St. Mary of Egypt

The near-death-experience and conversion of Gloria Polo has been read and heard by millions, both in person and on many websites. In fact, I believe it to be the greatest account of God’s forgiveness and transformative mercy in any modern person’s life.

Here I’m sharing what I believe to be the greatest ancient account of God’s forgiveness and transformative mercy. It is about a female sex-addict become a canonized saint, St. Mary of Egypt, and it is my favorite short biography of any saint outside the Bible. The following events are promised to be true by its author, St. Zosima. His account takes place in the 4th century, in the deserts of both Egypt and Jordan…


The Life of Our Holy Mother, St Mary of Egypt
By St Sophronius, Patriarch of Jerusalem, 4th century

“It is good to hide the secret of a king, but it is glorious to reveal and preach the works of God.” (Tobit 12:7) So said the Archangel Raphael to Tobit when he performed the wonderful healing of his blindness.

Actually, not to keep the secret of a king is perilous and a terrible risk, but to be silent about the works of God is a great loss for the soul. And I (says St. Saphronius), in writing the life of St. Mary of Egypt, am afraid to hide the works of God by silence. Remembering the misfortune threatened to the servant who hid his God-given talent in the earth (Mat. 25:18-25), I am bound to pass on the holy account that has reached me. And let no one think (continues St. Saphronius) that I have had the audacity to write untruth or doubt this great marvel –may I never lie about holy things! If there do happen to be people who, after reading this record, do not believe it, may the Lord have mercy on them because, reflecting on the weakness of human nature, they consider impossible these wonderful things accomplished by holy people. But now we must begin to tell this most amazing story, which has taken place in our generation.

There was a certain elder in one of the monasteries of Palestine, a priest of the holy life and speech, who from childhood had been brought up in monastic ways and customs. This elder’s name was Zosimas. He had been through the whole course of the ascetic life and in everything he adhered to the rule once given to him by his tutors as regard spiritual labours. he had also added a good deal himself whilst labouring to subject his flesh to the will of the spirit. And he had not failed in his aim. He was so renowned for his spiritual life that many came to him from neighboring monasteries and some even from afar. While doing all this, he never ceased to study the Divine Scriptures. Whether resting, standing, working or eating food (if the scraps he nibbled could be called food), he incessantly and constantly had a single aim: always to sing of God, and to practice the teaching of the Divine Scriptures. Zosimas used to relate how, as soon as he was taken from his mother’s breast, he was handed over to the monastery where he went through his training as an ascetic till he reached the age of 53. After that, he began to be tormented with the thought that he was perfect in everything and needed no instruction from anyone, saying to himself mentally, “Is there a monk on earth who can be of use to me and show me a kind of asceticism that I have not accomplished? Is there a man to be found in the desert who has surpassed me?”

Thus thought the elder, when suddenly an angel appeared to him and said:

“Zosimas, valiantly have you struggled, as far as this is within the power of man, valiantly have you gone through the ascetic course. But there is no man who has attained perfection. Before you lie unknown struggles greater than those you have already accomplished. That you may know how many other ways lead to salvation, leave your native land like the renowned patriarch Abraham and go to the monastery by the River Jordan.”
Zosimas did as he was told. he left the monastery in which he had lived from childhood, and went to the River Jordan. At last he reached the community to which God had sent him. Having knocked at the door of the monastery, he told the monk who was the porter who he was; and the porter told the abbot. On being admitted to the abbot’s presence, Zosimas made the usual monastic prostration and prayer. Seeing that he was a monk the abbot asked:
“Where do you come from, brother, and why have you come to us poor old men?”

Zosimas replied:
“There is no need to speak about where I have come from, but I have come, father, seeking spiritual profit, for I have heard great things about your skill in leading souls to God.”

“Brother,” the abbot said to him, “Only God can heal the infirmity of the soul. May He teach you and us His divine ways and guide us. But as it is the love of Christ that has moved you to visit us poor old men, then stay with us, if that is why you have come. May the Good Shepherd Who laid down His life for our salvation fill us all with the grace of the Holy Spirit.”

After this, Zosimas bowed to the abbot, asked for his prayers and blessing, and stayed in the monastery. There he saw elders proficient both in action and the contemplation of God, aflame in spirit, working for the Lord. They sang incessantly, they stood in prayer all night, work was ever in their hands and psalms on their lips. Never an idle word was heard among them, they know nothing about acquiring temporal goods or the cares of life. But they had one desire — to become in body like corpses. Their constant food was the Word of God, and they sustained their bodies on bread and water, as much as their love for God allowed them. Seeing this, Zosimas was greatly edified and prepared for the struggle that lay before him.

Many days passed and the time drew near when all Christians fast and prepare themselves to worship the Divine Passion and Ressurection of Christ. The monastery gates were kept always locked and only opened when one of the community was sent out on some errand. It was a desert place, not only unvisited by people of the world but even unknown to them.

There was a rule in that monastery which was the reason why God brought Zosimas there. At the beginning of the Great Fast [on Forgiveness Sunday] the priest celebrated the holy Liturgy and all partook of the holy body and blood of Christ. After the Liturgy they went to the refectory and would eat a little lenten food.
Then all gathered in church, and after praying earnestly with prostrations, the elders kissed one another and asked forgiveness. And each made a prostration to the abbot and asked his blessing and prayers for the struggle that lay before them. After this, the gates of the monastery were thrown open, and singing, “The Lord is my light and my Savior; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the defender of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?” (Psalm 26:1) and the rest of that psalm, all went out into the desert and crossed the River Jordan. Only one or two brothers were left in the monastery, not to guard the property (for there was nothing to rob), but so as not to leave the church without Divine Service. Each took with him as much as he could or wanted in the way of food, according to the needs of his body: one would take a little bread, another some figs, another dates or wheat soaked in water. And some took nothing but their own body covered with rags and fed when nature forced them to it on the plants that grew in the desert.

After crossing the Jordan, they all scattered far and wide in different directions. And this was the rule of life they had, and which they all observed — neither to talk to one another, nor to know how each one lived and fasted. If they did happen to catch sight of one another, they went to another part of the country, living alone and always singing to God, and at a definite time eating a very small quantity of food. In this way they spent the whole of the fast and used to return to the monastery a week before the Resurrection of Christ, on Palm Sunday. Each one returned having his own conscience as the witness of his labour, and no one asked another how he had spent his time in the desert. Such were rules of the monastery. Everyone of them whilst in the desert struggled with himself before the Judge of the struggle — God — not seeking to please men and fast before the eyes of all. For what is done for the sake of men, to win praise and honour, is not only useless to the one who does it but sometimes the cause of great punishment.

Zosimas did the same as all. And he went far, far into the desert with a secret hope of finding some father who might be living there and who might be able to satisfy his thirst and longing. And he wandered on tireless, as if hurrying on to some definite place. He had already waled for 20 days and when the 6th hour came he stopped and, turning to the East, he began to sing the sixth Hour and recite the customary prayers. He used to break his journey thus at fixed hours of the day to rest a little, to chant psalms standing and to pray on bent knees.
And as he sang thus without turning his eyes from the heavens, he suddenly saw to the right of the hillock on which he stood the semblance of a human body. At first he was confused thinking he beheld a vision of the devil, and even started with fear. But, having guarded himself with the sign of the Cross and banished all fear, he turned his gaze in that direction and in truth saw some form gliding southwards. It was naked, the skin dark as if burned up by the heat of the sun; the hair on its head was white as a fleece, and not long, falling just below its neck. Zosimas was so overjoyed at beholding a human form that he ran after it in pursuit, but the form fled from him. He followed.

At length, when he was near enough to be heard, he shouted:
“Why do you run from an old man and a sinner? Slave of the True God, wait for me, whoever you are, in God’s name I tell you, for the love of God for Whose sake you are living in the desert.”

“Forgive me for God’s sake, but I cannot turn towards you and show you my face, Abba Zosimas. For I am a woman and naked as you see with the uncovered shame of my body. But if you would like to fulfil one wish of a sinful woman, throw me your cloak so that I can cover my body and can turn to you and ask for your blessing.”
Here terror seized Zosimas, for he heard that she called him by name. But he realized that she could not have done so without knowing anything of him if she had not had the power of spiritual insight.
He at once did as he was asked. He took off his old, tattered cloak and threw it to her, turning away as he did so. She picked it up and was able to cover at least a part of her body. The she turned to Zosimas and said:
“Why did you wish, Abba Zosimas, to see a sinful woman? What do you wish to hear or learn from me, you who have not shrunk from such great struggles?” Zosimas threw himself on the ground and asked for her blessing. She likewise bowed down before him. And thus they lay on the ground prostrate asking for each other’s blessing. And one word alone could be heard from both: “Bless me!” After a long while the woman said to Zosimas:
“Abba Zosimas, it is you who must give blessing and pray. You are dignified by the order of priesthood and for many years you have been standing before the holy altar and offering the sacrifice of the Divine Mysteries.”
This flung Zosimas into even greater terror. At length with tears he said to her:
“O mother, filled with the spirit, by your mode of life it is evident that you live with God and have died to the world. The Grace granted to you is apparent — for you have called me by name and recognized that I am a priest, though you have never seen me before. Grace is recognized not by one’s orders, but by gifts of the Spirit, so give me your blessing for God’s sake, for I need your prayers.”
Then, giving way before the wish of the elder, the woman said:
“Blessed is God Who cares for the salvation of men and their souls.”
Zosimas answered:
“Amen.”
And both rose to their feet. Then the woman asked the elder:
“Why have you come, man of God, to me who am so sinful? Why do you wish to see a woman naked and devoid of every virtue? Though I know one thing — the Grace of the Holy Spirit has brought you to render me a service in time. Tell me, father, how are the Christian peoples living? And the kings? How is the Church guided?”
Zosimas said:
“By your prayers, mother, Christ has granted lasting peace to all. But fulfill the unworthy petition of an old man and pray for the whole world and for me who am a sinner, so that my wanderings in the desert may not be fruitless.”
She answered:
“You who are a priest, Abba Zosimas, it is you who must pray for me and for all — for this is your calling. But as we must all be obedient, I will gladly do what you ask.”
And with these words she turned to the East, and raising her eyes to heaven and stretching out her hands, she began to pray in a whisper. One could not hear separate words, so that Zosimas could not understand anything that she said in her prayers. Meanwhile he stood, according to his own word, all in a flutter, looking at the ground without saying a word. And he swore, calling God to witness, that when at length he thought that her prayer was very long, he took his eyes off the ground and saw that she was raised bout a forearm’s distance from the ground and stood praying in the air. When he saw this, even greater terror seized him and he fell on the ground weeping and repeating may times, “Lord have mercy.”
And whilst lying prostrate on the ground he was tempted by a thought: Is it not a spirit, and perhaps her prayer is hypocrisy. But at the very same moment the woman turned round, raised the elder from the ground and said:
“Why do thoughts confuse you, Abba, and tempt you about me, as if I were a spirit and a dissember in prayer? Know, holy father, that I am only a sinful woman, though I am guarded by Holy baptism. And I am no spirit but earth and ashes, and flesh alone.”
And with these words she guarded herself with the sign of the Cross on her forehead, eyes, mouth and breast, saying:
“May God defend us from the evil one and from his designs, for fierce is his struggle against us.”
Hearing and seeing this, the elder fell to the ground and, embracing her feet, he said with tears:
“I beg you, by the Name of Christ our God, Who was born of a Virgin, for Whose sake you have stripped yourself, for Whose sake you have exhausted your flesh, do not hide from your slave, who you are and whence and how you came into this desert. Tell me everything so that the marvellous works of God may become known. A hidden wisdom and a secret treasure — what profit is there in them? Tell me all, I implore you. for not out of vanity or for self-display will you speak but to reveal the truth to me, an unworthy sinner. I believe in God, for whom you live and whom you serve. I believe that He led me into this desert so as to show me His ways in regard to you. It is not in our power to resist the plans of God. If it were not the will of God that you and your life would be known, He would not have allowed be to see you and would not have strengthened me to undertake this journey, one like me who never before dared to leave his cell.”
Much more said Abba Zosimas. But the woman raised him and said:
“I am ashamed, Abba, to speak to you of my disgraceful life, forgive me for God’s sake! But as you have already seen my naked body I shall likewise lay bare before you my work, so that you may know with what shame and obscenity my soul is filled. I was not running away out of vanity, as you thought, for what have I to be proud of — I who was the chosen vessel of the devil? But when I start my story you will run from me, as from a snake, for your ears will not be able to bear the vileness of my actions. But I shall tell you all without hiding anything, only imploring you first of all to pray incessantly for me, so that I may find mercy on the day of Judgment.”
The elder wept and the woman began her story.
“My native land, holy father, was Egypt. Already during the lifetime of my parents, when I was twelve years old, I renounced their love and went to Alexandria. I am ashamed to recall how there I at first ruined my maidenhood and then unrestrainedly and insatiably gave myself up to sensuality. It is more becoming to speak of this briefly, so that you may just know my passion and my lechery. for about seventeen years, forgive me, I lived like that. I was like a fire of public debauch. And it was not for the sake of gain — here I speak the pure truth. Often when they wished to pay me, I refused the money. I acted in this way so as to make as many men as possible to try to obtain me, doing free of charge what gave me pleasure. do not think that I was rich and that was the reason why I did not take money. I lived by begging, often by spinning flax, but I had an insatiable desire and an irrepressible passion for lying in filth. This was life to me. Every kind of abuse of nature I regarded as life.
That is how I lived. Then one summer I saw a large crowd of Lybians and Egyptians running towards the sea. I asked one of them, `Where are these men hurrying to?’ He replied, `They are all going to Jerusalem for the Exaltation of the Precious and Lifegiving Cross, which takes place in a few days.’ I said to him, `Will they take me with them if I wish to go?’ `No one will hinder you if you have money to pay for the journey and for food.’ And I said to him, `To tell you truth, I have no money, neither have I food. But I shall go with them and shall go aboard. And they shall feed me, whether they want to or not. I have a body — they shall take it instead of pay for the journey.’ I was suddenly filled with a desire to go, Abba, to have more lovers who could satisfy my passion. I told you, Abba Zosimas, not to force me to tell you of my disgrace. God is my witness, I am afraid of defiling you and the very air with my words.”
Zosimas, weeping, replied to her:
“Speak on for God’s sake, mother, speak and do not break the thread of such an edifying tale.”
And, resuming her story, she went on:
“That youth, on hearing my shameless words, laughed and went off. While I, throwing away my spinning wheel, ran off towards the sea in the direction which everyone seemed to be taking. and, seeing some young men standing on the shore, about ten or more of them, full of vigour and alert in their movements, I decided that they would do for my purpose (it seemed that some of them were waiting for more travellers whilst others had gone ashore). Shamelessly, as usual, I mixed with the crowd, saying, `Take me with you to the place you are going to; you will not find me superfluous.’ I also added a few more words calling forth general laughter. Seeing my readiness to be shameless, they readily took me aboard the boat. Those who were expected came also, and we set sail at once.
How shall I relate to you what happened after this? Whose tongue can tell, whose ears can take in all that took place on the boat during that voyage! And to all this I frequently forced those miserable youths even against their own will. There is no mentionable or unmentionable depravity of which I was not their teacher. I am amazed, Abba, how the sea stood our licentiousness, how the earth did not open its jaws, and how it was that hell did not swallow me alive, when I had entangled in my net so many souls. But I think God was seeking my repentance. For He does not desire the death of a sinner but magnanimously awaits his return to Him. At last we arrived in Jerusalem. I spent the days before the festival in the town, living the same kind of life, perhaps even worse. I was not content with the youths I had seduced at sea and who had helped be to get to Jerusalem; many others — citizens of the town and foreigners — I also seduced.
The holy day of the Exaltation of the Cross dawned while I was still flying about — hunting for youths. At daybreak I saw that everyone was hurrying to the church, so I ran with the rest. When the hour for the holy elevation approached, I was trying to make my way in with the crowd which was struggling to get through the church doors. I had at last squeezed through with great difficulty almost to the entrance of the temple, from which the lifegiving Tree of the Cross was being shown to the people. But when I trod on the doorstep which everyone passed, I was stopped by some force which prevented my entering. Meanwhile I was brushed aside by the crowd and found myself standing alone in the porch. Thinking that this had happened because of my woman’s weakness, I again began to work my way into the crowd, trying to elbow myself forward. But in vain I struggled. Again my feet trod on the doorstep over which others were entering the church without encountering any obstacle. I alone seemed to remain unaccepted by the church. It was as if there was a detachment of soldiers standing there to oppose my entrance. Once again I was excluded by the same mighty force and again I stood in the porch.
Having repeated my attempt three or four times, at last I felt exhausted and had no more strength to push and to be pushed, so I went aside and stood in a corner of the porch. And only then with great difficulty it began to dawn on me, and I began to understand the reason why I was prevented from being admitted to see the life-giving Cross. The word of salvation gently touched the eyes of my heart and revealed to me that it was my unclean life which barred the entrance to me. I began to weep and lament and beat my breast, and to sigh from the depths of my heart. And so I stood weeping when I saw above me the ikon of the most holy Mother of God. And turning to her my bodily and spiritual eyes I said:
`O Lady, Mother of God, who gave birth in the flesh to God the Word, I know, O how well I know, that it is no honour or praise to thee when one so impure and depraved as I look up to thy ikon, O ever-virgin, who didst keep thy body and soul in purity. Rightly do I inspire hatred and disgust before thy virginal purity. But I have heard that God Who was born of thee became man on purpose to call sinners to repentance. Then help me, for I have no other help. Order the entrance of the church to be opened to me. Allow me to see the venerable Tree on which He Who was born of thee suffered in the flesh and on which He shed His holy Blood for the redemption of sinners and for me, unworthy as I am. Be my faithful witness before thy Son that I will never again defile my body by the impurity of fornication, but as soon as I have seen the Tree of the Cross I will renounce the world and its temptations and will go wherever thou wilt lead me.’
Thus I spoke and as if acquiring some hope in firm faith and feeling some confidence in the mercy of the Mother of God, I left the place where I stood praying. And I went again and mingled with the crowd that was pushing its way into the temple. And no one seemed to thwart me, no one hindered my entering the church. I was possessed with trembling, and was almost in delirium. Having got as far as the doors which I could not reach before — as if the same force which had hindered me cleared the way for me — I now entered without difficulty and found myself within the holy place. And so it was I saw the lifegiving Cross. I saw too the Mysteries of God and how the Lord accepts repentance. Throwing myself on the ground, I worshipped that holy earth and kissed it with trembling. Then I came out of the church and went to her who had promised to be my security, to the place where I had sealed my vow. And bending my knees before the Virgin Mother of God, I addressed to her such words as these:
`O loving Lady, thou hast shown me thy great love for all men. glory to God Who receives the repentance of sinners through thee. What more can I recollect or say, I who am so sinful? It is time for me, O Lady to fulfil my vow, according to thy witness. Now lead me by the hand along the path of repentance!’ And at these words I heard a voice from on high:
`If you cross the Jordan you will find glorious rest.’

Hearing this voice and having faith that it was for me, I cried to the Mother of God:
`O Lady, Lady, do not forsake me!’
With these words I left the porch of the church and set off on my journey. As I was leaving the church a stranger glanced at me and gave me three coins, saying:
`Sister, take these.’
And, taking the money, I bought three loaves and took them with me on my journey, as a blessed gift. I asked the person who sold the bread: `Which is the way to the Jordan?’ I was directed to the city gate which led that way. Running on I passed the gates and still weeping went on my journey. Those I met I asked the way, and after walking for the rest of that day (I think it was nine o’clock when I saw the Cross) I at length reached at sunset the Church of St. John the Baptist which stood on the banks of the Jordan. After praying in the temple, I went down to the Jordan and rinsed my face and hands in its holy waters. I partook of the holy and life-giving Mysteries in the Church of the Forerunner and ate half of one of my loaves. Then, after drinking some water from Jordan, I lay down and passed the night on the ground. In the morning I found a small boat and crossed to the opposite bank. I again prayed to Our Lady to lead me whither she wished. Then I found myself in this desert and since then up to this very day I am estranged from all, keeping away from people and running away from everyone. And I live here clinging to my God Who saves all who turn to Him from faintheartedness and storms.”
Zosimas asked her:
“How many years have gone by since you began to live in this desert?”
She replied:
“Forty-seven years have already gone by, I think, since I left the holy city.”
Zosimas asked:
“But what food do you find?”
The woman said:
“I had two and a half loaves when I crossed the Jordan. Soon they dried up and became hard as rock. Eating a little I gradually finished them after a few years.”
Zosimas asked.
“Can it be that without getting ill you have lived so many years thus, without suffering in any way from such a complete change?”

The woman answered:
“You remind me, Zosimas, of what I dare not speak of. For when I recall all the dangers which I overcame, and all the violent thoughts which confused me, I am again afraid that they will take possession of me.”
Zosimas said:
“Do not hide from me anything; speak to me without concealing anything.”
And she said to him:
“Believe me, Abba, seventeen years I passed in this desert fighting wild beasts — mad desires and passions. When I was about to partake of food, I used to begin to regret the meat and fish of which I had so much in Egypt. I regretted also not having wine which I loved so much, for I drank a lot of wine when I lived in the world, while here I had not even water. I used to burn and succumb with thirst. The mad desire for profligate songs also entered me and confused me greatly, edging me on to sing satanic songs which I had learned once. But when such desires entered me I struck myself on the breast and reminded myself of the vow which I had made, when going into the desert. In my thoughts I returned to the ikon of the Mother of God which had received me and to her I cried in prayer. I implored her to chase away the thoughts to which my miserable soul was succumbing. And after weeping for long and beating my breast I used to see light at last which seemed to shine on me from everywhere. And after the violent storm, lasting calm descended.
And how can I tell you about the thoughts which urged me on to fornication, how can I express them to you, Abba? A fire was kindled in my miserable heart which seemed to burn me up completely and to awake in me a thirst for embraces. As soon as this craving came to me, I flung myself on the earth and watered it with my tears, as if I saw before me my witness, who had appeared to me in my disobedience, and who seemed to threaten punishment for the crime. And I did not rise from the ground (sometimes I lay thus prostrate for a day and a night) until a calm and sweet light descended and enlightened me and chased away the thoughts that possessed me. But always I turned to the eyes of my mind to my Protectress, asking her to extend help to one who was sinking fast in the waves of the desert. And I always had her as my Helper and the Accepter of my repentance. And thus I lived for seventeen years amid constant dangers. And since then even till now the Mother of God helps me in everything and leads me as it were by the hand.”
Zosimas asked:
“Can it be that you did not need food and clothing?”
She answered:
“After finishing the loaves I had, of which I spoke, for seventeen years I have fed on herbs and all that can be found in the desert. The clothes I had when I crossed the Jordan became torn and worn out. I suffered greatly from the cold and greatly from the extreme heat. At times the sun burned me up and at other times I shivered from the frost, and frequently falling to the ground I lay without breath and without motion. I struggled with many afflictions and with terrible temptations. But from that time till now the power of God in numerous ways had guarded my sinful soul and my humble body. When I only reflect on the evils from which Our Lord has delivered me I have imperishable food for hope of salvation. I am fed and clothed by the all-powerful Word of God, the Lord of all. For it is not by bread alone that man lives. And those who have stripped off the rags of sin have no refuge, hiding themselves in the clefts of the rocks (Job 24; Heb. 11:38).”
Hearing that she cited words of Scripture, from Moses and Job, Zosimas asked her:
“And so you have read the psalms and other books?”
She smiled at this and said to the elder:
“Believe be, I have not seen a human face ever since I crossed the Jordan, except yours today. I have not seen a beast or a living being ever since I came into the desert. I never learned from books. I have never even heard anyone who sang and read from them. But the Word of God which is alive and active, BY ITSELF teaches a man knowledge. And so this is the end of my tale. But, as I asked you in the beginning, so even now I implore you for the sake of the Incarnate word of God, to pray to the Lord for me who am such a sinner.”
Thus concluding here tale she bowed down before him. And with tears the elder exclaimed:
“Blessed is God Who creates the great and wondrous, the glorious and marvellous without end. Blessed is God Who has shown me how He rewards those who fear Him. Truly, O Lord, Thou dost not forsake those who seek Thee!”
And the woman, not allowing the elder to bow down before her, said:
“I beg you, holy father, for the sake of Jesus Christ our God and Savior, tell no one what you have heard, until God delivers me of this earth. And now depart in peace and again next year you shall see me, and I you, if God will preserve us in His great mercy. But for God’s sake, do as I ask you. Next year during Lent do not cross the Jordan, as is your custom in the monastery.”
Zosimas was amazed to hear that she know the rules of the monastery and could only say:
“Glory to God Who bestows great gifts on those who love Him.”
She continued:
“Remain, Abba, in the monastery. And even if you wish to depart, you will not be to do so. And at sunset of the holy day of the Last supper, put some of the lifegiving Body and Blood of Christ into a holy vessel worthy to hold such Mysteries for me, and bring it. And wait for me on the banks of the Jordan adjoining the inhabited parts of the land, so that I can come and partake of the lifegiving Gifts. For, since the time I communicated in the temple of the Forerunner before crossing the Jordan even to this day I have not approached the Holy Mysteries. And I thirst for them with irrepressible love and longing. And therefore I ask and implore you to grant me my wish, bring me the lifegiving Mysteries at the very hour when Our Lord made His disciples partake of His Divine Supper. Tell John the Abbot of the monastery where you live. Look to yourself and to your brothers, for there is much that needs correction. Only do not say this now, but when God guides you. Pray for me!”
With these words she vanished in the depths of the desert. And Zosimas, falling down on his knees and bowing down to the ground on which she had stood, sent up glory and thanks to God. And, after wandering thorough the desert, he returned to the monastery on the day all the brothers returned.
For the whole year he kept silent, not daring to tell anyone of what he had seen. But he prayed to God to give him another chance of seeing the ascetic’s dear face. And when at length the first Sunday of the Great Fast came, all went out into the desert with the customary prayers and the singing of psalms. Only Zosimas was held back by illness — he lay in a fever. And then he remembered what the saint had said to him: “and even if you wish to depart, you will not be able to do so.”
Many days passed and at last recovering from his illness he remained in the monastery. And when again the monks returned and the day of the Last Supper dawned, he did as he had been ordered, and placing some of the most pure Body and Blood into a small chalice and putting some figs and dates and lentils soaked in water into a small basket, he departed for the desert and reached the banks of the Jordan and sat down to wait for the saint. He waited for a long while and then began to doubt. Then, raising his eyes to heaven, he began to pray:
“Grant me, O Lord, to behold that which Thou hast allowed me to behold once. Do not let me depart in vain, being the burden of my sins.”

And then another thought struck him:
“And what if she does come? There is no boat; how will she cross the Jordan to come to me who am so unworthy?”
And as he was pondering thus he saw the holy woman appear and stand on the other side of the river. Zosimas got up rejoicing and glorifying and thanking God. And again the thought came to him that she could not cross the Jordan. Then he saw that she made the sign of the Cross over the waters of the Jordan (and the night was a moonlight one, as he related afterwards) and then she at once stepped on to the waters and began walking across the surface towards him. And when he wanted to prostrate himself, she cried to him while still walking on the water:
“What are you doing, Abba, you are a priest and carrying the divine Gifts!”
He obeyed her and on reaching the shore she said to the elder:
“Bless, father, bless me!”
He answered her trembling, for a state of confusion had overcome him at the sight of the miracle:
“Truly God did not lie when He promised that when we purify ourselves we shall be like Him. Glory to Thee, Christ our God, Who has shown me through this Thy slave how far away I stand from perfection.”
Here the woman asked him to say the Creed and Our Father. He began, she finished the prayer and according to the custom of that time gave him the kiss of peace on the lips. Having partaken of the Holy Mysteries, she raised her hands to heaven and sighed with tears in her eyes, exclaiming:
“Now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace, O Lord, according to Thy word; for my eyes have seen Thy salvation.”

Then she said to the elder:
“Forgive me, Abba, for asking you, but fulfil another wish of mine. Go now to the monastery and let God’s grace guard you, and next year come again to the same place where I first met you. Come for God’s sake, for you shall again see me, for such is the will of God.”
He said to her:
“From this day on I would like to follow you and always see your holy face. But now fulfil the one and only wish of an old man and take a little of the food I have brought for you.”
And he showed her the basket, while she just touched the lentils with the tips of her fingers, and taking three grains said that the Holy Spirit guards the substance of the soul unpolluted. Then she said:
“Pray, for God’s sake pray for me and remember a miserable wretch.”
Touching the saint’s feet and asking for her prayers for the Church, the kingdom and himself, he let her depart with tears, while he went off sighing and sorrowful, for he could not hope to vanquish the invincible. Meanwhile she again made the sign of the Cross over the Jordan, and stepped on to the waters and crossed over as before. And the elder returned filled with joy and terror, accusing himself of not having asked the saint her name. But he decided to do so next year.
And when another year had passed, he again went into the desert. He reached the same spot but could see no sign of anyone. So, raising his eyes to heaven as before, he prayed:
“Show me, O Lord, Thy pure treasure, which Thou hast concealed in the desert. Show me, I pray Thee, the angel in the flesh, of which the world is not worthy.”
Then on the opposite bank of the river, her face turned towards the rising sun, he saw the saint lying dead. Her hands were crossed according to custom and her face was turned to the East. Running up he shed tears over the saint’s feet and kissed them, not daring to touch anything else.
For a long time he wept. Then reciting the appointed psalms, he said the burial prayers and thought to himself: “Must I bury the body of a saint? Or will this be contrary to her wishes?” And then he saw words traced on the ground by her head:
“Abba Zosimas, bury on this spot the body of humble Mary. Return to dust that which is dust and pray to the Lord for me, who departed in the month of Fermoutin of Egypt, called April by the Romans, on the first day, on the very night of our Lord’s Passion, after having partaken of the Divine Mysteries.” [St. Mary died in 522 A. D.]
Reading this the elder was glad to know the saint’s name. He understood too that as soon as she had partaken of the Divine Mysteries on the shore of the Jordan she was at once transported to the place where she died. The distance which Zosimas had taken twenty days to cover, Mary had evidently traversed in an hour and had at once surrendered her soul to God.
Then Zosimas thought: “It is time to do as she wished. But how am I to dig a grave with nothing in my hands?”
And then he saw nearby a small piece of wood left by some traveller in the desert. Picking it up he began to dig the ground. But the earth was hard and dry and did not yield to the efforts of the elder. He grew tired and covered with sweat. He sighed from the depths of his soul and lifting up his eyes he saw a big lion standing close to the saint’s body and licking her feet. At the sight of the lion he trembled with fear, especially when he called to mind Mary’s words that she had never seen wild beasts in the desert. But guarding himself with the sign of the cross, the thought came to him that the power of the one lying there would protect him and keep him unharmed. Meanwhile the lion drew nearer to him, expressing affection by every movement.
Zosimas said to the lion:
“The Great One ordered that her body was to be buried. But I am old and have not the strength to dig the grave, for I have no spade and it would take too long to go and get one. So can you carry out the work with your claws? Then we can commit to the earth the mortal temple of the saint.”
While he was still speaking the lion with his front paws began to dig a hole deep enough to bury the body.


Again the elder washed the feet of the saint with his tears and calling on her to pray for all, covered the body with earth in the presence of the lion. It was as it had been, naked and uncovered by anything but the tattered cloak which had been given to her by Zosimas and with which Mary, turning away, had managed to cover part of her body. Then both departed. The lion went off into the depth of the desert like a lamb, while Zosimas returned to the monastery glorifying and blessing Christ our Lord. And on reaching the monastery he told all the brothers about everything, and all marvelled on hearing of God’s miracles. And with fear and love they kept the memory of the saint.
Abbot John, as St. Mary had previously told Abba Zosimas, found a number of things wrong in the monastery and got rid of them with God’s help. And Saint Zosimas died in the same monastery, almost attaining the age of a hundred, and passed to eternal life. The monks kept this story without writing it down and passed it on by word of mouth to one another.
But I (adds Sophronius) as soon as I heard it, wrote it down. Perhaps someone else, better informed, has already written the life of the Saint, but as far as I could, I have recorded everything, putting truth above all else. May God Who works amazing miracles and generously bestows gifts on those who turn to Him with faith, reward those who seek light for themselves in this story, who hear, read and are zealous to write it, and may He grant them the lot of blessed Mary together with all who at different times have pleased God by their pious thoughts and labours.
And let us also give glory to God, the eternal King, that He may grant us too His mercy in the day of judgment for the sake of Jesus Christ our Lord, to Whom belongs all glory, honour, dominion and adoration with the Eternal Father and the Most Holy and Life-giving Spirit, now and always, and throughout all ages. Amen.
The End, and Glory Be to God!
________________________________________
From The Great Canon—the Work of Saint Andrew of Crete, Holy Trinity Monastery, Jordanville, NY, Internet Medieval Source Book, with minor typographical corrections by the Monachos.net editor.

Doctrine: Why We Can’t Crack

A young priest with whom I was once a seminarian is now on Facebook like me. About a year ago, he posted the account of how he asked an old priest if young priests would save the Church. The old priest said “No, Jesus will save His Church,” or something like that. Of course, this post had a ton of “likes.” For one, it seemed so humble for a young priest to admit that we young priests would not “save” the Church. Secondly, it tapped our modern Catholic desire to prove to Protestants that we only look to for Jesus for salvation.

Both are true, and I have no problem with either motivating factor for a lot of “likes” for that. But it diverts readers from the fact that God always sends real saints in the flesh like St. Catherine of Siena to fix real crises in the Church. When we all sit back and say “Don’t worry, Jesus is going to take care of it” (as everyone always tells me), well, that sounds very trusting and even saintly, but it is not Catholic. It misses the teaching of the Mystical Body of Christ, namely, that from the very beginnings of Christianity, Christ came first in the head (the Incarnation as Jesus Christ) and then in the body (His saints and martyrs.) See here what the Holy Spirit teaches about His own Catholic Church as the Mystical Body of Christ:

“And [Christ] is the head of the body, the Church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything He might be preeminent. For in Him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross…Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the Church, of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known, the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints.”—Col 1:18-20, 23.

Notice two things from that quote:

1) The Apostle Paul was so confident that he was a living and real extension of Christ in the world that Paul could go so far as to say under inspiration of the Holy Ghost: “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of His body, that is, the Church.”—Col 1:23. So what is lacking in Christ’s sufferings? Nothing except my participation. Christ’s sacrifice on the cross was 100% propitiatory, of course. Evangelical Protestants and Catholics agree on this. But what most people miss in this quote is my participation in Christ’s redemptive act lived in the world in 2018 can actually be missing. And when we don’t participate in the sufferings of Christ, the Church enters a crisis. Now we have the greatest crisis of faith ever seen in the Catholic Church, but if we take the Bible literally, it is because we in the Mystical Body want Christ without the Cross. It’s right there in Col 1:23.

2) Jesus is the head of the Mystical Body of Christ, but “Christ” includes the whole body of every baptized member, down to the smallest. Every time the littlest one suffers, it is still Christ suffering, as when we saw Jesus say to Saul while the latter was persecuting the Church: “And falling to the ground, he heard a voice saying to him, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’ And he said, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ And he said, ‘I am Jesus.’”—Acts 9:4-5a. In fact, St. Augustine went so far as to say: “If by Christ you mean both head and body, the sufferings of Christ are only in Christ.” Re-read that quote from St. Augustine a few times and let it sink in to get the Catholic idea of how we are all cells in the Mystical Body of Christ and that Jesus is the head and Mary is the neck (the mediatrix of all graces.)  1

Think how a modern Protestant or a modern Catholic would think it extremely arrogant if a modern pastor were to now claim that only Christ lived in that pastor: “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”—Gal 2:20. But this is how the saving act of Christ continues on in the Church, by acting as loving and as bold as Christ in all our vocations. It is not to keep kowtowing backwards in doctrine for the sake of being “pastoral” that the Church will continue in the West.

We need a lesson from the East, from the Coptic Catholics and Chaldean Catholics and other Christians who balk at the threats of Muslims to abandon Christ, taking the knife the throat before capitulating to false-ecumenism.

St. Augustine taught something very profound on the mysteries of Christ’s Ascension and Pentecost. He wrote this: “And He [Christ] departed from our sight that we might return to our heart and find Him there. For He departed, and behold, He is here.”–St. Augustine. What St. Augustine means is that Christ went up at the Ascension, but He is now found on earth in His people after baptism and Pentecost. Thus, Christ saving the Church will happen through saints on earth, not a Protestant idea of a non-incarnate mystical body of Jesus just magically making things better at an emotional level. That idea is not Catholic. It’s not even Scriptural.

This is why St. Teresa of Avila wrote: “Christ has no hands but yours.” This includes the hands of bloggers.  So, in a doctrinal crisis in the Church, it matters that no one ever capitulate on doctrine, no matter how high the price. The first Great Commandment (love God) comes before and flows into the second Great Commandment (love others.) That means that we must love God before neighbor. We must say the right thing, of course in charity, but always regardless of what we guess to be the unintended negative consequences at the pastoral level.

Without this rather-reckless philosophy, Jesus never would have made the Pharisees angry enough to crucify him. When Peter put Jesus’ own awesome ministry of teaching and miracles above of the cross, Peter was called a “Satan.” So also, we who work for the Catholic Church (cleric and lay alike) must do the right thing, regardless of consequences even at the ecclesial level.  We can all be masters of our own deceit on what it means to be people-pleasing under the pretext of “pastoral.” We can all trick ourselves to say that cracking on doctrine for the sake of being pastoral will save souls.

It never will!

2

The end doesn’t justify the means, and this includes sins of omission.  If I fail to speak up for the truth in charity in a crisis in the Church for the sake of keeping the peace or keeping people in my pews or pleasing other clerics…I am sinning. I am literally sinning and harming the two primary missions of the Church: 1) The glory of God. 2) The salvation of souls.

Christ’s attitude to the Pharisees is all we need to assure us of this. Was it worth Christ angering the Pharisees that led to their jealousy that ended His ministry? Yes. We would never have the salvation of the cross if Christ had calculated in His sacred humanity the perfect way of pleasing everyone.  Of course, the Son of God would never do this, but just realize you are called to be as bold if we take Catholic Ecclesiology to the extent of how St. Paul and St. Augustine saw the Mystical Body of Christ on earth.

Or really any saint: Christ has no hands but yours. This means writing the truth when it is not popular. You are making a difference. Priests, this means preaching the truth, even if it means losing your jobs. You can never commit a sin of omission for the sake of a future good, for the end doesn’t justify the means. Why can I write this so confidently?

Because I very much believe deep in my heart: God is always faithful.


  1. An understanding of the redemptive suffering of the Mystical Body of Christ was inadvertently captured in X-Men: Days of Future Past. Professor X says: “It’s not their pain you’re afraid of. It’s yours, Charles. And as frightening as it can be, that pain will make you stronger. If you allow yourself to feel it, embrace it, it will make you more powerful than you ever imagined. It’s the greatest gift we have: to bear their pain without breaking. And it comes from the most human part of us: hope. Charles, we need you to hope again.”

  2. Even an elementary look at Church History would suggest that God is inspiring would-be saints to end this current crisis in the Church, but they/we are not responding to grace. Of course, I can not prove this, which is why it is only a footnote. The other option is that we are under such a heavy punishment from God for abortion and contraception and sacriligious communions that we are left “with no prophet” to guide us. This would be a sign of the Great Apostasy already upon us, so the first option is obviously a bit more cheerful, namely, that priests and bishops are not responding to the graces of boldness to end this crisis of modernism.

The Priest and Our Lady

I was staring at the Eucharist in my private chapel, and I marvelled at how the Eucharist came from me. And the Eucharist is Jesus. And Jesus is God. So…God came from me? I immediately knew there was something wrong about in my thinking. It was this: The Eucharist did not come from me.

The best preposition is probably “through.” That is, the Eucharist came through me. The Catholic Church uses the verb to confect as seen in Canon Law: “Can. 900 §1. The minister who is able to confect the sacrament of the Eucharist in the person of Christ is a validly ordained priest alone.” This verb comes from the Latin conficere, meaning to produce or to effect. It’s a variant-stem of con-facere, meaning “to make with.” Combine these two roots, and we have something like “to effect with.” So, the priest is an instrument who effects something with God…but even then it is only Christ Himself saying Hoc est enim corpus meum, or “This is my body.” This is the summit of a priest’s day when he functions in the person of Christ. He also functions as the person of Christ when the priest says Ego te absolvo or “I absolve you from your sins…” (See John 20:22-23.)

It is the priest who confects the Eucharist. In my chapel in the picture above, I stared at Our Lord and I realized that this is another link between the priest and Mary:   Jesus came through Mary. In this sense, the priest is yet again like Mary: Jesus in the Eucharist comes through me. Although the dignity of being the Mother of God has no parallel, we can both say:  I do not make God. The priest only confects the Eucharist, and even that is God’s own supreme act of love and sacrifice lived through me at my fingertips.

But why was Mary such a perfect vessel? In some sense (and I mean this with the utmost reverence to the fact she is the Immaculate Conception and the Mother of God) it was because of what she was not. She was not impure. She was not arrogant. She was not self-centered. She was not a braggart. She had no concern with being popular. The Uncreated Light of the Blessed Trinity was too transcendent for man to see.  But at Christmas and Epiphany, the Divine Word was all of a sudden visible because of a pure prism with no selfishness.

That prism is of course the Holy Theotokos, Mary, Our Lady.  Because of her purity, Christ could enter the physical world through her. Like a perfect prism, purity is more about what is not there. There are no blemishes, marks, scratches or cracks. Purity of intention is more than just matters of the sixth or ninth commandment. Purity of intention is to ascribe nothing to oneself. He must increase and I must decrease. In fact, the word arrogance means to ascribe something to oneself that should not be there.

The mystics tell us that no one in first century Israel was praying for the coming of the Messiah more than Mary. In fact, she only wanted to be the maid of the mother of the Messiah. That is all that she wanted—to be the sidekick of the Mother of the Messiah! Of course, it was her humility that “troubled”  her (Lk 1:29) at the greeting of the glorious angel Gabriel.

Perhaps this is why the best of the desert Fathers did not want to be priests.

I have a good female friend who does a lot of good for the Church, but she is still unmarried and she does not have a religious vocation. The one place she finds great consolation is the most mysterious of all lines of the Apostle Paul: God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.—1 Cor 1:28-29. I can almost hear that deep movie-preview voice say, maybe for a new Lord of the Rings movie, that mysterious line about some barely-existing creature that would change the world: “even things that are not…” I don’t think she realizes how much this humility makes her like Mary, even when she doesn’t understand her vocation.  This is how Mary saw herself, as something that was not. I don’t mean this in the way of self-pity or lack-of-self confidence.  It actually takes an extremely humble person to have self-confidence.

In fact, without humility, God could not have made her the most famous woman in history. Yes, “He hath regarded the humility of His handmaid; for behold from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.”—Lk 1:48

What does this have to do with Our Lady’s priests?  As Archbishop Fulton Sheen got older in all his sermons and retreats, it seems to my listening ears (many years after his death) that there was a progression in all his talks through the 1970s of his growing concern about how many priests wanted to exert their own personality…to be funny, to be entertaining, to be relevant, to be hip. Archbishop Fulton Sheen would frequently boom a mockery-motto of the modern priest: “I gotta be me!” No, Mary did not need any of these things for Christ to come through Her. Rejecting popularity, she became the most popular woman in history. It’s quite a mystery, actually.

This is true for preaching, too.  We have had 50 years of the via positiva, people preaching from the pulpit that “God loves you.” And this is fine.  But there’s a detriment to no preaching the via negativa.  Years ago, when I first read the hellfire sermons of St. John Vianney, I was discouraged. When I first heard of St. John of the Cross, I thought that this saint spent too much time writing on detachment (the via negativa). Why not more time writing about God and His love? The answer is at the top of Mount Carmel: Because at the top of Mount Carmel, when one’s spiritual ego is totally sunk, the only thing that one experiences is in the honor and glory of God.

In blue-collar terms: All we need to do is reduce the bad, and God will do His job of turning up the good.   The great saints of old spent so much time preaching against vice precisely because they were sure that God would do his job of shining through us if we could discipline ourselves (of course after the unmerited forgiveness of the blood of Christ arriving via the sacraments and faith.) The preaching of detachment was ironically a brilliant plan to make saints in love with God even more than the modern preachers who demand that we all become “saints in love with God” without any plan, without any content.  The call to surrender without content is comforting…but not for long.    People now again long for the clear moral directives of the old saints and Popes again.  The old-school spiritual writers who wrote so much pro-detachment and anti-vice seem to have treated the spiritual life as an aqueduct:  In a non-Pelagain way, after the grace of our initial conversion, the walls of discipline need to be built by us, and then the Divine Water will flow constantly.

My favorite line from GK Chesterton is: “And the more I considered Christianity, the more I found that while it had established a rule and order, the chief aim of that order was for good things to run wild.” Rules make us run faster!  The zealous and scary saints like St. Vincent Ferrer spent so much time preaching on the moral life not because they thought the moral life is the end-all be-all of the life of grace, but because they knew that if we drew strong parameters, the aqueduct bridge of grace would flow quickly into our lives.

This was true for the Apostle Paul:  “For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot.”—Rom 8:6-7.  This certainly includes sexual sins for any vocation, for the Spirit of life cannot reside in a body that is impure: “But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness.”—Romans 8:10. All vocations must live this purity, but especially the priest. St. Alphonsus Liguori said that the priest who confects the Eucharist in mortal sin actually tags four new sins onto it!

But as I wrote earlier, this is not only about purity in body. Purity of intention is to want only one thing. That one thing is God’s glory, that is, sinking popularity and personality-cult followers. The priest must be like Our Lady, to want God’s glory alone, even at the price of a funny or witty mind.  The truth is:  None of it matters to Our Lady.  She loves her priests, but not our egos.  She knows that especially the priest’s heart will ebb and flow in one front of love and purity and orthodoxy as the Catechism points out:

The sixth beatitude proclaims, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” “Pure in heart” refers to those who have attuned their intellects and wills to the demands of God’s holiness, chiefly in three areas: charity; chastity or sexual rectitude; love of truth and orthodoxy of faith. There is a connection between purity of heart, of body, and of faith: The faithful must believe the articles of the Creed “so that by believing they may obey God, by obeying may live well, by living well may purify their hearts, and with pure hearts may understand what they believe.”—CCC 2518

Notice that the beginning of chastity is not doing seemingly-creative things with the body.  Notice that orthodoxy is not doing seemingly-creative things with doctrine.  Both seem boring, but both lead the via negativa to supernatural love (charity.)

How about the via positiva?  How do we get to God through positive actions?  In some sense, it really is how much time any of us in any vocation we spend with the Eucharist and with Our Lady.  It’s not that God counts how many prayers we do (though He does know this, of course) but rather, as the Catechism says:  “The choice of the time and duration of the prayer arises from a determined will, revealing the secrets of the heart.“—CCC 2710

Why is the pathway to high levels of supernatural love in the 21st century going to be found in much time with the Eucharist and the Rosary?  Because St. John Bosco predicted these days 150 years ago in his prophetic dream:  “Very grave trials await the Church. What we have suffered so far is almost nothing compared to what is going to happen. The enemies of the Church are symbolized by the ships, which strive their utmost to sink the flagship. Only two things can save us in such a grave hour: devotion to Mary and frequent Communion. Let us do our very best to use these two means and have others use them everywhere.”

The Last Jedi and the Priesthood

The Prequels

Towards the end of our first year in seminary, we were required to take a 30-day silent-retreat based on the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola. It was the summer of 2005, and we seminarians arrived in Omaha for a month off the grid. We were taken about 45 miles northeast of Omaha to a forest in Iowa, where we would pray along the Nishnabotna River for 30 days in silence. Every day would include four to five hours of meditation on the Gospels (Ignatian mental prayer) as well as daily Mass, Rosary, Divine Office and manual labor. The Spiritual Exercises are truly that: Exercises, not a sleepy retreat. However, because of the intensity of our retreat, they gave us weekends to talk with each other and go to town.

One weekend, we went to Omaha to see the newly-released prequel called Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith. It was the third prequel that was the missing link between little podracer Anakin Skywalker and his future self, Darth Vader. If you remember the movie, the Jedi were celibate warriors who saved the universe. People like Qui Gon and Obi Wan looked like Franciscans but acted like Jesuits (old-school ones.)

We seminarians came bounding out of that theatre like high schoolers who had just seen Remember the Titans. We exalted in the fact that the Jedi were so clearly the priests of the Universe.  We saw: They were warriors, not administrators. It was very obvious that the most talented member of the Jedi order, Anakin Skywalker, had lost his way only when he cracked on his vows of chastity and obedience. The Jedi were so clearly the Holy Priesthood! Seeing that movie was an unexpected boost to our thrill of the potential-future-gift of the priesthood.

Fast-forward 12 years. I have now been a priest for seven years and I have been stabbed in the back by many priests, lied to by many priests, lied about by many priests and betrayed by many priests (including this event that I blogged about a couple years ago which shook my faith not only in the priesthood but even the Catholic Church.) No, I did not come bouncing into the theatre this week. I came trudging into the theatre with my 57 year-old widower-friend who told me as we entered the theater that his brother (who loves Star Wars so much that he actually shows up to parties dressed up as Chewbacca) actually walked out on this movie. I almost turned around when he said this, but I clopped into that theatre, 20 pounds heavier than in my joyful seminarian days. It’s not so much that my vocation is in danger, but I’m just tired of life, jaded at how other priests will just throw me under the bus to save themselves a fraction of the cross in defending tradition. I still walked into that movie theatre in my cassock, but I didn’t care if the teenagers had comments about my cassock being a Jedi outfit or not.

It just didn’t matter.

However, something changed in watching that movie. Not only was The Last Jedi my favorite of the last three Star Wars (and pretty funny, too) but also it completely opened my eyes as to why Satan has attacked the priesthood so much, even from within. A Jedi falls hard in the 2005 Revenge of the Sith after sins against chastity and obedience.   But 2017’s The Last Jedi reveals a spiritual force opposed to the Jedi. To wipe out hope in the hearts of the Jedi themselves, regarding themselves, would be all that would be needed to stop a real hope of the galaxy being free.

If I go forth into the fields, behold the slain with the sword: and if I enter into the city, behold them that are consumed with famine. The prophet also and the priest are gone into a land which they knew not.—Jer 14:18

Star Wars: The Last Jedi

The movie starts with Luke Skywalker, forlorn on an island. He has seen enough of the Jedi:  “I only know one truth:  It’s time for the Jedi…to end.”  Although a fair critique of the movie has been the lack of a plot-line (as well as a tired, old attempt at feminism) there has been some key developments in the understanding of the Jedi order. It seems that the traditional books of the Jedi order were destroyed along with the Jedi order, but one website noted:

“Rey isn’t [a Jedi], at least as it’s been traditionally defined, so as far as we know there aren’t any Jedi to teach [the little boy.] And yes, the Jedi sacred books survived—stowed away by Rey on the Millennium Falcon—but studying from a book is very different from the master/padawan dynamic built up over generations of Jedi. As Luke vowed before becoming one with the Force in the final act, he won’t be the last Jedi—but what it means to be one, and who gets to carry that mantle going forward, is wide open.”

We soon see a disproportionate attack of the First Order upon the Jedi order, quite odd as the Jedi are only a single part of the Resistance. Indeed, there might be galaxies of normal “lay organisms” (so to speak) who have some ability to tap into the Force, but the main target in the crosshairs of both Snoke and Kylo Ren is so clearly the Jedi order. Of course, the First Order (the Empire in the original ones) hates anyone who opposes them, but the First Order knows that the very existence of the Jedi maintain an invisible grasp on the hope in the galaxy that extends much father than any light-saber.

Towards the end of the movie, Kylo Ren is in an AT-AT and finds Skywalker on the ground. Ren orders his AT-AT and every AT-AT to aim at Skywalker and release everything they got. Hundreds of high-power laser blasts obliterate the area of the target.  We see a totally disproportionate hatred of the Jedi order, symbolized in Skywalker’s ground being blasted away. Even Kylo Ren’s underlings remark on his unusual and disproportionate use of firepower for a single target. Somehow, this does not kill Skywalker. Kylo Ren realizes that he must face him on the ground, light-saber to light-saber. We hear this conversation:

Luke Skywalker: “I failed you, Ben. I’m sorry.”

Kylo Ren: “I’m sure you are! The Resistance is dead, the war is over, and when I kill you, I will have killed the last Jedi!”

Luke Skywalker: “Amazing. Every word of what you just said was wrong. The Rebellion is reborn today. The war is just beginning. And I will not be the last Jedi.”

He will not be the last Jedi?  Who will be the one to carry the torch for the Jedi? The movie ends with a slave-boy manipulating a broom without touching it. He shines a ring that is symbolic of some force or use of the Force. We don’t know who he will be.

The Holy Priesthood in the 21st Century

I have been seeing a certain meme on Facebook that contains a quote by one of my priestly heroes, Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen. I like this quote because I have a lot more hope in the lay people carrying the faith than the priests and bishops who are afraid of their own shadow in this crisis in the Church.

But The Last Jedi made me re-think the above meme. The Last Jedi made me realize that there will be no restoration of things holy in the Catholic Church without the Holy Priesthood. It’s not only because the priest is the portal to both Confession and the Holy Eucharist. There is something vital to the priesthood to the future of the Church.

A recent non-Catholic study in Christianity Today revealed that the number of Catholics in the world is growing by birth rates, but not by the conversions or even retention rate of past ages of the Church. But the most astonishing fact in the Christianity Today article is how the number of priests is tanking on all continents, even the ones we claim are doing so well in vocations. For example, Africa is doing better than South America in producing priests, but it’s a miserable number considering the Catholic birth rate in African countries. Or, consider the United States: From 100 years ago to 50 years ago, the United States saw one of the greatest vocation booms in the history of the Church to the Holy Priesthood. From 50 years ago until now, vocations have plummeted in an unprecedented manner.

Why has the enemy attacked the priesthood so severely? The answer comes from the attempted-burning of the Sacred Books in the movie, for Skywalker knows that destroying tradition will also destroy the Jedi. The enemy knows this as well as Skywalker, as seen in the dual enemy’s disproportionate attack on the Jedi order.

After St. Francis Xavier brought Christianity to Japan in the 16th century, many more holy Jesuits arrived after him. Soon, a persecution began that forced all priests underground. Although the movie Silence is about those who crack under pressure, the truth of history reveals that countless laymen and women and children and priests endured one of the worst persecutions of in the history of Catholicism for refusing to denounce Jesus and Mary. They were tortured mercilessly upside down (as seen in the movie) but also burned alive, crucified and lowered into active volcanoes. The Emperor hated Christians, but he especially hated priests. If you turned over to the Emperor’s men a Jesuit brother, you were awarded 300 pieces of silver. But if you turned over a Jesuit priest, you were awarded 500 pieces of silver.

Why this disproportionate reward from the enemy of Christ to turn over a priest instead of a brother? The easy, modern answer is “the sacraments.” But the movie revealed that simply having the presence of the Jedi in the universe brings it hope. Remember: Holy Orders without bread and wine to confect the Eucharist is still a sacrament all on its own: Holy Orders. The Japanese smoked out every last priest to the point that in 1644, the last Jesuit was dragged out and killed, and the Japanese had to keep the Catholic Faith underground for 250 years following a persecution of Christians that rivals modern day Islam or the early Roman Empire.

There are many other accounts to show the disproportionate hatred that Satan has for a holy priest above and beyond a holy layman. But I’ll use the enemy’s words, himself. Satan once said to St. John Vianney: “If there were three such priests as you, my kingdom would be ruined.”

St. John Vianney, one of the holiest priests in 2000 years of Catholicism, always with an outrageous haircut that no one ever seems to question.

The power of the priesthood is linked to Christ and the fullness of what He passed down. When people ask me about being a normal diocesan priest who does only the Latin Mass, their vocabulary seems to imply that I like delicate things, whispering Latin as I turn away from the people to face the altar, almost like I like to “play priest” in days of yore, as if I preferred to wear long, flowing albs with lots of whispy lace. Well, I always need to inform such people that it has little to do with the Latin language (as powerful and beautiful and as clear as it is.) Rather, what Pope Benedict XVI’s Summorum Pontificum opened for us priests was a tradition commensurate with the power of the Gospel.

For when there is a change in the priesthood, there is necessarily a change in the law as well.—Hebrews 7:12

The old-rite exorcism is used by every exorcist I know. (It was crystallized in 1614 AD, but it goes back at to about 600 AD.) The sacrament of Extreme Unction in the old Roman Rite (permitted even for us new priests via Summorum Pontificum) contains the most beautiful words of any sacrament I have ever heard or read in the Western Church. The ancient words of absolution that I say dozens of times a day includes the verbiage of the lifting of excommunications (to the extent a priest is able under his bishop) in every single absolution. The approach to the Holy Eucharist in the Traditional Latin Mass fits like a glove in the moral theology of the Church regarding the holiness and dignity of the human body, especially in approaching God in awe and sexual purity.

The old Roman Breviary (Divine Office) is the public prayer of the Church where the priest prays all 150 Psalms a week in Latin. It takes between two or three hours a day. The old Roman Breviary is the most exhausting, the most life-giving challenge of my priesthood, for the mental protection that it provides me is worth it. (If I lapse, I “lapse” into the new and easy Liturgy of the Hours. For all my sins, I always pray my office.) The old calendar is airtight with all of liturgy and doctrine. There is no “ordinary time” in the extraordinary form calendar.  There is nothing “ordinary” about it, just as there is nothing “ordinary” about being a Jedi.  Why would you be celibate in order to be “ordinary”?

Our Lady of Good Success

In 1600, the Mother of God appeared to Mother Mariana of Jesus Torres y Berriochoa, a nun of the Conceptionist Order, in Quito, Ecuador. These apparitions are known as Our Lady of Good Success and they are Vatican-approved. Shockingly, Mary told Sr. Mariana some very specific things that would happen to the Catholic Church in the 20th century. Again, remember that Sr. Mariana wrote this in around 1600 regarding the coming issues of the Catholic Church 400 years later.  Here are just seven things I chose to share that Mary said to Sr. Mariana:

1) “Unhappy, the children of those times! Seldom will they receive the sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation. As for the sacrament of Penance, they will confess only while attending Catholic schools, which the devil will do his utmost to destroy by means of persons in authority.”

2) “The sacrament of Matrimony, which symbolizes the union of Christ with the Church, will be thoroughly attacked and profaned. Masonry, then reigning, will implement iniquitous laws aimed at extinguishing this sacrament. They will make it easy for all to live in sin, thus multiplying the birth of illegitimate children without the Church’s blessing….”

3) “Unbridled passions will give way to a total corruption of customs because Satan will reign through the Masonic sects, targeting the children in particular to insure general corruption…There shall be scarcely any virgin souls in the world. The delicate flower of virginity will seek refuge in the cloisters.…Without virginity, fire from heaven will be needed to purify these lands…”

4) “The same will occur with Holy Communion. Oh, how it hurts me to tell you that there will be many and enormous public and hidden sacrileges!”

5) “In those times, the sacrament of Extreme Unction will be largely ignored… Many will die without receiving it, being thereby deprived of innumerable graces, consolation, and strength in the great leap from time to eternity.”

6) “Religious communities will remain to sustain the Church and work with courage for the salvation of souls… The secular clergy will fall far short of what is expected of them because they will not pursue their sacred duty. Losing the divine compass, they will stray from the way of priestly ministry mapped out for them by God and will become devoted to money, seeking it too earnestly.”

7) “Unhappy times will come wherein those who should fearlessly defend the rights of the Church will instead, blinded despite the light, give their hand to the Church’s enemies and do their bidding. But when [evil] seems triumphant and when authority abuses its power, committing all manner of injustice and oppressing the weak, their ruin shall be near. They will fall and crash to the ground.”

How can anyone deny that these have come true in the Catholic Church in the 20th century and the 21st century?

But there is great hope, because the Mother of God promised this to Sr. Mariana:

“The free men from this slavery of heresies, those whom the merciful love of my most Holy Son will destine for the restoration, will have a great strength of will, constancy, valour and much trust in God. To test this faith and trust, there will be times in which everything will seem to be lost and paralyzed. This, then, will be the happy beginning of the complete restoration.”

The Spanish for the last two words of that quote is restauración completa. Mary promised that after the 20th century we would see the “complete restoration” of the Catholic Church! And this is a Vatican-approved apparition. Notice that we are not talking about a renovation or a renewal or a revolution. “Complete restoration” implies that something will have been lost that was there before. “Complete restoration” implies that something ancient and good will return to power.  The complete restoration of the Catholic Church will not happen simply because lay people are angry about the crisis in the Catholic Church. The complete restoration of the Church will come from the next generation of priests restoring all that is holy and powerful, for the salvation of souls. The next of these spiritual, priestly warriors will come from families like yours, for better or for worse.

We have seen neither the end of the Jedi, nor the end of their tradition of power.

Padre’s Platinum List

People have been asking me for my favorite books in one single blog post. Here’s a short “best-of” list.

NB:  I hesitantly use Amazon Prime as it does not fulfill Catholic social teaching on subsidiarity.  Thus, I’m not going to hyperlink these books. You will have to do your own research to find them.  That way, you can use whatever market you want.

How to Pray

Conversation with Christ by Fr. Rohrbach

Best book on Mary

The World’s First Love by Archbishop Fulton Sheen

Best histories of the Catholic Church

The History of Christendom by Warren Carroll (long at six volumes coming to about 5,000 pages)


Triumph (short, coming to about 500 pages)

 

Best Audio books:

Killing Jesus by Bill O’Reilly (Don’t worry, you don’t have to like his politics to find this is a phenomonal book on the Roman and Jewish history that led up to Christ’s crucifixion.)

Mother Angelica, written and read out loud by Raymond Arroyo who does an imitation of Mother Angelica as good as, um, Mother Angelica.

Best fiction

Island of the World by Michael O’Brien

Best saint accounts

Short:  St Mary of Egypt by St. Zosima himself (linked here on Evernote)


Long:  Ignatius of Loyola: The Pilgrim Saint

Best children’s catechism (tie)

Baltimore Catechism


Catechism of Perseverance

Best Chastity talk

Green Sex by Jason Evert

Best book on dogma

Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma by Ludwig Ott

Best book on the Eucharist

Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist by Dr. Brandt Pitre

Best book on the Sacrifice of the Mass

Nothing Superfluous by Fr. James Jackson FSSP

Best beginning-evangelization book

Made for More by Curtis Martin

Best book on Salvation History

A Father Who Keeps His Promises by Dr. Scott Hahn

Best short book to understand the redemption

Dialogues by St. Catherine of Siena (actually God the Father’s words to  His own Divine Son.)

Best Spiritual Read

Introduction to the Devout Life by St. Francis De Sales (Make sure to get this unabridged version translated by Ryan)

Best Ascetical Theology

Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange (long)

Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange (short)

Best Apologetics book

Handbook of Catholic Apologetics by Fr. Tacelli and Dr. Peter Kreeft

Best book on how to be a Man

Be a Man by Fr. Larry Richards

Best pro-life resource

Pro-Life Pastoral Handbook by Brian Clowes

Best resource for adult-survivors of child sexual abuse

Wounded Heart by Dr. Dan Allender

Best book on how to forgive

Left to Tell by Immaculée Ilibagize (the new-age guru-clown Dr. Wayne Dyer only gave the forward.  She is a living saint.)

Best movies to understand the priesthood

I Confess by Alfred Hitchcock


Diary of a Country Priest, from the book by Georges Bernanos

Best traditional Catholic music

Female:  Benedictine Nuns of Ephesus


Male:  Solesmes Gregorian Chant

Best books on Deliverance and Exorcism

This is the only book I would recommend you get curious family and friends who are probably not living a life that is free of habitual mortal-sin.  It is called An Exorcist Tells His Story and it is by the former chief-exorcist of Rome, Fr. Gabriele Amorth,  who died in 2016, God rest his soul.


My suggestion for lay people who are living in grace and already praying a daily Rosary: Deliverance Prayers for the Laity by Fr. Ripperger

For priests doing deliverance ministry but not full exorcism:

Minor-Exorcisms and Deliverance Prayers by Fr. Ripperger

Best full-theology on Exorcism and demons:

Exorcism and the Church Militant by Fr. Thomas Euteneuer. 1


  1. A private-donor friend of mine will give a copy of this book to any priest who writes me an email requesting this book. Sorry, no lay people on this offer, but you can still purchase the book on Amazon.

Lead Us Not Into Temptation

There has recently been some debate on the last line of the Our Father:

And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.—Matthew 6:13

Should the Our Father read “lead us not into temptation” as it has always been translated or the modern “let us not fall into temptation”? Let’s look at the Greek. The Greek of Matthew 6:13a is καὶ μὴ εἰσενέγκῃς ἡμᾶς εἰς πειρασμόν.  Word-by-word, it is καὶ (and) μὴ (not) εἰσενέγκῃς (to bring/lead) ἡμᾶς (us) εἰς (into) πειρασμόν (temptation.)—Matthew 6:13

Notice that the verb εἰσενέγκῃς (pronounced ace-in-egg-ace) is the active verb translated as bring or lead.  On the other hand, the whole idea of “let us not fall into temptation” is still technically an active verb in the English denotation, but very passive in the connotation.  Of course, God tempts no one:  Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and He himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire.—James 1:13.

But if God tempts no one, then why would we ever ask God not to lead us into temptation?  Since God always wills our good, wouldn’t it be better to simply ask God not to let us fall into temptation?

No.

Why?  Because Jesus said lead them not into temptation in the Aramaic of the Our Father.  How do I know that Jesus said lead in the Aramaic?  Because the Holy Spirit inspired the Greek to say lead (εἰσενέγκῃς.) But if you won’t grant me the premise of inerrancy in the Scripture, then all blog posts on this topic are giant piles of poop, including this one.  None of it matters.

But since the Bible is true……I’m all the more amazed how many good Bible-believing Catholics continue to ask me (after I explained the Greek to them) if it were still not better to ask of God that He not let us fall into temptation, rather than not leading us to evil, especially since God always wills our good.

Well, Jesus still got it right. Here’s why: “Let us not fall into temptation” is still technically an active verb in the English denotation, but very passive in the connotation.  (Think about it:  let me not…) So, for the sake of brevity, we’re going to label that business of let not fall into temptation as passive.  Of course, lead us not into temptation is a negation of an active verb, but it’s still obviously an active verb being used: lead.

Why in the world does it matter if the verb that we speak to God-the-Father has Him doing something passive or active?  Because a female deity has a passive role, whereas a male deity has an active role. It was the one God of the Universe (not me) who chose to reveal Himself as Father.  And the Father never takes a passive role in our spiritual warfare or our salvation.

You see, to your mother, you might say, “Don’t let me fall into the bathtub.”

To your Dad, while hunting, you might say “Don’t lead me to the beasts I can’t handle.”

Thus, Jesus got it right when he taught us the Our Father.

(Still, I’m pretty sure that the infinite, eternal Divine Word doesn’t need my stamp-of-approval on that.)

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  1. Just for the record, I do not think that these translation problems are new in the Church. The Creed in Greek has Jesus descending into “the depths” (of the Hebrew Sheol) but the ancient Church [erroneously?] translated it into the Latin as “hell” (as in the Hebrew Gehenna.) I am open to correction, but I think this was a horrible translation that even remains in the Traditional Latin Mass in Latin. This ancient error has led modernist theologians to teach that Jesus emptied hell on Holy Saturday. The truth of our dogma, however, is that Christ descended to the limbo of the patriarchs to bring them to heaven. So, people messing up doctrine by getting translation wrong 1500 years ago is still a serious problem. Notice that my blog post does not mention any Pope or Vatican II. This is an ancient problem. So, I’m very much against getting doctrinal language wrong, because when we get doctrinal language wrong, people’s faith gets messed up, too. That’s why I found this worthy of a blog post. Try to see past the current news in my blog posts.

Trent on the Holy Eucharist

“Everyone who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, and he who marries a woman divorced from her husband commits adultery.”—St. Luke 16:18

“For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself.”—1 Cor 11:29

“For no crime is there heavier punishment to be feared from God than for the unholy or irreligious use of the Eucharist.”—Council of Trent, Chapter 6 on the Eucharist

The Nine Ways of Being an Accessory to Another’s Sin:

  1. By counsel
  2. By command
  3. By consent
  4. By provocation
  5. By praise or flattery
  6. By concealment
  7. By partaking
  8. By silence
  9. By defense of the ill done

On Sedevacantism

Prior to the current and lively discussion on the actual validity of Pope Benedict XVI’s resignation from the Papacy, there was (and is) a group of Catholics called sedevacantists who believe that the Chair of Peter has been empty for nearly 50 years, due to putatively-changed doctrine.  “Sedes” (pronounced sed-ayz) as they are nicknamed in the traditional world, believe that the last valid Pope was Pope Pius XII. Some even deny the validity of his papacy and some even deny the validity his predecessors, going back centuries.  Sedevacantism is Latin for “empty chair,” in reference to the Roman Chair of Peter.  They have very good arguments for their positions, many of which I can not counter.   (For those unfamiliar with this debate, yes—there are actually Catholics who make me look like an ultra-liberal!)

In any case, I have a good friend looking at the sedevacantists. Here is an email I wrote to him to discourage him from joining them. It was only after I hit “send” that I decided it was worth a blog-post, published with his permission, but no names of course:

D,

You write “I simply don’t know what to do at this point.” My answer: Nothing. There’s an old phrase in Canon Law that is: impossibile non tenetur which means one is not held to the impossible in the Catholic life. In other words, God has not made life to be an intellectual riddle that is impossible to solve except for being solved by a few sedevacantists with their big book of old Pope quotes. I fully understand the difference between God’s positive will and His permissive will for this current Church crisis. But both types of providence still fall under God’s sovereignty. If that were not the case, then the only people to be saved would be sedevacantists because they have figured out God’s post V2 code.

It’s all intellectual for them, and really, it’s all intellectual for your quotes to me this past week. Yeah, they are pretty air-tight. So maybe they are totally correct. But sedes are so miserable and mean, that even if they were correct, I’m pretty sure I would not want to go to heaven with them. If only the miserable and mean who have finally cracked the intellectual code of Pope Paul IV and the 1917 code of canon law are going to heaven, then we are all held to the impossible by God and we are essentially nothing more than 5point Calvinists (who the sedes all remind me of.) Also, remember the sedes don’t really have charity (just try to counter me on this!) and if faith without charity means nothing for salvation (1 Cor 13) then no one is going to heaven…in which case every single person is in an impossible situation…and Satan has beat us all into despair via a mind game.

You will never beat Satan at mind games in quoting canon law. I believe sedes are following Satan because Satan can quote Councils and Popes as well as Satan quoted Scripture to Jesus in the desert. But Satan quoted Scripture without obedience and charity. As Calvinists live Sola Scriptura without obedience or charity, so also sedes are Sola Conciliar without obedience or charity.

Every family that goes sede is because the man gets wrapped up into endless syllogisms. I have never met a sede family where the woman, in total love, has a deep understanding of the Church. It is always the mind games of very, very intellectual men who is led by some spirit to lead their whole family into sedevacantism. And their arguments are usually air-tight. But again, Satan can quote Scripture and Popes perfectly.

Be very, very careful to not look at only all your endless arguments but to do St. Ignatius of Loyola’s discernment of spirits. More or less, St. Ignatius teaches that the one gift of the Holy Ghost that Satan can not simulate is peace. Peace is deeper than a feeling. If you are called to lead your family to sedevacantism, you will have an overwhelming peace of the Holy Ghost. (And remember that numerous Popes have set St. Ignatius’ discernment of spirits as the gold standard of retreats and decision making.)

But you will never have peace in sedevacantism, as evidenced by the fact you have never met a peaceful sedevacantist. They are all so jumpy. I used to think they acted neurotic, but now I see that from a secular point of view (not theological) they all act mildly psychotic. There is no peace there. Have you ever met a joyful, peaceful, inspiring sedevacantist?

If you say “No, but that doesn’t matter in the face of all their arguments” then you are left with this:

We are all then called to this Catholic-Calvinism or Sola Conciliar Catholicism of anger, where God has (in His permissive will) wired the universe as a horrible riddle where only loveless sedes are saved and where the average Catholic (who can not read hundreds of pages of 14th century Popes every week to figure out the truth) has a goal of SALVATION HELD TO THE IMPOSSIBLE.

Sounds like a pretty good pathway to despair made perfectly by Satan, if you ask me.

Fulton Sheen’s Little Heroine

The only person to reach more people for Christ on television than Billy Graham was a Catholic bishop named Archbishop Fulton Sheen from Illinois, later bishop in New York. Every Tuesday night, starting in the 1950s, up to 10 million Americans from all faiths tuned in to his TV Show, Life Is Worth Living. Not only Catholics, but many older Jewish people fondly remember tuning in to his Tuesday evening show about God.

Venerable Fulton Sheen also traveled the world and raised millions of dollars for foreign missions in poor countries. He is credited with converting the following to the Catholic Faith: Agnostic writer Heywood Broun, politician Clare Boothe Luce, automaker Henry Ford II, Communist writer Louis F. Budenz, Communist organizer Bella Dodd, theatrical designer Jo Mielziner, violinist and composer Fritz Kreisler, and actress Virginia Mayo.

Now a “Venerable” in the Catholic Church, Ven. Sheen is two moves away from canonization. He will, please God, move from Venerable Fulton Sheen to Blessed Fulton Sheen to finally St. Fulton Sheen.

Who was his hero? Who inspired such holiness? Who inspired him to remain in prayer for the millions of people that he reached for Christ? The answer is: An unnamed Chinese girl.

The following has been on many websites.  The original author is unknown, but the account is verifiable in the life, the words and the annals of Venerable Fulton Sheen.


A couple of months before his death, Bishop Fulton J. Sheen was interviewed on national television. One of the questions was this: “Bishop Sheen, you have inspired millions of people all over the world. Who inspired you? Was it a Pope?”

Bishop Sheen responded that it was not a Pope, a cardinal, another bishop, or even a priest or a nun. It was a little Chinese girl of eleven years of age. He explained that when the Communists took over China, they imprisoned a priest in his own rectory near the Church. After they locked him up in his own house, the priest was horrified to look out of his window and see the Communists proceed into the Church, where they went into the sanctuary and broke into the tabernacle. In an act of hateful desecration, they took the ciborium and threw it on the floor with all of the Sacred Hosts spilling out. The priest knew exactly the number of Hosts in the ciborium: thirty-two.

When the Communists left, they either did not notice, or didn’t pay any attention to a small girl praying in the back of the Church who saw everything that had happened. That night the little girl came back.

Slipping past the guard at the priest’s house, she went inside the Church. There she made a holy hour of prayer, an act of love to make up for the act of hatred. After her holy hour she went into the sanctuary, knelt down, bent over and with her tongue received Jesus in Holy Communion, since (at that time) it was not permissible for laymen to touch the Sacred Host with their hands.

The little girl continued to come back each night to make her holy hour and receive Jesus in Holy Communion on her tongue. On the thirty-second night, after she had consumed the last and thirty-second host, she accidentally made a noise and woke the guard who was sleeping. He ran after her, caught her, and beat her to death with the butt of his rifle.

This act of heroic martyrdom was witnessed by the priest as he watched grief-stricken from his bedroom window.


When Bishop Sheen heard the story he was so inspired that he promised God he would make a holy hour of prayer before Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament every day of his life. If this frail, little child could give testimony and witness to the world concerning the real and wonderful Presence of her Savior in the Blessed Sacrament, then the Bishop was absolutely bound by all that was right and true, to do the same. His sole desire from then on was to bring the world to the burning Heart of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.

The little girl showed the Bishop what true courage and zeal really is; how faith could overcome all fear, how true love for Jesus in the Eucharist must transcend life itself. What is hidden in the Sacred Host is the glory of His love. The sun in the sky is symbolic of the Son of God in the Blessed Sacrament. This is why most monstrances are in the form of a sunburst. As the sun is the natural source of all energy, the Blessed Sacrament is the supernatural source of all grace and love.

Open Letter to a Priest

A Catholic married couple with children wrote an anonymous letter to their parish priest, to every priest. They attend the ordinary Mass in English out West. They have been good friends of mine for almost a decade, and they asked me to publish it here.


Open Letter to our spiritual Fathers
Dear Fr. ___________,
I am so very thankful that you have given your life to be our spiritual father. I am grateful for the gifts you make available to us in the sacraments. We know you work tirelessly to keep everything balanced and running smoothly. For that, we are thankful.  But we have to be honest and share our concerns and frustrations:  We have heard more about the LGBTQ community and the acceptance of that more than we have ever heard about our own marriage.
Father, we struggle with communication, we struggle with infertility, we struggle with forgiveness over infidelity, we struggle with finances, we struggle with contraception and Natural Family Planning, we struggle with in-laws, we struggle with so much and yet feel so alone.
Please Father, give us some hope and encouragement; let us know what we are supposed to do. Please don’t have your answer be “you can get an annulment.”  We don’t want to get out of our marriage; we just need you to let us know that sacrifice and suffering are part of marriage. Most of us have not heard what God’s plan for marriage is, yet we have heard that everyone is arguing about what constitutes a sacramental marriage.
It feels like we have been abandoned and left to figure it out in our own. As we strive to live God’s plan, we are burdened with what the society tells us. The culture screams its message, but the silence of the Church is at times louder than the screams.
Help us Father—for we know not what to do.
Love and blessings,
Your Sons and Daughters
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  1. I, Fr. Nix, want to take a brief moment to answer this family and all families who might be reading this couple’s challenging letter for us priests to step up and help you.  The best advice I can give you is to immediately purchase a book called Good Pictures Bad Pictures. It is a children’s book that teaches children between 5 and 10 years of age how to avoid pornography and/or teach the child to turn-off accidentally-found pornography as soon as possible, all the while keeping the book PG-rated, perhaps even G-rated. Most pious families reading this footnote would think that 5 years old is way too young for a talk on how to avoid pornography.  However, the truth is that the authors have had to make the same book for ages 3 years old to 6 years old called Good Pictures Bad Pictures Jr. Most traditional families reading this footnote might also think that  this is a good idea for other families. If you think this, you are absolutely wrong.  Your kids are getting into pornography by the age of 10 at the  very, very latest. Unless you are living in a forest without a single electronic device, your kids are in danger from the age of 3 years old, even in the most pious families. Even if you are in a forest, diabolical forces somehow get a device into the hands of very small kids to get addicted to porn in a preternatural and inexplicable way. This book, Good Pictures Bad Pictures, is first about how to teach your children to avoid porn, but secondly how they can respond in one second to shut down any device where the child finds inappropriate pictures. Again, if you think this is a good idea for other families but not yours, then you are the family most at risk. Any priest will tell you that this plague has reached pandemic proportions. Good priests will tell you that even families who go to the Latin Mass are by no means immune. In some sense, traditional families are the most prey to this pandemic, because pious children find porn almost as quickly as any child from a secular family, but the difference is that Catholic kids are better at hiding their shame, yes, even from the age of 3.   Get this book, because even families with “porn proof” computers have kids who are not “porn-proof.”   Your children are always smarter than your firewall.  If you are a Dad who uses porn—even occasionally—know this:  You are allowing real-live demons to enter your family’s home, the same demons that mysteriously draw your 5 and 10 year olds to start looking at porn. If you think this is an exaggeration, please read my blog post called Why You Should Stop Confessing Pornography.