All posts by Father David Nix

A Priest’s Thoughts on Cyberbullying

This subtitle is The 7 Hidden Dangers of Smartphones for Teens.  The first of these seven is indeed cyberbullying.  Simply read the first one if you were lured-in by the title of this blog post. 

Recently, I was at a large family’s home. The kids were all out back blowing bubbles. The older kids, being about 10 years old, twirled foot-long wands out of their dish soap to create bubbles about six inches in diameter. The youngest brother who was playing bubbles with them was only five years old. He simply couldn’t help himself from popping his older sisters’ bubbles.  I told him: “Just make your own.” He looked at me with a smile of pure-gold and said, “Yes, sir.” He then tried so hard for the next five minutes to obey me and his sisters’ pleas for longer bubble-longevity. He cranked out a few smaller bubbles.  Still, he ended up running back to pop their bigger bubbles. He simply couldn’t help himself! His sisters and I were laughing at how he tried but failed.

The above bubble-story is true, but it could also be an analogy for something more serious that is happening to teens everywhere: To tell a teenager to avoid bad things and bad people on a smartphone is akin to telling a five year old not to pop giant bubbles. They just can’t do it. Many good parents have handed over a smartphone to their kids, covering their tracks with overly-moralized instructions. The weak ones are addicted by the end of the day. The strong ones are exhausted by the end of the day. I have worked with many families that range from non-Catholic to devout Catholic. Yet almost all these parents make same mistake: Parents give their teen (or worse, a child) a smartphone by explaining internet safety. It’s a nice start, but it fails to understand that the real dangers lurk not in who your kids’ search for, but who is searching for your kids.

1) Cyberbullying. Growing up, I weighed 2/3 of what my friends weighed, so I got bullied occasionally on the playground. But I always had a way out. Cyberbullying targets do not have a way out. Cyberbullying is making fun of someone on social media. It is particularly harmful because of the backdrop of loneliness and isolation in families today. Global broadcasting against them on social media makes teens feel like the whole world is against them. This is obviously devastating to their social lives and psyches. Many teens are targeted for cyberbullying, but one that I will always remember is Kiana. Kiana was a cheerleader in my home state of Colorado. She was bullied online by “friends” who were jealous of her. They repeatedly made fun of her weight and told her to hang herself. Eventually, she obeyed their instructions and she hung herself. Her Dad found her barely alive. She was airlifted from the southern suburbs to Denver Children’s Hospital. She survived, but with severe brain damage, secondary to lack of oxygen before her father found her. This is her today:

Someone snapped that picture of us all, about two years after the tragedy. Kiana was not raised Catholic, but we still met later through mutual friends. I never expected to use the above picture for a blog post, but her mother gave me permission to write about this when I told her my concern about teens and technology. After coming out of the hospital, Kiana and her family got a Colorado law passed against cyberbullying. Subsequently, Kiana has told her story to Denver News stations.  Thus, this blog is not revealing anything private.

Of course, the reason we are all smiling in that picture is because Kiana is alive, and because she is a beautiful child of God. Her parents are wonderful and loving people. We all wish she had never been cyberbullied, but the whole family is attempting to overcome the tragedy in making a conscious efforts to live as the phrase says: “It is better to light one candle than to curse the darkness.”

I never asked her parents if the cyberbullying happened on a smartphone or a desktop, and that is irrelevant to this post. In fact, I am not judging parents as wonderful as the parents of Kiana. I am simply writing this so that my readers might know that even the best kids from the best families get cyberbullied. Kiana was a cheerleader in a nice suburb of Denver and yet probably no one knew she was getting cyberbullied. Readers might protest: “But my kids have never told me anything like that.” Exactly. They don’t tell anyone, for they are embarrassed to share. And then they hurt themselves. I recently asked a friend who works at a pediatric ICU if he has seen anything like teen suicides. He told me he had seen innumerable teen suicide attempts, some as young as 8 years old, sometimes by hanging. Of course, Satan is behind this hatred of our children. But on a natural level, I think that a lot has changed in America since I left Emergency Medical Services in 2004. In those days, I was only seeing adult suicides, never child suicides.

But nowadays, the loneliness and isolation of social media locks kids into a world that they cannot escape from. Since they can not escape from the virtual world without escaping from the real world, they do just that: They escape from the real world by committing suicide. Few of the parents of these suicides thought that their kids had a problem. Even the best kids in the world tend to hide their deepest feelings of inadequacy from their parents. Sometimes, kids simply believe that their parents are too busy. Or, sometimes parents see a little depression but remove themselves from the parent-role under the false pretext of inadequacy themselves. Maybe parents are afraid that they don’t have answers as brilliant as Dr. Phil. But the key to success is not having great answers. Simply “good” answers will do. In fact, the key to success is even more simple: Turn off the phones and turn your families on. Just be there for your kids. Just listen to them, even if you have lame answers. That’s all your kids are looking for, anyway. You can’t do that if you’re all looking at your own private device.  Get rid of the smartphones if you want to avoid cyberbullying.

2) Pornography  According to Covenant Eyes,  90% of boys and 60 percent of girls are exposed to Internet porn by age 18.  According to InternetSafety101, searches for “teen porn” tripled to 500,000 a day (!) from 2005 to 2013. A single site released their 2015 statistics, which state that a total of 4.3 billion hours of porn was watched there in 2015. Do you realize the difference between a million and a billion? It would take you about a week to count to a million.  It would take you over 30 years to count to one billion!   Now, 4.3 billion hours of porn were watched at one porn site in 2015.  There are only 7 billion people on this planet. That means that on average, every human being on this planet spent 40 minutes of his year on that single porn site. Of course, not everyone is looking at pornography, but a disproportionate number of those people using porn are teenagers. From great families. It’s so simple: If you give your kids a black-porn machine to keep in their pocket and bed, they will use it. If they don’t search for porn, porn will find them. I don’t know why this happens to teens and even children more than adults, but they are so susceptible to getting found by bad websites. Why gamble with your kids’ souls? That is exactly what you are doing if you give them a smartphone. (If you or someone you love is addicted to porn, scroll to the bottom of my blog post here to read some heavy-duty advice on to come off porn quickly and effectively.)

3) Sexting: Something “good kids” would never do, or maybe just sometimes: This is another term I did not learn until I was a priest, but this is when boyfriends and girlfriends text semi-nude or full-nude pictures to each other. Sometimes it’s just a body part. Besides being a mortal sin, here’s another reason to avoid it: Even the images that self-destruct after being sent can be saved by the recipient if he knows how to do a “screen save.” Another teen can save those forever, or embarrass the sender by putting it on the internet. Many boyfriends have embarrassed their ex-girlfriends this way, leading to more suicides of these poor girls (and sometimes boys.) Again, I promise you that your kids are not “too good” to get into this stuff. Some flip phones don’t have the ability to send pictures, so go for a flip-phone instead. (Funny we all grew up without flip-phones and even went to universities without them.)

4) Trafficking and kidnapping is a real danger to even the best kids on social media. Traffickers find kids, especially girls, through social media. See HERE and HERE and HERE to see how and why. Although social media can lead to outright kidnapping in other countries, the means in the United States are more subtle: Most traffickers in the United States lure in lonely girls through what those in the rescue movement call “Loverboy syndrome.” For example, a 24 year old male acts like he is the only one who understands a lonely 14 year old girl. She falls in love with him. He brings her to a hotel where her life is history. Other kids are trapped by traffickers through a job application or modeling job that they do not tell their parents about. Others teens find a “sugar daddy” to pay online for something they need, but the transaction must be done in person. Of course, the child is kidnapped at that first meeting.  This doesn’t just happen to “those types of families.”

“But my kid would never…” There are thousands of child sex-slaves in the United States. None of those kids had planned sex-slavery as a life. I once asked the FBI director of child cyber crimes in Chicago what it felt like to put away a criminal into prison. I thought he would give a tough guy answer to me about “throwing away the key.” Instead, he simple said: “It’s like taking a spoonful of water out of Lake Michigan.” In other words, he meant that there is an endless list of men abusing children, and one criminal behind bars makes almost no difference. But you can make a difference by not letting your kids on social media until they are 18.

5) Multi-tasking on devices destroys brain-matter. The University of Tokyo reports that “higher media multi-tasking activity is associated with smaller gray-matter density in the anterior cingulate cortex.”  Another study at the University of London “found that participants who multitasked during cognitive tasks experienced IQ score declines that were similar to what they’d expect if they had smoked marijuana.” (emphasis mine)  Larry Kim at the Observer notes that “a study from the University of Sussex ran MRI scans on the brains of individuals who spent time on multiple devices at once (texting while watching TV, for example). The MRI scans showed that subjects who multitasked more often had less brain density in the anterior cingulate cortex. That’s the area responsible for empathy and emotional control.”

It’s a good thing that none of your teens text while watching TV! Otherwise we might start to see a nation of kids with a lower IQ and lower empathy.  Marijuana and smartphones will lead the next generation of teens to create a world that looks like Idiocracy or any of the other dystopian films that are turning out to be strangely prophetic in a secular sort of way.

6) Smartphone Isolation and Self-Injury. As mentioned above, using multiple devices may reduce “emotional control.”  Usually self-injury means cutting oneself, but there are other forms, including burning. I have discovered in my priesthood that it is usually not suicidal.  At least 7% of University students do some form of self-injury according to the National Institute of Health study here.  But I have also read on self-injury websites that up to 25% of all University women in the United States do some form of self-injury.   I think it is closer to the latter.  Of course, I would never blog about anything confessional, but I can share a conversation that I had with a teenage boy when I was running a youth group from when I was a seminarian (before I was a priest.) I asked this 12 or 13 year old boy why he cut his arms up. I will never forget his answer. He said: “Because I can’t talk to anyone about anything.”

Indeed, his cut arms were pressure-release valves for his interior frustration of having no one to talk to. No friends. No parents who cared. It’s like the Goo-Goo Dolls line, “You bleed just to know you’re alive.”   If the anterior cingulate cortex of the brain is harmed by devices’ overuse and  that is the area responsible for empathy and emotional control, then the conclusion is obvious:  Isolated children with smartphones will not be able to control their emotions.  But they can control a knife on their arms.  Again, this is not suicidal.  It is an exterior manifestation of interior frustration that could sometimes (but not always) be alleviated by putting down the video games and getting outside to just play.  At the very least, turn off the phones and turn on life. That is the only answer.

7) You don’t need a smartphone and neither do your kids.  Remember Pascal’s wager on the existence of God? If God exists and you believe, you get heaven. If not, you get hell. If God doesn’t exist and you believe, you lose a little fun on earth. If not, you only gain a little fun on earth. Apply a wager like that to your kid having a smartphone: If you give your kid a smartphone and she fails at temptation, she is addicted or stalked or cyberbullied. If she navigates temptation well with her smartphone, she is exhausted at the end of the day (but still dumber) and slightly more popular with the social status of having an iPhone.

However, If you don’t give your kid a smartphone and she protests, then she is correct about some increasing mild social pressure to have a smartphone or inability to complete a certain internet homework assignments on the go (yeah right.)  If you refrain from smartphones in your family and she turns out psychologically and spiritually balanced, it means (from the six things I listed above) that she endured mild social ostracizing (for not having a smartphone) all for the sake of being:  Not cyberbullied, not addicted to pornography, not sexting boys you never met, not getting trafficked into sex-slavery, and…she lives with a lesser chance of cutting her arms.

Is the wager worth it?  Why bring your kids into the near-occasion of sin, and then tell them to avoid sin?

As I finished this article, I thought of renaming it “Why no one needs a smartphone.” We adults also need to ask if our soul in heaven is worth constant connectivity on earth. In 2003, I had one of the first phones with email and internet. The next year was my first year in seminary, so we had to give up all technology. In 2005, I got a simple flip phone, which I used all through the next five years. In fact, I used a flip phone for the first five years of my priesthood. I have been a priest seven years. The past two years I got a smartphone only for my blogging, videos and podcasts. My point is this: If I can go as an active priest until I am 36 with a flip phone, and still be available for emergencies, then most people don’t need a smartphone. In fact, I look forward to the day that I get rid of mine all together.

“If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out.”—Mt 5:29. This is not to be taken literally, except for the fact that sin functions like addiction, and addiction can only be broken by a self-discipline so serious that it often feels like a violence to the soul. “From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force.”—Mt 11:12. Like any act of violent warfare, one can never negotiate with a terrorist, and this is true in spiritual warfare too. It might lead to many fights in the house to rid the family of smartphones, but addicted kids are crying out for discipline and boundaries, even if his or her initial response speaks to the contrary. Even if it leads to temporary arguments on homework assignments that can only be completed with a smart phone (yeah right) I still would hold on to this: No education or social status is worth your kids’ souls, bodies, or mental health.

In fact, if that smartphone causes you adults to sin, remember that no psuedo-availability to your job could possibly be worth the loss of your own soul. “If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell.”

Age of Angels

Padre Pio said that the 21st century would be the “age of the angels.” I am going to give five reasons why I believe this to be true. The first is based on demons. The other four on the angels.

1) There are more demons on earth now than there were 500 years ago. I know this sounds crazy.  On 5 May 1995, a mother and dentist named Gloria Polo was struck by lightning in Bogotá, Columbia. She was with her cousin who was killed instantaneously. She was brought to the trauma center. Her medical records later showed that the IUD torched her whole reproductive system. The lightning also burned most of her body and she was sent into cardiac arrest at the hosptial. As she faced God, her sentence was hell. Although she thought of herself as a decent Catholic, Christ showed her that she had greviously broken all ten commandments. God gave her life back and she has told her story to millions of people. (Miraculously, she has since had more children with her husband.) Her account has the approbation of the South American bishops. The private revelation of her particular judgment before God is found here. Gloria Polo was able to see why there are more demons on earth now than ever before, as found in this excerpt from her near-death experience:

The devil, with his malefic strategy, has brought humanity to the point of killing their own children. Now I understand the reason why I lived in continual bitterness, depression, always ill tempered, ill-mannered, with ugly ways of doing things, with a bad face, frustrated with everything and with everyone. Of course! I had transformed myself, without knowing it, into a machine to kill babies [her IUD] and for this reason I was sinking ever more into the abyss. Abortion is the worst of all the sins because to kill the children still in the womb of the mother, to kill a little innocent and defenseless creature, is to give power to Satan. The devil commands from the depths of the abyss, because we are scattering innocent blood! A baby is like an innocent lamb and without stain… And Who is the Lamb without stain? It is Jesus! In that moment, the baby is the image and likeness of Jesus! The fact that it might be the mother herself to kill her own child, determines a profound bond with the darkness, permitting that more devils from hell might come out to destroy and strangle humanity. It is as if one might open the sealsSeals that God has put to impede evil to come out, but that, for every abortion, it opens… And so horrible larvae come out, so that there are more and more devils… They come out to chase and persecute humanity, and then make us slaves of the flesh, of sin, of all the bad things that we see, and we will see always more. It is as if we might give the key of hell to the devils, to let them escape. And so escape more devils, of prostitution, of sexual aberrations, of Satanism, of atheism, of suicide, of indifference… Of all the evils that we see around us. And the world is getting worse every day… Think how many babies are killed every day: it is all a triumph of the evil one! That you might know that for the price of this innocent blood, the number of devils outside of hell grows; they circulate freely in our midst! Let us take shelter! … We sin without even realizing it! And our life transforms itself into an inferno, with problems of every type, with sicknesses, with so many evils that afflict us; all of this is the pure and simple action of the devil in our life. But it is we, we alone, that open the gates of evil, with our sin, and we permit him to freely circulate in our life. It is not only with abortion that we sin! … But it is among the worst sins. And then we have the nerve to blame God for so much misery, so much disgrace, so much sicknesses and so much suffering!

God showed Gloria Polo in this approved private revelation that abortion is the reason why the demons of other sins are allowed to escape hell. Seals were placed by God’s mercy, but God in His justice (as a punishment to abortion) has decreed that the seals were to be loosened.  These seals were meant to protect us from more demons roaming the earth.  These include demons “of prostitution, of sexual aberrations, of Satanism, of atheism, of suicide, of indifference.” But it is primarily due to the sin of abortion that these other demons are permitted to “come out to chase and persecute humanity.” Do we need more proof of this? Look, first-world parents are mutilating 10 year old children under the pretext of gender-compassion. Not even demon-worshipping pagan cultures have mutiliated their own children into sterility. How could anyone argue that the new army of demons on the earth must be those of child-sacrifice based in abortion?

2) We can imitate the Purity of the Angels
Abortion is the rotten fruit of impurity, and to battle this, we need the purity of the angels. Thankfully, the United States is chaulked full of youth conferences and young adult conferences that put an emphasis on purity more than anywhere else I have seen in the world. But few speakers at our Youth Conferences will ever point out that the Church holds that celibacy is still a higher way of life than married life. For celibates to denigrate marriage has been condemned as a heresy. But equally condemned as a heresy is to put marriage above celibacy. In fact, the Church still teaches it is the more perfect way-of-life. This comes straight from the theology of Jesus Christ as found in Luke’s Gospel that you will rarely hear quoted by an American chastity speaker:

And Jesus said to them, “The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage, but those who are considered worthy to attain to that age and to the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage, for they cannot die anymore, because they are equal to angels and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection.—Jesus Christ in St. Luke 20:34-36

Notice that Jesus says that in “that age,” those who are actually saved will be “equal to the angels” for they will “neither marry nor are given in marriage.” Unlike the angels, we will have bodies in heaven. But there will be no more sexual reproduction in heaven. Some are called to skip the try-outs and go straight to the ultimate goal. Although marriage and the creation of new children is a beautiful calling on earth, everyone who is saved will become celibate in heaven. Men joke that “in that case, it wouldn’t be heaven,” but this reveals how few Christians have ever had an experience of the power and love of God. Yes, we will have physical bodies in heaven, but we will be as chaste and glorious as the angels in heaven. Although married people are not called to celibacy [normally], married couples are indeed called to chastity since “nothing unclean will enter heaven.”—Apocalypse 21:27. In heaven, our nature will be human, not angelic, but we will be as pure of heart and mind and body as angels are pure in their spiritual existence. Are you ready for this state of union with the Trinity?

St. Aloysius Gonzaga was called by the Roman Breviary “an angel in the flesh” while already on earth. This is not conflating a human nature for an angelic nature in some type of Cartesian dualism. It is simply saying that St. Aloysius had reached the state on earth where Christ Himself urged many believers to enter.  This is where celibates “cannot die anymore, because they are equal to angels and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection.” St. Thomas Aquinas says one in three Catholic children are probably called to celibacy.  It’s a hard call to answer, when so many religious orders have been tanked by the hierarchy or racked with internal sexual and doctrinal scandals. This is why I believe that single-celibate is the most under-rated of all vocations. Many in the early Church answered this beautiful calling to celibacy without a fancy habit or a big religious motherhouse.

3) We can learn humility by contemplating the Angels
We should have unspeakable and unspoken humility before God in the Blessed Sacrament, for even the angels must “cover their faces” (Isaiah 6) while praising Him. Angels were made as an intermediary between God and man. I am amazed at how many young Catholics tell me about their prayer as if they were in a state of perpetually-banal private-revelations: “So, I was like, ‘What’s up God?’ And God was all, ‘Come on dude!’” Besides the fact that God did not call you “dude,” consider this: Not even Mary and Joseph got to talk straight to God at the beginning of the Gospels. Let it sink in. Even the Immaculate Conception herself, at the greatest time of prayer in all of human history up to that point (the Annunciation and Incarnation) had to speak to an angel before Mary herself was overshadowed by the Holy Spirit. Also, St. Joseph in Matthew 2 is told where to go for the safety of the Holy Family. But it is not God who speaks to St. Joseph (doctrinally the second greatest saint ever.) Still, God sends an angel to be the intermediary of St. Joseph’s conversation.

Even St. John spent three years on earth with God-the-Son. Yet even after that he was tempted to worship an angel, so glorious was this spiritual being: “And the angel said to me, ‘Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.’ And he said to me, ‘These are the true words of God.’ Then I fell down at his feet to worship him, but he said to me, ‘You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your brothers who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Worship God.'”—Apocalypse 19:9-10. If an angel came to your neighborhood in the middle of the night, your front porch would light up like it there was daytime sunlight: “After this I saw another angel coming down from heaven, having great authority, and the earth was made bright with his glory.”—Apocalype 18:1. The earth is lit up by one single angel! How much greater must God Himself be? I’m not saying that a relationship with angels should replace a personal relationship with God or even talking to Jesus as your best friend. Of course, we should. But let’s try to have a little respect for the hierarchy of creation here. I guarantee you that God did not say to you “Come on, dude!” Your imagination did.

Another way to grow in humility before the angels is to consider the fact that your guardian angel has never sinned. Never. Ever. Think about that. Why did God send a sinless being to serve a sinful being? Your guardian angel has never spoken bad of another angel, yet we gossip behind the backs of our enemies and friends and families. How this must embarrass our guardian angels (Matthew 18:10.) We can learn from the total holiness of the angels that we don’t have “try out a little sin” in order to evangelize people away from bigger sins. Angels are fully alive in God without ever having had to try “a little sin.” We should not commit a single venial sin, even if we were mistaken into thinking it would save a whole continent of gentiles.

4) We have Our Mother as Queen of all Angels
God gave Mary the ability to direct the angels on earth to help us. She was assigned an astonishing army herself, assigned by God before Mary ever existed. In fact, the supreme privilege of protecting Mary was assigned in heaven immediately following the ejection of the demons who had rebelled:

The other ten seraphim, which complete the number of seventy, were likewise chosen from the more distinguished leaders of those who in their opposition to the dragon had manifested a greater reverence for the Divinity and humanity of the Word and for his most holy Mother; for all this was determined during that brief conflict of the holy angels. It was one of the principal distinctions merited by them at the time that they were to be selected as guardians of their Queen and Lady. Altogether a thousand angels were chosen from the Seraphim and the lower orders of angels, and thus that City of God [Mary] was superabundantly fortified against the infernal hosts.—Mystical City of God, Ven. Mary de Agreda, Book one, chapter 14, #205.

Yes, this papal-approved private-revelation is saying that Mary has thousands of guardian angels, including 1,000 from the highest order (the Seraphim.)  She also had thousands of guardian angels from the lower choir of angels.

Why is this more important now than in the middle ages? Remember that Mary appeared at Fatima with promises of peace before a century of wars and genocides. In fact, it was during her July apparition (100 years to the month of this blog post publication) that Mary said the following to the children at Fatima, on 13 July 1917: “The good will be martyred…Various nations will be annihilated …Suddenly the horizon will darken… Later, a brilliant ray of light and hope will arise…In the end My Immaculate Heart will triumph.”

Now we wait to see what it really means to say that Mary’s “Immaculate Heart will triumph.” Will this be an era of peace? Will this be Christ’s coming in glory?  I do not know, but here is what St. Louis De Montfort prophesied would happen with Marian devotion before the end of the world:

Mary hardly appeared at all in the first coming of Jesus Christ, in order that men, as yet but little instructed and enlightened on the Person of her Son, should not remove themselves from Him in attaching themselves too strongly…to her….This is so true that St. Denis the Areopagite tells us in his writings that when he saw our Blessed Lady, he would have taken her for a Divinity, because of her secret graces and incomparable beauty, had not the faith in which he was well established taught him the contrary. But in the second coming of Jesus Christ, Mary has to be made known and revealed by the Holy Spirit in order that, through her, Jesus Christ may be known, loved and served.1

Because Mary is both the Queen of Angels and Our Mother, the conclusion is obvious:  Our Mother will send as as many angels as we ask in faith, especially in this time of diabolical disorientation. 

5) We should learn the names of the nine choirs of angels.
St. Bonaventure lamented the laxity of 13th century Catholic Europe where not even priests could name the nine choirs of angels. Did you catch that? He was disappointed that priests then could not name the 9 choirs of angels. Nowadays, I bet I know few priests who could name the ten commandments. No exagerration. The Vatican has condemned the practice of naming your guardian angel or divining his name. To name your guardian angel is wrong because it inverts the hierarchy of creation. That is, only the higher gets to name the lower, like God naming Jacob “Israel” (Gen 32:28.) Divining the name of your guardian angel is equally condemned by the Church because it is dangerous. What if you thought you “heard” the name of your angel and it was actually a demon transmitting his name? Would you talk to that demon your whole life?

The saints did not take the lazy way out. They simply memorized the names of the nine choirs of angels (something that will only take you 15 minutes, really.)2

Even the greatest saints knew that they needed the help of the nine choirs of angels. St. Francis Xavier is my favorite saint outside the first century.  He travelled three-fourths the circumference of the earth on 16th century boats to evangelize the nations. During the worst storm he had seen on any ocean, he called on the nine choirs of angels. Xavier lived to write a letter regarding this trip from Indonesia to India in December 1547:

On that voyage from Malacca to India we underwent manifold perils from a great storm which lasted three days and nights. I never experienced a worse storm at sea. The people aboard wept and wailed for their own deaths while still alive, and mighty were the vows they made never to put to sea again, should God deliver them. We jettisoned all the cargo we could to save our lives. While the tempest was at its height, I commended myself to God our Lord, taking for my first intercessors on earth all those belonging to the Company of Jesus, and the friends of the Company, blessed of God. With that great help, I gave myself completely to the loving prayers of the Spouse of Jesus Christ, Holy Mother Church, who, still on earth, is unceasingly heard in Heaven. Nor did I neglect to have recourse to all saints in the glory of Paradise, beginning with those who here below were with the holy Company of Jesus, especially the blessed soul of Father Favre. I could never convey to you the consolation I received from thus commending myself to God our Lord through the intercession of my brethren of the Society, living and dead. While the danger lasted, I also put myself in the hands of the angels, praying to them choir by choir, and under the protection of the patriarchs, prophets, apostles, evangelists, martyrs, confessors, virgins—all the saints in Heaven—and to strengthen my hope of obtaining pardon for my infinite number of sins, I took for my protectress the glorious Virgin, Our Lady, because in Heaven everything she asks of God our Lord is granted. Finally, I put all my trust in the infinite merits of the Passion and death of Jesus Christ, our Redeemer and Lord. With all this protection and help about me, I think I felt happier in the thick of the storm than afterwards when delivered from it. That a grandissimo pecador should have shed tears of joy and consolation in so great an extremity seems to me, when I think of it, matter for the deepest self-abasement. So, I begged our Lord during the storm that, if I came out of it alive, it might only be to endure others as bad or worse for His greater service.—St. Francis Xavier by Fr. James Brodrick SJ, page 301-302.

We are surrounded by billions of demons, but most importantly, let us remember that for all the demons on earth, all the angels around us outnumber the demons by a ratio of two to one! (See Apocalypse 12:4.)


Finally, one reason that we may be in the age of the angels is that we have more resources on the angels than any group of Catholics in History.  Here are a few:

  1. My buddies from seminary at Catholic Stuff You Should Know did a profound and funny podcast on Celibacy.  You will hear why this state of life is more about union with God than making time to serve lay people.
  2. The exorcist Fr. Ripperger’s most visited talk on YouTube is Guardian Angels.
  3. Dr. Mark Miravalle has an excellent talk on the nine choirs of angels.  Unfortunately, it costs a few bucks on mp3 or CD.
  4. St. Francis Xavier’s prayer to his guardian angel is here for you to copy and paste:

I beg thee, Blessed Angel, to whose providence I am entrusted to be always at hand to help me. Present my petitions to the merciful ears of God our Lord that of His clemency and by thy prayers He may pardon my sins of the past, give me to know truly and repent heartily of my present sins, and counsel and warm me that I may shun sins in the future. Through thee may He give me grace to do good and persevere to the end. Drive away from me by the power of Almighty God every temptation of the Devil, and that which my own deeds, mixed as they always are with some evil, merit not, do thou obtain for me by thy prayers before our Lord. And if at times thou seest me straying from the paths of goodness to follow the errors of sin, procure that I may turn again speedily to my Savior in the way of justice. When though beholdest me in tribulation and anguish, obtain for me help from God by thy sweet advocacy. I beg thee never to forsake me, but ever to shield, help and defend me from all troubling and assaults of the demons, watching over me day and night, at all hours and moments. And when this life draws to a close, do not permit the demons to frighten me, and let me not fall into despair. Leave me not, my Guardian, until thou hast conducted me into the blessed vision of God, in the glory of which I with thee and God’s Blessed Mother Mary and all the saints may rejoice for ever. Amen.—St. Francis Xavier, page 316


See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven.—St. Matthew 18:10

 


  1. St. Louis De Montfort, True Devotion to Mary, “The Necessity of the Blessed Virgin and of Devotion to Her,” part 4, article 3.

  2. 9 choirs of angels:
    Angels
    Archangels
    Principalities
    Powers
    Virtues
    Dominations
    Thrones
    Cherubim
    Seraphim

The Image of God in the Human Face

St. Louis De Montfort teaches that Lucifer and all the angels were given a preview that one day, a creature would contain more glory than the angels. That creature is the Blessed Virgin Mary. So infuriated was Satan that a creature would be higher than him, that Lucifer (now Satan) led a third of the angels to rebel against God. St. Michael ejected the rebel spirits to the earth. So, eons later, Satan went to pursue Mary and her child: “And when the dragon saw that he had been thrown down to the earth, he pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child.”—Apocalypse 12:13

Both before and after Satan’s failure at spiritually overcoming the woman and the child, he decided to turn against the image and likeness of God on earth—man and woman. Like Mary, we are each born with God’s image upon our souls. Unlike Mary, we are born without God’s likeness, due to original sin. However, baptism restores God’s likeness in us, bringing us to be children of God in both His image and likeness. This spiritual reality is so Trinitarian that St. Francis of Assisi used to genuflect before newly-baptized babies. The soul reflects God, even in a Triune nature (intellect, memory and will.) Physically, however, there is something in the human face that also reflects the glory of God:

This is a child born to a couple that I married in my University ministry.  He was made in God’s image and likeness, but his likeness was remade the day of his baptism because this was lost after this most-important event of creation:  “And God made man, according to the image of God he made him, male and female he made them.”—Genesis 1:27. The word in the Greek Septuagint (Septuagint being the Old Testament translation from Hebrew to Greek done by 70 elders) uses the words according to the image of God as three words even more power-packed and short in the Greek, κατ᾿ εἰκόνα Θεοῦ. When εἰκόνα is written in Latin letters it becomes eikona, where we get the word “icon.” Man and woman are icons of God. Satan hates a face like that.

Suffering under Nazi Germany, an Austrian couple, Erik and Christiane Von Kuehnelt-Leddihn, wrote a book called Moscow 1979. In it, a bishop in Russia talks to a dead body, but that dead body becomes possessed by Satan. Satan explains through that body his actual tactic for reaching humanity in 20th century:

I am not mean! I’m only radical. ‘Radical’ – that is to say ‘from the roots.’ And sex is the root of all life. Nothing pleases me more than to turn the natural instinct for creation of new bodies and souls into the vilest filth. I hate those human beings who are allowed to take part in God’s creation. At least it is some consolation for me if human beings play tricks on God …if experimental biology is victorious over the curse of Eve, cheating women out of the joy of suffering for the sake of a new being. I don’t want the Creation! And if I’m not able to exterminate it, at least I can twist it, smear it, distort it!

 

Images deleted at the behest of a good friend.  They were pretty scary.

 

I’m not using this picture for shock-value. But I have to be very honest: I used to see people in circles like this as the enemy of the Catholic Church. Oh sure, I admitted that God loved them, but I saw them as the enemy in a culture war. Now, as things get so twisted, I see they are deceived. I don’t mean that in a self-righteous way. Flannery O’Connor would call me out for being sweet enough to give you a toothache in this next sentence, but honestly here it is: I only feel sadness to the point of literal tears at these two men. I am brought to tears that fallen angels have deceived us underdog humans to this point.  How prophetic that in 1940 those Austrians saw that “experimental biology” would be the goal of Satan in communism and secularism: “And if I’m not able to exterminate it, at least I can twist it, smear it, distort it!”

I sense only mercy in my heart when I see people in the above picture so distorted, so horribly deceived by Satan. No, beauty is not in the eyes of the beholder.  There is objectivity to beauty, as there is truth.  And what I see is boys-become-semi-men who were so abused (not necessarily sexually, but in some way abused) finishing the job of twisting what the Ugly One had begun against them.  Yet, they don’t know to whom they belong as hostages. Or maybe they do, since they have horns!   But still they are hostages, and honestly: I love them. I love them as a spiritual father and as a priest. I believe what Jesus told St. Faustina: The greater the sinner, the greater he has a right to my mercy.

Friends back home often say I have become “extreme” in my Catholic doctrine.   Therefore, some might think the above paragraph is a feigned but warm attempt to offset my current trajectory. But now I’m going to tell you a tough story why I won’t back down on doctrine. A young woman from an Eastern-block country recently wrote me about her conversion from atheism to Catholicism. She told me how many tears she has wept for what Communism did to not only her country, but what Communism has done to her new-found Catholic Church. One particularly sad story was the story of an 18 year old homosexual man in the rural area of her country.  When he failed at chastity, the rural priests helped him back up, and again when needed.  He was succeeding, albeit with difficulty.  Then, he moved to a large city in “middle-Europe” as she calls it.  There, in that large city, he found a Catholic priest with very different advice than he had ever heard: The priest told him that he could continue his homosexual behavior, as long as it is done “in good faith.”

Now the young man has AIDS. He no longer goes to Church and lives with his boyfriend.

Jesus is infinite Truth and Jesus is infinite Mercy, so please, you priests who are telling gay men and women that they don’t have to live chastity: You are killing people. Not just spiritually as we “trads” say, but now we have proof you are killing people physically. The outcome of your trashing of Catholic teaching is not only hell (which I can’t prove outside of Divine Revelation) but AIDS (which the above story proves.) When we distort Christian doctrine, we distort peoples’ souls and bodies.  Jesus and the Catholic Church have the best plan for every person on the planet, so please stop discriminating and show some compassion for the image and likeness of God that He died to restore. Jesus was disfigured on the cross so that none of the above disfigurement would ever have to happen.  Thus, we priests have no right to sacrifice our children on the altar of popularity. They are God’s children, made in His image and likeness.