Pope Francis Awards Architect of Safe-Abortion Fund with Pontifical Honor – The Lepanto Institute
Whether folks were directly affected by the great tragedies of year 2017 or not, this year was unsettling. It is as if the whole world is addled by new anxieties, uncertainties, fears about the future, which continue to accelerate. Whether we know and understand all the etiologies of this phenomena or not, we might at least pause to survey and consider where we are and where we are going.
From a spiritual vantage, there was the 100th anniversary of the Fatima apparitions, the miraculous appearances of Our Lady in Portugal. We may have expected a bit more from this, perhaps even a sort of a symmetry of completion of those warnings as well as the purpose behind the Virgin’s messages. To the disappointment of some, that did not occur.
What remains is that many people seem to be suffering, losing sight of spiritual realities, occluded by the effects of sin, falling deeper into the pit. Catholicism isn’t exactly dying the way the Protestantism is, but the Church isn’t exactly at the peak of health either.
Intersecting the spiritual were the celestial occurrences: the total solar eclipse that crossed the North American continent; the succession of “blood moons” that punctuated the lunar calendar; the uptick of asteroids and solar flares. Even — I don’t know if I was the only one who noticed it — what seemed to be an increase of news items about UFOs and the like.
Then there was the natural. We heard about a quickening of the melting of polar ice. An enormous ice shelf broke off of Antarctica, the ultimate effects of which are not known. Coral reefs are declining, the reasons are far from fully understood. Honey bees and pollinators appear threatened. There were more earthquakes and hurricanes and other strange weather patterns than before.
Culturally, the West is in decline. Even the empty promises of the Enlightenment and all the strife driven by class warfare have been laid bare with catastrophic effect. No more is art meant to be edifying. No more is virtue part of the social fabric.
People are not merely titillated by sin — especially sex and violence — they are immersed in it and fascinated by it. Many are no longer frightened by Satan and the occult, rather, they are near-autonomic moths to these flames of destruction.
Geopolitics are the obverse side of the cultural coin. As the West no longer stands for much besides its own libertinism, it defends Western “values” not because they are good, but because of the gaping chasm beyond which there are other ideologies the West does not share and cannot integrate properly. That is, even as it gasps for breath the West does not want to be something else, never mind why not.
All of this sounds terribly unhopeful, such that there is little promise for anyone to survive the upcoming year, much less to grow and flourish. But I hope you haven’t come to this point with me expecting that I might conclude that surrender is the only option…
As the prophet Isaiah says, those who were in darkness have seen a great light, and it is this wonderful light that shines on the path and guides us to Him. To be faithful in this moment is to resolve to “double down” on our reliance in the promise that has been given — that the weight of a sinful condition does not triumph in the end, that redemption is possible, that we are indeed free to experience great joy and peace which surpasses all understanding.
To know Jesus Christ is to be serene in a tumultuous world, and to be moved to share ourselves with others in the same way that Jesus shares Himself with us, so that all the world might have and know His love.
So, above all your other worthy resolutions, I encourage you to resolve to cultivate your relationship with Jesus this year. Join Him on the altar at Mass. Seek Him out behind the screen in the Sacrament of Penance. Invite Him into your home and the hearts of your family at prayer time. Visit His Mother along the rosary.
Please keep me in your prayers, and I will keep you in mine. And may you have a blessed New Year.
Some might not be aware that on November 13-14, five people were killed and 18 others were injured by a single shooter at eight different locations (including an elementary school) in a small unincorporated community in Northern California. This submission is by the Very Reverend Avram Brown, a priest of the Diocese of Sacramento. /QMB
I went for a long drive Wednesday night. You’ve probably been on longer drives, of six, ten or twelve hours. I drove for just two hours, but in the pouring rain, in the darkness, it felt like a long time. You’ve had that experience, where the wipers are swiping through the streaking drops, and the headlights reaching through the rain into the black.
I was going to a place I’d never been before, so I had the small glowing light of my GPS directing me to turn left here, bank right there. Here in the California valley the land is completely flat, so flat you can flood fields for rice seedlings, but we’re surrounded by the foothills that lead into the mountains. My route led me into those foothills, so I went from the ruler-straight valley roads to the winding rolling country highways where the autumn oaks stretched their bare branches over the road like skeleton hands.
I arrived at my destination at a tiny community center in a tiny town, a public building like you’ve been in before, which is just walls and a roof, and this one with its “Maximum Capacity 90” sign inside. When I arrived the space was already crowded and continued to fill so we were far exceeding the sign’s instruction. I found there four other priests, and about that many Protestant pastors, amidst the families, adults and children: some holding the tiny candles that today are powered by batteries.
We were gathered there for the familiar purpose of Catholics in the month of November, to pray for the dead. We were also there to remember those who were hurt, who were wounded in the violence of the day before. One of the pastors had a wireless microphone, which we passed around to the different members of the gathering, so they could share their story.
What stood out the most was gratitude. Parents described their gratitude for the teachers whose quick response had saved the lives of their children. Teachers shared their thankfulness for the children who been so brave, and that they had lived. We had a lot of tears, and still some fear and anger.
When I was handed the microphone, I reflected on the moment when Jesus encounters his friends Martha and Mary, and they lead him to where their brother is dead. That’s the one place, I pondered, where we find Jesus weeping in the Gospels.
I described how close Jesus is to us when we weep for the departed, and reflecting on how the disciples saw how close Jesus was to his Father, I invited the gathering to pray the prayer that Jesus taught them.
For us who believe, we don’t know what fear, what violence, we will have to face in our lives. But we do know the one who has conquered death, whose light shines through every darkness.
A lot of things in life can offer us happiness, comfort, or soothing. But we have to ask each of them how they handle death. And if they don’t have an answer like our God can give, that’s our cue to leave them behind and embrace the one whose death gives us life.
I’ll always remember the dark road I drove and the candlelit gathering I found at the end. And I hope when I arrive at my last day, I’ll embrace the one who has the answer for every death. And I hope I’ll find you there.
To the child, Halloween has a broad appeal; there are costumes, jack-o-lanterns to carve, and trick-or-treating (the primary mechanism by which candy is obtained).
But the New Halloween of our age isn’t for kids anymore. It isn’t children working tirelessly in the yards of quaint neighborhoods to install the many inflated pumpkins, animated zombies and frankenfreaks, chattering ravens and cackling motorized skulls, along with lights, and spider webs, and styrofoam tombstones, and a whole host of other items from the seasonal aisles of the local Target.
It isn’t children who gave the New Halloween its own embedded and inherently false mythology, a sort of hybridized sanitized amalgamated tale about ancient stone circles of gnosis and druids and dryads and how all was untamed and yet wonderful before the nasty Christians came along and deprived the natives of their true inchoate and natural celebrations, the shells of which were co-opted and perverted and now all that remains is the equinox or made up name Simhain or whatever to remind everyone of how terrible Christianity is.
It isn’t children who make it the Dan Brown of “holidays”, in which freshly concocted garbage from the imagination of ignorance is packaged each year into the flashiest of coverings and presented as an apex in New Culture.
It isn’t children engrossed in a festival of masquerade in which few limits are placed upon poor choices so that craven appetites — more drinking, more drugs, more sex, outrageously profane and objectifying costumes, more libertinism — are proposed as normative.
In other words, it isn’t children who have screwed up Halloween, twisted it, and made it weird and stupid. Rather, it’s adults who are to blame for the New Halloween, an Embarrassment at best and a Portal for Demons at worst.
Yesterday we (along with Fr. A) piled into the Megavan, hitched up the new travel trailer, and drove north for almost 500 miles in order to place ourselves within the narrow band in which the shadow of the moon will fall upon our Earth. After five hours sleep, we were up, cooking pancakes and sipping coffee and thanking our hosts for letting us camp in their front yard. Until about 48 hours ago, this wasn’t the plan, but, the unforgettable is rarely planned.
This photo, although pretty cool, doesn’t really show what it was like. This is too much like a sun with a dot in the middle. Actually the black of the moon was so intense and in contrast surrounded by a most vibrant WHITE ring with wisps of misty light emanating from the ring.
St. Maximilian Mary Kolbe is most keenly associated with where he met his end, as a martyr imprisoned by the Nazis at Auschwitz, who ultimately gave his life in exchange for the life of another man. But, if you happened to be on a pilgrimage to Rome rather than Poland, you could nevertheless bring your intentions to St. Maximilian.
Near the Spanish Steps, is the basilica of Sant’Andrea della Fratte (St. Andrew “of the bushes”). St. Maximilian said his first Mass there in the side chapel known as the “Chapel of the Miracle” or the “Chapel of the Miraculous Madonna” on April 29, 1918. The pews in the basilica are normally oriented in the direction of this Chapel, in honor of the miracle (story in greater detail found here) that occurred there.
A French Jew named Alphonse Ratisbonne was visiting a Roman nobleman (a Catholic), and in the midst of a conversation with this Baron, Ratisbonne became very critical of the “superstitions” of Catholics. The Baron challenged Ratisbonne to wear the Miraculous Medal and recite one Memorare each day, and Ratisbonne agreed, reasoning that even if it did him no good, it would do him no harm either. Meanwhile, the Baron and his aristocratic friends began praying for Ratisbonne’s conversion.
On January 20, 1842, Ratisbonne encountered the Baron on the way to arrange the funeral of a friend who suddenly died at Sant’Andrea della Fratte, and asked Ratisbonne to accompany him into the church while the Baron went to the sacristy to make the arrangements. As Ratisbonne stood before the side altar dedicated to St. Michael the Archangel, the Blessed Virgin appeared to him.
According to this account:
Standing over the altar, Our Lady appeared wearing a crown and a simple long white tunic with a jeweled belt around her waist and blue-green mantle draped over her left shoulder. She gazed at him affably; her hands were open spreading rays of graces. Her bearing was quite regal, not just because of the crown she was wearing. Rather, her height and elegance gave the impression of a great lady, fully conscious of her own dignity. She transmitted both grandeur and mercy in an atmosphere of great peace. She had some of the characteristics of Our Lady of Graces. Alphonse Ratisbonne saw this figure and understood that he was before an apparition of the Mother of God. He knelt down before her and converted.
Returning from the sacristy, the Baron was surprised to see the Jew fervently praying on his knees before the altar of St. Michael the Archangel. He helped his friend to his feet, and Ratisbonne immediately asked to go to a confessor so he could receive Baptism. Eleven days later, on January 31, he received Baptism, Confirmation and his First Communion from the hands of Cardinal Patrizi, the Vicar of the Pope.
Following his conversion, Ratisbonne went on to become a Jesuit priest, and the Catholic world learned of the miracle associated with his conversion and was “impressed by it”.
It’s interesting to ponder that 99 years after Our Lady’s miraculous appearance and Fr. Ratisbonne’s conversion at the same altar where St. Maximilian said his first Mass in 1918, St. Maximilian was martyred.
Fr. Ratisbonne, pray for us!
St. Maximilian Kolbe, pray for us!
Our Lady of the Miracle, pray for us!
For a pilgrimage earlier this year, I made arrangements to visit the cell in the Tower of London where St. Thomas More was imprisoned as he underwent trial for refusal to take the Oath of Supremacy imposed by King Henry VIII.
St. Thomas is my patron saint in Confirmation, and today (June 22) is his optional memorial.
Although the Tower of London was used to detain the King’s prisoners from time to time, it is not a prison per se. Rather, it was (and is) a secure location belonging to the Monarch, which, in addition to quarters for guards and officers, also provides cells for certain “special” prisoners. Usually, such prisoners would be brought in upon a boat from the Thames through the “Prisoner’s Gate”, and then marched from there to their cell within the Tower complex.
St. Thomas, due to his status and rank, qualified to be imprisoned there, in relative “comfort” compared to the prison of the time for commoners of the realm.
As he first arrived at the Tower in April 1534, he had some privileges which his guards and examiners slowly stripped away. For example, he was permitted a writing table and chair, sufficient light and supplies for writing, books (in particular his breviary), as well as reasonably warm clothing.
Within the cell itself, not atop a “tower” but actually quite close to ground level, which had open windows overlooking a moat ringing the Tower, there was a cavernous arched roof, and lack of heat and exposure to the elements would have been a tremendous discomfort, particularly in the damp London winter.
The rest of the time, if it were more temperate, the open cistern the served as the cell’s “bathroom” would emit noxious fumes and gases back into the cell from the collecting sewage below.
Over time, as St. Thomas remained obstinate and his handlers grew impatient and frustrated, “privileges” were removed; no more books for reading, no more paper and ink for writing, the spartan furnishings were taken away, food become less frequent and plentiful, and finally, the very clothes warming his body were stripped from him.
Meanwhile, St. Thomas would sometimes catch a glimpse of his daughter Margaret from outside the window. No doubt, he was aware that he was not the only one of his family sacrificing to defend what was true. Positions for sons and sons-in-law evaporated as St. Thomas had lost the king’s favor, his “friends”, and became a political pariah. No more prestige for anyone connected to the More family, but rather the opposite — infamy. The
Crown would take possession of his land holdings and turn his wife Alice out of their home. All of St. Thomas’ income was lost as well.
Despite his rhetorical prowess, St. Thomas is most impressive (to me) because he withheld from making any public statements about the situation of the King’s marriage. He avoided the controversy, and deftly navigated — deflected — from taking a position. Ultimately, even his silence caught up with him, until his silence became a source of condemnation.
St. Thomas is perhaps too frequently cited as the outspoken herald for religious liberty, when the opposite was really true. He was inchoate prudence and restraint when it came to stating his convictions. How often do we (somewhat impetuously) “jump the gun” in “taking a stand”? Here, in our particularly troubled times where freedom of religion is assailed, St. Thomas serves as a fitting guide and witness. He managed to do more for much longer because he let himself be guided in prayer to the Lord regarding when and how to act and speak.
It was only once the jury (after just fifteen minutes) found him guilty upon hearsay that he put to rest the question of his “guilt”. Only then did he once for all make known that the king could not become head of any “church of England” and that the king’s marriage to Queen Catherine was true and binding upon him.
Shortly thereafter he was taken from his cell to Tower Hill (nearby) and beheaded. He said to the crowd that he “died the King’s good servant, but God’s first.” Also, retaining his (sometimes ribald) sense of humor to the end, and having become rather hirsute from his time locked up in the Tower, St. Thomas swept his profuse beard away from the path of the ax — saying, “This [my beard] has not offended the king!” — lest it fall the way of his head.
Surprisingly, throughout his imprisonment, and despite his high station, St. Thomas’ enjoyed a popularity among the people. He was respected — perhaps he developed a reputation for fairness over a long and distinguished legal career, or shrewdness, or managed to avoid giving offense unnecessarily, but he was beloved. His bodily remains came to be venerated very shortly after his execution, though he was not canonized until 1935 by Pope Pius XI.
In today’s Office of Readings, we find part of a letter written to St. Thomas’ daughter, Margaret, while he was imprisoned in the Tower (from the English Works of Sir Thomas More, London, 1557, p. 1454):
Although I know well, Margaret, that because of my past wickedness I deserve to be abandoned by God, I cannot but trust in his merciful goodness. His grace has strengthened me until now and made me content to lose goods, land, and life as well, rather than to swear against my conscience. God’s grace has given the king a gracious frame of mind toward me, so that as yet he had taken from me nothing but my liberty. In doing this His Majesty has done me such great good with respect to spiritual profit that I trust that among all the great benefits he has heaped so abundantly upon me I count my imprisonment the very greatest. I cannot, therefore, mistrust the grace of God. Either he shall keep the king in that gracious frame of mind to continue to do me no harm, or else, if it be his pleasure that for my other sins I suffer in this case as I shall not deserve, then his grace shall give me the strength to bear it patiently, and perhaps even gladly.
By the merits of his bitter passion joined to mine and far surpassing in merit for me all that I can suffer myself, his bounteous goodness shall release me from the pains of purgatory and shall increase my reward in heaven besides.
I will not mistrust him, Meg, though I shall feel myself weakening and on the verge of being overcome with fear. I shall remember how Saint Peter at a blast of wind began to sink because of his lack of faith, and I shall do as he did: call upon Christ and pray to him for help. And then I trust he shall place his holy hand on me and in the stormy seas hold me up from drowning.
And if he permits me to play Saint Peter further and to fall to the ground and to swear and forswear, may God our Lord in his tender mercy keep me from this, and let me lose if it so happen, and never win thereby! Still, if this should happen, afterward I trust that in his goodness he will look on me with pity as he did upon Saint Peter, and make me stand up again and confess the truth of my conscience afresh and endure here the shame and harm of my own fault.
And finally, Margaret, I know this well: that without my fault he will not let me be lost. I shall, therefore, with good hope commit myself wholly to him. And if he permits me to perish for my faults, then I shall serve as praise for his justice. But in good faith, Meg, I trust that his tender pity shall keep my poor soul safe and make me commend his mercy.
And, therefore, my own good daughter, do not let your mind be troubled over anything that shall happen to me in this world. Nothing can come but what God wills. And I am very sure that whatever that be, however bad it may seem, it shall indeed be the best.
Father, you confirm the true faith
with the crown of martyrdom.
May the prayers of Saints John Fisher and Thomas More
give us the courage to proclaim our faith
by the witness of our lives.
Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
When it comes to true, honest barbecue, the surest sign (and only advertising required) that it is the “real deal” is the smoke that announces itself. In culinary terms, the white smoke of barbecue is the “Habemus papam” of carnivores. If you stand outside “Joe Bob’s World Famous Texabamalina BBQ” and do not smell delicious vapors wafting forth somewhere overhead, you have arrived at a den of thieves and house of liars and you should quickly run, run away.
Since such places are few and far between, and since I live in a state that produces a passable tri-tip but pork not so much, I am my own pit master. But, let’s be fair. There’s the way it has always been done (TM) and then there’s the way to cheat and pretend.
I’ve written of this beast before. I make pizza in it. It’s a mess. I bought it for $200 five years ago and can’t find another one. When it finally falls apart I’ll search for the rough equivalent or move on to a cut open metal barrel.
There’s two sides for cooking. Doors on the front for adding fuel. No gas, no pellets, no electricity. You start a fire on one side, you tend it, you can fit 4 shoulders on the other side, or 6 racks of ribs.
Yesterday (Saturday) I started it around 1pm and smoked three racks of ribs for 6 hours. At 8:00pm I put on four pork shoulders, an checked the coals and wood every 90 minutes through the night (well, I check it at three-hour intervals overnight). Twenty hours later (with temps on the meat side ranging 200-225) the shoulders are done.
A reader of this blog submitted the following in response to my post “RCIA and Prior Marriages: Waiting for the Sacraments“:
My husband and I converted to the catholic faith twenty years ago. We were not asked if we’d been married before. We’ve been very devoted and active in our church. However, upon our daughter’S decision to convert, annulment came to the forefront. She was married before. Total fear has gripped me as I realized my husband and I were married to others. We have been married for over thirty years. I was married once to an abusive alcoholic who physically beat me and my children. I eventually left him. My husband was married three times before. The first lasting eleven years the second two lasting less than a year. He was mixed up. His first wife is now dead. We have no idea where any of these people are and the pain and effort to try to find them would be horrendous. So, now what. We leave the church? This is scary and upsetting. My husband and I are very much in love and both feel very, very blessed to have found each other after the pain we went through.
First, I want to urge you not to even THINK of “leaving the church” as you and your husband belong to the Church and she belongs to you.
However, all the same, this is a serious situation. Since you say you’ve been very devoted and active in your parish, a good starting point would be for both of you to go and visit your current pastor and explain what has come to light. Make sure he understands that when you were going through RCIA (or the equivalent) you were never asked about prior marriages, and had you been asked (or had you understood the significance of a prior marriage) you would have given forthright and truthful answers (Jesus knows this already).
As I wrote in my post, we ask about prior marriages before people come into the Church exactly so that this does not happen, but I do not know the correct approach twenty years after the fact. It will depend — to a large extent — on your pastor and what he counsels is prudent for you to do. I know that’s not a very excellent “Canon Law” sort of answer, but for us laypeople it is important to listen to our pastors, who are responsible for our spiritual well being, and rely upon their judgments and decisions. When we do this (give obedience to the Church’s lawful ministers) it becomes the pastor’s issue if he’s off the mark, not ours (see Luke 17:2). Only when we know that our pastor is flat out wrong is it appropriate to “go over Father’s head”.
I am not the right person to answer all the marital “ins and outs” — as in whether this marriage or that marriage was actually valid. The facts aren’t complete enough anyway. Most likely, your husband’s first marriage is a non-issue because his first wife has died. If his first wife was living when he married his second and third wives, those marriages may never have been valid either. The fact of your first husband’s abuse and alcoholism is very sad and I’m very sorry, but may not have much to do with whether that marriage was valid or not; more facts are needed to answer that question.
Do not despair, as you are Home and no one has a right to ask you to leave. The hardest part will be to approach your pastor and begin the discussion, but it will not be nearly as painful or impossible as you have come to fear. Remember that Our Lord is already walking this path with you, and has you and your husband safely in His Most Sacred Heart.
Please be assured of my prayers during this time, and let me know if I can be of any further assistance.