Keep your eyes open!...


October 31, 2013  

(1Co 12:12-14) For as the body is one and hath many members; and all the members of the body, whereas they are many, yet are one body: So also is Christ. For in one Spirit were we all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Gentiles, whether bond or free: and in one Spirit we have all been made to drink. For the body also is not one member, but many.

TODAY'S CATHOLIC NEWS: In Times of Trouble, Pope Says, Call on the Communion of Saints

RON ROLHEISER, OMI: Praying for the Dead

PURGATORY PROJECT:  Submit your Souls and Prayer Requests

: What Catholics Believe: 10 Truths About Purgatory

Does purgatory still exist? Even though we don’t hear about it as much as in earlier times, Catholics do believe in purgatory. It is a matter of faith, supported by the Bible and tradition, clarified at the Council of Florence in 1439 and the Council of Trent (1545-1563) and explained in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Here is what we know about purgatory.

1. Purgatory exists: The Catechism of the Catholic Church states there are three states of the church, those who are living on earth, those who are in purgatory and those who are in heaven with God.

2. It is not a second chance: The soul is already saved. Purgatory is a place to pay off debts for sins that were forgiven but for which sufficient penance had not been done on earth.

3. It is not an actual place: Blessed John Paul II said in an Aug.4, 1999 general audience that purgatory was a state of being: “The term does not indicate a place, but a condition of existence.” Pope Benedict XVI said in a Jan. 12, 2011 general audience, “This is purgatory, an interior fire.”

4. Purgatory is not punishment but God’s mercy: “Few people can say they are prepared to stand before God,” says Susan Tassone, author of “Prayers, Promises, and Devotions for the Holy Souls in Purgatory” (Our Sunday Visitor, 2012). “If we didn’t have purgatory there would be very few people in heaven, because it would be heaven or hell. It is his mercy that allows us to prepare to be with him in heaven.”

5. Our prayers for the souls in purgatory help them achieve heaven: “The doctrine of purgatory recalls how radically we take love of neighbor,” says Sulpician Father Gladstone Stevens, vice rector and dean of men at St. Patrick’s Seminary & University, Menlo Park. “The obligation to pray for each other does not cease when biological life ends. God wants us to always pray for each other, work for each other’s redemption.”

6. The souls in purgatory can intercede for those on earth but cannot pray for themselves: The Catechism of the Catholic Church (958) states: “… the church in its pilgrim members, from the very earliest days of the Christian religion, has honored with great respect the memory of the dead; … Our prayer for them is capable not only of helping them, but also of making their intercession for us effective.”

7. God does not send souls to purgatory – each soul sends itself to purgatory: Once a soul sees itself with the light of God, it realizes it cannot stay in his presence until all imperfections are wiped away.“The soul chooses,” Tassone says.

8. There is no fire in purgatory: But each soul is aflame with the pain of being separated from God and with the desire to be purified so it can be in the beatific vision. Each soul also feels joy knowing it will one day be with God, Father Stevens and Tassone say.

9. There is a special day and month to pray for the souls in purgatory: Nov. 2 or All Souls’ Day is the day set aside and November is the month in the liturgical calendar to pray especially for all the souls who are in purgatory. Nov. 2 is called “The Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed,” but the church asks us to pray always for each other, including for the souls in purgatory.

10. Prayers for souls in purgatory always count: Pope Benedict says in his encyclical “Spe Salve” (“On Christian Hope”), regarding the souls of the dead, “ … in the communion of souls simple terrestrial time is superseded. It is never too late to touch the heart of another, nor is it ever in vain.”

The Desert Fathers: sayings of the Early Christian Monks: Self-Control

4. Daniel said of him, 'All the years he lived near us, we gave him the minimum amount of food to last each year, and every time we went to visit him, he shared it with us.'

October 30, 2013  

(Pro 31:25-28) Strength and beauty are her clothing, and she shall laugh in the latter day. She hath opened her mouth to wisdom, and the law of clemency is on her tongue. She hath looked well on the paths of her house, and hath not eaten her bread idle. Her children rose up, and called her blessed: her husband, and he praised her.

POPE FRANCIS: “Holy Family of Nazareth reawaken in our society the awareness of the sacred and inviolable character of the family, an inestimable and irreplaceable good. Let every family be a welcoming place of goodness and peace for children and the elderly, for the sick and lonely, for the poor and needy.”

VIDEO: Who You Are: A Message To All Women

BLOG EXCERPT: The Godliness of Motherhood

Joszef Cardinal Mindszenty, the courageous defender of the Church during the Communist occupation of Hungary, had an exceptionally strong affection for motherhood. In his book, The Mother, he penned an eloquent tribute to all mothers, emphasizing their particular closeness to God: “The most important person on earth is a mother. She cannot claim the honor of having built Notre Dame Cathedral. She need not. She has built something more magnificent than any cathedral—a dwelling for an immortal soul, the tiny perfection of her baby’s body. The angels have not been blessed with such a grace. They cannot share in God’s creative miracle to bring new saints to Heaven. Only a human mother can. Mothers are closer to God the Creator than any other creature; God joins forces with mothers in performing this act of creation. . . What on God’s good earth is more glorious than this; to be a mother?”


Texas Abortion Battle Rages On
New pro-life group aims to ‘Reach Philadelphia’ to reduce abortions
Saginaw Catholic Bishop Joseph Cistone joins abortion clinic protest

The Desert Fathers: sayings of the Early Christian Monks: Self-Control

3. Arsenius said, 'One hour's sleep is enough for a monk if he is a fighter.'

October 28, 2013  

(Jud 1:17-21) But you, my dearly beloved, be mindful of the words which have been spoken before by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who told you that in the last time there should come mockers, walking according to their own desires in ungodlinesses. These are they who separate themselves, sensual men, having not the Spirit. But you, my beloved, building yourselves upon your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost, Keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, unto life everlasting.


In desperate circumstances, the Faithful have always turned to the sure help of St. Jude Thaddeus - Apostle, cousin of Our Lord and martyr for the Catholic Faith. This powerful Saint is invoked in cases of extreme need, grievous illness, poverty, and when circumstances seem hopeless. Plus, he is a special defender of (and helper in regaining) purity. St. Jude has obtained remedies and comfort for countless people who have turned to him in prayer. It explains his relationship to Our Lord and describes his preaching of the Gospel in Persia. There, along with St. Simon, he performed many miracles, defeated two magicians, converted thousands - including kings - and was martyred.



Most Holy Apostle, St. Jude Thaddeus, faithful servant and friend of Jesus, the name of the traitor who delivered your beloved Master into the hands of his enemies has caused you to be forgotten by many.

But the Church honors you, and I invoke you as the special advocate of those who are in trouble and almost without hope.

Help me to realize that through our faith we triumph over life’s difficulties by the power of Jesus who loved us and gave his life for us.

Come to my assistance that I may receive the consolation and succor of heaven in all my needs, trials, and sufferings, particularly (here make your request) and that I may praise God with you and all the saints forever.

St. Jude, apostle of the Word of God, pray for us.
St. Jude, follower of the Son of God, pray for us.
St. Jude, preacher of the love of God, pray for us.
St. Jude, intercessor before God, pray for us.
St. Jude, friend of all in need, pray for us.
St. Jude, pray for us, and for all who invoke your aid.

TESTIMONIALS: Miracles of St. Jude

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

27. A brother asked a hermit, 'I hear the hermits weeping, and my soul longs for tears, but they do not come, and I am worried about it.' He replied, 'The children of Israel entered the promised land after forty years in the wilderness. Tears are the promised land. When you reach them you will no longer be afraid of conflict. For it si the will of God that we should be afflicted, so we may always be longing to enter that country.'

October 24, 2013  

(Rom 8:26-27) Likewise, the Spirit also helpeth our infirmity. For, we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit himself asketh for us with unspeakable groanings, And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what the Spirit desireth: because he asketh for the saints according to God.

FAITH MATTERS VIDEO: Father Robert Gibbons- Lord Teach Us to Pray

RON ROLHEISER, OMI: The Internal Battle For Our Souls

Two contraries cannot co-exist inside the same subject. Aristotle wrote that and it seems to say the obvious, something can't be light and dark at the same time.

However, in terms of what's happening inside our souls it seems that contraries can indeed co-exist inside the same subject. At any given moment, inside us, we are a mixture of light and darkness, sincerity and hypocrisy, selflessness and selfishness, virtue and vice, grace and sin, saint and sinner. As Henri Nouwen used to say: We want to be great saints, but we also don't want to miss out on all the sensations that sinners experience. And so our lives aren't simple.

We live with both light and darkness side us and for long periods of time, it seems, contraries do co-exist inside us.  Our souls are a battleground where selflessness and selfishness, virtue and sin, vie for dominance. But eventually one or the other will begin to dominate and work at weeding out the other. That's why John of the Cross picks up this philosophical axiom and uses it to teach a key lesson about coming to purity of heart and purity of intention in our lives. Because contraries cannot co-exist inside us, there's something vital we need to do. What?

We need to pray regularly. Contraries cannot co-exist in us so if we sustain genuine prayer in our lives eventually sincerity will weed out insincerity, selflessness will weed out selfishness, and grace will weed out sin. If we sustain genuine prayer we will never, long-term, fall into moral rationalization. If we sustain genuine prayer in our lives we will never grow so blind to our own sin that we will begin to have morally exempt areas in our lives. Being faithful to prayer will ensure that we will never, long-range, live double lives because what prayer brings into our lives, a genuine presence of God, will not peacefully co-exist with selfishness, sin, rationalization, self-delusion, and hypocrisy.  Simply put, at some point in our lives, we will either stop praying or stop our bad behavior. We won't be able to live with both.  Our biggest danger then is to stop praying.

And this advice is eminently practical: We cannot always control how we feel about things. We cannot always control how we will be tempted. And none of us has the strength to never fall into sin. Our incapacity to fully actualize ourselves morally leaves us always short of full sanctity. There are things beyond us.

But there is something that we can control, something beyond the wild horses of emotion and temptation. We are beset by many things, but we can willfully, deliberately, with discipline and resolve, show up regularly to pray. We can make private prayer a regular discipline in our lives.  We can commit ourselves to the habit of private prayer. And, if we do that, irrespective of the fact that we will have to work through long periods of dryness and boredom, eventually what that prayer brings into our lives will weed out our bad habits, rationalization, and sins. Two contraries cannot co-exist inside the same subject. Eventually we will either stop praying or we will give up our sin and rationalization. Nobody can be praying genuinely on a regular basis and be blind to his or her own sinfulness.

Our task then is to sustain private prayer as a habit in our lives, even if we have neither the insight nor the courage to see and address all the double-standards and moral blind-spots in our lives. What comes into our lives through prayer, often more imperceptible than visible, will eventually weed out ("cauterize", in John of the Cross' words) both our sin and our rationalizations about it.

This is akin to what Ronald Knox once taught about the Eucharist. For him, the Eucharist is the singular, vital, sustaining ritual within Christian life. Why? Because Knox believed that, as Christians, we have never really lived up to what Christ asked of us. We have never really loved our enemies, turned the other cheek, blessed those who cursed us, lived fully just lives, or forgiven those who hurt us.  But we have been, he submits, faithful to Christ in one major way: We have been faithful in celebrating the Eucharist, to that one command.

Just before he left us, Jesus gave us the Eucharist and asked us to continue celebrating it until he returned. For two thousand years, awaiting that return, we've been faithful in doing that, no matter how unfaithful we have been in other ways.  We have continued to celebrate the Eucharist and, in the end, more than anything else, that has been the one thing that has called us back, again and again, to fidelity.

The habit of private prayer will do the same thing for us. Since two contraries cannot co-exist inside the same subject, eventually either we will stop praying or we will stop sinning and rationalizing. The greatest moral danger in our lives is that we stop praying!

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

24. A hermit said, 'As the shadow goes everywhere with the body, so we ought to carry penitence and weeping with us everywhere we go.'

October 23, 2013  

(Jer 1:4-5) And the word of the Lord came to me, saying: Before I formed thee in the bowels of thy mother, I knew thee: and before thou camest forth out of the womb, I sanctified thee, and made thee a prophet unto the nations.

POPE JOHN PAUL II: “…we are facing an enormous and dramatic clash between good and evil, death and life, the ‘culture of death’ and the ‘culture of life.’

: God, Man, and Abortion: A New Summons to Hope

VIA Anne Lastman: Broken Branches Issue 95 for October/November, 2013

THE CATHOLIC SUN:  Life after abortion: Mother finds hope and healing through Church

: Call To Prayer

ARCHBISHOP CHARLES J. CHAPUT, O.F.M.CAP.: Living the Gospel of Life

Exactly 15 years ago this fall, America’s bishops issued a pastoral letter called Living the Gospel of Life. Even today, with the passage of time, this remains no ordinary Church text.  I believed then, and I believe now, that it’s the best document ever issued by the U.S. bishops on the priorities of Catholic engagement in our nation’s public life.  In writing it, the bishops sought to apply Pope John Paul II’s great encyclical Evangelium Vitae (“The Gospel of Life”) to the American situation.  The heart of their statement, paragraph No. 23, stresses that:

“Opposition to abortion and euthanasia does not excuse indifference to those who suffer from poverty, violence and injustice. Any politics of human life must work to resist the violence of war and the scandal of capital punishment. Any politics of human dignity must seriously address issues of racism, poverty, hunger, employment, education, housing, and health care. Therefore, Catholics should eagerly involve themselves as advocates for the weak and marginalized in all these areas. Catholic public officials are obliged to address each of these issues as they seek to build consistent policies which promote respect for the human person at all stages of life.

“But being ‘right’ in such matters can never excuse a wrong choice regarding direct attacks on innocent human life. Indeed, the failure to protect and defend life in its most vulnerable stages renders suspect any claims to the ‘rightness’ of positions in other matters affecting the poorest and least powerful of the human community. If we understand the human person as the ‘temple of the Holy Spirit’ — the living house of God — then these latter issues fall logically into place as the crossbeams and walls of that house. All direct attacks on innocent human life, such as abortion and euthanasia, strike at the house’s foundation. These directly and immediately violate the human person’s most fundamental right — the right to life. Neglect of these issues is the equivalent of building our house on sand.  Such attacks cannot help but lull the social conscience in ways ultimately destructive of other human rights.”

This is why the right to life is not merely one among many urgent issues, but rather the foundational one.  It provides the cornerstone for a whole architecture of human dignity.  Nothing has changed in recent months or years in Catholic thinking about the sanctity of human life.  Nor can it.  As America’s bishops have stressed so many times, we have an obligation to work for human dignity at every stage and in every circumstance of human life.  Here in Philadelphia, our Catholic social ministries model that dedication to the poor and disadvantaged in an extraordinary way.

But when we revoke legal protection for unborn children – when we accept the intimate violence abortion inflicts both on women and their unborn children; when we license and sacralize abortion as part of what Pope Francis calls a “throw away culture” — we violate the first and most important human right, the right to life itself.  And once we do that, and then create a system of alibis to justify it, we begin to put every other human and civil right at risk.

October is national Respect Life Month.  It’s a good time to remember the preciousness of all human life, beginning in the womb and continuing through natural death.

There are really two tragedies in every abortion: the killing of an unborn child; and the killing of an opportunity to love.  God made us to be better than that.

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

7. Jacob said, 'Like a lantern giving light in a dark little room, so the fear of God comes into a man's heart and enlightens it, and teaches him all that is good and all the commandments of God.'

21. A hermit said, 'If it were possible to die of fear, all the world would perish with terror rememberig the coming of God after the resurrection. What will it be like, to see the heavens opened, and God revealed in wrath and fury, and innumerable companies of angels gazing on the whole human race gathered together? Therefore we ought to live our lives as those who must give account of each action to God.'

October 21, 2013  

(Luk 18:8) I say to you that he will quickly revenge them. But yet the Son of man, when he cometh, shall he find, think you, faith on earth?

VATICAN RADIO: Pope Francis: Greed destroys people, families

CRISIS MAGAZINE: Recollections of a World That Is No More by Regis Martin

There are fewer than ten years separating the ages of my wife and me, a difference hardly worth mentioning in a marriage of more than thirty years.  Yet the distance between the two worlds we grew up in, the forces that shaped the cultural and religious horizons of our two lives, remains so vastly different that one might almost think we’d lived on separate planets.  The backdrop to the world that framed my childhood and youth, an expanse of stage no happier than which can be imagined, was wholly and uncomplicatedly Catholic.  Nothing I did escaped the benign, omnipresent reach of the Roman Catholic Church.  From the old priest who first gave me Jesus in the Eucharist, to the young Sister who prepared me to receive him, Catholic smells and bells seemed to be in evidence everywhere in that long ago Golden Age.  Nearly all the friends I found in the neighborhoods of my childhood were Catholic, their noise and numbers echoing across the lawns and driveways of a halcyon world where we and countless other large Catholic families lived and played.

If it is true that we are no better than deposed kings and queens, beguiled by memories of a kingdom whose loss we are forever trying to assuage, then why wasn’t I told?  Because it never crossed my mind that I’d lost anything.  How accurate, then, is the world I’m describing?  Was there no worm in the apple?  Indeed, there was.  Under that cloudless sky of fifties Catholicism, there were hidden neuralgic points, a thousand or more tensions and discontents that, simmering ominously beneath the surface of all those outwardly quiescent Eisenhower years, would soon enough blow the blooming roof right off the cathedral ceiling.  We were on a collision course with the 1960s, from the wreckage of which an entire world would be lost.

One mustn’t forget, however, that even before the dawning of the Age of Aquarius, the worm had long since insinuated its poison.  For all its pre-lapsarian pretensions, the sixties did not alter the basic human equation, which is that we have all been pockmarked by Original Sin.  A doctrine that, as Chesterton once said, has never needed defending.  If anyone cares to doubt that, just look in the nearest mirror.  Only one of us, we Catholics believe, was spared complicity with evil.  Our Blessed Lady, whose innocence reaches right down the bottom of her being.  “The serpent,” reports St. John of Damascus, “never had any access to this paradise.”

And yet the time of the sixties struck many of us as singular in its sheer destructive sweep, leaving those who recoiled from its vibrations in a state of more or less permanent shellshock.  And no doubt the blast from that past moves me to idealize the period just prior to detonation, causing me to throw an unreal halo over the years of my childhood and early youth.  But I do not want to press the point.  In fact, what I believe about that faraway place and time, and will insist upon saying until my dying day, is that despite the convulsive and far-reaching storms destined to come, not a whisper of that distant trauma touched the shores of the placid little world I lived in and loved.  Everything seemed to have been nailed down most wonderfully back then, the whole majestic show organized and sustained by this immensely Roman Catholic Thing that had been running the universe for what felt like forever.  From the pale Pius XII in the Vatican, to the apple-cheeked Sister Flavia in the parochial school cafeteria, the world I knew was bound by authority figures it would never occur to me, or anyone else for that matter, to question.  For all that I was a cheeky child, and I’ve no doubt the record of my villainy in classroom and schoolyard has been duly documented by the nuns I’d succeeded in vexing all my grammar school years, it never would have dawned on me that I was the hapless target of a cruel and corrupt system.

I am perfectly prepared to concede, however, that others may draw upon a very different set of memories.  For instance, the novelist and critic John Gregory Dunne, who, coming of age in the 1940s, found the nuns at his school to be so frightful as to evoke the savagery of “concentration-camp guards.”  Brandishing their rulers, he recalls, they would repeatedly rap them across the knuckles of their wretched charges.  “The joke at St. Joseph’s Cathedral School in Hartford, Conn., where I grew up, was that the nuns would hit you until you bled and then hit you for bleeding.”

Maybe I was just a weird kid, but immersed in that insular Catholic world some ten or so years after poor Mr. Dunne, I was positively bird happy when surrounded by the sisters; and never more so than in the darkened sanctuary serving the 6:30 am Mass for the holy women who taught me everything I know.  Of everlasting importance, that is, beginning with the certainty of who made me (God), and why (so that I might know, love and serve him in this world in order to be happy in heaven with him forever).

But, alas, this was most decidedly not the world my wife was fated to enter.  Not only had the roof been blown away in the great storms then sweeping the Church after the Council, but so much of the dust and rubble that settled in its wake seemed to have buried something of the ancient faith as well.  Ersatz substitutes were popping up like poisoned mushrooms all over the place, leaving great big bishops and priests and nuns—a heaping swath of the laity as well—to be swept up in the awful swirl of post-conciliar chaos and confusion.  Even God himself appeared not to have survived the terrible simplifiers, an entire legion of new theologians having solemnly pronounced his passing in both the learned and popular press.  The Death of God became a regular feature, it seems, of magazines like Time and Newsweek, whose iconoclastic style matched the nuttiness of an addle-headed age.  (“Presumably,” as Kierkegaard acidly announced a century earlier, “God waits in the lobby while the scholars upstairs debate his existence.”)   Perhaps Marx was right, after all, when he predicted that with the coming of modernity everything solid would inevitably melt into thin air.

This was the setting in which my dear wife’s generation was expected to find and nurture the inheritance of the Apostles and Martyrs.  Ensconced in an elite Catholic Academy for the daughters of well-heeled suburbanites, presided over by nuns so unsure of their own vocations that instead of catechizing their students on the truths of holy religion they constructed collages adorned with images of Che Guevara and the Berrigan  Brothers, this was the Brave New World whose outline of bleak despair would drive not a few of my wife’s classmates to drugs and suicide.  Here was the look of Catholic lite for the next forty years.  Here amid the chic and stylish, the upwardly mobile Catholic middle class, were the beginnings of what years later the writer David Foster Wallace, himself a suicide, would describe as “Neiman-Marcus Nihilism.”  If the future belongs to those who show up, here was a party that nobody would show up to celebrate.

Well, the silly season soon gave way to an almost endemic sense of ennui, or boredom, which sent great numbers of priests and nuns out of their rectories and convents (not infrequently together) in frantic search of the nearest fleshpot, paid for out of jobs snapped up in the secular city.  Meanwhile, back in the suburbs, marriages and families were imploding faster than anyone could say Hugh Hefner or Betty Friedan, to cite but two icons of the hour that helped dismantle the structures of faith and morals.

So how does one escape the mindset of an age that has lost its mind?  Has jettisoned even its soul?  Where does one turn for oxygen at a time when the air having turned dangerously and terribly toxic, people everywhere are gasping for breath?  The only enduring solution, of course, is to turn to Christ, from the intensity of the encounter with whom an entire world can be rebuilt.  But along the way back toward God, one has got to take ownership for the mess one has made.  An accounting, in other words, of what went so disastrously wrong on the cusp of what we’d all been so confidently promised—from Good Pope John who convoked the Council, to the least chancery bureaucrat breezily charged with implementing its reforms—would be a new and blessed Pentecost for the Church and the world.  Because what followed upon those high and heady days was an attempted high jacking of the Church herself, which proved ruinous to great sectors of her institutional life.   It was certainly no exercise in hyperbole that moved Pope Paul VI to pronounce balefully on the “smoke of Satan” having penetrated the hallowed precincts of the Church.   So why did it happen?  And is there any hope of recovery?

My own theory is that amid all the materialism of modern life, the ever expanding comfort zone of bourgeois culture, a world unwilling to set limits on the pursuit of appetite and pleasure, a terrible forgetfulness of God began, as a result of which too many Catholics found themselves unprepared for the excesses if the sixties.  There were no more reserves, as it were, of heroic sanctity on which they could draw.

Is there a way out?  Certainly there is and Pope Francis, the latest in a series of wise and holy popes, has given us the road map.  In his remarks this past July to the young people of the world, who had come to Brazil to reconnect with Christ and the Church, he urged them (and urges us) to heed the advice of Mother Teresa of Calcutta.  When asked what needed to change in the Church, she replied that the starting point is always and everywhere the same: the soul of each human being whom Christ came to redeem.  “This woman showed determination,” the Pope exclaimed.  “And today I make her words my own and I say to you: shall we begin?  Where?  With you and me!  Each one of you, once again in silence, ask yourself: if I must begin with myself, where exactly do I start?  Each one of you, open his or her heart, so that Jesus may tell you where to start.”

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

5. When Archbishop Theophilus of holy memory was dying, he said, 'Arsenius, you are blessed of God, because you have always kept this moment before your eyes.'

October 18, 2013  

(Mat 4:8-11) Again the devil took him up into a very high mountain, and shewed him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them, And said to him: All these will I give thee, if falling down thou wilt adore me. Then Jesus saith to him: Begone, Satan: for it is written: The Lord thy God shalt thou adore, and him only shalt thou serve. Then the devil left him; and behold angels came and ministered to him.

VATICAN RADIO: Pope: Guard against deceit of the devil

THE CATHOLIC THING: The Devil’s Dictionary

MEDITATION: Thoughts by St Theophan (1815-1894)

[Eph. 5:25-33; Luke 4:1-15]

The devil approaches the God-man with temptations. Who among men is free of them? He who goes according to the will of the evil one does not experience attacks, but is simply turned more and more toward evil.

As soon as one begins to come to himself and intends to begin a new life according to God's will, immediately the entire satanic realm enters into action: they hasten to scatter good thoughts and the intentions of the repentant one in any way they can. If they do not manage to turn him aside, they attempt to hinder his good repentance and confession; if they do not manage to do that, they contrive to sow tares amidst the fruits of repentance and disrupt his labours of cleansing the heart. If they do not succeed in suggesting evil they attempt to distort the truth; if they are repulsed inwardly they attack outwardly, and so on until the end of one's life. They do not even let one die in peace; even after death they pursue the soul, until it escapes the aerial space where they hover and congregate.

You ask, “What should we do? It is hopeless and terrifying!” For a believer there is nothing terrifying here, because near a God-fearing man demons only busy themselves, but they do not have any power over him. A sober man of prayer shoots arrows against them, and they stay far away from him, not daring to approach, and fearing the defeat which they have already experienced. If they succeed in something, it is due to our blundering. We slacken our attention, or allow ourselves to be distracted by their phantoms, and they immediately come and disturb us more boldly. If you do not come to your senses in time they will whirl you about; but if a soul does come to its senses they again recoil and spy from afar to see whether it is possible to approach again somehow.

So be sober, watch, and pray — and the enemies will do nothing to you.

VIA A Moment With Mary: We will be victorious through Mary

Today we fight a very intense spiritual battle. I think that some of us have not completely understood the intensity of this battle. It is a battle of love. (...)
We forget that the evil one exists. God took the most humble of all creatures, and the most magnificent because of her humility, to be the Queen of Heaven and Earth, so she could dominate that ugly old creature, the devil.
So if we lean on Mary, we have nothing to fear. Because on top of that, she will take care of us tenderly, with the heart of a mother. We know that the Lord is with us, and that Mary is there to protect us. We know for certain that we will be victorious, and victorious through Mary. (...) She is our mantle, and with her we are safe.
Pierre Goursat (1914-1991)

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

4. Elias said, 'I fear three things: the first, the time before my soul leaves my body: the second, the time before I meet God face to face: the third, the time before He pronounces His sentence upon me.'

October 16, 2013  

(1Pe 3:15-16)  But sanctify the Lord Christ in your hearts, being ready always to satisfy every one that asketh you a reason of that hope which is in you. But with modesty and fear, having a good conscience: that whereas they speak evil of you, they may be ashamed who falsely accuse your good conversation in Christ.

VATICAN RADIO: Pope: Credible Christian Witnesses Wanted

The importance of credible Christian witness to overcome indifference and religious illiteracy: that was the theme at the heart of Pope Francis’ message on Monday to members of the Pontifical Council for New Evangelisation. Noting that so many people are indifferent or have grown away from the Church, the Pope said what we need most is credible witnesses, who show the beauty of God’s love through their words and their lives.

Pauline Cole: Update to my Catholic Testimony

I wrote a few years ago in the Catholic Testimony Page and you sent me an email.  Here is an update:

I was talking about a Dr who took me up to the ICU and I thought he had real deep faith I asked The Lord to let me know in some way if what I saw in the Dr was right.  As he was hooking me up to the machines in ICU he was so busy but as he went to leave he held my hand and said to me May your God be with you. It was such a comfort to me.

In October last year I was told that I had bowel cancer it was such a shock I went numb for awhile.  I had a CT scan and a MRI then had an operation on November29th at Base Hospital in New Plymouth. I prayed that if I had to go through this cancer that I have the best Drs and health Professionals looking after me.  I had Dr Fancourt that did the operation it should have taken three hours and it was five hours and he saw a tumour on the liver during the operation. The nurses said he is very good and takes his time during operations I am really pleased that I had him there with me.

I then had six months of chemo and the support was amazing. I had a social worker and in our first meeting I ended up praying together with her I asked her to make an appointment with the Physiologist and he was a Catholic man and helped me through the different stages. Being an ostomate took some getting around but the district nurses were amazing and visited every few days to begin with. After that I had to go to oncology unit the nurses were really great.  It is so important for health professionals to treat patients well especially when they are feeling so vulnerable. I had a time of Drs appointments, CT scans, MRI scans and chemo.

I kept a positive attitude and prayed a lot and put my life in the Lord's hands and thanked him for taking good care of me. After six months of chemo in August this year I went to North Shore Hospital in Auckland and had my liver op and spent 5 days in intensive care.  Then to the ward for two weeks had times of praying with patients during the night also had a Catholic chaplain come and see me and gave me a picture of Our Lady and a pair of rosary beads. It has been an amazing journey and I thank God every day for the way he has supplied my every need it has given me a much deeper faith than I have ever had in my life.

The Lord is not someone who lived 2000 years ago he is here with us in our everyday life. Whatever we are going through Jesus has been there and understands our grief, anger, loneliness. Our God can be a friend we can confide in him how we are feeling.

I could have told you I am a solo mum there are 1000,s of those or I am Catholic there are millions of those. It is only when I tell you how I feel about having faith and being Catholic that you get to know who I really am, and that is all I can give you is me. I think this Quote from the bible says how I feel.

ROMANS 5 1-5 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through Our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access, by faith, into this grace in which we now stand. and we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. But we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us. AMEN



DON'T MISS: Christian comedian Tim Hawkins sets his testimony to music


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

14. Matrona said, 'Many solitaries living in the desert have been lost because they lived like people in the world. It is better to live in a crowd and want to live a solitary life than to live in solitude and be longing all the time for company.'

October 14, 2013  

(Joh 2:3-5) And the wine failing, the mother of Jesus saith to him: They have no wine. And Jesus saith to her: Woman, what is that to me and to thee? My hour is not yet come. His mother saith to the waiters: Whatsoever he shall say to you, do ye.

VATICAN RADIO: Pope consecrates world to Immaculate Heart of Mary

CATECHESIS: Pope Francis speaks about the Faith of Mary

ARCHDIOCESE OF WASHINGTON: Five Fundamentals for a Firm Faith

ZENIT: Prayer of Consecration to the Blessed Virgin Mary

Holy Mary Virgin of Fatima,

with renewed gratitude for your maternal presence

we join our voice to that of all the generations

who call you blessed.

We celebrate in you the works of God,

who never tires of looking down with mercy

upon humanity, afflicted with the wound of sin,

to heal it and save it.

Accept with the benevolence of a Mother

the act of consecration that we perform today with confidence,

before this image of you that is so dear to us.

We are certain that each of us is precious in your eyes

and that nothing of all that lives in our hearts is unknown to you.

We let ourselves be touched by your most sweet regard

and we welcome the consoling caress of your smile.

Hold our life in your arms:

bless and strengthen every desire for good;

revive and nourish faith;

sustain and enlighten hope;

awaken and animate charity;

guide all of us along the path of holiness.

Teach us your own preferential love

for the little and the poor,

for the excluded and the suffering,

for sinners and the downhearted:

bring everyone under your protection

and entrust everyone to your beloved Son, Our Lord Jesus.


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

11. Nilus said, 'The arrows of the enemy cannot touch someone who loves quiet. But those who wander about crowds will often be wounded by them.'

October 12, 2013  

(Rev 11:19) And the temple of God was opened in heaven: and the ark of his testament was seen in his temple. And there were lightnings and voices and an earthquake and great hail.

ZENIT: Pope To Consecrate World to the Immaculate Heart of Mary on Sunday

NEWS.VA: Pope Francis to Welcome the Original Statue of the Virgin of Fatima

Miracle of the Rosary Mission: A Call to Action

It is nearly 100 years since the inception of Our Lady of Fatima, but its ongoing appeal continues today. Prayer, Penance, Fasting, Conversion, etc. are more important than ever in these perilous times and with the Blessed Mother's intercession needed most urgently.

October is the Month of the Holy Rosary, in which the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary falls on October 7. Like many Marian feasts, the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary celebrates the protection of Christians through the intercession of the Mother of God; In this case, the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary celebrates the victory of Christian naval forces at the Battle of Lepanto on October 7, 1571.

At a time when Christian Europe was being torn apart by internal strife and the Reformation, Don John of Austria destroyed the Turkish fleet in the Gulf of Lepanto. His victory was attributed to the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, to whom rosaries were offered and processions were made in Rome on the day of the battle.The feast was instituted by Pope St. Pius V shortly after the victory, and Pope Clement XI extended it to the entire Church in celebration of another victory over the Turkish Muslims in 1716.

The Victory accomplished through the Miracle of the Rosary is upon us, and we encourage everyone to unite themselves with a renewed spirit of evangelization that our Holy Father is leading. It is a universal longing for peace with the ulitmate Triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary and the Glorious Reign of Emmanuel soon to be realized.

This coming 13 October Pope Francis will entrust the world to Mary, as part of the Year of Faith initiative. This is in continuation with the acts performed by his predecessors, from Pius XII to John Paul II and is a demonstration of Francis’ deep devotion to the Virgin Mary.

The original statue of Our Lady of Fatima, with the bullet that struck John Paul II (in the 13 May 1981 attempt on his life) set in the Virgin Mary’s crown, will arrive in St. Peter’s Square in the afternoon of Saturday 12th and Francis will be there to receive it. This is the 10th time in just under a century that the Marian effigy leaves the Chapel of Apparitions in Fatima, Portugal. In the evening the statue will be taken to the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Divine Love in Rome, where a prayer vigil will be held. On morning of October 13th, the statue will return to St. Peter’s Square, where the Pope will celebrate mass after the Rosary and will consecrate the world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

The first of these consecrations took place during Pius XII’s pontificate. On 31 October 1942, right in the middle of the Second World War, Pius XII consecrated the world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary on the radio in Portuguese, mentioning Russia especially, according to the instructions received by the three little shepherds during the apparition at Fatima. Another consecration was made by John Paul II on 25 March 1984, when tensions were running high because of the European missile crisis.

The relevance of the 3rd Secret of Fatima is most evident today:

After the two parts which I have already explained, at the left of Our Lady and a little above, we saw an Angel with a flaming sword in his left hand; flashing, it gave out flames that looked as though they would set the world on fire; but they died out in contact with the splendour that Our Lady radiated towards him from her right hand: pointing to the earth with his right hand, the Angel cried out in a loud voice: "Penance, Penance, Penance!'. And we saw in an immense light that is God: something similar to how people appear in a mirror when they pass in front of it' a Bishop dressed in White, we had the impression that it was the Holy Father. Other Bishops, Priests, men and women Religious going up a steep mountain, at the top of which there was a big Cross of rough-hewn trunks as of a cork-tree with the bark; before reaching there the Holy Father passed through a big city half in ruins and half trembling with halting step, afflicted with pain and sorrow, he prayed for the souls of the corpses he met on his way; having reached the top of the mountain, on his knees at the foot of the big Cross he was killed by a group of soldiers who fired bullets and arrows at him, and in the same way there died one after another the other Bishops, Priests, men and women Religious, and various lay people of different ranks and positions. Beneath the two arms of the Cross there were two Angels each with a crystal aspersorium in his hand, in which they gathered up the blood of the Martyrs and with it sprinkled the souls that were making their way to God.

MORE: The Story of the Apparitions of Fatima

Please consider uniting with us in prayer and responding jointly to the plea of Pope Francis!

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

8. Evagarius said, 'Cut the desire for many things out of your heart and so prevent your mind being dispersed and your stillness lost.'

October 9, 2013  

(2Ti 3:12) And all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.

POPE FRANCIS: I wish to say a word about those Christians, who, in various parts of the world, encounter difficulty in openly professing their faith and in enjoying the legal right to practice it in a worthy manner. They are our brothers and sisters, courageous witnesses—even more numerous than the martyrs of the early centuries—who endure with apostolic perseverance many contemporary forms of persecution. Quite a few also risk their lives to remain faithful to the Gospel of Christ.

GLOBAL POST: Orthodox leader calls for end Christians' persecution

The spiritual leader of the Orthodox Church called Sunday for an end to the persecution of Christians, especially in the Middle East.

"Have we not been persecuted these days, our Christians in Syria, Egypt... and the Middle East, just for spreading God's words?" asked Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew.

"They cherish everyone while being persecuted by everyone... They live in faith while being persecuted as villains," he said, marking the 1700th anniversary of the Edict of Milan -- a document that introduced tolerance for Christianity in the Roman empire.

Thousands of people, along with the leaders of seven Orthodox churches, high-ranking clergy and Serbian state officials, attended the ceremony.

The edict, adopted in 313, was agreed between Constantine I, the emperor of the western part of the Roman empire, and his rival Licinius, ruler of the eastern part, proclaiming to treat Christians with benevolence.

The ceremony was held in Nis, 240 kilometres (145 miles) south of Belgrade, where Constantine I was born in 272.

Most of Serbia's population of 7.2 million are Orthodox Christians. Since the fall of communism in the early 1990s, the Orthodox Church has increased its influence in the Balkan country.

CNA SPOTLIGHT: Vatican analyst warns of global 'war' against Christians

REVIEW: Can We Finally Start Talking About The Global Persecution Of Christians?


Christians in Egypt "We never know where the extremists will strike next"
Syrian Christians find lives 'paralyzed' by wartime chaos
Video shows al Qaeda hoisting flag atop Syrian Catholic church
Christians in Pakistan feel under threat amid growing religious intolerance

CNEWA: Catholic Near East Welfare Association has been a lifeline for the poor throughout the Middle East, Northeast Africa, India and Eastern Europe for more than 85 years.

Founded by Pope Pius XI in 1926, CNEWA works for, through and with the Eastern Catholic churches to identify needs and implement solutions.

From forming priests to serve the people of God in Egypt to providing irrigation to farmers in southern Lebanon — from teaching needy children in Ethiopia to educating sisters in India — from providing emergency relief to Syrian Christian refugees to counseling for war-scarred children in Gaza, CNEWA connects you to your brothers and sisters in need. Together, we build up the church, affirm human dignity, alleviate poverty, encourage dialogue — and inspire hope.


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

2. Antony said, 'He who sits alone and is quiet has escaped from three wars: hearing, speaking, seeing: but there is one thing against which he must continually fight: that is, his own heart.'

October 8, 2013  

(1Ti 2:1-2) I desire therefore, first of all, that supplications, prayers, intercessions and thanksgivings be made for all men: For kings and for all that are in high station: that we may lead a quiet and a peaceable life in all piety and chastity.

CATHOLIC SENTINEL: What's on the Supreme Court docket, and what might be there later

NEWS HEADLINE: At cathedral’s Red Mass, bishop warns against ‘petty partisanship’

EXCERPT INTERVIEW NEW YORK MAG: In Conversation: Antonin Scalia  (Interviewer's questions in italics)

What do you make of the new pope?
He’s the Vicar of Christ. He’s the chief. I don’t run down the pope.

I’m not inviting you to run down the pope. But what do you think of his recent comments, that the church ought to focus less on divisive issues and more on helping the poor?
I think he’s absolutely right. I think the church ought to be more evangelistic.

But he also wanted to steer its emphasis away from homosexuality and abortion.
Yeah. But he hasn’t backed off the view of the church on those issues. He’s just saying, “Don’t spend all our time talking about that stuff. Talk about Jesus Christ and evangelize.” I think there’s no indication whatever that he’s changing doctrinally.

I spent my junior year in Switzerland. On the way back home, I spent some time in England, and I remember going to Hyde Park Corner. And there was a Roman Catholic priest in his collar, standing on a soapbox, preaching the Catholic faith and being heckled by a group. And I thought, My goodness. I thought that was admirable. I have often bemoaned the fact that the Catholic church has sort of lost that evangelistic spirit. And if this pope brings it back, all the better.

The one thing I did think, as he said those somewhat welcoming things to gay men and women, is, Huh, this really does show how much our world has changed. I was wondering what kind of personal exposure you might have had to this sea change.
I have friends that I know, or very much suspect, are homosexual. Everybody does.

Have any of them come out to you?
No. No. Not that I know of.

Has your personal attitude softened some?
Toward what?

I don’t think I’ve softened. I don’t know what you mean by softened.

If you talk to your grandchildren, they have different opinions from you about this, right?
I don’t know about my grandchildren. I know about my children. I don’t think they and I differ very much. But I’m not a hater of homosexuals at all.

I still think it’s Catholic teaching that it’s wrong. Okay? But I don’t hate the people that engage in it. In my legal opinions, all I’ve said is that I don’t think the Constitution requires the people to adopt one view or the other.

You believe in heaven and hell?
Oh, of course I do. Don’t you believe in heaven and hell?

Oh, my.

Does that mean I’m not going?
[Laughing.] Unfortunately not!

Wait, to heaven or hell?
It doesn’t mean you’re not going to hell, just because you don’t believe in it. That’s Catholic doctrine! Everyone is going one place or the other.

But you don’t have to be a Catholic to get into heaven? Or believe in it?
Of course not!

Oh. So you don’t know where I’m going. Thank God.
I don’t know where you’re going. I don’t even know whether Judas Iscariot is in hell. I mean, that’s what the pope meant when he said, “Who am I to judge?” He may have recanted and had severe penance just before he died. Who knows?

Can we talk about your drafting process—
[Leans in, stage-whispers.] I even believe in the Devil.

You do?
Of course! Yeah, he’s a real person. Hey, c’mon, that’s standard Catholic doctrine! Every Catholic believes that.

Every Catholic believes this? There’s a wide variety of Catholics out there …
If you are faithful to Catholic dogma, that is certainly a large part of it.

Have you seen evidence of the Devil lately?
You know, it is curious. In the Gospels, the Devil is doing all sorts of things. He’s making pigs run off cliffs, he’s possessing people and whatnot. And that doesn’t happen very much anymore.

It’s because he’s smart.

So what’s he doing now?
What he’s doing now is getting people not to believe in him or in God. He’s much more successful that way.

That has really painful implications for atheists. Are you sure that’s the ­Devil’s work?
I didn’t say atheists are the Devil’s work.

Well, you’re saying the Devil is ­persuading people to not believe in God. Couldn’t there be other reasons to not believe?
Well, there certainly can be other reasons. But it certainly favors the Devil’s desires. I mean, c’mon, that’s the explanation for why there’s not demonic possession all over the place. That always puzzled me. What happened to the Devil, you know? He used to be all over the place. He used to be all over the New Testament.

What happened to him?

He just got wilier.
He got wilier.

Isn’t it terribly frightening to believe in the Devil?
You’re looking at me as though I’m weird. My God! Are you so out of touch with most of America, most of which believes in the Devil? I mean, Jesus Christ believed in the Devil! It’s in the Gospels! You travel in circles that are so, so removed from mainstream America that you are appalled that anybody would believe in the Devil! Most of mankind has believed in the Devil, for all of history. Many more intelligent people than you or me have believed in the Devil.

RELATED: Justice Clarence Thomas Credits Influence of Catholic School, Sisters

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

1. Antony said, 'Fish die if they stay on dry land, and in the same way monks who stay outside their cell or remain with secular people fall away from their vow of quiet. As a fish must return to the sea, so must we to our cell, in case by staying outside, we forget to watch inside.'

October 3, 2013  

(Mat 4:3-4) And the tempter coming said to him: If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread. Who answered and said: It is written, Not in bread alone doth man live, but in every word that proceedeth from the mouth of God.

MEDITATION: The Heart of a Child

Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap.: Fire upon the earth: A Year of Faith, personal conversion and the new evangelization

Before we start though, I want to go back to those two verses from Matthew and Mark, because they frame our whole discussion tonight.

This is the verse from Matthew:  Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.  In the Gospel, when Jesus says these words, he’s ravenous from 40 days in the desert.  But he’s speaking with the devil here about a great deal more than bread.  Men and women need food and shelter to survive.  These things are basic to their dignity.  But they need God to be fully alive.  Human beings are more than a bundle of appetites.  Our longings go beyond what we can see and touch and taste.  We were made for God.  And material answers to questions of the soul can never be more than a narcotic.  The proof is all around us.  So much of the suffering in modern American life – we see it every day – can be traced to our misdirected desires, and the distractions we use to feed them.  We look for joy and purpose in things that can never give us either.

Here’s the verse from Mark:  The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.  This is one of the key moments in all of Scripture.  Jesus comes out of the desert on fire with the presence of his Father.  He calls on us to wake up from the darkness in our lives.  He speaks with passion and urgency.  And that’s how we need to hear his words, because time matters.  Time is the only thing in life we truly own, and none of us has more than a little of it.  God is near.  The kingdom is coming.  What we do right now to prepare for it – tonight, tomorrow and for however long God gives us in the world — has consequences not only for ourselves, but for the people we touch with our lives.

The kingdom of God is at hand.  God’s kingdom builds on two foundation stones in the human heart: repentance and belief.  Repentance makes us new, and it makes us sane.  It makes us new because it gives us a chance to begin again by healing the evil we’ve done.  It makes us sane because it’s an act of humility and truth telling.  It forces us to look honestly at who we are, how we’ve failed, and the people we’ve wounded.  And belief – specifically belief in the gospel, belief in the “good news,” because that’s what the Old English word “god-spell” means – gives us the ability to hope that despite all our failures, despite our insignificance and sins, the greatness of God’s love can reach down and redeem even us.  We have a future, we have meaning, we have hope for something more than this life, because we belong to a people that God calls his own and loves without limits.  And he proves his love with the sacrifice of his own son.

That brings us to the first step in our talk tonight: what a “year of faith” is, and why Pope Benedict felt we needed one.

Benedict announced the current Year of Faith in his apostolic letter Porta Fidei, or “Door of Faith.”  The Year began on October 11, 2012, the 50th anniversary of the opening of Vatican II and the 20th anniversary of the publication of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.  It ends next month on the Solemnity of Christ the King.

A Year of Faith is a time set aside by the Church to focus on the meaning of our baptism – in other words, who we are, what we believe and how we’re called to act as a Christian community.  Pope Paul VI announced the last Year of Faith in 1967, hoping to heal the ambiguity and turmoil in the Church that followed Vatican II.  That was a turbulent time.  And yet, despite the confusion of the ‘60s, Paul led a Church that still had a strong memory of her own unity and purpose.  The Church pursued her mission in a developed world that was still broadly influenced by a Christian moral vision and vocabulary.

Times have changed over the past five decades.  In many ways, the challenges facing the Church in the world, and the fractures even within her own house, have grown more difficult.  In Pope Benedict’s words, we now live in a world marked by “a profound crisis of faith.”  And this fact shaped the course of his entire pontificate.

In Porta Fidei, Benedict listed three reasons for calling a Year of Faith.  He hoped Christians would be led to profess the faith more fully and with conviction; to deepen their encounter with Jesus Christ in the Liturgy, especially in the Eucharist, and to witness the faith more credibly by the example of their lives.  He stressed that “A Christian may never think of belief as a private act.  Faith [involves] choosing to stand with the Lord so as to live with him.”  Therefore faith, “precisely because it is a free act, also demands social responsibility for what one believes” (10).

Above all, in living the Year of Faith, Benedict wanted the Church and her pastors to recover the courage and zeal “to lead people out of the desert toward the place of life,” toward the God who gives us life in abundance (2).

Now those are beautiful words.  We need to take them to heart.  The image of man’s “crisis of faith” as a desert is a powerful one, and true.  But if surgeons have just saved your child from cancer, it can be very hard to see the modern world as wounded or empty of meaning.  Vatican II understood this clearly in describing the modern age as a patchwork of light and shadow.  There’s enormous beauty and good in the world.  Humanity has achieved great things.  We have a right to take joy and pride in them.  But just as we can often learn the right lessons from a failure, we can also learn the wrong lessons from success.  Rich or poor, mighty or weak, every one of us is mortal.  Every one of us will die.  And so will every one of the people we love.  It’s profoundly rational to ask what our lives mean; to acknowledge the limits of our reasoning and senses; and to hope for and seek something more than this life.  But these questions – so urgent, so fundamental – are exactly the ones modern life buries under a mudflow of distractions and narcotics.

One of the conceits of our age is the idea that reason and science have banished superstition and brought a new era of light to human affairs.  Faith, sin, heaven, hell, God and grace – these are throwback ideas to a dark age of supernatural mumbo jumbo and witch burnings, doomed to the dustbin of history.  In effect, this is the atheist version of a creation myth.  It’s a sunny theory.  And for people who imagine themselves as materialists, it can be very comforting.

But it’s false.  As scholars like Christian Smith and many others have shown, there’s really no such thing as an “unbeliever.”  We all put our faith in something.  In fact, we all believe in things we can’t see or prove every day, including the premises we use to organize our understanding of reality. Science operates off first principles – in other words, assumptions about the nature of reality – that can never be proven by science itself.

The cultural power of science comes from its ability to explain many of the observable workings of reality, and also from the technology it creates, which can be very useful in humanity’s service.  The trouble is that scientists are also directly or indirectly responsible for Sarin gas, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the technology that murdered 6 million Jews and the “morning after” abortion pill.  Both of the great murder ideologies of the last century – Marxism-Leninism and National Socialism – based their claims to legitimacy on science.  More human beings were gassed, starved, aborted, burned or shot in the name of genetic and racial hygiene, or the laws of history, or scientific materialism in the 20th century than died in all the previous 19 centuries of religious conflict and persecution combined.

Some years ago the philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre, a former Marxist and now a Catholic, wrote that the “new dark ages [are] already upon us” – a darkness brought on not by religion, but by the vanity, moral confusion and failure of the Enlightenment.  The key difference between the sixth century and our own, said McIntyre, is that this time “[the] barbarians are not waiting beyond the frontiers; they have already been governing us for quite some time.  And it is our lack of consciousness of this [fact] that constitutes part of our predicament.”

MacIntyre’s words may explain a lot about the framework of Catholic thought over the past 200 years.  The Church is a global community.   But her heartland for centuries has been Europe.  Issues in Europe and the developed world have tended to mold her agenda.  Quite apart from the mistakes and sins of her own leaders, the Church in Europe in the years since the Enlightenment has faced constant pressure from revolutionary violence, intellectual contempt, ideological atheism, idolatry of the nation state, two disastrous world wars and mass genocides.  And Catholic attempts to hold on to the Church’s privileges have often made conflicts worse.

Today a new and even more effective atheism – the practical atheism of an advanced but morally empty liberal consumer culture – is pushing the Church to society’s margins.  This, on a European continent that owes much of its identity and history to the Christian faith.  And we can see some of the same trends now in Canada and the United States.

Obviously I’m using a very broad brush here.  There’s no way to squeeze a couple of centuries of Church life into a few sentences.  But thinking like this has helped me imagine what God may hope for us in the leadership of our new universal pastor and bishop of Rome. And that brings us to the second step in my talk tonight: Pope Francis and the new spirit he brings to witnessing our faith as a Church.

Pope Francis issued his first encyclical, Lumen Fidei or “Light of Faith,” in June — just three months after his installation. Benedict clearly helped shape the text.  But Popes don’t put their names on major teaching documents unless they believe in the content.  So in seeking to understand Francis, it’s worth hearing some of his words from Lumen Fidei.

Here’s a passage. “Faith consists in the willingness to let ourselves be constantly transformed and renewed by God’s call … The beginning of salvation is openness to something prior to ourselves, to a primordial gift that affirms life and sustains it in being” (13, 19).

Here’s another.  “Faith is necessarily ecclesial; it is professed from within the body of Christ as a concrete communion of believers … Faith is not a private matter, a completely individualistic notion or a personal opinion:  It comes from hearing, and it is meant to find expression in words and to be proclaimed.” (22).

Here’s a third.  “In the Bible, the heart is the core of the human person, where all his or her different dimensions intersect: body and spirit, interiority and openness to the world and to others, intellect, will and affectivity … Faith transforms the whole person precisely to the extent that he or she becomes open to love” (26).

And here’s a fourth and final passage.  “[Love] requires truth.  Only to the extent that love is grounded in truth can it endure over time … [And if] love needs truth, truth also needs love.  Love and truth are inseparable” (27).

My point is this:  Anyone hoping for — or worried about — a break by Pope Francis from Catholic teaching on matters of substance is going to be mistaken.  At the same time, the tone of this pontificate will certainly be distinct from anything in the past century.  Pope Francis has been formed by experiences very unlike the factors that shaped John XXIII, Paul VI, John Paul II and Benedict XVI.

The Desert Fathers: sayings of the Early Christian Monks: Progress in Perfection

21. Some of the hermits used to say, 'Whatever you hate for yourself, do not do it to someone else. If you hate being spoken evil of, do not speak evil of another. If you hate being slandered, do not slander another. If you hate him who tries to make you despised, or wrongs you, or takes away what is yours, or anything like that, do not do such things to others. To keep this is enough for salvation.'

October 2, 2013  

(Mat 18:10) See that you despise not one of these little ones: for I say to you, that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father who is in heaven.

FROM THE ARCHIVES: Touched by Padre Pio's Guardian Angels

: The Role of Guardian Angels in Our Lives


John XXIII was another pope who had a deep devotion to his guardian angel. One might say he practized to perfection the advice of his predecessor gave those overseas visitors: 'Have a certain familiarity with the angels.' John XXIII's faith in the active and loving presence of his angel was such that, like Pius XI, what was invisible became in a way visible to the eyes of his faith.

John XXIII believed in the existence of angels and he was happy to use opportunities to remind people of this reassuring truth.... He liked to tell everyone about them, especially parents. Parents, he said, should teach their children that they are never alone, that they have an angel at their side, and show them how to have a trusting conversation with this angel. 'Your guardian angel is a good adviser; he intercedes near God, on our behalf; he helps us in our needs; he protects us from dangers and accidents. The pope would like the faithful to feel the wonderful help the angels give.

John XXIII was so convinced that angels were by our side that, when he looked at the crowd of pilgrims and tourists in St. Peter's Square on a Sunday, there to say the Angelus and receive the pope's blessing, he used also [to] think of the equally numerous crowd of invisible guardian angels also present in the same square. The same thing was true of St. Francis de Sales, a saint beloved of John XXIII: before starting to preach he liked to look round at the people, to greet their guardian angels, invisibly present.

VATICAN INSIDER: John Paul II and John XXIII to be proclaimed saints on 27 April 2014 (Divine Mercy Sunday)

ST. FRANCIS DE SALES: "Make friends with the angels, who, though invisible, are always with you. ... Often invoke them, constantly praise them, and make good use of their help and assistance in all your temporal and spiritual affairs."


O most holy angel of God,
appointed by God to be my guardian,
I give you thanks for all the benefits
which you have ever bestowed on me
in body and in soul.
I praise and glorify you
that you condescended to assist me
with such patient fidelity,
and to defend me against all the assaults of my enemies.
Blessed be the hour in which
you were assigned me for my guardian,
my defender and my patron.
In acknowledgement and return
for all your loving ministries to me,
I offer you the infinitely precious
and noble heart of Jesus,
and firmly purpose to obey you henceforward,
and most faithfully to serve my God. Amen

PETER KREEFT: Angels- The Twelve Most Important Things to Know About Them
  1. They really exist. Not just in our minds, or our myths, or our symbols, or our culture. They are as real as your dog, or your sister, or electricity.
  2. They’re present, right here, right now, right next to you, reading these words with you.
  3. They’re not cute, cuddly, comfortable, chummy, or “cool”. They are fearsome and formidable. They are huge. They are warriors.
  4. They are the real “extra-terrestrials”, the real “Super-men”, the ultimate aliens. Their powers are far beyond those of all fictional creatures.
  5. They are more brilliant minds than Einstein.
  6. They can literally move the heavens and the earth if God permits them.
  7. There are also evil angels, fallen angels, demons, or devils. These too are not myths. Demon possessions, and exorcisms, are real.
  8. Angels are aware of you, even though you can’t usually see or hear them. But you can communicate with them. You can talk to them without even speaking.
  9. You really do have your very own “guardian angel”. Everybody does.
  10. Angels often come disguised. “Do not neglect hospitality, for some have entertained angels unawares”—that’s a warning from life’s oldest and best instruction manual.
  11. We are on a protected part of a great battlefield between angels and devils, extending to eternity.
  12. Angels are sentinels standing at the crossroads where life meets death. They work especially at moments of crisis, at the brink of disaster—for bodies, for souls, and for nations.

The Desert Fathers: sayings of the Early Christian Monks: Progress in Perfection

19. A brother said to a hermit, 'How does the fear of God come into the soul? He said, 'If there is humility and poverty, and no judgement of others, the fear of God will be present there.'
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