Keep your eyes open!...


July 29, 2016  


(Heb 11:1) Now, faith is the substance of things to be hoped for, the evidence of things that appear not.

FATHER JOHN HARDON: What then is faith? Faith is a supernatural virtue and what the Holy Spirit gives our intellects, our minds, to assent. We assent with our minds. We consent with our wills. We assent with our minds to everything which God has revealed. Where has God revealed? He has revealed in Sacred Scripture and, hear it, and in Sacred Tradition. We are not Protestants. We are Catholics. Not everything which God has revealed is in the Bible.

Faith therefore is the superhuman power that the Holy Spirit gave us, I repeat, when we were baptized to accept, assent with our minds to everything which God has revealed. Not because we comprehend it. Watch it. Comprehension means full understanding. There is nothing, comma nothing, comma nothing in our faith that we fully understand - which means comprehend. But still we accept on the word of God not because we comprehend, but because God who can neither deceive nor be deceived has told us it is true.




Why does our generation struggle with faith?

Martin Heidegger once gave this answer: “We are too late for the gods and too early for Being.”

What does he mean by that? First, quite simply that less and less people today have faith in the old way. The gods are receding, as any look around the Western world will tell you. But Heidegger has something else in mind too, namely, the reason the gods are receding is that we don’t have the same fears our ancestors once had. Belief in God, he feels, is predicated on a certain fear and astonishment. Former generations, much more than we, felt their vulnerability, mortality, and helplessness in the face of energies and forces beyond them. Because of that, they looked for a power outside of themselves, God, to help them. Fear, among other things, made them believe in God.

And they, of necessity, feared many things: plagues that could come at a whim and wipe out whole populations, illnesses for which there was no cure, natural disasters against which there was no defence, hunger as an ever-present threat, and even the normal process of childbirth as potentially ending a woman’s life. There were no antibiotics or sophisticated medications or procedures to prolong life, no vaccinations, none of the things we have that make us less vulnerable to whim, nature, disease. Beyond this, they also lived with the fears that came from superstition, from lack of knowledge and of science. There were dark powers, they believed, that could curse you, bring bad luck, kill you. Many things were to be feared. This kind of vulnerability helps induce faith.

More positively, though, this vulnerability brought with it the capacity to be astonished. Before a universe that holds so many mysteries – thunder, lightning, the stars, the changing seasons, the process of conception, and the simple inexplicable fact that the sun rises and sets every day – there is cause for healthy astonishment, for holy fear, and there is the constant reminder of our littleness and the fact that life cannot be taken for granted.

Today, of course, we have few of these fears. We have faith in medicine, rationality, science, and in what we, humanity, can do for ourselves. As for astonishment before the power of nature? The weather channel has demythologized that.

Much of this, in fact, is good in terms of God and faith. Fear is not a good motive for religion, but rather the antithesis of true religion (whose task it is to cast out fear). Mature faith must take its roots in love and gratitude, not fear. Thus, freedom from false fear holds a rich potential for a maturer faith and religion.

Nonetheless, for now at least, we don’t seem to be actualizing that potential. There is less and less conscious faith. Ordinary consciousness, at least in the Western world, is agnostic and even atheistic. We don’t seem to feel a need for God and, consequently, the transcendent is slowly receding. We’re too late for the gods.

Moreover, as Heidegger adds, we’re also “too early for Being.” What does this add?

For Heidegger, we’ve lost many of our old fears and superstitions, but aren’t necessarily more mature and understanding because of it. We’ve moved beyond the old sense of helplessness, vulnerability, and mortality, without recognizing the new helplessness, vulnerability, and mortal danger within which we live. Like a child, sauntering along a dangerous ledge but blissfully unaware that he or she is one slip away from serious injury or death, so too are we in our new-found sense of confidence and fearlessness: We think ourselves invulnerable, but are only one doctor’s visit, chest pains, or a terrorist attack away from a fearful reminder of our own vulnerability. We aren’t immortal after all.

But this is not our real helplessness. Fearing for our physical health and safety is not the kind of vulnerability that today opens up a place for God in our lives. The scary ledge we walk along and are in constant danger of falling off has to do with the heart and its illnesses and deaths. More than our bodies, our souls are menaced today: We’re all one slip away from a broken heart, a broken family, a broken marriage, a broken life, the loss of a loved one, a betrayal in love, the bitterness of an old friend, the jealousy of a colleague, a coldness of heart within, an anger which won’t let go, a wound too deep for forgiveness, and a family, community, church, and world that cannot reconcile. Self-sufficiency is always an illusion, most especially today.

We need God as much as did our ancestors. We just don’t know it as clearly. Nothing has changed. We still stand in radical insecurity before energies and powers beyond us, storms of the heart, no less frightening than the storms of nature. We’re no less helpless, vulnerable, mortal, or fearful than the people of old and need God as much as they did, only for different reasons.

MEDITATION: Thoughts by St Theophan (1815-1894)

[I Cor. 2:9-3:8; Matt. 13:31-36]

The kingdom is like a grain of mustard seed and leaven. A small grain of mustard seed grows up into a big bush; leaven penetrates the whole lump of dough and makes it leavened. Here, on the one hand, is an image for the Church, which in the beginning consisted only of the apostles and several other people, then spread and became most numerous, penetrating all of humanity; on the other hand, it is an image of the spiritual life revealed in every person. Its first seed is the intention and determination to be saved through pleasing God, upon faith in the Lord and Saviour. This determination, no matter how firm, is like a tiny dot. In the beginning it embraces only one's consciousness and activities; then from this all of the activity of a spiritual life develops. Its movement and strength multiply and mature within its own self, and it begins to penetrate all the powers of the soul — the mind, will, feelings, then fills them with itself, makes them leavened according to its spirit, and penetrates the entire constitution of the human nature, body, soul, and spirit in which it was engendered.

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

4. A characteristic of those who are still progressing in blessed mourning is temperance and silence of the lips; and of those who have made progress- freedom from anger and patient endurance of injuries; and of the perfect- humility, thirst for dishonours, voluntary craving for involuntary afflictions, non-condemnation of sinners, compassion even beyond one's strength. The first are acceptable, the second laudable; but blessed are those who hunger for hardship and thirst for dishonour, for they shall be filled with the food whereof there can be no satiety.

July 27, 2016  

(Mar 10:14) Whom when Jesus saw, he was much displeased and saith to them: Suffer the little children to come unto me and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God.

SHORT HISTORY OF WORLD YOUTH DAY: The idea of the event came from Pope John Paul II who in 1984 announced 1985 as a Jubilee year for the Catholic Church. With the aim to recognise the importance of the youth, he invited young people from all over the world to travel to Rome for Palm Sunday. From that year forward, World Youth Day has been held, only on a much greater scale.

“You are the youth of the Church, which is ready to face the new millennium. You are the Church of tomorrow, the Church of hope,” Pope John Paul II said in Częstochowa at the 6th edition of World Youth Day in 1991, the first after the fall of communism in Europe.

VATICAN RADIO: Pope Francis' message for Krakow World Youth Day 2016

: The four saints who loom over Krakow’s World Youth Day


Official Website:
Streaming Video:

EXCERPT SALT AND LIGHT: Cardinal Dziwisz’ Homily for World Youth Day Opening Mass

Listening to the dialogue of the risen Jesus with Simon Peter on the bank of the Sea of Galilee, hearing the triple question about love and the answer to it, we have in mind the hardships of the life of this fisherman of Galilee that preceded this crucial conversation. We know that he one day left everything – his family, boat and nets – and followed an unusual Teacher from Nazareth. He became His disciple. He learned His way of looking at the matters of God and people. He lived through His passion and death, as well as through a moment of personal weakness and betrayal. Afterwards, he experienced a moment of astonishment and joy connected with Jesus’ resurrection, who appeared to His closest disciples before ascending into heaven.

We also know the continuation of the conversation, or rather the trial of love that today’s Gospel speaks about. Simon Peter, strengthened by the Holy Spirit, became a brave witness to Jesus Christ. He became a rock of the emerging Church. For all this he paid the highest price in the capital city of the Roman empire – he was crucified like his Master. Peter’s bloodshed in the name of Jesus became the seed of faith and initiated the growth of the Church, which engulfed the whole world.

Today, Christ speaks to us in Krakow, at the banks of the Wis?a river, which flows through all of Poland – from the mountains to the sea. Peter’s experience may become ours and inspire us to reflect. Let us pose three questions and look for the answers. First, where do we come from? Second, where are we today, in this moment of our lives? And third, where are we going to go and what are we going to take with us?

Where do we come from? We come from “every nation under heaven” (Acts 2:5), like those who came in great numbers to Jerusalem on Pentecost Day, but there are incomparably more of us now than two thousand years ago, because we are accompanied by centuries of preaching the Gospel, which since then has reached the furthest ends of the world. We bring our experience of various cultures, traditions and languages. What we also bring are testimonies of faith and holiness of our brothers and sisters, followers of the risen Lord, of past generations as well as the current generation.

We come from such parts of the world where people live in peace, where families are communities of love and life and where young people can pursue their dreams. But among us are also young people from countries whose people are suffering due to wars and other kinds of conflicts, where children are starving to death and where Christians are brutally persecuted. Among us are young pilgrims from parts of the world that are ruled by violence and blind terrorism, and where authorities usurp power over man and nations, following insane ideologies.

We bring to this meeting with Jesus during these days our personal experiences of living the Gospel in our difficult world. We bring our fears and disappointments, but also our hopes and yearning, our desire to live in a more human, more fraternal and solidary world. We acknowledge our weaknesses, but at the same time believe that “we can do all things through Him who strengthens us” (Phil. 4:13). We can face the challenges of the modern world, in which man chooses between faith and disbelief, good and evil, love and its rejection.

Where are we now, at this moment of our lives? We have come from near and far. Many of you have travelled thousands of kilometres and invested much in your journey to be here. We are in Krakow, the former capital of Poland, to which the light of faith reached one thousand fifty years ago. Polish history was difficult, but we have always tried to remain faithful to God and the Gospel.

We are all here because Christ has gathered us. He is the light of the world. Whoever follows Him will not walk in darkness (Jn. 8:12). He is the way, and the truth, and the life (Jn. 14:6). He has the words of eternal life. To whom shall we go? (Jn. 6:68). Only He – Jesus Christ – is able to satisfy the deepest desires of the human heart. It is He who has led us here. He is present among us. He is accompanying us like He accompanied His disciples headed for Emmaus. Let us entrust Him in these days our matters, fears and hopes. During these days, He will be asking us about love, like He asked Simon Peter. Let us not avoid responding to these questions.

Meeting with Jesus, we simultaneously realize that we all make up a great community – the Church – which surpasses the boundaries established by people and which divide people. We are all God’s children, redeemed by the blood of His Son, Jesus Christ. Experiencing the universal Church is a great experience associated with World Youth Day. The image of the Church depends on us – on our faith and sanctity. It is up to us to ensure that the Gospel reaches those who have not yet heard about Christ or have not learnt enough about Him.

Tomorrow, the Peter of our times – Pope Francis – will arrive among us. The day after tomorrow, we will greet him in this same place. In the following days, we will listen to his words and pray together with him. The presence of the Pope at World Youth Day is yet another beautiful and characteristic feature of this celebration of faith.

And finally the third, last question: where are we going and what will we take with us from here? Our meeting will last only a few days. It is going to be an intense, spiritual and, to a certain extent, physically demanding experience. Afterwards, we will return to our homes, families, schools, universities and to our places of employment. Maybe we will make some important decisions during these days? Maybe we will set some new goals in our lives? Maybe we will hear the clear voice of Jesus, telling us to leave everything and follow Him?

With what will we return? It is better to not anticipate the answer to this question. But let us take up a challenge. During these days, let us share with each other what is most valuable. Let us share our faith, our experiences, our hopes. My dear young friends, may these days be an opportunity to form your hearts and minds. Listen to the catecheses delivered by bishops. Listen to the voice of Pope Francis. Participate wholeheartedly in the divine liturgy. Experience the merciful love of the Lord in the sacrament of reconciliation. Discover also the churches of Krakow, the wealth of the culture of this city, as well as the hospitality of its inhabitants and of those of neighbouring towns, where we will find rest after a day’s rigors.

Krakow is alive with the mystery of Divine Mercy, also owing to humble Sister Faustina and John Paul II, who made the Church and the world sensitive to this specific trait of God. Returning to your countries, homes and communities, carry the spark of mercy, reminding everyone that “blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy” (Mt 5:7). Carry the flame of your faith and ignite with it other flames, so that human hearts will beat to the rhythm of the Heart of Christ, which is “a flaming fire of love.” May the flame of love engulf our world and rid it of egoism, violence and injustice, so that a civilization of good, reconciliation, love and peace will be strengthened on our earth.

The prophet Isaiah tells us today “how beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of the one bringing good news” (Is. 52:7). John Paul II was such a messenger – He was the initiator of World Youth Day, a friend of youth and families. And you be such messengers. Carry the good news about Jesus Christ to the world. Give testimony that it is both worth it and necessary to entrust Him with our fate. Open wide the doors of your hearts to Christ. Proclaim with conviction like Paul the Apostle, “that neither death, nor life, […] nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom. 8:38-39)

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

3. Repentance is the cheerful deprival of every bodily comfort

July 25, 2016  

(1Jn 1:6-7) If we say that we have fellowship with him and walk in darkness, we lie and do not the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he also is in the light, we have fellowship one with another: And the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.

BISHOP THOMAS J. TOBIN: VP Pick, Tim Kaine, a Catholic?

Democratic VP choice, Tim Kaine, has been widely identified as a Roman Catholic. It is also reported that he publicly supports “freedom of choice” for abortion, same-sex marriage, gay adoptions, and the ordination of women as priests. All of these positions are clearly contrary to well-established Catholic teachings; all of them have been opposed by Pope Francis as well. Senator Kaine has said, “My faith is central to everything I do.” But apparently, and unfortunately, his faith isn’t central to his public, political life.

Pro-Abortion Tim Kaine is no 'Pope Francis Catholic'

EXCERPT CATHOLIC WORLD REPORT: And, as it turns out, Sen. Kaine has a 100% approval rating from both Planned Parenthood and NARAL. How, exactly, does that make him a "Pope Francis Catholic"? Has the WaPo forgotten that Francis explicitly condemned abortion in Laudato Si, stating, "Since everything is interrelated, concern for the protection of nature is also incompatible with the justification of abortion. How can we genuinely teach the importance of concern for other vulnerable beings, however troublesome or inconvenient they may be, if we fail to protect a human embryo, even when its presence is uncomfortable and creates difficulties? 'If personal and social sensitivity towards the acceptance of the new life is lost, then other forms of acceptance that are valuable for society also wither away'" (par 120).

In other words, Francis understands, as every good Catholic should, that social justice is not a matter of cafeteria-styled belief and action. Or how about in Amoris Laetitia, where Francis reiterated that "the Church strongly rejects the forced State intervention in favour of contraception, sterilization and even abortion" and further stated that "[s]uch measures are unacceptable" (42). Or, in an address in Cuba: “Children aren’t loved, they’re killed before being born." Or, in his address to American bishops during his 2015 visit:

I encourage you, then, to confront the challenging issues of our time. Ever present within each of them is life as gift and responsibility. The future freedom and dignity of our societies depends on how we face these challenges.

The innocent victim of abortion, children who die of hunger or from bombings, immigrants who drown in the search for a better tomorrow, the elderly or the sick who are considered a burden, the victims of terrorism, wars, violence and drug trafficking, the environment devastated by man’s predatory relationship with nature – at stake in all of this is the gift of God, of which we are noble stewards but not masters. It is wrong, then, to look the other way or to remain silent.

Of course, it should go without saying that Catholic teaching doesn't have anything but condemnation for abortion, which is a grave evil. After all, unborn lives matter.

FR. LONGENECKER: The Curse of the Kennedy Catholics

AMERICAN THINKER: Tim Kaine: Abortion is murder, and that's totally fine

VIA LIFENEWS.COM: Kaine took his most extreme pro-abortion action yet with his recent co-sponsorship of the so-called “Women’s Health Protection Act” (S.217), known to pro-lifers as the “Abortion Without Limits Until Birth Act.” This bill would nullify nearly all existing state and federal limitations on regulation of abortion, and prohibit states from enacting meaningful pro-life laws in the future. This revamped version of the long-stalled “Freedom of Choice Act” is a priority of the pro-abortion forces in Washington, D.C.

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

1. Mourning according to God is sadness of soul and the disposition of a sorrowing heart, which ever madly seeks that for which it thirsts; and when it fails in its quest, it painfully pursues it, and follows in its wake grievously lamenting. Or thus: mourning is a golden spur in a soul which is stripped of all attachment and of all ties, fixed by holy sorrow to watch over the heart.

July 22, 2016  

VENERABLE FULTON J. SHEEN (1974): “The world in which we live is the battleground of the Church. I believe that we are now living at the end of Christendom. It is the end of Christendom, but not the end of Christianity. What is Christendom? Christendom is the political, economic, moral, social, legal life of a nation as inspired by the gospel ethic. That is finished. Abortion, the breakdown of family life, dishonesty, even the natural virtues upon which the supernatural virtues were based, are being discredited. Christianity is not at the end. But we are at the end of Christendom. And I believe that the sooner we wake up to this fact, the sooner we will be able to solve many of our problems.”

CRISIS MAGAZINE: Apostasy in England and Europe


Eighty-five years ago, G. K. Chesterton looked at his society and saw some things that disturbed him. Here’s his comment:

There comes an hour in the afternoon when the child is tired of ‘pretending’; when he is weary of being a robber or a noble savage. It is then that he torments the cat. There comes a time in the routine of an ordered civilization when the man is tired at playing at mythology and pretending that a tree is a maiden or that the moon made love to a man. The effect of this staleness is the same everywhere; it is seen in all drug-taking and dram-drinking and every form of the tendency to increase the dose. Men seek stranger sins or more startling obscenities as stimulants to their jaded sense. They seek after mad religions for the same reason. They try to stab their nerves to life, if it were with the knives of the priests of Baal. They are walking in their sleep and try to wake themselves up with nightmares.

Ah, the genius of Chesterton! I read this passage years ago and have never forgotten it. Even if one doesn’t fully agree with his assessment, nobody can argue with his expression. Moreover it doesn’t strain the imagination to see evidence of what he is expressing inside of our own culture today. Salient examples abound: The illegal drug trade is one of the biggest industries in the world, internet pornography is the biggest addiction in the world, excessive use of alcohol is everywhere, high-profile athletes and entertainers brag that they have slept with thousands of people, even as they go in and out of rehab regularly, celebrities show up at parties carrying briefcases full of cocaine, and drug dealers already find a market among our elementary school students. Evidently many of us today are also trying to stab our nerves to life by constantly increasing the dosage.

But we need not look at the lives of rich and the famous to see this. None of us are immune. We just do this more subtly. Take, for example, our addictive struggle with information technology. It’s not that the internet and the myriad of programs, phones, pads, gadgets, and games that are linked to it are bad. They aren’t. In fact we are a very lucky generation to have such instant and constant access to information and to each other. Ever smarter phones, better internet programs, and things such as Facebook are not the problem. Our problem is in handling them in a non-addictive way, both in how we respond to the pressure to constantly buy ever-newer, faster, flashy, and more capable technologies, and in our inability to not let them control our lives. We too perpetually tire of what we have and seek somehow to increase the dosage to stab our nerves into life.

Whenever that happens we begin to lose control of our lives and find ourselves on a dangerous treadmill upon which we begin to lose any sense of real enjoyment in life.

Antoine Vergote, the famed Belgium psychologist, had a mantra which read: Excess is a substitute for genuine enjoyment. We go to excess in things because we can no longer enjoy them simply. It’s when we no longer enjoy our food that we overeat; it’s when we no longer enjoy a drink that we drink to excess; it’s when we no longer enjoy a simple party that we let things get out of hand; it’s when we can no longer enjoy a simple game that we need extreme sports, and it’s when we no longer simply enjoy the taste of chocolate that we try to eat all the chocolate in the world. The same principle holds true, even more strongly, for the enjoyment of sex.

Moreover excess isn’t just a substitute for enjoyment; it’s also the very thing that drains all enjoyment from our lives. Every recovering addict will tell us that. When excess enters, enjoyment departs, as does freedom. Compulsion sets in. Now we begin to seek a thing not because it will bring us enjoyment, but because we are driven to have it. Excess is a substitute for enjoyment and because it doesn’t bring genuine enjoyment it pushes us on to further excess, to something more extreme, in the hope that the enjoyment we are seeking will eventually be induced. That’s what Chesterton’s metaphors – tormenting the cat and stabbing our nerves back into life – express.

The answer? A simpler life. But that is easier said than done. We live with constant pressure, from without and from within, to see more, consume more, buy more, and drink in more of life. The pressure to increase the dosage is constant and unrelenting. But this is precisely where a deliberate, willful, and hard asceticism is demanded of us. To quote Mary Jo Leddy, we must, at some point say this, mean it, and live it: It’s enough. I have enough. I am enough. Life is enough. I need to gratefully enjoy what I have.

MEDITATION: Thoughts by St Theophan (1815-1894)

[Rom. 8:22-27; Matt. 10:23-31]

There is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; and hid, that shall not be known. Consequently, regardless of how we hide in our sins now, it is of no use to us at all. The time will come — and is it far off? — when all will come to light. What should we do? Do not hide. If you have sinned — go and reveal your sin to your spiritual father. When you receive absolution, the sin vanishes, as if it never was. Nothing will have to be revealed and shown. If you hide the sin and do not repent, you keep it in yourself, so that there will be something to come to light at the proper time unto your accusation. God revealed all of this to us in advance, so that while still here we will manage to disarm His righteous and terrible judgment upon us sinners.

Ladder of Divine Ascent excerpt: Step 6- "On remembrance of death"

11. Anyone who wishes to retain within him continually the remembrance of death and God's judgment, and at the same time yields to material cares and distractions, is like a man who is swimming and wants to clap his hands.

July 20, 2016  

(Rom 11:25-26) For I would not have you ignorant, brethren, of this mystery (lest you should be wise in your own conceits) that blindness in part has happened in Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles should come in. And so all Israel should be saved, as it is written: There shall come out of Sion, he that shall deliver and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob.

CHRISTIAN POST NEWS: Ultra-Orthodox Jews Experiencing 'Spiritual Meltdown of Historic Proportions' and Turning to Jesus, Report Claims

COMMENTARY: Why Ultra-Orthodox Jews Are Turning to Jesus

BLOG: The Conversion of the Jews at the End of Time

EXCERPT: St. Thomas Aquinas in Commentary on Epistle to the Romans:

"The blindness of the Jews will endure until the fullness of the gentiles have accepted the faith.  And this is in accord with what the Apostle says below about the salvation of the Jews, namely, that after the fullness of the nations have entered, 'all Israel will be saved', not individually as at present, but universally." ...

 "What, I say, will such an admission effectuate, if not that it bring the Gentiles back to life? The Gentiles would be the believers whose faith has grown cold, or even that the totality, deceived by the Antichrist, fall and are restored to their pristine fervor by the admission of the Jews."

CATHOLIC ANSWERS: The Chief Rabbi's Conversion by: Fr. Arthur B. Klyber C.Ss.R.

: The Apostasy of Rabbi Zolli

Michael D O'Brien: My grief over the current condition of the Church, both universal and particular (the U.S.A., Canada, Western Europe), is immense. Our chief temptation during this time of confusion is to bitterness, isolation, and dismay. Coming through these temptations, I’ve learned that our Lord always desires us to go deeper and farther. At the heart of everything is union with Him. But this union grows only by faith and by suffering. Experiencing rejection, false judgments by others, the failures of shepherds to be true spiritual fathers, a multitude of disorders in the Body of Christ . . . all of these are a test for us (sometimes a severe test).

As you know, the Church throughout its long history has often been in crisis. She is ever populated by, and at times run by, less than edifying people (I count myself as one of them). In time, the ship always steadies and moves forward. God is always at work, seeking to bring good from our seemingly endless follies. So, too, He will raise up new pastors and new saints for our times, and this will probably be in the midst of great tribulations. Our task is to keep turning our thoughts and the movements of our hearts toward the true horizon—or, to mix metaphors, to keep our eyes focused on the Church as the Bride of Christ being prepared to meet the Bridegroom.

He is near. He is coming. I pray you do not lose heart. Human “solutions” such as schism or apostasy only add to the Bride’s wounds and delay her preparation. We must love the charism of Peter, the Chair of Peter with a great love, never losing sight of the Lord’s promise that the “gates of hell” will never prevail against the Church. This implies that hell will surely try to do its worst, tempting us all, sifting us like wheat.  Let us be part of the Church’s defence and not a part of the problem.

I’ve found much consolation and strength by offering everything I suffer as a sacrifice united to the Cross for the purification and strengthening of the Church. We men, and especially we pragmatist North Americans, have a hard-wired sense that we can “fix” anything with enough knowledge, skill, tools, influence, rhetoric, etc. But in the case of the Church, we cannot. We can only “fix” our own selves through cooperation with the grace of Christ—through prayer, sacraments, sacrifice, endurance and perseverance, patience, mercy, truth, and the faith that is refined in the darkest of fires. Keep the eyes of your heart on the true horizon. Keep your eyes on the Bride.

Take heart. Trust in the Lord, especially when there seems to be little or no grounds for trust.

St. Faustina Kowalska writes in her diaries, Divine Mercy in My Soul:
“The greater the darkness, the greater our confidence should be.”

St. Thérèse of Lisieux writes in her letters:
 “Trust and trust alone should lead us to Love.”

May I suggest that you also prayerfully read Ezekiel, chapter 9.


Ladder of Divine Ascent excerpt: Step 6- "On remembrance of death"

10. Never, when mourning for your sins, accept that cure which suggests to you that God is tender-hearted (this thought is useful only when you see yourself being dragged down to deep despair). For the aim of the enemy is to thrust from you your mourning and fearless fear.

July 18, 2016  

(Mat 2:17-18) Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremias the prophet, saying: A voice in Rama was heard, lamentation and great mourning; Rachel bewailing her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not.

POPE FRANCIS: “I am close to each family and the entire French nation which is in mourning.  May God, the good Father, welcome all the victims into his peace, support the injured and comfort their families. May he dissolve every project of terror and death, so that man no longer attempts to spill his brother's blood.”

MARK MALLET: The Christian Martyr-Witness

CRISIS MAGAZINE ARCHIVES: Bastille Day: Baptism by Blood

ADDRESS: Alexander Solzhenitsyn , delivered at the dedication of the Memorial de la Vendée in Les Lucs-sur-Boulogne,  France, on September 25, 1993

Two thirds of a century ago, while still a boy, I read with admiration about the courageous and desperate uprising of the Vendée.  But never could I have dreamed that in my later years I would have the honor of dedicating a memorial to the heroes and victims of that uprising.

Twenty decades have now passed, and throughout that period the Vendée uprising and its bloody suppression have been viewed in ever new ways, in France and elsewhere. Indeed, historical events are never fully understood in the heat of their own time, but only at a great distance, after a cooling of passions. For all too long, we did not want to hear or admit what cried out with the voices of those who perished, or were burned alive: that the peasants of a hard-working region, driven to the extremes of oppression and humiliation by a revolution supposedly carried out for their sake-- that these peasants had risen up against the revolution!

That revolution brings out instincts of primordial barbarism, the sinister forces of envy, greed and hatred--this even its contemporaries could see all too well. They paid a terrible enough price for the mass psychosis of the day, when merely moderate behavior, or even the perception of such, already appeared to be a crime. But the twentieth century has done especially much to tarnish the romantic luster of revolution which still prevailed in the eighteenth century. As half-centuries and centuries have passed, people have learned from their own misfortunes that revolutions demolish the organic structures of society, disrupt the natural flow of life, destroy the best elements of the population and give free rein to the worst; that a revolution never brings prosperity to a nation, but benefits only a few shameless opportunists, while to the country as a whole it heralds countless deaths, widespread impoverishment, and, in the gravest cases, a long-lasting degeneration of the people

It is now better and better understood that the social improvements which we all so passionately desire can be achieved through normal evolutionary development--with immeasurably fewer losses and without all-encompassing decay. We must be able to improve, patiently, that which we have in any given "today."

It would be vain to hope that revolution can improve human nature, yet your revolution, and especially our Russian Revolution, hoped for this very effect. The French Revolution unfolded under the banner of a self-contradictory and unrealizable slogan, "liberty, equality, fraternity." But in the life of society, liberty, and equality are mutually exclusive, even hostile concepts. Liberty, by its very nature, undermines social equality, and equality suppresses liberty--for how else could it be attained? Fraternity, meanwhile, is of entirely different stock; in this instance it is merely a catchy addition to the slogan. True fraternity is achieved by means not social but spiritual. Furthermore, the ominous words "or death!" were added to the threefold slogan, effectively destroying its meaning.

I would not wish a "great revolution" upon any nation. Only the arrival of Thermidor  prevented the eighteenth-century revolution from destroying France. But the revolution in Russia was not restrained by any Thermidor as it drove our people on the straight path to a bitter end, to an abyss, to the depths of ruin.

One might have thought that the experience of the French revolution would have provided enough of a lesson for the rationalist builders of "the people's happiness" in Russia. But no, the events in Russia were grimmer yet, and incomparably more enormous in scale. Lenin's Communism and International Socialists studiously reenacted on the body of Russia many of the French revolution's cruelest methods--only they possessed a much greater a more systematic level of organizational control than the Jacobins.

We had no Thermidor, but to our spiritual credit we did have our Vendée, in fact more than one. These were the large peasant uprisings: Tambov (1920-21), western Siberia (1921). We know of the following episode: Crowds of peasants in handmade shoes, armed with clubs and pitchforks, converged on Tambov, summoned by church bells in the surrounding villages-- and were cut down by machine-gun fire. For eleven months the Tambov uprising held out, despite the Communists' effort to crush it with armored trucks, armored trains, and airplanes, as well as by taking families of the rebels hostage. They were even preparing to use poison gas. The Cossacks, too--from the Ural, the Don, the Kuban, the Terek--met Bolshevism with intransigent resistance that finally drowned in the blood of genocide.

And so, in dedicating this memorial to your heroic Vendée, I see double in my mind's eye--for I can also visualize the memorials which will one day rise in Russia, monuments to our Russian resistance against the onslaught of Communism and its atrocities.

We have all lived through the twentieth century, a century of terror, the chilling culmination of that Progress about which so many dreamed in the eighteenth century. And now, I think, more and more citizens of France, with increasing understanding and pride, will remember and value the resistance and the sacrifice of the Vendee.

MORE: The Vendee Wars. 1793 - 1799

Ladder of Divine Ascent excerpt: Step 6- "On remembrance of death"

9. Some inquire and wonder: 'Why, when the remembrance of death is so beneficial for us, has God hidden from us the knowledge of the hour of death?' - not knowing that in this way God wonderfully accomplishes our salvation. For no one who foreknew his death would at once proceed to baptism or the monastic life; but everyone would spend all his days in iniquities, and only on the day of his death would he approach baptism and repentance. From long habit, he would become confirmed in vice, and would remain utterly incorrigible.

July 14, 2016  

(1Pe 2:13-17) Be ye subject therefore to every human creature for God's sake: whether it be to the king as excelling, Or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of the good. For so is the will of God, that by doing well you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men: As free and not as making liberty a cloak for malice, but as the servants of God. Honour all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the king.

POPE JOHN PAUL II: "To become like a little child — with complete trust in the Father and with the meekness taught by the Gospel — is not only an ethical imperative; it is a reason for hope. Even where the difficulties are so great as to lead to discouragement and the power of evil so overwhelming as to dishearten, those who can rediscover the simplicity of a child can begin to hope anew. This is possible above all for those who know they can trust in a God who desires harmony among all people in the peaceful communion of his Kingdom. It is also possible for those who, though not sharing the gift of faith, believe in the values of forgiveness and solidarity and see in them — not without the hidden action of the Spirit — the possibility of renewing the face of the earth.

It is therefore to men and women of good will that I address this confident appeal. Let us all unite to fight every kind of violence and to conquer war!

Let us create the conditions which will ensure that children can receive as the legacy of our generation a more united and fraternal world!"

CATHOLICCITIZENS.ORG: The Gospel in the Aftermath of Dallas, Baton Rouge, and Falcon Heights

ARCHBISHOP CHAPUT: Black lives matter because all lives matter

MEDITATION: Pain, Suffering, and Destruction! by Father Panayiotis Papageorgiou, Ph.D.

Every day we hear on the news about terrible things happening in the world. It all sounds so distant, so far removed from us that we continue with our own lives, tackling our own problems and forgetting soon what that terrible event was about. Then, another one comes along, and then another, but we go about our own business. “What can I do anyway?” we ask, shrugging our shoulders.

TV, Internet, Radio and newspapers are flooding our minds, our eyes and our ears with news from around the world — mostly bad news — from near and far; it makes no difference. We have become so saturated with information that we are unable to react. We have finally become desensitized and indifferent to the world around us. One can even say that we seem callous in front of the tragedies of others. . . . Until we become the news!! When war has affected us, sickness has visited us, the hurricane hit our town, the flood waters are rising outside our home – then time stops for us. All other worries take a back seat. We are the ones in a terrible situation. We look around us for consolation. We look to others for comfort. We soon raise the question, “why doesn’t anybody care? Why are people so callous? What have we come to? Is this the end of the world?”

It seems that life is cyclical. Today is your turn, tomorrow will be mine. No one is safe from tragedy. No one can boast that they are beyond pain or suffering. No one can guarantee for himself/herself a perfect life. No insurance company can sell assurance of bliss on this earth. There is no such thing. We live in a fallen and tragic world where humanity stands helpless in the face of tragedy.

It is at moments like this that most people will throw up their hands and ask for mercy — mercy from God, or whatever power is out there. Such moments of human distress are also moments of spiritual awakening. The earth and its joys are so mixed with suffering that the soul wants to escape to a better place. It is at such moments that most of us will turn to God and ask for help, wisdom, guidance and patience. It is also at such moments that we turn to Theology and the revelation of God as given in His Scriptures seeking answers to our difficult predicaments.

Humanity has struggled forever with such questions: Why is evil present in the world? Why sickness and suffering? Why such horrific events that bring destruction to life?

From ancient times, the Church has prayed for wisdom and guidance on these issues. Christian holy men and women have searched the Scriptures looking for answers and we can benefit from studying them. They speak of human sin, the separation of man from God and the tragedy which comes from that. They speak of human pride and arrogance that rules the earth and the dire consequences of that. They speak of human greed which blinds men to the dangers of nature. Many have perished over the years looking for that treasure, which they could never find. Even more people suffer and perish today, as greedy men want that treasure only for themselves.

As we lose our harmony with our Creator, the discord with His Creation increases. Nature, fallen and unstable is further thrown into disarray as men ignore their own responsibility toward her. Our own home will soon fall upon our heads if we neglect it. Nature needs our attention and care. We need to recover our harmony with God’s Creation.

The saints of the Church have also seen tragedy as an opportunity for men, as a time to surrender to God and trust in His care alone. They point to the opportunity to do good for others, to exercise philanthropy, to share in love. Even evil can be turned around by man, with God’s help, because man has been created in the image of God and has the potential to become like God in all his attributes.

This is our challenge, but also the opportunity to advance ourselves.

Ladder of Divine Ascent excerpt: Step 6- "On remembrance of death"

8. Not every desire for death is good. Some, constantly sinning from force of habit, pray for death with humility. And some, who do not want to repent, invoke death out of despair. And some out of self-esteem consider themselves dispassionate, and for a while have no fear of death. And some (if such can now be found), through the action of the Holy Spirit, ask for their departure.

July 12, 2016  

(Gen 3:15) I will put enmities between thee and the woman, and thy seed and her seed: she shall cursh thy head, and thou shalt lie in wait for her heel.

A MOMENT WITH MARY: Why Mary who unties knots? "By her disobedience, Eve tied the knot of misfortune for humanity; whereas by her obedience, Mary untied it." (St Irenaeus). Inspired by this meditation, an unknown Bavarian painter painted this picture where the Blessed Virgin is seen undoing the knots of our lives.

WEBSITE: Our Lady Undoer of Knots

BLOG EXCERPT: The Blessed Virgin Mary Untier of Knots

The painting

The original Baroque painting of ‘Mary Untier of Knots’, by Johann George Melchior Schmidtner, dating from around 1700, is found in the church of St Peter am Perlach, in Augsburg, Bavaria, Germany. It measures six feet in height and almost four feet in width.

The painting depicts Mary suspended between heaven and earth, resplendent with light. The Holy Spirit in the form of a dove is above her head, reminding us that she became Mother of God and full of grace by virtue of the third person of the Trinity. She is dressed resplendently in crimson, and a deep blue mantle representing her glory as Queen of the Universe. A crown of twelve stars adorning her head signifies her Queenship of the Apostles. Her feet crush the head of the serpent indicating her part in the victory over Satan. She is surrounded by angels, signifying her position as Queen of the Angels and Queen of Heaven. In her hands is a knotted white ribbon, which she is serenely untying. Assisting her at the task are two angels: one presents the knots of our lives to her, while another angel presents the ribbon, freed from knots, to us.

The history

A German nobleman, Wolfgang Langenmantel (1568-1637) was distraught when his wife Sophia was planning to divorce him. To save the marriage, Wolfgang sought counsel from Fr Jakob Rem, a Jesuit priest, respected for his wisdom and piety, at the University of Ingolstadt. On his fourth visit there on 28 September 1615, Wolfgang brought his ‘wedding ribbon’ to Fr Rem. In the marriage ceremony of that time and place, the maid-of-honour joined together the arms of the bride and groom with a ribbon to symbolise their union for life. Fr Rem, in a solemn ritual act, raised the ribbon before the image of ‘Our Lady of the Snows’, while at the same time untying its knots one by one. As he smoothed out the ribbon, it became dazzling white. This was taken as confirmation that their prayers were heard. Consequently, the divorce was averted, and Wolfgang remained happily married!

To commemorate the turn of the century in the year 1700, Wolfgang’s grandson, Fr Hieronymus Langenmantel, Canon of St Peter am Perlach, installed a family altar in the church, as was customary then. He commissioned Johann Schmidtner to provide a painting to be placed over the altar. Schmidtner was inspired by the story of Wolfgang and Fr Rem, and so based his painting on that event. The image came to be venerated as Mary Untier of Knots. The painting has survived wars, revolutions and secular opposition, and continues to draw people to it.


In the 18th century the devotion to Mary Untier of Knots was localised to Germany. The devotion was augmented during the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant disaster (1986), when victims sought help through the intercession of Mary Untier of Knots. The first chapel to be named ‘Mary Untier of Knots’ was constructed in 1989 in Styria, Austria. The image of Mary Untier of Knots at the main altar of the chapel was created by painter Franz Weiss, using the technique of painting under glass. It differed from the original, because the artist took as his theme the Chernobyl tragedy.

On 8 December 2000, a chapel dedicated to the Virgin Mary Untier of Knots was inaugurated in Formosa, Argentina. Since 1998, the devotion has been spreading in South America thanks to the booklet Mary, Undoer of Knots Novena, published with ecclesiastical permission by Denis and Dr Suzel Frem Bourgerie. It has been translated into twenty languages. The couple founded the National Sanctuary of the Virgin Mary Untier of Knots in Campinas (Sao Paulo), Brazil, in 2006.

The website ‘Mary Undoer of Knots’ explains that the ‘knots’ Mary can untie,

...are problems and struggles we face for which we do not see any solution… Knots of discord in our family, lack of understanding between parents and children, disrespect, violence, the knots of deep hurts between husband and wife, the absence of peace and joy at home. They are also the knots of anguish and despair of separated couples, the dissolution of the family, the knots of a drug addict son or daughter, sick or separated from home or God, knots of alcoholism, the practice of abortion, depression, unemployment, fear, solitude…

‘Untie the knots’

An inspiring prayer that opens the above-mentioned novena sums up the role of the Virgin Mary Untier of Knots:

Holy Mary, full of God’s presence during the days of your life, you accepted with full humility the Father’s will, and the Devil was never capable to tie you around with his confusion. Once with your son you interceded for our difficulties, and, full of kindness and patience you gave us example of how to untie the knots of our life. And by remaining forever Our Mother, you put in order, and make clearer the ties that link us to the Lord. Holy Mother, Mother of God, and our Mother, to you, who untie with motherly heart the knots of our life, we pray to you to receive in your hands [name of person], and to free him/her of the knots and confusion with which our enemy attacks. Through your grace, your intercession, and your example, deliver us from all evil, Our Lady, and untie the knots that prevent us from being united with God, so that we, free from sin and error, may find Him in all things, may have our hearts placed in Him, and may serve Him always in our brothers and sisters. Amen.

MORE: Catholic Review

Ladder of Divine Ascent excerpt: Step 6- "On remembrance of death"

7. He who with undoubting trust daily expects death is virtuous; but he who hourly yields himself to it is a saint.

July 7, 2016

(Gen 1:26-28) And he said: Let us make man to our image and likeness: and let him have dominion over the fishes of the sea, and the fowls of the air, and the beasts, and the whole earth, and every creeping creature that moveth upon the earth. And God created man to his own image: to the image of God he created him: male and female he created them. And God blessed them, saying: Increase and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it, and rule over the fishes of the sea, and the fowls of the air, and all living creatures that move upon the earth.

CNA NEWS HEADLINE: Court rules Christian Mingle must allow LGBT couples

REPORT: Archbishop Chaput issues guidelines for chaste living in “irregular” relationships

: The Devil, You Say? by Fr. Paul Scalia

Three times in his speech at the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast, Cardinal Sarah described gender ideology as “demonic.” More recently, Oklahoma City’s Archbishop Coakley used the same word addressing the issue. So did Bishop Paprocki of Springfield regarding gay marriage. A strong word, to be sure. But most people misunderstand why. Some take “demonic” for mere hyperbole. Something is not just bad, but really, really bad. Others see it as rash judgment of opponents – literally demonizing them. Still others take it as just an overstatement by religious fanatics, who are unhinged anyway.

But “demonic” is a sober and sobering assessment of the thought behind gender ideology. It’s not a judgment of people’s intentions. It doesn’t mean that those who endorse gender ideology are demonic or possessed. It means, rather, that the reasoning and results of that philosophy – no matter how innocently held – line up with the desires, tactics, and resentments of “Old Scratch” himself.

Gender ideology repeats the basic lie of the evil one: “You will be like gods.” (Gen 3:5) Of course, this lie lurks behind every temptation. Every sin comes from that prideful desire to supplant God. But in the arena of human sexuality, it has greater gravity.

God creates; man is created. God brings into being; man receives his being. Gender ideology proposes something else: that we are our own creators. In one of his last (and perhaps most important) addresses, Pope Benedict noted:

The words of the creation account: “male and female he created them” (Gen 1:27) no longer apply. No, what applies now is this: it was not God who created them male and female – hitherto society did this, now we decide for ourselves. Man and woman as created realities, as the nature of the human being, no longer exist. Man calls his nature into question. From now on he is merely spirit and will. The manipulation of nature, which we deplore today where our environment is concerned, now becomes man’s fundamental choice where he himself is concerned. . . . But if there is no pre-ordained duality of man and woman in creation, then neither is the family any longer a reality established by creation. . . .the Maker himself is denied and ultimately man too is stripped of his dignity as a creature of God, as the image of God at the core of his being.

And if we find our bodies not in keeping with what we have determined ourselves to be, then we alter them accordingly. Against this, Pope Francis counsels: “Let us not fall into the sin of trying to replace the Creator. We are creatures, and not omnipotent. Creation is prior to us and must be received as a gift. At the same time, we are called to protect our humanity, and this means, in the first place accepting it and respecting it as it was created.” (AL, 56)

There’s also demonic hatred of the body. C.S. Lewis’s Screwtape Letters chronicles the demonic resentment of God’s favoring us “hairless bipeds. . .[animals] begotten in a bed.” Why this hatred? Perhaps because the human body and soul are one. The soul, having so much in common with the angelic nature, is one with the body, having so much in common with animal nature. The devil takes this union as a personal offense. He (as we all experience) seeks to undo it – to divide us from our own flesh, to pit body and soul against each other. He masterfully leads us to worship the body one moment and abhor it the next. Death – the separation of body and soul – was, of course, his greatest victory.

There’s also the fact that the Word became flesh. God’s great act of generosity toward us embodied souls simply aggravates the devil’s envy. The Son of God assumed a human nature, including a human body. He saved us not only in, but through that Body. Why should this dignity be given to us, so inferior to the seraphim, and not to him, the highest of angels?

Fallen man is always at odds with his body. Christianity seeks to heal that division. Gender ideology seeks to codify it. The latter rests on the principle that there is no real relationship between body and soul. So absolute is their division that a person can be physically one thing and spiritually another.

Closely linked to this is the demonic hatred of procreation. The devil cannot procreate. But man does. Man and woman cooperate with God in bringing a new human person into being. The devil is envious because God is generous. Of course, gender ideology rejects the complementarity of male and female – and what their union accomplishes.

The Lord takes up natural truths – body, marriage, and family – and uses them as the template and means for His salvific work. He is the Word made flesh, the Bridegroom, the Son of Joseph and Mary, Who makes us members of God’s family. We grasp the significance of Jesus’ offering His Body on the Cross and in the Eucharist precisely because we know the body has significance. The permanent, faithful, and life-giving union of husband and wife enables us to grasp what it means that Christ is the Bridegroom and the Church His Bride.

The loss of these natural truths, therefore, inhibits our ability to understand the supernatural and grasp salvation. If the human body has no intrinsic meaning – if it tells us nothing about ourselves and can be adjusted as we see fit – then how can we appreciate the words, “This is my Body”?

If we have no lived experience of the complementarity of man and woman, of bridegroom and bride, then we are at a loss for understanding Christ the Bridegroom dying for His Bride. And neither can we grasp the meaning of God as Father, God as Son, the Church as Mother, etc. It’s in the devil’s interest to deprive of us of these natural signs of the supernatural.

Of course, these demonic tendencies have not popped up all of a sudden. They are his usual tactics. We have seen them conspicuously at work in the sexual revolution, in contraception, abortion, and IVF. Gender ideology rests upon these and promotes them to a new degree.

Recognition of the demonic is perhaps helpful. But it should also prompt us to an examination of conscience – to see how we ourselves have fallen for his tricks: by our little acts of prideful self-exaltation (which is really self-creation), by our own disdain or mistreatment of the body (our own and those of others), by our own unchastity (which demeans the power of procreation), by our damaging of how others can come to God.

Some of us may glimpse the demonic in gender ideology. But we all must repent for how we have personally yielded to it.

Ladder of Divine Ascent excerpt: Step 6- "On remembrance of death"

6. A true sign of those who are mindful of death in the depth of their being is a voluntary detachment from every creature and complete renunciation of their own will.

July 6, 2016

(2Co 4:8-12) In all things we suffer tribulation: but are not distressed. We are straitened: but are not destitute. We suffer persecution: but are not forsaken. We are cast down: but we perish not. Always bearing about in our body the mortification of Jesus, that the life also of Jesus may be made manifest in our bodies. For we who live are always delivered unto death for Jesus' sake: that the life also of Jesus may be made manifest in our mortal flesh. So then death worketh in us: but life in you.

VATICAN RADIO: Pope supports Caritas “Peace is possible in Syria” campaign

Pope Francis is urging governments to find a political solution to the war in Syria. In a video message released on Tuesday in support of a new Caritas Internationalis campaign, "Syria: Peace is Possible", the Pope reiterates his belief that “there is no military solution for Syria, only a political one”.

“The international community must therefore support peace talks towards the building of a national unity government” he says.  And, Pope Francis continues: “I invite you to ask those who are involved in peace talks to take these agreements seriously and to commit to facilitating access to humanitarian aid.”
“While the people suffer, an incredible amount of money is being spent on giving fighters weapons. Some of the countries providing these arms are also those talking of peace. How can one believe in those who caress you with the right hand while hitting you with the left?” the Pope says.

Caritas, the Catholic Church’s global network of humanitarian agencies, provides food, healthcare, basic needs, education, shelter, counselling, protection and livelihoods in Syria and to refugees in host countries. National Caritas organisations reached 1.3 million people last year alone.

Dealing with the humanitarian consequences of the five year war in Syria it is the largest Caritas relief operation in the world.

The new “Syria: Peace is Possible” Caritas website can be found at . It includes specially commissioned artwork from Syrian artist Tammam Azzam, an animated film on the war, an award winning photo series and testimony from Syrians living both inside the country and as refugees in bordering nations and beyond.

You can also follow the campaign on Twitter #peacepossible4syria @iamCaritas

AINA: Tens of Thousands Are Starving in Syria, UN Warns

The top UN official in Syria on Monday demanded immediate and unconditional humanitarian access to tens of thousands of people trapped in four towns, warning of starvation.

Aid must be allowed to reach Madaya, Zabadani, Foua, and Kafraya, the UN's resident coordinator, Yacoub El Hillo, said in Damascus. Madaya and Zabadani, just outside the capital, are encircled by pro-government forces, while rebels are blockading Foua and Kafraya in the country's northwest.

The towns have been besieged since last year, with aid convoys allowed only sporadically to replenish food and medical stocks. The last delivery was made in April.

Aid group Doctors Without Borders says 16 people died in Madaya from siege conditions in January, even after aid was allowed in.

El Hillo said the UN is "calling on all parties involved to ensure this doesn't happen again."

He also urged combatants to allow medical evacuations. Activists in Madaya have launched a campaign to evacuate the journalist Abdelwahab Ahmad, who was hospitalized from a bullet wound last week.

Ahmad had drawn attention to the siege through a media campaign last December. The images and clips of emaciated children transmitted from the town sparked an international outcry.

RELATED: Catholic agencies second only to UN in providing aid to Iraq and Syria

Ladder of Divine Ascent excerpt: Step 6- "On remembrance of death"

5. As tin is distinct from silver, although it resembles it in appearance, so for the discerning there is a clear and obvious difference between the natural and contranatural fear of death.
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