Keep your eyes open!...


January 29, 2016  

(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: To evangelize the poor: This is the mission of Jesus, according to what He Himself says; this is also the mission of the Church, and of every person baptized in the Church. To be Christian and to be a missionary is the same thing. To proclaim the Gospel, with words, and, even before that, with one’s life, is the principle end of the Christian community and of each of its members.

MARK MALLET BLOG: Pope in a Hurry?

CATHOLICCITIZENS.ORG: The Best Is Yet to Come for Catholicism by Fr. C. John McCloskey III

Some years ago I co-wrote with longtime Catholic journalist Russell Shaw a book entitled Good News, Bad News (still in print from Ignatius Press). It covers evangelization, conversion, and the crisis of faith, complete with many anecdotes of conversion, including those of well-known men and women.

On the one hand, as we all know, over the last several decades, a great many Catholics have left the faith. For most of us, this phenomenon hits close to home, with examples among family members.

On the other hand, many thousands over the last several decades have rejoined the Faith of their Fathers or have newly discovered the truth and beauty of Catholicism. Every Easter, large numbers are received into the Church and are some of the most fervent practitioners of the Faith. For example, in the United States in 2014, the Official Catholic Directory recorded 39,654 catechumens, baptized, confirmed, and receiving first Communion, and another 66,831 candidates who had already received valid baptisms in another church and who were received into full Communion with the Catholic Church.

This is a very good sign, although of course we need to add many more to that number. And in some ways today’s society should offer fertile ground for conversions. More and more people, including serious Christians from many faltering denominations and many Evangelicals, are realizing that only in the Church that Christ founded can one find the wholeness of the Lord’s teachings, safeguarded from erroneous interpretation. And only there can Christians find all that is necessary for salvation: that is, all the sacraments instituted by Christ to give grace.

Among these, the sacrament that produces most yearning in non-Catholic Christians who are approaching the Church is the Eucharist, the body and blood, soul and divinity of Our Lord. Outside the Church, they have no access to this sacrament that Our Lord, on the night before he died, entrusted to the apostles, who were the first priests and bishops. In many cases, other Christian faith groups do not even have a priesthood, and those that do, such as Episcopalians, do not have the unbroken apostolic succession necessary to confer the true Sacrament of Holy Orders.

One area of the world where the Church is flourishing is Africa, where converts are coming by the hundreds of thousands. The Church is also strong in parts of Poland and Hungary and, surprisingly, of late also in certain regions of France. Some of this is likely due to the realization of the danger that is on their doorstep in the form of Islam. They are also aware that unless they return to the fullness of the Church and its teaching on marriage and particularly being open to life, they will be overrun by Islam.

And of course the Catholic Church is growing in the Far East, including (despite difficult circumstances) in China. It is only the Catholic Church that produces a Mother Teresa of Calcutta – soon to be canonized and a great example of the power of holiness that comes from the teachings of the Church and its sacraments.

Another magnet to the Church for many people recently has been Pope Francis. Although his style may not be attractive to some Catholics, nonetheless he has made a big impact throughout the world, not only with Catholics but with the faithful members of the so-called Reformation.

There is much more to be done by all of us as faithful members of the Catholic faith, who are called to evangelize in some manner our family and friends, the people we work with, indeed all those we encounter. The best preparation for doing this is to take advantage of the grace of the sacraments. We should also ask the Holy Spirit to help us to be truly joyful in such a way that our happiness will draw people around us to the Church God founded.

We are engaged in a most important struggle for our country. Although waged on many fronts – including marriage and the family, assisted suicide, freedom of conscience, and abortion – all flow from a correct understanding of our all-wise and all-loving Creator’s plan for his Creation.

So our task in this new year is to continue to fight for the right to life from conception to natural death, with no exceptions. Second and very important is to once again be a country that recognizes marriage as solely the union of male and female, as it was from the beginning.

We should continue to pray that all Catholic educational institutions, from grammar school through high school and university, will be completely faithful to the teachings of the Catholic Church.

As we know, coming up in this next year is a crucial presidential election in the United States, and for the first time in many years there are a good number of candidates who are clearly pro-life, pro-family, and pro-marriage. By the end of this year we will either have renewed reason for hope or even greater urgency about our need to convert our culture and its people.

CATHOLIC SPIRIT: New initiative aims to make Catholic men ‘watchmen’

PITTSBURGH CATHOLIC: Christian faith built on that Old Testament tradition and saw Christ as the one who breaks whatever endless cycle we might feel exists in our lives. Christ calls us to an eternal kingdom where we will be happy forever. Christ also calls us to a kingdom that begins here on earth. That kingdom begun here challenges us to see Christ in our neighbor and warns us of a judgment that takes into account how we have treated one another. Christ calls us to a new way of thinking and acting.

In this way then we have control of our own ultimate destiny by the way we live our lives here on earth. As we do so in accord with Christ’s commands, we feed the poor, clothe the naked and visit those who are ill or in prison. Thus, while looking toward our own eternal destiny we are making the present life of others more bearable.

Ladder of Divine Ascent excerpt: Step 3- "On Exile or Pilgrimage"

4. In hastening to solitude and exile, do not wait for world-loving souls, because the thief comes unexpectedly. In trying to save the careless and indolent along with themselves, many perish with them, because in course of time the soul's fire goes out. As soon as the flame is burning within you, run; for you do not know when it will go out and leave you in darkness. Not all of us are required to save others. The divine Apostle says: 'Everyone of us shall give account of himself to God.' And again he says: 'Thou therefore that teachest another, dost thou not teach thyself?' This is like saying: I do not know whether we must all teach others; but we must most certainly teach ourselves.

January 26, 2016  

(Mat 24:32-36) And from the fig tree learn a parable: When the branch thereof is now tender and the leaves come forth, you know that summer is nigh. So you also, when you shall see all these things, know ye that it is nigh, even at the doors. Amen I say to you that this generation shall not pass till all these things be done. Heaven and earth shall pass: but my words shall not pass. But of that day and hour no one knoweth: no, not the angels of heaven, but the Father alone.

ALETEIA: Destruction of Mar Elia Monastery and the Criminal Nihilism of ISIS

ISIS destruction of heritage ‘most brutal since WWII’


: Roman Catholic priest has found a unique method of combatting ISIS in Iraq

Father Gabriel Tooma is not going after them with weapons.

He is not involved with any of the several Christian militias that have taken it upon themselves, in Iraq and neighboring Syria, to defend their villages against IS onslaught.

What he is doing, he says, is even more important to the Christian minority's fate in northern Iraq: He is rounding up ancient manuscripts and relics and hiding them in secure locations around Kurdistan, hoping to save them from the iconoclastic fury of the terror insurgency.

"If Daesh burns down a church we can rebuild it, but the manuscripts are our history. They trace back our roots, they are part of our civilization," he said, using the Arabic acronym for the group. "If they get destroyed, then we are lost, and our culture will be forgotten."

The 55-year old priest, a Jesuit-like Pope Francis, spoke during a meeting late last year at a monastery in al Qosh, in the Nineveh Plain.

His words took on a new, urgent meaning on Wednesday, when news broke that IS fighters had done exactly what he had said. The extremist militants had razed the oldest Christian church in Iraq, the 1,400-year old St. Elijah Monastery in Mosul, about 30 miles (50 km) from al Qosh.

In the face of this threat, Father Gabriel is trying to save what he can, including manuscripts dating back as far as the 11th Century.

They are mainly liturgical books, but there are also Old Testament stories, books on medicine, and miniatures drawn by monks. "These books have an inestimable value," he said. He has been at work for four years on scanning and saving them in digital format, with the help of the Italian NGO Un Ponte Per and funds from the Italian Episcopal Conference.


Isis Bomb Assyrian Homes, Monastery in Iraq, Cemeteries Vandalized
Isis Blows Up 10th Century Assyrian Catholic Monastery Near Mosul
Isis Destroys 4th-century Assyrian Catholic Monastery in Iraq

Ladder of Divine Ascent excerpt: Step 3- "On Exile or Pilgrimage"

3. If every prophet goes unhonoured in his own country, as the Lord says, then us beware lest our exile should be for us an occasion of vainglory. For exile is separation from everything in order to keep the mind inseparable from God. Exile loves and produces continual weeping. An exile is a fugitive from every relationship with his own people and with strangers.

January 22, 2016  

(Psa 139:14-16) I will praise thee, for thou art fearfully magnified: wonderful are thy works, and my soul knoweth right well. My bone is not hidden from thee, which thou hast made in secret: and my substance in the lower parts of the earth. Thy eyes did see my imperfect being, and in thy book all shall be written: days shall be formed, and no one in them.

BISHOP R. WALKER NICKLESS: If we love our country, if we want our children and grandchildren to inherit anything good and true from the past century, then we must not bequeath to them the evil of abortion. Pope Francis has reminded us that the church is a field hospital for all those wounded by sin. We are all engaged in triage. And in that sense, abortion is the injury that most urgently needs our attention for healing. Both in its essence and its scale, abortion is the greatest moral evil of our day. Without our pro-life witness and efforts, and most especially our constant, devout prayers, all those souls wounded by abortion risk being lost.

Please be pro-life and anti-abortion! None of us can simply stand silently and let mothers and fathers choose to take the innocent life of their son or daughter. We must speak!

USCCBStatement On The 43rd Anniversary Of Roe V. Wade

REVIEW: US War Deaths vs Abortion Deaths

: Abortion Grief: Mother Love, Mercy Love and God's Compassion by Anne Lastman

Grief is a universal human experience which every culture experiences and has its own methods of dealing with it. But abortion grief is unique since it is a pain which has no name and cannot be openly spoken about; yet it is deep and very painful. This pain is experienced when “mother love” is wounded.

“Mother love” is a mysterious love written deep within the heart of a woman, deep within the essence of her feminine “I.” “Mother love” is the mysterious union between her “I” and the “I” of another, her child. This is a union which society and the abortive woman have not understood or anticipated; and they have found it cannot be suppressed. This grief which follows abortion is the truth of the very existence of “mother love” which ensures that no creation will pass by unnoticed.


Many reasons are given for this grief but the most fundamental one is that a woman has written within her being a connection, a primordial attachment, to her infant, from its earliest moment of conception. This is because her body knows it has cooperated with God to bring to birth a new creation: “[M]otherhood involves a special communion with the mystery of life as it develops in the woman’s womb” (John Paul II, On the Dignity & Vocation of Women).

There is no error in this knowledge except perhaps in the matter of a defective affective faculty where a mother’s understanding is truly distorted, e.g., she is sociopathic. As John Paul II pointed out in the above document: “Each and every time that motherhood is repeated in human history, it is always related to the covenant which God established with the human race through the Motherhood of the Mother of God.”

This covenant is extended every time motherhood is repeated making the birth of each child a salvific moment for a woman.

The blood shed in an abortion is that of a mother’s child and, whether acknowledged or not, a woman cannot allow the dying of this child to be forgotten. Her being cannot tolerate this violence without the resulting anguish of heart at the loss of someone who is for her the visible sign of her feminine being. Her anguish is a recognition of her failure to protect the “Word” spoken by God into her being, the “Word” which was “Life.”

The moral awareness or “knowing” that to abort her child is wrong and harmful to both of them, and to humanity, is the intuitive knowing deeply written within a mother’s feminine dignity, “the dignity which is joined in the closest possible way to the vocation of every person” (John Paul II). Her child’s dignity is that of an authentic human being designed in the image and likeness of God. This is indelibly imprinted in a mother’s conscience, that private sanctuary where God has communed His desires to her.

Abortion grief is the response to the death of one whose dignity, irrespective of gestational age, is the dignity accorded to it by God in His primordial design of the human species and continued with each new conception; a dignity which no one may violate without suffering. This grief is experienced by the essential “I” in recognition of the violence done against another “I” in a determined deliberate action. It is the law written on the human heart (Jer 31:31-33) which demands the grief; and it is right and just to do so.

Authentic awareness of the deeper realities of the human being is strengthened when actions and experiences activate the primordial imprint, “do good and avoid evil”. These actions and experiences resonate with the innermost instructions written on the human heart (Jer 31:31-33) and lived out in a manner visible to all. Abortion does not resonate with these inner realities and indeed beckons evil where previously none existed.

Grief and suffering following abortion need not be dismissed nor doubted but can be received as a gift of mercy from God because it ensures that the child created by Him will not be willed out of existence, but be remembered and loved for an earthly lifetime and into eternity. For its parents this grief can be the moment of metanoia, a change because of the mercy offered.

Mercy and the healing of these wounds call into being a new and holier creation, woman, who has been ministered to by God Himself who willed in Jesus Christ to suffer and to die so that her sin could be forgiven. Indeed, through the suffering and repentance of the abortive woman (and man), united to the suffering of Jesus Christ, the misery of that primordial act in Eden (Genesis 3:1-34), now repeated in the abortion facility, is reversed and changed into a new option for God.


Abortion grief is a type of penitent suffering which is profound and experienced by the woman’s “I” as it travails to touch the other “I” which it has wounded. Yet within this type of suffering is hidden the key to the forgiveness offered by Jesus Christ. It is here where he meets, forgives and heals; here where he regathers to himself his own.

The origin of suffering is not divine. However, the response to it is, and because this is so, the abortive woman who turns to God in an attitude of humility can be forgiven and shown Mercy Love, just as the memory of her baby cannot be forgotten because of “Mother Love.” The memory of the abortion remains as a salvific moment which deepens the understanding of the individual’s personal history, action and salvation. Indeed, Mercy Love and Mother Love equal the compassion of God.

RELATED: Human Life International

Ladder of Divine Ascent excerpt: Step 3- "On Exile or Pilgrimage"

2. Those who have come to love the Lord are at first unceasingly and greatly disturbed by this thought, as if burning with divine fire. I speak of separation from their own, undertaken by the lovers of perfection so that they may live a life of hardship and simplicity. But great and praiseworthy as this is, yet it requires great discretion; for not every kind of exile, carried to extremes, is good.

January 21, 2016  

(46:10) Be still and see that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, and I will be exalted in the earth.

MARK MALLET: Ascetic in the City

CATHOLIC GLOBE:  Contemplative Prayer, A Loving Inflow of God into the Soul

: Distractions During Prayer

Many people complain of distractions during prayer. One must not think that this is only a problem for people of today. Shakespeare writes the following for one of the characters in his plays:

My words rise up,
My thoughts remain below.
Words without thoughts
seldom to Heaven go.

What is a distraction? Let me describe some. I start praying perhaps by meditating on a Mystery of the Rosary. I am thinking about the Presentation in the Temple while praying the Hail Mary when all of a sudden I am thinking about a baseball game, what's for lunch or what I'm going to do the next day. Now if I did not mean to think these distracting thoughts then my prayer has not been in vain. Remember that prayer is not an intellectual exercise but a conversation or a desire for a relationship with God. Still, many people would like to have less distractions during prayer. Here are some suggestions that might help.

When you realize during prayer that you are no longer in the Presence of God but have wandered somewhere else then throw the distraction out. But one must do this gently and not with violence.  A violent return to prayer can be a bigger distraction than what one is trying to throw out. The spiritual writers of old used to advise that one simply brushed distractions away as if they were annoying flies. This is a good analogy for the problem. I know that when I am talking to someone and a fly takes a great interest in me I am only momentarily distracted from the conversation. But let a bee instead of a fly landed on me and we have a totally different story. The conversation with the other person would be abruptly stopped while I tried to avoid being stung. My total concentration would be on the bee and not on the person I was talking to for some time. So treat distractions lightly and don't worry about them.

Another technique to overcome annoying distractions is to make them part of one's prayer. For instance I remember once while praying the Rosary being distracted by thoughts of my sick cousin.  Instead of throwing this out I began to pray for my cousin. Even a distraction as unrelated as a baseball game still involves people who could use one's prayers. Mention these people to Jesus and ask Him to help them. Jesus told Sister Mary of the Holy Trinity, a Poor Clare, concerning distractions to "use them by praying for what is presented to you."

Health and environment do effect the number of distractions one has during prayer. Being sleepy or tired causes the mind to wander much more easily. Other factors such as not eating properly, tension, worries, etc. can lead to a very distracting time. I remember being told once to pray now while one is healthy because it is almost impossible to do so when you are sick. A bad headache can make just thinking, let alone praying, a very challenging task. If possible try to minimize these problems. If you can't then pray about them or pray for the grace to pray with them.

In passing I must say that our present world environment is not conducive to prayer. Our minds are overwhelmed with images from the television, sounds from the radio, horror stories from the newspapers, etc. The media feeds our minds with many thoughts for distraction during prayer. These things whether we like it or not become impressed upon our minds. They make it difficult for one to raise one's mind to God."

St. Therese of Avila, a Doctor of the Church called the Doctor of prayer, taught that most of the problem one has during prayer is related to what one does when one begins to pray. She really emphasizes the importance of beginning prayer by placing oneself in the Presence of God. Another term for this recollection. This fancy term means nothing more than collecting your thoughts. Give yourself time to settle down to prayer. Breathe deeply, find the best position, forget about what you were doing a few minutes before, etc. Don't begin your prayer already distracted. In whatever way is best for you, maybe a picture of Jesus, imagining Him before you or by another method place Him before you.

There is a Saint to pray to for help in this area. The French Carmelite nun Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity said before she died that when she was in Heaven she would help people to be recollected.

Finally, consider praying out loud when distractions are really bad - if you are alone. This technique is especially helpful while doing what is called "conversational prayer," that is talking to God. By praying out loud at least if you get so distracted - and stop praying - you'll notice it!

Brother John Raymond - Community of the Monks of Adoration

Ladder of Divine Ascent excerpt: Step 3- "On Exile or Pilgrimage"

1. Exile means that we leave forever everything in our own country that prevents us from reaching the goal of piety. Exile means modest manners, wisdom which remains unknown, prudence not recognized as such by most, a hidden life, an invisible intention, unseen meditation, desire for humiliation, longing for hardship, constant determination to love God, abundance of love, renunciation of vainglory, depth of silence.

January 19, 2016  

(Lev 19:19) Keep ye my laws. Thou shalt not make thy cattle to gender with beasts of any other kind. Thou shalt not sow thy field with different seeds. Thou shalt not wear a garment that is woven of two sorts.

(Isa 14:12-14) How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, who didst rise in the morning? how art thou fallen to the earth, that didst wound the nations? And thou saidst in thy heart: I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God, I will sit in the mountain of the covenant, in the sides of the north. I will ascend above the height of the clouds, I will be like the most High.

FATHER LONGENECKER: Transhumanism: The Future Horror is Here

EXCERPT IEET: Transhumanism - The Final Religion?

“Transhumanism is a class of philosophies of life that seek the continuation and acceleration of the evolution of intelligent life beyond its currently human form and human limitations by means of science and technology, guided by life-promoting principles and values.” (Max More 1990)

Which sounds harmless enough and rather bland. What lies beneath is most definitely neither bland nor harmless and represents a potential change in life on Earth, and Humanity as a whole, which is unprecedented not only in the historical record but the geological. It is, perhaps, the single most momentous event in a billion years – if its more ambitious goals can be realized. Indeed, these goals are so ambitious that they warrant the title of this article irrespective as to whether they are in any way feasible, and it will become abundantly clear that while we may talk of a philosophy what we have is a declaration of intent. They are aspirations that address questions that were once the sole preserve of religions, but unlike conventional religions they seek hard engineering answers rather than ill defined and ancient obfuscations. They address the deepest hopes and fears of the Human mind – life, death, the afterlife, immortality, the nature of God(s) and the destiny of the universe.

It begins with what most people would consider an outlandish proposal, and escalates from there. It is of course, one of Humanity’s oldest obsessions – the elimination of aging. A modern incarnation of the desire to eat of the fruit of the Tree of Life, to drink from the Fountain of Youth, to create the Philosopher’s Stone and never have to worry about growing old and infirm. It is also a technology that looks like it might finally be within our grasp, with significant scientific progress being made or at least enough to grab regular headlines in the popular press. There is also a compelling argument to be made from the government’s point of view. In an aging population medical costs are escalating to a ruinous degree as we try to tackle heart disease, cancer, stroke, diabetes, dementia and general infirmity, not by curing but postponing. Yet it is increasingly obvious that these are merely symptoms of the root problem, which is failure of the body’s own repair mechanisms. Aging is the underlying disease.

Contrary to the claims of many conspiracy theorists Transhumanists are generally not very interested in eugenics or genetically engineering Homo Sapiens. This is not because of any ethical considerations but on pragmatic grounds – it is too slow. The favored route is to merge our existing biology with our machines through such devices as brain computer interfaces. The hope is that our AIs will become extensions of ourselves leading to the first wave of what is termed Post Humanity. Any alteration of biology to accommodate this symbiosis could involve genetic engineering of adults, and nanotechnology (another hand waving catchall which might as well be magic). How realistic these ideas might be remains to be seen, but the road map to the destination is in place.

The PostHuman dream is of uncorrupted immortal bodies housing the minds of gods, as far beyond us as we are beyond cats and dogs, where all aspects of emotion, suffering and intellect are under conscious control. Our animal heritage finally jettisoned in favor of the new and immaculate conception. A world without suffering or stupidity or violence. There is even one project proposed by philosopher David Pierce to re-engineer the genomes of all life on Earth to eliminate suffering, or at least put a limit on the amount of pain or stress any creature (including ourselves) can experience. Obviously for the longer term, or perhaps on a smaller scale for farm animals…

CHARISMA NEWS:  Dr. Richard Land Warns of a Transhumanism 'Frankenstein' Future

: Inhuman


Human-Animal Chimeras Are Gestating on U.S. Research Farms
UK on verge of editing genome of human embryos
Chinese Cloning Factory Can Clone Humans But Boss Says It Won't Make Frankensteins

Ladder of Divine Ascent excerpt: Step 2- "On Detachment"

6. It is worth investigating why those who live in the world and spend their life in vigils, fasts, labours and hardships, when they withdraw from the world and begin the monastic life, as if at some trial or on the practising ground, no longer continue the discipline of their former spurious and sham asceticism. I have seen how in the world they planted many different plants of the virtues, which were watered by vainglory as by an underground sewage pipe, and were hoed by ostentation, and for manure were heaped with praise. But when transplanted to a desert soil, inaccessible to people of the world and so not manured with the foul-smelling water of vanity, they withered at once. For water-loving plants are not such as to produce fruit in hard and arid training fields.

January 15, 2016  

(Jas 1:22-25) But be ye doers of the word and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. For if a man be a hearer of the word and not a doer, he shall be compared to a man beholding his own countenance in a glass. For he beheld himself and went his way and presently forgot what manner of man he was. But he that hath looked into the perfect law of liberty and hath continued therein, not becoming a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work: this man shall be blessed in his deed.

CARDINAL DONALD WUERL:  At the Service of the Truth and Love of Jesus Christ

: Telling the truth when we pray

The Protestant reformer Martin Luther once said, “Don’t lie when you pray.” His words may be more legend than real, but their content still rings very true. And they’re good to remember as we prepare for next week’s holiday (January 18) honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

King taught us to be honest about our faith and the convictions that should flow from it. He took Scripture seriously — especially its passages on forgiveness, love and justice — and he acted on it, refusing to count the cost.

Too many of us who call ourselves Christians, especially in a wealthy country like ours, fall into the habit of living our religious beliefs as if they were moral slogans. We use our faith for comfort when we feel sad or when we suffer. But many of us never really carry the implications of believing in Jesus Christ beyond that. We’re embarrassed to share him with others. We ignore or water down his teachings when it comes to our racial attitudes, or our economy, or our politics. And that suits the modern state very well, because when our faith remains private, it has no public consequences. The callousness of the world can go on as usual, and undisturbed.

The trouble with such faith is this: It’s a form of lying. Dr. King understood that very well.  He saw clearly that the greatest enemy of God in every age doesn’t come in the shape of the world or the flesh or the devil. It comes in the tepid faith of God’s people. If we want to know why the world isn’t a better place, we only need to look in the mirror.

The Epistle of James tells us to “be doers of the word and not hearers only” (1:22), because “faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead” (2:17). God didn’t make us to be “good enough” human beings. He made us to be saints. He made us for greatness and heroism. Every human heart, Christian or not, instinctively knows that.

God calls each of us to transform the world, and if we don’t live the way God intended us to live, the world will remain as it is — a place of conflict, prejudice and violence.

Dr. King once said, “If you want to change people, you have to love them; and they need to know you love them.” In my 45 years as a priest, I’ve never forgotten those words. Dr. King loved well, and by the power of that love, he helped to change the heart of a nation. He returned hatred with forgiveness, and by the power of that forgiveness, he showed that real strength and real justice come from love, not violence.

In his Letter from a Birmingham Jail, Dr. King wrote, “the question is not whether we will be extremist, but what kind of extremist we will be. Will we be extremists for hate, or extremists for love? Will we be extremists for the preservation of injustice — or will we be extremists for the cause of justice?” Dr. King answered those questions by the example of his life. And the witness he left us invites every one of us, Christian and non-Christian alike, to do the same.

Don’t lie when you pray. We need to live honestly. We need to act on the convictions we say we believe — racial equality, economic justice, the sanctity of the human person from the unborn child to the elderly; from conception to natural death. The biggest lie of the last 100 years is that individuals can’t make a difference; that our problems are too big and complicated for ordinary people to do anything about them.

Dr. King proved that God can use us to do anything — anything, even touch the conscience of the greatest power on earth — if a person fights for the truth in a spirit of love. That’s what the life of Martin Luther King, Jr., means. That’s what discipleship in Jesus Christ means. That’s a lesson we all need to remember, this year and every year.

CRISIS MAGAZINE: Letter to a Priest

MSGR. POPE BLOG: What the Book of Proverbs Has to Say About the Current Age

Ladder of Divine Ascent excerpt: Step 2- "On Detachment"

5. Having resolved to run our race with ardour and fervour, let us consider carefully how the Lord gave judgment concerning all living in the world, speaking of even those who are alive as dead, when He said to someone: Leave those in the world who are dead to bury the dead in body. His wealth did not in the least prevent the young man from being baptized. And so it is in vain that some say that the Lord commanded him to sell what he had for the sake of baptism. This story is more than sufficient to give us the most firm assurance of the surpassing glory of our vow.

January 13, 2016  

(Mat 25:37-40) Then shall the just answer him, saying: Lord, when did we see thee hungry and fed thee: thirsty and gave thee drink? Or when did we see thee a stranger and took thee in? Or naked and covered thee? Or when did we see thee sick or in prison and came to thee? And the king answering shall say to them: Amen I say to you, as long as you did it to one of these my least brethren, you did it to me.


Fr Jihad Nassif, Head of the Maronite Church in Homs, told SAT-7 he had come to live in Al-Hamidiya “to plant hope in people’s hearts”. He said, “Christmas is for everyone, but it is specifically for those who lost their loved ones, the kidnapped ones, the lonely ones, the sad, and the displaced”.

The process of rebuilding a city is not an easy task, he said. “We face many financial challenges. We try to fulfil some needs like clothing and food but the church doesn’t have the provisions to build all the houses here.  But there are people who are helping with some painting or building or electricity.”

Fr Michel Naaman, Priest of the Syrian Catholic Archbishopric , said four schools have reopened, giving 1,500 to 2,000 children a vital opportunity to carry on their education.

One of the worst-hit churches in the district is that being cared for by Deacon Silwan Sneige of St George Greek Orthodox Archdiocese. The heavily damaged church has no roof but still it holds mass and celebrations such as marriages, he said.

“My message to the world is that we must believe that the last word is not for the evil but for the good,” stressed Fr Kamaz. “The birth of Jesus Christ brings hope and peace to the earth. We must pray to Him to have them in our country and our lives.”

This was also the clear message of the televised Christmas morning celebration, themed on Jesus’ promised gift of peace (John 14:27) and in which Evangelical, Catholic and Orthodox leaders all took part. 

In his introduction to the service Fr Nassif told worshippers, “We are all running to seek safety and security in the world,   but Jesus says He will give us the peace… When we forget Jesus’ words we fall into despair as we see the current events.”

For the Western (25 December) and Eastern Christmas (7 January) festivals Christian satellite TV network SAT-7 broadcast a rich programmeschedule of Christmas programmes from across the Middle East, including live services, diverse musical concerts and films retelling the Christmas story.

VATICAN RADIO: Caritas: We need to overcome indifference to starving Syrians

Residents of the most isolated and war-ravaged parts of Syria are desperately awaiting the arrival of promised food aid and other emergency supplies. The Syrian government agreed yesterday to allow humanitarian deliveries to some of the most isolated areas. Tens of thousands of people are said to be facing the imminent threat of death by starvation.

Caritas Internationalis has launched an international campaign with its regional partners in the Middle East to pressure the international community to act decisively to bring the nearly five-year-old civil war in Syria to an end.

The General Secretary of Caritas Internationalis, Michel Roy, told us there is real danger of losing sight of the terrible human toll of the conflict.

Caritas Internationalis, together with its colleagues, all agree that Syria is at the heart of a geo-political struggle in which the Syrian people "count for nothing."

"When we met last September we agreed to ask the international community to seek peace," Roy said. "The problem is that the international community will talk about peace but will not include Assad in its talks. This means, according to Roy, that "we go on with the war."

Caritas Internationalis therefore decided to launch a campaign for peace in Syria, Iraq and the Middle East so as to exert pressure on the governments there and around to the world to make sincere, inclusive efforts at a workable peace process. The objective is to overcome international indifference toward the Syrian people. "After five years," says Roy, "war in Syria has become normal."

DISTURBING VIDEO: Syrian civilians 'starving to death' - BBC News


Starvation in Syria: People in Town Under Siege Eating Leaves and Grass
'Our life was catastrophic': Innocent Syrians trapped in war tragically forced to eat cats and dogs during food shortage
Aid Workers Report 'Barely Moving Skeletons' in Syria's Madaya


Ladder of Divine Ascent excerpt: Step 2- "On Detachment"

4. Let us listen to what the Lord said to the young man who had fulfilled nearly all the commandments: 'One thing though lackest: sell whatsoever thou hast and give to the poor and become a beggar who receives alms from others'.

January 10, 2016  


Fr. Jerry M. Orbos SVD: By virtue of our baptism, we become sons and daughters of God, and become members of the Church. As sons and daughters of God, we are supposed to be like Him in our thoughts, words and deeds, and make Him real and present by our very lives. As members of the Church, we must not become delinquent members or mere bystanders. We must get involved, and we must share and spread our faith to others. Our being sons or daughters of God is not just a gift but also a responsibility. Our Church membership is neither exclusive nor merely for decoration purposes.

: Contagious spirit

The dramatic challenges facing the world call on the Church and on be­lie­vers to wake up and ask how God is at work loving the world in these times. In the wake of the elapsed festive season we need to avoid the trap of idealist pictures of the Church and instead seek to understand its concrete reality in communion with the world God loves.

The account of Jesus in today’s gospel joining the queue to be baptised by John is not in the first place, as very often we recall, a gesture of humility. It is rather indicative of the way God involves Himself in the world and with the world to be with people wherever they may be.

With the baptism of Jesus there is discontinuity from the baptism of John. In fact, the gospel says: “Heaven opened and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily shape”. John’s baptism was linked to a judgment that was imminent, while the baptism of Jesus was one meant to fill the heart of people with joy.

As we explore the significance of baptism on the feast of the baptism of the Lord, there are forgotten truths we have to recall and painful truths we have to acknowledge. Jesus is the one who instils in us the powerful apostolic genius that carries the movement of his Church and gives it life, making it innovative and creative. But, standing by our practices, baptism has practically got nothing to do with this apostolic genius.

Jesus’ last words to his disciples in the gospel were his commission to preach and baptise. The Greek word baptizo means ‘to immerse’, commonly used to describe a garment being dyed, rather than just pouring or sprinkling water. It means being completely submerged. We no longer seem to immerse people, not just because we interrupted the original ritual of immersing people fully in water, but also in the sense that we are taking baptism too superficially.

What has made things worse is that we impoverished the reality and meaning of baptism by reducing it to a ritual that cancels what we were taught – that we inherit ‘original sin’ by virtue of our being born humans. So with time, we actually reversed the richness of immersion, making baptism something akin to the Old Testament practice of circumcision done to infants shortly after birth.

Baptism should first and foremost refresh in us today the way the Church, as an organic body rather than an organisation, grows and spreads. Baptism is at the heart of discipleship, which is what Christian life is about. The ‘feeling of expec­tancy’, which in the gospel is said to have characterised the people at the time of John the Baptist, is the same feeling that characterises our times. But in a quite different sense.

Today, many have high expectations from what we proclaim in faith. If we do not upgrade our practices, if we fail to rise to today’s situations and challenges, then we are in for more and more illusions. In the presence of Jesus, John the Baptist declared his baptism outdated, and pointed to the one who “will baptise you with the Holy Spirit and fire”.

Standing by the recent study of the status of Christianity in our islands published with the title Enigmatic Faith, the data collected and studied on the degree to which people practise their religion can be very telling from a records perspective. But what is the real impact of that on the life of the Church and on of the country?

The Church can make incremental shifts in its struggle to win back the disenchanted. But the issue today is more about becoming healthier, about really being empowered as a Church, in the words of the prophet Isaiah, to be a joyful messenger on a high mountain, to let the glory of the Lord transpire from what we stand for.


On the Baptism of Christ (Gregory of Nyssa)
The Church Fathers Reflect on Jesus and the Holy Spirit: The Theophany After the Baptism of the Lord

Fr. George W. Rutler: John the Baptist was bewildered when his cousin who was sinless asked to be baptized. John said it should be the other way around. According to human logic, he was right, but Jesus came into time to turn the whole world around. This was to “fulfill all righteousness,” which means he who “takes away the sin of the world” plunges  into the water with sinners, just as his divine nature plunged into history with a human nature, the two being perfectly united yet not compromising each other. The water was a symbol, but the divine intention was a fact. Long before, Naaman could not understand why he had to make a long trip from Damascus to wash in the Jordan when there were better rivers back home. He learned that what cured him was his obedience to God’s will.

The Holy Spirit came down on Christ “like a dove.” Artists portray this as best they can, but one can get the impression that the Holy Spirit actually was a bird. That he “came down like a dove” explains that the divine love between the Father and the Son made this the moment that the Son accepted the commission to save the world. Immediately after the Baptism, Christ went into the desert to challenge the Anti-Christ. In January of 2014, our Pope had two children release doves from his window, and immediately they were attacked by a large crow and a seagull. Feathers flew and no one knows where the doves went, but the image of one white dove struggling against the black crow was worthy of an icon, and it is in fact replicated in all the “hours, days, years, centuries” of human existence. Baptism begins a fight, but it is a good fight. Chesterton said: “I believe in getting into hot water; it keeps you clean.”

Ladder of Divine Ascent excerpt: Step 2- "On Detachment"

3. After our renunciation of the world, the demons suggest to us that we should envy those living in the world who give alms and console [the needy], and be sorry for ourselves as deprived of these virtues. The aim of our foes is, by false humility, either to make us return to the world, or, if we remain monks, to plunge us into despair. It is possible to belittle those living in the world out of conceit; and it is also possible to disparage them behind their backs in order to avoid despair and to obtain hope.
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Jubilee 2000: Bringing the World to Jesus

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