Tag Archives: Family

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.”

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.

Divine Mercy Sunday Sermon

In our traditional Latin calendar, this is also called Dominica in Albis or “White-Sunday.”  It is also called “Low Sunday.”  My podcasts are back after some technical difficulties (which I honestly believe were preternatural, as there was no natural explanation why the last recordings did not work.)  In any case, please pray for the protection of my ministries in the parish, at the abortion mill, in the streets and even online.  Happy Divine Mercy Sunday!

Why you should stop confessing pornography

Really, a better title of this article is “Why to stop confessing pornography badly.” Or: “Why confession without amendment will still lead to the loss of your soul.” People do not realize the danger in confessing pornography without a firm resolution of amendment to totally change their life.  That is the purpose of this blog post.

Going to confession within a week (before or after) of Divine Mercy Sunday totally relieves the soul of not only the eternal effects of sin (hell) but also the temporal effects of sin (purgatory.) Jesus said to St. Faustina, “The soul that will go to Confession and receive Holy Communion shall obtain complete forgiveness of sins and punishment. On that day all the divine floodgates through which grace flow are opened. Let no soul fear to draw near to Me, even though its sins be as scarlet. My mercy is so great that no mind, be it of man or of angel, will be able to fathom it throughout all eternity. Everything that exists has come forth from the very depths of My most tender mercy. Every soul in its relation to Me will contemplate My love and mercy throughout eternity. The Feast of Mercy emerged from My very depths of tenderness. It is My desire that it be solemnly celebrated on the first Sunday after Easter. Mankind will not have peace until it turns to the Fount of My Mercy.”—Diary 699

However, one of the requirements for a good confession is “firm resolution of amendment.” Firm resolution of amendment means that you will try to avoid the sin that you just confessed. I’m going to give you five reasons to never fall into pornography again.  I write this for men, but some women mind find a loving challenge in my words, too:

1) Confession cleanses the soul but not the memory. Pornography and masturbation are both mortal sins, even when committed exclusively of the other. In fact, lustful thoughts without pornography can be mortal, for Jesus said: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”—Matthew 5:27. Now add to this the fact that pornography is biochemically burned at each use into the memory section of the brain.  Now add into this mix the fact that the Church teaches that confession generally relieves the eternal effects of sin (the soul) but rarely the consequences of the sin (the memory.) Now add into this mix the fact that demonologists and exorcists teach that demons have access to the memory (but demons do not have access to the substance of the soul where the Blessed Trinity resides in someone in sanctifying grace.) Combine all of the above facts of human biology and Church doctrine and this is the stunning outcome: Demons have some access to your memory of past pornography even when you are in sanctifying grace!  Do you see why this addiction must be stopped as soon as possible?  Accessing those memories (on your own, or with some infernal help) can be a slick road to a mental fall as you picture all the filthy things of your past.   St. Francis De Sales teaches that thoughts become mortal sin when “you with full deliberation resolve to take pleasure in such delight.”  Do you see why your brain can not take one more insult of filth? You don’t know when the tipping point will be, so do not presume upon confession. Confession will not cleanse your memory, but you can start doing that by making a firm resolution of amendment to never see pornography again. This will be necessary for a clean mind.

2) Pornography releases real-live demons into your home. Consider the quote of Jesus above where he says that simply looking upon a woman with lust is “adultery.” Now consider the fact that exorcists say that there are actually specific demons of adultery. Demons can probably not commit lust (since they have no physical body) but there are demons on specific missions of lust against us humans. Thus, binding yourself to a woman you see in pornography invites those demons into your home. I am not an exorcist, but I do minor-exorcisms in deliverance ministry that has taken me even to India. When I work with young fathers who have addictions and fetishes, I often notice that their children have very strange screaming patterns that almost sound diabolical.  I am not saying those kids are possessed, but there are some signs of diabolical obsession in these families where the dad struggles with porn.  In any case, I am totally convinced that young fathers who use pornography are bringing demons into their home. How sad that these are the very men who want to protect their family and provide for their home.   The end of this article will include new weapons for them to beat this silent killer of family life.   As I was writing this article tonight, I texted an exorcist friend on this topic and he wrote me:    “All exorcists are consistent on this point: The continuous and unrepentant commission of mortal sins constitutes an increasing danger of demonic obsession (in a body) or infestation (in a place)… The more frequent the consent, the more open the invitation to these demons. The regular habit of viewing porn allows the entry of those unclean spirits into one’s life and home.”

3) Looking at pornography grows the child sex-slavery business even when you’re looking at adults. Here’s why:
The same men often run both industries. Huffington Post quotes “Fight the New Drug” in saying that “when these customers show up [to use prostitutes] many come ready with porn images in hand to show the women they’re exploiting—many of which are human trafficking victims controlled by pimps—what they’ll be forced to do…According to FTND CEO Clay Olsen, ‘porn fuels the demand for the sex trade’ in a way often not seen by those who view porn. ‘Traffickers have learned to package their product in a way that disguises the fact that the “performers” are forced to participate,’ said Olsen.” Thus, we must ask the question: Who are these human trafficking victims? In 2015, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) funded a study that looked at sex trafficking of minors in the U.S.  The victims in this study reported a median age of 15 years old, though some think it may be closer to 13 and others 19.

Think of your fifteen year old daughter being kidnapped and used for movies over the next ten years the next time you think that pornography is “harmless.”

4) “Normal” pornography use fosters a desire for child-porn or violence. There’s actually a science behind this. Dopamine and norepinephrine are powerful pleasure chemicals released in the brain during orgasm. But unlike normal married sex, the immediate and ubiquitous access to pornography allows those chemicals to be released so frequently that an up-regulation of the biochemical receptors happens. That means that when more receptors are made (to “catch” the more frequent floods of bio-chemicals that come at orgasm) more chemicals are similarly required to even reach simple orgasm. The outcome of this up regulation on a biochemical level has  one of two earthy outcomes:
A) Total loss of sex drive. Even my most unfavorite magazine, Time Magazine, had this article to show that millions of young men have lost any desire to have sex with real women because of how often they masturbate to fake women.

or

B) More and more kinky porn. As I wrote, the up-regulation of receptors requires a greater flood of biochemicals to reach orgasm, and the only way to release more chemicals is to get into more shocking and kinky material. Many men get bored with “ordinary” pornography and they slowly wade into the world of child-pornography or violence. This begins with BDSM (Bondage, Domination, Sado-Maschism) but it often ends in acting out real violence, often against children. Many serial killers did not think that “innocent” pornography would ever lead them to killing, but many of them admit that the strange attraction to the next higher-high of human interaction and degradation all began with the self-abuse of simple pornography. Jeffrey Dahmer and Ted Bundy both say that pornography was their launching point into their serial killing. I have included in this footnote the quotes from fourteen serial killers on how they got their start in pornography: 1

 

5) St. Thomas Aquinas taught that masturbation is worse than pre-marital sex: “And therefore simple fornication, which is committed without injury to another person, is the least kind of lust.”—Summa Theologica II.II.154.12. St. Thomas is basically saying that although both are mortal sins, masturbation is actually worse than the old fashioned consensual sex behind the barn of two young lovers. Why? Because masturbation is a direct offense against nature and the Creator who gives us the option for life. At least fornication is still open to life. (St. Thomas Aquinas never fathomed that there could be a Pill to kill 500 million tiny individuals every year.) But barring the topic of contraception and abortion, we can say this confidently: Masturbation does more harm to your soul than simply having pre-marital sex. (But abortion is worse than both, and most people who have pre-marital sex are mildly open to abortion.  Even without abortion or contraception, God obviously does not want us to do either fornication or masturbation.)  This is also why oral sex is worse than normal intercourse.  I wish every Catholic high school student in this country could read this single part of my blog post.  Many Catholic young adults believe they can receive Holy Communion on that same filthy mouth that did that sick sin as long as they didn’t do the one natural sin of fornication that at least reflects the marital act!

As a subset of number five, I think I should mention that I believe that masturbation is a homosexual act. Many men might think they feel manly by looking at pictures of women and masturbating. But the reality of it is: It’s a man’s hand that is leading a man to ejaculate. I might take some angry comments or emails for this one, but it has to be said: Masturbation may be one reason why so many straight men become gay. Barring the debate on whether one is “born gay,” I think we all know people who thought they were straight for a long time… and then decided they were gay. I very much believe this may be due to a man masturbating himself, since, at the end of the day, it is a homosexual act: A man is doing it to a man or a woman is doing it to a woman. This is probably tied to the above where St. Thomas Aquinas believes masturbation is worse than normal fornication.

So, really this blog post should be this excessively verbose title: Why-you-should-stop-confessing-pornography-and-start-doing-something-to-end-pornography-in-your-life-so-that-you-can-begin-to-actually-make-a-good-confession-again.  None of this is for shock value.  If you don’t like to read about these things from a priest, well, I don’t really like to blog about them.  But not many other people are saying them, and I want to help people in this silent addiction.

Now for the good news…

If you find yourself in a cycle of pornography/masturbation and then confession every week, do not lose hope. I am proud of you for getting back up and going to confession. As Scott Hahn says, “The one thing greater than my ability to sin is my heavenly Father’s ability to forgive me.” “It does not matter how many times you fall, only how many times you get back up.”—St. Therese.

The blood of Jesus that covers us in confession is a totally free gift of grace, but for salvation to be realized, we must cooperate. If you keep falling into the cycle of pornography/masturbation and then confession every week, it is not God’s grace that is missing in your life! It is your cooperation. And because “we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness” we need thermobaric weapons, not just the pellet guns of three Hail Marys a day for purity.

If you have an addiction to pornography or some other fettish, confess your sins regularly, but I do not think that you will ultimately beat it until you choose one of these spiritual thermobaric weapons:

1) 15-20 decades of the Rosary a day.

or

2) Fast on bread and water every Wednesday and Friday until you are two months clear of all pornography use (and consider the continuation of the practice to clear your memory of past insults of self-abuse.)

or

3) Join RECLAIM SEXUAL HEALTH . It is a couple hundred dollars, but many men who could never beat pornography and masturbation even after fasting have found help here. It is a system based on non-condemnation. It is a system based on getting the man to understand the pathophysiology of addiction, especially the chemical addiction of pornography. Finally, each man at the Reclaim Program gets his own personal coach on the phone who comes with total anonymity and secrecy. (In other words, he won’t call your home phone to have your wife find that you have a private coach to get you off pornography!)  Reclaim is supported by many American bishops as the best way for men to get off pornography.

Nothing could be greater than the grace imparted to us on Divine Mercy Sunday, but for salvation to be realized, we must cooperate. And if you’re serious about beating the destructive, diabolical sin of pornography, please consider one of the three above “thermobaric” spiritual weapons. If you don’t do it for you, then do it for your family.  Their spiritual environment hangs in the balance on your decision to take these things seriously or lightly.


    • Serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer of Wisconsin, speaking of his routine before hunting for a victim said, “Just…using pictures of past victims…the pornography videos, the magazines…” Jeffrey Dahmer killed 17 boys and men.
    • Ted Bundy, convicted rapist and mutilation murderer of Washington, said that hard-core pornography had a “crystallizing effect” on his violent tendencies and his acting out during the 1970s.
    • Arthur Gary Bishop from Utah, executed for raping and murdering five boys in the 1980s, said pornography’s “effect on me was devastating.”
    • Andrei Chikatilo, a Russian serial killer, murdered at least 53 women and children. “…with pictures of naked women in his prison cell, he blamed pornography as the cause of this troubles.”
    • Wisconsin resident Ed Gein, the first serial killer, aka The Butcher of Plainfield, and inspiration for movies such as Psycho, Maniac, and The Silence of the Lambs “accumulated a library of anatomy books, porn magazines, horror and adventure novel…” in the 1950s.
    • John Wayne Gacy‘s wife filed for divorce in 1976 because “Gacy’s moods had become erratic, and [she] had found Gacy’s pornographic magazine collection which was all centered around young boys.” Gacy killed at least 33 young men and boys in Chicago, Illinois.
    • The nickname BTK (bind, torture, kill) was given to Dennis Rader, a Kansas native, who killed 10 people. “He kept meticulous records of his fantasies and crimes in what he called his ‘mother lode’ collection of pornography.”
    • David Berkowitz killed over a dozen people in New York. He joined a cult and was introduced to “drug use, sadistic pornography and violent crime.” The cult also created and distributed child pornography.
    • Richard Ramirez was exposed to explicit pictures of his cousin “raping Vietnamese women and severing the heads of Vietcong soldiers.” He in turn killed at least 13 people in California.
    • Edmund Kemper, a California serial killer and necrophile known as the Co-ed Killer, used pornography and detective magazines for erotic stimulation; he picked up women who were hitch-hiking, then killed, and raped them post-mortem.
    • Ottis Toole from Florida became obsessed with gay pornography. He “committed his first murder at the age of 14.” During his killing spree, accompanied by Henry Lee Lucas, he killed 108 people.
    • The Grim Sleeper, Lonnie Franklin Jr., “had a penchant for prostitutes and pornography.” A resident of LA, he would pick up prostitutes, take pornographic pictures of his victims, then strangle them to death. His killing spree included 11 murders.
    • In the 2013 murder case of Tia Sharp, a 12-year-old girl from the UK, the judge declared to murderer Stuart Hazell, “the records of your internet searching on your mobile phone make abundantly clear that you were looking out for pornographic pictures of pre-teen girls.”
    • In 2013, on the day Mark Bridger, a UK native,abducted April Jones, he “viewed online photographs of a young girl and a pornographic cartoon depicting…rape.”—https://www.netnanny.com/blog/what-serial-killers-and-murderers-think-about-pornography/  

Annunciation Sermon

This homily is about how science and religion meet in the Feast of the Annunciation.   I reference “Instruction on Respect for Human Life in Its Origin and on the Dignity of Procreation,” in this homily. It was written by Cardinal Ratzinger in 1987 and it is found on the Vatican Website here.

Baby Leah’s Funeral

I buried a premature baby today in Louisiana, and this is the sermon I gave. It was made public with the permission of the parents, because they believed there was a message people had to hear in this podcast. If you are reading this podcast description on iTunes, please also visit my blog to see the picture at the top of the casket that the baby’s father made for her in his woodworking shop. I’ll also include some sites and footnotes that I referenced in this sermon.

I spoke in the sermon about the length of eternity, and here is a blog post I wrote with that same “beach of eternity” analogy I gave in the sermon.

Also, to read the full account of the martyrdom of Saints Felicity and Perpetua, click this footnote here: 1

I also wrote a blog post here on this tiny Church next to the Mississippi river last year.  In fact, I wrote it long before I knew I was going to offer Mass here. You’ll notice that the photos on my blog of the slain Lamb standing (located above the high altar) are beautiful. However, they are nothing like the beauty of something that happened today when I took this picture above the altar. The photos below are not edited, so I think it maybe something supernatural surrounding the funeral of little Leah Philomena, a pure lamb standing with the slain Lamb (especially interesting, considering the family chose such readings from the book of the Apocalypse.)


  1.  Vibia Perpetua, was executed in the arena in Carthage on 7 March 203. The account of her martyrdom – technically a Passion -is apparently historical and has special interest as much of it was written [section 3-10], in Latin by Perpetua herself before her death. This makes it one of the earliest pieces of writing by a Christian woman.

    PROLOGUE

    1. If ancient examples of faith kept, both testifying the grace of God and working the edification of man, have to this end been set in writing, that by their reading as though by the showing of the deeds again, God may be glorified and man strengthened; why should not new witnesses also be so set forth which likewise serve either end? Yea, for these things also shall at some time be ancient and necessary to our sons, though in their own present time (through some reverence of antiquity presumed) they are made of but slight account. But let those take heed who judge the one power of the Holy Spirit according to the succession of times; whereas those things which are later ought for their very lateness to be thought the more eminent, according to the abundance of grace appointed for the last periods of time. For In the last days, says the Lord, I will pour my spirit upon all flesh, and their sons and daughters shall prophesy; and upon my servants and upon my handmaids I will pour forth of my spirit; and the young men shall see visions, and the old men shall dream dreams. [Acts 2:17, cf. Joel 2:28]

    We also therefore, by whom both the prophecies and the new visions promised are received and honored, and by whom those other wonders of the Holy Spirit are assigned unto the service of the Church, to which also was sent the same Spirit administering all gifts among all men, according as the Lord hath distributed unto each [I.Cor 7:17]- do of necessity both write them and by reading celebrate them to the glory of God; that no weakness or failing of faith may presume that among those of old time only was the grace of divinity present, whether in martyrs or in revelations vouchsafed; since God ever works that which He has promised, for a witness to them that believe not and a benefit to them that believe. Wherefore we too, brethren and dear sons, declare to you likewise that which we have heard and handled [I Cor 15:1?]; that both you who were present may call to mind the glory of the Lord, and you who now know by hearing may have communion with those holy martyrs, and through them with the Lord Jesus Christ, to whom is glory and honor for ever and ever. Amen.

    2. There were apprehended the young catechumens, Revocatus and Felicity his fellow servant, Saturninus and Secundulus. With them also was Vibia Perpetua, nobly born reared in a liberal manner, wedded honorably; having a father and mother and two brothers, one of them a catechumen likewise, and a son, a child at the breast; and she herself was about twenty-two years of age. What follows here shall she tell herself; the whole order of her martyrdom as she left it written with her own hand and in her own words.

    PERPETUA’S ACCOUNT

    3. When, she said, we were still under legal surveillance and my father was liked to vex me with his words and continually strove to hurt my faith because of his love: Father, said I, Do you see (for examples) this vessel lying, a pitcher or whatsoever it may be? And he said, I see it. And I said to him, Can it be called by any other name than that which it is? And he answered, No. So can I call myself nought other than that which I am, a Christian.

    Then my father angry with this word came upon me to tear out my eyes; but he only vexed me, and he departed vanquished, he and the arguments of the devil. Then because I was without my father for a few days I gave thanks unto the Lord; and I was comforted because of his absence. In this same space of a few days we were baptised, and the Spirit declared to me, I must pray for nothing else after that water save only endurance of the flesh. After a few days we were taken into prison, and I was much afraid because I had never known such darkness. O bitter day! There was a great heat because of the press, there was cruel handling of the soldiers. Lastly I was tormented there by care for the child.

    Then Tertius and Pomponius, the blessed deacons who ministered to us, obtained with money that for a few hours we should be taken forth to a better part of the prison and be refreshed. Then all of them going out from the dungeon took their pleasure; I suckled my child that was now faint with hunger. And being careful for him, I spoke to my mother and strengthened my brother and commended my son unto them. I pined because I saw they pined for my sake. Such cares I suffered for many days; and I obtained that the child should abide with me in prison; and straightway I became well and was lightened of my labour and care for the child; and suddenly the prison was made a palace for me, so that I would sooner be there than anywhere else.

    4. Then said my brother to me: Lady my sister, you are now in high honor, even such that you might ask for a vision; and it should be shown you whether this be a passion or else a deliverance. And I, as knowing that I conversed with the Lord, for Whose sake I had suffered such things, did promise him nothing doubting; and I said: Tomorrow I will tell you. And I asked, and this was shown me.

    I beheld a ladder of bronze, marvelously great, reaching up to heaven; and it was narrow, so that not more than one might go up at one time. And in the sides of the ladder were planted all manner of things of iron. There were swords there, spears, hooks, and knives; so that if any that went up took not good heed or looked not upward, he would be torn and his flesh cling to the iron. And there was right at the ladder’s foot a serpent lying, marvelously great, which lay in wait for those that would go up, and frightened them that they might not go up. Now Saturus went up first (who afterwards had of his own free will given up himself for our -sakes, because it was he who had edified us; and when we were taken he had not been there). And he came to the ladder’s head; and he turned and said: Perpetua, I await you; but see that serpent bite you not. And I said: it shall not hurt me, in the name of Jesus Christ. And from beneath the ladder, as though it feared me, it softly put forth its head; and as though I trod on the first step I trod on its head. And I went up, and I saw a very great space of garden, and in the midst a man sitting, white-headed, in shepherd’s clothing, tall milking his sheep; and standing around in white were many thousands. And he raised his head and beheld me and said to me: Welcome, child. And he cried to me, and from the curd he had from the milk he gave me as it were a morsel; and I took it with joined hands and ate it up; and all that stood around said, Amen. And at the sound of that word I awoke, yet eating I know not what of sweet.

    And at once I told my brother, and we knew it should be a passion; and we began to have no hope any longer in this world.

    5. A few days after, the report went abroad that we were to be tried. Also my father returned from the city spent with weariness; and he came up to me to cast down my faith saying: Have pity, daughter, on my grey hairs; have pity on your father, if I am worthy to be, called father by you; if with these hands I have brought you unto this flower of youth- and I-have preferred you before all your brothers; give me not over to the reproach of men. Look upon your brothers; look upon your mother and mother’s sister; look upon your son, who will not endure to live after you. Give up your resolution; do not destroy us all together; for none of us will speak openly against men again if you suffer aught.

    This he said fatherly in his love, kissing my hands and grovelling at my feet; and with tears he named me, not daughter, but lady. And I was grieved for my father’s case because he would not rejoice at my passion out of all my kin; and I comforted him, saying: That shall be done at this tribunal, whatsoever God shall please; for know that we are not established in our own power, but in God’s. And he went from me very sorrowful.

    6. Another day as we were at meal we were suddenly snatched away to be tried; and we came to the forum. Therewith a report spread abroad through the parts near to the forum, and a very great multitude gathered together. We went up to the tribunal. The others being asked, confessed. So they came to me. And my father appeared there also, with my son, and would draw me from the step, saying: Perform the Sacrifice; have mercy on the child. And Hilarian the procurator – he that after the death of Minucius Timinian the proconsul had received in his room the right and power of the sword – said: Spare your father’s grey hairs; spare the infancy of the boy. Make sacrifice for the Emperors’ prosperity. And I answered: I am a Christian. And when my father stood by me yet to cast down my faith, he was bidden by Hilarian to be cast down and was smitten with a rod. And I sorrowed for my father’s harm as though I had been smitten myself; so sorrowed I for his unhappy old age. Then Hilarian passed sentence upon us all and condemned us to the beasts; and cheerfully we went down to the dungeon. Then because my child had been used to being breastfed and to staying with me in the prison, straightway I sent Pomponius the deacon to my father, asking for the child. But my father would not give him. And as God willed, no longer did he need to be suckled, nor did I take fever; that I might not be tormented by care for the child and by the pain of my breasts.

    7. A few days after, while we were all praying, suddenly in the midst of the prayer I uttered a word and named Dinocrates; and I was amazed because he had never come into my mind save then; and I sorrowed, remembering his fate. And straightway I knew that I was worthy, and that I ought to ask for him. And I began to pray for him long, and to groan unto the Lord. Immediately the same night, this was shown me.

    I beheld Dinocrates coming forth from a dark place, where were many others also; being both hot and thirsty, his raiment foul, his color pale; and the wound on his face which he had when he died. This Dinocrates had been my brother in the flesh, seven years old, who being diseased with ulcers of the face had come to a horrible death, so that his death was abominated of all men. For him therefore I had made my prayer; and between him and me was a great gulf, so that either might not go to the other. There was moreover, in the same place where Dinocrates was, a font full of water, having its edge higher than was the boy’s stature; and Dinocrates stretched up as though to drink. I was sorry that the font had water in it, and yet for the height of the edge he might not drink.

    And I awoke, and I knew that my brother was in travail. Yet I was confident I should ease his travail; and I prayed for him every day till we passed over into the camp prison. (For it was in the camp games that we were to fight; and the time was the feast of the Emperor Geta’s birthday.) And I prayed for him day and night with groans and tears, that he might be given me.

    8. On the day when we abode in the stocks, this was shown me.

    I saw that place which I had before seen, and Dinocrates clean of body, finely clothed, m comfort; and the font I had seen before, the edge of it being drawn to the boy’s navel; and he drew water thence which flowed without ceasing. And on the edge was a golden cup full of water; and Dinocrates came up and began to drink therefrom; which cup failed not. And being satisfied he departed away from the water and began to play as children will, joyfully.

    And I awoke. Then I understood that he was translated from his pains.

    9. Then a few days after, Pudens the adjutant, in whose charge the prison was, who also began to magnify us because he understood that there was much grace in us, let in many to us that both we and they in turn might be comforted. Now when the day of the games drew near, there came in my father to me , spent with weariness, and began to pluck out his beard and throw it on e ground and to fall on his face cursing his years and saying such words as might move all creation. I was grieved for his unhappy old age.

    10. The day before we fought, I saw in a vision that Pomponius the deacon had come hither to the door of the prison, and knocked hard upon it. And I went out to him and opened to him; he was clothed in a white robe ungirdled, having shoes curiously wrought. And he said to me: Perpetua, we await you; come. And he took my hand, and we began to go through rugged and winding places. At last with much breathing hard we came to the amphitheatre, and he led me into the midst of the arena. And he said to me: Be not afraid; I am here with you and labour together with you. And he went away. And I saw much people watching closely. And because I knew that I was condemned to the beasts I marvelled that beasts were not sent out against me. And there came out against me a certain ill-favored Egyptian with his helpers, to fight with me. Also there came to me comely young men, my helpers and aiders. And I was stripped naked, and I became a man. And my helpers began to rub me with oil as their custom is for a contest; and over against me saw that Egyptian wallowing in the dust. And there came forth a man of very great stature, so that he overpassed the very top of the amphitheatre, wearing a robe ungirdled, and beneath it between the two stripes over the breast a robe of purple; having also shoes curiously wrought in gold and silver; bearing a rod like a master of gladiators, and a green branch whereon were golden apples. And he besought silence and said: The Egyptian, if shall conquer this woman, shall slay her with the sword; and if she shall conquer him, she shall receive this branch. And he went away. And we came nigh to each other, and began to buffet one another. He tried to trip up my feet, but I with my heels smote upon his face. And I rose up into the air and began so to smite him as though I trod not the earth. But when I saw that there was yet delay, I joined my hands, setting finger against finger of them. And I caught his head, and he fell upon his face; and I trod upon his head. And the people began to shout, and my helpers began to sing. And I went up to the master of gladiators and received the branch. And he kissed me and said to me: Daughter, peace be with you. And I began to go with glory to the gate called the Gate of Life.

    And I awoke; and I understood that I should fight, not with beasts but against the devil; but I knew that mine was the victory.

    Thus far I have written this, till the day before the games; but the deed of the games tehmsleves let him write who will.

    SATURUS’ ACCOUNT

    11. And blessed Saturus too delivered this vision which he himself wrote down.

    We had suffered, he said, and we passed out of the flesh, and we began to be carried towards the east by four angels whose hand touched us not. And we went not as though turned upwards upon our backs, but as though we went up an easy hill. And passing over the world’s edge we saw a very great light; and I said to Perpetua (for she was at my side): This which the Lord promised us; we have received His promise. And while we were being carried by these same four angels, a great space opened before us, as it had been a having rose-trees and all kinds of flowers. The height of the trees was after the manner of the cypress, and their leaves sang without ceasing. And there in the garden were four other angels, more glorious than the rest; who when they saw us gave us honor and said to the other angels: Lo, here are they, here are they: and marvelled. And the four angels who bore us set us down trembling; and we passed on foot by a broad way over a plain. There we found Jocundus and Saturninus and Artaxius who in the same persecution had been burned alive; and Quintus, a martyr also, who in prison had departed this life; and we asked of them where were the rest. The other angels said to us: Come first, go in, and salute the Lord.

    12. And we came near to a place, of which place the walls were such, they seemed built of light; and before the door of that place stood four angels who clothed us when we went in with white raiment. And we went in, and we heard as it were one voice crying Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus, without any end. And we saw sitting in that same place as it were a man, white-headed, having hair like snow; youthful of countenance; whose feet we saw not. And on his right hand and on his left, four elders; and behind them stood many other elders. And we went in with wonder and stood before the throne; and the four angels raised us up and we kissed him, and with his hand he passed over our faces. And the other elders said to us: Stand you. And we stood, and gave the kiss of peace. And the elders said to us: Go you and play. And I said to Perpetua: You have that which you desire. And she said to me: Yes, God be thanked; so that I that was glad in the flesh am now more glad.

    13. And we went out, and we saw before the doors, on the right Optatus the bishop, and on the left Aspasius the priest and teacher, being apart and sorrowful. And they cast themselves at our feet and said: Make peace between us, because you went forth and left us thus. And we said to them: Are not you our Father, and you our priest, that you should throw yourselves at our feet? And we were moved, and embraced them. And Perpetua began to talk with them in Greek; and we set them apart in the pleasure garden beneath a rose tree. And while we yet spoke with them, the angels said to them: Let these go and be refreshed; and whatsoever dissensions you have between you, Put them away from you each for each. And they made them to be confounded. And they said to Optatus: Correct your people; for they come to you as those that return from the games and wrangle concerning the parties there. And it seemed to us as though they would shut the gates. And we began to know many brothers there, martyrs also. And we were all sustained there with a savour inexpressible which satisfied us. Then in joy I awoke.

    NARRATIVE OF MARTYRDOM

    14. These were the glorious visions of those martyrs themselves, the most blessed Saturus and Perpetua, which they themselves wrote down. But Secundulus by an earlier end God called from this world while he was yet in prison; not without grace, that he should escape the beasts. Yet if not his soul, his flesh at least knew the sword.

    15. As for Felicity, she too received this grace of the Lord. For because she was now gone eight months (being indeed with child when she was taken) she was very sorrowful as the day of the games drew near, fearing lest for this cause she should be kept back (for it is not lawful for women that are with child to be brought forth for torment) and lest she should shed her holy and innocent blood after the rest, among strangers and malefactors. Also her fellow martyrs were much afflicted lest they should leave behind them so good a friend and as it were their fellow-traveller on the road of the same hope. Wherefore with joint and united groaning they poured out their prayer to the Lord, three days before the games. Incontinently after their prayer her pains came upon her. And when by reason of the natural difficulty of the eighth month she was oppressed with her travail and made complaint, there said to her one of the servants of the keepers of the door: You that thus make complaint now, what wilt you do when you are thrown to the beasts, which you didst contemn when you would not sacrifice? And she answered, I myself now suffer that which I suffer, but there another shall be in me who shall suffer for me, because I am to suffer for him. So she was delivered of a daughter, whom a sister reared up to be her own daughter.

    16. Since therefore the Holy Spirit has suffered, and suffering has willed, that the order of the games also should be written; though we are unworthy to finish the recounting of so great glory, yet we accomplish the will of the most holy Perpetua, nay rather her sacred trust, adding one testimony more of her own steadfastness and height of spirit. When they were being more cruelly handled by the tribune. because through advice of certain most despicable men he feared lest by magic charms they might be withdrawn secretly from the prison house, Perpetua answered him to his face: Why do you not allow us to take some comfort, seeing we are victims most noble, namely Caesar’s, and on his feast day we are to fight? Or is it not your glory that we should be taken out thither fatter of flesh? The tribune trembled and blushed, and gave order that they should be more gently handled, granting that her brothers and the rest should come in and rest with them. Also the adjutant of the prison now believed.

    17. Likewise on the day before the games, when at the last feast which they call Free they made (as far as they might) not a Free Feast but a Love Feast*, with like hardihood they cast these words at the people; threatening the judgment of the Lord, witnessing to the felicity of their passion, setting at nought the curiosity of those that ran together. And Saturus said: Is not tomorrow sufficient for you? Why do you favorably behold that which you hate? You are friends today, foes tomorrow. Yet mark our faces diligently, that you may know us again on that day. So they began all to go away thence astonished; of whom many believed.

    [note: Apparently Roman, as with modern, custom the condemned were allowed a choice of food. The martyrs used the opportunity to celebrate an Agape, or Christian Love-Feast.]

    18. Now dawned the day of their victory, and they went forth from the prison into the amphitheatre as it were into heaven, cheerful and bright of countenance; if they trembled at all, it was for joy, not for fear. Perpetua followed behind, glorious of presence, as a true spouse of Christ and darling of God; at whose piercing look all cast down their eyes. Felicity likewise, rejoicing that she had borne a child in safety, that she might fight with the beasts, came now from blood to blood, from the midwife to the gladiator, to wash after her travail in a second baptism. And when they had been brought to the gate and were being compelled to put on, the men the dress of the priests of Saturn, the women the dress of the priestesses of Ceres, the noble Perpetua remained of like firmness to the end, and would not. For she said: For this cause came we willingly unto this, that our liberty might not be obscured. For this cause have we devoted our lives, that we might do no such thing as this; this we agreed with you. Injustice acknowledged justice; the tribune suffered that they should be brought forth as they were, without more ado. Perpetua began to sing, as already treading on the Egyptian’s head. Revocatus and Saturninus and Saturus threatened the people as they gazed. Then when they came into Hilarian’s sight, they began to say to Hilarian, stretching forth their hands and nodding their heads: You judge us, they said, and God you. At this the people being enraged besought that they should be vexed with scourges before the line of gladiators (those namely who fought with beasts). Then truly they gave thanks because they had received somewhat of the sufferings of the Lord.

    19. But He who had said Ask and you shall receive [John 16:24] gave to them asking that end which each had desired. For whenever they spoke together of their desire in their martyrdom, Saturninus for his part would declare that he wished to be thrown to every kind of beast, that so indeed he might wear the more glorious crown. At the beginning of the spectacle therefore himself with Revocatus first had ado with a leopard and was afterwards torn by a bear on a raised bridge. Now Saturus detested nothing more than a bear, but was confident already he should die by one bite of a leopard. Therefore when he was being given to a boar, the gladiator instead who had bound him to the boar was torn asunder by the same beast and died after the days of the games; nor was Saturus more than dragged. Moreover when he had been tied on the bridge to be assaulted by a bear, the bear would not come forth from his den. So Saturus was called back unharmed a second time.

    20. But for the women the devil had made ready a most savage cow, prepared for this purpose against all custom; for even in this beast he would mock their sex. They were stripped therefore and made to put on nets; and so they were brought forth. The people shuddered, seeing one a tender girl, the other her breasts yet dropping from her late childbearing. So they were called back and clothed in loose robes. Perpetua was first thrown, and fell upon her loins. And when she had sat upright, her robe being rent at the side, she drew it over to cover her thigh, mindful rather of modesty than of pain. Next, looking for a pin, she likewise pinned up her dishevelled hair; for it was not meet that a martyr should suffer with hair dishevelled, lest she should seem to grieve in her glory. So she stood up; and when she saw Felicity smitten down, she went up and gave her her hand and raised her up.. And both of them stood up together and the (hardness of the people being now subdued) were called back to the Gate of Life. There Perpetua being received by one named Rusticus, then a catechumen, who stood close at her side, and as now awakening from sleep (so much was she in the Spirit and in ecstasy) began first to look about her; and then (which amazed all there), When, forsooth, she asked, are we to be thrown to the cow? And when she heard that this had been done already, she would not believe till she perceived some marks of mauling on her body and on her dress. Thereupon she called her brother to her, and that catechumen, and spoke to them, saying: Stand fast in the faith, and love you all one another; and be not offended because of our passion.

    21. Saturus also at another gate exhorted Pudens the soldier, saying: So then indeed, as I trusted and foretold, I have felt no assault of beasts until now. And now believe with all your heart. Behold, I go out thither and shall perish by one bite of the leopard. And immediately at the end of the spectacle, the leopard being released, with one bite of his he was covered with so much blood that the people (in witness to his second baptism) cried out to him returning: Well washed, well washed. Truly it was well with him who had washed in this wise. Then said he to Pudens the soldier: Farewell; remember the faith and me; and let not these things trouble you, but strengthen you. And therewith he took from Pudens’ finger a little ring, and dipping it in his wound gave it back again for an heirloom, leaving him a pledge and memorial of his blood. Then as the breath left him he was cast down with the rest in the accustomed place for his throat to be cut. And when the people besought that they should be brought forward, that when the sword pierced through their bodies their eyes might be joined thereto as witnesses to the slaughter, they rose of themselves and moved, whither the people willed them, first kissing one another, that they might accomplish their martyrdom with the rites of peace. The rest not moving and in silence received the sword; Saturus much earlier gave up the ghost; for he had gone up earlier also, and now he waited for Perpetua likewise. But Perpetua, that she might have some taste of pain, was pierced between the bones and shrieked out; and when the swordsman’s hand wandered still (for he was a novice), herself set it upon her own neck. Perchance so great a woman could not else have been slain (being feared of the unclean spirit) had she not herself so willed it.

    O most valiant and blessed martyrs! O truly called and elected unto the glory of Our Lord Jesus Christ! Which glory he that magnifies, honors and adores, ought to read these witnesses likewise, as being no less than the old, unto the Church’s edification; that these new wonders also may testify that one and the same Holy Spirit works ever until now, and with Him God the Father Almighty, and His Son Jesus Christ Our Lord, to Whom is glory and power unending for ever and ever. Amen.

    From W.H. Shewring, trans. The Passion of Perpetua and Felicity, (London: 1931).