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July 8, 2014

On Culture (Look not to the Fifties, for it died in the Twenties)

Important Note: Dear Friends, this is not like most of my posts on this blog — what I here present is not a work of theology. This is just my very fallible opinion on certain aspects of secular culture. Catholics must be ready to voice such opinions, lest we restrict all of our input on society to merely those direct dictates of the Divine law that we know with infallible certainty to be true, for such restriction is not our calling. Further, what I present is absolutely not a condemnation of all culture since the 1920s, nor an endorsement of all pre-1920s culture (footnote 1); what I present is just some food for thought suggesting that, despite the great good in the 40s and 50s, perhaps we should look a bit further back than that for cultural ideals (more often than we now do, at least.) Above all let this not be a cause of discord between me and any of my brethren in Christ; again, this is just my two cents; close friends and people far holier than I disagree with me on these points.


I have recently become more aware of just how immensely important culture is in bringing about the Kingdom of God on Earth: both in my observations of the world around me and in my studies of the Social Doctrine of the Church.

The Church highly exalts culture, teaching that it is “…that through which man, as man, becomes more man, ‘is’ more, has more access to ‘being’.” The Church also teaches that the diversity of cultures is not only permissible, but very good, and that culture deserves a certain degree of freedom in its development.

But this same Church teaches that culture must respect the universal natural law, and that cultures can and must be judged based on to what extent they are formed by the Gospel and effectively give man the channels through which he may pursue the three transcendentals of goodness, truth, and beauty. Culture itself therefore must lead us, as a people, toward the good, the true, and the beautiful, instead of merely being a hobby for after we’ve finished pursuing these through prayer in Church. Of essential importance in these tasks is discerning where lies the divide between the merely enjoyable and the good, the merely profound and the true, and the merely impressive and the beautiful. My concern is that Catholics, instead of using true discernment, are readily swept up by certain aspects of culture just because they appear good in contrast to certain other aspects of modern culture which are obviously evil. But that is no way to pursue the good, true, and beautiful.

Being that almost every devout person I meet is well aware that modern culture is largely corrupt, but that there once were better days, it is very important to have in mind as a general point of reference, (not as an oversimplified black-and-white litmus test) just when it was that much of this transition occurred; that is to say, the transition from culture developing man to culture degenerating man. Most will insist it was the sexual revolution and the 1960s. While I agree that much evil degeneration occurred then, I insist that it was the decadence of the roaring twenties that saw the real beginning of the death of culture – not that the specific practices of the 20s were worse than those of the 60s (quite the contrary!) – but simply that what happened in the 20s was also a type of cultural death, and since it preceded the 60s, it would be foolish to look to the 30s, 40s, or 50s for the pinnacle of good culture, as many today do.

I therefore present to you just how and why it is that culture died in the 1920s, and my illustration will be dance, dress, and music.

 

DANCE

The 1920s saw the flourishing of the swing movement: the music, and the corresponding dancing. Many Catholics today advocate for swing dancing in a commendable intention to revive older forms of dancing to combat the truly degraded dance forms more popular today, but unfortunately they are just choosing a dance form that, in its own day, stood in stark contrast to the style of dancing preceded it (and had dominated Christian culture for centuries since the Christianization of the pagan cultures) as a stepping stone toward the sexualized, showy, inebriated, and chaotic form of music and dance we see today undisguised everywhere in mainstream culture. I lack the schooling in music theory to present a detailed analysis to prove this, but I would like to leave you with two things: these YouTube videos that I chose as objectively as possible to give the most honest depiction of the prevailing sense of 1920s swing versus the prevailing sense of the type of cultural dance that preceded it, and a testimony from my wife.

 

 

Now those were both social dances, and it is somewhat difficult to really ascertain what is going on due to the numbers involved. Let me now present a swing performance so you can more clearly see the moves involved; how full it is of extremely suggestive swivels, sways, shimmys, and all sorts of very impure gyrations. I would like to focus on the Lindy Hop, as that is probably the most popular form of swing dancing. There are worse forms that are far easier to condemn, and likewise there are more benign forms. Simply do a YouTube search if you would like to look more into this; I only even watched a few brief moments of this video here, because quite honestly, it depresses me too much to watch women treat themselves like this, even though I can tell that this video presents swing dancing that is more benign than much else that is prevalent:

Worth noting as well is that I have only included videos with purely instrumental swing music. As soon as you enter into the realm of sung swing music, you constantly come across songs full of sexual innuendos and all sorts of the problems (albeit in their infancy) that we now see with pop music.

I hope you are struck by how pure, beautiful, genuine, and joyful the older music and dance was, and how all of this is completely lacking in the swing videos.

We must not be afraid to listen to our hearts! Dear single people: which of these dances would you be more comfortable with your future spouse participating in right now? Which of these dances do you think the Holy Family would feel more at home in (though I doubt they themselves danced)? Which of them helps foster the 12 Fruits of the Holy Spirit in your heart – the sure sign of God’s approval – as opposed to encouraging the arousal of the more base passions? (The 12 fruits are charity, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, generosity, gentleness, faithfulness, modesty, self-control, chastity). We absolutely must ask questions like these, for that is precisely how we go about ensuring that culture is informed by the Gospel and leads us toward the good, the true, and the beautiful.

 

You may accuse me of singling out only that which proves my own viewpoint with these videos, but I challenge you to search far and wide for videos of accurate renditions of traditional cultural dance (or “folk dance”) from before the 20th century. You will get the same feel from every single one: purity, joy, fun, beauty, order, real socialization, and the like. Search far and wide for swing dance videos (or just about any mainstream dance from the 1920s on – tango (footnote 2), salsa, blues, etc.) and you will recognize in your heart a glaring lack of these, for they have been replaced with tendencies of showiness, sexualized beats (and even sometimes lyrics), undue intimacy between dancing partners, and the like.

 

I would also like to present to you this testimony of my wife’s. She was once a regular swing dancer, a swing dance instructor, and even a competitive swing dancer, so her words are far more powerful than mine:

 

Here is an excerpt:

 

I still remember teaching my first swing dance class…I recall these days with anything but enthusiasm and joy. On the contrary, a weight feels as if it is pressing on my heart as I think of this part of my past. I recall even early on having a sense of discomfort with the moves or styling techniques that I would often see being done, but I also remember justifying so much of my former way of thinking about dance… I thought, in pride, that my soul could not be damaged in any way by participating in the “traditional” dance of the swing era… I danced with countless guys in one night of dancing, I prided myself in often being able to find a really excellent connection with my dance partner, and I began to perform more experienced moves which entailed more hip movement, more rotation of the lower body, and more shameless boldness than ever before. And life was good. Or so I thought…

DRESS

 

This brings us to the dress of the 1920s (for a more thorough treatment of the matter, just google “flapper.”). Please know first that I am most definitely not some angry traditionalist who thinks that women who wear pants are sinners. We cannot simply wish and pretend that modernization has not happened, and try to live in the past. On the other hand, we cannot simply bow down uncritically to and accept all of the tenets of modernism with our only filter being “is it clearly seriously sinful based on the infallible teachings of the Church?” And so, I wish simply to present these questions to your discernment: Did the changes in dress (especially women’s) that largely began in the 1920s and continued to develop over the following decades really help culture be more conformed to the Gospel? Did they more exalt the glory of femininity, the complementarity of the sexes, and the beauty and mystery of the woman, the image of the Blessed Virgin Mary? Or did they do precisely the opposite?

Dress

If we ask ourselves honestly, we must recognize it is the latter.

Precisely what was so good and liberating about the revealing of more skin and the wearing of form-fitting clothing, which quite inarguably saw its primary impetus in the 1920s? All Catholics today are aware of the tragedy of the objectification of women, and how large a role immodest dress plays in that. But few do anything other than grasp at arbitrary boundaries in attempting to define when modest dress ends and immodest dress starts. We should rather turn to the nearly unanimous testimony of millennia of Christian civilization on modesty — a unanimity that only really started to fall apart in the 1920s.

Remember, I am by no means imputing any vice upon those Catholics who choose to dress in the culturally prevailing ways within reasonable limits (which is actually probably the spiritually safer route to a degree and in some cases -not that we always have to take the safest route-, for doing so guards against the pride of the holier-than-thou Pharisee). I am just here trying to lay down the principle; the ideal. When and how to implement an ideal, in the concrete, is always a matter of discernment and prudence.

MUSIC

 

The 1920s-1940s saw the flourishing of the swing, jazz, and blues that gave birth to the (similar in nature) rock and roll of the 1950s. While what I have to say about rock would also apply well to these former three, I will restrict my commentary for now on the latter, as it is by far the bigger problem today.

Rock music in general, including the “oldies,” presents serious problems with respect not merely to its lyrics, but to its beat — the music itself (footnote 3). Since rock music became popular in the 1950s, many Catholics today are comfortable with it; so long as it is not explicit in its lyrics or incredibly demonic in its beat. But that is no way to choose what to immerse yourself in (listening to music is a true immersion!) Even thousands of years ago, Plato and Aristotle insisted upon listening only to music that is beautiful, harmonious, and ordered; pointing out that one’s soul is always being formed (in all cases, but especially in the case of youth) by music, either helping the listener to choose the good, or reducing the listener to his animal instincts. The beat (and not just the lyrics, which are only a secondary consideration: fully sufficient to deem a song bad, but insufficient to deem a song good) of rock music is of a sort that never before prevailed in mainstream Christian culture (although it is indeed seen in tribal culture and in pagan pre-Christian culture) for good reason: it is intrinsically sexual, animalistic, passion-inflaming, and grungy. It is not healthy for the soul. .

I myself was blessed with interior light and honesty when I began courting my wife. Until that point I would generally permit myself some listening to pop music and so-called “Christian rock” on the radio, so long as it was not the especially “bad stuff,” and I had already finished the Rosary on my car ride. But when I was courting Regina I had to ask myself “Do I really like the thought of her reveling in this same music I am now rocking out to? Or does something seem not right about that?” As soon as I asked that, the answer was clearly the latter. In that recognition I found the grace to quit listening to that music for good, to the enormous benefit of my spiritual health.

I am so thankful to God for giving me these insights before I was married, because weddings are among the clearest examples of culture, and among the most powerful ways of influencing it. If you are planning a wedding (or know anyone who is), I implore you and your fiance to have the courage to break out of modern expectations, disregard respect of persons, and insist upon only having music at your reception that is wholesome and pure. I also encourage you to consider including modesty guidelines in your invitations, and to choose a modest and beautiful wedding dress and bridesmaid dresses. Regina and my choice to do all of these things did not go over well with a few, but in the vast majority of cases it garnered for us extremely enthusiastic thanks. Almost all of our guests were so incredibly overjoyed at the opportunity to attend a wedding and wedding reception “done right,” as they said, which many of them had never been to before. Here is just a small clip to give you a sense of our reception.

 

 

CONCLUSION

 

Though I hesitate to include this filth on my blog (and please, skip over 1:55-2:05 if you must watch this), I think it is necessary to help prove my case to those who would still look fondly on the 1920s. It is a trailer for the recent movie “The Great Gatsby,” and although we know that Hollywood is not exactly the most reliable source for historical information, they did – I believe – do a decent job depicting the type of shift that culture saw in that decade (By the way, I have not watched and will not watch this movie).

 

Furthermore, while this is not an article on the genesis of the far weightier moral issues (that is written about often enough), I would just like to point out that it was the 1920s that saw the mainstream-ization of contraception – which as Paul VI pointed out was the seed of destruction to come in the complete breakdown of the family -, and it was throughout the 1920s that saw the real development of the diabolical breakdown of our culture’s understanding of marriage, sexuality, children, etc.; just research the history of the activism and tragic successes of Margaret Sanger, Marie Stopes, Dora Russell, and Stella Browne.   This viewpoint is validated by prophecy as well, for it was in 1917, not the 1960s, that saw the Dragon really entering the world scene in a new and unprecedented way (Red October — see Revelation 12/Fatima), and it was likely around then that we entered the 100 year reign of Satan seen by Pope Leo XIII.

So what should we do?

  • Turn off the pop, rock, rap, hip hop, and other similar stations; even if you are just listening to “oldies.” Also, even “country” music today is really much more properly categorized as rock. Develop a love of silence, and when you feel the need for music, turn on some holy hymns, classical music (especially Bach and Mozart), good folk music (Celtic music seems to enjoy the broadest appeal – and for good reason), film scores (Hans Zimmer has many incredible ones), or something similar.
  • Don’t be afraid to dress differently from the culture, from friends, and even from family. In fear is no way to live out your days. That is all I shall say on this point, and I will leave the specifics to you.
  • If you would like to dance (if done properly it is indeed a good and wholesome endeavor, but also one which you should never let yourself feel like you have to do), then look up local contra or square dances in your area; these are actually quite common and provide the easiest way to get involved in traditional, joyful, pure, beautiful dancing.
  • Support modern artists who strive to bring us new beautiful compositions. Eric Genuis comes to mind immediately, as well as Celtic Spring.

And what should we not do?

  • Feel the need to tell people they are wrong. While I determine my own behavior in accordance with these cultural views of mine, I am silent 99% of the time when it comes to being with people who are even speaking their opinions of things in this realm that I disagree with. Preaching with deeds instead of words becomes doubly important when it comes to culture, and things that we cannot know with certainty to be correct on.
  • Develop a disdainful attitude toward all aspects of modern culture. Like it or not, you are a member of this culture, and if you let yourself thoroughly despise it, then you will not be able to help but despise the people of it, and what a horrible fate that would be. As you know from reading this article, I am a great advocate for transforming culture, but on the other hand we cannot wait for that to happen before we use what culture we do have to bring souls to Christ.  Far more important even than transforming culture is getting out to the peripheries, reaching the lost where they are, showing them Christ’s love – even if that must be done through whatever cultural tools we currently have at our disposal, and not being afraid of getting dirty in the process. Remember this paragraph if you remember nothing else from this article.

In sum, while we must be very careful not to approach cultural questions with the same fiery zeal and certainty with which we approach questions of Faith and Morals, we must also be convicted of their importance. It could perhaps be, after all, that the Culture of Death is the eventual and inevitable result of the Death of Culture.

 

Footnotes:

 

  1.  I am well aware that I have simplified things with my narrow focus on the 1920s; I have done so not out of ignorance but out of the need for brevity. I know there were certain cultural elements existing before the 20s that were reminiscent of it (e.g. the “ragtime” movement), as well as cultural elements introduced after the 20s that were reminiscent of the 19th century and before, and a million other complexities as well (including great variation within certain movements – the very most tame versions of swing, for example, might just eek by as acceptable), but the 1920s (and certain movements within it) is the clearest decade in which a large amount of the changes I describe took place, or were initiated. White Crucifixion
  2. Some will respond to this by saying “but Pope Francis likes tango, or this or that song, or this or that movie.” I love our Holy Father, I think he is a saint, and you will not find a bigger fan than I of Evangelii Gaudium.But I do think he is wrong on certain cultural issues; dance being one of them. I also find his cultural preferences in art to be not beyond reproach, as his favorite picture is this one entitled “White Crucifixion,” shown here, in which I cannot say I find much worth admiring other than good intentions. I continue with great joy and gratitude to be submissive to and formed by his amazing documents, homilies, etc. But no, I feel no need to be formed by his cultural preferences. I am especially saddened by his approval of tango (although I do not know of him doing this as Pope, nor do I know the details of precisely what dances he has approved of), which often practically verges on pornography for those who watch it, and fornication/adultery for those who participate in it.
  3. There are exceptions. I cannot completely categorically condemn any one genre (except perhaps death metal). An acoustic version of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Simple Man,” Ben E. King’s “Stand By Me” come to mind as rock songs that might be acceptable. Whether these examples and others like them (and there seems to be a somewhat steady, albeit only trickling, stream of similar examples even into today’s mainstream pop and rock) constitute true exceptions, or are simply instances of miscategorization, or if I am wrong about them being exceptions, I do not know. I do not foray into that debate because what I know now is sufficient to dictate the proper approach to which I feel called: there are only two radio stations I turn on in the car; EWTN and the classical music station (there unfortunately is no film score, folk music, or celtic station where I live!).
June 6, 2014

A Providential Encounter and a Story of Providence

Dear Friends,

What a beautiful thing it is when God makes visibly manifest His careful ordering of all of our affairs – even our seemingly small, isolated, and unimportant decisions. Let us always be conscious of that and strive to do all that we do living In His Divine Will, and aware of His continual presence, never daring to suppose that even the smallest thing is indifferent.

Last year, I wrote a post regarding an interview of Pope Francis’ and how it affects the pro-life movement. In writing that post I desired to include a photograph of a devout person praying the Rosary outside a Planned Parenthood. I performed a Google Image search to this end, and felt immediately drawn by the Holy Spirit to one of the images that turned up in the first page of the results. I went with this image, and it is the one still included on that post. After publishing that post, my good friend Fr. James Mattaliano, a very special and holy Jesuit priest, emailed me to let me know that the picture was none other than a very good friend of his, Kyle Clement, from Texas. But the Providence does not stop there; this past Lent, my wife and I made a retreat at the center where Fr. Mattaliano resides (in Massachusetts), and lo and behold, it so happened to coincide with a time when Kyle was also up making a retreat there – all the way from Texas. It was a truly blessed few days, and I am especially thankful that during it I was able to get to know Kyle. Kyle shared with us an incredible story – one that he had told very few people – but I asked him, for God’s glory alone, if he would permit me to post it on my blog. He graciously permitted it, and so I would like to present it to you all now:

 

Monday morning, December 23, 2013, was cool and crisp here at the ranch as I took my two grandsons (ages 5 and 3) to check and feed cows after breakfast. After feeding and checking cows, we called a set of horses out of the “west” pasture into a large corral; one of the horses was a customer’s who had been here for training.

 

The horses went up a sorting alley to a catch pen. The sorting alley is 12 feet wide and leads to a “catch” pen, meaning a smaller corral where the horses are easier to catch and halter. The customer had requested that she be made ready to “ship,” meaning he was sending someone to pick her up and take her to new owners, and we were going to facilitate. My grandsons stayed in the pick-up out of the wind and watched through the front glass of the pick-up.

 

I remember that horse, the customer’s palomino filly, coming up the alley toward me. The next thing I remember is my son, Dunn, helping me to sit up in the sort alley as I choked on blood.

 

I was wearing brown (faded to tan) canvas coveralls and was mesmerized by the bright crimson blood sparkling in the sunlight, flowing down the tan folds of the coveralls. The blood dripped onto the dust and made tiny balls of mud at first, and then it began to puddle…”I wonder if the Blessed Mother saw Her Son’s blood do that?” I became aware that my son was asking me to speak to him. I could not speak past the broken jaw and split lips so I tried to turn in order to talk, but then darkness started to close in on my vision. I turned my head back straight and the darkness cleared up, so afterwards I tried to keep my head straight. My wife, Valerie, was there and told me she was taking me to the hospital; I stood up and they helped me to the 4Runner (I didn’t want to get blood in Valerie’s car.) We had to stop a couple of times on the way so I could spit out blood, but we made it in record time. At the hospital we took off my boots and coveralls before we went in the ER. They sent us straight in (no waiting – all I had to do was flash them a smile!). They did a CT scan and determined that I should be sent to a level 1 trauma unit in Ft. Worth, 120 air miles to the east. They started to suction the wound and realized that some of the pieces of my mouth were barely attached, and I was able to do my own suctionioning, since I could feel my way around my mouth with the suction machine. The nurses and staff at the Abilene hospital were very nice and concerned about getting me somewhere that could address the injury.

 

The pain at his point was becoming severe…the image of the words “Jesus, I Trust in You,” appearing as they do on the Divine Mercy Image, seemed to float between my eyes and the world…I started thinking the words…I made a confession to the Divine Mercy image and at the act of contrition I was fearing of the fires of hell…I thanked the Lord for the injury – for the opportunity to do reparation for the vile things which had come out of my mouth in my life – and for His Divine Mercy which would allow me, a sinner, the chance to join my suffering to His to help atone for my sins…

 

I was not really aware of being loaded into the helicopter or of the first portion of the ride and came to in a situation hearing the nurse asking if i needed more pain medication in my IV….there was little to no pain at this point so i asked her to save it until we were ready to land. When we landed at John Peter Smith hospital the trauma team was ready for us and three oral/maxillofacial surgeons greeted us. We went for an MRI and more CT imaging, then back to a trauma suite where the surgeons explained that they would attempt to reassemble my lower jaw, suture my palate, and wire my lower jaw to the upper jaw, then finally suture my lips and chin. They explained that this would be under local anesthesia as they had to assess my bite and dental orientations throughout the procedure. I asked if I could keep running the suction and they agreed. The procedure lasted over 5 hours in total, with the jaw realignments and Novocaine injections being most painful. When the pain seemed to be too much I would think of someone I had at one time disliked (or worse), and would ask the Lord to apply my suffering to his healing. Most of the time doing this the pain would vanish…not just subside, but vanish. There were a few people I would think of and try this for, and it was clearly shown to me that if I still had unforgiveness or animosity toward them the pain did not vanish but would subside to some extent… I experimented with this and it was accurate… my pain would subside to the extent I wanted God’s love for them, and I truly loved them…enemies included. I can truly say that I have no human enemies today.

 

We were moved to a room by 10:00pm on Monday the 23rd – about 12 hours after the event …the first day.

Unclean lips

 

When Valerie and I arrived at the room, several nurses and other personnel came to do their various duties: get blood samples, take vital signs, etc. I was medicated for pain but was lucid and was observing almost as separated from myself. I became very aware of the spiritual world in that I knew I was surrounded by angels and the hospital was surrounded by angels – not just for me but for other people trying to trust in the Lord. I was prayerfully aware of the people ministering to me and I prayed for them in their lives, families, jobs and told them how much we appreciated them and their families. Valerie and I discussed how this event was working in the economy of God’s salvation and how we were being given the opportunity to affirm them in their Faith. Valerie relayed to me how, when we were waiting on the helicopter, she had called Fr. Fabian at the Carmelite monastery we frequent, and he said they would pray for healing but also that we would find the right doctors through which the Lord could work. Valerie went to sleep on a recliner in the room around 1am on the 24th and I prayed for everyone I had come in contact with that day; asking God to bless them and their families. Some of the people seemed to linger in my mind so I prayed an extra Ave for them.

 

Pain meds were dilaudid and morphine given on a rotating 2 hour basis, and I was unable to swallow and was using the suction almost constantly. At one point I poked a particularly tender spot on my jaw and saw lights swirling…then heard the Sanctus…then felt the Sanctus…smelled incense.  A Seraphim took form out of the swirling lights before me; it was huge and held a red-hot coal on a rod which looked like a branding iron. It touched the coal to my lip. The heat coming off the coal made the light distort and wave, but I felt no heat. I realized the nurse was speaking to me and wanted to take a blood sample. St. Raphael stood at her side. She inserted the needle for the blood sample and as I watched the blood flow out and fill the tubes it was as if something were flowing into me… warmth spread to my eyes then around my mouth then around my ears… I do not know if these are common side effects of these drugs (or maybe uncommon side effects), or if they had anything to do with the drugs at all. I was praying and giving thanks to God for His love for me and my family and the wonderful opportunity to offer and join my suffering to the suffering of Jesus.

 

I know that the beating our Lord’s Precious Body took was so much more painful than my small afflictions. I offered to give Him my pain to add to His. He looked at me, and with the slightest nod accepted it, and the joy immediately lifted me – at least felt like it lifted me – from the earth to the Throne room of heaven. I was aware of, somehow, the crucified Christ, the healing Christ, the child Christ, and more amazingly still, was aware of such bright living light that was itself somehow two lights now one moving from the other surrounded by a background or third light… I wanted to stay…

I came to myself choking and had to be about my constant job of suctioning.

The night nurse came in and introduced and handed us over to the day nurse who was a prayerful lady who was sorrowful in being away from her family on Christmas eve. We told her how much we appreciated her and how we wished to be with our family on this day as well. Our son called to tell us that they would continue our traditional practice of getting the tree and decorations put up. We try to spend Christmas eve as a family decorating the house and tree. We tracked their progress through the day and missed them. I was able to hear the grandboys over Valerie’s cell phone, singing and wishing us a Merry Christmas. The Doctor had told us earlier in the morning that my white blood cell count was too high (22) to release me, and that I would have to stay another night. Our eldest grandson, Brody (age 5), was to receive his First Holy Communion at the midnight Mass. Valerie and I visited and prayed and talked about how the Blessed Mother and St. Joseph, far from home and with no other human companionship, settled down with the angels to await the coming of the Lord…

 

 

March 30, 2014

Rights Never Exist Without Duties

I do not do much crusading against the encroachment of our nation’s laws upon our religious freedom.

I recognize this is a serious issue, and that fighting it would constitute a noble endeavor, but I also must choose my battles wisely, and carefully decide how my time is spent. It would be a true tragedy to lose our civil rights to perform the corporal and spiritual works of mercy, and indeed there seems to be new occasions of this by the week, but a far greater tragedy — and not a hypothetical one, but an actual current epidemic — is the neglect, by Catholics, of the corresponding duty to perform them as we now have the right to.

Consider the following:

  • We are legally entitled to pray and sidewalk counsel outside any abortion clinic in the country, and yet most Planned Parenthoods and other such “clinics” remain unattended by prayer warriors for the majority of their hours of operation, despite the fact (proven by the testimony of former abortion clinic workers) that the mere presence of one person praying outside a clinic usually causes a substantial amount of the women who go in to quietly choose not to have the abortion.

  • Our Churches enjoy near-total freedom of operation; Mass can be held whenever, the doors can be opened whenever, and we can have any sort of event we please in them, and usually even outside them. Despite this, most Churches have: horribly chosen daily Mass times seemingly to ensure that only retirees can make them (e.g. 9am), doors locked almost all the time so that no one can get in to pray (footnote 1), no attempt to start up perpetual adoration, no effort whatsoever to reach out to the poor of the surrounding areas and invite them in for prayer, no Eucharistic processions throughout the city streets, and no door-to-door or city-center evangelization efforts — all of which should be expected norms for each Catholic parish, which must be both a monastery and a mission in the heart of a world now perishing for lack of what the Church has.

  • Catholics can worship and pray whenever and wherever they please, and we all know the heartbreaking statistics about how few nominal Catholics attend Mass each Sunday, but neglect to consider how very sad it is that so few actually practicing Catholics take advantage of our freedom and our modern conveniences to attend daily Mass, regular Confession, weekly Adoration hours, etc. Our freedoms and conveniences give us opportunities of grace that could turn us all into great saints, but instead most Catholics are far too laden with hobbies, business, laziness, or worldly ambition to bother applying that great virtue of magnanimity to the universal call to holiness.

  • We are permitted to bear any external sign of the Faith wherever we please, and yet most Catholics seem to have blending in as their modus operandi. Despite the enormous channel of grace for lost sheep that the sight of a crucifix, Divine Mercy Image, image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, pro-life message, or Scripture quote can be, most Catholics’ personal appearance, external appearance of cars, and external appearance of homes are indistinguishable from that of any secular person’s.

  • We enjoy a great freedom of association, and can have anyone we so please over to our homes, and can do whatever we please inside these doors. Despite this, it seems that most Catholics’ social gatherings remain limited to a small, “safe,” and perfectly trustworthy self-enclosed group of friends and family — as if we were a formally outlawed underground secret community —  instead of reaching out to the needy and lonely as Our Lord demands (cf Matthew 5:46, Luke 14:12-14), and that even as the gatherings are, we seem to be too embarrassed about prayer to do anything more than say grace before meals together, with even faithful Catholic families wasting entire days just “hanging out.”

  • We do not suffer from child-limitation policies that hundreds of millions in our world today do, and yet so few married Catholic couples choose the path of fruitfulness. Whether by the intrinsic evil of contraception, or the intrinsic good of NFP — that, when abused and used at the subjective whim of personal preference instead of only being used to avoid conception for serious reasons (as the Magisterium has insisted upon on multiple occasions), becomes an evil — most Catholics choose to seek first the Kingdom of Mammon and only have as many kids as their financial planner deems “reasonable.”

  • Parents still have the right to educate their children however they see fit, and yet most Catholic parents send their children to schools that they must know will only indoctrinate them – unless their heads are so far buried in the sand as to pierce Earth’s crust – instead of diligently researching to see if there is a faithful local Catholic school, or homeschooling their children (despite the sacrifices this may entail).

  • We do not live under a regime of censorship, which has been the case for so many Christians throughout history and today. Despite this, most Catholics’ reading does not consist primarily of Scripture, Encyclicals, and writings of the saints (even if these aesthetically adorn their bookshelves), but of secular news, whatever work of fiction is found on the NY Times Bestseller list, whatever diet and nutrition fad research they feel will give them perfect health, whatever vain magazine is available in a waiting room, or worse than bad reading: sitting in front of a television.

Dear friends, I am no cynic. I recognize there are enormous forces for good active today, and growing (what first comes to mind is 40 Days for Life, the continued expansion of perpetual adoration, the boom of vocations in orthodox religious orders and the great work with the poor that many of the inner city ones are doing, etc.), but what I present to you here is a sort of an Examination of Conscience. Let us be sure that, before we dare complain about our rights being violated (and again, we indeed ought to fight for our rights), we are fulfilling the duties that correspond to the rights we now have – let us above all remember that this is what we will have to give an account of on Judgment Day, not whether or not we were born in a society friendly to our good deeds. It is up to us whether He says to us, on That Day, “Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” or “Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels,” and know that the latter response is reserved for the lukewarm, the indifferent, the apathetic.

But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember then from what you have fallen, repent and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent.

— Our Lord to the Church in Ephesus. Revelation 2.

Footnotes:

1: I would like to draw special attention to this point. This was point #2 in my “Plea to Pastors” from two years ago. I have long spoken against the practice of locking Churches, and was usually rebuked for doing so; “Things could be stolen! Liabilities! Dangerous! You are insisting upon something very imprudent!” people would say. But now the very Vicar of Christ himself has spoken against locked Churches, calling all of those types of responses “excuses.” See also Evangelii Gaudium Paragraph 47. Dear Pastors: unlock your Churches. Seek first the Kingdom. God is not outdone in generosity.


February 21, 2014

Michael Voris and Medjugorje

I often love “The Vortex” videos. I also often think they’re inadequately thought or prayed through first. But in this case it is neither; Michael Voris is simply dead wrong and misleading the faithful.

Let me begin by saying that I regard Michael highly. Having spoken to him personally, I know him to be far more than the simple merciless ranter that some regard him as. I wish he chose the path of trusting the Church to denounce the apparition herself, if it is truly a danger to the Faith, and if that is what the Holy Spirit desires.

I have been urged to watch the 48 minute “mic’d up” episode in which Michael Voris discusses Medjugorje. I refuse to do so. Not due to laziness, but on principle: within the first 30 seconds he sarcastically refers to the apparitions as having been going on for “600 years,” and then he next (despite the existence of a plethora of real theologian-experts and an official Vatican commission dedicated to analyzing and discerning Medjugorje) introduces E Michael Jones – a man with a stated vendetta against Medjugorje and whose PhD is in American Literature – as perhaps the world’s “leading expert” on it. But the bigger reason I will not watch it is the nature of his 5 minute summary of it.

This summary is the aforementioned 5 minute Vortex , which amounts to the following:

  1. Seriously erroneous theology. at 2:43, Michael implies that rulings on apparitions are matters of faith and morals. This is false. The very reason that a Catholic never owes the submission of Faith to any private revelation is because they, by their very nature, are never matters of Catholic Faith. They are only matters of simple human belief. Church rulings on apparitions (as differentiated from rulings on particular theological statements contained in an alleged apparition) pertain to her judicial, temporal duty, and are never infallible or even irreformable because they never comprise rulings on faith and morals. (Remember that the Divine Mercy devotion was once condemned). We must obey, yes! Always. But it is a dangerous lie and a serious heresy to say that such rulings are matters of faith and morals.

  2. Deceitful accusations. At 2:10 Michael brings up the two negative statements issued by Bishops against Medjugorje in order to accuse those who now make personal pilgrimages to Medjugorje or believe in it as disobedient to the Church. He completely ignores the fact that this does not bind the faithful, as the matter has been explicitly taken out of the local ordinary’s hands and placed in the care of the Vatican alone, as the CDF has made abundantly clear. “[The local Bishop’s opposition to Medjugorje] should be considered the expression of the personal conviction of the Bishop of Mostar which he has the right to express as Ordinary of the place, but which is and remains his personal opinion…Finally, as regards pilgrimages to Medjugorje which are conducted privately, this Congregation points out that they are permitted on condition that they are not regarded as an authentication of events still taking place and which still call for an examination by the Church” – Cardinal Bertone, speaking as secretary to the CDF, in 1998, after the statements Michael refers to. I pray Michael did not know of this, and therefore did not intentionally withhold such glaringly necessary information, which would be a serious injustice and lie of omission.

  3. Slander. At Medjugorje, Our Lady is relayed as saying “Members of all faiths are equal before God. In the world, all religions are not the same…” Michael summarizes that as her having said “all religions are the same.If I were the one who had said that, and not Our Lady, I would sue Michael Voris for slander, and I’d win.

    1. I have no idea where Michael found the alleged quotes from Our Lady on hell. If you’d like to see what she actually did say about hell, click here.

    2. (Michael does validly point out that she said she does not dispose of all grace, but he says this is in contradiction to her title as Mediatrix of all grace. First of all, the Church has not yet extraordinarily defined that latter as doctrine. That being said, I do strongly believe and promote it, and I hope it is soon proclaimed dogma; but I also do not see a contradiction. I think it highly probable that she does not dispense of all graces but does mediate all graces.)

  4. Straw men. Michael implies that the visions must be fake, because in one case, during a vision, a visionary flinches (barely even noticeably) when someone nearly punches her in the face. The Church does not teach that a valid ecstasy must be utterly complete and absolutely free from any possibility of being affected by external events. Partial ecstasy is a perfectly valid form of ecstasy. St. Teresa of Avila makes it clear that the suspension of the senses “may be incomplete, thereby allowing the ecstatic to dictate the revelations received.” Further, the miniscule amount which she flinched and the aggressive nature of the hand’s movement indicate to me validity far moreso than invalidity.

This particular Vortex links to ChurchMilitant.TV’s faq page on Medjugorje. A brief look through that reveals similar errors as the ones contained in the Vortex episode, in addition to another glaring one: it bluntly states  that fruits are categorically NOT valid arguments for the validity of an apparition. This is in direct contradiction to the teaching of the Magisterium in the 1978 document from the CDF entitled “Norms regarding the manner of proceeding in the discernment of presumed apparitions or revelations” paragraph 2)c. Not only are fruits valid, it teaches, but they are due “special regard” in judging the authenticity of an apparition. The majority of this faq page on ChurchMilitantTV is actually dedicated to opposing this particular Magisterial teaching.

Do I know that Medjugorje is true? Of course not! I don’t know of any Medjugorje supporter who claims to “know” that it is (although I have stumbled upon some venomous Medjugorje detractors who claim to “know” it is false), neither do I know of any Medjugorje supporter who plans to disobey the Church when she rules on it. But I do know that when Our Lady does choose to appear for her last time on Earth, to prepare all of her children for her Son’s final coming (which I believe is the case now at Medjugorje), that there will be plenty of problems pertaining to the human element of the phenomena at that time; problems that will give the Voris of that day more than enough to rant about. Let us not be like that, my friends.

At this post’s publication, the Vortex episode I here mention has received over 16,000 views. Please forward this to anyone you think may have seen it or may in the future see it.

In Christ, through Mary,

Daniel

Note: There has indeed been a recent letter from the CDF telling the faithful not to attend events that take the validity of the apparitions of Medjugorje for granted. This I will – and admonish you all to – fully adhere to. But it is absolutely not a ruling on the validity of the apparitions. See the theologian and Mariologist Dr. Mark Miravalle’s article on that here. If, by the way, you are looking for a real expert on these matters- a theologian, and one who has served on official Vatican commissions to study apparitions, look no further than him. 

February 17, 2014

Beyond the Gates

Dear Friends,Image

It is not often today that one can say he has watched a movie capable of changing him. Tonight, thanks be to God, I can say that.

Last week I bookmarked “Beyond the Gates” to be the Sunday movie for my wife and me to watch simply after stumbling upon it online. Recently I have been hesitating even from watching a movie once a week, due to the incredible lack of worthwhile films coming out (and the fact that I will never watch a movie with anything in the least resembling a sex scene; nor do I deem a film worthwhile merely by being enjoyable – what a waste of two hours if watching that movie does not find you a better person), but I am extremely thankful to God for compelling me to watch this.

This is a movie about the Rwandan Genocide – that unconscionable massacre of a million innocent souls by their fellow citizens, a mere nineteen and a half years ago, completely foretold by Our Lady one decade beforehand at Kibeho (along with how to prevent it) – an approved apparition (which, by the way, only received full Church approval after the genocide.) I know there are other movies about this genocide, but this is the best I have seen (far surpassing Hotel Rwanda). It is Catholic through and through, and the moral of the story is heart breakingly beautiful. It will compel you to act.

I am not trying to turn this into a movie review blog; I am writing this post because of what I was doing, Providentially, immediately before watching this movie. I was reading one of the writings of my soon-to-be Bishop (Albany, NY), Edward Scharfenberger. Here is the most poignant excerpt:

The really terrifying part of this institutionalized, “legalized” form of extermination of human life [(abortion)] is the routine, casual way in which it is carried on and the denial by a society that tolerates it in its own neighborhoods. No one wants to talk about it, no one wants to admit the obvious similarities with what goes on in concentration camps, those areas throughout the world where, even now, human lives are killed or “disappeared” because of some arbitrary category in which they are classified, whether that be female or male, Christian or Jew, black or white, Hutu or Tutsi [(a reference to the Rwandan Genocide)]– born or unborn.

            We must pray for one another so that our consciences do not go to sleep! The evil that is happening in our own neighborhoods does not go away just because we do not see it or want to see it. Every woman who is led to such a point that she feels she has no “choice” but to dispose of her own child deserves more from us than this. We pray in the psalms that “the Lord hears the cry of the poor.” How do we call ourselves disciples of Christ and not hear the muffled cries of a mother bringing her own child on a Saturday morning to a house of death?

 

Beyond the Gates is, above all, a condemnation of indifference and lukewarmness. The last spoken words of the movie are “We are fortunate. All of this time we have been given. We must use it well.” And who of us can say we have not fallen into lukewarmness and indifference? Therefore, as I have before, I would like to close with these words of Our Lord to St. Faustina.

 

“But child, you are not yet in your homeland; so go, fortified by My grace, and fight

for My kingdom in human souls; fight as a king’s child would; and remember that

the days of your exile will pass quickly, and with them the possibility of earning

merit for heaven. I expect from you, My child, a great number of souls who will

glorify My mercy for all eternity. My child, that you may answer My call worthily,

receive Me daily in Holy Communion. It will give you strength…”

 

In Christ, through Mary,

Daniel

PS:I must also take this chance to heartily recommend watching and spreading The Rite. I am disappointed that some Catholics oppose this movie due to a canonical error or two contained therein. What foolishness! The errors amount to very little, and are not in the least harmful to your average viewer (i.e. if you plan to recommend this to a Deacon, remind him that he can’t perform anointing of the sick, and all will be well); and yet what is to be gained is enormous. The entire movie is an unabashed and incredibly powerful Catholic argument for God. It is mainstream Hollywood (starring Anthony Hopkins), and therefore can easily be recommended or given to anyone. (The same, by the way, goes for The Conjuring.)

 

September 24, 2013

The Papal Interview & The Pro Lifers

Dear Brethren,

First, forgive me for adding yet another commentary on this issue that is already far too commented upon by far better Catholics than I; I do so because I feel I must.

I must because the morale of the greatest saints I know may be at risk (those dedicated humble souls who day after day bear all the suffering that comes with praying and sidewalk counseling outside abortion mills, and do so with the greatest love and gentleness) at an important moment: today being the eve of the start of the Fall 40 Days for Life campaign. I will share, by way of  personal story at the end of this, what I believe he did mean, but for now let me tell you what he did not mean.

Pope Francis did not mean “stay away from the abortion mills, stop praying outside of them, stop counseling the women outside of them and evangelizing passersby.” He did not even mean “take it easy on that; don’t be so zealous for it.” He meant the absolute opposite; he meant that the woundedness of our generation, thanks to its sinfulness, is so incredibly great that it no longer suffices in any degree (as it perhaps once did – to a degree) for the Church as a whole to merely make her opposition to evil known by way of denunciation.

He is not insisting upon falling back in surrender to a more comfortable spot of easy-going friendliness to the world; a succumbing to the times (which Benedict condemned as “blind conformity to the spirit of this age”); a softening of teachings; a shift of focus from sign-of-contradiction to just-getting-along.Kneeling outside Abortion Clinic

Rather, he is insisting upon a radical advance; an advance to the level of the saints, that is to say, the level of Christ. The level of the One for Whom it was not enough merely to denounce evil; but Who instead annihilated it by permitting it to nail Him to a cross. If the Catholic Church is the Church of Christ, then it must follow His life. I believe Francis is saying that we have now reached Gethsemane.

Francis is not saying that we must go from activist to apathetic. He is saying we must go from activist to warrior, and so long as the Satanic Prince of this World is in power (and he is now more than ever) – that is done by suffering violence, not by using it. As the woman getting an abortion feels the agonizing assault of her conscience, so we must stand or kneel on the sidewalks and bear with love the angry jeers of pro-abortion passersby, the cold snow and hot sun, and the alienation of certain friends and family members who will have none of that “fanaticism;” and even moreso we must look into the eyes of the women going in, feel their pain, and tell them that God became man in the womb of the Virgin so that we could be set free.

Were I to be asked just what it was I thought Pope Francis was saying, I would relay two personal stories:

Three years ago I was on pilgrimage to Medjugorje. I had foolishly not followed the advice given to pilgrims – to have a heartfelt confession be among your first activities – and had put it off for a whole week. That week was full of blessings, but I also struggled. I was not at peace with my pilgrimage group and was losing much due to that; some of them had behaviors that troubled me, I was bothered by their sinfulness, and some of them were not even Catholics. I remained reserved and ineffective in conversations with them because of what was likely a subconscious fear that I would be confronted with their sins or imperfections and have to deal with that. Finally I made it to that most merciful Sacrament, and tried my best to open my soul to a very holy Franciscan priest (a CFR). He paused, and said “… I’m not sure how else to say this, but: you’re not the Savior of the World. Jesus is.” It was as if a demon was exorcised from me. Afterwards I was able to see the person before the sin, have a Christlike love for them, and even enjoy their company. Ironically (but not really), it was only then that I was able to influence them away from sin by my witness.

In college, after I had reawakened to my Faith and was growing in zeal for its promulgation, I came to recognize that the vast majority of Catholics were, objectively speaking, in a state of grave sin. I had to do something about it. My engineering mind went to work and I put together a printout of what I deemed to be the most common sanctifying grace depriving behaviors there were (e.g. certain sexual sins, skipping Mass on a Sunday or Holy Day, etc.), so that I could post them everywhere, and people would then at least know. I neglected to consider that I was being far less gentle with others by employing methods like these (which, thankfully, remained uncompleted works in progress) than the Holy Spirit had been with me, in bringing about my own conversion. My methods are now far different and far more effective, but still with the same aim and the same motive: salvation, and love, respectively. Instead of the sin list, I now hand out this card that I made and printed 10,000 of. I speak first and foremost about the Divine Mercy, the love of Our Lady, the ease with which Our Lord is approached, and the like.  I urge you to do something similar.

I believe, in fact, that Pope Francis is merely trying to teach the whole Church what most dedicated sidewalk prayer warriors and sidewalk counselors already know, for they learned it through that very ministry.  They learned it by by seeing some misguided yet zealous soul shouting “murderer” at a woman on her way in, or standing and scowling with a sign, that reads in huge letters, “THOU SHALT NOT KILL.” Their hearts recognized that such an approach was not Christlike, and they even observed the complete lack of effectiveness of that approach. So they chose to approach the matter very differently; they pray the Rosary, they bring cards with the Divine Mercy and Our Lady of Guadalupe on them, they assure each and every man and woman going into those places of death that they love them and are praying for them, they talk about the mercy of Jesus, the love of God, and the power of Our Lady. They endure much suffering on those sidewalks, but they bear incredible fruit. It is as if they heard this very interview long ago, and followed its spirit perfectly, for in the interview our Holy Father said “We need to proclaim the Gospel on every street corner… it is necessary to accompany them [sinners] with mercy … when we speak about these issues [abortion, etc.], we have to talk about them in a context… Proclamation in a missionary style focuses on the essentials: this… is what makes the heart burn…ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently…Picture4

But he is also trying to teach the Church that lesson that brought them from merely being pro-life and denouncing abortion to being a sidewalk counselor or sidewalk prayer warrior: “[What] the Church needs most today is the ability to heal wounds… it needs nearness, proximity. I see the church as a field hospital after battle…There is always the lurking danger of living in a laboratory…you cannot bring home the frontier, but you have to live on the border and be audacious…it is one thing to have a meeting to study the problem of drugs in a slum  neighborhood and quite another thing to go there…

There is nothing else he could have meant by likening what we ought to be to a field hospital. It is as if he had said “your anti-war activism and pacifist principles are correct, but milquetoast. You need to feel the bullets whizzing by your head; you need to risk their implantation into your heart, and you must immediately go bandage up up your brothers and sisters who are dying of their wounds in the battlefield from this unjust war.”

I know that I am called to spend more time outside of abortion mills these 40 days than I have in the recent past. This Papal interview reminds me of that. I pray you feel this call as well, and know that our Holy Father will thank you for it, if not in this life, then at Judgment Day. But it is not even Pope Francis whom we do this for, after all; it is Our Lord, Who sees us every moment and knows our heart. Follow the conviction of your heart with greater zeal than ever; do not permit the devil to snatch that great gift away by means of misinterpretation of a Papal interview, or secular media spin thereof. Rather, be further inspired by its powerful true meaning. If you only knew the reward that awaits you for your faithfulness, you would die for joy and receive it now.

In Christ, through Mary,

Daniel

August 18, 2013

A Letter to a Relative/An Introduction to Theology of the Body

Dear Friends,

My wedding to Regina last month was a truly blessed occasion in every way! I cannot say how joyous I am, about that day in particular, but more so about the Sacrament we entered into on that day. I hope to soon write a post about our wedding and our honeymoon (a road trip pilgrimage to various holy sites in the Eastern half of the U.S.).

Before then, though, I would like to share something that has come up a little more recently regarding the wedding Mass itself. The priest who officiated delivered a powerful, beautiful, edifying, and uncompromising homily. It was the type of homily that, if we had more of over the past several decades, society never would have been able to sink so low.  He was very clear in speaking the truth about marriage and the dangers posed by the same-sex “marriage” legislation in our nation. This very much upset certain family members (there were homosexual(s) in attendance), and we were made aware of this via email three weeks after the wedding.

In today’s Gospel reading, Our Lord tells us “I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing! There is a baptism with which I must be baptized, and how great is my anguish until it is accomplished! Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. From now on a household … will be divided …”

I post this today to encourage you all to be witnesses in the world, and even in your own families. We must never pursue division, for in itself it is a bad thing, but we must be willing to accept it if it comes as a result of us sharing the truth in charity. Remember, never fear the truth, but also always favor gentleness and meekness, so that when we are persecuted, it is truly for the sake of righteousness, and not because there actually was something in our approach, itself worthy of reproach.

Here is my (anonymized) response to the concerned relative that I sent out via email a couple days ago – I always like to use occasions like this as an opportunity to provide a brief introduction to the Theology of the Body, and I encourage you all to do the same! This particular email was sent to a non-Christian, so I could not appeal to Scripture or Church teaching (which I would were I addressing this to a Christian or a Catholic, respectively)

Dear______,

Thank you for reaching out to me and letting me know how you felt about what was said in the homily of my wedding Mass. Please know that I am always open to hearing about such things, even if they are hard to say. I hope that all of my family members always consider me approachable on anything.

I understand that you and others felt hurt by the chosen words of Father during the homily. You are absolutely right that this was not my intention (thank you for recognizing that before I even had to say so); it is never my intention that anyone be hurt, especially not anyone in my own family. Please know that as I was up there before the altar, I was praying with all of my heart for those in my family who I feared would indeed feel hurt.

How I wish we could live in a world where hurt was not necessary, or that when it was necessary, it could be I who had to endure it instead of those dear to me. We all believe things that hurt others (merely in the act of our believing of them), and then even more hurt ensues when we vocalize these beliefs. We have to be prudent about when to speak, but we cannot always be silent. I am so glad that, over the years, there have been occasions where family members have said things that hurt at the time, but helped me after the fact to grow overall.

In that regard, I do not deem my own wedding to be a time when silence was called for; a time when we were gathering together to celebrate the holiness of matrimony to be a time when the foundational truths of marriage remain unstated lest someone feel hurt.

And since we have now arrived at the crux of the matter – the foundational truths of marriage-, please allow me to explain my beliefs, lest the popular portrayal of them leave you tempted to see me as hateful or bigoted. See that in what follows, I am not appealing to the authority of the Church or even of the Bible; but merely to what our Creator has written directly in all of our bodies and souls.

Though reductionistic modern thought sometimes insists people to regard sex as a mere chromosomal quality or difference in a few organs, anyone with wisdom knows better. What strikes you first whenever you see a person, and what you remember the longest, is that person’s sex. After humanity itself, sex is one’s most essential attribute; for it is not merely a trait – it is not something about a person like height or skin color – but rather it is who that person is. Try as you might, you cannot change your sex; you have it from the moment of your conception and you maintain it for all time and eternity. One can no more change from a man into a woman than he can change from a man into a dog. Language itself is and always has been well aware of this. It is demeaning to refer to a person as “it,” and grammatically incorrect to refer to a person as “they.” You have to refer to a person as a “he” or a “she.” There is no other way, and there ought not be any other way.

After recognizing the unsurpassably fundamental nature of sex, we have to ask “what does this truth mean? what does it teach us about how we are to live and believe?” – for God teaches not primarily through Scripture or the Church, but primarily through our very design. As soon as we have the honesty to ask this question, the answer becomes obvious: neither the male body nor the female body makes any sense in isolation. Each is expressly designed to be given to the other. Therefore this meaning of sexuality that we now seek is the gift of self. A man or a woman is made, from the very beginning, to be a gift to another. Only in becoming this gift is he or she fulfilling the meaning of his or her being and existence.

Sexual intimacy is the greatest physical mode of expression of this gift of self. We can make a sort of gift of ourselves to many others of either sex in many ways; but when it comes to sexual intimacy – the ultimate physical gift of self in its entirety – there is one place alone in which it is properly expressed and, in that place, made beautiful and honorable; namely, in the marriage of a man and a woman. To give the gift of self in the form of sexual intimacy, in any other fashion, is a lie against the very nature of the gift (and remember that this applies to any use whatsoever of sexual intimacy outside of this setting; not merely to homosexual acts); akin to wrapping up rotting trash to put under the Christmas tree just because you enjoy watching the children unwrapping gifts. We know what the culmination of that lie would be; the children devastated and the parents’ utter loss of the very enjoyment they were pursuing in their deceitful gift giving. The culmination of lying with the very gift of self that is sexuality is like that, but far darker and more destructive.

As we all know, a lie is an intrinsically disordered thing; it is an act that is never good or beautiful because it is never true. I sympathize with people who have dispositions towards certain types of lies; I respect their dignity and I love them. But I can never participate in what I know full well to be a lie; not by praise, and not even by silence. For me to do so would not be love; it would be hatred. For me to support, or even for me to fail to oppose, any legislation aimed at institutionalizing, encouraging, or confirming any one of those lies would be also be hateful.

That all being said, Father’s words during his homily are not the words I would have chosen were I to address a person who is proudly living the gay lifestyle (I am sure they are also not the words with which he would intentionally address a gay person; please keep in mind that he was speaking to a congregation of 300 people, the vast majority of whom were devout Catholics. I know him well and he is extremely compassionate to all.). Given that opportunity, I would say:

“You are an especially beloved child of God. Were you the only person on this Earth that could be saved, just as you are now, He still would have come down from heaven and given up His life for you. Not only that, but nothing you have done or will do can lessen this love. Even now you are not far away from Him; you need not undergo a long and arduous process of self-reform before approaching and being accepted by Him; you need only turn to Him. It is as easy as saying, with your heart, ‘Jesus, I am sorry. Help me.’ All He needs is your desire for Him – even if at this moment your desire for Him is more in the form of merely feeling a distaste for those specific aspects of your lifestyle that displease Him and an admission that you ought to be rid of them. Do not let yourself or anyone else tell you that you are “dirty” to Him; on the contrary, you are more precious than the entire universe, and if you only appeal to His mercy, then He would never and can never reject you.”

I cannot apologize for the substance of what Father said; I will always stand by it even with my very life. But I hope what I said here has cleared up any worries you may have had about my approach to homosexual persons, and helped you to understand more why I believe what I do.  If at times my behavior appears strange or my motives unclear, know this: there are really only two things I care about, and I strive to bring every single thought, word, and deed of my life in conformity with them: to know, love, and serve a certain Man who walked the Earth 2,000 years ago, and to bring others to do the same, for I know with the certainty of Faith that we will all see Him the moment after we die.

With much love and prayers always,

In Christ, through Mary,

Danny

February 21, 2013

One Practical Tip to Help Make You into a Saint

The Eucharist alone is our source of holiness. Only from it will you find the grace to become a saint.

The tip is simply this: Each day, strive to have absolutely no idea how many people were at Mass. (note: this is just a tip that will work for some and is impractical or inapplicable to others for miscellaneous reasons. No worries!)

How is this achieved?

By arriving early for prayerful preparation, sitting towards the front of the Church, keeping your eyes on the sanctuary – the Altar, the Tabernacle, the crucifix especially -, keeping your head down during Communion time, and remaining in prayer after Mass for a fervent thanksgiving. Do all this and you will not even be able to answer somebody who says to you “so how many people were at Mass today?

Arriving Early: At Medjugorje, Our Lady laments that if we had any idea what a grace Holy Mass truly was, we would always prepare for at least an hour. Angels tremble before what you are about to witness – it really is worth ten minutes to ready your soul for.

Sitting Towards the Front: This is obviously the main point that will not apply to many of you, and that is fine! But if you can, I would advise sitting near the front. The unfortunate fact is that many today have no desire to be reverent at Mass, and it is better to not have such people in our line of sight, which will distract us, or worse, tempt us to pass judgments on them.

Eucharist

Keeping Your Eyes on the Sanctuary: Of the thousands of Masses I have attended, I can think of only a few in which something has happened that has demanded action from me. I say this because it is extremely unlikely that there is any reason whatsoever for you to look at the noise that just came from the side or the back of the Church. Nor do you need to know who walked in late, nor do you need (except in extremely rare cases) to whisper something to your spouse or your friend with whom you are attending Mass. There is no better analogy for an aspiring saint than that of a soldier; we are indeed the Church Militant. Therefore let your focus be that of warrior.

Keeping your head down during Communion time: How much it must pain Our Lord when we use those few precious moments where His substantial presence remains in us (or those few moments leading up to that heavenly embrace) to entertain vain ponderings about other people at Mass; that is more lamentable than a newlywed couple watching television on their wedding night.

Remaining in prayer after Mass for a fervent thanksgiving:  Our Lord’s substantial (yes, that truly means physical) presence remains in us for approximately 15 minutes after receiving the Host – this is a simple theological/biological conclusion. It makes no sense to pray at all if we are not going to take full advantage of those 15 minutes, unparalleled in their power to sanctify. To desire sanctity but make a habit of leaving Church shortly after receiving and immediately concerning yourself with worldly affairs while He resides in you may not be an intrinsic evil, but it is at least incredibly foolish. It is like a student who wants an A, but sleeps through his examinations, hoping to increase his grade by meticulously completing his homework assignments later.

This is just one tip: the bottom line in the appropriation of the graces poured out upon you at Holy Mass is that you must be reverent, fervent, and focused – enraptured in so far as that is within the power of your will (wherein alone all merit lies) to accomplish. If ever a complaint about anything whatsoever – the world, other Catholics, your life – enters your mind as you are assisting at Mass, remember the words of Pope St. Pius X, where he attributed all the evil in the world to lukewarm Catholics; and there is no better way to be counted among this sorry group of souls than by neglecting to respond to the awesomeness of the Mass – nor is there any better way to be counted among the saints than by your faith, hope, love, and holy fear at Mass, and the wrapping of your entire being around the Eucharistic Lord you receive at it, that He alone may be the “source and summit” of your life.

February 9, 2013

My Engagement to Regina

Dear Friends,

With great joy, I would like to announce my engagement to Regina Marie Elizabeth Rose Wagner. She and I will be joined in Holy Matrimony this upcoming summer on July 13th!

Although I could go on for many pages expounding upon the joy, the inspiration, the contentment, the peace, and the spiritual growth I have been blessed with, by my relationship with her and the anticipation of my marriage to her, I will restrain myself and reserve this particular post to just giving a general idea of our relationship.

I had been striving with great effort, but not with great success, to discern God’s call in my life for years before meeting Regina, and she too was in a position of uncertainty and confusion as to what she was supposed to do next in her life. The time was August 2011, and it was in this setting that we both decided (before even knowing about each other), a mere few weeks before the beginning of the semester, that we would enroll in Holy Apostles College & Seminary right away. I did so having been given a clear sign from God (during a cross country voyage) that I was supposed to do that, and Regina did so also having a clear interior conviction that she was called to enroll, last minute, as a lay student at this same school. Up until this point we both had been quite settled on entirely different plans for the upcoming months and years in our life, but God had a different idea, rearranged our life circumstances to make it work, and made sure that we both followed it.

Now I had entered as a self-funded seminarian (not wanting to experiment on my diocese’ dollar), as the sign I was given made it clear this was what I was supposed to do, despite at that time having no more conviction of a calling from God to the priesthood than I had in the preceding years. Nevertheless, I entered the seminary with a general intention of becoming a priest, but also with a great openness to a different vocational direction if He showed that to me.

Holy Apostles is a college and seminary, so Regina and I had several classes together. Being a seminarian at the time, I of course had to strictly maintain a friendship with her and no more, but through getting to know her, constant prayer to God for guidance (especially after receiving Communion each day), and discerning the call on my heart, it became completely clear to me that I was meant for her. And since we began our courtship (after I had finished my semester as a seminarian), the joy that I have been given through her has been evident to all of my friends who knew me through my discernment process, and they unhesitatingly congratulate me for finding what so clearly is my calling. I now know to thank God for all the struggle I went through in discernment for years, because by it I now rest with such peace in the anticipation of my vocation: to soon be sacramentally united to her, as one flesh before God. In that peace all of the fears and anxieties that once assailed me regarding my calling, simply melt away; as they had begun to even from my first conversation with Regina. There is so much more I want to say about Regina; how I felt so clearly drawn to everything about her, but I will have to save any more for another time.

We began our courtship on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception: December 8th, 2011. The year of courtship that followed was truly blessed, and through it we both grew so much closer to God and to each other. Prayer served as our foundation and our strength. The daily reception of Jesus in the Eucharist was the source and summit of this prayer life, and whenever possible we would attend Mass together. Along with her Son, Our Lady was at the center of our relationship from the start, and the daily Rosary was our anchor. Spiritual reading directed us, as we always concurrently read three pages of the same spiritual book each day, and St. Faustina’s diary was our greatest joy in this regard. The daily 3 o’clock Divine Mercy Chaplet was indispensable to the formation of our relationship, and our weekly prayers outside the local abortion mill grounded us in love of neighbor. Frequent confession was our remedy for weakness, which we, like all, indeed suffer from.

Through all of this I truly found myself growing closer to God in a way that I had previously been incapable of, and this was yet another confirmation to me that Regina indeed is my vocation. Prayer, fasting, and works of mercy come more readily and easily thanks to my relationship with her, and I had a new-found desire and strength to rid my life of vices to which I had previously adopted a far too complacent attitude.
I would like to share the following prayer, which I wrote for both Regina and me to pray each day, towards the beginning of our courtship.

Mother most Pure, to whose fiat “behold the handmaid of the Lord, be it done unto me according to Thy word,” humanity owes its salvation, I beseech thee to present my petition to thy Divine Son Jesus; that we may always properly see and treat each other as children of God to be loved and served, and never as objects to be used for pleasure; that we may love each other with a perfect, pure, and disinterested love. Please send thy Divine Spouse, the Holy Spirit, upon
us, that we may rightly discern the will of thy Son, and incline our hearts unto it so that, whatever it may be, we shall follow it with joy. Help us to be in love with thy Son first and above all, knowing that any good thing we see in each other is a mere diminished reflection of the glory of Him who created us both, and that the love we hold for each other is nothing but a small flame next to the consuming fire of love coming forth from His most Sacred Heart, this love that he passionately holds for each of us so far exceeding any passionate love we feel for each other.

Immaculate Mother of Mercy, we place all of these petitions in thy hands with complete trust and confidence.

*Memorare…*
*Reading…* (our spiritual reading for the day)

On December 8th, 2012, Regina and I were engaged to be married. I proposed to Regina in the Our Lady Queen of Apostles Chapel at school, and immediately afterwards we completed our 33 day consecration to Our Lady, and did a Holy Hour before the Blessed Sacrament, laying our engagement and our lives at the feet of Mary, and Jesus in the Eucharist. Feel free to watch the YouTube video below, where Regina gives more details on the proposal itself!

I would also like to share this consecration prayer which I wrote for Regina and me to pray together on our knees before the statue of Our Lady, immediately following our engagement. I desired to, as the first act of our engagement, give it all to Mary:

     Dear Mother Mary, the Immaculate Conception, we kneel before you today and lay at your feet, as the first act of our engagement, our selves, our relationship, our betrothal, and our future marriage. All of our trust is in you and in your Son, Jesus. We earnestly give all that we have and all that we are to you, and with absolute confidence in the Mercy of your Son, we humbly beseech you to do as you will with this offering, whatever that may entail.
We lay our engagement on your altar and beg of you to use it for your own intentions; the salvation of souls, the deliverance of the holy souls in Purgatory, peace in the world, the consolation of the Two Hearts of Love, and the hastening of the Triumph of Your Immaculate Heart.
O Immaculate Mary, Mother of Mercy, free from any stain of sin, grant that we too may be without sin, especially at the hour of our death. Our only fear is that we may fail to flee to your protection, for we wish to be nothing but your devoted children.
Mary, we love you. Take us as your own.

Happy 22nd birthday, Regina. I love you with all of my heart!

January 19, 2013

Les Mis Reconsidered: A Plea for Total Purity

Forenote: Dear friends, please know that I am not rebuking anyone merely for thinking that this movie is overall very good. I beg you to read all that follows with prayer and an open heart. My thanks to you all.

I am finding myself saddened that some good Catholics today are defending the entirety, without any qualification, of the recent film adaptation of Les Miserables. I hope by reading what follows you will understand why this is so.

I have not seen, nor will I see this movie in theaters, so my comments here are based off of what I have read about the movie.Mother Most Pure

My first pain is this: There is no such thing as fully fictional live-action movie. Those actors and actresses are real people, real children of God. When their dignity is violated, Our Lord weeps and is crucified anew. It is no use saying, of some scene in which this occurs, “it’s fine because it was necessary to develop the story, which has a good lesson” or whatever other justification; they really had to do what you’re seeing on the screen. We must never tolerate them being used as means instead of ends- even if they themselves insist they have no problem with it.  It could not possibly matter less if there is a director somewhere out there who is capable of converting the entire world to Christ with one movie if he can only just get two actors to commit adultery with each other and record it for one of the scenes; it cannot be done. Period.  It does not matter if the story is great, and the overall message is a powerful force for good. You can never do evil that good may come of it.

Some say “even Scripture depicts scenes of grave depravity, like this movie does.” But Scripture is written words; it is not using people as objects, as a movie like Les Mis uses actors and actresses as objects. Further, and this is what is truly causing me to agonize, as it affects all the millions who go to see this movie: when sexual depravity like that is graphically displayed, it taints even the viewer. We fail to recognize this because today we have lost the sense of guarding the eyes, as the Psalms direct. “I will set no wicked thing before mine eyes...” – Ps 101:3. Now God is merciful and often permits what we did not consent to setting before us pass quickly from our memory and not do us great harm. But to willingly watch those scenes, to choose not to avert the eyes, to plan to see the movie (and those scenes) again, to recommend this movie to others without warning, and to specifically defend the objectionable scenes in this movie, can only ultimately result in the serious decay of the soul, resolvable only by repentance.

To willingly hold that sin before one’s eyes is to participate in it – the lover of pornography is little different from the adulterer. Some respond “but I did not like those scenes per se, as the pornography viewer does, I agree with their existence and like them insofar as they contributed to an excellent story.” But the moral object under consideration is precisely the same as with the pornography viewer, and a human act with an evil object is never good, no matter the intention. Beware, rationalizations do not mitigate culpability; they increase it. Remember that Our Lord had much more of an affinity for the prostitutes than the Pharisees.  Further, to indulge in those scenes for the sake of enjoying the overall story is no different than delightfully drinking well flavored poison for the taste; it happens often to children with Flintstone’s vitamins, but adults are supposed to know better.

God can and will bring good out of those scenes; He brings good out of everything. But when, in His omnipotence and inscrutable wisdom, He chooses to permit an evil that a good may come, He is not asking for our help in that task. Christ put it plainly: “Woe to the world because of scandals. For it must needs be that scandals come: but nevertheless woe to that man by whom the scandal cometh” – Matthew 18:7

Note: My words here are not for those who saw the movie, thought it was great overall, but took issue with those scenes (that can be a valid stance on Les Mis), even though I do think they should have been more prudent and waited for it to come out on DVD so they could turn it off before those scenes came before their eyes. I do plan to see it, but only with someone who has seen it already and is sure he can tell me exactly when to turn it off so I do not risk imprinting such uncleanness on my soul – the windows to which are the eyes. Rather, my words are for those Catholics who choose to serve as an accessory to the sin of those scenes — really choosing to consent to, praise, and defend them specifically.

Edit: Again, I have not seen the movie, but by “those scenes,” I am referring to  the scene in Fantine’s chamber and perhaps also the Santa scene

Our Lord Crowned

Update 2/22/2013: I would like to provide two excerpts from authoritative Magisterial sources that I pray will convince any Catholic who might be tempted to defend the existence of those scenes:

The Catechism of the Catholic Church Paragraph 2354: “Pornography consists in removing real or simulated sexual acts from the intimacy of the partners, in order to display them deliberately to third parties… It is a grave offense.” As you can see, the definition of pornography, provided by the Church, does not require that the act in question be portrayed in a positive light, glorified, encouraged, etc. It consists in (i.e. intent is irrelevant) merely being removed from the intimacy of partners and displayed to a third party. Further, it does not matter if the act is occurring in reality: its simulation (as I assume was the case in the filming of Les Mis) suffices for this unequivocal condemnation by the Church.

Humanae Vitae: “… every obscenity in the written word and every form of indecency on the stage and screen, should be condemned publicly and unanimously by all those who have at heart the advance of civilization… It is quite absurd to defend this kind of depravity in the name of art or culture”  Art has no right, even when it does explore the darker aspects of humanity, to display obscenity, as those scenes in Les Mis do.

January 17, 2013

“Livestrong” Demise

 A Vindication of Wisdom, an Indictment of Cowardice, and an Exhortation to Action

I always had a great aversion to the “livestrong” craze; especially the yellow wristbands.real hope

My reason for opposing it was similar to my reason for now opposing many other things that I am often chastised for my stance against (e.g. Harry Potter, yoga, certain genres of modern music/movies/shows, etc.): we ought not compromise and accept that which merely has good that can be taken from it (helping cancer survivors, in this case) despite its foundation being bad or its main thrust being bad (which I will presently discuss).

The whole inspiration (even if this is not what an official Livestrong foundation document would state) behind the yellow wristband was the exaltation of the life of a man (Lance Armstrong) — who walked out on his wife, who faithfully stayed with him through his cancer, after his rise to fame — merely because he demonstrated skill at a specific sport; “skill” which now is revealed to be thoroughly fraudulent. The Livestrong brand of inspiration was always a type of self-centered pseudo-hope, a sorry secular substitute for the supernatural virtue of Hope bestowed by the grace of God; the God who Lance Armstrong decided he didn’t have time for, preferring that typical modern mantra “spiritual, but not religious.” Lance, they say, overcame adversity by brute will and dominated all of his competition, and we need to be motivated by that. And so they were; they plastered his face everywhere and deluged society with the yellow wristbands to call to mind his story.

And now the Almighty, as He always does (in His own time), has demolished the false Idols that stood in the place reserved to Him alone. “He has shown the strength of his arm, he has scattered the proud in their conceit.

What is the moral of the story?

A Vindication of Wisdom: If you have, with prayer, grown convicted of the spiritually harmful nature of some piece of modern culture; if you have consulted about this with Catholics holier and more learned than yourself, and if you feel a peace in your heart with condemning it, then you are probably right, and need not constantly doubt yourself.

An Indictment of Cowardice: I was always too afraid to say anything against the “Livestrong” craze because of how much of a sign of contradiction that would make of me. But we must not fear being a sign of contradiction. Remember, we live in a culture that murders one quarter of its children. Blending in nicely with such a culture is not something you’ll be proud of on Judgment Day.

An Exhortation to Action: Always act with love, and ensure that your demeanor is one absolutely dripping with mercy. But it is time to step up our zeal in promulgating Heaven’s ways, and nurturing a contempt for the world – the fruit of the third sorrowful mystery. “…you are not yet in your homeland; so go, fortified by My grace, and fight for My kingdom in human souls; fight as a king’s child would; and remember that the days of your exile will pass quickly, and with them the possibility of earning merit for heaven. I expect from you, My child, a great number of souls who will glorify My mercy for all eternity. My child, that you may answer My call worthily, receive Me daily in Holy Communion. It will give you strength…” -Jesus to St. Faustina, Divine Mercy in My Soul.

*Note: I am admittedly ignorant on the details of Lance Armstrong, Livestrong, and this whole news issue. I speak only from general observations, and may have some specifics wrong.

July 19, 2012

The Unfathomable Worth of Your Knowledge

Dear Friends,

An experience this morning as I was praying outside a local Planned Parenthood struck me, and reminded me of something.

A man pulled over in his car with a chip on his shoulder. He wanted to tell us why we shouldn’t be there, why what we were doing was wrong, etc. By God’s grace I was able to mortify the temptation to wallop him in a debate on abortion (which is not a hard thing for any pro-lifer who knows a few facts to do). I strove to see the hurt inside him and addressed what I discerned to be the sickness in his heart instead of the error of the argument on his lips. After managing to give him a Rosary and a “how to pray the Rosary” card, Our Lady took his hand and did all the work. Soon after he was changed entirely; opening his heart up to me and telling me things about his past that he had never told anyone before. I spoke with him for a time, left him with some advice, assured him of my prayers, and he drove away; never to be the same again, I pray. I assure you it was not my eloquence or my own skill that did this, in any way (I did and said nothing special at all): it was merely my willingness to be an instrument, and the fact that I had just received the Eucharist, and handed it all over to Our Lady.

If you one day found yourself with a million dollars (good Catholics don’t play the lottery… so let’s say you just found gold in your backyard), would this not place upon your conscience a sense of duty to help others with it?

Most people who read this blog are good, faithful, orthodox Catholics. Catholics who understand Mary’s pivotal role, especially today. Catholics who reject none of the Church’s teachings. Catholics who understand the sin and error under which modern men labor. Catholics who know about Theology of the Body, the Gospel of Life, the apparitions of Mary, the wonders of the Rosary, the power of the Eucharist & Confession, etc. Catholics who are truly striving to become saints.

You are more rare than a millionaire.

And not only that, but the gifts you have make you far more powerful than a rich man of any net worth to bring even temporal good to souls. Let Bill Gates pour countless millions into his aid programs. By spreading your knowledge, you do far more than he in bringing even temporal good to the world. Consider that you will be aiding in the salvation of souls, and his work compared to yours is not even noticeable.

Some activists rightly protest pharmaceutical companies refusing to mass-distribute their vaccines in Africa even though they could easily afford to do so and thereby avert massive human suffering. But how much more lamentable is it for such a Catholic to keep dormant in his own mind this salvation causing knowledge? It is far more precious than gold, far more precious than any vaccine. And there are far fewer excuses for it to remain unused.

Be convinced, brethren, for it is absolutely true, that you have the remedy to the ills of those around you. Having this remedy leaves one and only one option: finding and pursuing chances to use it, no matter the cost to yourself.

You may say: But what can I do?  I want so badly to evangelize, to spread God’s truth, to fight for the salvation of souls… but I don’t know what to do.

Well, here are a few ideas:

  • Pray outside your local abortion mill (bring a friend with you). Especially if this is in a high-pedestrian traffic area, conversation will be sparked. Designate one person in your group to talk to people who want to talk, and have the rest continue praying as this occurs.
  • Always wear an external sign of the Faith. A clearly visible crucifix, a lapel pin of Jesus and Mary, etc. People will ask you about it, and about the faith that is behind it.
  • Be prepared. I proudly carry my “man purse” with me almost all the time, with a zipper pocket in it devoted to evangelization. I am never without rosary beads, how to say the rosary cards, divine mercy cards, Our Lady of Guadalupe cards, brown scapulars, and miraculous medals. These channels of grace will supplement the truth you bestow by your words.
  • Make your strong views in some way public so that anyone who knows your name can find them. Might this lose you friends, make prospective employers cautious, worry your family, etc.? Yes, it might. And it will not go unrewarded. A public Facebook, a blog, an email signature quote, etc. It is time to love Jesus and Mary more than worldly comfort, my friends.
  • Whenever possible, at social gatherings, spend your time with the lowly, the unattractive, the “weird,” the unpopular, etc. These are the people who need the company and who are generally far more open to receiving the truth.
  • Visit the lonely and forgotten elderly in nursing homes. They are in dire need of your company, and a startling number are in dire need of conversion of heart in their last few hours on Earth. Minister to the poor and the needy in any way you can; for these souls are always more open to the truth.


Remember that this isn’t about a debate or an argument or a fight. Go at it with that attitude, and your voice will tremble, your hands will shake, your adrenaline will pump, your thinking will blur, and you will achieve less than nothing. This is a chance to peer into the eyes of a child of God and see, behind the facade of anger or sarcasm or whatever other demeanor, a soul that direly yearns for its Creator. You have the knowledge and grace to effect the re-establishment of that bond.  Go as a mother goes to pick up her child who has fallen; not as a cage fighter to exalt his domination.

One final note. No doubt you’d (rightly) put food on your own table with that aforementioned million dollars before using it for charity. It is the same here. Before you go out evangelizing, first make sure you are in a state of grace, the Eucharist is the center of your life, you frequent the sacrament of confession, and your devotion to Mary is true and all-consuming.

July 16, 2012

An Urgent and Dire Plea to Pastors of Souls

Why is this plea urgent?

Because we are on the precipice of events that will demand heroic virtue from faithful Catholics; and the grace to undertake heroic virtue comes primarily, for most Catholics, from their parish Church.

Why is this plea dire?

Because whether or not it is heeded will determine whether souls created by God and destined to spend eternity with Him will reach this end or will instead endure never ending fire.


This is not a compilation of advice on how to be the ideal, saintly, and extremely successful Pastor.  I am not qualified to give that advice.

This is a delineation of what I deem to be simple necessities, for pastors must not block, (and they must strive to prevent from being blocked under their roof), the channels of grace through which sanctification flows. By depriving their flocks of these channels, Pastors deprive them of the grace they will need merely to stand in the days soon to come, thereby becoming the very cause of their downfall in the same degree that a doctor who neglects to vaccinate his patients is the cause of their illness. And so, dear Pastors, strive not to neglect these Twelve Necessities.

  1. Do not permit your Church to be dominated by chatter before or after  (or, obviously, during) Mass.  These are times for silence. The Eucharist is the “source and summit” of a Catholic’s life; and the prayerful preparation for it as well as the intimate 15 minutes in prayer of thanksgiving spent with His substantial presence is the means by which the graces from it are appropriated.
  2. Your doors must be open for people to come in and pray.  It may be excusable to lock them at night (but please consider always leaving them open. God will reward you.), but not during the daylight hours.  It is of no consequence how unsafe the neighborhood is; if you must strip your Church of anything that can be stolen, then so be it.  You cannot deprive your flock of the opportunity to be with Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament.
  3. Provide a daily Mass that is open to working parishioners (preferably and usually meaning one each day either no later than 7:10 am or no earlier than 5:30pm) if there are not others nearby.  Whether or not you think they will come does not matter; they need the opportunity.
  4. You need not constantly moralize, but each and every one of your parishioners must at least know what is required of him to be in a state of grace.  This can in part be done by putting large stacks of a good Examination of Conscience at the doors and taking note of them in a homily or announcement.
  5. Announce the norms for the reception of Holy Communion at least at Christmas, Easter, Weddings, and Funerals. To fail to do so is to encourage acts of sacrilege.
  6. Do not permit your music director to choose songs that are so silly as to barely be acceptable for a kindergarten class.  Favor traditional hymns, and carefully permit new ones that are appropriate: sufficiently solemn, serious, and orthodox.
  7. Liturgical silliness, effeminacy, or childishness of any sort are essentially acts of hatred against the grown men of your congregation; with them you drive away from the sacraments all but the most perseverant devout men. Permit none of it. For example, never tell your congregation as Mass begins that they must greet those next to them, or raise their hands in prayer. No foolish tunes for the sung prayers of Mass (i.e. the Lord’s Prayer). No displaying the Parish 1st grade class’ artwork in the sanctuary.  No Blues Clues homilies. No joke readings during the final announcements (if you must have final announcements at all). No liturgical dancing. (Just to name a few violations of this necessity.)
  8. In some way; either by announcement, or sign on the door, or some other strategy, remind people to turn off their cell phones.
  9. Going to Mass must not be an occasion of sin for the male members of your flock.  You cannot permit immodest dress in Church. A gentle reminder in the bulletin or near the door of the need to be modest in Church would be a good idea.
  10. Provide significant and regular confession times, and always without fail be in the confessional during those advertised hours, whether or not you think anybody will show up.
  11. Say the black, do the red (whether at the Altar or in the Confessional).  Anything more (or less) is from the evil one. Pray for the seventh Gift of the Holy Spirit, and the reverence with which you celebrate Mass will be evident.


It would be good to do much more; host perpetual adoration, organize prayer vigils outside the local abortion mill, feed the hungry, have Legion of Mary groups, host Bible studies, encourage community, ensure your Liturgies are permeated with a sense of the sacred in every respect, have daily benedictions and novenas, etc!  But I will grant that you may not necessarily be condemned for neglecting some of these pursuits.   But I cannot so comfortably grant that with the aforementioned twelve.

Let your own personal Eucharistic devotion be the center of your life.  Consecrate yourself to the Blessed Virgin Mary and enshrine her as the Queen and Mother of your parish and of yourself.  Then know that you have absolutely nothing to fear.

A final note to those reading this who are not priests: I have written this in blunt and strong terms because this is indeed a dire and an urgent issue; not because I desire to judge, criticize, or imply there is culpability on any priest in particular.  They were called by Christ and have given up their lives to bring you the sacraments.  They are attacked by demons more viciously than you could imagine. With a word from their lips, almighty God is made physically present on the altar and the most heinous sins are forever annihilated from your soul. Pray for them, fast for them, and dare not judge or criticize or gossip about them.

June 24, 2012

Flee to the Divine Mercy as Individuals

Whoever you are, wherever you live, whatever you have done… now is the time to flee to His Divine Mercy.  Please do not delay this one single more day

Some of you have committed great sins; the remorse over them dominates your life and drains you of any hint of the joy that seems now like nothing but a faint memory in the most distant recesses of your soul.  To you I say that all the bad you have done taken together is nothing but a miniscule drop in the vast ocean of His mercy, and you need only raise your eyes to Him to see that He is right next to you, waiting for you, with open arms.

Jesus, I Trust in You

Some of you have spent your entire life seeking meaning and have gotten nowhere; and in this pursuit you have exhausted hordes of self-help books, self-professed gurus, 12-step programs, diet regimens, fitness regimens, pills, self-esteem buildup workshops, and anything and everything that seems like it might provide the epiphany and renewal you crave. To you I say that this thirst of your soul can only be quenched by the one who created you and desires to give Himself entirely to you as you give yourself entirely to Him.

Some of you have nobody, have nothing, and see no light at the end of the dark tunnel you tread; and just to see happiness in others only deepens your depression because it reminds you of what you now believe will never be yours. To you I say that whoever has Christ lacks nothing; and he who has the whole world but has not Christ, has nothing.

Some of you are torn apart by a promiscuous lifestyle; perhaps this takes the form of impurity with yourself, pornography, fornication, contraception, adultery, homosexuality, or any number of the behaviors that detract from the beauty for which God created you.  To you I say that this most amazing and powerful physical faculty, your sexuality by which you are granted the unfathomable privilege of being able to participate in God’s creative act, has the potential to enrich your life or destroy your life.  If used in accord with its design; in a lifelong holy marriage, it will fulfill you.  If used against its design; in anyway separated from its power to procreate and unify husband and wife, then it can do nothing else but utterly destroy you.

Some of you, in seeking the spiritual leadership that is so lacking today, have turned to guides that cannot give that for which you truly yearn; whether it is Oprah Winfrey, Deepok Chopra, Eckhart Tolle, Rhonda Byrne, or any other modern leader who claims access to supernatural or life-fulfilling truths outside of God’s revelation of  Himself to us in Christ.  To you I say that the rays of truth that these people provide in order to draw you in inoculate you to the misleading error mixed in with it, and that any good you may perceive in your life as a result of their leadership is nothing but a fleeting wisp of pleasure compared to the infinite ocean of mercy and joy to which you have access in Christ.

Some of you suffer from wounds so deep that you cannot bring yourself to anything but despair; perhaps a divorce, an abortion, an abuse, a lost loved one, or an offense committed against you that you cannot bring yourself to forgive.  To you I say that for those who love God, any and all bad things in their lives are permitted to occur only because God is going to use them to bring about a greater good than they could imagine.  You need only flee to His mercy and eagerly await with great joy the day that God has ordained for your vindication.

Some of you have fallen victim to a pseudo-intellectualization of reality that only sows confusion, error, and ultimately desperation in your mind; perhaps you turn to pop psychology, evolutionism, the re-writing of historical events (Dan Brown, etc.), postmodernism, reductionism, Freudianism, Feminism,  Subjectivism, Skepticism, Agnosticism, or any field of study that proposes either to provide the answers that only True Religion can give, or to reject the answers that True Religion does give.  To you I say that the time will soon come when the self contradictions in these philosophies become so evident that it will be as if the stool on which you now comfortably sit and live your days has been yanked out from underneath you.  When that time comes, I beseech you to find that solid foundation of the only One who is Himself the Truth; Jesus Christ.

Some of you have grown so moored to an only half alive existence that you have forgotten there is so much more outside your now draining daily grind; maybe it was detrimental relationships, legal pharmaceuticals, illegal drugs, alcohol, sports, hobbies, stocks, TV Dramas, sitcoms, cars, golf, politics, or any number of the endeavors that draw away the zeal and interest that belongs alone to heavenly things.  To you I say that you ought not wait for the inevitability of old age to reveal to you the frivolity of these pursuits, and their inability to give you meaning or satisfy your soul.  Turn your focus now to the One who created you and to Whom you draw closer, by your approaching death, every minute of the day; He is not only your beginning and your end, but the only One Who even now can give you happiness.

Some of you choose to disbelieve in God; perhaps because you see Him as incompatible with science, as an outdated myth on par with ancient pagan “gods,” or simply as an unneeded concept that has caused more harm than good.  To you I say that your senses and intellect are each day flooded with irrefutable and absolute evidence of His existence, and He is patiently awaiting the day when you,  his beloved child, will finally choose to see Him; especially His presence in your brothers and sisters.

Some of you, in seeing how low modern society has sunk, have reverted to ancient errors; whether paganism, bhuddism, hinduism (and Karma thought), Gnosticism, Stoicism, or anything of the sort.  To you I say that what failed to produce their desired effect in ages past will especially fail to do so now that they stand in contrast to God Himself having taken on flesh for our worship and given us a Church as our mother.

Some of you, in fearing what true devotion might do to your life, have chosen milquetoast religion; perhaps at the encouragement of “health and wealth gospel” preachers, a “progressive” Church, or your own personal interpretation of Scripture; this is the religion that denies the reality of Heaven & Hell, the full Divinity of Christ, the inerrant Truth of the Bible, the necessity of a deep prayer life;  or religion that encourages illicit behaviors like contraception, promiscuity, homosexuality, and divorce.  To you I say that this deprives you of the grace and joy that an uncompromising submission to the Truth provides, and you must free yourself of these shackles that, even though masquerading as wings, serve only to bind you.  You have the key to these shackles– that ever relevant, infinitely potent, never bland Holy Gospel — use it.

Some of you, in seeking greater meaning than the modern reductionistic world provides, have turned to the New Age Movement; and try to find the fulfillment that only Christ can give through yoga, astrology, veganism, reincarnation theories, “energy” or vitalistic healing methods, channeling, fortune telling, pseudoscience, pantheism, “A Course in Miracles,” the “Law of Attraction”, occultism, divination, magic, witchcraft, or the like. To you I say that Jesus Christ is the Prince of Peace, and although you are right in seeking more than what the materialists posit, you forget that there are also evil spirits (who love to appear as angels of light to deceive us), and only the Precious Blood of Jesus Christ can protect you from them, and only obedience to His authority and commands can prevent us from straying into dangerous, soul destroying spiritual pursuits.

There is one answer to all these problems: Jesus Christ.  And there is one superior path that leads to Him far above all others (for it is that same path by which God chose to first give Him to us): His mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary. You may find yourself among one or several of these groups to whom I here speak. No matter.  She is still your mother, and she is the one to whom you must flee. She will show you the Divine Mercy of her Divine Son.

She is so easy to come to.  Gaze with veneration upon this image.  Turn your heart to hers.  Fly to her patronage-

Of course, it is not only through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary that we ought to flee to the Divine Mercy!  We should also directly address our loving God in each of His three persons; the Father, the Son (Jesus Christ), and the Holy Spirit.

June 12, 2012

The Daily Plenary Indulgence

The Daily Plenary Indulgence

It seems that few Catholics have really understood (or are even aware of) this awesome privilege.  The Plenary Indulgence: by obtaining one, a practicing Catholic is blessed with the ability to easily receive, each and every day, the complete remission of all temporal punishment (in other words, purgatory “time”) due to all of his sins (and to offer this up for the souls in Purgatory)!

Of course, let us not become scrupulous, superstitious, or legalistic.  These indulgences have nothing to do with eternal salvation itself, and indeed depend upon a genuine disposition of heart.  Nevertheless, let us be grateful sons and daughters of the Church by reacting with joy and zeal to this astounding gift.  Let us all strive to receive, every day, this unfathomable blessing.

To receive a Plenary Indulgence, one must 1) Perform the Indulgenced act, 2) Go to Confession (applies to “several” Plenary Indulgences), 3) Receive Communion (applies to one Plenary Indulgence), 4) Pray for the intentions of the Pope, and 5) Be detached from all sin.

Simplest Plenary Indulgenced Acts that can be obtained any and every day:

  • Praying the Rosary (5 decades) either
    • In a Church (or a public oratory – for example, a chapel at a hospital, prison, seminary, etc.)
    • With a religious Community
    • With a pious Association of the Faithful, or
      • Canon 299 permits “private Associations of the Faithful” merely by agreement among members, needing no ecclesial knowledge or approval. It is uncertain whether these qualify as “pious Associations,” under the terminology in the Enchiridion on Indulgences, but it appears that they do indeed qualify. (Meaning, for example, your local pro-life association’s communal Rosary outside Planned Parenthood would suffice for a Plenary Indulgence.)
    • in a family group
    • This prayer must involve pious meditation on the corresponding mysteries.
  • Reading Sacred Scripture for 30 minutes
  • Praying the Stations of the Cross
    • Must involve physically moving from station to station (unless you are in a group and only the leader is doing that since for all to do so would be disorderly) and at least meditating on each station.
    • The stations must be legitimately erected – 14 crosses with 14 pictures or images (e.g. statues). Some argue that “legitimately erected” means blessed by the Bishop; i.e. in an official Church, which of course would make an informally erected stations in your yard not count.
  • Adoring the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament for at least 30 minutes
    • Find a Perpetual Adoration Chapel near you
    • It does not appear that the Blessed Sacrament must be exposed in the monstrance, but rather it seems that even if it is reposed in the tabernacle, this will still suffice for a plenary indulgence.

The Requirements:

A State of Grace

If you have made a good confession, and since then have not returned to mortal sin, you are in a state of grace.  To this end, please examine your conscience.

Prayers for the Pope

We must pray for the intentions of the Holy Father.  Pray one Our Father, one Hail Mary (and, usually also one Glory Be is said) and before doing so, announce “For the intentions of our Holy Father Pope ______…”

Communion

Receiving Holy Communion once suffices for one and only one Plenary Indulgence.  Attending daily Mass then, of course, is ordinarily (i.e. excepting the sick who have Communion brought to them daily) required for obtaining the daily plenary indulgence.

Confession

One confession can apply to “several” Plenary Indulgences.

I do not know, nor can I find anyone who knows for certain, if there is a specific number attached to the word “several.” But in the year 2000, the Apostolic Penitentiary described “several” in the context of how many days before or after the indulgenced act one may receive sacramental confession; and the verdict was twenty. Therefore it seems most logical to interpret the same word as the same number here, and ensure that we go to confession at least once every twenty days, as this will ensure that we have accumulated no more than twenty plenary indulgenced acts seeking the benefit of one confession.

[Update 10/7/2019: I have heard from several authoritative voices on this matter that one Confession actually can apply to a whole month’s worth of indulgences and that one is thereby fully disposed to receive a plenary indulgence every day so long as he goes to Confession at least once a month.]

Detachment from all Sin

Needless to say, this is the hardest requirement; yet you need not actually have arrived at a life free from all committed venial sins to satisfy it!  Plenary Indulgences are not reserved for those few perfected saints with which each age is blessed. Rather, you must not be content with any of your sins (even venial); you must not intend to commit them again; you must not have formally incorporated them into your life’s daily, weekly, monthly, or yearly routine; thereby implicitly carrying in your heart the intention to continue in them.  You must strive to, and be willing to, give up each and every one of them, and earnestly beseech almighty God for the grace to do this.  You must not obstinately refuse to avoid occasions of sin that you are perfectly capable of avoiding.

Therefore I recommend reading a thorough Examination of Conscience, and being honest with yourself as you examine your life and ponder what sins you may be in the habit of committing.

I recommend one more step. Immediately after receiving Communion (during those 15 minutes where His physical presence remains inside you), make an Act of Renunciation of All Attachment to Sin.

Act of Renunciation of All Attachment to Sin

Eternal Father; in the name of your Son, Jesus Christ, and by the power of His most Precious Blood, poured out from His most Sacred Heart, and now physically coursing through my very own veins,

and begging the intercession of the Immaculate Heart of His Mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and all the angels and saints; especially St. Joseph, St. Michael the Archangel, my guardian angel and patron saint,

I hereby renounce, rebuke, and forever cast aside any and all attachment to sin; mortal and venial. I earnestly desire and intend to never once again offend you by the smallest violation of Your law.

I truly intend to never again, either in thought, word, or deed, commit even the slightest exhibition of lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy, or pride; and not only that, but to replace them with prudence, justice, fortitude, temperance, faith, hope, and love.

I am heartily sorry for having ever offended Thee, and I detest all of my sins, not so much because of Thy just punishments; but because I have offended Thee, my God, who art all good and worthy of all my love.  I love Thee above all things, and I love my neighbor as myself for the love of Thee. I forgive all who have injured me, and I ask pardon of all whom I have injured. I firmly believe all that the Holy Catholic Church teaches, because Thou hast revealed it, and I hope to obtain life everlasting through the merits of Jesus Christ, My Lord and Redeemer.

Other Points:

  • The indulgence attached to a prayer may also be gained by following the prayer mentally as somebody else recites it out loud.
  • Even if a plenary indulgence is carried out in such a way as to not have each requirement fully met, you will still usually at least gain a partial indulgence for your efforts.
  • Only one plenary indulgence can be received each day, and may also be offered up for a soul in purgatory
  • To gain an indulgence for oneself, one must have at least “a general intention to gain them…” Manual on Indulgences N17.2 (Meaning the requirements themselves, even if undertaken, may not result in the granting of the indulgence if the person undertaking them has no idea what an indulgence is and has no intention to receive one.  This is why it is so important to spread knowledge about indulgences.)

Links:

Ponder, dear brethren, how eagerly we can await our death, being in a State of Grace and obtaining each day a plenary indulgence! Our Lord does not desire that we go to Purgatory, and through the Church He gives us the means to avoid that place where, though temporary, nonetheless pains exceed all those of this life. Let us not neglect this great grace so that we may, as we ought, rejoice at the near approach of death! And let us take this opportunity to free countless souls from Purgatory!

April 2, 2012

Holy Images Crusade

Holy Images Crusade

Two images; unlike any other.  One, drawn by the Hand of God; the other, drawn in direct obedience to His command, so that “whosoever venerates it may not perish.”

 As we are now left with only a few grains of sand left in the hourglass of the Time of Mercy, it is time to flood our corrupt generation with these two images.

 Over the years I have developed unique methods of getting them out; here I provide a structure for anybody who would like to do what I have done.  I encourage you to do so and to send a link of this post to others, that they too may follow suit.

 Let this indeed be a Crusade; one of far greater importance even than the Crusade waged in centuries past to protect Christendom from Islamic takeover.  For in this Crusade we battle not merely against flesh and blood, but against the Prince of this World as he prepares for his ultimate battle against the Church.  We battle not merely an external enemy, but one who has insidiously injected himself into almost every aspect of modern culture.

For examples of how I have put these to use, see:
  • The rear view of my car.  (I do a lot of driving, and go under 60 mph on the highway to save gas – which means tons of people are always passing me – so this is an excellent means of evangelization)
  • The backside of my old business card
  • My banner for outside abortion mills, at rallies, at protests, etc. (Carefully crafted slogans are good, too… but none so powerful as bringing this image to an event)

1. Digital Files

 Divine Mercy Image:

Our Lady of Guadalupe:

Both, combined and sized to fit perfectly on a business card, with a few essential images added inbetween.

2. Printout Options

(If you have a good color printer of your own, give that a try first – but be warned, these will use much ink)
  • FedEx Office Print Online
    • This is the ideal option if you would like a sturdy, laminated letter-sized printout for outdoor use (especially for tacking onto the back of your car)
    • You will want the files in document format to use their printing service, so here they are: Guadalupe, Divine Mercy.  (Or PDF Format: Guadalupe, Divine Mercy)
      • After uploading the documents, choose “Set my own print options,” and when you do so, be sure to select “Ultra Bright White” cardstock, color, and “Lamination with 1/4″ border”
      • The cost winds up being $3 and change for each cardstock, laminated, vibrant color full-page printout.
  • SnapFish
    • I have already uploaded the files onto my Snapfish account, and am able to share these automatically with you, so that you can order them through your account, with this link.
    • Be sure to select the 8″x10″ option.  These cost $2.99.  Good for indoor uses, like hanging on a wall.
  • UPrinting.com (Update 4/2/2014: I have no idea why, but Google flagged my links to UPrinting.com, and I have had to remove them)
    • Perfect for business card sized printouts like this.
      • Using that design, you may either save money by doing only one sided printing, or you can add whatever message or image you would like on the back
      • You may also choose to do a two sided image printout; Divine Mercy being on one side and Guadalupe being on the other
    • Also good for posters, stickers, or sturdy poster-signs.

I would also like to add note of a third essential image; the Sacred Heart image, for Jesus promised to bless any home in which it is prominently displayed and honored.

***

This website is also wonderful for the Divine Mercy Image.

Various Recommended Applications:

  • Bumper Stickers
    • Must be laminated and mounted with clear packaging tape (or simply specifically have them printed as bumper stickers/car magnets)
  • Hanging Wall Pictures
    • You need not wait until you can afford expensive, framed pictures to decorate your home, office, etc. with holy images – do so right now with a quality cardstock printout and a push-pin or tape.
  • Posters/Fliers
    • For public areas, bulletin boards, etc.
  • Shirts
    • Have the shirt printed for you using an online service, or iron on the image yourself
  • Billboards
    • If you can spare the money, you will be doing enormous good by creating such exposure with a billboard
  • General Stickers
  • Handouts
  • Business Cards
    • Keep a bunch on you and hand them out freely.
  • Lawn Signs
    • Why not edify everyone who walks or drives past your house?
  • Clothing pins

Please feel free to comment with any other suggestions! I will keep updating this post as I continue to develop or come across more methods of promulgating these holy images!

“And the lord commended the unjust steward, forasmuch as he had done wisely: for the children of this world are wiser in their generation than the children of light.” -Luke 16:8

March 21, 2012

Does Mary Appear in the Night Sky this Feast of the Annunciation?

All the following is from my good friend and classmate Br. Joshua at Holy Apostles College & Seminary:

On March 25, 2012, millions of Christians (Catholic and Orthodox) will celebrate the “Annunciation” – which commemorates the conception of Jesus. This March 25, there will be a neat astronomical arrangement in the sky, that seems to mesh nicely. See the description below:
The sky will be spectacular in the west after sunset on March 25, 2012, with the waxing crescent moon and the planet Jupiter very close to each other in the evening twilight sky. Plus Venus is nearby – the sky’s brightest planet. You’ll see Jupiter and the moon below Venus in the west after sunset. The famous Pleiades star cluster is above Venus. 

For centuries Mary has been referred to as the “Morning Star”, the popular name of the Planet Venus. In this configuration, the Morning Star appears with the moon at her feet. The Pleiades (from “peleiades” the Greek word for doves) overshadows the Morning Star. Jupiter, the “King Planet” approaches the configuration.  The symbolism is striking. This is a interesting arrangement for the mystery of the Annunciation which heralds Christ’s coming through Mary.

The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God. (Luke 1:35).
“A great sign appeared in the sky, a woman- clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars” (Revelation 12:1)
Image
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