Keep your eyes open!...


February 28, 2014  

(1Jn 2:15-17) Love not the world, nor the things which are in the world. If any man love the world, the charity of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world is the concupiscence of the flesh and the concupiscence of the eyes and the pride of life, which is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world passeth away and the concupiscence thereof: but he that doth the will of God abideth for ever.

POPE FRANCIS: "When we endure trials with faith they ripen our lives."

MEDITATION: Thoughts by St Theophan (1815-1894)

[I John 2:7–17; Mark 14:3–9]

The world passeth away, and the lust thereof (I John 2:17). Who does not see this? Everything around us passes away — things, people, events; and we ourselves are passing away. Worldly lust also passes; we scarcely taste the sweetness of its satisfaction before both the lust and the sweetness disappear. We chase after something else, and it is the same; we chase after a third thing — again the same. Nothing stands still; everything comes and goes.

What? Is there really nothing constant?! There is, says the Apostle: he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever (I John 2:17). How does the world, which is so transient, endure? Because God so desires that the world endure. The will of God is the world's unshakable and indestructible foundation. It is the same among people — whosoever begins to stand firmly in the will of God is made steadfast and firm at once. One's thoughts are restless when chasing after something transient. But as soon as one comes to his senses and returns to the path of the will of God, his thoughts and intentions begin to settle down.

When at last one succeeds in acquiring the habit for such a way of life, everything he has, both within and without, comes into quiet harmony and serene order. Having begun here, this deep peace and imperturbable serenity will pass over to the other life as well, and there it will abide unto the ages. Amidst the general transience of things around us, this is what is not transient, and what is constant within us: walking in the will of God.



A MOMENT WITH MARY: A sigh in the direction of the Tabernacle and a glance at Mary at the foot of the cross 

May my grand-children, to whom I gave the best of myself, have a long and happy life.

If one day illness or the loss of a loved one fills them with sorrow, may they never forget that a sigh in the direction of the Tabernacle, where the greatest and most venerable of all martyrs is kept, and a glance at Mary at the foot of the cross, can make a drop of healing balm fall on the deepest and most painful wounds.

Pope Francis’ grandmother, in I fioretti di papa Francesco, by Andrea Tornielli

The Desert Fathers: sayings of the Early Christian Monks: Fortitude

20. Hyperichius said, 'Keep praising God with hymns, and meditating continually, and so lighten the burden of the temptations that attack you.  A traveler carrying a heavy burden stops from time to time to take deep breaths, and so makes the journey easier and the burden light.

February 26, 2014  

(Mat 16:18-19) And I say to thee: That thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give to thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven. And whatsoever thou shalt bind upon earth, it shall be bound also in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth, it shall be loosed also in heaven.


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Peter the Rock


Purgatory Project: Just wished to share with you a wonderful discovery I recently made. These 22 very talented and devoted young women (average age in the convent is 28) in Missouri at the Benedictine Priory of "Our Lady of Ephesus". They sing together 8 times every day, always acapella - without any instruments.

LINKS: ...can also search for "Benedictines of Mary"

They are very talented singers, and in 2012 they were number one on national billboards in the category of "Classical Traditional Artist" ! Of course they give all the credit to God the Saints and the Angels!

The following video: gives more background on the nuns and of course some more singing.

I sit and listen to them as I work on the Purgatory Project each day and hoped you would be as blessed by their singing as I have been.

VIA Truth in Philosophy: The Vision of God

God the Father to St. Catherine of Siena - Dialog - A Treatise of Obedience:

"The obedient man speaks words of peace all his life, and at his death receives that which was promised him at his death by his superior, that is to say, eternal life, the vision of peace, and of supreme and eternal tranquility and rest, the inestimable good which no one can value or understand, for, being the infinite good, it cannot be understood by anything smaller than itself, like a vessel, which, dipped into the sea, does not comprehend the whole sea, but only that quantity which it contains. The sea alone contains itself. So I, the Sea Pacific, am He who alone can comprehend and value Myself truly. And in My own estimate and comprehension of Myself I rejoice, and this joy, the good which I have in Myself, I share with you, and with all, according to the measure of each. I do not leave you empty, but fill you, giving you perfect beatitude; each man comprehends and knows My goodness in the measure in which it is given to him."

It is Catholic teaching that the vision of God is the supreme joy of heaven and our ultimate fulfillment in eternity.

This essay will unpack this somewhat. It's purpose is to help us meditate on God as our Supreme End. With sufficient knowledge and love of God acquired in this life, we may avoid purgatory and enter heaven immediately upon death. For the saved, if they enter purgatory it is because they are still attached to the things of this earth because they have not acquired a strong or pure enough knowledge and love of God. Meditating upon God fervently and continuously will help remedy that.

Let us now consider the attributes of God as elucidated by traditional Catholic theology.

First of all, God is absolutely simple. He has no composition of parts, and all of His attributes are one and the same as each other and His attributes are His very self. For example, God does not *have* knowledge as something distinct from His being, but He *is* the infinite knowledge that He possesses.

God does not have existence, He is existence, and all the rest of His attributes are related by identity.

In heaven the blessed will see that His very existence is His infinite knowledge - that His infinite knowledge is infinitely loving - that His infinite love is all powerful - and that His omnipotence is infinitely beautiful.

In the vision of God in heaven, there will be a supreme delight for the intellect in seeing how elegantly and logically God's attributes are connected and flow from each other. He is utterly simple and natural - yet completely non-trivial. All eternity cannot exhaust Him. One of the supreme properties of God is His pure and absolute intelligibility. The intelligibility of something is its clarity, understandability, and lucidity - in contrast to something being muddled and confused. The logic of God is absolutely pure and clear to the blessed in heaven. He will completely slake our thirst for truth, and will be seen as the why and how of all things. As profundity gives intellectual pleasure, there will be infinite intellectual pleasure in seeing God because He is Infinite Profundity.

God's infinite intelligibility is connected to His infinite simplicity. God has no parts that are in metaphysical opposition to each other (parts in metaphysical opposition is not necessarily an evil. For example, an automobile has parts in metaphysical opposition in that the wheels are not the engine. That is an aspect of being finite). However in God, there is no part of Him that is not another part of Him. As much we meditate on God, considering this or that attribute or quality of Him, we are considering exactly the same thing, which is nothing but God Himself. When we meditate upon God in this life, we invariably picture or conceptualize Him with some degree of complexity. As an exercise in meditating upon Him, we must always try to bring our minds back to that whatever different things we consider about God we are considering nothing but identically the same thing - purely God. There is nothing in God but God. Such an infinitely simple being is infinitely intelligible because it is infinitely pure. God's infinite purity exists because absolutely nothing in Him is in metaphysical opposition to anything else. Everything is strictly identical. So everything in God (being only one) is speaking exactly the same thing to the intellects of the blessed in heaven, giving rise to His absolute intelligibility. It is an infinite laser focus. This infinite simplicity and intelligibility means that God is infinitely pure which gives infinite joy to the fully pure soul in heaven (that is why the soul must be purified of every last spot before it can enter heaven).

God being infinitely pure means that His love is infinitely pure and intense. Without metaphysical opposition in God, nothing is scattered in Him. Rather than God being good in this or that way, He is Goodness Itself - that is, Pure and Infinite goodness. The highest expression of that goodness is the out-flowing love of God. This out-flowing love is God's very being, as He is a Trinity of persons in which each one pours Himself out fully for the others. This out-flowing love was poured into the act of creation simply so that beings other than Himself could share in His infinite blessedness and beatitude (cf. CCC par. 1).

The blessed in heaven have supreme delight in seeing that the infinite simplicity, intelligibility, and purity of God make Him infinitely beautiful. They have supreme happiness because they also experience that this Infinite Beauty loves them infinitely. The most rapturous human love on this earth is nothing but a pale shadow of the love of God for the soul, and the happiness of the most rapturous love on earth is nothing compared to the happiness of being loved by God in heaven (the martial bond is only a symbol and pale reflection of the union between God and the soul that loves Him). In fact, one only delights in illicit sexual activity on this earth because it simulates love, and something in its feeling reflects the infinite happiness of love in the blessed in heaven. In light of this, the solution to illicit sex (and all the problems it causes in society) is to bring people everywhere back to a contemplation of God and an understanding that our ultimate fulfillment is only in Him.

For this, it is useful to meditate on hell and what the damned have lost through their own fault. For their supreme torment is that they have forfeited an infinite good for a trifle.

On this note, we quote from the Dialog - a Treaties of Discretion - where God speaks to St. Catherine of Siena. "The first [torment of hell] is, that they see themselves deprived of the vision of Me, which is such pain to them, that, were it possible, they would rather choose the fire, and the tortures and torments, and to see Me, than to be without the torments and not to see Me."

If we have lost God for eternity, we have lost everything.

We do this by unrepentantly choosing a finite good over the infinite good of God.

That in essence is what one does when one commits a mortal sin and does not repent of it.

The Desert Fathers: sayings of the Early Christian Monks: Fortitude

15. Syncletica said, 'If you live in a monastic community, do not wander from place to place; if you do, it will harm you.  If a hen stops sitting on the eggs she will hatch no chickens.  The monk or nun who goes from place to place grows cold and dead in faith.

February 24, 2014  

(Gal 5:13-15) For you, brethren, have been called unto liberty. Only make not liberty an occasion to the flesh: but by charity of the spirit serve one another. For all the law is fulfilled in one word: Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. But if you bite and devour one another: take heed you be not consumed one of another.

CRISIS MAGAZINE: The Ukrainian Struggle: Freedom with Dignity Over Corruption and Power

CSM: The Real Triumph of Ukraine's Protests

As the people of Ukraine now fix their democracy, they must remember how they forced a corrupt and violent regime to simply collapse Saturday, causing President Viktor Yanukovych to flee.

Lessons from the three months of protests on Kiev’s Independence Square, or Maidan, can help restore the unity needed in a nation still torn about its identity.

The protests were sparked Nov. 21 by the president’s refusal to sign a pact with the European Union. But they were not really about material things such as trade or wages. They were not about putting a particular opposition figure in power. They were not about revenge or hatred toward Mr. Yanukovych or his Russian backers.

Rather, the tens of thousands of Ukrainians who peacefully occupied Maidan – and the more than 75 killed last week by security forces – were united around common values such as honesty, integrity, and equal regard for all. These values helped maintain discipline and restraint among the protesters even as snipers fired on them from rooftops. The moral force of the values eventually led police to ignore orders from Mr. Yanukovych, who discovered too late that power does not come from the barrel of a gun.

In addition, these values can now help political leaders in Ukraine put the government back on track toward adopting European-style democracy rather than the “managed democracy” of Vladimir Putin in Russia.

One remarkable aspect of the protests was the prayer and spiritual support given by the clergy of Ukraine’s many religions, especially Greek Catholics and Ukraine’s Orthodox denominations. A tent chapel was set up in Maidan where people of different faiths could worship together. The bells of St. Michael’s Golden-Domed Monastery rang out with warning when security forces began to attack at night. Monks ran a field hospital in a sanctuary to tend to the wounded. Protesters were able to hide in the Roman Catholic St. Alexander’s Cathedral.

In one memorable scene, a group of clergy stood between police and protesters with a Bible and a cross, calling for nonviolence and calm. Clergy also mediated between officials and protesters.

On Sunday, as the coffins of protesters killed last week were carried through Maidan, the crowd offered prayers.

During the protests, the Greek Catholic archbishop, Sviatoslav Shevchuk, said in a message that “fear, aggression and anger” would not determine Ukraine’s future.

“We realize that the dignity of a person and personal liberties don’t come from a constitution, a state law, a ruler, but from God,” the patriarch said. “God created us in his own image and likeness as free men and free women.”

DRAMATIC PHOTOS: Ukraine’s priests take an active role in protests

EXCERPT: Christian Values In An Age of Globalization by Moscow Patriarchate Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk

What is freedom? This concept has key meaning for the Christian tradition. ‘Brethren, ye have been called unto liberty’ , says St. Paul (Gal. 5: 13). However, he does not mean freedom as moral anarchy but the liberation of the human person from the power of sin, of passions, of instincts; it is the inner freedom which is founded on the observance of God’s commandments. From the perspective of Christianity, the freedom of the human person is inseparable from moral responsibility. Human freedom possess a great power for it likens the human person to God, yet it contains an explosive potential if it goes against God. Freedom may be compared to a nuclear reaction which is of benefit only where it is active in a nuclear power station and not when it is turned into a destructive weapon. Moral responsibility is the system of spiritual security which preserves the human person from disintegration under the influence of the power of one’s own freedom.

Of course, freedom is an immutable value, yet in any religious tradition it exists in moral and ethical, national and cultural, and other contexts. Even in countries with a majority of Christians there may exist differing concepts of the framework of freedom. The universal value of freedom as such cannot be viewed as a carte blanche for committing all sorts of sinful acts.

We are obliged to note the great crisis of freedom as a value caused, among other things, by the discrepancy between the declared relationship towards the freedom of the human person and the real relationship. Thus we ought not to believe that the numerous documents on the freedom of the human person have solved the problem of slavery. According to Human Rights Watch the everyday trafficking of people as slaves may be as many as 900,000. Throughout the world there are an enormous number of people who are involved in criminal networks linked to human trafficking, drug dealing, prostitution and the procuring of sex slaves.

Today there are a number of European countries where prostitution is legal. Its presence is justified ideologically by the person’s right to choose their sexual partner as they please and the right of the other person to make money by any means possible. I say this not in order to condemn those women who sell their bodies. If they return to the Church in repentance, as happened with St. Mary of Egypt who was transformed from a prostitute into a great saint, the Church receives their repentance and forgives their sins. Yet the Church can never agree to their way of life being elevated to a norm or recognize as normal the behaviour of those persons who use their services.

When the woman caught in adultery was brought to Christ he said to those who demanded that she be stoned to death: ‘He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her’. He not only did not condemn the woman but saved her from death. And yet he said to her: ‘Go, and sin no more’ (Jn. 8: 2-11). If we are to follow the secular notions of free choice and human dignity, then the Saviour of the world ought not to have said these words but recognize her behaviour to be normal and say: ‘ Go and continue to do the same’.

In following the example of Christ the Church condemns sin but shows mercy to the sinner. In 2006, thanks to the intercession of His Holiness Patriarch Alexy II, in Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates a Ukrainian woman, who was threatened with criminal prosecution including the death penalty for committing an abortion, was shown mercy. In the Patriarch’s letter to it was stated that the Church does not justify abortion, believing it to be a sin, but at the same time she calls for mercy to be shown towards the woman.

The Desert Fathers: sayings of the Early Christian Monks: Fortitude

14. Poemen also said this: Isidore, the presbyter in Scetis, once spoke to a group of monks and said, 'My brothers, isn't work the reason why we are here? But now I see that no work is done here. So I will take my cloak and go where there is work and so I shall find rest.

February 21, 2014  

(Psa 34:14) Turn away from evil and do good: seek after peace and pursue it.

POPE FRANCIS: "With a troubled heart I am following what is happening in Kiev. I assure the Ukrainian people of my closeness and I pray for the victims of the violence, for their families and for the injured. I call on all sides to stop every violent action and seek agreement and peace."

EDITORIAL: Religion and Ukranian Protests

Amidst the ongoing turmoil in Kiev, there is a constant link between the protests and religion. About a quarter of Ukrainians are traditional Eastern Orthodox Christians, yet many other Christian groups are gathering at an unprecedented level to join the anti-government protests against the Ukrainian president, Viktor Yanukovych. Fr. David Nazar from Kiev explains that, “Ukrainian culture has spirituality at its matrix, unlike many Western cultures…[The] Ukrainian language is peppered with references to God. Holy days on the Church calendar are in many instances national holidays… The Church is the most respected institution in the country at 73 per cent of the people.”

Protests began when Yanukovych chose to strengthen economic ties with Russia, instead of with the European Union. Interestingly, Ukrainian conservatives favor an isolationist economic approach, even while they recognize the need of international commerce. Of the two foreign evils, they would prefer the EU, even though “it negates nations and de-Christianizes Europeans through liberalism,” to Russia, which is “the biggest and first threat for the Ukraine,” according to protester Andriy Tarasenko.

Laymen are not the only Christians involved in the protests. Even priests have joined the protests, calling on the protestors and the riot police to keep the disagreement peaceful, presiding over religious ceremonies in the protest camps, and singing prayers between rough clashes. During one particularly rough clash with riot police, protestors were given sanctuary in the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Kyivan Patriarchate.

In light of religious participation in the protests, the Ukrainian government threatened to outlaw the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church. The charge was that priests were “breaking the law” by presiding over religious services outside of places of worship. This threat has since been rescinded, but the official website of the Ukrainian Catholic Church was recently hacked and vandalized from inside Russia.

This tie to religion can even be seen from the pro-government side. When Dmytro Bulatov (one of the three protestors put on the police’s arrest list) was kidnapped, the wounds inflicted on him show an association with Christianity. Besides being beaten and having his face cut, Bulatov was nailed to a Cross and part of his ear was sliced off in an interesting, albeit chilling, homage to the Bible. Bulatov himself said that his abductors spoke “with a Russian accent,” which has fueled more anti-Russian feelings amidst the protesters.

While the threat of outlawing Ukrainian churches has been rescinded, Yanukovych and the government are placing new restrictions on the religious, prohibiting them from joining protests against the government. These new constraints are burgeoning resentment within the country. Many Ukrainians are starting to view this protest as both a political and religious ultimatum.

The crisis between the church and state is growing tenser with time. Since the government has already begun to view Christian churches as revolutionary organizations, I cannot imagine that the authorities will all of a sudden become more accepting. If Yanukovych refuses to resign and is determined to associate the Ukraine with Russia, he will continue to find ways to lessen Christianity’s anti-Russian influence.

STATEMENT OF THE UKRAINIAN CATHOLIC UNIVERSITY: “We unequivocally affirm that responsibility for the current escalation rests solely on the government – personally Viktor Yanukovych and his ‘hawkish’ command.

“Every case of escalation, each more striking in its complete absurdity, slashes our hopes for a peaceful and wise solution to the crisis and brings us closer to a humanitarian catastrophe. Every case seems to check off the next item in the ‘crisis managers’ secret plan.

“Conversely, every step toward overcoming social tensions, every manifestation of the people’s self-defense, every effort to be faithful to God’s commandments – all of this makes us co-authors in the positive program of the Lord’s Providence.”

VATICAN RADIO:  Head of Ukrainian Catholic Church condemns violence

Ukraine's violence escalates; Churches Share Scripture & Pray

: Explainer: What’s Going on in Ukraine?

STRATFOR: Protesters in Lviv Raise the Stakes in Ukraine's Crisis



It also is clear that what is happening is not just about Ukraine but also, and perhaps primarily, about Russia.

And since Russia is at the heart of the message of Fatima -- "in the end, Russia shall be converted, and a period of peace shall be granted to the world," as the Lady said to the three children in Portugal in 1917 -- what is happening now in Kiev must also be seen in the context of the Fatima message: in the context of the future of the Christian faith in Russia and of a coming age of peace.

The Desert Fathers: sayings of the Early Christian Monks: Fortitude

13. Poemen said, 'The character of the genuine monk only appears when he is tempted.

February 19, 2014  

(1Ti 2:1-4) I desire therefore, first of all, that supplications, prayers, intercessions and thanksgivings be made for all men: For kings and for all that are in high station: that we may lead a quiet and a peaceable life in all piety and chastity. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour, Who will have all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

NCR: With Reforms Unclear, Francis Starts Possible Bellwether Week

In the space of eight days, the pontiff is to:
MORE: Ahead of Saturday's consistory, cardinals will meet for two days behind closed doors to begin preparations for the October summit on family issues.

Francis scheduled the summit last year and took the unusual step of sending bishops around the world a questionnaire for ordinary Catholics to fill out about how they understand and practice church teaching on marriage, sex and other issues related to the family.

The results, at least those reported by bishops in Europe and the United States, have been eye-opening. Bishops themselves reported that the church's core teachings on sexual morals, birth control, homosexuality, marriage and divorce are rejected as unrealistic and outdated by the vast majority of Catholics, who nevertheless said they were active in parish life and considered their faith vitally important.

"On the matter of artificial contraception the responses might be characterized by the saying, 'That train left the station long ago,'" Bishop Robert Lynch of St. Petersburg, Florida, recently wrote on his blog, summarizing his survey's findings. "Catholics have made up their minds and the sensus fidelium (sense of the faithful) suggests the rejection of church teaching on this subject."

German and Swiss bishops released similar survey results earlier this month. German bishops reported this: "The church's statements on premarital sexual relations, on homosexuality, on those divorced and remarried and on birth control ... are virtually never accepted, or are expressly rejected in the vast majority of cases."

The Swiss bishops went further, saying the church's very mission was being threatened by its insistence on such directives.



POPE BENEDICT: This gift, the sensus fidei, constitutes in the believer a kind of supernatural instinct that has a connatural life with the same object of faith. It is a criterion for discerning whether or not a truth belongs to the deposit of the living apostolic tradition. It also has a propositional value because the Holy Spirit does not cease to speak to the Churches and lead them to the whole truth. Today, however, it is particularly important to clarify the criteria used to distinguish the authentic sensus fidelium from its counterfeits. In fact, it is not some kind of public opinion of the Church, and it is unthinkable to mention it in order to challenge the teachings of the Magisterium, this because the sensus fidei can not grow authentically in the believer except to the extent in which he or she fully participates in the life of the Church, and this requires a responsible adherence to her Magisterium.

POPE FRANCIS: The Pope said the Magisterium, the Church’s teaching authority, has the “duty to pay attention to what the Spirit tells the church through authentic manifestations of the ‘sense of the faithful’.”

But he told the theologians this sense “must not be confused with the sociological reality of majority opinion. That is something else. It is therefore important, and it is your task, to elaborate the criteria that permit discernment of authentic expressions of the ‘sense of the faithful.’”

The Desert Fathers: sayings of the Early Christian Monks: Fortitude

11. Mathois said, 'I like to find some light but continual work, rather than a heavy work that is quickly finished.

February 17, 2014  

(1Pe 1:15-16) But according to him that hath called you, who is holy, be you also in all manner of conversation holy: Because it is written: You shall be holy, for I am holy.

Raising Heroic Children in an Anti-Heroic Age

MARK MALLET BLOG: When The Light Comes

Ten ways to deepen our relationship with God

Over the years I’ve heard from many good people who want a closer relationship with God.  But they’re stymied by what they perceive as God’s silence.  What they often mean, without knowing it, is that they’d like God to do something dramatic in their lives; something with a hint of Mt. Sinai that proves his credentials.

But God typically doesn’t work that way.  He’s not in the theater business.  God wants to be loved and even in a sense “courted” – which means that we can’t be passive partners in the relationship.  We need to pursue God as we would the persons we love.

So as we make our way through these last weeks of ordinary time before Lent, here a few steps – in no particular order – that can help us draw closer to God.

First, start by listening to him.  Faith isn’t a 12-step action program.  Nor is it an algebra problem that needs to be “solved.”  It’s a love affair.  As with a spouse, the most important thing we can do is to be present and listen.  This requires the investment of time and focus.  If a spirit of impatience or pretending to listen doesn’t work with your spouse, why would it work with God?

Second, cultivate silence.  We can’t listen when our world is filled with noise and toys.  C.S. Lewis often said that noise is the music of hell.  Our toys – those things we choose to distract us – keep us diverted from focusing on the main questions of life:  Why are we here?  What does my life mean?  Is there a God, and if so, who is he, and what does he ask of me?

Third, seek humility.  Humility is to the spirit what material poverty is to the senses: the great purifier.  Humility is the beginning of sanity.  We can’t really see – much less love – anyone or anything else when the self is in the way.  When we finally, really believe in our own sinfulness and unimportance, many other things become possible: repentance; mercy, patience, forgiveness of others.  These virtues are the foundation stones of that other great Christian virtue: justice.  No justice is ever possible in a spider’s web of mutual anger, recrimination and hurt pride.

Fourth, cultivate honesty.  Complete honesty is only possible for a humble person.  The reason is simple.  The most painful but important honesty is telling the truth to ourselves about our own motives and our own actions.  The reason honesty is such a powerful magnet is because it’s so rare.

Modern life is too often built on the marketing of half-truths and lies about who we are and what we deserve.  Many of the lies are well-intentioned and not even very harmful — but they’re still lies.  Scripture praises the honest woman and man because they’re like clean air in a room full of smoke.  Honesty allows the mind to breathe and think clearly.

Fifth, seek to be holy.  Holy does not mean nice or even good, although truly holy people are always good and often – though not always — nice.  Holiness means “other than.”  It’s what Scripture means when it tells us to be “in the world, but not of the world.”  And this doesn’t just miraculously happen.  We need to choose and seek holiness.

God’s ways are not our ways.  Holiness is the habit of seeking to conform all of our thoughts and actions to God’s ways.  There’s no cookie-cutter model of holiness, just as piety can’t be reduced to one particular kind of prayer or posture.  What’s important is to love the world because God loves it and sent his Son to redeem it, but not to be captured by its habits and values, which are not godly.

Sixth, pray.  Prayer is more than just that portion of the day when we advise God about what we need and what he should do.  Real prayer is much closer to listening, and it’s intimately tied to obedience.  God certainly wants to hear what we need and love and fear, because these things are part of our daily lives, and he loves us.  But if we’re doing the talking, we can’t listen.  Note too, that we can’t really pray without humility.  Why?  Because prayer requires us to lift up who we are and everything we experience and possess to God.  Pride is too heavy to lift.

Seventh, read.  Scripture is the living Word of God.  When we read God’s Word, we encounter God himself.  But there’s more: J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Georges Bernanos and so many others – these were deeply intelligent and powerful writers whose work nourishes the Christian mind and soul, while also inspiring the imagination.  Reading also serves another, simpler purpose: It shuts out the noise that distracts us from fertile reflection.  We can’t read The Screwtape Letters and take network television seriously at the same time.  And that’s a very good thing.

By the way, if you do nothing else in 2014, read Tolkien’s wonderful short story, Leaf by Niggle.  It will take you less than an hour, but it will stay with you for a lifetime.  And then read C.S. Lewis’ great religious science-fiction trilogy – Out of the Silent Planet, Perelandra and That Hideous Strength.  You’ll never look at our world in quite the same way again.

Eighth, believe and act.  Nobody “earns” faith.  It’s a free gift from God.  But we do need to be willing and ready to receive it.  We can discipline ourselves to be prepared.   If we sincerely seek truth; if we desire things greater than this life has to offer; and if we leave our hearts open to the possibility of God — then one day we will believe, just as when we choose to love someone more deeply, and turn our hearts sincerely to the task, then sooner or later we usually will.

Feelings are fickle.  They’re often misleading.  They’re not the substance of our faith.  We need to be grateful for our emotions as God’s gifts, but we also need to judge them in the light of common sense.  Falling in love is only the first taste of love.  Real love is both more beautiful and more demanding than the early days of a romance.

In like manner, a dramatic “road to Damascus” style conversion doesn’t happen to most people, and not even St. Paul stayed on the road very long.  Why?  Because in revealing himself to Paul, Jesus immediately gave him something to do.  We know and more deeply love Jesus Christ by doing what he tells us to do.

In the real world, feelings that endure follow actions that have substance.  The more sincere we are in our discipleship, the closer we will come to Jesus Christ.  This is why the Emmaus disciples only recognized Jesus in “the breaking of the bread.”  Only in acting in and on our faith, does our faith become fully real.

Ninth, nobody makes it to heaven alone.  We all need friendship and community.  A friend of mine who’s been married more than 40 years likes to say that the heart of a good marriage is friendship.  Every successful marriage is finally about a deep and particular kind of friendship that involves honesty, intimacy, fidelity, mutual sacrifice, hope and shared beliefs.

Every successful marriage is also a form of community.  Even Jesus needed these two things: friendship and community.  The Apostles were not simply Christ’s followers; they were also his brothers and friends, people who knew and supported him in an intimate way.  All of us as Christians need the same two things.  It doesn’t matter whether we’re a religious, layperson, deacon or priest, single or married.  Friends are vital.  Community is vital.  Our friends both express and shape who we are.  Good friends sustain us.  Bad friends undermine us.  And that’s why they’re so decisive to the success or failure of a Christian life.

Tenth and finally, nothing is more powerful than the sacraments of Penance and Eucharist in leading us to the God we seek.  God makes himself available to us every week in the confessional, and every day in the sacrifice of the Mass.  It makes little sense to talk about the “silence of God” when our churches are made silent by our own absence and indifference.  We’re the ones with the cold hearts – not God.

He’s never outdone in his generosity.  He waits for us in the quiet of the tabernacle.  And he loves us and wants to be loved wholeheartedly in return.

If we’re willing to give that love, these steps will lead us to him.

The Desert Fathers: sayings of the Early Christian Monks: Fortitude

8. Poemen said about John the Short that he asked the Lord to take away his passions. So his heart was at rest, and he went to a hermit and said, 'I find that I am at peace, with no war between flesh and spirit.' The hermit said to him, 'Go and ask the Lord to stir up a new war in you. Fighting is good for the soul.' When the conflict revived in him, he no longer prayed for it to be taken away, but said, 'Lord, grant me strength to endure this fight

February 13, 2014  

(Mat 5:14-16) You are the light of the world. A city seated on a mountain cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle and put it under a bushel, but upon a candlestick, that it may shine to all that are in the house. So let your light shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.

POPE FRANCIS: “The Christian bearing the light is a burning lamp... Let us always go forward with the light of Jesus!”

COURAGEOUS PRIEST:  Dissent Into Hell- Those Who Knowingly Reject Church Teaching Place Their Souls In Serious Peril!

: Darkness Hates The Light

Our culture of death hates those who proclaim the truth that every single human life is precious from the moment of conception until the instant of natural death; our politically correct society scorns those who insist that Jesus alone is the way, the truth, and the life; our rebellious and defiant world attacks those who faithfully shine and reflect the light of faith in the midst of the darkness that surrounds them.

If we take our faith seriously, we are going to stand out; we’re going to be countercultural, and perhaps we’ll earn this world’s enmity and opposition. Darkness hates the light, but is unable to extinguish it. It doesn’t matter how dark a room is: if you shine just one candle or lamp, that light will be visible throughout the room, and available as a source of guidance and hope to everyone willing to follow it. So it is with our example—and it’s entirely possible that we may be the only reflection of Christ’s light of truth and love that some people ever see. God calls each of us to be numbered among His “children of light,” and we will find inner peace in this world, and eternal glory in the next, to the same degree we answer this call.

MEDITATION: Thoughts by St Theophan (1815-1894)

[Eph. 6:10–17; Matt. 4:1–11]

The Apostle clothes Christians in the whole armour of God. It is appropriate that this follows the previous lesson. For, if someone, heeding the call of God, has taken on the beginning of a new life through God's grace, providing for his own part all diligence (II Pet. 1:5), then he must not expect to rest on his laurels, but rather to struggle.

He has left the world — for that the world will begin to press him. He was saved from the power of the devil — the devil will chase after him and set snares before him, to throw him off the path of good and drag him back to his domain. He has denied himself, denied selfishness together with a whole horde of passions. But this sin living in us will not suddenly relinquish its free and untrammelled existence as we live in self-pleasure, and every minute it will attempt under various pretexts to establish once more the same life routine that so richly filled and fed it earlier.

These are three enemies, each with innumerable hordes; but the commander-in-chief is the devil, whilst his closest helpers are the demons. They run the show in a sinful life — the opponents of a spiritual life. That is why the Apostle arms the Christian against them as if there were no other enemies at all. He says: we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places (Eph. 6:12). If they did not exist, perhaps battles would not exist either. Likewise, as soon as they are repelled and struck down, it takes nothing to repel and defeat the others.

So each of you look to see where you need to direct your arrows, or at least look to see from which side you particularly need to defend yourself. Then, defend yourself! The Apostle prescribed several weapons; but all of them have power only through the Lord. That is why experienced spiritual fighters have passed on to us this instruction: “Strike the enemy with the name of the Lord Jesus!”

RELATED: Satan is Real – Read these Amazing Stories by Fr. Dwight Longenecker

The Desert Fathers: sayings of the Early Christian Monks: Fortitude

6. A brother asked Theodore, 'If you suddenly hear the sound of falling masonry, are you frightened, abba?' He said, 'If the heavens fell down on the earth, Theodore would not be afraid.' For he had prayed to God that fear might be taken from him. That was why the brother questioned him

February 11, 2014  

(1Jn 3:16-18) In this we have known the charity of God, because he hath laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. He that hath the substance of this world and shall see his brother in need and shall shut up his bowels from him: how doth the charity of God abide in him? My little children, let us not love in word nor in tongue, but in deed and in truth.

OVERVIEW: February 11: Our Lady of Lourdes

VIDEO: The 67 miracles of Lourdes


LINK: Placing a petition at the Grotto


Faith and Charity: “We Ought to Lay Down Our Lives for One Another” (1 Jn 3:16)

1. On the occasion of the Twenty-second World Day of the Sick, whose theme this year is Faith and Charity: “We Ought to Lay Down Our Lives for One Another” (1 Jn 3:16), I turn in a special way to the sick and all those who provide them with assistance and care. The Church recognizes in you, the sick, a special presence of the suffering Christ. It is true. At the side of – and indeed within – our suffering, is the suffering of Christ; he bears its burden with us and he reveals its meaning. When the Son of God mounted the cross, he destroyed the solitude of suffering and illuminated its darkness. We thus find ourselves before the mystery of God’s love for us, which gives us hope and courage: hope, because in the plan of God’s love even the night of pain yields to the light of Easter, and courage, which enables us to confront every hardship in his company, in union with him.

2. The incarnate Son of God did not remove illness and suffering from human experience but by taking them upon himself he transformed them and gave them new meaning. New meaning because they no longer have the last word which, instead, is new and abundant life; transformed them, because in union with Christ they need no longer be negative but positive. Jesus is the way, and with his Spirit we can follow him. Just as the Father gave us the Son out of love, and the Son gave himself to us out of the same love, so we too can love others as God has loved us, giving our lives for one another. Faith in God becomes goodness, faith in the crucified Christ becomes the strength to love to the end, even our enemies. The proof of authentic faith in Christ is self-giving and the spreading of love for our neighbours, especially for those who do not merit it, for the suffering and for the marginalized.

3. By virtue of Baptism and Confirmation we are called to conform ourselves to Christ, who is the Good Samaritan for all who suffer. “We know love by this, that he laid down his life for us – and we ought to lay down our lives for one another” (1 Jn 3:16). When we draw near with tender love to those in need of care, we bring hope and God’s smile to the contradictions of the world. When generous devotion to others becomes the hallmark of our actions, we give way to the Heart of Christ and bask in its warmth, and thus contribute to the coming of God’s Kingdom.

4. To grow in tender love, and a respectful and sensitive charity, we have a sure Christian model to contemplate: Mary, the Mother of Jesus and our Mother, who is always attentive to the voice of God and the needs and troubles of her children. Mary, impelled by God’s mercy which took flesh within her, selflessly hastened from Galilee to Judea to find and help her kinswoman Elizabeth. She interceded with her Son at the wedding feast of Cana when she saw that there was a shortage of wine. She bore in her heart, throughout the pilgrimage of her life, the words of the elderly Simeon who foretold that a sword would pierce her soul, and with persevering strength she stood at the foot of the cross of Jesus. She knows the way, and for this reason she is the Mother of all of the sick and suffering. To her we can turn with confidence and filial devotion, certain that she will help us, support us and not abandon us. She is the Mother of the crucified and risen Christ: she stands beside our crosses and she accompanies us on the journey towards the resurrection and the fullness of life.

5. Saint John, the disciple who stood with Mary beneath the cross, brings us to the sources of faith and charity, to the heart of the God who “is love” (1 Jn 4:8,16). He reminds us that we cannot love God if we do not love our brothers and sisters. Those who stand with Mary beneath the cross learn to love as Jesus does. The cross is “the certainty of the faithful love which God has for us. A love so great that it enters into our sin and forgives it, enters into our suffering and gives us the strength to bear it. It is a love which enters into death to conquer it and to save us… the cross of Christ invites us also to allow ourselves to be smitten by his love, teaching us always to look upon others with mercy and tenderness, especially those who suffer, who are in need of help” (Way of the Cross with Young People, Rio de Janeiro, 26 July 2013).

I entrust this Twenty-second World Day of the Sick to the intercession of Mary. I ask her to help the sick to bear their sufferings in fellowship with Jesus Christ and to support all those who care for them. To all the ill, and to all the health-care workers and volunteers who assist them, I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing.

The Desert Fathers: sayings of the Early Christian Monks: Fortitude

3. Ammonas said that for fourteen years in Scetis he had been asking God day and night to give him strength to control his temper.

February 7, 2014  

(Joh 15:19-21) If you had been of the world, the world would love its own: but because you are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you. Remember my word that I said to you: The servant is not greater than his master. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they have kept my word, they will keep yours also. But all these things they will do to you for my name's sake: because they know not him that sent me.

ESSAY:  Why the World Hates Christianity by Jim J. McCrea

: Holy See responds to UN Committee on Rights of the Child

According to the proper procedures forseen for the parties to the Convention, the Holy See takes note of the Concluding Observations on its Reports, which will be submitted to a thorough study and examination, in full respect of the Convention in the different areas presented by the Committee according to international law and practice, as well as taking into consideration the public interactive debate with the Committee, held on 16 January 2014.

The Holy See does, however, regret to see in some points of the Concluding Observations an attempt to interfere with Catholic Church teaching on the dignity of human person and in the exercise of religious freedom.

The Holy See reiterates its commitment to defending and protecting the rights of the child, in line with the principles promoted by the Convention on the Rights of the Child and according to the moral and religious values offered by Catholic doctrine.

FRIDAY FAX VIA C-FAM: Vatican Blasts UN Committee That Asks Church To Change Teaching on Abortion and Homosexuality By Stefano Gennarini, J.D.

This is perhaps the most outrageous thing I have seen in all my 17 years at the UN. A UN Committee has told the Catholic Church to let kids have sex, contraception and abortions. This simply boggles the imagination. We have launched a petition drive to defend the Church at the UN. Please go to and sign, and then send to your entire address book. Stefano Gennarini reports.


USSSB: The United Nations: Caring for Children or Caring for Culture Warriors by Sister Mary Ann Walsh

HLI: UN Committee Statement Requesting Changes in Catholic Moral Teaching is an Egregious Attack on Religious Freedom

: How the Holy See was ambushed by a UN kangaroo court

CRISIS MAGAZINE: UN Attacks Catholic Teaching Under the Pretext of Protecting Children

CATHOLIC LEAGUE: Demagogic U.N. Report on Vatican by Bill Donohue

The Desert Fathers: sayings of the Early Christian Monks: Fortitude

2. A brother asked Agatho, 'I have been instructed to go somewhere, and I have serious doubts about the place where I have been told to go. I want to obey the order, yet I'm frightened of the inner struggle which will follow.' The hermit said, 'Agatho was like that. He obeyed orders, and so he won the battle.

February 6, 2014  

(1Co 12:24-26) But our comely parts have no need: but God hath tempered the body together, giving to that which wanted the more abundant honour. That there might be no schism in the body: but the members might be mutually careful one for another. And if one member suffer any thing, all the members suffer with it: or if one member glory, all the members rejoice with it.

CATHOLIC REGISTER: Ukrainian struggle is Church’s struggle

St. Louis Ukrainian Catholics pray, worry as unrest unfolds in homeland

Perspectives on the Ukrainian Protests


We belong to one Church - a family that spans continents and centuries, bound together by a common faith in Jesus Christ. In that spirit, today I ask all Catholics in the Greater Philadelphia region to pray urgently for the Church in Ukraine and to press our elected federal representatives for financial and travel restrictions on Ukraine's political and business leaders.

Western Catholics remember the suffering of the Polish Church under Communism because of Pope John Paul II's witness of resistance. Less well known, but even more brutal, was the half-century of Soviet persecution experienced by Ukrainian Greek Catholics, who make up the largest Eastern Catholic Church in the world.

After Communism's collapse, life for the Church in Ukraine improved. But late last year Ukraine's leaders shifted back toward the Russian orbit. They cracked down heavily on demonstrations and dissent, killing some protesters and arresting hundreds of others. Christians in Ukraine - Catholics, Orthodox and others -- have not been silent. The Church's people and leaders have played a major role in denouncing government violence, political repression and corruption. Ukrainian Catholic clergy have given vital pastoral care to those demonstrating for human rights and democratic principles. And they've been targeted by the government for doing so.

Last week, the Wall Street Journal voiced its frustration with Washington's inaction - and seeming disinterest -- in the face of the worsening Ukraine crisis. The Journal's editors noted that the best way of curbing repression by corrupt Ukraine officials and "business oligarchs" is a visa ban and freeze on their American-based assets. But so far, it hasn't happened.

Philadelphia's Ukrainian Catholic Archbishop Stefan Soroka has called on all of us as fellow Catholics, and other Americans of good will, to support the struggle for religious and civil liberties in Ukraine. We can do that first and most importantly by prayer - and then by contacting our elected representatives. Silence from the United States encourages oppression in Ukraine. We can't let that happen, again, to fellow believers who bore so much suffering for so many decades.

It's a privilege to join my own voice, and the voice of the people and clergy of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, to the voice of Archbishop Soroka and the Ukrainian Catholic community.

RELATED: Recent information about Ukraine

The Desert Fathers: sayings of the Early Christian Monks: Possessing Nothing

20. Someone brought a hermit who was a leper some money and said, 'Take this to spend, for you are old and ill.' He replied, 'Are you going to take me away from Him who has fed me for sixty years? I have been ill all that time, and have needed nothing because God has fed me and given me what I need.' He would not accept it.

February 4, 2014  

(Psa 127:3-5) Behold the inheritance of the Lord are children: the reward, the fruit of the womb. As arrows in the hand of the mighty, so the children of them that have been shaken. Blessed is the man that hath filled the desire with them; he shall not be confounded when he shall speak to his enemies in the gate.

LINK: One Rosary a Day to Defeat Abortion

CATHOLIC SENTINEL:  Florida mom says women's true stories about abortion changing hearts

A Mother’s Letter to her son


I told you people would read about you... I promised you that you would not go unnoticed! I am so proud of you.

It has been two years already and still your presence is with me daily...I can never start to comprehend how much I love you and how much I miss you...I think of you every single day and wish you were here to share life's moments. I lie awake imagining how perfect you would look sleeping and how I would lose myself just watching you dream... I can only imagine how you look and how much you have grown.

I imagine you must have big bright eyes full of joy and love and can only imagine how beautiful you are! I think about how you laugh most of the times and how your face would just light up my day. I would really love to hold your hand and hold you close to my heart assuring you that I will never let you go.

You certainly are the most intelligent, most talented boy I would have ever met! I would have loved to help you with your homework and listen to hear all the stories you would have told me! I would have loved to answer all your questions and provide the best answers I could have. We would have danced, sang and played together everyday. I think of the long walks we could have had together. I still go to the park and picture how you would have loved being on the swings and the slides and cannot help but smile and appreciate the warmth you bring to my heart. I wish you could have met your cousins; I see your face every time I look at them and cannot help but wish you were here.

You would have been the kindest, most caring, thoughtful and selfless boy. Ishmael, you are perfect. I am pleased for you... I really am...

I am sorry because I feel like I have robbed you of the gift of this life... But at the same time cannot help but feel happy for you because you are in the best place anyone could ever be. Ishmael I am sorry... As much as you have forgiven me already I just want you to know I was wrong and I am so sorry.

I want you to know that I did complete my Bachelors degree and am building a career but it is still not a good enough reason for letting you go... I cry my son, but my tears are not because I regret your 12 week existence but because you are gone and you have changed my life in a way you can never imagine.

Every little boy I meet now I am reminded of you and is a symbol and a sign of strength, bravery, courage and faith that in Christ we can do all things... I cannot wait to tell your brothers and sisters, (when they come) about you. I know they will love you. I live for the day I will walk through heaven's gates and see you there waiting to embrace me... That will surely be a dream come true...

Meanwhile... I know you already and see you standing there. Till then be a good boy. Keep on smiling and know that I love you beyond my ability to express on this paper.
You truly are my world and you are forever on my heart...

I would like to tell you more about your father, about my parents, my sisters and the amazing people who have touched my life on this journey of mine... Someday...
Someday I will.

Truly, madly, deeply in love with you.

Your Mom......

This dear friend is a letter from Tendi to her aborted son. You dear friends have been praying for her. Please keep prayers going. You can see the reconciliation between mother and child. This is our work. Yours and mine. In this way we give glory to God for His creation and ensure that the child is never forgotten and of course when reconciled the mother can rest in a new peace. Thank you Tendi and thank you to those who help me to continue this work, without you I couldn’t do it.

The Desert Fathers: sayings of the Early Christian Monks: Possessing Nothing

19. A great man came from a distance to Scetis carrying gold, and he asked the presbyter of the desert to distribute it among the brothers. But the presbyter said to him, 'The brothers do not need it.' But he was very pressing, and would not give way, and put a basket of money in the church porch. So the presbyter said, 'Whoever is in need may take money from here.' No one touched it, some did not even look at it. The presbyter said, 'God has accepted your offering to him. Go away and give it to the poor.' He went away very much edified
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