Adopt a Christian from Mosul |


The PIME missionaries (Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions), publishers of the online journal, have been calling  for donations to a fund they set up almost a fortnight ago to assist Christians displaced or otherwise adversely affected in northern Iraq. All funds are to go to the Chaldean Catholic patriarchate in Baghdad to assist those in great need in the north. has said that PIME:

. . . has decided to respond to this appeal by raising funds for our brothers and sisters who have been robbed of their right to life and liberty. To feed a Christian from Mosul takes about 160 € (US$ 215) a month; 40 € (US$ 54) a week; and 5 € (US$ 7) a day.

We invite all our readers and friends to play their part, going beyond indignation and condemnation, expressing our solidarity through our support to Iraqi Christians. The funds raised will be sent to the Patriarchate of Baghdad, who will distribute them according to the needs of each family.

Please read more about the PIME support fund and how to contribute, if able, here and here.

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Memorial of the Queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary – 22nd August

By Dr. Peter Howard on Catholic Spiritual Direction

‘Hail Holy Queen, Hail our Life, our Sweetness and our Hope!’

Mary Crowned Queen - Diego Velazquez

Mary Crowned Queen – Diego Velazquez

What a beautiful salutation to call upon Our Most Blessed Mother! One may be tempted to think that these words are an exaggerated expression of piety as they apply also to her Son, whose sacrifice on the Cross obtained our Redemption.

Stained glass image of St. Bernard

Stained glass image of St. Bernard

However, God’s Redemption began not with an imposition upon an unworthy humanity, but through the free gift of a woman’s fiat that first opened the door of heaven to bring down the Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity. This is why St. Bernard, and the Church throughout the ages echoing his words, refers to Mary as the “cause of our salvation”, for she is the instrument through which God entrusted His plan of Redemption to enter into the world – just as it was through Eve that Original Sin passed on from Adam to every generation.

From the moment of her fiat to the Angel, Mary was inseparably bound up in God’s work of Redemption, both in its accomplishment and in the distribution of its merits. And she exercises these roles as the New Eve, acting as both Spouse of the New Adam (Jesus Christ) and His Mother. Her motherhood extends over both His earthly life, and in His Mystical Life prolonged in the Church – as Jesus made crystal clear on Calvary.

And as the mother of the King, she assumed a powerful role in the administering of His Kingdom – the distribution of graces which flow from the pierced Sacred Heart of Jesus to a world in desperate need of His Divine Mercy. So powerful and vast is her jurisdiction (as one might call it), that Jesus has entrusted to her the entire treasury of His graces. This is why the Church has called Mary the Dispensatrix and Mediatrix of all graces; for just as God found her worthy to be the woman in whom and through whom He would bring grace upon the world via the Incarnation and Redemption, so also does He continue His perfect way when He distributes the merits of the Redemption, through Mary.

Blessed Pius IX

Blessed Pius IX

The Church has hailed this singular prerogative of Mary from the earliest days of Christianity. In his encyclical Ubi Primum (1849) Blessed Pius IX summarizes the Church’s belief of this truth by making the famous teaching of St. Bernard that of the papal magisterium when he says:

“The foundation of all our confidence . . . is found in the Blessed Virgin Mary. For, God has committed to Mary the treasury of all good things, in order that everyone may know that through her are obtained every hope, every grace, and all salvation. For this is His will, that we obtain everything through Mary” [St. Bernard, In Nativit. S. Mariae de Aquaeduct].

Ven. Fulton Sheen

Ven. Fulton Sheen

With these words, Blessed Pius IX provides a concise commentary on the first line of the Hail, Holy Queen highlighting why she is “our life, our sweetness and our hope.” At the same time he was launching the Church into the extraordinary Marian age in which we are living. An age in which we have seen the power of Mary’s queenship over the cosmos as she demonstrated in Fatima on October 13, 1917 when she made the sun “her play thing,” as Venerable Fulton Sheen described it, before thousands of observers.

With the miracle of the sun at Fatima, one cannot help but think of Revelation 12 in which we see the heavenly reality underlying our current earthly battle, “A woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars . . . and behold a great red dragon . . .” This is the real war we see being played out the in the world today . . . and in every human heart. That is why Mary, the Queen Mother of Jesus Christ, is being sent to us today. She is her Son’s last resort for a rebellious world, for nobody ever held the hearts of a king’s people more than a loving and solicitous queen.

And she is very solicitous . . . and powerful . . . for wherever she is sent by her Son she obtains conversions by the hundreds of thousands. Wherever she is sent, she “crushes the head of the serpent” (Gen 3:15) and firmly establishes the banner of the Kingdom of God, with churches and basilicas erected and millions of new converts to fill them as the sign of her victory. Nowhere was this seen so vividly than in 1531 when she appeared in Guadalupe, Mexico. She left behind a heavenly imprint of Revelation 12 on the tilma of St. Juan Diego and through her powerful mediation, she obtained the conversion of over eight million Aztecs – basically a Pentecost a day for seven years!

St. Louis de Montfort

St. Louis de Montfort

St. Louis De Montfort summarizes why this is the common Marian effect wherever she is sent and welcomed:


When the Holy Spirit, her spouse, finds Mary in a soul, he hastens there and enters fully into it. He gives himself generously to that soul according to the place it has given to his spouse. One of the main reasons why the Holy Spirit does not work striking wonders in souls is that he fails to find in them a sufficiently close union with his faithful and inseparable spouse . . .” [True Devotion, 36]

Let us therefore open our hearts for the most gentle, yet powerful, of Mothers to carry into them the greatest gift, which she alone was entrusted to give to the world; the gift that makes Mary “our life, our sweetness and our hope” – the gift of the grace of Jesus Christ, which alone can transform and satisfy this deeply wounded and thirsting world.

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Slate Book Review: Know Nothing, the True Story of Atheism

Brother Burrito:

Sorry for the reblog of a reblog, but them “atheists” just won’t go away!

Originally posted on Teilhard de Chardin:

An examined faith leads to a deeper faith

What would Plato and Aristotle say about the “New Atheists”?

This blog has been fairly quiet lately, mostly because of work and family commitments (as well as discernment about whether I am ready to commit to an eight month retreat in Daily Life, but that is another story). However, I came across this excellent book review by Michael Robbins in Slate (courtesy of The Outward Quest Blog) and had to share it.  I have not read the book but based on the review I intend to.  Here is an excerpt from the review:

Atheists: The Origin of the Species seems to have been born out of frustration with these and other confusions perpetuated by the so-called “New Atheists” and their allies, who can’t be bothered to familiarize themselves with the traditions they traduce. Several thoughtful writers have already laid bare the slapdash know-nothingism of today’s mod-ish atheism, but…

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Bishop Mark Davies addresses Faith Movement

London, August 15, 2014 ( Richard Marsden:

Young Catholics should stand their ground “armed with spiritual weapons” ready to challenge the destructive ideologies of the 21st century, a bishop has told a summer gathering.

Bishop Mark Davies of Shrewsbury, England, said Europe was in danger of losing its Christian foundation and that our times do not allow any Christian to be “mediocre”.

The bishop was addressing more than 200 people at the Faith movement’s 42nd annual Summer Session held last Aug. 11-15 at Woldingham School, Surrey.

He said: “In the seeming quiet of British society in the early 21st century, we are urged again, in the Apostle Paul’s words, to stand our ground armed with spiritual weapons.

“To many, history, the times in which we are living, can be at times as incomprehensible as the movements of the M25 [motorway].”

The bishop reiterated the call of Pope Saint John Paul II for the youth to take up the Cross of the Christ, to choose the path of hope, and to rise towards the goal of holiness.

“And in this gathering today I can glimpse how, along all the pathways of this new century, you will each be needed – as married people and parents, as priests and religious – in all the fields of medicine and science, education, finance, law and politics and every field of human endeavour,” Bishop Davies added.

He urged young people to pray for the people they dialogue with and engage in the spiritual warfare — spoken of frequently by Pope Francis — before engaging in an ideological struggle.

The Bishop of Shrewsbury was speaking just days after Britain remembered the 100th anniversary of the beginning of World War I and compared the generation of August 1914 to that of August 2014.

He reflected on the decree by Pope Pius X just a few years before the Great War which proposed frequent reception of Holy Communion for the faithful. The Pope of the time saw the impending tragedy and saw this Sacrament as the way of preparing people for the times ahead.

“It was due to this initiative that a countless number would be ready to received Holy Communion in the mud and dust of the wars which marred the century ahead – with a readiness and a disposition to receive Christ himself,” Bishop Davies said.

“It was not as a comforting ritual that Holy Communion was distributed in the trenches of the Great War – or even in the concentration camps of the Second – but as a means for each to reach the goal of holiness.”

Still today, Holy Communion received in the correct disposition is, in Pius X’s words, “the surest and shortest way to heaven”, reflected the bishop, who also echoed Pope Saint John Paul II’s plea to put the Eucharist at the centre of our lives.

Apart from the bishop’s talk, the conference reflected on the family in God’s plan and in the modern world.

Canon Luiz Ruscillo, a priest of the Lancaster Diocese, encouraged married couples and those wanting to start a family to seek to create “a cast iron bubble of security” in their love so that their children recognise the bond between their mother and father.

“The aim of your family life is to try to create and cultivate good soil so that when God’s call comes it has somewhere to take root,” Canon Ruscillo said.

“Be generous with God in the way you live your married love. Be open to God and in that way be open to create an atmosphere of generosity to God.

“Seek to create an environment in your family where God’s voice can be heard for your children, calling them as individuals to fulfil the meaning of their life.

“The faith will only grow if there is depth, stability and consistency in the way you live it.”

A young couple, Chris and Katie Wotherspoon, gave a witness to their married life and spoke about the need to rebuild the family with Jesus and Mary.

They described some of the threats to the family in society such as divorce, contraception and abortion.  The couple, who have two children, promoted praying at home, confession, Sunday and weekday Mass attendance, and defending the Church from attack, as ways of re-constructing the family.

Aside from the talks, Mass was celebrated each day and there was also a Reconciliation Service and a Eucharistic Procession. Students, young adults, priests and seminarians enjoyed a traditional Scottish Ceilidh dance, played football and performed in a talent show.

The Faith movement was established in 1972 and works to foster the Catholic faith and spiritual life, especially of young people, through events and publications. It promotes a new synthesis of science and religion to explain the Catholicism which remains loyal to the Church’s Magisterium.


For more information, visit

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James Foley’s family comforted by Catholic priest

American journalist James Foley, who appears to have been killed by Islamic State terrorists Below: Fr Paul Gousse leaves the Foley family home in Rochester, Boston (PA)

From the Catholic Herald online:

American journalist James Foley, who appears to have been killed by Islamic State terrorists Below: Fr Paul Gousse leaves the Foley family home in Rochester, Boston (PA)

Islamic State have released a gruesome video appearing to show American photo journalist James Wright Foley being beheaded by a masked militant. Foley went missing in Syria in November 2012 while working for the GlobalPost agency.

Mr Foley came from a Catholic family in Rochester, Boston. On Tuesday Fr Paul Gousse, of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary, where the Foleys are parishioners, spent about 45 minutes at the house before leaving without speaking to reporters.

In 2011, Mr Foley was kidnapped and held by pro-Gaddafi forces in Tripoli, Libya, before being released after 45 days. After his release he wrote an article for Marquette, the magazine of the Milwaukee university he attended, about how prayer helped him through his experience.

“I kept telling (my colleague) Clare my mom had a strong faith,” he wrote.

“I prayed she’d know I was OK. I prayed I could communicate through some cosmic reach of the universe to her. I began to pray the rosary. It was what my mother and grandmother would have prayed. 
I said 10 Hail Marys between each Our Father. It took a long time, almost an hour to count 100 Hail Marys off on my knuckles. And it helped to keep my mind focused.

“Clare and I prayed together out loud. It felt energising to speak our weaknesses and hopes together, as if in a conversation with God, rather than silently and alone.”

After the Islamic State posted the video of Mr Foley’s murder online, with the killing carried out reportedly by a man with a British accent, Mr Foley’s mother, Diane, wrote on the Free James Foley Facebook page: “We implore the kidnappers to spare the lives of the remaining hostages. Like Jim, they are innocents. They have no control over American government policy in Iraq, Syria or anywhere in the world.

“We thank Jim for all the joy he gave us. He was an extraordinary son, brother, journalist and person.”

After Mr Foley’s murder is shown in the online video, another man, thought to be another missing American journalist, Steven Joel Sotloff, is paraded on camera, with the militant saying: “The life of this American citizen, Obama, depends on your next decision.” This warning comes after US airstrikes targeted Islamic State positions in northern Iraq.

Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond told the BBC that although the video is yet to be authenticated, “all the hallmarks point to it being genuine”.

In reference to the fact that the killer appeared to have a British accent, he said: “We’re absolutely aware that there are significant numbers of British nationals involved in terrible crimes, probably in the commission of atrocities, making jihad with (Islamic State) and other extremist organisations.”

“This is something we have been tracking and dealing with for many many months and I don’t think this video changes anything. It just heightens awareness of a situation which is very grave and which we’ve been working on for many months.”

Two US officials have confirmed anonymously that the man in the video is Mr Foley. President Obama is expected to comment later today.

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The Saviour Will See You Now

Christ is never off-duty or on leave. If you are already a Saint, you don’t need to bother Him, but which of us can call ourselves a saint?

One doesn’t meet Jesus in one’s memories from the past, or in one’s imagination of the future.

One only meets Him in one’s very present location, no matter how awful it is.

The divine physician is permanently on-call to save our souls from sin, including anger, hatred, presumption and despair.

World events are terrifying at the moment. Most of us are powerless to influence them.

Our mission nevertheless is to continue loving the ones we’re with, in Christ, and passing on this mission to others who do not know it, or Him.

Christ is with us until the end of days, and let nothing us dismay. Amen.

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Full transcript of Pope’s in-flight interview from Korea

Aboard the papal plane, Aug 18, 2014 / 04:30 pm (CNA).- Speaking to journalists aboard the Aug. 18 flight to Italy from South Korea, Pope Francis said he supports international intervention in Iraq and is willing to go to there personally if it will help end the violence against Christians and other religious minorities.

He also addressed topics ranging from peace efforts between Israel and Palestine, future papal visits, to his personal schedule, relationship with Benedict XVI and life at the Vatican.

Below is a full transcript of the discussion between Pope Francis and journalists during Tuesday’s flight.

Korean journalist Sun Yin Park, Yonhap press agency:

In the name of the Korean journalists and our people, I wish to thank you for your visit. You have brought happiness to many people in Korea and thank you for your encouragement for the education of our country. Holy Father, during your visit to Korea, you have reached out to the family of victims of the Sewol ferry disaster and consoled them. Two questions. One, what did you feel when you met them? Two, were you not concerned your actions could be misinterpreted politically?

Pope Francis:

When you find yourself in front of human sorrow, you do what your heart brings you to do. Today, they will say, ‘oh, he’s done this because he has political intention,’ or that other thing. But you can say anything. But, you think about these men and women, mothers and fathers, who lost their children. Brother and sisters who have lost brothers and sisters…to the great sorrow of such a catastrophe. My heart…I’m a priest, you know, and being able to come close like that is the first thing. I know that the consolation I can give with a word of mine isn’t a remedy, it doesn’t give new life to their dead but the in these moments human proximity gives us strength. There is solidarity. I remember that, as archbishop of Buenos Aires, I lived two of these catastrophes.

One, was a dance hall where you could hear pop music, 193 died (he refers to Cromagnon disco). And then, another time a catastrophe with a train. I think 120 died. In that time, I felt the same, to come close to make them strong. And if we in these sad moments come close to each other, we help each other so much. And then on the other question and then I’d like to say something more. I put this on (the yellow lace from the victims’ relatives). After half a day of wearing it, I took it on for solidarity with them, eh. Someone came up and said, it’s better to take it off, eh. You must be neutral (there is a controversy about the responsibility of the tragedy: relatives of victims have touched on government corruption which led to building a ship with sub-par material). But, listen with human sorrow you can’t be neutral. It’s what I feel. Thanks for this question. Thanks.

American journalist Alan Holdren, Catholic News Agency/ACI PRENSA/ EWTN:

As you know, not long ago the U.S. military forces have started bombing terrorists in Iraq to prevent a genocide. To protect the future of the minorities, I think also of the Catholics under your guidance, do you approve of this American bombing (campaign)?

Pope Francis:

Thanks for such a clear question. In these cases where the is an unjust aggression, I can only say that it is licit to stop the unjust aggressor. I underscore the verb “stop.” I don’t saying to bomb or make war, (but) stop it. The means with which it can be stopped should be evaluated. To stop the unjust aggressor is licit. But we also have to have memory, as well, eh. How many times under this excuse of stopping the unjust aggressor the powers have taken control of nations. And, they have made a true war of conquest. One single nation cannot judge how you stop this, how you stop an unjust aggressor. After the Second World War, there was the idea of the United Nations. It must be discussed there and said ‘there’s an unjust aggressor, it seems so “How do we stop it?” Only that, nothing more. Secondly, the minorities. Thanks for the word because they speak to me of the Christians, poor Christians – it is true, they suffer – and the martyrs – and yes, there are so many martyrs – but here there are men and women, religious minorities, and not all Christian and all are equal before God, no? Stopping the unjust aggressor is a right that humanity has but it is also a right of the aggressor to be stopped so he doesn’t do evil.

French journalist Jean Louis de la Vaiessiere, Agence France Press:

As Cardinal Filoni and the Dominican superior Bruno Cadoré, Would you be ready to support a military intervention against the jihadists in Iraqi territory? Another question, do you think of someday being able to go to Iraq, maybe to Kurdistan to sustain the Christian refugees and pray with them in the land where they’ve lived for 2000 years?

Pope Francis:

Thank you. I have been not long ago with the governor of Kurdistan. He had a very clear thought on the situation and how to find a solution but it was before these last aggressions. And the first question I have responded to. I am only in agreement in the fact that when there is an unjust aggressor that he is stopped. Sorry, I forgot about that. Yes, I am available but I think I can say this. When we heard with my collaborators this situation of the religious minorities and also the problems in that moment of Kurdistan which couldn’t receive so many people. It’s a problem. It’s understood. They couldn’t, right? It can’t be done and we’ve thought of so many things. We wrote first of all a communique that Fr. Lombardi wrote in my name. Then, this statement was sent out to all of the nunciatures so that it might be communicated to the governments. Then, we sent a letter to the secretary general of the United Nations. And so many things and in the end we said, eh, sending a personal envoy (who was) Cardinal Filoni. And in the end we have said, and if it were necessary when we return from Korea we can go there. It was one of the possibilities. This was the response. And in this moment, I am ready and right now it isn’t the most, the best thing to do but I am disposed for this.

Italian journalist Fabio Zavattaro, Rai Television:

You were the first pope to fly over China. The telegram that you sent to the Chinese president was received without negative comments. Are we passing on to a possible dialogue and would you like to go to China?

Vatican Spokesman Father Federico Lombardi: I can announce that we are now in Chinese airspace so the question is pertinent.

Pope Francis: When we were about to enter into Chinese airspace I was in the cockpit with the pilot. One of them, showed me the registry. Anyway, he said, there were 10 minutes left before entering Chinese airspace. we have ask for authorization. You always ask. ‘Is it normal to ask for permission in every nation? Yes.’ I heard how they asked authorization and how they responded. I was a witness to this. Then the pilot said, now we send the telegram. But I don’t know how they will have done it by like that. So, then i said goodbye to them and went back to my seat and i prayed a lot for that beautiful and noble Chinese people. a wise people. i think of the great Chinese sages, a history of science and knowledge. Also we Jesuits have a history there, also Father (Matteo) Ricci. And, all thees things came up to my mind. Do I have a wish to go.? Certainly, tomorrow. Yes. We respect the Chinese people. It’s just that the Church ask for freedom for its role and for its work. This is another condition. But, do not forget that fundamental letter for the Chinese problem which was the letter sent to the Chinese by Pope Benedict XVI. That letter today is current. Rereading it is good for you. The holy see is always open to being in contact, always, because it has a real esteem for the Chinese people.

Spanish journalist Paloma Garcia Ovejero, Radio Cope:

The next trip will be Albania, then maybe Iraq and the Filippines and Sri Lanka. But where will you go in 2015? I’ll tell you also just in case, you know that in Avila and Alba de Tormes there are so many expectations, can they still hope?

Pope Francis: Yes, yeah. The madam president of Korea in perfect Spanish told me “hope is the last thing to go.” That’s what she said. Hoping for the unification of Korea, no. That’s what she told me. We can hope, no? But it has not been decided…

Journalist: and after Mexico?

Pope Francis:

Now I’ll explain. This year, Albania is planned. Some say that the Pope has a style of starting things from the peripheries. But, I’m going to Albania for two important reasons. First, because they were able to make a government – and let’s think of the Balkans, eh – a government of national unity among Muslims, Orthodox and Catholics with an inter-religious council that has helped a lot and is balanced. And this is good it is harmonized it. The presence of the Pope to all peoples…but you can work well, eh. I’ve that it could be a true aid to that noble people. I’ve also thought of the history of Albania, which of all the nations in the former Yugoslavia was the only one that in its constitution had the practical atheism. If you went to Mass, it was unconstitutional. And then, one of their ministers told me that – and I want to be precise in the number – 1820 churches were destroyed, orthodox and catholic, in that time. And then other churches were made into cinemas and others dance halls. I felt like I needed to go. It’s close, done in a day.

Next year, I would like to go to Philadelphia for the encounter of families. I was also invited by the president of the United States to the American congress and by the secretary general of the United Nations in New York. Maybe the three cities together, no? Mexico. The Mexicans would like me to go to Our Lady of Guadalupe. And we could take advantage of that, but it’s not certain.

And then Spain. The monarchs have invited me. And the episcopate has invited me. But it’s raining invitations to go to Spain, also Santiago di Compostela. But maybe, and I won’t say more, because it isn’t decided, to go in the morning to Avila and Alba de Tormes and return in the afternoon. It would be possible, yes, but it’s not decided. And this is the response. Thank you.

German journalist from KNA:

What type of relationship is there between you and Benedict XVI? Is there an habitual exchange of opinions and ideas? Is there a common project after this encyclical?

Pope Francis:

We see each other. Before leaving I went to see him. He, two weeks prior, had sent me an interesting text and he asked me an opinion. We have a normal relationship because I go back to this idea and maybe a theologian doesn’t like it. But, I think that the pope emeritus is not an exception. After so many centuries, he’s the first emeritus and let’s think that if i am aged and don’t have the strength, but it was a beautiful gesture of nobility and also humility and courage. But, I think that 70 years ago also the bishops emeritus were an exception. They didn’t exist. Today, the bishops emeritus are an institution. I think that the pope emeritus is already an institution. Why? Our lives are getting longer and at a certain age there is not the capacity to govern well, because the body tires and health perhaps is good but there is the capacity to carry forward all of the problems like those in the governance of the church. I think that Pope Benedict made this gesture of popes emeritus. I repeat that maybe some theologian would say this isn’t just, but i think like this. The centuries will tell if it’s like this or not, we’ll see, but if you can to say to me, ‘but do you think that one day if you don’t feel like it, will you go on?’ But, I would do the same. I would do the same. I will pray, but I would do the same. He opened a door that is institutional not exceptional. And our relationship is one of brothers, truly, but I’ve said that it’s like having a grandfather at home for the wisdom. He has a wisdom with his nuances and it does me well to hear. He encourages me a lot. This is the relationship we have.

Japanese journalist Yoshinori Fukushima:

Your Holiness, Pope Francis, first of all many thanks for this first visit to Asia. During this visit, you met people who have suffered. What did you feel when you greeted the seven ‘comfort women’ at mass this morning. And regarding the suffering of people, as in Korea there were hidden Christians in Japan and next year will be the 150th anniversary of their coming out (after years of hiding, editor note – see my previous email ). Would it be possible to pray for them together with you in Nagasaki? Thanks.

Pope Francis:

It would be wonderful. I was invited, eh, both by the government and the episcopate I was invited. But suffering. You go back to one of the first questions. The Korean nation is a people that has not lost its dignity. It was a people invaded and humiliated, it has gone through wars and been divided with so much suffering. Yesterday, when I went to the encounter with young people, I visited the museum of the martyrs there. It’s terrible the suffering of these people. Simply to not step on the cross. It’s a pain, an historical suffering. It has the capacity to suffer this nation and also this is a part of its dignity. Also today, when there were these elderly ladies in front at Mass. Think that during that invasion they were girls taken away to the police stations to be taken advantage of. And they haven’t lost their dignity. They were there today showing their faces. These elderly women, the last of them who remain. It’s a people strong in their dignity. But going back to martyrdom and suffering, also these women are the fruits of war. Today we are in a world of war. everywhere. Someone told me, ‘you know father that we’re in the third world war, but in pieces. ‘ He understood this, no? It is a world in war where they commit these cruelties.

I would like to speak about two words. First, cruelty. Today, children don’t count. Once they spoke of ‘conventional warfare.’ Today this doesn’t count. I’m not saying that the conventional war is a good thing, but today the bomb goes and kills the innocent with the culpable with the child and the women and mother. They kill everyone. But, we need to stop and think a bit about what level of cruelty we have reached. This should scare us. And, this is not to create fear. We could make an empirical study. The level of cruelty today of humanity is a bit scary. Another word on which I would like to say something in relation with this is torture. Today, torture is one of the almost ordinary means of acts of intelligence services, of judicial processes. And, torture is a sin against humanity. It is a crime against humanity. And, to Catholics I say that torturing a person is a mortal sin. It is a grave sin. But, it’s more. It’s a sin against humanity. Cruelty and torture. I would really like it if you in your media were to make a reflection of how you see these things today, how is the level of cruelty of humanity and what you think of torture. I think it would do us all well to think about this.

American journalist Deborah Ball, Wall Street Journal:

Our question is You have a very, very difficult routine. With very little rest and little vacation and you make these hard trips. And then in the last few months we’ve also seen that you’ve had to cancel some appointments anche an event. Should we be concerned about the rhythm you carry?

Pope Francis:

Yes, some have told me this. I took my holidays at home as usual. Once I read a book and it’s interesting. The title was “Be happy to be neurotic.” I’ve also got some neuroses. But you have to treat neuroses well, eh. Give them “mate” (an Argentine tea) every day, no? (laughs) One of my neuroses is that I’m too attached to life. The last time I took a vacation outside of Buenos Aires with the Jesuit community was in 1975. But then, I always take holidays. Truly, eh. But at home. I sleep more. I read book that I like. I listen to music. I pray more. In July and a part of August I did this and it was good (for me). The other part of the question, it’s true that I’ve had to cancel. That is true. The day I had to go to Gemelli Hospital. 10 minutes before. That there, I just couldn’t do it. They were certain very busy days. But I need to be more prudent, you’re right.

French journalist Anais Martin, French Radio:

In Rio, when the crowd yelled “Francesco, Francesco!” you responded “Cristo, Cristo!” Today, how do you manage this immense popularity? How do you live it?

Pope Francis:

I don’t know how to tell you. I live it thanking the Lord that his people are happy. I really do that, hoping the best for the people of God. I live it as generosity towards the people. On the inside, I try to think of my sins and my errors not to flatter myself because I know it won’t last long. Two or three years and then (makes a sound and gesture) up to the house of the of the Father. It’s not wise to believe this. I live it as the presence of the Lord in his people who uses his bishop, the shepherd of the people to do so many things. I live it more naturally than before. Before I was a bit scared. Also, it comes to mind not to make errors because you can’t do wrong for the people and all these things.

Italian journalist Francesca Paltracca, RAI Radio:

For the Pope who came from the ends of the world and found himself in the Vatican, beyond Saint Martha Residence where you have your life and your choice (to live there)? How does the pope live within the Vatican? They always ask us this, but how does he move around? Does he take walks? You go to the cafeteria. … This is surprising. So, what type of life do you have beyond that of St. Martha?

Pope Francis:

I try to be free. There are appointments of the office, of work. But my life for me is the most normal that I could have. Truly. I would love to be able to leave but you can’t…You can’t because if you go out the people come so you can’t and that’s a reality. But there inside in the St Martha, I have a normal life of work and rest and chatting. I have a normal life.

Journalist: Don’t you feel imprisoned, then?

Pope Francis:

No, no, at the beginning yes. Now some of the walls on the inside have come down.

Journalist: Which are the walls that have come down?

Pope Francis:

I don’t know, the Pope can’t… For example, to have a laugh. One goes to the elevator, someone comes because the Pope can’t go down in the elevator alone. But, go back to your post because I’m going down alone! That’s how it is. It’s normality. It’s a normality.

Argentine journalist:

Holy Father, sorry for this but I have to ask you as part of the Spanish group from Argentina. I’m going to have to ask you a question that will exhibit your knowledge. Your team for the first time is the champion of America. I would like to know how you’re living it, how you found out. They tell me that one of the delegation is coming Wednesday and you’re going to receive him during the general audience.

Pope Francis:

It’s true that this is the greatest piece of news after the second place (of the Argentine national team) in Brazil. I found out here. In Seoul they told me. Listen, on Wednesday they’re coming, eh. They’re coming. And, it’s a public audience. For me, San Lorenzo is the team for which all of my family were fans. My father played basketball for San Lorenzo. He was a player on the basketball team. And when we were kids, we went and my mom came with us to the Gasometro (San Lorenzo stadium). I remember today the season of 1946. A magnificent team that San Lorenzo had. They came out champions. I live it with joy.

Journalist: Is it a miracle?

Pope Francis:

Miracle? No. (laughs) Miracle, no.

German journalist Juergen Erbacher, German TV:

Holy Father, they have long spoken of an encyclical on ecology. Can you tell us when it will be released? And, which are the central points?

Pope Francis:

This encyclical. I’ve spoken a lot with Cardinal Turkson and also with others and I have asked Cardinal Turkson to bring together all of the contributions. They arrived. And the week before the trip, no, four days before he delivered the first draft to me. The first draft is this big (gestures). I’d say it’s a third bigger than Evangelii Gaudium. And that’s the first draft. Now, it’s not an easy issue because on the protection of creation and the study of human ecology, you can speak with sure certainty up to a certain point then come the scientific hypotheses some of which are rather sure, others aren’t. In an encyclical like this that must be magisterial, it must only go forward on certainties, things that are sure. If the Pope says that the center of the universe is the earth and not the sun, he errs because he says something scientific that isn’t right. That’s also true here. We need to make the study, number by number, and I think it will become smaller. But going to the essence is what we can affirm with certainty. But, you could say in the notes, in the footnotes, that this is a hypotheses and this and this. To say it as an information, but not in the body of the encyclical which is doctrinal and needs to be certain.

Korean journalist Young Hae Ko, Korean daily newspaper:

Thank you so much for your visit to South Korea. I’m going to ask you two questions. First one is: just before the final mass at the Myeong-dong Cathedral, you consoled the comfort women there. What thought came to you? That’s my first question and my second question is Pyongyang sees Christianity as a direct threat to its regime and it’s leadership and we know that something terrible happened to North Korean Christianity but we don’t know exactly what happened. Is there special effort in your mind to change North Korea’s approach to Christianity?

Pope Francis:

The first question. I repeat this. Today, these women were there because despite all they have suffered they have dignity and they showed their faces. I have thought also about what I’ve said a little bit ago about the sufferings of war, the cruelty brought by a war. These women were taken advantage of, enslaved, but they are all cruelties. I thought of all of this. The dignity they have and also how much they’ve suffered. Suffering is an inheritance. We say…They first fathers of the Church say that the blood of the martyrs is the seed of Christians. The Korean have planted a lot. A lot. For coherence, no? You now see the fruit of that planting, of the martyrs.

On North Korea, I know what is a sufferance. One, I know for sure, that there are some family members, many family members that cannot reunite and this is true. This is a suffering of that division of the nation. Today in the cathedral where I dressed in the adornments of the Mass, there was a gift they’ve given me which was a crown of thorns of Christ made with the iron wire that divides the single Korea. We’ve got this on the airplane. It’s a gift I’m carrying. The suffering of the division, of a divided family. As I said yesterday I think, I don’t remember, we have a hope. The two Koreas are siblings and they speak the same language. When you speak the same language it’s because you have the same mother and this gives us hope. The suffering of division is great and I understand this and I pray that it ends.

American journalist Phil Pulella, Reuters:

I won’t stand up because if I do my colleagues from the televisions will kill me. An observation and a question. As an Italian-American I wanted to compliment you on your English. You shouldn’t be afraid. And if before you go to America, my homeland, you want to practice I’m available.

(Pope inaudible, making faces about the difficulty of English pronunciation).

Whichever accent you want to use: New Yorker…I’m from New York so I’m available.

So the question is this: You spoke about martyrdom. At what point are we in the process for the bishop Romero? And what would you like to see come out of this process?

Pope Francis:

The process was in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, “blocked for prudence,” as they said. Now it is unblocked and has passed to the Congregation for Saints and it is following the normal path of a process. It depends on how the postulators move. That’s very important to do it quickly. What I would like is that it’s clarified when there is martyr in odium fidei (for the hatred of the faith) both for confessing the creed and for doing works that Jesus commands with our neighbor. This is a work of the theologians, who are studying it. Because behind him is a long list and there are others. There are others who were killed but weren’t of the same height of Romero. We have to distinguish this theologically, no? For me, Romero is a man of God. He was a man of God. But we have to run the process and the Lord has to give his sign there. But, now the postulators have to move because there are no impediments.

French journalist Celine Noyaux, La Croix:

Seeing the war in Gaza, do you think the prayer for peace organized in the Vatican last June 8 was a failure?

Pope Francis:

Thanks for the question. That prayer for peace, absolutely was not a failure! First, the initiative didn’t initiative didn’t come from me. The initiative to pray together came from the two presidents. The president of the state of Israel and the president of the State of Palestine. They made the restlessness present to me. Then, we wanted to do it there but we couldn’t find the right place because of the political post of each one it was very strong if we did it in one or another part. The nunciature was a neutral site, yes, but to get to the nunciature the president of Palestine had to enter in Israel. The thing wasn’t easy. They said, well, let’s do it in the Vatican. We’ll go. These two men are men of peace. They are men who believe in God. They have lived so many nasty things, so many nasty things. They are convinced that the only path to resolve that situation is negotiation, dialogue, peace.

Your question now. Was it a failure? No, I think that the door is open. All four. With the representative which is Bartholomew. I wanted him to be there as the head of the orthodox, but the ecumenical patriarch of the orthodox. I don’t want to use terms that aren’t appreciated by all of the orthodox. As ecumenical patriarch, it was good that he was with us. But the door to prayer was opened. We said we needed to pray. It’s a gift, peace is a gift. It’s a gift that is merited through our work, but it’s a gift. And to say to humanity that also the path of dialogue which is important, of dialogue also there is prayer. It’s true, after this what happened has happened. But this is given by circumstances. That encounter wasn’t given by circumstances. It’s a fundamental step of the human being, prayer. Now the smoke of the bombs of the wars don’t allow us to see the door but the door is still open from that moment. As I believe in God, I believe that God is watching that door and all who pray and ask that he help us. I like that question. Thanks for having posed it. Thanks.

Fr. Federico Lombardi: Holy Father, thanks a lot. I think you’ve done more than an hour of conversation also with us and now it’s just that you go relax a bit with the end of the voyage. Anyway, we know that on this trip you’ll probably go on to Our Lady.

Pope Francis:

From the airport, I’m going to Our Lady. It’s a nice thing. I asked Dr. Giani (the head of the Vatican’s gendarme police) to bring roses from Korea with the colors of Korea, but then outside the nunciature a little girl came with a bouquet of flowers and we said why don’t we take these flowers from a girl from Korea. That’s what we’ll do. From the airport, we’ll go to pray a bit there and then onwards to home.

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Learning from Bodies

By Nora Calhoun at First Things:

The baby in my arms lacks the majority of his brain. He was born just fifteen minutes before this moment, and he is likely to die before another fifteen minutes pass. He has taken no first breath and will give no first cry. He cannot see. He cannot hear. He does not feel the warm weight of my hand as it rests on his chest and belly. I quietly weep and pray as the last gift of oxygen his mother’s body gave him dwindles and his rosy newborn glow fades to gray. His soul gently slips out of his body, and his life ends.

Ability is not what makes death significant. At birth this baby had capacities below that of a healthy fetus at ten weeks. Holding his body, living and then dead, proves to me that it doesn’t matter how early the human heart beats, how early it is possible to feel pain, or when the senses develop. No ability or strength confers human status—not being viable or sentient or undamaged or wanted. Being of human descent is enough; you cannot earn or forfeit your humanity. If this baby’s death does not matter, no death matters.

I have not always seen this so clearly. A gut repugnance and horror of abortion, which I felt from the time I first heard of it as a nine-year-old, kept me from ever being fully pro-choice. But even after my conversion to Christianity at eighteen, I didn’t want to express full opposition to the opinions of almost everyone I knew, my family, teachers, and friends. I wanted to avoid the taboo of “judgmentalism,” widely imputed to those who oppose abortion, and to maintain credibility among the feminist friends I cherished.

I might eventually have reasoned my way into truths about life, death, and human dignity—perhaps, given the right information and friends and graces, but probably not. A jumble of allegiances, caricatures, arguments, and fears dictated my opinions. But bodies speak a different language; they teach in different terms. The images and touch memories of the small body of that severely damaged baby boy whom I held as he died only minutes after being born could not be explained away, caricatured, ignored, or debated.

Continue reading here…

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The Still, Small Voice

A quiet voice WEB-1

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The Canaanite woman

A Homily for the 20th Sunday of the Year by Msgr. Charles Pope:

The Canaanite Woman


Today’s gospel teaches us to pray always and not lose heart. This is a gospel about having tenacity in prayer and, even when the results seem discouraging, continuing to beseech the Lord. It is also a gospel about the Lord’s will to extend the gospel to all the nations and to make the Church truly catholic.

Let’s look at this gospel in five stages.

STAGE I. TRAVELS - The text says, At that time, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. Thus Jesus goes north of Israel into the territory we know today as Lebanon.

Now Matthew is not just giving us a quick travelogue here. We are not interested merely in Jesus’ physical location but, even more, in what this location signifies. Jesus has gone up north to pagan territory. Other things being equal, this is a rather odd destination for a Jewish preacher. But we need to recall that Jesus is preparing the Church for a mission to all the nations. So it makes sense that He pushes the boundaries of the Jewish world. Jesus interacted with Gentiles and Samaritans as if to say, “The racism of a Jewish-only world must now end. The Gospel must break the boundaries of nation and race and be truly universal, truly catholic.”

This vision of the Gentiles being drawn to the Lord was actually well attested to in the Old Testament. But, just like today, there were texts in the Scriptures that were popular and well known and others that were conveniently “forgotten” or had little effect. Consider a few examples of texts that announced the entry of the Gentiles into the Holy People of God:

  1. The foreigners who join themselves to the LORD, ministering to him, loving the name of the LORD, and becoming his servants–all who keep the sabbath free from profanation and hold to my covenant, them I will bring to my holy mountain and make joyful in my house of prayer; their burnt offerings and sacrifices will be acceptable on my altar, for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples(Isaiah 56:6-9).
  2. I will give you as a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth (Is 49:6).
  3. Babylon and Egypt I will count among those who know me, Philistia, Tyre and Ethiopia, these will be her children and Zion shall be called “mother” for all shall be her children (Psalm 87:4-5).
  4. I come to gather nation of every language; they shall come and see my glory. Some of these I will take as priests and Levites says the Lord … All mankind shall come to worship before me says the Lord (Is 66:18; 23).

Hence we can see that the Jewish people’s own Scriptures spoke of a day when Jews and Gentiles together would worship the Lord and be His people.

This introductory note about Jesus’ location is essential to understanding the text that will follow. We must grasp Jesus’ will to reach out to the Gentiles. We do this in order to appreciate that some of the harsh tone He exhibits later can likely be understood as a rhetorical means of questioning racial and national division rather than as an affirmation of such division. In effect He is tweaking His disciples and the Church and giving voice to their fears and hostilities. In so doing He also calls out the Canaanite woman in order to show forth one who is willing to set aside these racist notions for a greater good.

Let’s watch it unfold.

Stage II. TORMENT – The text says, And behold, a Canaanite woman of that district came and called out, “Have pity on me, Lord, Son of David! My daughter is tormented by a demon.”

It is a sure fact that Canaanites were despised by Jews. And Canaanites returned the favor and despised them right back. What is it that would make a Canaanite woman reach out to a Jewish Messiah? In a word, desperation. In her torment and desperation this woman no longer cares who helps her daughter as long as someone helps her!

She has likely heard of Jesus’ power to save and heal. She looks past her racial hatred and, risking terrible personal rebuke, calls on Jesus. Her sorrow crosses boundaries. The only enemy she cares about is the demon afflicting her daughter.

It is sad but true that a common enemy can often unite factions. It should not take this, but the Lord will take whatever he can get to unite us.

So torment has lowered the barriers.

Stage III. TEST - The text says, But Jesus did not say a word in answer to her. Jesus’ disciples came and asked him, “Send her away, for she keeps calling out after us.” He said in reply, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”…. “It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.”

It is a shocking and daring thing that Jesus does here. He takes up the voice of sin, oppression, racism, and nationalism. It is a very strange thing to hear come from the mouth of the Lord, who has already journeyed among the Samaritans and Gentiles, healing them and often praising their faith (e.g. Lk 8:26; Mt 8:10; Lk 7:9; Matt 8:11 inter al).

The usual explanation is that He is calling out this woman’s faith and through her is summoning His disciples to repentance. The disciples want the Lord to order her away. In effect, He takes up their voices and the voice of all oppression and utters the hateful sayings of the world, even going so far as to use the term “dog” to refer to her.

Yes, Jesus is testing her, trying to awaken something in her. He is also giving voice to the ugly thoughts of His disciples and likely others, Gentile and Jew, who were standing by and watching with marvel and disdain the interaction of a Gentile, a Gentile woman, and a Jew.

There is a saying, “Things do, by opposition grow.” And thus, through this test, Jesus increases her faith and possibly that of the bystanders. Just as an athlete grows by facing tougher opponents and a musician improves by playing tougher pieces, so does the testing of this woman’s faith cause it to grow.

Remember, God tested Abraham, Jacob, Joseph, Job, Esther, Susannah, Judith, Gideon, and countless others. The Canaanite woman, too, is being tested. And like those of old she, too, will grow by the test.

We, too, are tested. For God seems at times to be strangely silent and we are made to feel like no child of God at all. Indeed we may often conclude that even the dogs live better than we.

So the question for us remains. Will we give way during the test or hold out until our change comes? Will our faith grow or wither? Will our love grow stronger or will it change to resentment?

Stage IV. TENACITY – The text says, But the woman came and did Jesus homage, saying, “Lord, help me.” She said, “Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters.”

Note here that the woman is not put off. Whatever anger, grief, or discouragement may move through her, she perseveres.

She is even bold and creative. In a sense, she will not take no for an answer.

  1. She is like Mother Mary at Cana, who did not pause for a moment when Jesus seemed dubious of her request (Jn 2:5).
  2. She is like the widow before the Judge in Jesus’ parable, who never stopped pestering the judge for a favorable ruling (Lk 18:1-8).
  3. She is like the blind man at the side of the road, who still kept calling for Jesus despite the rebuke of the crowds (Lk 18:39).
  4. She is like the parents who brought their infants to Jesus for a blessing, who withstood rebuke by the disciples and won through to the blessing (Mk 10:13-16).
  5. She is like Zacchaeus, who climbed a tree to see Jesus despite his short stature (Lk 19:1ff).
  6. She is like the widow with the hemorrhage, who, though weak and ritually unclean, pressed thorough the crowd and grabbed the hem of Jesus’ garments (Mk 5:28).
  7. She is like the lepers, who, though forbidden by law to enter the town, sought the Lord at the Gates and fell down before Him (Luke 17).

Yes, she has tenacity. She will hold out until the change (the healing she desires for her daughter) is accomplished. She will not give up or let go of Jesus no matter how unwilling He seems, no matter how politically incorrect her request appears, no matter how much hostility she encounters from the disciples, the crowds, or even Jesus Himself. She will hold out.

Here is a woman with tenacity! How about you?

Stage V. TRIUMPH – The text says,  Then Jesus said to her in reply, “O woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” And the woman’s daughter was healed from that hour.

Here is the victory. She has gone from torment to triumph by a tenacious and tested faith. Jesus now takes away the veil of His role and shows His true self—the merciful, wonder-working Messiah and Lord.

Jesus says to her, “Great is your faith.” But how has it become so? In the crucible of testing, that’s how. We may wonder at God’s delays, at His seeming disinterest or even anger. But in the end it is our faith that is most important to Him.

Our faith is more important to God than our finances, our comfort, or our desired cures. For it is by faith that we are saved. We are not saved by our health, by comforts, by money, or by good fortune. And God is willing to delay; He is willing to test us and try us, if only for the sake of our stronger faith by which He will save us. God saves us, but He does it through our faith.

Why all this delay? Why the suffering? Why the trials? Stronger faith, that’s why! God may not come when you want Him, but He’s always right on time. For His true goal is not to give us what we want, but rather what we need—stronger faith.

Having done this, the Lord gives her the triumph. We, too, must accept that God’s truest blessing for us is not better health or improved finances; it is stronger faith.

Consider well the lesson of this gospel. Though God often seems uninterested, even cruel, He is working His purposes out and seeking to increase our faith. Hard, you say? What parent among you has not had to do the same for your child? For children, untested and untried, who get their every wish, who never have to wait, become spoiled, self-centered, and headed for ultimate ruin. Consider well that God knows exactly what He is doing and consider, too, that most of us are hard cases. God must often work mightily to get our attention and strengthen our faith. Do not give up on God; He is up to something good, very good.

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Lectio Divina: Solemnity of the Assumption, Aug 15

Feast of the Assumption: Humanity Upheld by God

Paris, August 12, 2014 ( Monsignor Francesco Follo

1) The goal of the pilgrimage of Heaven
The gift with which God has given us His Son could not be corrupted. The living temple which first hosted the Body of Christ could not have gone to dust. The Assumption of the Virgin clarifies in a beautiful way the sentence that is often repeated starting from St. Irenaeus (second century): “God became man so that man might become God.” What does it mean “to become God?” It means: to become a living being whose life has no limits, because it is free forever from sin and death. Continue reading

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The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Homily on the Assumption of Our Lady

by The Servant of God Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J.

The Assumption of the Virgin Mary by El Greco

The Assumption of the Virgin Mary by El Greco

The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin means that after Her life on earth, Mary was taken body and soul into Heaven. Unlike other saints, therefore, Our Lady is in Heaven not only with Her soul but also with Her glorified body. Pope Pius XII defined this doctrine as a “divinely revealed dogma” on November 1, 1950.

The Mother of God was conceived without original sin. Consequently She did not have to wait, like the rest of us, for the resurrection on the last day. She is with Her Divine Son in the same body – although now resplendent in glory – that She gave Him at Nazareth. He ascended bodily into Heaven forty days after His Resurrection. She was assumed bodily into Heaven after She completed Her stay on earth, some fifteen years later.

For about fourteen hundred years, the Feast of the Assumption has been celebrated on August 15. It is now one of the holy days of obligation for the universal Church (Canon 1246), when “the faithful are bound to participate in the Mass; they are also to abstain from those labors and business concerns which impede the worship to be rendered to God” (Canon 1247).

What are some of the lessons for us to learn from this mystery of our faith? They are the same lessons that Our Lady gave us when She appeared at Fatima. We are to pray, make sacrifices, and do penance for poor sinners who are offending God.

Mary’s bodily Assumption is the promise of our own glorious resurrection from the grave – provided we pray. Without prayer we cannot remain faithful in our service of God.

Mary’s assumption is the proof of how profitable it is to make sacrifices. Not the least of these sacrifices is the surrender of our bodily pleasures that are contrary to the will of God. The eternal reward is worth the temporal price we have to pay in self-control. By now giving up what we like but what is sinful, and enduring what is painful to us but pleasing to God, we shall enjoy Heaven with Jesus and Mary – in body and soul – in the world to come.

Mary’s Assumption is a call to penance. Pope Pius XII expressed the hope that this new honor to Mary would introduce “a spirit of penance to replace the prevalent love of pleasure, and a renewal of family life stabilized where divorce was common and made fruitful where birth control was practiced.”

If we hope to be eternally with Jesus, we must now imitate the virtues of Mary. She is the perfect model of how we should live; in simple faith, trustful hope, and selfless love of God and others.

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How I moved from my megachurch to Catholicism

Former megachurch pastor Ulf Ekman

Former megachurch pastor Ulf Ekman

It caused more than just a stir when I told the congregation of the Evangelical megachurch that I served as pastor since I founded it 30 years ago that my wife and I intended to become Catholics. It caused a real uproar in my country of Sweden, which remains overwhelmingly Protestant. The period from that day, March 9, until May 21, when we were received into the Catholic Church, was marked by contention and debate. I have binders full of articles, comments and reactions that appeared in the traditional media and on the internet.

Our conviction that we needed to become Catholics grew slowly, over a number of years, but the actual decision to take this step came rather late. Our question was: how should we communicate it? It could really not be done over a longer period of time, step by step. That would have caused great speculation and confusion, nationally and internationally in our great network of churches. Over the last couple of years our friends and co-workers realised that we were more and more attracted to Catholic theology, morals, liturgy and culture. Few of them, though, perceived that we would actually make the step and convert. In the months and weeks before we announced our decision we involved the board of the church and some other colleagues to be prepared to help us in the process of communicating this news to the congregation.

As I now look back, I cannot see any other way that this could have been done. The pastors at Word of Life did an excellent job, helping the members to start processing what had happened and its different consequences. They also had to try to answer a number of questions about the Catholic faith. Yet there were many emotions: criticism, as well as sorrow and feelings of loss and rejection. How could I as a pastor leave my flock? Did I not betray them and my own calling? Didn’t I consider them Christians anymore? Was everything I taught before wrong now? Some wondered how I, who seem to have been standing strong for so many years, could fall for such an outright deception and lie. Accusations were hurled from left and right and emotions ran high. Some still do.

Still, there were many in the congregation who actually understood. They were thankful that a new pastor had been in place for more than a year. These members respected our decision and understood that it was based on what we perceived as a call from God. We were not deceived, but led by God in this matter, even though they didn’t understand why and how. We received many encouraging letters from both Protestants and Catholics.

We also encountered an interesting, and somewhat postmodern approach from some. They where ready to accept that God could call us to the Catholic Church, but they could not accept the doctrines of the Church. One preacher expressed it this way: “OK, you became a Catholic, but for sure you don’t believe what they believe, do you?” They spoke as if I really had a choice or could be selective in my choosing. When I answered that I do believe all that the Catholic Church believes and teaches, it seemed very odd to many of my Protestant friends. It was hard for them to understand that to be Catholic actually means to believe as a Catholic, even for me.

For us, truth was the very thing that mattered. We have always believed in the Word of God and that there is an absolute truth, revealed by God. Now, more and more, we had come to see that there is a concrete historic Church founded by Christ, and a treasure, a deposit of both objective and living faith. This attracted and drew us into the Catholic Church. If we believed that the fullness of truth is embedded in and upheld by the Catholic Church, then we did not have any choice but to fully unite with this Church.

When the time finally came to be received into the Church we felt more than ready, anxious to leave no-man’s-land. It felt like finally becoming who we really were. At last the longing for the participation in the sacramental grace came to an end.

We have tried to explain to our friends that we are not rejecting that which God gave us in our Evangelical and Charismatic environment but, as the saying goes, “Evangelical is not enough.” It is not wrong in its love of Scripture and upholding of the basic truths of the Gospel and its fervent evangelising. All this is necessary, but it is not enough. The Charismatic life, with its emphasis of the power and the leading of the Holy Spirit is necessary, and it is an amazing gift. But it cannot be lived out in its fullness in a schismatic and overly individualistic environment. Understanding this opened us to the realisation of the necessity of the Church in its fullness, with its rich sacramental life.

So we do not reject our background and the rich ministerial experiences we have had over the many years as founders and leaders of Word of Life. We are forever thankful to the Lord, for all He has done. But we are immensely happy and grateful that we now understand that we really need the Catholic Church in our continued life and service to the Lord.

So now, as we begin this walk there is so much to explore. Now that all our former duties, obligations and positions are gone, we can, at least for now, live at a pace that allows a more reflective life. We have been used to constantly upholding the ministry, our church. Now the Church lifts us up. The sacraments have become a tangible reality in our lives and they sustain us in a concrete way. Something – grace, I am sure – is here in a way that it was not before. A fresh breeze is blowing through our lives. We look forward to exploring and fully identifying with all that we now are a part of. It is very exciting to live fully for Jesus Christ – in the Catholic Church.

Ulf Ekman is the former pastor of the Word of Life church in Uppsala, Sweden

This article was first published in the print edition of The Catholic Herald (8/8/14)

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A Good Habit – to wear ‘The Holy Habit’


First published on Spiritual Direction

Here are some reflections from professed Carmelite sisters of ‘The Most Sacred Heart’ of Los Angeles on wearing the holy habit of Carmel…

“The wearing of the holy habit is both a blessing and a witness to the faithfulness of God’s love for each of us.” – Sister Jeannine Marie of the Precious Blood, clothed July 16, 1972

“For me, my Holy Habit is a marvellous symbol of the Mercy and Love of God who has called me to such a beautiful and lofty vocation – a friendship relationship with Him that gives meaning to every aspect of my life.” – Sister Carmelina, clothed July 16, 1966.

“A Carmelite without a habit is an incomplete Carmelite. It is part of me.” – Sister Marinette of Saint Joseph, clothed July 1975.

“The Holy Habit of Carmel is a visible reminder not only to others but also to me as I strive to give witness as His Spouse. And there is nothing that could fill me with more joy as a Spouse of Christ than to know that I am under Our Lady’s protection as I go about daily carrying His sweet yoke and burden.” – Sister Elizabeth Therese of the Most Blessed Sacrament, clothed August 21, 2000

I love our holy habit and would not exchange it for all the most beautiful clothes in the world. It is an honour and privilege to have the freedom to be able to wear it. May it always be so.” – Sister Kateri of Mater Dolorosa, clothed Easter Sunday 1983

“The day of my investiture was a glorious day for me for that day I became a Bride of Christ, receiving our holy habit and our religious name.” - Sister Maria Milagros of Saint John the Evangelist, clothed January 6, 1959

“Dressed as a bride, I received my holy habit during the Investiture Mass. We left the Chapel, were assisted by our sisters and returned clothed as Carmelites…a moment I had longed for since the 3rd grade, ten years before that day.” – Sister Michelle of the Queen of Carmel, clothed January 6, 1967

“After wearing the holy habit for one year, I realise that I am not my own. Everyone who sees me is reminded that I belong to God from head to toe. Also, when they see me, they see every Carmelite Sister of the Most Sacred Heart.” – Sister Gianna of the resurrection, clothed March 25, 2013

“As the bride wears her beautiful dress as she walks toward the altar to meet her bridegroom, so we wear our habit through our journey in religious life that leads us to meet Christ Our Lord at the end of our lives taking us by the hand…forever.” – Sister Joseph Louise, clothed January 6, 1967

“One thing I love about wearing our habit is that whether I am walking down the street or walking the aisle at the store, every single person I encounter thinks of God when they see me. It might be the only thought of God they have that day! And that is what it means to be an eschatological witness…to be a walking billboard for heaven, a reminder that God wants a relationship with us FOREVER!” – Sister Marie-Aimee of the Heavenly Father, clothed March 19, 2007

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7 Things To Restore the Sense of the Sacred

FiniganPat Archbold from the Creative Minority Report presents priests with the challenge to implement seven liturgical changes which, coupled with a sound education of the faithful, would restore the sense of the sacred and yield many blessings:

When it comes to the liturgy of the Roman rite, some would have you believe that you have two choices, the progressive Novus Ordo mass at St. Banal of Boringham parish or the Traditional Latin Mass at the Parish of Quo Primum on the corner of Lunatic and Fringe.

They would also have you believe that never the twain shall meet, that until the Pope of Future Past arrives to reform the Novus Ordo, that any chance of recovering what was traditionally considered sacred and reverential in the Novus Ordo is impossible, regardless of whether you consider that a feature or a bug.

But this is simply not true. There are many things that Pastors and Priests could do tomorrow to help restore a sense of the sacred and proper reverence to the liturgy, things that are perfectly in line with Vatican II. Further, this is no theoretical exercise, there are pastors all around that have done some or even all of these things.

Ad Orientem. The mass being said ad orientem means that the priest and the faithful face the same direction, (liturgical) east. Many people think that Vatican II or the Novus Ordo requires the priest to face the people. This is simply not true. In fact, the rubrics of the new mass anticipates that the mass be said ad orientem and instructs the priest when he should face the people.

I can think of no one single thing that could do more to properly orient the minds and hearts of the faithful (not to mention the priest) than restoring ad orientem worship. I commend to you the letter that Fr. Richard Heilman wrote to a priest about the fruits of this change one year after its implementation. No permission or indult is required to make this change as it is just as the mass was originally intended. All that is needed is a willing priest and time to properly educate the faithful.

Restore chant and polyphony. Ditch the lame hymnal and its happy-clappy anthropocentrism and bring back chant and polyphony. Again, this is exactly for what Vatican II called, “The Church acknowledges Gregorian chant as specially suited to the Roman liturgy: therefore, other things being equal, it should be given pride of place in liturgical services. But other kinds of sacred music, especially polyphony, are by no means excluded from liturgical celebrations, so long as they accord with the spirit of the liturgical action, as laid down in Art. 30.” Moreover, the priest should chant the mass with the faithful providing chanted responses. A priest could even chant the propers. All this can take time and a concerted effort at education, the payoff could be immense.

Latin, yes Latin!! Again, Vatican II’s Sacrosanctum Concilium “Particular law remaining in force, the use of the Latin language is to be preserved in the Latin rites.” What Vatican II envisioned was the use of the vernacular for the variable parts of the mass, “This will apply in the first place to the readings and directives, and to some of the prayers and chants.” But the parts of the mass that are the same every week could be in Latin, the people could be educated on this, education, translation cheat sheets, and time could restore that which was always to be preserved. At the very least, prayers like the Sanctus and the Agnus Dei should be in Latin and the Kyrie in Greek as many people are already familiar with them.

Proper Reception of Communion, Kneeling and On The Tongue. In his article at New Liturgical Movement, Fr. Richard Heilman does all the heavy lifting on this topic.

Why Kneel?

Pope Benedict XVI, has noted that kneeling is “an expression of Christian culture, which transforms the existing culture through a new and deeper knowledge and experience of God.” He reminds us that “the word proskynein alone occurs fifty-nine times in the New Testament, twenty-four of which are in the Apocalypse, the book of the heavenly liturgy, which is presented to the Church as the standard for her own liturgy.”

In his book The Spirit of the Liturgy, Pope Benedict speaks of a “story that comes from the sayings of the Desert Fathers, according to which the devil was compelled by God to show himself to a certain Abba Apollo. He looked black and ugly, with frightening thin limbs, but, most strikingly, he had no knees. The inability to kneel is seen as the very essence of the diabolical.”

Why Receive on the tongue?

Despite the widespread practice of Communion in the hand, the universal discipline of receiving Holy Communion on the tongue has not changed. A bishop, for example, may forbid the practice of Communion in the hand but not the practice of Communion on the tongue. The Church strongly encourages the latter but not the former. With respect to Communion in the hand, the Church speaks only in a cautionary tone because of the many abuses that often accompany this practice.

Kneeling and receiving the Eucharist on the tongue encourages you to really think about what it is you are doing while at the same time showing proper respect for the Eucharist.  Adding or using a communion rail is the best way to encourage proper reception.

Speaking of respect for the Eucharist

No More Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion.  The use of of extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion is supposed to be just that, extraordinary.  The use of EMHC’s for the regular distribution of communion at ordinary masses is an abuse, pure and simple.

§ 1. The canonical discipline concerning extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion must be correctly applied so as to avoid generating confusion. The same discipline establishes that the ordinary minister of Holy Communion is the Bishop, the Priest and the Deacon.[96] Extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion are those instituted as acolytes and the faithful so deputed in accordance with Canon 230, § 3.[97]

§ 2. Extraordinary ministers may distribute Holy Communion at eucharistic celebrations only when there are no ordained ministers present or when those ordained ministers present at a liturgical celebration are truly unable to distribute Holy Communion.[99] They may also exercise this function at eucharistic celebrations where there are particularly large numbers of the faithful and which would be excessively prolonged because of an insufficient number of ordained ministers to distribute Holy Communion.

The ordinary ministers are Bishops, Priests, and Deacons.  When every Tom, Dick, and Jane runs up to the sanctuary and hands out communion, the sacredness of the Eucharist is diminished.

Appropriate Attire.  This is all about education, education, and more education.  Priests and pastors should repeatedly preach and educate the faithful about proper attire for mass.  Nobody would dress in flip flops and tank top to a job interview,  or to meet the President or the Pope, but meeting our Lord and Savior in the Eucharist?  Other things Priest can do is ditch the altar server’s potato sack robes and replace them with cassocks and surplices.  Priest’s could teach about the sacredness of women and encourage use of the veil.  Everybody knows that what we wear changes how we behave and how we behave changes how we think.

General Reverence and Sacredness.  This is all about eliminating disruption and restoring a sense of the sacred.  Some things to consider here are:

  • Eliminating the Sign of Peace by the Faithful.  It is only an option and not mandatory and often very disruptive.
  • More Incense.
  • Great attention to reverence and precision by the Priests and servers.
  • Priestly ad libs banished!
  • The priest avoid wandering around during the homily.

I don’t pretend that any of these things are easy for the priests or the faithful, but they are all doable and many priests and pastors have implemented many or all of these things. Some of these things may be particularly difficult for some older parishioners, boomers and beyond, no doubt. But to avoid restoring the sacred for the sake of these is simply to make the dying patient comfortable rather than trying to cure the disease.

In all these things, the priest must be committed to education and some may take time.  Parishes that have implemented many of these changes have seen tremendous blessings.



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