jesus Christ!

R.  Now and forever.  Amen.

(Click on the link above to read why I am ending my posts with this.)


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Monday, May 23rd, 2011 conversion, psalms, spirituality, suffering 1 Comment

An Unforgettable Divine Mercy Sunday

May 4, 2011

This past Divine Mercy Sunday is a day I’ll remember for the rest of my life.  Not just because of the beatification of Pope John Paul II, either.

While we were pleading for God’s mercy on the whole world, Navy SEALS pulled a job as expertly as any Israeli force and as gutsy.  In forty minutes Osama bin Laden was dead in Pakistan and shortly thereafter buried at sea.

I am very, very proud of our SEALS. They train for this kind of work daily.  And all over the world jihadist leaders got a strong message: No matter who you are or where you try to hide, eventually we will get you if you attack this country.

As for bin Laden, I prayed for his soul even though I didn’t much want to.  I only did it because Jesus died for him, too, and it is sad that he never opened himself up to know Our Lord.

The mercy God showed us by allowing his death is an incentive to keep praying for the end of wars, the conversion of sinners – including ourselves, and to continue to plead for God’s mercy on the world.  What mercy God may have shown bin Laden we cannot know.  But his death is a lesson to us to live the Gospel and always be prepared to meet Jesus as we surely will the moment our soul leaves the body.

For myself, I felt relief and gratitude to God first, and second, to our fine military. For awhile Al Qaeda will be in confusion, making attacks by them more difficult.  In the never ending war between the Palestinians and Jews, the terrorists have lost an icon of militancy.  As for the United States, now is a time for increased vigilance by the ordinary man, living in ordinary neighborhoods.  Revenge is a key component of jihadists everywhere and no doubt jihadists are in our midst.  Just look at Ft. Hood.

For the Christians living in Muslim dominated lands, we must pray that they remain steadfast in the faith and if God wills it, to continue to suffer martyrdom for the sake of Jesus.  This, too, is a cause to plead for Divine Mercy, especially on them.

Islam is the enemy of all mankind and the enemy of God Himself.  It thrives on death, destruction, violence and lies.  For now, at least, let us rejoice and glorify God that one terrorist leader can do no more harm.  Let us also pray that the families who lost loved ones on 9-11 will find some measure of peace.  The architect of that day is dead.

With the victory over bin Laden fresh in my mind, as I prayed Lauds from the Divine Office Monday morning these psalm verses jumped out at me:

Psalm 46

All you peoples, clap your hands, shout to God with cries of gladness,

For the Lord, the Most High, the awesome is the great king over all the earth…

For king of all the earth is God; sing hymns of praise.

God reigns over the nations, God sits upon His holy throne…

For God’s are the guardians of the earth; He is supreme.

Psalm 28

Give to the Lord, you sons of God, give to the Lord glory and praise.

Give to the Lord the glory due His name; adore the Lord in holy attire.

The Lord is enthroned above the flood; the Lord is enthroned as king forever.

May the Lord give strength to His people; may the Lord bless His people with peace!

Canticle of David (1 Par. 29)

Blessed are You, O Lord God of Israel our Father, from eternity to eternity.

Yours, O Lord, are grandeur and power, majesty, splendor and glory.

For all in heaven and on earth is Yours; Yours, O Lord, is the kingdom; Yours the prince supreme over all.

Riches and honor are from You; You govern all things.

In Your hand are power and might; Yours it is to give everything grandeur and strength.

And now, our God, we give You thanks and we praise the majesty of Your name.

Psalm 116

Praise the Lord, all you nations; glorify Him, all you peoples!

For steadfast is His kindness toward us, and the fidelity of the Lord endures forever.

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V.  Praised be Jesus Christ!

R.  Now and forever.  Amen.

(Click on the link above to read why I am ending my posts with this.)


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Wednesday, May 4th, 2011 conversion, Divine Office, psalms, spirituality 4 Comments

Lent, the “Why?” of Suffering, and the Japanese Tragedy

March 21, 2011

My Lent this year is more focused that ever because of the disaster in Japan.  The lessons of detachment from things, from life, from my own will are gripping.  The responsibility to pray for the conversion of sinners looms before me as never before.  Something about tens of thousands of people dying in minutes is overwhelming.  I ask myself, how many might not have made it to heaven because I did not sacrifice and pray enough?

Weeping Woman of Natori, Reuters/Asahi Shimbun

In a way, this photo is a metaphor for the soul, grief-stricken in its emptiness, and overcome with sin as Natori is weighed down with jumbled rubble. Is this what our sinful souls look like to God?

The people of Japan will clear the leavings of the tsunami.  The chaos will subside.  Will we clear our souls of sin through the mercy of Confession?  Will we detach ourselves from the things of this earth, using them only as necessary on our journey to heaven? These are the lessons this picture brings to mind.

I want to wipe away the woman’s tears, but I can’t.  Only God can do that through other people who follow the Beatitudes and the Commandments and who will personally touch her.

We ask, if He loves us, why does He allow such tragedies?  Yet the greatest tragedy of all is that the majority of Japanese people are not Christian. They do not know Jesus.  They do not know God.  They do not know they are loved as a priceless treasure with a home in heaven just for them.

This natural disaster occurred as a natural event in a fallen world.  God’s permissive will does not interfere with the creation He set in motion and that creation has been affected by the sin of Adam. Yet God in His goodness always uses the evil that befalls us for our good.  What looks like a curse is really a blessing – a way that God says, “Look at Me.  See my love for you.  Pay attention.  I want you with Me forever.  The things of this world are as nothing before Me.  But you are my beloved children and I died for you.  In earthly terms, your value is incalculable.”

We may not understand it at the time we are enduring grave suffering.  Maybe we will never see the why of an event in this life, but we will see and understand all in the next. God can do only good.  Doing evil is not part of His nature. It is supernatural Faith from Baptism that tells us in our hearts that God allows tragedy to bring us to Himself.

Many Christians are coming to the aid of the Japanese people.  They are like Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta, seeing Christ in the suffering survivors and bringing the love of Christ to them.  Many more of us who can do nothing materially are praying for the conversion of Japan.  A life-changing event like the tsunami is a door to Baptism, but only grace can bring someone through it.

God alone knows the multitude of prayers that have been said for them that would not otherwise have been said.  The aftermath of the quake and tsunami remind us once again that we are all members of the human family and we are all creatures of God, loved by Him with an unimaginable strength.  Now, I must be about making this Lent really count for the salvation of my own soul and that of my brothers and sisters everywhere in the world.

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V.  Praised be Jesus Christ!

R.  Now and forever.  Amen.

(Click on the link above to read why I am ending my posts with this.)


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Monday, March 21st, 2011 conversion, suffering 7 Comments

Eugenio Zolli’s Conversion

February 22, 2011

Lately I’ve been working on The Nazarene : Studies in New Testament Exegesis, a scholarly work by the former chief  Rabbi of Rome, Israel Zolli, who became Catholic after World War II and took the baptismal name “Eugenio” after Pope Pius XII.  Zolli was one of the most learned Jews of his time, and his conversion resulted in his being declared anathema and cast out of the Synogogue.

We can never have a deep enough understanding of the Old Testament and the meaning of Christ’s words and actions. Who better than a former rabbi steeped in its four thousand year old teachings can unlock the sublime, supreme mysteries?  My faith has been greatly enriched by Roy Shoeman’s works, and Zolli’s bear similar promise.

A snippet from his conversion story, Before the Dawn, speaks of being a Hebrew Catholic and offers insights into how important the Jewish underpinnings of our Faith really are.  From the foreword:

“I was a Catholic at heart before the war broke out; and I promised God in 1943 that I should become a Christian if I should survive the war.  No one in the world ever tried to convert me.  My conversion was a slow evolution, altogether internal. Years ago, unknown to myself, I gave such an intimately Christian form and character to my writings that an Archbishop of Rome said of my book, The Nazarene, ‘Everyone is susceptible to errors, but so far as I can see, as a bishop, I could sign my name to this book.’  I am beginning to understand that for many years I was a natural Christian.  If I had noticed that fact 20 years ago, what has happened now would have happened then.”

“…I shall never stop loving the Jews.  I did not abandon the Jews by becoming a Catholic.”

“Once a Jew, always a Jew” is a shibboleth too often quoted by well-meaning Jews as a sort of proof that a Jew cannot in his heart of hearts ever become a Christian.  When Israel Zolli was asked whether he still considered himself a Jew he answered it with the same expression, but explained it in its deeply expressive significance.  “Did Peter, James, John, Matthew, Paul, and hundreds of Hebrews like them cease to be Jews when they followed the Messias, and became Christians?  Emphatically, no.”

A Jew who accepts a Messias today remains just as much a Jew as he would expect to remain if he were to accept a Messias at some distant future coming.  In other words, a Jew who accepts Jesus as his Messias accepts a Jew and himself remains a Jew. Has any Messias ever done the like: could any Jew do anything greater to put the seal of God on His teachings? This may sound strange and even heterodox to Catholics who have only a surface knowledge of Jewish prophetic history and Catholic teaching concerning it. A Jewish-convert takes as his Messias the Jew-Jesus who traces his ancestry back to King David without a break: can anyone be more Jewish than that?  The convert accepts the Jewish Messias who proved His mission was from God by doing the hundreds of things the prophet said He would do; chief among them His unquestionable and numerous miracles and His resurrection from the dead. His miracles are continued and multiplied in His Church even up to the present moment.

…If there is any notion that must be stressed both for Christians and Jews it is that Jesus did not give to the world a new religion, but only a new covenant or testament concerning the Old Religion which He Himself had given to the Jews.  God’s very nature forbids Him giving to the world, at any time, more than one religion or more than one way of life and worship.

Christ in Glory, 1597-98, oil on canvas, Annibale Carracci (b.1560, Bologna, d. 1609, Roma), Galleria Palatina (Palazzo Pitti), Florence

Zolli’s story is a lesson in the workings of God in the soul – of how deeply exploring the word of God in Sacred Scripture with a pure heart leads unerringly to the Word Himself. (“Blessed are the pure of heart for they shall see God.”)

As I read The Nazarene, I am gaining a much greater understanding of the sacred liturgy we have today.  We often speak of certain parts of the Mass as dating from apostolic times.  In reality, I am seeing that important parts of our Holy Mass and Divine Office came to us from the Old Testament Jews – from the Hebrew Bible itself. I don’t mean just the Psalms and various readings, but more about how the liturgy is celebrated and why in both the Eastern and Roman rites certain things are desirable..  I will be writing more about this later.

In the meantime, I recommend reading RAnn’s review of a contemporary book, Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist, at This That and the Other Thing.  This book could be excellent for Lent.

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V.  Praised be Jesus Christ!

R.  Now and forever.  Amen.

(Click on the link above to read why I am ending my posts with this.)

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Tuesday, February 22nd, 2011 Catholic Church, conversion, religion, Spiritual reading Comments Off on Eugenio Zolli’s Conversion


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