Sunday, September 29, 2013

Crescendo: From Discordant Note to Symphony

Caution: If you haven’t seen Crescendo but want to see it “unspoiled,” then I would advise you view the film and then read this post. Thank you.

Crescendo is a short film based on the diary of Maria Beethoven, mother of Ludwig van Beethoven. Pattie Mallette, mother of pop artist, Justin Bieber, is the executive producer. Like Maria, Pattie was also tempted to take the easy way by having an abortion as an unwed mother. But she received aid and comfort from people at a maternity house.

The deeper underlying message of the film, in addition to its advocacy for life, is that through the Cross- that is, through suffering -great things and achievements are born. God, quite often, uses a discordant note to make a symphony.

As for Maria, she married a man by the name of Johann, a man who turned to the bottle in time of distress. It just so happened that his musical ambitions went unrealized. Unable to process his shattered dreams in a spiritually productive way, he drank away his sorrows and became an abusive husband.

Maria once characterized her marriage as a “chain of sorrows.” Perhaps, this is why, when she conceived Ludwig, their first born, she was tempted to have an abortion. In any event, although she stopped short of going through with it, she eventually came to know the pain of losing a child through death. In fact, four out of the seven children she gave birth to ended up dying in their early childhood years.

Maria Beethoven knew suffering during her short life of forty years. After she had died, Ludwig, her eldest son, said she was not only a good mother, but a dear friend.

As for the musical genius, Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827), he, like his mother, became acquainted with hardship. About the age of 30, he contracted a severe cold. But because his sickness was largely left untreated, it eventually led to the permanent loss of his hearing. So devastated was he over this disability, it led to a severe depression. He even entertained thoughts of suicide. In a letter to a friend, he poured out his lament over his loss of hearing:

“From year to year my hopes of being cured have gradually been shattered ... I must live like an outcast; if I appear in company, I am overcome by a burning anxiety, a fear that I am running the risk of letting people notice my condition. ... How humiliated I have felt if somebody standing beside me heard the sound of a flute in the distance and I heard nothing…”

It is interesting to note, to say the least, that the best music he composed was during this time of darkness.  Indeed, from this suffering came forth, this brilliant mind composed the world's most beautiful music. Incidentally, (or providentially) Beethoven was baptized a Catholic and died receiving the Last Rites from the Church in 1827. And I cannot help but believe that as he was going deaf and as he burned with anxiety, that his faith in Christ gave meaning to that suffering.

Both Maria and Ludwig teach us that great suffering is not incompatible with great accomplishments. True, both of them almost failed to see this. After all, the former was tempted with abortion, the latter with suicide. But as we often see in hindsight, adversity may be what is needed to bring about greatness and even new life. This is an important prolife message!

Raising awareness to human dignity does involve arguments that expose moral evils such as abortion and suicide. But in order for these moral arguments to be effective, there must be an interpretation of those things which lead to abortion or even euthanasia. To say it another way, Christians have to give meaning and dignity to suffering before the dignity of life can take hold in our culture. If the trials of an unwed mother or the burden of incurring a disability can be put into perspective for those who suffer from it, then these hardships can be borne with patience. Life, instead of being dispensed with, can then take on meaning. This is what the great moral revolution of the Cross brought to the unbaptized world. It gave dignity and purpose to suffering; and in so doing, it unveiled the splendor of human dignity..

The short film, Crescendo, shows us that God uses discordant notes to create beautiful symphonies. For centuries, he has chosen do this through the instrumentation of the Cross, that is, through the sometimes exceedingly difficult circumstances that we find ourselves in.  When these are united to Christ in a spirit of love and resignation, then God can take our discordant note to create a symphony.

For a preview of the film, click here: Crescendo

Friday, September 27, 2013

God and in-laws

In his commentary on the Lord’s Prayer, St. Thomas Aquinas said, “The Lord's Prayer is the most perfect of prayers. . . . In it we ask, not only for all the things we can rightly desire, but also in the sequence that they should be desired. This prayer not only teaches us to ask for things, but also in what order we should desire them.” By petitioning God, “Thy will be done,” grace is also given to prioritize how we love those who are closest to us. But in the absence of this grace or with the lack of proper spiritual formation, this proper sequence of desires and love’s priority will suffer want. This is especially important for those who believe they are called to the vocation of marriage.

Any marriage-prep program worthy of the name will communicate the following advice to engaged couples: “Make sure you soon-to-be spouse loves God more than you; and you more than his parents.” As for the first part, it suggests that your prospective spouse will put God first in his life. But by putting God first, his spouse will be a strong second with no rivals. In other words, the distance between his first love (i.e. God) and his second love (i.e. wife), creates the same distance between his second love (i.e. wife) and the love of everyone else; including mom, dad, and siblings. In fact, by making sure the needs and the wishes of his wife comes first, he, at the same time, helps to strengthen his relationship with God. After all, it is God’s will that he should put his spouse above all other human beings, including his own children.

Right priorities: God first, spouse second, and children third! If this order is preserved and put into effect, marriages and families do well. Well defined boundaries are then put in place to protect outside intruders, namely, boundary-deficient in-laws. But the absence of well-defined boundaries will inevitably create trouble for married couples. And according to Dr. Phil, the following are habits are symptomatic of boundary-deficient spouses and in-laws:

• Mother-in-law is insensitive; doesn't respect boundaries
• Mother-in-law is overly dependent on son for emotional and lifestyle support
• Partner clearly puts mother-in-law needs/requests ahead of yours
• Partner talks to mother daily; drops everything when she calls
• Partner values mother's advice and opinions over yours
• Partner runs to mother when arguments occur
• Mother-in-law attacks your character
• Mother-in-law treats her son like he's still a child/competes with you
• Mother-in-law actively campaigns against your marriage

Every single one of these characteristics betrays St. Thomas Aquinas’ proper sequence of desires. What many do not realize is that putting first things first can be an occasion of division. As for our Lord Jesus, he cautioned his followers that by putting him first will inevitably lead to conflict or division even within the family. He said, “For I have come to set a man 'against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and one's enemies will be those of his household.' Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me…” (Matthew 10:35-37)

Notice that the line in the sand is not between the husband and the wife; rather, it is between other family relations. Jesus, here, is saying: “Listen. To love me above family may cause tension with those family members. But in the end, your life will prosper in spite of it.” Just as loving Christ more than family can have the potential of conflict and division, so too does loving one’s spouse more than parents and siblings. Indeed, the consequences of putting husband or wife first may involve losing the favor and esteem of loved ones. But in the larger scheme of things, making the spouse the highest priority (second to God) will create a balance in the network of our relationships. And from this balance comes fulfillment. As for those who wince at the cost, have them consider the alternative.

Do not think that a married man or a married woman who bends over backwards to appease their parents and siblings avoids conflict. Quite the contrary, they just choose that the conflict be with their spouse…where it absolutely should not be. In other words, they choose to make the wrong people happy at the expense of the right people. And if we were to trace this chain of unhappy events back to its origin, we would find a person who did seek to please God in everything as the highest of his priorities.

Vincent: The slave who liberated

September 27 marks the feast day of St. Vincent de Paul, founder of Catholic Charities. Because he knew suffering, he was able to minister to those who suffered. From this month’s edition of Magnificat, we learn the following:

“Saint Vincent de Paul (1581-1660) was born into a French peasant family, earned a degree in theology, was captured by Turkish pirates and sold as a slave, escaped with his master, whom he converted, and returned to France. A lesser man might have been embittered or fatally traumatized. Saint Vincent, by contrast, began to work tirelessly for the poor. He had a special charism for galley convicts, who at the time lived in subhuman conditions of pestilence and misery. He opened shelters, soup kitchens, and hospices, first in France, then around the world.” (Heather King, September edition of the Magnificat)

Like St. Patrick of Ireland, St. Vincent of France knew the humiliation and drudgery of slavery. However, in both cases, the Lord empowered them to use their unwelcomed circumstances for a greater good. In the end, their slavery led to the liberation of souls.

And what St. Vincent de Paul discovered, like the early Church Fathers, is that when you minister to the body or meet someone’s bodily or emotional needs in Christ's name, they will listen to what you have to say about their spiritual needs. For him, evangelization and teaching was never far from corporeal works of mercy. Indeed, it is by serving people in ways that may not be religious or spiritual in nature- such as visiting the lonely or feeding the hungry or providing someone with professional skills for viable employment –but, nevertheless, can be used for a higher, spiritual purpose.

There is a saying that goes something like this: “People may doubt what you say, but they’ll always believe what you.” Not only do actions speak louder than words, but godly actions give credibility to the words we use to talk about God. As St. Vincent de Paul said, “Outpourings of affection for God, of resting in his presence, of good feelings toward everyone and sentiments and prayers like these ... are suspect if they do not express themselves in practical love which has real effects.”

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

First Things: Francis, Our Jesuit Pope

A bit critical, but, overall, a respectful evaluation of Pope Francis' recent interview that caused a stir among Catholics. It is written by R.R. Reno and is published by FIRST THINGS.

Francis, Our Jesuit Pope

Friday saw the release of a fairly extensive interview with Pope Francis. The media was atwitter and reported the interview as a sign of a something big, something new. Some swooned. Perhaps this is the sign of the beginning of a long hoped-for liberalizing trend in the Church. Not likely. The Pope calls himself “a son of the church,” whose teachings are “clear.” But the tone is mobile, the rhetoric fluid, and he uses terms and phrases from the standard playbook of progressive reform. Thus, the media’s reading of the interview isn’t willful.

When Pope Francis was elected a friend asked me what to expect. “Strap on your seatbelt,” I replied. The comment didn’t reflect any special knowledge of Jorge Bergoglio. But I know Jesuits. They tend to be extremists of one sort or another. They’re trained to speak plainly, directly, and from the heart rather than according to the standard script.

Many passages in this interview reflect Pope Francis’ identity as a Jesuit. He speaks about himself in frank, personal ways that have the ring of authenticity. I don’t mean his comment that “I am a sinner,” which some secular commentators imagine a novel modesty. That sort of remark is Christianity 101. Instead, I mean: “I am a bit astute . . . but it is also true I am a bit naïve.” “I am a really, really undisciplined person.”

We’re not dealing with a modern politician who surrounds himself with handlers and carefully stays “on message.” Pope Francis is relatively unfiltered. He’s also not entirely self-consistent. That’s not a criticism. Only a person who carefully regulates what he feels, thinks, and says can maintain rigorous consistency in his public persona and public statements.

By my reading, Pope Francis was being a bit naïve and undisciplined in parts of this interview, which although reviewed by him before publication has an impromptu quality I imagine he wished to retain. This encourages a distorted reading of what he has in mind for the Church. This is a problem related, perhaps, to his Jesuit identity.

A key passage involves his image—a very helpful one—of the Church as “a field hospital after battle.” He observes that in such a circumstance we need to focus on healing as best we can. Some of the protocols and procedures fitting for a hospital operating in times of peace need to be set aside.

He then digresses into fairly extensive reflections on what the Church needs in the way of pastoral leadership in this situation: “pastors, not clergy acting like bureaucrats or government officials.” We’re not to allow ourselves to fixate on “small things, in small-minded rules.” The Church needs to find “new roads,” “new paths,” and “to step outside itself,” something that requires “audacity and courage.”

These and other comments evoke assumptions that are very much favored by the Left, which is why the interview has been so warmly received, not only by the secular media, but also by Catholics who would like the Church to change her teachings on many issues.

Such comments by Francis do not challenge but instead reinforce America’s dominant ideological frame. It’s one in which Catholics loyal to the magisterium are “juridical” and “small-minded.” They fear change, lacking the courage to live “on the margins.” I heard these and other dismissive characterizations again and again during my twenty years teaching at a Jesuit university. One of my colleagues insisted again and again that the greatest challenge we face in the classroom is “Catholic fundamentalism,” when in fact very few students today even know the Church’s teachings, much less hold them with an undue ardency.

It’s in this context that Pope Francis makes extended observations about the profound pastoral challenge of ministering to gay people today, to which he adds the personal statement that he cannot judge a homosexual person who “is of good will and is in search of God.” He also speaks of other pastoral challenges: a divorced woman who has also had an abortion. These are subtle remarks, and necessary ones.

He sums up this section with statements about the witness of the Church today. They are the ones most often quoted: “We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods.” “It is not necessary to talk about these issue all the time.”

In themselves these statements are obvious and non-controversial. Since my entry in the Catholic Church in 2004, I have heard some homilies on abortion, gay marriage, and even one on contraception. But these are infrequent. For the most part priests expound the mystery of Christ, which, as Pope Francis emphasizes, is the source and foundation of our faith. Without Christ at the center, the Church’s moral teachings can quickly become mere moralism.

But Pope Francis has been undisciplined in his rhetoric, casually using standard modern formulations, ones that are used to beat up on faithful Catholics—“audacity and courage” means those who question Church teachings, the juxtaposition of the “small-minded” traditionalists to the brave and open liberals who are “in dialogue”, and so forth. This gives everything he says progressive connotations. As a consequence, American readers, and perhaps European ones as well, intuitively read a progressivism into Pope Francis’ statements about abortion, gay marriage, and contraception. Thus the headlines.

This is not helpful, at least not in the field hospital of the American Church. We face a secular culture that has a doctrine of Unconditional Surrender. It will not accept “talking less” about abortion, gay marriage, and contraception. The only acceptable outcome is agreement—or silence. Dialogue? Catholic higher education has been doing that for fifty years, and the result has been the secularization of the vast majority of colleges and universities. Today at Fordham or Georgetown, the only people talking about contraception, gay rights, or gay marriage are the advocates.

The Holy Father is trying to find his way—we’re all trying to find our way—in a sometimes (but not always, as he rightly emphasizes) hostile secular culture. That Francis will make mistakes is certain. He says as much himself. I think he has in this interview.

Perhaps this and other mistakes are to be expected. He warns us that we all must risk mistakes if we’re to bear witness to Christ in the world. We must sow the seed of the Gospel and see where it grows, which is how I read the spirit of his remarks in this interview. To a certain degree we must be a bit naïve to scatter seed promiscuously, hoping it will take root even as we know the soil rocky. But I don’t doubt Pope Francis is also a bit astute. He’ll see what’s fruitful and tend the fragile shoots of faith where the Gospel takes root.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Padre Pio: Secrets of a Soul

The reputation of St. Padre Pio is shrouded with extraordinary events. When his life is discussed, what often comes up in conversation is his stigmata (mystically receiving the wounds of Christ in his flesh), his gift of bi-location (being at two places at once) and the gift of reading souls in the confessional (knowing what sins were committed before the penitent confessed them). But what sometimes does not get the attention it deserves is that intense interior darkness he would experience; a kind of darkness that Blessed Mother Theresa complained of several decades ago.

By reading his letters to his spiritual director, one gets the impression that for every mystical ecstasy of rapturous joy he would experience, the Lord would have to” even things out” for him by allowing St. Pio to get attacked by demons or to experience incredible feelings of abandonment. Curiously, just about every canonized has, at some point, felt the inner pangs of being abandoned by the Lord. It is as if the Lord wanted these Saints to have some experience of what damned souls experience in hell. And even more important, it is through these bitter experiences that the Saints shared in Christ’s death. As such, their sufferings and sacrifices became a means of saving souls. With Christ, they took on God’s severity of justice so that sinners could be beneficiaries of His Mercy.

It is quite common that God puts his closest friends on a rollercoaster of wild extremes; that of tasting the joys of paradise and feeling the despair of hell. On precursor to St. Pio was St. Paul. In his Second Letter to the Corinthians, he said he was blessed to have had received from the Lord an “abundance of the revelations.” Yet, these great mystical experiences would exact from him a depth of suffering that would pierce his soul. In fact, he said, “Therefore, that I might not become too elated, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, an angel of Satan, to beat me, to keep me from being too elated.”

That same spiritual warfare and testing had visited St. Padre Pio. In a letter on November 8, 1916, he complained to his spiritual director by saying, “Blasphemous thoughts continuously run through my mind; and still more promptings, infidelity, and irreligiousness. “ Several months earlier, he felt as though the Lord had abandoned him to darkness; a darkness devoid of peace. On March 8, 1916, he wrote the following: “Peace has been fully banished from my heart. I have become completely blind. I find myself enveloped in a profound darkness and I can never, no matter how I struggle, find the light.”

This kind of interior pain that St. Pio experienced can be so intense at times, death is often a welcomed event. Again, he wrote, “I long for death to relieve me of my afflictions. May the Lord God grant me this soon, because I can endure no longer.” Perhaps this is why the good padre would frequently quote from the book of Job, the Psalms and the Song of Songs the most from the Old Testament. These inspired writings truly capture how a love and longing for God is purified by suffering. And the greatest suffering for a Saint is to feel his absence.

Gianluigi pasquale, editor of Secrets of a Soul, is a book that gives us the letters of St. Padre Pio to his spiritual directors. In it he describes just how the interior trials were for the Saint from Pietrelcina, Italy:

“What is most bewildering during this period is that the soul cannot understand God’s action in it, and, therefore, it is overcome with great anguish and suffering. The very thought oppresses the soul to the point that only God’s special grace is prevented from going astray…God has grown distant and, in doing so, left a tremendous void, but God does not allow himself to be found.”

It would seem that Christ gives to souls such as these a taste of the suffering he himself endured for the world. Arguably, Divine justice is introduced into the lives of these chosen souls- but never apart from Christ –so that Divine Mercy could be introduced into the lives of those who are much less deserving. As St. Paul wrote to the Corinthians, death is at work in us, but life in you.

St. Padre Pio, like St. Paul the Apostle, knew that a price needed to be paid for sinners. Quite often, this meant experiencing great anguish of soul. This is God’s way of testing the love and fidelity of his friends. And Saint Pio did precisely that when he used to say regarding Jesus, “I kiss the hands that smite me.” But, with that said, there always came a time when the Lord would lift up St. Pio above the fog of uncertainty in order to better understand his ways.

One more thing: For a Christian who sincerely loves the Lord and wants to do his will- as we have said -there is no greater suffering than when interior darkness visits that soul or it is afflicted with the feeling of being abandoned by God. But after having survived the trial, that soul will count exterior trials as child’s play. In other words, the vexations and inconveniences that come from human beings are as nothing compared to feeling distant from God. St. Padre Pio knew more than most, that when God is with you, everything seems easy. But when it feels as though he backing off- and no longer with us -even the lightest of things we try to lift feels heavy.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Pope Francis and the Spardo Interview

Fr. Thomas Berg's most recent column The Pope Francis – Antonio Spadaro Interview: Three Reflections puts into context, I believe, what Pope Francis said about moral issues in his recent interview with Spadaro. At the same time, however, I have spoken with a few Catholics that got just a "little nervous" with this interview; principally because it gave aid and comfort to many secular organizations known for advancing an agenda contrary to the Gospel. But if you read what the Holy Father has to say, he delivers a message that sorely needed. Yet again, it is not so much what is said that makes many a little uncomfortable but what is not said.

In any case, this is the response I submitted to Fr. Thomas Berg. I wanted to share it with Sky View readers. Hopefully, this will bring more clarity to Pope Francis' interview:

Thank you Father for a well-balanced column. Although I think that when the comments of our Holy Father are taken out of context- hence making the mission of pastors, evangelists and teachers that much more difficult -it is true, nevertheless, that the moral commands of our Lord never stand alone in the Gospels. In the Sermon on the Mount, for instance, his teachings on adultery and lust is advanced within the greater context of Christ and his New Covenant Law fulfilling the Mosaic Law.

I think Pope Francis is trying to make the point that the context or the story of Christ cannot be omitted when speaking of moral issues. But I think what made a lot of Catholics nervous (the ones I talked to anyways) is that not only the "context or story" is missing in the Church as the Holy Father rightly states, but so is the mention or teaching of sin (or specific sins) omitted or downplayed during sermons at Sunday Mass or the instructions Catholics may hear classrooms and parish programs. It's a "both-and" approach. St. Paul, to name one Saint, knew how to talk about Jesus and tell his story. Yet, he never downplayed the specifics of sin; most notably when he wrote to the Corinthians:

“Do you not know that the unjust will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators nor idolaters nor adulterers nor boy prostitutes nor practicing homosexuals nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor robbers will inherit the kingdom of God.” (I Corinthians 6:9-10)

I'll say this in addition to my response to Fr. Berg:  The love of Christ is one that liberates. Yet, in order for Jesus Christ to belong to us completely and in order for us to enjoy the peace that he has to give us, there are conditions. One condition that rises about all is that we accept him into our lives on his terms. And one such term that redounds throughout the Gospel is that discipleship involves a new life and that new life- in order to take hold -needs rich soil to plants itself in. In other words, repentance always precedes true and lasting conversion.

Sherry Weddell, author of Forming Intentional Disciples, recently gave a conference at a local diocese. During her talk she shared a shocking statistics (shocking, if it is accurate). Not too long ago she was at the Vatican when Cardinal Stafford shared with that 70 percent of people that enter the Church leave (or stop coming back) within the first year. This, I believe, speaks to what Pope Francis spoke to when he suggested that the story of Christ has to be told, not just its moral imperatives. But what is also true is that repentance from sin as a precondition of being a disciple of Christ (our Lord makes this point very clearly in Luke 14, beginning with verse 28) needs to be reintroduced into our parishes and dioceses. Restoring families, marriages and souls in Christ can only had when these two components are being advances side by side.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Flute players, dancers and Christians

Gospel reading for September 18, 2013
LK 7:31-35

Jesus said to the crowds:

“To what shall I compare the people of this generation? What are they like? They are like children who sit in the marketplace and call to one another, ‘We played the flute for you, but you did not dance. We sang a dirge, but you did not weep.’ For John the Baptist came neither eating food nor drinking wine, and you said, ‘He is possessed by a demon.’ The Son of Man came eating and drinking and you said, ‘Look, he is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’ But wisdom is vindicated by all her children.”


What Jesus said about his generation, can be said of every generation. The spirit of the world, in every generation, was and is such that it has its official representatives in political, social and even religious establishments. The temptation always has been that when they play the flute, you’re supposed to dance. And when they sing a dirge, you’re supposed to weep.

Or to use a contemporary example, when our modern day establishments say that to be compassionate means to accept the same-sex lifestyle, people are expected to march to that drum beat. To refuse to march, is to pay a price: socially, legally or politically. E-Harmony, the on-line dating service, the Boy Scouts, and the Episcopalian church, just to name a few, were all told to march; and that is exactly what they did. But they compromised their moral convictions and any good standing they might had with Christ.

As human beings, our instinct to socially conform to others is strong; it is even stronger than our humanitarian instincts. In fact, after World War II, many Germans were asked why they did not intervene to stop the atrocities and human rights violations against the Jews. The German soldiers claimed that they were following orders and the citizens themselves said that they did what was expected of them. Such was the power of the German establishment. Indeed, the flute was played and the Germans danced. But a lot of people died in the process.

Not much has changed, has it? Every culture had its popular people, its elite and its establishments. To be sure, the spirit of the world has always been powerfully manifested through group-think people in every age. The problem is that they are, generally speaking, unprincipled people. St. John the Baptist fasted but he was condemned by his contemporaries for being too strict. And Jesus drank wine and dined with sinners but he was also condemned for playing fast and loose.

Furthermore, each generation shaped by the spirit of the world is little concerned with the truth and unbothered by contradictions. And if they have any standard at all, it is to keep in line with the people they surround themselves with. This is why such a standard leads to immorality and self-destruction. This is also why there is no anchor or objective moral standard apart from their tendency to conform to one another. St. Paul made reference to this class of people when he said, “[W]hen they measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding.” (II Cor. 10:12)

To be without understanding is to do things blindly. And such blindness moves us closer to the abyss. In other words, to dance, when they play the flute; to weep, when they sing a dirge is a current that leads away from God. This is precisely why Christ went out of his way in Luke 7:31-35 to not only to criticize this manner of living, but to ridicule it!!  In the years that followed, his Apostles drew a sharp contrast between lovers of the world and lovers of God. As for St. James, he said: “Do you not know that to be a lover of the world means enmity with God? Therefore, whoever wants to be a lover of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” (James 4:4) The two loves are indeed diametrically opposed to one another. But there are plenty of nominal Christians who say that the two loves can be reconciled.

Nevertheless, what Christ warned us of is that every generation, like his generation, has its own establishment or predominate class of people who will criticize you no matter what you do or say if you do not conform to their ways. Can it be any wonder, then, that his eighth beatitude bids us to do the very opposite of what we are inclined to do when we are persecuted for being his disciple? We are not to just tolerate it when our generation speaks evil of us, but our Lord challenges us to take it a step further. He said, "Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you (falsely) because of me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven. Thus they persecuted the prophets who were before you."

That's right. To be his disciple a person must be firmly embrace the Cross, a Sign that Contradicts. As for the person of Jesus, he referred to as the Rock. He is the only immovable Rock; a standard that never changes and a sure guarantee that whoever clings to him will resist unsafe currents. But to resist unsafe currents that us lead nowhere, we must be fully alive in Christ. As Fulton Sheen once said, "Dead bodies float downstream; it takes live bodies to resist the current."

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Hemmed in: Destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D.

Revised, expanded and reposted for new Sky View readers:

Luke 19:41-44

As Jesus drew near Jerusalem,
he saw the city and wept over it, saying,
"If this day you only knew what makes for peace? but now it is hidden from your eyes.
For the days are coming upon you
when your enemies will raise a palisade against you; they will encircle you and hem you in on all sides. They will smash you to the ground and your children within you, and they will not leave one stone upon another within you because you did not recognize the time of your visitation."


In the 70 A.D., forty years after these fateful words uttered by our Lord, Jerusalem fell to the Roman army, led by the Roman General Titus. An insurrection by Jewish Zealots (nationalists) broke out in 66 A.D., several months before Jerusalem was leveled to the ground. About a hundred years before, the Roman Empire had already annexed the land of Judea (part of the greater Palestine region) where the city of David was located. The Jews wanted their land back, they wanted to govern themselves, and they wanted the Romans out! It was as simple as that.

Originally, their campaign to oust the Roman administration was successful. However, in 70 A.D. the Zealots became acquainted with the full might of the Roman army. The results were devastating. The Roman army not only crushed this revolt but they also surrounded the city of Jerusalem, preventing any food from entering into the city. As such, hundreds of thousands of Jews starved to death. Many people resorted to cannibalism.

Flavius Josephus, a Jewish historian in the latter of the first century, wrote about the destruction of Jerusalem in great detail. Below, are a few passages from his book, The War of the Jews:

•   Thus did the miseries of Jerusalem grow worse and worse every day…And indeed the multitude of carcasses that lay in heaps one upon another was a horrible sight, and  produced a pestilential stench.

•   And truly the very view itself of the country was a melancholy thing; for those places which were before adorned with trees and pleasant gardens were now become a desolate country every way, and its trees were all cut down : nor could any foreigner that had formerly seen Judea, and the most beautiful suburbs of the city, and now see it as a desert, but lament and mourn sadly at so great a change.

•   Now of those that perished by famine in the city, the number was prodigious, and the miseries they underwent were unspeakable; for if so much as the shadow of any kind of food did anywhere appear, a war was commenced presently.

•   Their hunger was so intolerable, that it obliged them to chew everything, while they gathered such things as the most sordid animals would not touch, and endured to eat them; nor did they at length abstain from girdles and shoes; and the very leather which belonged to their shields they pulled off and gnawed.

What was also a major game changer in Judaism was that the Jewish Temple, the second one to be built since the days of King Solomon, was burned to the ground. This would significantly change the religion of Judaism to this day. With the Temple gone, there could be no more sacrifices; and without any sacrifices there can be no priesthood.

Hence, the emphasis in worship went from the Jewish Temple to the Synagogue; from the ritual of sacrifice and offerings to the the reading of the Torah; and from the altar to the pulpit. It is no exaggeration to say that what the Reformation was to Catholicism, the destruction of the Temple was to Judaism. Protestant Christianity, in large part, left the altar behind and placed exclusive emphasis on the Word of God at the pulpit; this, much like the Jews in the post-temple era.

In any case, it was reported in the early years of the Church that there was not a single Christian killed when Jerusalem was besieged. From tradition we learn that the followers of Christ fled to a town named Pella. Evidently, much like the star on Christmas night that led the Magi to the baby Jesus, there were signs in the sky which alerted Christians to get out of Jerusalem. And that is precisely what they did.

Sadly, after the destruction of Jerusalem., the Jewish people were wanderers with no homeland from 70 A.D. to 1948 A.D. It should be pointed out that the Jewish Zealots had never came close to accomplishing what Christianity accomplished. But because Jesus Christ did not conform to the political Messiah that the Sanhedrin (i.e. their church hierarchy) had dreamed up in their heads. In fact, when Christ stood before them and Pilate on Good Friday, they cried out: "We have no king but Caesar!" But it was precisely Caesar, that is, the Roman emperor, that turned on them forty years later. Yet, the irony of the story does not end there.

God in the Public Square

Reposted for the feast day of St. Robert Bellarmine, Doctor of the Church: September 17th

Many do not know that Thomas Jefferson's vision about the American Republic was shaped by Cardinal Robert Bellarmine.

The First Amendment:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

Section I:

God in the Public Square:

Few Americans understand that the wording and the modern usage of “separation of Church and State” is nowhere to be found in the Constitution. The prohibition of the federal government to “make no law respecting an establishment of religion” is a far cry from separating and excluding the Christian religion from the State all together. After all, at least 6 States of the original 13 States of the Union had government sponsored churches up to 1830.

Former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Alabama, Roy Moore wrote a compelling article called, Putting God Back into the Public Square in August of 1999. In it he provided at least five historical precedents which effectively refute the secular idea that the First Amendment requires the exclusion of religion from the public square:

• Every president of the United States (with only one possible exception) has been administered the oath of office with his hand on the Bible, ending with the words “so help me God.”

• The Supreme Court begins every proceeding with the ringing proclamation, “God save the United States and this Honorable Court.”

• Throughout our history, the executive and legislative branches have decreed national days of fasting and prayer.

• Public offices and public schools close in observance of religious holidays.

• United States currency bears our national motto, “In God We Trust.”

With that said, Americans have been conditioned to believe that the State ought to be neutral with regard to Christianity. This opinion, albeit a common one, is a relatively recent development. But what is the longstanding Catholic teaching on the separation of the Church and State? If we were to make reference to centuries of papal writings one would have to conclude that the progressive position does not agree with the position of the Catholic Church.

It might scandalize Catholics who subscribe to the secular worldview that as recent as 1862, Pope Pius IX denounced the following proposition: “In the present day it is no longer expedient that the Catholic religion should be held as the only religion of the State, to the exclusion of all other forms of worship.” One might be tempted to chalk this up to some kind of an anomaly; that is, an isolated incident. But Pope Leo XIII confirmed this principle twenty-six years later in his encyclical, On the Nature of Human Liberty. He wrote that the separation between Church and State, that is, according to the commonly held secular interpretation, is a “fatal theory.”

To be sure, State neutrality with regard to Christianity as somehow being mandated by the Constitution is legal fiction! It finds little, if no, precedent among the Founding Fathers. For instance, U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Jay said, “Providence has given our people the choice of their rulers, and it is the duty, as well as privilege and interest, of a Christian nation to select and prefer Christians for their rulers.” Nevertheless, this view is downright offensive to advocates of Secular-liberalism.

Moreover, the separation between the Church and the State as it is commonly conceived today finds no sanction in Catholic doctrine; especially as it pertains to the two thousand years of papal writings. I would even argue that the statements of Pope Pius IX and Leo XIII represent the vast majority of the popes who had anything to say about the relationship between Church and State.

The fruits of a long held secular understanding of the separation between Church and State are before us. The deeply held concerns over jobs and the economy among the voters can be traced to the banishment of the Christian religion from our public institutions. As Tocqueville said, religion is the guarantor of morality, and morality, in turn, is the guarantor of freedom. Is it any wonder that the “free” market has come under assault in recent years? Freedom, even as it applies to the economy, is simply unintelligible without Christianity.

We forget that throughout world history freedom has been the exception, not the rule. Liberty is precarious and for that reason it requires grace, discipline and prudence among the citizenry. However, with all the focus on jobs and the economy- a legitimate concern, no doubt -I am afraid that the public is missing the bigger picture. Indeed, the question of America’s survival goes beyond job security, the economy and freedom; all of which are shaped by how we approach Church and State relations. The question about God and man, Church and State goes to the heart of the matter: Does God have a role in our public institutions? The answer to this question, in itself, holds the key to the future of America.

St. Robert Bellarmine's Theology of Government

Reposting for the feast day of St. Robert Bellarmine: September 17, 2013

Below, are four basic principles from the treatise On Civil Government (17th century writing) by St. Robert Bellarmine which provides us a Catholic (and American) understanding of the State/government:

• Human nature was created by God in such a way as to require civil authority for its well-being, order and protection. As such, the authority of the State originates from the wise counsel of God. Human beings cannot co-exist without this higher principle of civil authority.

• Although civil authority finds its origin in God, it is not directly communicated to any one particular individual or group of individuals. The notion of the "divine right of kings" was a doctrine which arose out of Protestantism that held that God's power to rule was given to each king directly. This led to a kind of an oppressive monarchical system that Colonial Americans rebelled against. The truth is that the authority of the State resides in human nature, that is, in the people because it is for them that this authority exists to begin with.

• Since the people or the citizens of a nation are the purpose or end for which civil authority is ordained, it follows that it is the people’s prerogative to choose not only the form of government they see fit but the system through which their leaders are determined or chosen.

Before moving on, I want to add that in the supernatural order, religious authority works differently. It is, contrary to civil authority, conferred directly by God on specific men. For instance, Jesus Christ gave to Peter and the Apostles to power to bind and loose, to forgive and retain sins. In turn, this apostolic power was conferred on specific bishops  the Apostles deemed to be worthy of the office. Indeed, the sacramental grace of Holy Orders is communicated to particular individuals directly from the “hands of God” but through the mediation of consecrated hands. 

Now, from this Catholic perspective, if the State exists for the citizen, then the citizen can be also considered to be the customer of the State. A customer chooses what kind of services it wishes to receive and from whom it wishes to receive it. And according to Catholic political theology, people have the inherent right to choose what form of government they wish to be subject to. Furthermore, depending who they want to be ruled by, they also have the right to elect those political rulers of their choosing.

By virtue of this right, citizens can elect to create a government that invokes God and one that observes the principles of his Catholic Faith. After all, they are the customers of the State and the very purpose of the State is to serve their needs. Just as important, every man has spiritual needs that cannot be compartmentalized apart from his civic life. If the authority of the State comes from God- which the Catholic Church affirms that it does -then like the individual, the State is obligated to pay homage to its Creator. Yes, give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and give to God what belongs to God. What is commonly overlooked, however, is that Caesar belongs to God!

A complete separation between Church and State is a like severing the body from its soul. Such a radical division leads to death. Why? Because society itself is of a material and spiritual nature. The Catholic Church does hold to a kind of separation of Church and State in that they are distinct from one another. However, these two entities, like the body and soul, are to collaborate and interact with each other so that the common good of society may be brought about. The proposition that there should be a radical separation between these two institutions is what Pope Leo XIII referred to as a "fatal theory." To repeat, such a dichotomy leads to the death of the commonwealth.

Now, if civil authority is a mere invention of man without any inherent God-given purpose, then it can be defined by the powerful or the rich as they see fit. Instead of the State having the welfare of its citizens as its goal, the State can turn into an end in itself. Indeed, the purpose of government can be defined to mean that the people exist for the State; that the multitude ought to serve the interests of the few. As Pius XI said in his encyclical on communism, “There is no recognition of any right of the individual in his relations to the collectivity; no natural right is accorded to human personality, which is a mere cog-wheel in the Communist system.”

This perversion of power- so common in world history -explains why the twentieth-century was riddled with atheistic or communistic dictators who killed more of its own people than all the wars put together. In the absence of God then, the State becomes supreme and rules according to its own whim. Cardinal James Gibbons, in his pastoral letter to the US Bishops in 1919, issued the following warning about the State taking the place of God:

“It lies in the very nature of man that something must be supreme, something must take the place of the divine when this has been excluded; and this substitute for God, according to a predominant philosophy, is the State. Possessed of unlimited power to establish rights and impose obligations, the State becomes the sovereign ruler in human affairs.”

Joblessness, a down trodden economy, serfdom, and human rights violations are but the sad results of State supremacy. But throughout history, it was the Catholic Church and her moral authority that restrained the strong arm of the State, ensuring freedom for citizens. She confidently assumed a prophetic role in holding the State accountable to the divine and natural law. As such, St. Thomas Aquinas’ saying is wonderfully fulfilled: A government which governs least, governs best. But a government can only govern least if the laws of God are daily impressed upon it.

Monday, September 16, 2013

"Let us enjoy...the Church."

Pope Leo X, when he was elected to the papacy in 1512- just prior to the Reformation -was alleged to have said to his brother, “Since God has given us the papacy, let us enjoy it.” Then, of course, in 1517, while a relaxed attitude prevailed in the Roman Curia, Martin Luther encouraged countless souls to leave the Church. And that they did. The Protestant Reformation was underway and Christian civilization would never be the same.

Almost 500 years later- especially during the latter half of the twentieth century –that same attitude had made a comeback; especially among those who work on behalf of the Church. Indeed, it is still with us today.

As for myself, I have worked for this same Church as a volunteer and as an employee, off and on, for the last 25 years in four different States. To be sure, I probably have been guilty of this “let us enjoy the Church” attitude from time to time. But over the years, the more I have seen this complacent attitude in my fellow co-workers within the vineyard, the less I like it. And the less I like it in others, the more I dislike it myself. For this reason, I try to remind myself why the Church exists to begin with.

For not a few Catholics, the Church has come to be primarily viewed as an end in itself; that is, as venue for one’s social life. If one were to visit some of our nation’s apostolates and parishes, an impartial observer might come away with the impression that the life of the Church is more about parish picnics, fish fries and fundraisers than it is about the hard work of winning souls for Christ. Now, do not get me wrong, such activities that center on food, fellowship and fundraising go a long way in building up Catholic communities. No argument there. But the question is: Where does the emphasis lie?

If Pope Francis were to answer that question, one can argue that he would say our attention is not where it should be. He once said, “When the Church does not come out of itself to evangelize, it becomes self-referential and then gets sick.” He went on to say that the Church then becomes inward-looking. And by doing so it gives into a spiritual worldliness; one that leads the Church to live in itself and for itself. With this “ecclesiastical narcissism,” the missionary spirit is subdued and the serious and hard work of evangelization becomes less of a priority.

Perhaps, the family can tells us something about the priority of evangelization and conversion in our parishes. To be sure, the solemn duty to transmit the faith from one person to another finds its highest expression in the witness parents give to their children. Parents, more than anyone else, have the primary responsibility of forming their children after the likeness of Christ. Yet, the inspiration and incentive to do this originates from the local parish as well as the Church at large. In other words, what can be said about the family can be said about the parish.

So, how well do Catholic parents pass on faith in Christ to their children? According to the Center for the Applied Research in the Apostolate (A Catholic Poll: CARA), only 8 percent of young people report that their parents talk to them about religion daily; whereas 20 percent say their parents do so at least once a week. About 14 to 20 percent do spiritual exercises such as reading the bible or praying the rosary on a monthly basis. And as far as parents encouraging their children to participate in the life of the Church, CARA found that their success rate is about 7 to 15 percent; that is, this percentage of Catholic youth surveyed participated in youth group and bible study activities on a semi-regular basis.

These statistics can tell us something about the average parish and its priorities. If the number one priority was conversion and repentance in parish ministries, then perhaps an ambitious evangelistic outreach would be more the norm. And most certainly, a higher numbers of parents talking to their children about Christ would be reflected in the numbers. But the numbers are low because the zeal to convert souls to Christ and his Church are not as high as it can be.

These priorities, whether it be a social one to enjoy or a missionary one to convert, is shaped by how we see the purpose of the Church. As for the Apostles and the Saints, the central mission of the Church is to prepare souls for heaven; that is, to make as many people love and follow Jesus Christ as possible. The zeal that inspires such an ambitious enterprise takes us outside of the Church herself and into the hazards of the world. And such an enterprise, no doubt, puts us in harms way. For that reason, there is a real temptation to make the Church into a kind of refuge from the world. As Bishop Sheen once said,

“The Church is not, and never can be, an end in itself. It is a means of salvation for the world, not just our own sanctification. We cannot save ourselves alone…The Church is the agent of salvation for mankind. It is not a refuge of peace; it is an army preparing for war. We seek security, but only in sacrifice; this is the mark of the Church and the hallmark of the cross.”

Indeed, if the Church is to be enjoyed as a social venue for its servants, then its missionary character eventually gets lost. The zeal and even the art of passing on the faith to younger generations will inevitably be hindered. But if, at the heart of every mission, exists a zeal for the conversion of souls and a willingness to beg God for such conversions, then not only will the Church fulfill its purpose by populating heaven, but the less important aim of drawing more people to parish picnics, fish fries and fundraisers will be realized too.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Syria, Israel and America: How God Works Among the Nations

Syria, Israel and America:

The internal strife within Syria, the use of chemical warfare and the images of slain children in the news has caught the attention of the world; and rightly so. With this, the escalating violence in Syria has become a political inconvenience for the Obama administration and a real concern for Israel’s national security. It’s too soon to tell, but Syria’s problems could become the world’s problem in the near future. While the future is an unknown quantity for us, the past is not.

America is a relatively new country. But the principles which inspired its founding are ancient. In fact, they can be traced back to the bible. Incidentally, this is an anthology of inspired and historical writings which feature the nations of both Israel and Syria (also known as Assyria in the Old Testament). Specifically, in the prophetic of books of Amos and Hosea we discover how God works among these nations.

And could it be that these same writings gives us an insight how the same God of nations works today? The answer is: yes. Circumstances change but there are two things that always remain constant: God and human nature. Although the twists and turns of the future are never known with certainty, the moral and spiritual lessons of the past give us at least some guidance as to how Divine Providence and world events come to pass.

Because Israel (first as one nation, then as two kingdoms) was at the center of God’s plan for the world, we see, within the pages of the book of Amos and Hosea, not just how God relates to individual persons, but also as he relates to the nations.

Before Amos and Hosea:

Before the prophet Amos and then his younger contemporary, Hosea, came on the scene, the kingdom of Israel had already reached its zenith under the reign of King David (approximately 1000 B.C.). But his grandson, Rehoboam, a much less prudent king and one not as pious as David, initiated policies that divided the federation of the twelve tribes into two separate kingdoms; this, between 950 B.C. and 900 B.C: The northern kingdom known as Israel (compromising 10 tribes) and the southern kingdom known as Judah (with only 2 tribes including the tribe of Judah where David’s posterity would be preserved). However, the repercussions of this division among the twelve tribes, descendants of Jacob’s twelve sons, did not take effect for another several years. In fact, both kingdoms enjoyed economic prosperity for well over a century.

As stated, Israel, the northern kingdom, enjoyed considerable prosperity and comfort. Between the years 900 and 740 B.C., for instance, not a few citizens had a regular home and a vacation house. At the same time, however, many Israelites had fallen into idolatry and had practiced the lowest forms of immorality. The poor were neglected. Sexual deviancy was rampant. And child-sacrifices were even performed to appease their new gods.

The Appearance of Prosperity:

Historian Guglielmo Ferrero reminds us in his book, "Ancient Rome and Modern America," (1914) that national prosperity is not always what it seems: "A civilization is not always in reality richer and stronger in times when it bears the most visible marks of so being. We are rather apt to find that when it is most dazzling and outward seeming, its decadence has already begun."

Indeed, Israel dazzled on the outside just before she was conquered by Assyria around the year 740 B.C. As Old Testament theologian, Bernhard Anderson, once said, “Although Israel seemed healthy outwardly, inwardly she was diseased with a malignant cancer. Israel was not merely guilty of social crimes; she stood accused of unfaithfulness to her calling as the people of Yahweh.”

Yet, the Lord, in his mercy, sent prophets to warn Israel (the northern kingdom) that it was measured, weighed, and found wanting. She was found wanting in the most vital area of her national security- namely, fidelity to Yahweh. Indeed, Israel, without knowing it, invoked the chastening hand of her Lord. But international or political dangers were not yet on the radar when Amos was called by God speak his Word. Although Assyria was becoming the most powerful empire during Amos’ lifetime, it did not, as of yet, pose any threat to Israel. Instead, the danger that Assyria posed to the Ten Tribes of Israel was still only a “cloud on the horizon.”

Friday, September 13, 2013

The prophecy of Francis

Excerpts from:
Francis of Assisi: The Prophet
Early Documents

The prophecy of Saint Francis of Assisi
[subtitles added]

Losing Poverty and Simplicity:

As Brother Leo writes, holy Father Francis used to say in front of the lord of Ostia and many brothers and clerics and lay people, and also preached frequently to the people, that his brothers, at the instigation of evil spirits, would depart from the way of holy simplicity and highest poverty. They would accept money and bequests and all sorts of other legacies. They would abandon poor and solitary places and would build grand and sumptuous places in towns and cities.

These would display, not the status of the poor, but the status of lords and princes of the world…These would not only relax but destroy the purity of their promised rule and life revealed to them by Christ. Armed with these they would presume in their pride to dispute and inflict injury not only on worldly people, but upon religious and clergy as well. And they would dig themselves into a pit into which they would finally fall, and sow seeds from which they would reap many scandals. And Christ would send them one worthy, not a pastor but an exterminator, who would reward them according to their tricks and strivings…

The Ultimatum:

They will either return humbled to the state of their vocation, or they will be utterly torn from the life-giving and salutary mode of life which they have sworn with a firm promise before the Lord to observe to the end. Blessed Francis used to say: “Brothers who are led by an eagerness for learning will find their hands empty in the day of tribulation.” -

All Things Fulfilled:

[B]lessed Francis was once at prayer at St. Mary of the Angels saying: “Lord, spare your people.” Christ appeared to him and said, “I gladly grant you that, for it is of great value to me as well. But please do this for me, that your Order stay with me. But a time will come when they will depart from the way in which I put them. Then after that I will give power to the demons, and then as a son goes to his father’s home for bread, then he will give it to him like a stick on the head. And there shall arise from your Order a Supreme Pontiff. In his time all things shall be fulfilled, and he will be blessed if he does well, but if not, he will die miserably…

Later the Lord would pour out the Holy Spirit upon many, and would call many to keep and reform perfection of their life. And he described the sort of tribulation it would be, that only true lovers of God would escape it.

Apostasy and Confusion:

Through the Holy Spirit he understood that the times of future tribulation were approaching. In those times, both temporally and spiritually, confusions and divisions would abound. The charity of many would grow cold, evil would overflow, and the power of demons would be more than usually unleashed, and the purity of his religion and of others would be disfigured. The prophesied departure and apostasy of both empires would be fulfilled, so that very few would obey the Supreme Pontiff and the Roman Church out of love of the truth.

False Prophet:

Further, one not canonically elected and corrupted with heretical depravity would be raised to the papacy at the moment of that tribulation. He would cleverly induce many to drink of his deadly errors. Then scandals would multiply and his religion would be divided, and many of the others would be shattered, because they did not oppose but agreed with the error…

For then truth will be covered over in silence by preachers or trampled and denied and held up to derision. But those of fervent spirit who will adhere to piety and truth out of charity will undergo endless persecutions as disobedient and schismatic…

To Provide a Remedy:

And this is way he willed to foretell the danger of scandal in the Church and to provide the remedy, namely that they should proceed cautiously and bind themselves more strongly and perfectly to their promised observance of the life and rule.

The Lord shall be the refuge of the afflicted; he will save them and rescue them from sinners and free them because they hoped in him...The poor and faithful servants of Christ, to be conformed to their head, will act confidently and will buy eternal life through death. They will choose to obey God rather than men and to die rather than assent to falsehood and faithlessness. These, word for word, are the words of the companions of blessed Francis.

To Purchase a Soul

Love covers a multitude of sins. The more disposed the soul is in making sacrifices, the more that soul can absorb sin and its effects upon the soul. St. Paul said as much when he told the Corinthians, “So death is at work in us, but life in you.” The Triumph of the Cross lies in this.

Meet Elisabeth Leseur, a Cross bearer for her husband:

On July 31, 1889, Elisabeth married a wealthy man by the name of Felix Leseur. Felix was a diplomat and a well-known doctor in France. At the age of thirty-two, after they got married, Elisabeth experienced a kind of second conversion. As such, she took her faith in Christ much more seriously.

In fact, she carried out charitable projects for the poor and helped fund other charities. More importantly, Elisabeth’s deep spirituality was one that included spiritual sacrifices (acts of self-denial for other people’s conversions). One source describes her spirituality this way:

“She organized her spiritual life around a disciplined pattern of prayer, meditation, reading, sacramental practice, and writing. Charity was the organizing principle of her asceticism. In her approach to mortification, she followed Francis de Sales who recommended moderation and internal, hidden strategies instead of external practices.”

As Elisabeth was becoming more Catholic, her husband was becoming more atheistic; more than atheistic, he had developed an aversion to the Catholic priesthood and the Church as a whole. But before they married, Elisabeth noticed that Felix was no longer a practicing Catholic. By all appearances, he seemed to have lost his faith. Nevertheless, he promised her that he would not undermine her faith. Needless to say, the more Felix became fervent in his atheism, the more he disregarded that promise.

Although they were believed to be happily married, the two spouses became rivals in many respects. Elisabeth built up a Catholic apologetics library in their home while Felix added to his collection of atheistic and anti-Catholic literature. In fact, he wrote against Lourdes, the 1858 Marian apparition site, saying that it was a fraud. His views were published in an anti-Catholic newspaper in Paris.

What words could not accomplish, spiritual sacrifice could. Elisabeth would have to do something other than rely on persuasive arguments against atheism. The incision required, had to go deeper. ----Our Lord once told Saint Faustina, “You will save more souls through prayer and suffering than will a missionary through his teachings and sermons alone.” And it was the power of prayer and suffering that Mrs. Leseur put into effect for the spiritual welfare of Mr. Leseur.

To make a long story short, Elisabeth was diagnosed with cancer in 1905. From there, it went downhill for her: ----“In 1907 her health deteriorated to the extent that she was forced to lead a primarily sedentary life, receiving visitors and directing her household from a chaise lounge. In 1911 she had surgery and radiation for a malignant tumor, recovered, and then was bedridden by July of 1913.”

Less than a year later, the hour of her death approached. Elisabeth, on her deathbed, made this astonishing prediction to her husband Felix:

"I am absolutely certain that when you return to God, you will not stop on the way because you never do things by halves.... You will someday become a priest.”

Felix, however, reassured her that his atheistic convictions had not changed. Still, she repeated what she had said and died. Elisabeth died of cancer in May of 1914. ----After her death, Dr. Leseur came across a note written to him in her papers. It said:

“In 1905, I asked almighty God to send me sufficient sufferings to purchase your soul. On the day that I die, the price will have been paid. Greater love than this no woman has than she who lay down her life for her husband.’"

Incredulous, the atheistic, anti-clerical doctor dismissed this as pious sentiments of a dying woman. Nevertheless, he grieved her loss by visiting Lourdes, one place they had visited during their honeymoon. It was then, that the unexpected happened.

Meet Dominican priest, Fr. Felix Leseur:

The once proud atheist and anti-Catholic doctor received the fullness of the gift of faith when he visited Lourdes shortly after Elizabeth’s death

A few years after his wife’s death in 1919, he became a Dominican novice. He was then ordained to the priesthood in 1923 and spent a good deal of his life speaking about his wife, Elisabeth, spiritual writings.

Fr. Felix Leseur gave a retreat for Bishop Fulton Sheen in 1924. And when Sheen told this story, he concluded by saying: "I tell you, it is not often you hear a priest say: 'As my dear wife once said…'”

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

That Blue Sky on 9/11

Reposting: To remember September 11th

The clouds of life are the incident; the blue sky, the reality! This is a spiritual truth we should never forget.

There was something about the blue sky on that tragic day! Many who had witnessed the dramatic events unfold in New York City and Washington DC on September 11, 2001 spoke about a peculiar contrast; a world of opposites, if you will.

On the one hand, survivors of 9/11 have to live with the memory of seeing victims of the terrorist attack panic, suffer, and in several instances, die. Several survivors even wondered if they going to make it out of the Twin Towers and the Pentagon alive.

Interestingly enough, however, not a few of the 9/11 survivors observed the beautiful and clear blue sky as a backdrop to the terrorists attacks. Many thought to themselves: “How can something so horrible happen on such a beautiful day?” Existing side by side was something horrible but yet, something beautiful.

This theme of contrasts is reminiscent of those who have been on the very threshold of death. Many who have clinically died and were subsequently revived experienced the pain of dying and all of the fear that accompanies it. Yet, in the midst of the fear and anxiety, many have reported also having a spiritual encounter with God. Indeed, they were immediately overwhelmed with His peace and beauty. The tragic circumstances seemed to have given-way to Something more powerful.

Case and point: On July 19, 1989 when United Airlines Flight 232 in the Sioux City Iowa crashed. There were a number of fatalities but there were also survivors. One stewardess on that flight lived to tell about her experience. She said that as the plane was crashing she was surrounded by flames and flying debris. But during her frightful and chaotic experience, she experienced an overwhelming sense of peace. It was if God was telling her that everything was going to be okay. Incidentally, heaven intervened when things couldn’t get any worse.

Similarly, the blue sky on 9/11 made a deep impression on survivors and spectators alike. Perhaps it was a reminder that, yes, even on beautiful days bad things can happen. As such, we should always be prepared to meet our Maker. But equally important is this: The blue sky on September 11, 2001 reminds us that evil does not have the last word; that in the backdrop of all that is painful and senseless there is meaning and yes, even peace.

It was once said: Clouds may come and go but the blue sky never changes. Which is to say that fortune and misfortune will change with the circumstances, but eternity is that one constant reality in life. It is unseen, but yet it is there nevertheless. And from time to time, It even intervenes when our world seems to be turning upside down.

An Interior Voice Amid the Chaos

Revised and reposted as we remember 9/11.

I remember watching 9/11 videos on the tenth anniversary of that fateful Tuesday in 2001. Amidst the tragedy, horror and the drama, there were many testimonies about hearing an interior voice instructing certain people on what to do. These instructive inspirations were short and to the point. Certain witnesses would hear interior voices saying things like, "keep running" or "get out here...through this door."

One lady, as she was trapped in the debris of the Pentagon, could not speak because she inhaled too much smoke. But she was trying to get the attention of rescuers from a distance. She then said that "a voice" told her to clap her hands. She did just that and was rescued.

Interestingly enough, when people recounted this phenomenon, they did not say, " I said to myself such and such." or "It occurred to me..." But rather they referred to an interior voice that seemed to be independent from their own mind. Something distinct and authoritative!

Could it be that these directives, given amidst such horrible circumstances, were the inspirations from angels? And why not? I think God's messengers were hard work on that day when life and death hung in the balance for so many people.

The Catholic Church celebrates the feast of the Archangels Michael, Gabriel and Raphael on September 29th. And on October 2nd Catholics will celebrate and give thanks to God for their Guardian Angels.

There are probably more times than we know that these divine messengers bailed us out of trouble; perhaps even saving our lives.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

September 11th and its forgotten lessons

The great paradox of life is that death is the only sure thing; the only future event we can truly count on. The closer people get to the gates of death, the more sensible they become. Suddenly, a morally dissolute life or the missed family opportunities of a workaholic, in retrospect, is almost always regretted. Indeed, on your death bed, all the time you spent at the office doesn’t seem so important anymore.

For those who faced imminent death on September 11, 2001, what immediately came to mind was the many cherished of recollections is the time they spent family members. As the tragedy in the World Trade Centers unfolded, there were countless phone messages left by victims whose highest priority was to say one last time, “I love you.”

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Out of Eve's Shadow

Out of Eve's Shadow is being reposted to honor the birthday of the Blessed Virgin Mary: September 8th

"Against the State, against the Church, against the silence of the medical profession, against the whole machinery of dead institutions of the past, the woman of today arises.”

-Margaret Sanger

“But by the envy of the devil, death entered the world, and they who are in his possession experience it.”

-Wisdom 2:24

Preface: Eve, Mary and Margaret

Against the Church, against men, against motherhood and against the whole machinery of dead institutions of the past, today’s voice of progressive feminism rails! Such was the message, such was the attitude and such was the spirit of Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood. And let there be no doubt, to varying degrees she was remarkably successful at transmitting envy and defiance against the institution of marriage, the family and the Church. The idea that women were and continue to be suppressed by the Catholic Church can be credited in no small part to Sanger’s propaganda.

Since history and sound theology enjoy little esteem in Western Civilization, pitting the Gospel against women has been advanced in our universities and public schools with relative ease. Nevertheless, there is a different story to tell. The plight of women begins with the real “First Lady,” that is, Eve, wife of Adam and mother of the human race. Because she yielded to the Serpent’s temptation in the Garden of Eden, she merited a divine punishment that would not only burden her but it would cast a long shadow over her female descendants.

But when the Blessed Virgin was conceived in the womb of St. Anne a brighter day dawned. From that moment on the ancient pagan bonds, so oppressive to women, began to loosen. To be sure, Christ redeemed humanity at large but he used his own Mother in a particular way to elevate the status of women and in doing so, led them out of Eve’s shadow.

Part I: What Eve’s sin portended for women

1. Unending Tutelage:

In his book, Our Christian Heritage, published in 1889- just twenty five years before Margaret Sanger career got underway - James Cardinal Gibbons reminded Catholics of the Church’s role in elevating the status of women. He said, “In Ancient Greece, women were in an unending tutelage, slavery, instrument of man’s passion.” Mind you, ancient Greece was indeed representative of women’s suppression in the pagan world. Gibbons continues: “Every impartial student of history is forced to admit that women are indebted to the Catholic religion for the elevated station she enjoys today in family and social life.”

Now, it is not the point of this post to elaborate on what is an overlooked historical fact: Women were second class citizens and were counted as having less dignity than men before the coming of Christ. Furthermore, during the Christian era, under the auspices of the Catholic Church, the social status of women significantly increased. This is why, during the first centuries of the Christianity, new converts were comprised mostly of women as opposed to men. Oh yes! Women came running to the Mother Church.

2. Her New Name:

After Eve, the social status of women rested in large part on her husband and her ability to produce children. Her dignity as an individual was overshadowed by Eve’s sin and the punishment due to that sin. As indicated, man in his fallen human nature exploited this to the max. Especially before the coming of Christ, Margaret Sanger’s antipathy toward men would have been understandable. No doubt, the female sex did not fare well. But no amount of protesting could have stopped the centuries of this exploitation. The remedy had to come from God himself. “For he wounds, but he binds up; he smites, but his hands give healing.” (Job 5:18)

Eve was immaculately created. The name given to her before she offered the forbidden fruit to Adam was “Woman.” Adam said: "This one, at last, is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; this one shall be called 'woman,' for out of 'her man' this one has been taken." (Genesis 2:23) That’s right. Eve was originally given the name of “Woman.” At this point equality with Adam was hers. Indeed, she stood on equal footing with Adam. And as his companion, she was called to make up for his limitations by leading him closer to God. But this was not to be. Instead, she became an occasion of sin for him; thus leading him away from God and closer to the Serpent.

God often punishes us with the very things by which we sin. To make a long story short, the Serpent offered the forbidden fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. This, of course, was forbidden by God. The Woman consumed the fruit and then offered to Adam. As such, she became a mediator (or mediatrix) between the Evil One and mankind. Instead of building up and perfecting her husband she became a source of sin and untold evil. As for Adam, he had plenty to account for. But as a consequence of her role in introducing sin into the world the Woman was renamed. New names given by God, Adam or Jesus himself always carry with it a new status. The Woman was then renamed “Eve” by Adam. “The man called his wife Eve, because she became the mother of all the living.” (Genesis 3:20) With this, it was a man Eve enticed to sin and it was a man that was God’s instrument in punishing her.

3. He Shall Be Your Master:

After the Sin, God lined up Adam, Eve and the Serpent in order to mete out their respective punishments. Adam received his punishment as well as the Serpent. “To the woman he said: ‘I will intensify the pangs of your childbearing; in pain shall you bring forth children. Yet your urge shall be for your husband, and he shall be your master.’” (Genesis 3:16) Eve was the first causality of her own sin; this, among a very long lineage of females. What began as a spiritual and moral tragedy in the Garden of Eden developed into a social and political burden for women all over the world. The Old Testament world (here, I mean world history before Christ) was a man’s world. As Cardinal Gibbons suggested, women were in an unending tutelage, slavery, and instrument under man’s dominion. In virtually every and nation in every era women were second class citizens. To a large degree, her worth was dependent upon his choosing and whim.

4. The Curse of Motherhood:

The curse of motherhood? I thought being a mother is a blessing in the eyes of God! It certain is! However, being defined exclusively by what we do or by the role we play can be a curse. Eve was first given the name of “Woman,” the stress being on her individuality and one who was on equal footing with Adam. The name of “Eve,” on the other hand, stresses her maternal vocation. Now, being identified as a mother is a blessing if it is one of many characteristics she possesses i.e. daughter of God, individual, spouse, worker etc. However, to emphasize one characteristic or role at the expense of all the rest is a curse. In the Old Testament, due to the absence of the Holy Spirit, there was an imbalance and a disproportionate emphasis on a woman's duty to produce children.

Do you remember what Jesus said? He taught that in heaven we are not going to be spouses and parents so much as we are brothers and sisters. In eternity, many of our roles will cease to exist. And as for our earthly existence, the maternal of role of mother is indeed active while her children are young. But this function eventually takes a back seat to other roles for her as they get old and move out of the house. When she becomes an empty-nester, her individuality comes to the fore and other roles can be more easily expressed.

With that said, the name “Eve” suggests that her main identity was that of a mother. Indeed, the relationship that defined her was that with her children and not with her husband. To emphasize once again, no longer was her name “Woman,” the wife of Adam but rather “Eve” the mother of Cain, Abel, Seth as well as the rest of her children. Imagine if a man always introduced his wife as the mother of his children and not his wife or “other half.” No doubt, she would feel chagrined. Although her love for her children may not be questioned there would still be a rebellion aroused in her soul at the suggestion that she is a mother first and a wife second. Or imagine if women were primarily valued as mothers and their importance was determined by the number of children she had. Such a value system does not fare well for barren women, widows or even little girls (girls would only have the potential of worth).

Widows in the ancient world were quite often abandoned, barren women disgraced and female infants aborted or killed through infanticide. A letter written by Hilarion to his pregnant to his wife Alis in the year 1 B.C. included this admonition: “If you are delivered of a child [before I come home], if it is a boy keep it, if a girl discard it!”

“He shall be your master” are words that marked that left deep wounds upon the female gender. This was the world before Christ.

In brief, we cannot forget childbearing pains. “The man had relations with his wife Eve, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, ‘I have produced a man with the help of the LORD.’" (Genesis 4:1) But for every new life that comes into this world the mother will have to suffer. The words, “I will intensify the pangs of your childbearing” have echoed throughout time. Sex would come at a higher price for women than for men. Perhaps, this is why for women sex is more personal and more integrated with life than for a man. Men can afford to compartmentalize sex. But women cannot.

However, men got theirs (i.e. pay back) when God required Abraham and every male of the Old Covenant to be circumcised. Mind you, for grown men this was a painful procedure which resulted in a flu-like sickness for two or three days. The Lord has his way of evening the score.

5. Plight of Women Symbolized

The Law of Moses required parents to present their new born child with an animal sacrifice to God forty days after his or her birth. But the prescribed ritual was different for female infants than for male infants. He said to Moses, "Tell the Israelites: When a woman has conceived and gives birth to a boy, she shall be unclean for seven days, with the same uncleanness as at her menstrual period. On the eighth day, the flesh of the boy's foreskin shall be circumcised, and then she shall spend thirty-three days more in becoming purified of her blood; she shall not touch anything sacred nor enter the sanctuary till the days of her purification are fulfilled. If she gives birth to a girl, for fourteen days she shall be as unclean as at her menstruation, after which she shall spend sixty-six days in becoming purified of her blood." (Leviticus 12:1-5) The mother was to be unclean and was to purify herself twice as long for a female infant than for a male infant. Now, does this suggest that God loves female infants any less than male infants? Certainly not! It was to symbolize the plight of females before the New Covenant.

Sarah, wife of Abraham, Rachael, wife of Jacob, Hannah, mother of Samuel and so many women lamented to the Lord about the disgrace of being barren. Indeed, they cried out to heaven. Even St. Elizabeth, after she conceived St. John the Baptist, expressed her relief. She said, "So has the Lord done for me at a time when he has seen fit to take away my disgrace before others." (Luke 1:25) Where did this disgrace come from? We can trace it back to Eve.

The answer to the four thousand year suppression of women would not come from political or social measures. The protest of angry women, much like Margaret Sanger’s feminist movement, would prove quite insufficient. Before the Light of Christ would shine the Morning Star, as St. Louis de Montfort called her, would shimmer in the darkness. Centuries before Christmas night, the following passage from the book of Wisdom pointed to a new beginning: “Yes, blessed is she who, childless and undefiled, knew not transgression of the marriage bed; she shall bear fruit at the visitation of souls.” (Wisdom 3:13)

“If you are delivered of a child [before I come home], if it is a boy keep it, if a girl discard it!”

-Letter from Hilarion to his to his wife Alis. 1 B.C.

“The most merciful thing that a family does to one of its infant members is to kill it.”

-Margaret Sanger

Part II: What Mary Meant for Women

1. Mary: The New Beginning

At the beginning of Matthew’s Gospel, there is a long lineage of our Lord’s ancestors. Among all of the fathers and sons listed, the names of five women appear: Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, the wife of Uriah (Bathsheba) and Mary. The four women that precede Mary all have been marked by some imperfection. Tamar and Rahab were prostitutes, Ruth was a Gentile and Bathsheba was an adulteress. Out of the five women, only the Blessed Virgin Mary was found to be “full of grace,” that is, without any mark of imperfection. Implied in Matthew’s Gospel genealogy is that with Mary there would be a new beginning; not just for humanity at large but for women in particular.

As God, Jesus Christ would have the opportunity to create his own mother. Taken on her flesh and dwelling within her womb, it is Catholic teaching that he created immaculately as he did Eve in the Garden of Eden. In Scripture, there are allusions to this effect. When God pronounced his sentence upon the Serpent, he included this promise: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; He will strike at your head, while you strike at his heel.” (Genesis 3:15) The woman refers to Mary and God had put enmity between her and Satan. Enmity, of course, means having nothing to do with; a total separation. Hence, a chasm would exist between the Blessed Virgin and all contagion of evil.. Indeed, she would be the first person, the first woman conceived outside of Eve’s shadow. In her Immaculate Conception it was if God had taken the womb of St. Anne, Mary’s mother, outside of Eve’s shadow so as to create Mary, the Mother of God, in the brightest of lights. Perhaps, this is why the angel Gabriel declared her to be “full of grace.” Perhaps, this is why St. John, author of the book of Revelation, saw her as being “clothed with the sun.”

The Son of God would use this special creation of his to not only save souls but to restore dignity and status of women. Immediately after having conceived Jesus, Mary went in haste to assist her relative St. Elizabeth in her last three months of pregnancy. Through her greeting, the first graces of the New Covenant given and inspired by the Holy Spirit “Elizabeth cried out in a loud voice and said, ‘Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.’” (Luke 1:42) Isn’t it interesting that St. Elizabeth did not say, “Blessed are you among all people?” This would have been a true statement. But she said “blessed are you among women.” This is as if to say, “Blessed are you among Eve and all of her descendants. Yes, among all women who toiled under Eve’s shadow.”

Isn’t it also interesting that St. Elizabeth added, “…and blessed is the fruit of your womb. She could have said, “…and blessed is baby Jesus” or “…and blessed be the child in your womb.” But no, she referred to the unborn Messiah as the “fruit” of her womb. Kind of an odd thing to say! As far as I know, it is not a common expression of among the ancient Jews. The term “fruit,” however, hearkens back to the fruit Eve gave Adam. With the Incarnation, it is Mary who offers the fruit to the Son of God in that she gave him her flesh. She also offers it to the world. The flesh and blood of Christ would be like grapes crushed in the wine-press of suffering. The fruit of the vine, namely wine, would then be consecrated into the blood of Christ at every altar throughout the world.

Jesus referred to his Mother as Woman. This was not out of any disrespect at all. After all, he fulfilled the fourth commandment perfectly. But his mother Mary was to fulfill what Eve lost and that is the dignity and status of being a daughter of God the Father as well as his exclusive possession. Mary was not only the daughter of God but she was a Mother and Virgin at the same time. In Genesis 3: 15, when God said, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers,” there are some translations which render “offspring” as seed. This was a common translation up until recently. As you know, women do not have seeds. Men do. The seed of Mary seems to prefigure the virgin birth of Jesus Christ. She would be fruitful without the intervention of a man. A kind of independence from man is communicated here. Whereas before men bestowed dignity and social worth to women in the Old Testament. With the Blessed Virgin, it is God taking that initiative. Indeed, what seems so theological and dogmatic, at times unrelated to the real world, had social and political implications for women.

In his public ministry, Jesus had women disciples. His healing and defense of women, both the infirmed and sinners alike, was but an expression and continuation of Mary’s conception outside of Eve’s shadow. It was becoming more evident that the chains had been broken.

2. Women’s New Status:

In the Christian era, women were no longer deemed worthy only through their maternity and dependence on men. Keep in mind that even within Judaism women could be divorced on whim, widows were often left to fend for themselves and women not allowed to those inner precincts of the Jewish Temple. Even up to the time of Christ’s birth, as we have seen, social disgrace was associated with being barren; but not so for a man.

On the other hand, the Catholic Church in those early years inspired vocations for consecrated virgins; now better known as Sisters and Nuns. In fact, St. Paul encouraged women to belong fully to God outside of marriage. He said, “Now to the unmarried and to widows, I say: it is a good thing for them to remain as they are, as I do… An unmarried woman or a virgin is anxious about the things of the Lord, so that she may be holy in both body and spirit…She is more blessed, though, in my opinion, if she remains as she is…”

St. Paul mentions Christian women, spouses of Christ, who made “their first pledge.” (I Timothy 5:3) This was a pledge of total dedication to the Lord. And as for widows, they were to be given special honor. Both St. James and St. Paul exhort the early Christians to take care of widows. This was the mark of “true religion.” “Honor widows who are truly widows,” said St. Paul, “…Let a widow be enrolled if she is not less than sixty years old, married only once…”

And as for married women, husbands were to look upon them as Christ did for his Church. Married men were to love their wives as his own flesh. The two, in Christ’s covenant, would become one. Such a union could not be dispensed with on whim. To be sure, the indissolubility of marriage would serve as a benefactor for women for centuries to come. Leaving his wife out in the cold, as was common place in the pagan world, the husband would to have to answer for it: first to the Church and then to God. As a Christian man it was his sacred obligation to protect, cherish and even die for his wife if need be.

As for motherhood, St. Paul taught that what once was a curse, namely, labor pangs and being valued exclusively as a mother would be an instrument of her sanctification, perfection and salvation. As the Apostle wrote to St. Timothy: “She will be saved through motherhood…” (I Timothy 2:15) All of this was made possible by Christ through the instrumentation of Mary.

3. The Real Benefactor of Women:

So there you have it! Eve, the mother of the living, had cast a long shadow over women for centuries to come. The creation of Mary, the Mother of God, was God’s way of binding up and healing the wounds of womanhood.

As for today, modern day feminism claims to be for women. But it is not. It is for liberal or secular women if only they are politically useful. As for the woman or female as such, the feminist ideology has little to offer and its followers have proven to be quite selective as to who they help. More often than not, feminism champions the liberal politician or celebrity. But females in the womb and women who do not subscribe to the feminist ideology have to fend for themselves. No doubt, the campaign for women’s equality had yield good results in the last century. For instance, a woman getting the same pay as a man for the same work has been a worthy goal. The playing field is still not as equitable as it can be.

Nevertheless, what Margaret Sanger’s feminism did was to promise women political and social liberation at the expense of her marriage, her family and her faith. “Against the State,” she exclaimed, “against the Church, against the silence of the medical profession, against the whole machinery of dead institutions of the past, the woman of today arises.” She declared war on those “dead” institutions that elevated her station in society and protected her against the lustful and political whims of men. The women of today, like those under Eve’s shadow, bear a heavy burden. Being a stay-at-home mother is frowned upon. Fidelity to husbands and persevering through difficult marriages is both undermined in our entertainment, in our education and in our courtrooms. But relationships make up for a good part of a woman’s life. If this is not saved, nothing is saved for her.

Who is the real benefactor of women in our world? The fact is that the Catholic Church celebrates saintly women throughout the liturgical calendar. Catholics celebrate and remember female heroine in their worship, readings and imitation. What other religion, ideology or institution does this? Devotion to the Blessed Virgin is among the greatest devotions of the Church. Second to God, second to Christ, she is given honor. And it is through her maternal love that women are conformed into the image of Christ.

Margaret Sanger’s feminism has given women the illusion of power but has left her female followers destitute. This ideology has led them right back into Eve’s shadow, which still exists. With that said, Mary, also known as our Lady of Fatima, said that her Immaculate Heart will triumph. Eve’s shadow will be forever dispelled and with Christ, Mary will win.