The Rise of Priests Who Encourage Sins Against Faith

Though the 24-hour news cycle has long moved on from applauding the Irish referendum in favor of same-sex “marriage,” this catastrophe for the Church and future of Ireland should still be the focus of thoughtful reflection by faithful Catholics.  Just as outward physical symptoms reveal the presence of disease and disorder  throughout the body, the abandonment of the Faith in Ireland is the outward manifestation of a virulent spiritual disease infecting the entire Church in the West.

This deadly disease infecting the Church in Western society has three inter-related symptoms — heresy, apostasy and schism. The Catechism of the Catholic Church classifies heresy, apostasy and schism as sins against the Faith. These are three expressions of the culpable personal fault of incredulity, which the Catechism describes as the “neglect of revealed truth or the willful refusal to assent to it” (CCC 2089).

Since the close of the Second Vatican Council the Church has been plagued by clerical and lay groups that advocate both the neglect of revealed truth and the willful refusal to assent to revealed truth. Even though the Code of Canon Law clearly identifies these three manifestations of incredulity as grave offences against the faith and the Church (Can. 751), the serious canonical penalties are rarely, if at all, threatened, let alone consistently applied. I’m certain that this failure to confront heresy and apostasy with the full force of canon law is a contributory factor to the collapse of the Faith in Ireland and the rest of the Church in the West.

A Network of Disobedient Priests

During the reign of Pope Benedict XVI we witnessed the tragic spectacle of European priests not only publicly refusing to assent to revealed truths but forming associations to encourage sins against faith. Such disloyal groups included The Austrian Priests’ Initiative, the Irish Association of Catholic Priests and the Association of U.S. Catholic Priests. Pope Benedict XVI took the unusual step of challenging the disobedience of these groups of priests accusing them of seeking to desperately change the Church according to “their own preferences and ideas”:

Recently a group of priests from a European country issued a summons to disobedience, and at the same time gave concrete examples of the forms this disobedience might take, even to the point of disregarding definitive decisions of the Church’s Magisterium, such as the question of women’s ordination, for which Blessed Pope John Paul II stated irrevocably that the Church has received no authority from the Lord. Is disobedience a path of renewal for the Church?

The Irish Association of Catholic Priests

Members of The Irish Association of Catholic Priests (ACP) committed sins of omission and sins of commission during the campaign that resulted in the large “yes” vote. The ACP, which claims to represent a third of priests in Ireland, took a neutral position regarding the Same-Sex “Marriage” referendum. A statement issued by the leadership team of the ACP exhorted priests “not to direct their parishioners to vote Yes or No.” However, members of the ACP leadership team then went on to prominently advocate support for a “yes” through the media. Father Flannery explained why he would be voting “yes” in an article in the Irish Independent in early May. He wrote:

Having considered the question that is being presented to us on this occasion, and after having listened to the debate so far and given it a great deal of thought, I will be voting Yes. I do not consider this decision to be in any way in conflict with my faith, or with my position as a priest.

Priests Who Acted Against the Pope and Bishops

Both the statement of neutrality and the active campaigning for the “yes” vote were not only contrary to the guidance of Irish bishops, but also against the conclusions of Pope Francis and the world’s bishops at the 2014 Extraordinary Synod on the Family that reiterated the Church’s rejection of same-sex “marriage.” The Synod’s Final Report summarized the Church’s teaching: “There are absolutely no grounds for considering homosexual unions to be in any way similar or even remotely analogous to God’s plan for marriage and family” (55).

It is instructive to examine statements made by members of ACP’s leadership since the “yes” vote from the perspective of Pope Francis’ analysis of apostasy in the light of Msgr. Robert Hugh Benson’s Lord of the World. In these statements we find elements of apostasy: arguments for the abandonment of the Church’s traditions and identity out of a preference for worldly proposals, and a sense of adolescent progressivism. It appears to me that these statements from these priests suggest a single and faulty solution to the situation of the Church in Ireland that is entirely lacking in the one thing necessary — the Catholic faith. Consider the following.

Teaching Sexual Morality

Father Tony Flannery of the ACP proposes that the Irish Church must abandon teaching young people about the Church’s doctrines on sexual morality for “at least a generation” because of his experience of giving school retreats at which young people told him they were “tired of the Church always saying NO when it came to anything to do with sex.”

Father Flannery is right to criticize the reduction of the Church’s sexual ethics to only a list of negative prohibitions, but in response to the young people’s objections, did he present the positive YES to sexual continence and chastity found in the Theology of the Body? Is he seriously suggesting that adults responsible for education and formation deny young people the wisdom and richness of the Church’s sexual morality for a generation?

The Worldly Proposals of Modernity

Father Brendan Hoban of the ACP concludes that the overwhelming “yes” vote shows that the Church “is very much out of sync with the temper of its people.” According to Fr. Hoban the Church lacks “the confidence to engage with modernity” and above all is “trailing too far behind its people.” He sees the “worldly proposals” of modernity represented by same-sex “marriage,” abortion, contraception and divorce as an unstoppable force. “Trying to keep out the tide is always a failed enterprise. When will we learn that simple truth?”

However, St. Paul warns of the danger to Christians of abandoning the Faith handed to us from the Apostles for modern fads and fashions: “The time is sure to come when people will not accept sound teaching, but their ears will be itching for anything new and they will collect for themselves a whole series of teachers according to their own tastes” (2 Timothy 4:3).

The Spirit of Secularism

Both Fr. Tony Flannery and Fr. Iggy Donovan appear to suggest that the Church must adapt its teaching to the “spirit of worldly secularism” because, according to them, the people are no longer receptive to the doctrines of the Church. Father Flannery writes, “The people are no longer willing to listen to speeches and sermons on morality from the Church,” and Fr. Donovan says, “The church has to realize ordinary people are not listening to us any more.”

But the question must be asked: With the catastrophic collapse of catechesis in Ireland over the past 50 years, have ordinary people been given the opportunity to listen to God’s life-giving truths?

Now, more than ever, it is essential that we pray for these priests who have so tragically lost their way. And from a great love for our priests let us pray for these chosen men who daily enable, through the miracle of the Blessed Sacrament, Our Lord Jesus Christ’s entry into our fallen world. May these priests again feel in their hands and hearts the eternal Truth Who does not waver or desert His people but transforms our world.

This draws on an article originally published in the Catholic Voice Ireland.

Follow Deacon Nick on Twitter: @ProtectthePope

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Is this what is coming?


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SSPX Bp. Fellay: “we are on the eve of important events that we cannot yet define”

From Fr. Z’s blog:

SSPX Bp Bernard FellayIn other news, the head of the SSPX, Bp. Bernard Fellay, gave an interview to Present in which he spoke of the status quaestionis these days, both within the Society (a priestly society, remember) and outside. HERE


Present: In an interview with Fideliter in 2001, you mentioned the “movement of profound sympathy from the young clergy for the Society.” Has this movement grown, especially with the motu proprio in 2007?

Bishop Fellay: Without a doubt! The motu proprio gave this movement a new impetus. And it is important to insist upon Benedict XVI’s interest for the liturgy in general. He truly wished to put the entire traditional liturgy, not only the Mass, at the disposition of the priests and the faithful; this did not happen because there was too much opposition. But the young priests identify with this liturgy, precisely because it is timeless. The Church lives in eternity.

The liturgy does also too, which is why it is always young. Close to God, it is outside of time. So it is no surprise that the baptismal character makes this harmony resound even in souls that have never known the liturgy. And the way the young priests react when they discover this liturgy is moving: they have the impression a treasure has been hidden from them.


A few weeks ago, the Society’s seminaries were visited by Cardinal Brandmuller and Bishop Schneider. These visits are a public connection with the “official Church”. Isn’t that vital?

The link with the Church is vital. The manifestations of this connection can vary. The dates and places for these visits were left up to me; the Vatican chose the names. I chose the seminaries because they seemed to me to be the most eloquent and representative for the bishops.

What were the first reactions of these bishops?

They were very satisfied. “You are normal people,” they told us…which goes to show the reputation we have! They congratulated us on the quality of our seminarians. There is no doubt that their conclusion after this first closer contact was that we are a work of the Church.

Have you been in contact with any bishops who support you discreetly?

Of course! When we see that priests are coming closer to us today and entering into contact with us, we can easily conclude that the same is true on the higher level…



Where is the Society today? What are its strong points and its weak points? What future do you foresee for it?

I see a peaceful future. It is a work that has been entrusted to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary; all we have to do is remain faithful to their will. This Church is the Church of Our Lord Jesus Christ, who remains her head and will not allow her to be destroyed.

The Society’s weaknesses? The risk of separation is serious. Look at the caricature of Tradition that calls itself the “Resistance”, for example: it is a non-Catholic spirit that is almost sectarian. We wish to have nothing to do with it; it is a movement that is withdrawn into itself, with people who think that they are the only good and just men on earth: that is not Catholic. It is an objective, but relative danger. Most of the Society is healthy and will not fall into these illusions. This encourages us to rely upon supernatural means. God will show us what He wants of us; He will speak through circumstances.

The strong points? The living fidelity that bears fruit and shows the world today that the Catholic life, even with all its requirements, is possible. But—another weak point—we are men of our times, and it would be a dream to pretend that we are immunized against the influence of the modern world. To be more precise, we must avoid the caricature of wishing for a Church without wrinkles or stains here below: that is not what the good Lord promised us on this earth. That is not what the “Holy Church” means; it means that she is capable of sanctifying using the means given by Our Lord: the sacraments, the Faith, discipline, religious life, the life of prayer.

What do you think of Cardinal Sarah’s suggestion of introducing the traditional offertory into the New Mass?

It is not a new idea; it has been around in Rome for ten years. I am glad it has been taken up again. Some criticize the idea, saying it is a way of mixing the profane with the sacred. On the contrary, in the perspective of bringing health back to the Church, I think it would be a great step forward, because the Offertory is a summary of the Catholic principles of the Mass, of the expiatory sacrifice offered to the Blessed Trinity, offered by the priest to God in reparation for sins, and accompanied by the faithful. And that would gradually bring the faithful back to the traditional Mass they have lost.

How would you like to conclude, Your Excellency?

In my opinion, we are on the eve of important events that we cannot yet define very well. I would like to call for prayers and end with a gaze towards God, which allows us to always have hope.

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The Trial of St. Thomas More: 480 Years ago today.

St. Thomas More was brought to Westminster Hall for trial on July 1, 1535. Those set to try him were: Sir Thomas Audley, Lord Chancellor, Sir Richard Leicester, Thomas Duke of Norfolk, Sir John Port, Sir John Fitz-James, Sir John Spelman, Lord Chief Justice, Sir John Baldwin Sir Walter Luke, and Sir Anthony Fitz-Herbert. Like St. John Fisher, he was very weak after his long imprisonment in the Tower of London and was allowed to sit at his trial. Those set to judge him as his jury were: Sir Thomas Palmer, KNT., Falper Leake, Gent., Sir Thomas Peirt, Knt. William Browne, Gent., George Lovell, Esq; Thomas Billington, Gent.,Thomas Burbage, Esq; John Parnel, Gent., Geoffry Chamber, Gent. Richard Bellame, Gent., Edward Stockmore, Gent. George Stoakes, Gent.–and after hearing the evidence against More, which was mostly Sir Richard Rich’s perjury, they found him guilty within 15 minutes!

Perhaps the most interesting part of the trial–and certainly one of most amazingly convoluted sentences ever spoken–came when Audley started to pronounce sentence and More had to remind him of proper procedure, that he should have an opportunity to state why Judgement should not be declared against him. Audley wanted to get this trial over, I’m sure, because the former Chancellor had already presented an excellent defense against Richard Rich’s perjury (and Rich’s other witnesses would not back him up), but More presented another dilemma to the justice of this court:

For as much as, my Lords, this Indictment is grounded upon an Act of Parliament, directly repugnant ,to the Laws of God and his Holy Church, the Supreme Government of which, or of any part thereof, no Temporal Person may by any Law presume to take upon him, being what right belongs to the See of Rome, which by special Prerogative was granted by the Mouth of our Savior Christ himself to St. Peter, and the Bishops of Rome his Successors only, whilst he lived, and was personally present here on Earth: it is therefore, amongst Catholic Christians, insufficient in Law, to charge any Christian to obey it. And in order to the proof of his Assertion, he declared among other things, that whereas this Kingdom alone being but one Member, and a small part of the Church, was not to make a particular Law disagreeing with the general Law of Christ’s universal Catholic Church, no more than the City of London, being but one Member in respect to the whole Kingdom, might enact a Law against an Act of Parliament, to be binding to the whole Realm: so he shewed farther, That Law was, even contrary to the Laws and Statutes of the Kingdom yet unrepealed, as might evidently be seen by Magna Charta, wherein are these Words; Ecclesia Anglicana libera sit, & habet omnia jura integra, & libertates suas illcesas: And it is contrary also to that sacred Oath which the King’s Majesty himself, and every other Christian Prince, always take with great Solemnity, at their Coronations. So great was Sir Thomas’s Zeal, that he further alleged, that it was worse in the Kingdom of England to rest1se Obedience to the See of Rome, than for any Child to do to his natural Parent: for, as St. Paul said to the Corinthians, I have regenerated you, my Children, in Christ; so might that worthy Pope of Rome, St. Gregory the Great, say of us Englishmen, Ye are my Children, because I have given you everlasting Salvation: for by St. Augustine and his followers, his immediate Messengers, England first received the Christian faith, which is a far higher and better Inheritance than any carnal Sather can leave to his Children; for a. Son is only by generation, we are by Regeneration made the spiritual Children of Christ and the Pope.

Here the Lord Chancellor took him up and said; that seeing all the Bishops, Universities, and the most learned Men in the Kingdom had agreed to that Act, it was much wondered that he alone should so stiffly stickle, and so vehemently argue there against it.

HIS Answer was, That If the Number of Bishops and Universities were so material as his Lordship seemed to make it; then, my Lord, I see no reason why that thing should make any Change in my Conscience: for I doubt not, but of the learned and virtuous Men now alive, I do not speak only of this Realm, but of all Christendom, there are ten to one of my mind in this matter;  if I should take notice of those learned Doctors and virtuous Fathers that are already dead, many of whom are Saints in Heaven, I am sure there are far more, who all the while they lived thought in this Café as I do now. And therefore, my Lord, I do not think my self bound to conform my Conscience to the Counsel of one Kingdom, against the general Consent of all Christendom.

Here it seems the Lord Chancellor, not willing to take the whole Load of this Condemnation up­on himself, asked In open Court the Advice of Sir John Fitz-James, the Lord Chief Justice of England, Whether the Indictment was valid, or no? Who wisely answered thus: My Lords all, By St. Gillian (for that was always his Oath) I must needs confess, that if the Act of Parliament be not unlawful, then the indictment is not in my Conscience invalid. Some have wrote, That the Lord Chancellor should hereupon say, Quid adhuc desideramus testimonium, reus est mortis, and then presently proceeded to give Sentence to this effect: That he should be carried back to the Tower of Lon­don, by the Help of William Kingston, Sheriff, and from thence drawn on a Hurdle through the City of London to Tyburn, there to be hanged till he should be half dead; that then he should be cut down alive, his Privy Parts cut off, his Belly ripped, his Bowels burnt, his four Quarters sit up over four Gates of the City: and his Head upon London-Bridge.
“I must needs confess, that if the Act of Parliament be not unlawful, then the indictment is not in my Conscience invalid.” — the grammatical convolutions of this sentence, with the double negatives, all center on that word “if” which Audley dared not investigate further. Thomas More left Westminster Hall to return to the Tower of London: his son John and daughter Margaret were there to see his progress. Margaret pushed past the guards twice to embrace her father, actions he would later commend her for with great affection.
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6 Things Jimmy Akin Won’t Tell You about the Pope’s New Encyclical

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Since my buddy Chris Ferrara has, perhaps before anyone else in the English speaking world, done a thorough examination of the pope’s environment encyclical, “Laudato Si,” I will confine myself here to some observations of a different sort and to proposing a few questions for consideration – to talking around it, so to speak.

A great many people, long before the document was issued yesterday, have been asking whether it should have been written at all. Is this appropriate for a pope? Why was it necessary? Why, of all the possible topics, did Pope Francis choose this one? Has he stepped outside the proper bounds of papal authority? Aren’t there more pressing matters for the head of the Catholic Church to think about? (Does anyone know how many Chaldean Catholics are still alive in Mosul, Iraq, for instance?)

Let me just start by claiming credit for being an environmentalist, in that the mass degradation of the natural world by industrial agriculture, manufacturing and yes, fossil fuels – by human short sightedness and obsession with material consumption – is of grave concern to me. I am, in short, a not-very closeted, Left-Coast hippie tree-hugger, and always have been, and so as a Catholic, I am looking actively for guidance in framing these topics. I have felt for a long time that the Church’s competent (that is, believing) theologians should address them.

The other day our friend Jimmy Akin offered his list of “12 things to know and share” about the leaking of the encyclical. I thought this was a useful format, so now that we can all read the thing for ourselves, I’m offering a different kind of list: larger issues to think about to give the document some context.

1 –Does the encyclical, in its topic or its handling, undercut papal authority? – How much authority does the papal office give Francis to make definitive statements about climate change, or about science in general? None. Nada. Not a lick. On the subject of global warming, climate change and the environment Pope Francis is as authoritative as the guy sitting next to you on the bus. He’s as authoritative as I am.

Papal infallibility does not extend either to scientific, economic or political matters. Nor does the ordinary authority of the papal office – aside from formal infallibility – bestow any particular insight into these matters. This is why, of course, popes have advisors and even ghost writers for non-infallible documents. But having made some very disputable statements as though they are indisputable facts, Pope Francis has with this document perhaps created bigger problems for himself, his successors and for the Church by undercutting the genuine authority that actually is proper to the office.

It is normal for popes to write encyclicals on topics for which they have personally little or no background. This is why they have advisors and drafting committees whose job it is (or perhaps was) to frame the papal responses with infinite care to ensure that he remains within strictly defined boundaries. But for all the papal documents on topics that are not specifically theological, has there ever been a time in modern Catholic history when a pope has made definitive claims on highly disputed scientific topics without the least nod to the legitimacy, or even existence of a debate?

What can we say about a pope who would declare, on a massively un-settled, vexed and hugely controversial scientific and political subject, “Global warming is real and humans caused it, and we know this because the mainstream science says so.” (With the implied coda, “So shut up, everybody who disagrees.”)

“Scientific consensus exists indicating firmly that we are in the presence of a worrisome warming of the climate system.”

“In recent decades… the heating was accompanied by the constant rise in the sea level…”

“…And [it] is also hard not to relate it to the increase in extreme weather events, regardless of the fact that we cannot attribute a cause scientifically determined to each particular phenomenon.”

“[N]umerous scientific studies indicate that most of the global warming of recent decades is due to the large concentration of greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide and other) issued mainly because of human activity.”

All of these claims, presented by the pope under his authority as absolutely indisputable fact, have been disputed and sometimes even outright debunked, all by people well within the realm of perfectly reputable science.

In fact, so problematic has the claim become that “warmist” activists have had to change their scare-term to the more neutral “climate change” to avoid having people point and laugh at them at scientist parties. Someone might have informed the pope of this change before allowing him to embarrass himself.

But more pertinently, how can anyone ever trust Pope Francis’ pronouncements on any other topic again? How can such declarations be anything other than catastrophic for his personal credibility? Because the unwritten implication behind these extraordinary assertions is that he himself thinks he does have some kind of special insight.

So outrageous is the presumption that a pope could make definitive statements in highly politically charged scientific disputes, that some bolder among our Catholic writer colleagues were openly mocking it within hours of the encyclical’s release. Matt Archbold, brother of Remnant columnist Pat, posted the headline yesterday, “Good News. Pope Now Respected as Science Expert.”

Protestants have always accused Catholics of believing everything the pope says on every subject whatever. They have accused us, in fact if not word, of “papal positivism,” the very theological vice that has suddenly become fashionable within the Church. And with this foray into areas where he has no more competence than anyone else, Pope Francis himself appears to be first among this trend.

And this is not the first time. When he was asked why he thought there had been mutterings against his lack of clarity and sound leadership, Francis told Antonio Spadaro, “Look, I wrote an encyclical – true enough, it was by four hands – and an apostolic exhortation. I’m constantly making statements, giving homilies. That’s magisterium. That’s what I think, not what the media say that I think.”

The Catholic neo-conservative world tied itself into knots trying to demonstrate that the pope’s many interviews, homilies and off-the-cuff ramblings, and the frequently incomprehensible statements in them, meant nothing. That he wasn’t interested in changing Church doctrine or doing anything really crazy, because as everyone knows, interviews and off-the-cuff comments can’t be taken as part of the formal papal magisterium. Shortly after this, they fell silent as the Vatican issued a book compiling all the papal interviews, primarily those most controversial ones with the Marxist atheist Eugenio Scalfari, and calling it formally part of the Francis magisterium.

The conclusion seems inescapable that this is a pope who does not know the meaning of the term “papal magisterium,” or the purpose of his own office. Or perhaps who simply doesn’t care. Remember, this is also the pope who has repeatedly railed against “doctors of the law” and the Church’s previous interest in “small-minded rules.”

2 – Who were these advisors?  Many of the people who have criticised Pope Francis for coming down on this side of the “global warming” debate have pointed out that he is now keeping some very unpleasant company indeed. And appears to be doing so without the least embarrassment.

Who are these people? Well, one of the people at the press conference launching the encyclical officially – who was presumably also advising the pope – was Prof. Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, founding director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. This is a highly respected member of the warmist community and is perhaps the best possible representative of their entire programme for humanity. And his influence is enormous. He advises the Chancellor of Germany, Europe’s lead economic nation and serves as chairman of the German Advisory Council on Global Change. At the transnational level, he is a member of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a body of the United Nations.

Professor Schellnhuber is a major voice calling for massive reduction in… wait for it… human population. In 2009, he articulated the commonly held opinion of the scientific left that the only solution for planet earth will be the elimination of all but one billion of the human population. The New York Times reported on his speech at an international climate meeting in Copenhagen, where he said it is a “triumph for science” that they have “stabilized” the estimate: “namely the estimates for the carrying capacity of the planet, namely below 1 billion people.” At that time, Herr Schellnhuber declined to specify a methodology for achieving this.

At the Vatican’s press conference, though, he focused on other priorities, protesting only that “the science of Laudato Si is watertight.” He added a warning that if “humanity” didn’t reduce carbon emissions, “we, our neighbors, and children will be exposed to intolerable risks.”

Continue reading over at The Remnant

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Our Lady of La Salette



It was 1846 and France was suffering social and political upheaval. Catholic churches had been abandoned and the Sacraments neglected. But away from the cities, in a high meadow along the French Alps, two cattle herders reverently knelt before the Blessed Virgin Mary. Eleven-year-old Maxim Giraud and fourteen-year-old Melanie Mathieu, employed separately by local farmers, met to graze livestock at a pasture in the small village La Salette. This particular Saturday afternoon, as the cattle grazed nearby, the two children shared bread and cheese alongside a ravine and then fell asleep. When they awoke Melanie noticed a light near the ravine and she called out to Maxim. Both beheld a luminous sphere, radiating like the sun, curiously unfolding before their eyes. gradually they made out a woman seated with her face in her hands, weeping. She slowly arose and crossed her arms on her breast, her head some what inclined. The children were drawn immediately to the lady’s tears that adorned her face like perfectly cut diamonds glimmering the in the sun’s rays. Her dynamic features were framed delicately in a white-satin headdress, on which rested a crown of roses, a bouquet in all shades of reds and pinks. A crucifix with pincers on one end and a hammer on the opposite end hung over her satin shawl, which was lined with more roses. The Madonna wore a long ivory dress embroidered in precious pearls and a yellow apron tied neatly to her waist. Wearing pearl slippers that peeked out from underneath her satin robe, she sheltered herself atop a bouquet of roses. “Come to me, my children,” she tenderly addressed the two who stood afar, motionless. “Be not afraid. I am here to tell you something of the greatest importance.” As soon as they were in touching distance of her, she began to speak with the urgency of an ending world: “If my people will not obey, I shall be compelled to loose my Son’s arm. It is so heavy, so pressing that I can no longer restrain it.” She told the children that her Son was especially concerned that people were not keeping holy the Sabbath, and that religion had lost its place in their country. “You will make this known to all my people,” she repeated to them.

This they did, through five years of exhaustive interrogation by the Bishop of La Salette, who had commissioned several committees to research the apparition. As the children repeated their story time and time again in perfect consistency, people could not help but be convinced that the Blessed Virgin had appeared to the two. Churches began to to fill throughout the neighboring countryside and the Catholic faith resumed its former respect. A little more than five years after the apparition the Church officially approved of it and thirty years after that the basilica erected in the name of Our Lady of La Salette was completed.

Maxim and Melanie were not canonized, but throughout the rest of their lives they served as witnesses to Our Lady’s message.


Of all the Marian apparitions of the last two centuries, La Salette is not the best known although it must certainly be the most unique, not only for the “secrets” Our Lady told the two shepherd children, but because of the complexity involved in the series of Vatican interventions. The entire extract of the message to the children was not published until 1879, although Our Lady told Melanie that it could be publicized in 1858. Melanie published her part of the “secret” in Lecce Italy with the approval of the diocesan Bishop. The date of the original publication was Nov. 15 of that year. The apparition had occurred on September 19, 1846, the eve of the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows, which was at that time being celebrated on the 20th of September, not the 15th the permanent day of the Feast. Here are excerpts from Melanie Calvat’s part: “The priests, ministers of my Son, the priests, by their wicked lives, by their irreverence and their impiety in the celebration of the holy mysteries, by their love of money, their love of honors and pleasures, the priests have become cesspools of impurity. Yes, the priests are asking for vengeance, and vengeance is hanging over their heads. Woe to the priests and to those dedicated to God who by their unfaithfulness and their wicked lives are crucifying my son again! The sins of those dedicated to God cry out towards Heaven and call for vengeance, and now vengeance is at their door, for there is no one left to beg mercy and forgiveness for the people. There are no more generous souls, there is no one left worthy of offering a stainless sacrifice to the Eternal God for the sake of the world. “God will strike in an unprecedented way. Woe to the inhabitants of the earth! God will exhaust His wrath upon them, and no one will be able to escape so many afflictions together. The chiefs, the leaders of the people of God have neglected prayer and penance, and the devil has bedimmed their intelligence. They have become wandering stars which the old devil will drag along with his tail to make them perish. God will allow the old serpent to cause divisions among those who reign in every society and in every family. Physical and moral agonies will be suffered. God will abandon mankind to itself and will send punishments which will follow one after the other for more than thirty-five years. “The society of men is on the eve of the most terrible scourges and of gravest events. Mankind must expect to be ruled with an iron rod and to drink from the chalice of the wrath of God. May the curate of my Son, Pope Pius IX, never leave Rome again after 1859; may he, however, be steadfast and noble, may he fight with the weapons of faith and love. I will be at his side. May he be on his guard against Napoleon: he is two-faced, and when he wishes to make himself Pope as well as Emperor, God will soon draw back from him. He is the master-mind who, always wanting to ascend further, will fall on the sword he wished to use to force his people to be raised up. “Italy will be punished for her ambition in wanting to shake off the yoke of the Lord of Lords. And so she will be left to fight a war; blood will flow on all sides. Churches will be locked up or desecrated. Priests and religious orders will be hunted down, and made to die a cruel death. Several will abandon the faith, and a great number of priests and members of religious orders will break away from the true religion; among these people there will even be bishops. “May the Pope guard against the performers of miracles. For the time has come when the most astonishing wonders will take place on the earth and in the air. “In the year 1864, Lucifer together with a large number of demons will be unloosed from Hell; they will put an end to faith little by little, even in those dedicated to God. They will blind them in such a way, that, unless they are blessed with a special grace, these people will take on the spirit of these angels of Hell; several religious institutions will lose all faith and will lose many souls. “Evil books will be abundant on earth and the spirits of darkness will spread everywhere a universal slackening in all that concerns the service of God. They will have great power over nature: there will be churches built to serve these spirits. People will be transported from one place to another by these evil spirits, even priests, for they will not have been guided by the good spirit of the Gospel, which is a spirit of humility, charity and zeal for the glory of God. On occasions, the dead and the righteous will be brought back to life. [That is to say that these dead will take on the form of righteous souls which had lived on earth, in order to lead men further astray; these so-called resurrected dead, who will be nothing but the devil in this form, will preach another gospel contrary to that of the true Christ Jesus, denying the existence of Heaven; that is also to say, the souls of the damned. All these souls will appear as if fixed to their bodies]. “. . . The Vicar of my Son will suffer a great deal, because for a while the Church will yield to large persecution, a time of darkness, and the Church will witness a frightful crisis. The true faith of the Lord having been forgotten, each individual will want to be on his own and be superior to people of the same identity. They will abolish civil rights as well as ecclesiastical, all order and all justice would be trampled underfoot and only homicides, hate, jealousy, lies and dissension would be seen without love for country or family. “The Holy Father will suffer a great deal. I will be with him until the end and receive his sacrifice. “All the civil governments will have one and the same plan, which will be to abolish and do away with every religious principle, to make way for materialism, atheism, spiritualism and vice of all kinds. In the year 1865, there will be desecration of holy places. In convents, the . . . devil will make himself like the king of all hearts. May those in charge of religious communities be on their guard against the people they must receive, for the devil will resort to all this evil tricks to introduce sinners in to religious orders, for disorder and the love of carnal pleasures will be spread all over the earth. “. . . France, Italy, Spain and England will be at war. Blood will flow in the streets. Frenchman will fight Frenchman, Italian will fight Italian. A general war will follow which will be appalling. For a time, God will cease to remember France and Italy because the Gospel of Jesus Christ has been forgotten. The wicked will make use of all their evil ways. Men will kill each other, massacre each other even in their homes. At the first blow of His thundering sword, the mountains and all nature will tremble in terror, for the disorders and crimes of men have pierced the vault of the heavens. Paris will burn and Marseilles will be engulfed. Several cities will be shaken down and swallowed up by earthquakes. People will believe that all is lost. Nothing will be seen but murder, nothing will be heard but the clash of arms and blasphemy. “The righteous will suffer greatly. Their prayers, their penances and their tears will rise up to Heaven and all of God’s people will beg for forgiveness and mercy and will plead for my help and intercession. And then Jesus Christ, in an act of His justice and His great mercy will command His angels to have all His enemies put to death. Suddenly, the persecutors of the Church of Jesus Christ and all those given over to sin will perish and the earth will become desert-like. And then peace will be made, and man will be reconciled with God. Jesus Christ will be served, worshipped, and glorified. Charity will flourish everywhere. The new kings will be the right arm of the holy Church, which will be strong, humble, pious, poor but fervent in the imitation of the virtues of Jesus Christ. The Gospel will be preached everywhere and mankind will make great progress in its faith, for there will be unity among the workers of Jesus Christ and man will live in fear of God. “This peace among men will be short-lived. Twenty-five years of plentiful harvests will make them forget that the sins of men are the cause of all the troubles on this earth. A forerunner of the Antichrist, with his troops gathered from several nations, will fight against the true Christ, the only Savior of the world. He will shed much blood and will want to annihilate the worship of God to make himself be looked upon as a God. “The earth will be struck by calamities of all kinds (in addition to plague and famine which will be widespread). There will be a series of wars until the last war, which will then be fought by the ten kings of the Antichrist, all of whom will have one and the same plan and will be the only rulers of the world. Before this comes to pass, there will be a kind of false peace in the world. People will think of nothing but amusement. The wicked will give themselves over to all kinds of sin. But the children of the holy Church, the children of my faith, my true followers, they will grow in their love for God and in all the virtues most precious to me. Blessed are the souls humbly guided by the Holy Spirit! I shall fight at their side until they reach a fullness of years. “Nature is asking for vengeance because of man, and she trembles with dread at what must happen to the earth stained with crime. Tremble, earth, and you who proclaim yourselves as serving Jesus Christ and who, on the inside, only adore yourselves, tremble, for God will hand you over to His enemy because the holy places are in the state of corruption . . . It will be during this time that the Antichrist will be born of a Hebrew nun, a false virgin who will communicate with the old serpent, the master of impurity, his father will be B. At birth, he will spew out blasphemy; he will have teeth, in a word, he will be the devil incarnate. He will scream horribly, he will perform wonders, he will feed on nothing but impurity. He will have brothers who, although not devils incarnate like him, will be children of evil. At the age of twelve, they will draw attention upon themselves by the gallant victories they will have won; soon they will each lead armies, aided by the legions of Hell. “The seasons will be altered, the earth will produce nothing but bad fruit, the stars will lose their regular motion, the moon will only reflect a faint reddish glow. Water and fire will give the earth’s globe convulsions and terrible earthquakes which will swallow up mountains, cities…. Rome will lose the faith and become the seat of the Antichrist. “The demons of the air together with the Antichrist will perform great wonders on earth and in the atmosphere, and men will become more and more perverted. God will take care of his faithful servants and men of good will. The Gospel will be preached everywhere, and all peoples of all nations will get to know the truth. “I make an urgent appeal to the earth. I call on the true disciples of the living God who reigns in Heaven; I call on the true followers of Christ made man, the only true Savior of men; I call on my children, the true faithful, those who have given themselves to me so that I may lead them to my divine Son . . .  Finally, I call on the apostles of the Last Days, the faithful disciples of Jesus Christ who have lived in scorn for the world and for themselves, in poverty and in humility, in union with God, in suffering unknown to the world. It is time they came out and filled the world with light. Go and reveal yourselves to be my cherished children. I am at your side and within you, provided that your faith is the light which shines upon you in these unhappy days. May your zeal make you famished for the glory and the honor of Jesus Christ. Fight, children of light, you, the few who can see. For now is the time of all times, the end of all ends. “The Church will be in eclipse, the world will be in dismay. But now Enoch and Eli will come, filled with the spirit of God. They will preach with the might of god, and men of good will believe in God, and many souls will be comforted. They will make great steps forward through the virtue of the Holy Spirit and will condemn the devilish lapses of the Antichrist. Woe to the inhabitants of the earth! There will be bloody wars and famines, plagues and infectious diseases. It will rain with a fearful hail of animals. There will be thunderstorms which will shake cities, earthquakes which will swallow up countries. Voices will be heard in the air. Men will beat their heads against walls, call for their death, an on another side death will be their torment. Blood will flow on all sides. Who will be the victor if God does not shorten the length of the test? All the blood, the tears and the prayers of the righteous, God will relent. Enoch and Eli will be put to death. Pagan Rome will disappear. The fire of Heaven will fall and consume three cities. All the universe will be struck with terror and many will let themselves be led astray because they have not worshipped the true Christ who lives among them. It is time; the sun is darkening; only faith will survive. “…Now is the time; the abyss is opening. Here is the king of kings of darkness, here is the Beast with his subjects, calling himself the Savior of the world. He will rise proudly into the air to go to Heaven. He will be smothered by the breath of the Archangel Saint Michael. He will fall, and the earth, which will have been in a continuous series of evolutions for three days, will open up its fiery bowels; and he will have plunged for eternity with all his followers into the everlasting chasms of Hell. And then water and fire will purge the earth and consume all the works of men’s pride and all will be renewed. God will be served and glorified.”

SOURCES CITED: APPARITION OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN AT LA SALETTE, the Shepherdess of La Salette with Imprimatur and reprinted by the Association of the Children of Our Lady of La Salette, Beaupre, France; SECRETS OF LA SALETTE by the 101 Foundation, New Jersey; A SCIENTIST RESEARCHES MARY, Prof. Courtenay Bartholomew, M.D., 101 Foundation; SISTER MARY OF THE CROSS, Fr. Paul Gouin, 101 Foundation; MARY, Caroline Ebertshauser Et Al;

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Disco Inferno

This is what happens when you shower people with inflammable particulates in the presence of a source of ignition.

Pray for the victims.

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Our Lady of Perpetual Help


Mother of Perpetual Help, Woman of Eternal Hope, your wordless gaze tells us so much about you. Knowing eyes look upon us with tender love. The slight bend of your head reveals such maternal concern. While your left hand supports the Child, your right hand is ready to receive us, too. Just as He feels the beating of your heart, so you encourage us to lead a life of hope and holiness. Just as His sandal will fall on your lap, through your intercession may God pick us up as we stumble and fall. Never let us be parted from you and your son, Jesus. Lady of love, you invite us to place our hand where His fingers touch yours — near a heart of endless hope — so that we may be united often in prayer here on earth and joined forever with you in heaven. Amen.

Mother of Perpetual Help, your very name inspires confidence. We come before your holy picture in praise and thanksgiving to God seeking your intercession with Jesus, your son for all the needs of our lives today. We celebrate your holy motherhood as we proclaim Jesus Christ our Lord and Redeemer.

You answered when called to be mother of our Lord. Obtain for us the grace to be alive to our baptismal call and especially to embrace the gospel of life and to respect all life on earth.

You wondered as your Son grew in wisdom, knowledge and grace. Intercede for us so that we may welcome the Word of God in our lives and be bearers of the good news to everyone.

You delighted as your Son healed the sick. Intercede for our sick that they may receive good health and that they in their turn may be healers to others.

You enjoyed peace as your Son comforted the afflicted. Intercede for all who suffer so that they may know that we carry their burdens with them and in this way we keep the law of Christ.

You rejoiced as your Son forgave sins. Obtain for us the forgiveness of our sins and lead us to unbind others and set them free.

You suffered at the wounds your Son endured for our salvation. Help us to bind up the broken hearted and to give hope to the down trodden.

You exulted in your Son’s resurrection. Obtain for us the grace to persevere in His way all the days of our life and be granted a place in heaven.

You are the first of all the disciples and saints. We trust in your motherly love and care. Obtain for us all the graces we need to fulfill God’s plan each day in our lives. Amen.


More about this devotion

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Supreme Court Decision On Marriage “A Tragic Error” Says President Of Catholic Bishops’ Conference

From the USCCB

June 26, 2015
WASHINGTON—The U.S. Supreme Court decision, June 26, interpreting the U.S. Constitution to require all states to license and recognize same-sex “marriage” “is a tragic error that harms the common good and most vulnerable among us,” said Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).

The full statement follows:

Regardless of what a narrow majority of the Supreme Court may declare at this moment in history, the nature of the human person and marriage remains unchanged and unchangeable. Just as Roe v. Wade did not settle the question of abortion over forty years ago, Obergefell v. Hodges does not settle the question of marriage today. Neither decision is rooted in the truth, and as a result, both will eventually fail. Today the Court is wrong again. It is profoundly immoral and unjust for the government to declare that two people of the same sex can constitute a marriage.

The unique meaning of marriage as the union of one man and one woman is inscribed in our bodies as male and female. The protection of this meaning is a critical dimension of the “integral ecology” that Pope Francis has called us to promote. Mandating marriage redefinition across the country is a tragic error that harms the common good and most vulnerable among us, especially children. The law has a duty to support every child’s basic right to be raised, where possible, by his or her married mother and father in a stable home.

Jesus Christ, with great love, taught unambiguously that from the beginning marriage is the lifelong union of one man and one woman. As Catholic bishops, we follow our Lord and will continue to teach and to act according to this truth.

I encourage Catholics to move forward with faith, hope, and love: faith in the unchanging truth about marriage, rooted in the immutable nature of the human person and confirmed by divine revelation; hope that these truths will once again prevail in our society, not only by their logic, but by their great beauty and manifest service to the common good; and love for all our neighbors, even those who hate us or would punish us for our faith and moral convictions.

Lastly, I call upon all people of good will to join us in proclaiming the goodness, truth, and beauty of marriage as rightly understood for millennia, and I ask all in positions of power and authority to respect the God-given freedom to seek, live by, and bear witness to the truth.

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Passionately Loving the World – (Excerpts from a homily by St Josemaría Escriva)

ImageProxy-1.mvcSaint Josemaría Escriva (1902-1975), whose feast day we celebrate today, 26th June, was born in Barbastro, Spain, one of six children of devout Catholic parents. As a teenager he discovered his vocation to the priesthood when he saw the bare footprints of a monk in the snow. This caused him to question what God might be calling him to do. He spent most of his life studying and teaching in universities, earning a doctorate in civil law and theology. Saint Josemaria Escriva’s lasting impact lies in the foundation of Opus Dei (“The Work of God”) – an organisation of laypeople and priests dedicated to the universal call of holiness and that ordinary, daily life is a path to sanctity. Today Opus Dei has over 80,000 members worldwide.

St. Josemaría’s message for us is that God wants all of us to become saints, and for most Catholics this will not involve leaving one’s state in life; it will not involve leaving the world. Married or single, layman or religious, working in a professional occupation or as a homemaker, no state in life is an obstacle to attaining sanctification of life,  but instead they become the very means of achieving this goal. Precisely by learning to find God through our spouses, in family life, and in our daily work we can become saints. Moreover, these ordinary aspects of daily life become the occasions of apostolate, of helping those we encounter day in and day out to draw closer to God. We won’t be able to do this, however, without frequent recourse to the Sacraments, Holy Mass and Confession, and setting aside some time for daily prayer. These practices, that St. Josemaría recommends so strongly, facilitate an ongoing dialogue with God in the midst of the most mundane human activities. St. Josemaría saw the call of ordinary Christians as a call to become contemplatives in the middle of the world, in the street, or just wherever we find ourselves.


Excerpts from a homily by St Josemaría Escriva, “Passionately Loving the World”

“The sacramental Sacrifice of the Body and Blood of our Lord, that Mystery of Faith which links all the mysteries of Christianity [is], therefore, the most sacred and transcendent act which man, with the grace of God, can carry out in this life. To communicate with the Body and Blood of our Lord is, in a certain sense, like loosening the bonds of Earth and time, in order to be already with God in Heaven, where Christ Himself will wipe the tears from our eyes and where there will be no more death, nor mourning, nor cries of distress, because the old world will have passed away (cf Apoc 21:4).

This profound and consoling truth, which theologians call the eschatological significance of the Eucharist could, however, be misunderstood. And indeed it has been, whenever men have tried to present the Christian way of life as something exclusively ‘spiritual’, proper to pure, extraordinary people, who remain aloof from the contemptible things of this world or at most, tolerate them as something necessarily attached to the spirit, while we live on this earth.

When things are seen in this way, churches become the setting par excellence of the Christian life. And being a Christian means going to church, taking part in sacred ceremonies, being taken up with ecclesiastical matters, in a kind of segregated world, which is considered to be the ante-chamber of Heaven, while the ordinary world follows its own separate path. The doctrine of Christianity and the life of grace would, in this case, brush past the turbulent march of human history, without ever really meeting it. […]

[E]veryday life is the true setting for your lives as Christians. Your ordinary contact with God takes place where your fellow men, your yearnings, your work and your affections are. There you have your daily encounter with Christ. It is in the midst of the most material things of the Earth that we must sanctify ourselves, serving God and all mankind.

I have taught this constantly using words from holy Scripture. The world is not evil, because it has come from God’s hands, because it is His creation, because ‘Yahweh looked upon it and saw that it was good’ (cf Gen 1:7 ff). We ourselves, mankind, make it evil and ugly with our sins and infidelities. Have no doubt: any kind of evasion of the honest realities of daily life is for you, men and women of the world, something opposed to the will of God.

On the contrary, you must understand now, more clearly, that God is calling you to serve Him in and from the ordinary, material and secular activities of human life. He waits for us every day, in the laboratory, in the operating theatre, in the army barracks, in the university chair, in the factory, in the workshop, in the fields, in the home and in all the immense panorama of work. Understand this well: there is something holy, something divine, hidden in the most ordinary situations, and it is up to each one of you to discover it.

I often said to the university students and workers who were with me in the thirties that they had to know how to ‘materialise’ their spiritual life. I wanted to keep them from the temptation, so common then and now, of living a kind of double life. On one side, an interior life, a life of relation with God; and on the other, a separate and distinct professional, social and family life, full of small earthly realities.

No! We cannot lead a double life. We cannot be like schizophrenics, if we want to be Christians. There is just one life, made of flesh and spirit. And it is this life which has to become, in both soul and body, holy and filled with God. We discover the invisible God in the most visible and material things.

There is no other way. Either we learn to find our Lord in ordinary, everyday life, or else we shall never find Him. That is why I can tell you that our age needs to give back to matter and to the most trivial occurrences and situations their noble and original meaning. It needs to restore them to the service of the Kingdom of God, to spiritualise them, turning them into a means and an occasion for a continuous meeting with Jesus Christ.

Authentic Christianity, which professes the resurrection of all flesh, has always quite logically opposed ‘dis-incarnation’, without fear of being judged materialistic. We can, therefore, rightfully speak of a ‘Christian materialism’, which is boldly opposed to that materialism [of the world] which is blind to the spirit.

What are the Sacraments, which early Christians described as the foot-prints of the Incarnate Word, if not the clearest manifestation of this way which God has chosen in order to sanctify us and to lead us to heaven? Don’t you see that each Sacrament is the Love of God, with all its creative and redemptive power, giving itself to us by way of material means? […]

It is understandable that the Apostle should write: ‘All things are yours, you are Christ’s and Christ is God’s’ (1 Cor 3:22-23). We have here an ascending movement which the Holy Spirit, infused in our hearts, wants to call forth from this world, upwards from the Earth to the glory of the Lord. And to make it clear that in that movement everything is included, even what seems most commonplace, St. Paul also wrote: ‘in eating, in drinking, do everything as for God’s glory’ (cf 1 Cor 10:32).

This doctrine of holy Scripture, as you know, is to be found in the very nucleus of the spirit of Opus Dei. It leads you to do your work perfectly, to love God and mankind by putting love in the little things of everyday life, and discovering that divine something which is hidden in small details. The lines of a Castilian poet are especially appropriate here: ‘Write slowly and with a careful hand, for doing things well is more important than doing them.’

I assure you, my sons and daughters, that when a Christian carries out with love the most insignificant everyday action, that action overflows with the transcendence of God. That is why I have told you repeatedly, and hammered away once and again on the idea that the Christian vocation consists of making heroic verse out of the prose of each day. Heaven and Earth seem to merge, my sons and daughters, on the horizon. But where they really meet is in your hearts, when you sanctify your everyday lives.

The complete homily can be read here.

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Is Hell empty? (Discussion with Dr. Ralph Martin)

Is Hell empty? Theologian Dr. Ralph Martin discusses this and other interesting current topics with Raymond Arroyo. The interview took place on 28th May 2015, but the issues touched upon are as immediately relevant today as they were nearly a month ago.

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No Compromise!

St.-Thomas-Pray-for-UsSir Thomas More would not compromise on two tenets of the Catholic faith: the primacy of the papacy and the dignity of marriage. When imprisoned before his martyrdom, he would write and pray. The following are just a few quotes from his writings, particularly from a book called “A Dialogue of Comfort against Tribulation”.

“Now those without patience can have no reward for their pain, but when pain is patiently taken for God’s sake, and the sufferer’s will is conformed to God’s pleasure, God regards the sufferer in proportion to the pain. But never have I found any place in Scripture where Our Lord promised a wealthy person, even if that person did thank God for his gifts, any reward in heaven for having taken his ease and pleasure here. (“We do not go to heaven in featherbeds”)…in Scripture much commends tribulation as a more profitable circumstance than wealth and prosperity.

We shall consider tribulation a gracious gift from God, a gift that He specially gives His special friends…if God does not send it, people need to seek out and put upon themselves by penance, a thing that helps purge our past sins; a think that preserves us from sins that we would otherwise commit; a thing that causes us to attach less importance to the world; a thing that incites us to draw closer to God; a thing that greatly diminishes our pains in purgatory; a thing that greatly increases our final reward in Heaven…if we reflect on these things and remember them well, we shall not murmur or complain in a time of tribulation. Instead we shall first of all take our pain patiently and see it as something of worth. And then we shall realise that God has sent if for our own good and so be moved to thank God for it. As a consequence, our grace shall increase and God shall give us the comfort of realising that He is, in the midst of our trouble, always close.

I find, then, that one great part of the terror of the nights is the fault of faintheartedness: that fearful and feeble disposition, that is, which causes some people to be afraid where there is no need to be afraid. The fault of faintheartedness first causes people in tribulation to become impatient. The fault of faintheartedness, or a timed spirit, also often prevents people from doing many good things which, if they acquired a strong spirit by trusting in God’s help, they would be well able to do. The devil, however not only puts them in a state of cowardice but also makes them take it as humility to think themselves unfit for or incapable of many a good thing that God has given them the opportunity and has made them well suited to do. Such folks need to lift up their hearts and call upon God. All this fear comes by scheming of the devil.”

St. Thomas More, pray for us! Help us to never compromise on the Truths of the faith, no matter the cost.

[Compiled by the Franciscan Fathers of the Immaculate]

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The Naming of John the Baptist

Naming of John (the Baptist) - Fra Angelico

Naming of John (the Baptist) – Fra Angelico

Taken from New Advent

“The birth of the Precursor was announced in a most striking manner. Zachary and Elizabeth, as we learn from St. Luke, “were both just before God, walking in all the commandments and justifications of the Lord without blame; and they had no son, for that Elizabeth was barren” (1:6-7). Long they had prayed that their union might be blessed with offspring; but, now that “they were both advanced in years”, the reproach of barrenness bore heavily upon them. “And it came to pass, when he executed the priestly function in the order of his course before God, according to the custom of the priestly office, it was his lot to offer incense, going into the temple of the Lord. And all the multitude of the people was praying without, at the hour of incense. And there appeared to him an angel of the Lord, standing on the right side of the altar of incense. And Zachary seeing him, was troubled, and fear fell upon him. But the angel said to him: Fear not, Zachary, for thy prayer is heard; and they wife Elizabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John: and thou shalt have joy and gladness, and many shall rejoice in his nativity. For he shall be great before the Lord; and shall drink no wine nor strong drink: and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother’s womb. And he shall convert many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God. And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias; that he may turn the hearts of the fathers unto the children, and the incredulous to the wisdom of the just, to prepare unto the Lord a perfect people” (1:8-17). As Zachary was slow in believing this startling prediction, the angel, making himself known to him, announced that, in punishment of his incredulity, he should be stricken with dumbness until the promise was fulfilled. “And it came to pass, after the days of his office were accomplished, he departed to his own house. And after those days, Elizabeth his wife conceived, and hid herself five months” (1:23-24).

Now during the sixth month, the Annunciation had taken place, and, as Mary had heard from the angel the fact of her cousin’s conceiving, she went “with haste” to congratulate her. “And it came to pass, that when Elizabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the infant” — filled, like the mother, with the Holy Ghost — “leaped for joy in her womb”, as if to acknowledge the presence of his Lord. Then was accomplished the prophetic utterance of the angel that the child should “be filled with the Holy Ghost even from his mother’s womb”. Now as the presence of any sin whatever is incompatible with the indwelling of the Holy Ghost in the soul, it follows that at this moment John was cleansed from the stain of original sin. When “Elizabeth’s full time of being delivered was come. . .she brought forth a son” (1:57); and “on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they called him by his father’s name Zachary. And his mother answering, said: Not so, but he shall be called John. And they said to her: There is none of thy kindred that is called by this name. And they made sign to his father, how he would have him called. And demanding a writing table, he wrote, saying: John is his name. And they all wondered” (1:59-63). They were not aware that no better name could be applied (John, Hebrew; Jehohanan, i.e. “Jahweh hath mercy”) to him who, as his father prophesied, was to “go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways; to give knowledge of salvation to his people, unto remission of their sins: through the bowels of the mercy of our God” (1:76-78). Moreover, all these events, to wit, a child born to an aged couple, Zachary’s sudden dumbness, his equally sudden recovery of speech, his astounding utterance, might justly strike with wonderment the assembled neighbours; these could hardly help asking: “What an one, think ye, shall this child be?” For the hand of the Lord was with him. (1:66).”


My commentary

St. John the Baptist became the “forerunner” of Our Blessed Lord; the chosen one to prepare the people to be predisposed to recognise that the ancient prophesies announcing a Messiah was to be born among them, was now, at this very moment, coming to fruition! What a thrill must have run over these oppressed people (who were later to become the first Christians) listening to the Baptist announce this breathtaking news: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah when he said, “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord; make his paths straight’”” (Matt.3 2-3).

John went out, baptising and preaching, preparing the way for the Lord’s “kingdom” to arrive, with truly staggering success. His powerful personality so filled with the fire of the Holy Spirit made a great impact and thousands (even priest and some Pharisees) rallied to hear him and follow his commands. But John made it clear from the start that, “After me comes he who is mightier than I, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. I have baptised you with water, but he will baptise you with the Holy Spirit” (Mark 1 7-8). To allay any lingering confusion among his devotees, and to confirm that he was merely God’s instrument, he announces: “A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven. You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, ‘I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before him.’ The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete. He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3 27-30).

It can only be a hypothesis to wonder what difficulties Our Blessed Lord might have encountered at the start of his public life, had the Baptist not already predisposed the people to His coming. Certainly some of the Apostles, namely Peter and his brother Andrew, James and John, were first of all followers of John the Baptist before Jesus called them to His side. What joy must have filled their hearts to find their wildest dreams come true!

And so Jehohanan, (John), whose name signifies “Jahweh hath mercy”, the greatest of all the prophets, whose birth we celebrate today, announces to the first followers (and to us too) God’s fathomless Mercy, Love and Forgiveness for whomsoever has ears to hear.

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Presentation of the Instrumentum Laboris of the Synod

From the Official Vatican Network, News.Va:

Vatican City, 23 June 2015 (VIS) – This morning in the Holy See Press Office a press conference was held to present the Instrumentum Laboris of the 14th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on the theme, “The vocation and mission of the family in the Church and contemporary world” (4-25 October 2015). The speakers were: Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, general secretary of the Synod of Bishops; Cardinal Peter Erdo, archbishop of Esztergom-Budapest, Hungary, general rapporteur of the 14th General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops; and Archbishop Bruno Forte of Chieti-Vasto, Italy, special secretary of the 14th General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops.

The Instrumentum Laboris, explained Cardinal Baldisseri, is divided into three parts following the structure of the Relatio Synodi, demonstrating the close link between the Third Extraordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops in October 2014, dedicated to “The pastoral challenges of the family in the context of evangelisation”, and the upcoming Ordinary General Assembly. The first part, entitled “Listening to the challenges of the family”, relates most directly to last year’s Synod, while the second, “Discernment of the family vocation”, and third, “The mission of the family today”, introduce the theme of the next one.

The cardinal highlighted certain novelties in the first part, which refer principally to the anthropological-cultural, socio-economic and ecological contexts, “now happily enlightened by the new Encyclical letter Laudato si’”. The challenges, he explained, are “poverty and social exclusion, old age, widowhood, bereavement in the family, disability, migration, the role of women, emotional life and education in sexuality, and bioethics”.

In the second part, “Discernment of the family vocation”, the Relatio Synodi is enriched with an extension of the themes regarding natural marriage and sacramental fullness, indissolubility as a gift and a duty, family life, union and fruitfulness, the missionary dimension, faith, prayer, catechesis, the intimate bond between Church and family, the young and fear of marriage, and mercy.

The third part, devoted to “The mission of the family today”, begins with a broad-ranging reflection on the family and evangelisation, and explores in depth a number of other issues such as the family as subject of pastoral ministry, nuptial liturgy, renewed language and missionary openness.

The general secretary of the Synod of Bishops noted that it makes reference to “the family and ecclesial accompaniment, the streamlining of procedures for causes for annulment, the integration of faithful in irregular situations, the eventual introduction of a penitential route, the pastoral problems regarding mixed marriages and disparities of worship, as well as questions related to responsible procreation, reduction of births, adoption and fostering, respect for life from conception to natural end, and education of future generations.

“The reference to the economic hardship experienced by many families, who run the risk of being subject to usury, is very relevant”, he added, “as is the socio-political commitment of Christians in favour of the family, also in the international context. In this regard, it would be useful to re-propose the Charter for the Rights of the Family, linked to the Universal Declaration of the Rights of Man”.

Cardinal Baldisseri illustrated the work of the Secretariat of the Synod Council between one assembly and another, which began in November 2014 with the presentation of the “Lineamenta”, composed of the Relatio Synodi and a series of 46 questions relating to the reception and deepening of this Synod document. The “Lineamenta” was sent to the synods of the sui iuris Oriental Catholic Churches, to the Episcopal Conferences, to the dicasteries of the Roman Curia and others, with an invitation to respond by 15 April 2015. The Secretariat General received 99 answers from the competent bodies, along with 359 observations sent freely from dioceses, parishes, ecclesial associations, grass-roots groups of faithful, civil movements and organisations, etc. The inter-synodal period has thus been shown to be “a valuable opportunity for listening to what the Spirit says to the Church in the plurality of her components”.

Finally, with regard to the methodology of the upcoming General Assembly, it was mentioned that it is Ordinary and not Extraordinary like the previous one and, in accordance with the suggestions of the members of the Synod, “it will continue with the project of the development of the Synod taking a dynamic approach more suited to our times”.

The Synod fathers reiterated the need to avoid a “long series of individual interventions, as has happened in previous Synod assemblies, to ensure that they are better distributed in the time available and not presented one after another. The importance of the Circuli Minores was noted, as was the need to maintain the principle of thematic order. Thus, the three weeks of the Synod will be divided in correspondence with the three parts of the Instrumentum Laboris. The first week will be devoted to the first part of the document, the second to the discernment of the family vocation, and the third to the mission of the family today. “At the end of the third week, time will be set aside for the preparation of the final text of the document, which will be presented to the Assembly for the final modifications, to be inserted into the text before its final approval. The method will ensure the opportunity to intervene on the part of all those entitled to do so, including at the end of the day, and will enable more time to be assigned to the Circuli Minores. It is expected that a final document will be produced and consigned to the Holy Father”.

With regard to information during the Synod Assembly, the cardinal mentioned the Holy Father’s affirmation that “the Synod is a space in which the Holy Spirit can act, not parliament. The Synod Fathers are invited to express themselves with parrhesia. They will be free to communicate with the media at their discretion and with responsibility”.

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