Keep your eyes open!...


August 31, 2016 

(Deu 30:19-20) I call heaven and earth to witness this day, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing. Choose therefore life, that both thou and thy seed may live: And that thou mayst love the Lord thy God, and obey his voice, and adhere to him (for he is thy life, and the length of thy days,) that thou mayst dwell in the land, for which the Lord swore to thy fathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob that he would give it them.

COURAGEOUS PRIEST: Priest Praying at a Planned Parenthood Clinic Calls for Prayerful Protest

VICTIMS OF ABORTION Newsletter: Broken Branches Issue 212

LIFESITE EXCERPT: Catholic discernment in the U.S. presidential election of 2016

The Catechism teaches that “citizens should take an active part in public life” (n. 1915).

And what about voting “according to my conscience”? Once more, the bishops of our nation provide sound instruction:

The Church equips its members to address political and social questions by helping them to develop a well-formed conscience. Catholics have a serious and lifelong obligation to form their consciences in accord with human reason and the teaching of the Church. Conscience is not something that allows us to justify doing whatever we want, nor is it a mere “feeling” about what we should or should not do. Rather, conscience is the voice of God resounding in the human heart, revealing the truth to us and calling us to do what is good while shunning what is evil. Conscience always requires serious attempts to make sound moral judgments based on the truths of our faith. As stated in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “Conscience is a judgment of reason whereby the human person recognizes the moral quality of a concrete act that he is going to perform, is in the process of performing, or has already completed. In all he says and does, man is obliged to follow faithfully what he knows to be just and right.” (n. 17)

Certain issues must always be entered into the moral calculus of one’s vote.  The bishops are crystal clear about priorities:

There are some things we must never do, as individuals or as a society, because they are always incompatible with love of God and neighbor. Such actions are so deeply flawed that they are always opposed to the authentic good of persons. These are called “intrinsically evil” actions. They must always be rejected and opposed and must never be supported or condoned. A prime example is the intentional taking of innocent human life, as in abortion and euthanasia. In our nation, “abortion and euthanasia have become preeminent threats to human dignity because they directly attack life itself, the most fundamental human good and the condition for all others” (Living the Gospel of Life, n. 5). It is a mistake with grave moral consequences to treat the destruction of innocent human life merely as a matter of individual choice. A legal system that violates the basic right to life on the grounds of choice is fundamentally flawed. (n. 22)

Is this “single-issue” voting? No, while I do not vote for someone solely on the basis of one issue, there are certain issues that are what we can call “automatic disqualifiers.” Just as one would most reasonably conclude that a member of the KKK or a neo-Nazi should never hold public office because of his racism, so too any reasonable person can and should conclude that anyone who favors the killing of innocent human life in the womb is manifestly unfit to hold any position of influence in a civilized society. Or, as the bishops put it:

As Catholics we are not single-issue voters. A candidate’s position on a single issue is not sufficient to guarantee a voter’s support. Yet if a candidate's position on a single issue promotes an intrinsically evil act, such as legal abortion, redefining marriage in a way that denies its essential meaning, or racist behavior, a voter may legitimately disqualify a candidate from receiving support.  (n. 42)

And what about “all the other good positions” a candidate may have, even if lacking in that one area? St. John Paul II, in Christifideles Laici, could not be clearer:

Above all, the common outcry, which is justly made on behalf of human rights –  for example, the right to health, to home, to work, to family, to culture – is false and illusory if the right to life, the most basic and fundamental right and the condition for all other personal rights, is not defended with maximum determination. (n. 38)

Following on Pope John Paul’s assertion, the bishops leave no doubt about Catholic social teaching on abortion and euthanasia: “The direct and intentional destruction of innocent human life from the moment of conception until natural death is always wrong and is not just one issue among many. It must always be opposed.” (n. 28)

“Faithful Citizenship” also has counsel on what to do if all candidates are equally bad on critical issues:

When all candidates hold a position that promotes an intrinsically evil act, the conscientious voter faces a dilemma. The voter may decide to take the extraordinary step of not voting for any candidate or, after careful deliberation, may decide to vote for the candidate deemed less likely to advance such a morally flawed position and more likely to pursue other authentic human goods. In making these decisions, it is essential for Catholics to be guided by a well-formed conscience that recognizes that all issues do not carry the same moral weight and that the moral obligation to oppose policies promoting intrinsically evil acts has a special claim on our consciences and our actions. These decisions should take into account a candidate’s commitments, character, integrity, and ability to influence a given issue. (nn. 36, 37)

How do the two principal parties compare on issues traditionally of great import to Catholics?

The Democratic National Committee brags about how far it has gone on abortion “rights:”

The platform goes further than previous Democratic platforms on women’s reproductive rights. It champions Planned Parenthood health centers and commits to push back on all Republican efforts to defund it. The platform also vows to oppose, and seek to overturn, all federal and state laws that impede a woman’s access to abortion, including by repealing the Hyde Amendment.

It also strongly supports the repeal of harmful restrictions that obstruct women’s access to healthcare around the world, including the Global Gag Rule and the Helms Amendment, which bars U.S. assistance to other countries that provide safe, legal, abortion.

On the other hand, the Republican platform contains seven full paragraphs condemning every aspect of the abortion culture.

The Washington Blade (the premier gay rights publication in the nation) observes approvingly that the Democratic platform “has a specific LGBT plank titled ‘Guaranteeing Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Rights’ and includes LGBT references in planks throughout the document.” It continues: “The LGBT plank endorses LGBT comprehensive non-discrimination legislation ... condemns violence against transgender people, endorses the U. S. Supreme Court decision in favor of same-sex marriage and repudiates state laws seeking to undermine LGBT rights.” Further:  “‘Democrats applaud last year’s decision by the Supreme Court that recognized that LGBT people – like other Americans – have the right to marry the person they love,’ the platform says.” Then the paper considers the Republican platform on this issue: “In contrast, the platform adopted last week at the Republican National Convention seeks to reverse the Supreme Court decision on same-sex marriage, indicates supports for widely discredited ‘ex-gay’ conversion therapy and supports state anti-trans bathroom laws.”

On school choice, the Republican platform is squarely in the corner of enhancing parental freedom of choice – a matter on which the Catholic Church in the United States has been engaged for nearly two centuries. The Democratic Party is squarely aligned with the public school teachers unions – even though such a position causes irreparable harm to minority communities locked in failed government schools.

Religious freedom is highlighted in the GOP platform but is reduced to concern for LGBT rights in the Democratic plan.

Of course, the fundamental problem in our political landscape is that the nation (or at least the nation’s opinion-makers) have moved in an aggressive fashion toward the secularization that has crippled Europe. We need to recall and reinstate attitudes that first put the United States on the right track and then kept her there for generations. James Madison, the primary author of our Constitution, asserted: “We have staked the whole future of our political constitutions upon the capacity of each of ourselves to govern ourselves according to the moral principles of the Ten Commandments.”  John Adams declared: “The highest glory of the American Revolution was this: It connected in one indissoluble bond the principles of civil government with the principles of Christianity.”  A century later, Calvin Coolidge reaffirmed that truth when he wrote: “The foundations of our society and our government rest so much on the teachings of the Bible that it would be difficult to support them if faith in these teachings would cease to be practically universal in our country.” But isn’t that exactly where we are – “faith in these teachings” practically gone from the public square?

Ladder of Divine Ascent excerpt: Step 7- "On Joy-Making Mourning"

12. He who has obtained heartfelt tears will find any place convenient for mourning. But he whose weeping is only outward show will spend endless time discussing places and manners. Hidden treasure is safer from robbery than that exposed in the market; let us apply this to what we have just said.

August 29, 2016 

(Mar 6:27-29) But sending an executioner, he commanded that his head should be brought in a dish. And he beheaded him in the prison, and brought his head in a dish: and gave to the damsel, and the damsel gave it her mother. Which his disciples hearing came, and took his body, and laid it in a tomb.

Martyrdom of St John the Baptist

BLOG: Caravaggio’s Beheading of St. John the Baptist

EXCERPT: The Beheading of the Holy Glorious Prophet, Forerunner, and Baptist John

The prophet of God John openly denounced Herod for having left his lawful wife, the daughter of the Arabian king Aretas, and then instead cohabiting with Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip (Luke 3:19-20). On his birthday, Herod made a feast for dignitaries, the elders and a thousand chief citizens. Salome, the daughter of Herod, danced before the guests and charmed Herod. In gratitude to the girl, he swore to give her whatever she would ask, up to half his kingdom.

The vile girl on the advice of her wicked mother Herodias asked that she be given the head of John the Baptist on a platter. Herod became apprehensive, for he feared the wrath of God for the murder of a prophet, whom earlier he had heeded. He also feared the people, who loved the holy Forerunner. But because of the guests and his careless oath, he gave orders to cut off the head of St John and to give it to Salome.

According to Tradition, the mouth of the dead preacher of repentance once more opened and proclaimed: “Herod, you should not have the wife of your brother Philip.” Salome took the platter with the head of St John and gave it to her mother. The frenzied Herodias repeatedly stabbed the tongue of the prophet with a needle and buried his holy head in a unclean place. But the pious Joanna, wife of Herod’s steward Chuza, buried the head of John the Baptist in an earthen vessel on the Mount of Olives, where Herod had a parcel of land. (The Uncovering of the Venerable Head is celebrated February 24 in the Orthodox Church). The holy body of John the Baptist was taken that night by his disciples and buried at Sebastia, there where the wicked deed had been done.

After the murder of St John the Baptist, Herod continued to govern for a certain time. Pontius Pilate, governor of Judea, later sent Jesus Christ to him, Whom he mocked (Luke 23:7-12).

The judgment of God came upon Herod, Herodias and Salome, even during their earthly life. Salome, crossing the River Sikoris in winter, fell through the ice. The ice gave way in such a way that her body was in the water, but her head was trapped above the ice. It was similar to how she once had danced with her feet upon the ground, but now she flailed helplessly in the icy water. Thus she was trapped until that time when the sharp ice cut through her neck.

Her corpse was not found, but they brought the head to Herod and Herodias, as once they had brought them the head of St John the Baptist. The Arab king Aretas, in revenge for the disrespect shown his daughter, made war against Herod. The defeated Herod suffered the wrath of the Roman emperor Caius Caligua (37-41) and was exiled with Herodias first to Gaul, and then to Spain.

: Beheading of John the Baptist

The English word “martyr” comes to us from both Latin and Greek, the word “martyr” being translated as “witness,” the ultimate witness to Christ being the offering of our life’s blood.  I suspect that for most all of us here, we won’t likely face some kind of blood-red martyrdom, at least today, nonetheless, there will be countless occasions to give witness to Christ.  There will most likely be more than a few opportunities for us to “lay down our life” for a brother or sister, even today… not in some kind of ostentatious showings of heroism and notoriety, but in some very mundane and rather hidden ways.

Certain people who – as we say – absolutely “kill us,” we’ll be invited to forgive.  We’ll be invited, undoubtedly, to offer the generosity of our tried patience, the withholding of our judgment, the readiness to be helpful and not retiring, the opportunity to bless and not curse.  Not everyone, we pray, will face John the Baptist’s fate; but I would say that all of us who profess Jesus as our Lord and Savior will be invited to die more than once, maybe more than once a day, even today, to die, like a grain of wheat.  Something great or puny that we are sorely tempted to clutch at and save at all costs, some thing – some image of our selves, some impression or decision or resolution or right or fear or time that we feel is our possession – will get in the way of life, what Jesus calls “life,” if we don’t let it go, don’t give it up, don’t let it die.  Today will be a “killer” in the working out of our salvation and claiming this “abundant life” promised by Jesus.

In the SSJE brothers’ Rule of Life, we speak about an identification with martyrdom, not because we are monks but because we are baptized.  In our baptismal vows, we profess that we “have died with Christ and are raised with him.”   We do say in our Rule that “…from the beginning monks and nuns have been encouraged to understand their own life commitment in the light of the freedom and trust that enables martyrs to give up their lives to the glory of God.”  And we remind ourselves that “the witness of the martyrs should never be far from our minds as we go forward in the vowed life day by day.”  But we as monks recognize that our identification with martyrdom, which gives us the grace to surrender our lives to God through our monastic vows, comes from our the grace of baptism, where we – all of us here who are baptized –  “have died with Christ and are raised with him.”  What would that mean to you?  That you “have died with Christ and are raised with him?”

Surrender.  The surrendering of our lives.  Surrendering any notion that we “possess” our own lives.  My life does not belong to me.  That is how I would speak about having died with Christ and being raised with him.  We don’t possess our own lives.  I would say we are stewards of the life that God has given us, and for however long God continues to give us breath.  I think of it as being loaned back into life after baptism.  And so I would say that our life is not about hoarding or about conserving itself for its own sake but its opposite: about giving.  Our life is about willingly giving up our life and our life’s energies as we see in Christ’s own self-emptying.

A wonderful way to think and pray about the life you’ve been given to steward is to face into the certainty of your own death.  The only thing uncertain about death is how and when we will die.  Death is a part of life.  By facing into the inevitably of death you may find enormous freedom and clarity in the moments of life which are still ahead for you – be it as much as another day or week or month or year or perhaps many years.  (We brothers make our funeral plans and keep them up to date.  Your survivors would sure find that helpful if you did that… and in the meantime it might prove enormously helpful for you personally.)

So we say that in our baptism we give up the delusion that we possess our own life, and we acknowledge that our life needs to be salvaged by Christ.  And then we are loaned back into life for a little while with Jesus’ promise that he’s going to use us, he’s going to use you.  You will re-present Christ to this world – your sheer presence, your words, your touch, your actions, beyond which you could ask or imagine, and in ways that Christ will set up.  Channel it.  Channel that power, that light, that life, that love of Christ.  Channel it, generously, don’t hoard… and don’t worry.

As you leave the chapel this evening you might find it meaningful to dip your fingers in the holy water basins near a doorway.  This is baptismal water, placed there at the doorways as a reminder of our own baptism, where we “have died with Christ and are raised with him.”  We give up both the delusion and the burden of possessing life.  We acknowledge that we are neither the author nor finisher of life.  We’re a steward of life, a participant, a player, an agent, an ambassador on a short-term, mortal assignment by Christ.  Who knows for how long?  Give it your all; you will be given all you need.

Ladder of Divine Ascent excerpt: Step 7- "On Joy-Making Mourning"

11. During prayer and supplication, stand with trembling like a convict standing before a judge, so that, both by your outward appearance as well as by your inner disposition, you may extinguish the wrath of the just Judge; for He will not despise a widow soul standing before Him burdened with sorrow and wearying the Unwearying One (cf. Luke 18:5).

August 26, 2016 

(Luk 13:23-24) And a certain man said to him: Lord, are they few that are saved? But he said to them: Strive to enter by the narrow gate: for many, I say to you, shall seek to enter and shall not be able.

POPE FRANCIS: With the image of the door, He wants to explain to his listeners that it is not a question of numbers – how many people will be saved.   It doesn’t matter how many, but it is important that everyone knows which is the path that leads to salvation: the door.

To go along this path, one must pass through a door. But where is the door?  What is it like?  Who is the door?  Jesus himself is the door (cf. Jn 10,9).  He himself says it, ‘I am the door’ in John’s Gospel.  He leads us in communion with the Father, where we find love, understanding and protection. But why is this door narrow? One can ask. Why is it narrow?  It is a narrow door not because it is oppressive - no, but because it asks us to restrict and limit our pride and our fear, to open ourselves with humble and trusting heart to Him, recognizing ourselves as sinners, in need of his forgiveness.   For this, it is narrow: to contain our pride, which bloats us.  The door of God's mercy is narrow but always wide open, wide open for everyone! God has no favorites, but always welcomes everyone, without distinction. A door, that is narrow to restrict our pride and our fear.  Open because God welcomes us without distinction.   And the salvation that He gives us is an unceasing flow of mercy…which breaks down every barrier and opens up surprising perspectives of light and peace.  The narrow but always open door:  do not forget this.  Narrow door, but always open.


Before the fall of our first ancestors, mankind was happy: living in Paradise in close union with God and showing child-like devotion and obedience to Him, they were in need of nothing, suffered from nothing, and were fully satisfied with life. Living in happiness, man openly poured out his soul before God with childlike love, receiving Divine help from Him for his development. Man knew neither sick­ness nor death. All of man's happiness was because he was close to God and God was with him. As a loving father, God appeared in Paradise and conversed with man, as with good, obedient children. All of the surrounding nature was subject to man, as to its king, as the image of the Creator Himself. The inanimate earth, by the will of the Lord, brought forth only what was beneficial, what was needed by man. Sinless man knew nothing that was unneeded, that was harmful to himself, to his health or welfare. Man was placed over everything in the world. Being the image of God, a little lower than angels, he was crowned with glory and honor. But because of the cunning and evil plotting of the devil, man decided to not obey God. He independently decided to arrange his own welfare with his own power and means. He began to act against the Divine will, in opposition to Divine command­ments. He ceased to obey God and at the same time was deprived of Divine help and was left alone in the midst of nature and its inhabitants. Not only did man understand and realize that all of his greatness, all of his well-being and his happi­ness depended not on himself, and not on nature, but that it was only and exclu­sively a consequence of man's proximity to God, of Divine help.

Having been deprived, because of sin, of the happiness of conversing with God and receiving instructions, man now understood his nothingness: his understanding, no longer enlightened with Divine precepts, became confused and lost in errors. His heart, no longer warmed with Divine love, became darkened with sinful inclinations and passions of the flesh. His will, not supported by help from above, became weak and unable to resist the attraction of sin and evil. Now man began to notice how evil would entangle his soul, darken his heart, and captivate his will. Although he had an understanding of good and he preferred good, loved it and hated evil, most of the time in spite of his desire, he would do evil, for evil and sin became alluring and tempting to him, while good became laborsome. Having been deprived of communion with God, the nature of man became weak, for it lost the source of its strength. It began to dry up and wither, just as a river dries up when it is separated from the sources which feed it. Before sin man was peace­ful, healthy, joyful and happy, without any needs, without any sorrows, but now his conscience began to reprove him for sinning, to wound his soul like a sharp-clawed beast, giving him no peace. His body, deprived of Divine grace, subject to the changes of weather—heat, cold, and other weather conditions—became sus­ceptible to sickness, suffering, and gradually became worn out, grew decrepit, and died. For man, death became a silent but constant reminder of his sin.

Seeing man deprived of his former royal greatness, nature ceased to be subject to him and even began to oppose him, to war against him: wild beasts began to attack him and harm him. Even the inanimate earth began to bring forth weeds instead of grain, and for his nourishment it required from him persistent heavy labor for its cultivation and fertilization. From this, misfortunes began to surround and oppress man—misfortunes on the water and on land, in the desert and among brethren, misfortunes from friends and from strangers. In the further history of mankind, all of this only continued and developed.

So this is where we must look for the cause of our misfortunes, sorrows and unhappiness. And for us the cause of our difficult life, the source of our sufferings is sin. And in our time, people who have learned to refrain from sin, people who have come close to God through prayer and fulfilling His commandments, are happy, but sinners are unhappy.
It's true that in this earthly life this is not always clearly evident. Often you can see the opposite. Very often the righteous suffer while sinners seem to prosper, enjoying all the good things in life. But this prosperity is not real. A Christian must measure life mainly by the inner spiritual condition, not by the external. Oh, if only we could see what often happens to the souls of those who seem happy! How often tears flow through the gold, how often outward prosperity merely serves as a cover for the most serious spiritual sufferings and sorrows! On the other hand, the visi­ble daily sufferings of a righteous person only strengthen his faith in God, they only strengthen his soul and guide him along the path of moral perfection and bring him closer to God. It only seems to us that the righteous man suffers from poverty and the lack of respect for him from the powerful of this world, while, in fact, the right­eous man never seeks worldly glory, and furthermore, he does not seek riches, and the loss of them is nothing to him. He always remembers the words of the Savior: Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things—everything needed for this temporal, earthly life—shall be added unto you (Matt. 6:33).

Let us remember that sin separates us from God and brings us closer to the devil as St. John the Theologian said: He that committeth sin is of the devil, for the devil sinneth from the beginning (I John 3:8). The devil is the bearer of sin, its source. Good, the fulfillment of the Lord's commandments, brings a man closer to God, brings him closer to happiness. Whoever loves himself, whoever desires happiness for himself, must withdraw from sin with all his might, he must strive for good, for whoever strives for good, strives for God. God is good, and those who do good are children of God.

In trying to justify ourselves, we often say: "We don't have any serious sins. We are ordinary sinners, like all other people." Let us remember that in evaluating a sin, most important is the spiritual disposition. As long as we are spiritually devot­ed to God, we speak with love to Him and we honor His commandments as the highest law for us. And if we sin out of ignorance, through weakness, not inten­tionally, then those sins will of course be forgiven by God, if we repent of them and make every effort to make amends with good works and almsgiving. But if our soul is far from God, if there is not a spark of good in it, no searching for God, then every foolish deed is disastrous and very consequential, for it reveals a soul that does not love God and does not seek Him. Therefore, every sin that meets no oppo­sition in the soul of a man, quickly, albeit gradually, will grow into a transgression. From small sins come serious sins. Every transgression begins with something minor, and through repetition they gradually grow and increase.

God, teach us and help us to love good and hate evil. Blessed art Thou, O Lord! Teach us to fulfill Thy Commandments!

ST. MAXIMILIAN KOLBE: Whenever you feel guilty, even if it is because you have consciously committed a sin, a serious sin, something you have kept doing many, many times, never let the devil deceive you by allowing him to discourage you. Whenever you feel guilty, offer all your guilt to the Immaculate, without analyzing it or examining it, as something that belongs to her… My beloved, may every fall, even if it is serious and habitual sin, always become for us a small step toward a higher degree of perfection.

In fact, the only reason why the Immaculate permits us to fall is to cure us from our self-conceit, from our pride, to make us humble and thus make us docile to the divine graces.

The devil, instead, tries to inject in us discouragement and internal depression in those circumstances, which is, in fact, nothing else than our pride surfacing again.

If we knew the depth of our poverty, we would not be at all surprised by our falls, but rather astonished, and we would thank God, after sinning, for not allowing us to fall even deeper and still more frequently.

Ladder of Divine Ascent excerpt: Step 7- "On Joy-Making Mourning"

10. Do not cease to picture and scrutinize the dark abyss of external fire, and the merciless servants, the uncompassionate and inexorable Judge, the bottomless pit of subterranean flame, the narrow descents to the awful underground chambers and yawning gulfs, and all such things, so that the sensuality of our soul may be checked by great terror and give place to incorruptible chasitity, and itself receive the shining of the immaterial Light which radiates more than any fire.

August 25, 2016 

(Mat 5:10-12) Blessed are they that suffer persecution for justice' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye when they shall revile you, and persecute you, and speak all that is evil against you, untruly, for my sake: Be glad and rejoice for your reward is very great in heaven. For so they persecuted the prophets that were before you.

NATIONAL CATHOLIC REGISTER: Comfort Catholicism Has to Go; It is Time to Prepare for Persecution by Msgr. Charles Pope


Most of Our World is Neo-Pagan- Have we had Enough?

: Putting God’s Will First by Fr. Joseph Esper

Anyone who thinks Jesus was merely a nice, likeable fellow, always smiling, saying nice things, and never making demands on anyone, needs to look carefully at the Gospel of Luke (12:49-53). Our Lord speaks of setting the world on fire in a spiritually painful way, breaking up families and bringing controversy and religious division. This is the nature of truth, which confronts us, convicts us, and often provokes a response of either grateful love or angry rejection. The prophet Jeremiah (38:4-6, 8-10) experienced this firsthand and the Letter to the Hebrews (12:1-4)—reminds us how Jesus Himself suffered—urges us to persevere, and not grow weary and lose heart. A stark choice is presented to us. We can go along with the crowd and take the path of least resistance, only to find ourselves on the broad and easy way that leads to hell, or we can follow the painful but joy-filled path of self-surrender and sacrifice that leads to the Kingdom of God. There are no other possibilities, and there are no shortcuts.

It is a wonderful thing if our families and loved ones also cherish and practice the Catholic Faith—and if that’s the case, we should certainly give thanks to God and count our blessings. Sadly, however, the situation is often quite different. Many families today settle for a bland and mediocre experience of religion; some have little or no religious commitment at all, and still others are even fiercely divided over religious issues. Throughout the world—even here in the United States—some Christians still suffer severely at the hands of radical Muslims, Hindus, atheists, and even nominal Christians; by putting Jesus first in their lives, they risk being insulted, rejected, disinherited, persecuted, and even killed. If we take our faith seriously, we too may be misunderstood, scorned, laughed at, not taken seriously, or blamed for causing trouble. A sincere and committed practice of our Catholic Faith is no longer politically correct, and we are even seeing increasingly ominous signs of a religious persecution coming over the next few years to the United States—something which previously would have been unthinkable.

If we were in John’s situation, what would we do? Would we be willing to give up almost everything—family, wealth, and home—in order to know and follow Jesus? Thankfully, we don’t have to do anything quite that radical—at least not yet—but the Lord does expect us to make whatever sacrifices are necessary in order to live out our faith. This might be something as simple as making the Sign of the Cross and saying the Grace before Meals in a restaurant while others stare at us, or as difficult as letting a lifelong friendship come to an end because we refuse to compromise our moral and religious values. We may need to miss out on fun and fellowship because we refuse to participate in morally-objectionable forms of entertainment, and we may find ourselves all alone in defending unpopular but unchanging teachings of the Church. These and other sacrifices may be difficult and painful, but the Lord will be with us, sustaining us and giving us a deep inner peace. In all things, we must pray for the Holy Spirit’s strength and guidance and strive to put God’s Will first—for only in this way will we remain true to Jesus, and one day be found worthy of entering His Kingdom.

RELATED: What's it like to be a persecuted Christian? This exhibit shows you

COMMENTARY: May the Persecuted Find Comfort

Ladder of Divine Ascent excerpt: Step 7- "On Joy-Making Mourning"

9. Keep a firm hold of the blessed gladdening sorrow of holy compunction, and do not stop working at it until it raises you high above the things of this world, and presents you pure to Christ.

August 23, 2016 

(1Co 11:23-27) For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, that the Lord Jesus, the same night in which he was betrayed, took bread, And giving thanks, broke and said: Take ye and eat: This is my body, which shall be delivered for you. This do for the commemoration of me. In like manner also the chalice, after he had supped, saying: This chalice is the new testament in my blood. This do ye, as often as you shall drink, for the commemoration of me. For as often as you shall eat this bread and drink the chalice, you shall shew the death of the Lord, until he come. Therefore, whosoever shall eat this bread, or drink the chalice of the Lord unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and of the blood of the Lord.

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VIA The Shield of Faith Blog: The Holy Spirit at Mass

It is the teaching of the Catholic Church that at Mass, the Holy Spirit descends from heaven and comes down upon the altar to bless and hallow the Divine Sacrifice.  What follows is an inspiring story confirming this teaching, which recounts a supernatural event that occurred at the end of the first millennium, probably during the pontificate of Pope Agapetus II, pope from 946 to 955.

From The Incredible Catholic Mass, by Fr. Martin von Cochem, pp. 265-67, TAN Books.

"At Formello, near Rome, there was in early times a bishop who acquitted himself most conscientiously of all the duties appertaining to his office and was most reverent in his manner of saying Mass.  Notwithstanding this, he was accused by some evil-minded persons to Pope Agapetus of having given scandal to his flock by using one of the sacred vessels at table. The pope, believing the accusation, caused the bishop to be brought to Rome and put into prison.

"On the morning of the third day of his unjust incarceration, a Sunday, an angel appeared to the pope in a dream and said to him, "On this Sunday neither shalt thou nor any other prelate say Mass, but only the bishop whom thou hast placed in confinement."  The Pontiff awoke, and thinking over this dream, said to himself, "Shall I allow a prelate to say Mass under so grave an accusation of sacrilege? Before answering his own question he fell asleep again, and again heard the same voice saying, "I told thee, no one but the imprisoned bishop is to say Mass."  While the pope still hesitated whether he should comply with this injunction, the voice spoke for the third time, "Beware that thou not permit any other than the bishop who is in prison to celebrate in thy presence today."

"Thereupon, the pope in some alarm sent for the bishop and inquired of him what was his manner of life and bade him give an account of his actions.  The prelate answered with only these words, "I am a sinner."  Then the pope asked, "Is it true that you ate and drank out of the vessels consecrated to the service of the altar?" The bishop replied as before: "I am a sinner."  As no other answer could be elicited from him, the Pontiff proceeded, "You will celebrate Mass in our presence today."  And when the bishop in his humility begged to be excused, he only repeated the command: "You will officiate at a Solemn High Mass today before ourselves and all the cardinals."

"Upon receiving this express order the good bishop expostulated no longer, but prepared to obey. Attended by many acolytes, he went to the altar and commenced the Mass.  When he got to the prayer which is said at the time of making the first Sign of the Cross over the host and chalice, "Come O Sanctifier, Almighty, Eternal God, and bless this sacrifice prepared to Thy holy name," he repeated it four times, and then stopped.  The people grew impatient; at length the pope said: "Why do you delay and repeat this prayer so often?"

 "The bishop answered, "Pardon me Holy Father, I repeated the prayer because I have not yet seen the Holy Ghost descend upon the altar.  May I request your holiness to bid the deacon leave my side? I cannot venture to do so myself."  The pope then told the deacon to move a little distance; no sooner had he done so than both the pope and the bishop beheld the Holy Ghost come down from heaven, while the celebrant, with the deacon and acolytes, was enveloped in a luminous cloud.

"This miracle convinced pope Agapetus of the innocence and sanctity of the bishop, and he much regretted having put him in prison.  He resolved for the future not to act so precipitously and to investigate a charge carefully before giving credence to it."

Ladder of Divine Ascent excerpt: Step 7- "On Joy-Making Mourning"

8. If nothing goes so well with humility as mourning, certainly nothing is so opposed to it as laughter.

August 18, 2016  

(Mat 24:9-13) Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted and shall put you to death: and you shall be hated by all nations for my name's sake. And then shall many be scandalized and shall betray one another and shall hate one another. And many false prophets shall rise and shall seduce many. And because iniquity hath abounded, the charity of many shall grow cold. But he that shall persevere to the end, he shall be saved.

CRISIS MAGAZINE: Must Catholics Believe that Islam Is Peaceful?

FAITHZETTE: A Christian Duty in the Face of Terror by Fr. George Rutler


Priest Martyrdom a Warning to the West
Father Jacques Hamel a saint in life and in death
French bishop plans speedy cause for beatification of Father Hamel as martyr

EDITORIAL: Why France? It's in the Math

As France reels from yet another terrorist attack on its citizens, many commentators are asking why that particular country has borne the brunt of recent terrorist attacks on the West. It's true that other atrocities have been carried out earlier in the USA, UK, Belgium, Spain and other Western locations, but France seems to be particularly targeted and has suffered an especially high toll over the last 18 months. Mass murder in the name of Islam has been carried out in the Charli Hebdo offices (January 2015), on the streets of Paris (November 2015), on the seaside boulevard in Nice (July 2016), with several smaller scale but similarly murderous attacks in various locations across France in between times.
Demographics and statistics are a great help in trying to understand the scale of the French problem. Also helpful are public opinion surveys taken among Muslim communities both in the majority Muslim world and in the West. Liberal commentators regularly remind their audiences of the diversity of Muslims and some even go so far as to declare Islam as a religion of peace. And indeed, many Muslims are as horrified by terrorist attacks as are non-Muslims.

But public opinion surveys among Muslims reveal a very worrying statistic. Such surveys regularly show support for radical jihadist activity running at somewhere between 5 -- 10%. Such are the findings of small-scale surveys taken among Muslims in Britain and European countries, as well as larger surveys taken among Muslims in the Middle East and other majority Muslim locations.

Extrapolating from these figures, we begin to understand why the Muslim world is in such a mess. Four countries that are typically torn apart by violent conflict are Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria. The Muslim proportion of the populations of the first three countries is over 95%, while in Syria Muslims represent around 85% of the population. So if a minimum of 5% of the population is inclined to jihadi activity, that translates to 1.6 million Afghans, 1.9 million Iraqis, 320,000 Libyans and 850,000 Syrians. Such figures do not even take account of floating radicals coming in from other locations. Simply put, majority Muslim societies are prone to political and social conflict because of the significant presence of trouble-making radical Islamist elements. And indeed, the terrorist strikes in France that have stunned the West are sadly relatively commonplace in countries such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria, so much so that when they occur media reporting is barely sufficient.

With Muslim communities typically containing within themselves the dangerous radical fringe, it is little wonder that as Muslim minorities grow in the West, a radical Islamist fringe will similarly grow in those Western locations. Some Western countries are a lot further down the road in hosting the growing Islamic presence, but none more so than France. That country's hospitality to North African migrants was facilitated by a sense of guilt felt by the French liberal elite in the wake of the Algerian Civil War and France's colonial history in North Africa. Hence North Africans flocked to France in the last decades of the 20th century, with the result that today the French Muslim community constitutes around 10% of the population, equal to around 6 million people. By contrast, the smaller Muslim communities of other European countries are still playing catch-up. Muslims represent 6% in the Netherlands, a rapidly growing 4% in Germany, 3% in Britain and 2.5% in Spain.

So if we apply the 5% jihadi rule, that means that French hospitality has resulted in approximately 300,000 Muslims in France today being in clear sympathy with the terror strikes in Paris, Nice and elsewhere. In such circumstances, it is surprising that there have not in fact been more strikes, and this is probably testimony to the efficiency of the French security services. However, there will be more. France is at a crossroads and its ruling elites need to take some very hard decisions if this situation is not to spiral out of control, leading to eventual civil conflict.

At the same time, other Western nations should be asking hard questions of their own immigration policies. If Muslim immigration means significant growth of radical jihadi sentiment, do immigration policies need to be reviewed to favour those communities who are more likely to contribute to social cohesion, rather than fragmentation? Do the political elites of Western countries have the courage to address such questions? Only time will tell, but time is of the essence.

RELATED: Christian-Muslim relations have taken turn for worse in the Philippines

Ladder of Divine Ascent excerpt: Step 7- "On Joy-Making Mourning"

7. Groanings and sorrows cry to the Lord. Tears shed from fear intercede for us; but tears of all-holy love show us that our prayer has been accepted.

August 17, 2016

(Isa 49:13-15) Give praise, O ye heavens, and rejoice, O earth, ye mountains, give praise with jubilation: because the Lord hath comforted his people, and will have mercy on his poor ones. And Sion said: The Lord hath forsaken me, and the Lord hath forgotten me. Can a woman forget her infant, so as not to have pity on the son of her womb? and if she should forget, yet will not I forget thee.

CRISIS MAGAZINE: A Tsunami of Mercy

EXCERPT Time for God by Fr. Jacques Philippe: THE TRAP OF FALSE HUMILITY

We need to be on our guard against the false argument we have just considered, which sometimes takes a subtler form. St. Teresa of Avila almost fell into the trap and abandoned her mental prayer, and that would have meant an irreplaceable loss for the whole Church! One of her reasons for writing her Autobiography was to warn people against this trap, which the devil is very skillful at setting. It’s this: someone who begins to do mental prayer soon realizes his or her own faults, infidelities, and areas not yet touched by grace. Then such a person may be tempted to abandon mental prayer, arguing “I am full of faults, I’m not making any progress, I’m incapable of being really converted and loving God seriously. Presenting myself before him in such a state is just hypocrisy—I’m pretending to be a saint, when I am worth no more than people who don’t pray at all. It would be much more honest in God’s eyes if I just dropped it completely!”

St. Teresa let herself be fooled by this argument. As she tells it in chapter 19 of her autobiography, after practicing mental prayer assiduously for some time, she abandoned it for over a year. Then she spoke to a Dominican friar who, luckily for us, put her back on the right path. At the time she was living in the Convent of the Incarnation at Avila. She had sufficient goodwill to want to give herself to God and practice mental prayer, but she was not yet a saint—far from it! In particular, although she knew Jesus was asking her to stop, she could not break the habit of going to the convent parlor where—happy, friendly, and affectionate by nature—she took great pleasure in conversing with Avila’s high society. She was not doing anything really wrong, but Jesus was calling her to something else. Mental prayer became a real torture to her; she found herself in the presence of our Lord, aware of being unfaithful to him, but without the strength to give up everything for him. She thought: “I am unworthy to come before the Lord, since I am not capable of giving him everything. I’m not taking him seriously—it would be better to stop praying…”

St. Teresa of Avila later called this a temptation to “false humility.” She had in fact abandoned mental prayer when a confessor made her realize just in time that in so doing she was also abandoning every chance of ever improving. She had to do just the opposite: persevere, because it was precisely by perseverance that she would obtain, in due course, the grace of a complete conversion and of giving herself totally to our Lord.

This is very important. When we start doing mental prayer we are not saints, and the more we do it the more we realize that fact. People who never come face to face with God in silence are never really conscious of their infidelities and faults, but when we pray, such things become much more obvious. That may give rise to a lot of suffering and the temptation to stop praying. We should not be discouraged at that stage, but should persevere, convinced that perseverance will obtain for us the grace of conversion. Our sinfulness, however grave, should never be an excuse to abandon prayer, contrary to what we may imagine or the devil may suggest. Just the opposite: the more wretched we are, the more motivated we should be to do mental prayer. Who will heal us of our infidelities and sins if not our merciful Lord? Where will we find health for our souls except in humble, persevering prayer? “It is not those who are healthy who need a doctor, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the just, but sinners” (Mt 9:13). The illness which is sin should spur us on to do mental prayer. Wounded as we are, we must take refuge in the Heart of Jesus! He alone can cure us. If we wait until we are just or righteous before doing mental prayer, we may have to wait a very long time. Thinking like that would only prove we had not understood a word of the Gospel. It might look like humility, but it would only be presumption and lack of trust in God.

MEDITATION: Thoughts by St Theophan (1815-1894)

[I Cor. 10:28-11:7; Matt. 16:24-28]

The Lord demands decisive self-denial of those who want to follow Him: Let him deny himself, He says. It could be expressed like this: Cast aside your interests and pursue only the interests of the Lord. You will be fulfilling this when you always do what is pleasing to Him. How can one do this? Mind carefully what is in you, and what around you on the outside, and discern strictly in one or another situation, be it internal or external, how to act in the way that is most pleasing to God — then, not pitying yourself and not inserting your own calculations, act accordingly, with complete self-denial.

You say, “It is hard to determine this.” No, it is not hard. We have been given clear and fixed commandments — they express what we can do to be pleasing to the Lord. All that remains is to apply them to the given situation, and this does not present any great problem. Having common sense is enough. If you cannot figure something out, ask your spiritual father or someone else whose words you respect, and act according to his directions. But it is always better to sharpen your discernment through reading the word of God and writings of the fathers, so that you will always have a decision-maker with you.

Ladder of Divine Ascent excerpt: Step 7- "On Joy-Making Mourning"

6. Greater than baptism itself is the fountain of tears after baptism, even though it is somewhat audacious to say so. For baptism is the washing away of evils that were in us before, but sins commited after baptism are washed away by tears. As baptism is received in infancy, we have all defiled it, but we cleanse it anew with tears. And if God in His love for mankind had not given us tears, those being saved would be few indeed and hard to find.

August 15, 2016

(Rev 12:14-17) And there were given to the woman two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the desert, unto her place, where she is nourished for a time and times, and half a time, from the face of the serpent. And the serpent cast out of his mouth, after the woman, water, as it were a river: that he might cause her to be carried away by the river. And the earth helped the woman: and the earth opened her mouth and swallowed up the river which the dragon cast out of his mouth. And the dragon was angry against the woman: and went to make war with the rest of her seed, who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.

NOVENA FOR OUR NATIONThe nation-wide prayer campaign – Novena for Our Nation – begins this Monday, August 15, the Feast of the Assumption of Mary, and goes until October 7, the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary. If you can join us, a Rosary Rally will be held in front of the U.S. Capitol in Washington DC on October 7.

The "Novena for Our Nation" website is here (You can sign-up to receive daily emails at the website. Also, you can find the daily 54 Day Novena reflections at the website):



ASSUMPTION OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY:  A Foretaste of Our Own Resurrection

: Feast of the Dormition of our Most Holy Lady, The Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary

A MOMENT WITH MARY: Three days later, the tomb was opened, but the body was gone

The Orthodox Church celebrates the Dormition of the Mother of God on August 15th. This feast day celebrates Our Lady’s death and ascension into heaven, in her body and soul. Actually, it is similar to the Assumption of the Catholic Church, although the term "dormition" puts more emphasis on the death of the Mother of God.

Around 600, the Byzantine Emperor Maurice extended this feast to the entire Empire and it was set permanently on August 15th, called the Dormition in the East and the Assumption in the West. The feast called the Dormition is celebrated on August 13th in the Catholic Church.

According to the Synaxarion of August 15th as well as Pseudo-John the Theologian, and Pseudo-Melito (5th-7th century), the death of Mary took place in Jerusalem where the Blessed Virgin received the visit of the twelve apostles and Paul, who were notified by Heaven of her imminent death and miraculously transported from the ends of the earth in the clouds—representing the Church of heaven and earth—to be at her side. She died peacefully, then they saw the Lord Jesus appear, accompanied by a multitude of angels, who received his Mother’s soul into his hands. The Apostles carried Mary’s body to Gethsemane and buried her in a grave. Three days later, the tomb was opened, but the body was gone, leaving a sweet fragrance.

VIA A MOMENT WITH MARY: August is the month of the Immaculate Heart of Mary

The Feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary is celebrated on the Saturday immediately after the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the third Saturday after Pentecost.

The devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary is based on the Marian theology of Saint Bernard, private revelations to Saint Gertrude and Saint Mechtild, the holy visions of Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque in the seventeenth century, and was widely spread by Saint John Eudes. In the nineteenth century, the Augustinian Order and the Diocese of Rome continued to spread the devotion by celebrating this feast. In 1969, Pope Paul VI established the celebration of the Immaculate Heart of Mary in the Universal Church.

Since the apparitions of Fatima (1917), devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary has increased worldwide. Pope Pius XII instituted the feast of the Queenship of Mary in 1954 (moved by Paul VI from May 31st to August 22nd), ordaining that "on the same day the consecration of the human race to the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary be renewed …" (Pius XII, Ad Coeli Reginam §47).

Ladder of Divine Ascent excerpt: Step 7- "On Joy-Making Mourning"

5. If you possess the gift of mourning, hold on to it with all your might. For it is easily lost when it is not firmly established. And just as wax melts in the presence of fire, so it is easily dissolved by noise and bodily cares, and by luxury, and especially by talkativeness and levity.
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