Tag Archives: Saints

Marriage Defenders: Part 2 of 2

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A friend of mine who is a beautiful wife and mother of seven children was in a supermarket this week.  A 50 year old man stopped her and then sarcastically asked her if she knew what “caused” having seven kids. She texted me about this and then added her and her husband’s thoughts on this:

Some days the world just wears you down and a part of you starts to feel like maybe you are a freak. Not just about having a lot of kids, but about everything. And then you realize you need to spend some time in adoration and start to once again see life through Jesus’ eyes and not the world’s. The world is so blind and hard-hearted that what is beautiful and sacred just can’t be comprehended by it.

Why is the world so hard-hearted to Christians today?

As I said earlier, it’s not because we’re being hateful on issues of sexuality.  So why do Catholics constantly get mocked for following Christ and His Church in the silence of their homes?  Is it because they’re secretly judging their neighbors and everyone feels it?  Maybe…but I think today’s feast of the Beheading of John the Baptist can shed light on the psychology of the conviction of conscience.

Now, there’s a lot of Herods in the Bible but I want to consider Herod Antipas (20 BC-AD 40), the tetrarch of Galilee and Peraea.  He’s the one who mocked Jesus before His execution. He’s also the one who ordered John the Baptist’s death for having spoken out against his adulterous relationship.

Now, most Bible movies do a pretty good job at capturing the love/hate relationship between Herod and the Baptist because of this one very rich line in the Gospel: “Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and he kept him safe. When he heard him, he was greatly perplexed, and yet he heard him gladly.”—Mark 6:20

I believe it was Earnest Hemingway, an unbeliever, who liked to travel the Deep South of the USA and listen to fire and brimstone homilies in Baptist Churches. Apparently it made him feel alive, or at least he heard these homilies “gladly.”  This curiosity was also found in Herod.

But of the 2.5 million people populating first century Palestine, why would a somewhat-powerful governor like Herod move beyond curiosity towards the murder of a homeless man who had been calling him out for living with his brother’s wife?   I mean, really—2.5 million people are silent about his adultery, and then one guy who is half-dressed in skins and eating crickets calls this magistrate out for a sexual sin many miles away on the Jordan River and Herod panics? What exactly got under Herod’s skin? Or better, what gets under Herodias‘ skin? The answer is that they secretly recognize John the Baptist as the mouthpiece of the one, true God they are running from.

As I wrote in a post called Mercy Killing of Consciences:
You see, if the final exterior agent of traditional Judeo-Christian belief (the Catholic Church) reflects the interior-but-objective, flickering, dying pilot light of your conscience that you’re trying to kill, then the Catholic Church is the one thing that is keeping your conscience alive…and you hate it. This is because long before rules were found in the catechism, they were found in your heart.

I know John the Baptist wasn’t a baptized Catholic, but killing John the Baptist was Herod trying to kill his own conscience, for Herod’s conscience was not created by Herod-himself in a relativistic way, but by God-Himself in an objective way.

That’s why Obama wants to stop the Little Sisters of the Poor in the HHS mandate .  That’s why a 50 year old man in a supermarket harasses a young mother of seven.  Both bullies know that that’s how they should have lived.  If  you think this is an exaggeration, then what other explanation would there be for them to go out of their way?  It has to be personal conviction of conscience at how others silently live their lives for God:

Let us lie in wait for the righteous man, because he is inconvenient to us, and opposes our actions…the very sight of him is a burden to us, because his manner of life is unlike that of others, and his ways are strange.”—Wisdom 2:12a, 15

I don’t know that supermarket stalker’s past, but statistically an American man of his age has already paid for one to two abortions, not to mention one or two dozen dead children from several decades of abortifacient-pills-induced sex.  I don’t know this guy’s conscience, heart or past, but I’m just saying statistically this is the truth for an American male of his age.  (Do the math if you want.)  Of course he’s going to feel convicted by a Catholic woman who lived the way he should have.  His conviction came out as sarcasm.  Herodias’ came out as murder.

There’s only one truth of how humans should live, and it’s entirely found in the Catholic Church, so we should probably stop apologizing so much.  Yes, it’s true that we Catholics lost a lot of credibility in the priest scandals of the past 50 years that destroyed so many lives, and for that we do need to keep apologizing.  But the Truth remains on walking billboards like my friend in the supermarket.  She and many others are heroes and white martyrs of marriage, like John the Baptist was a hero of marriage carrying his red martyrdom in the picture above.  They’re both formidable Marriage Defenders:  one married, and one celibate.

I wasn’t so clear on this at first.  Yesterday, I texted my friend back that I would have punched that a** in the face if I had been there in King Soopers.

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Later, I realized that creeping behind that broken old creeper’s sarcasm was probably a hunger and even sadness for the family he had contracepted away.  In the face of such brokenness and/or hostility (only God knows) it can still make us wonder how to act.  Here’s my suggestion: Catholics are not called to act like weird-o-cult people who act strange in order to appear holy.  But we are called to live normal, fun lives in a way that seeks Christ fully, especially in the Eucharist and in the daily Rosary.  Doing simply that may make others say of us:  “The very sight of him is a burden to us, because his manner of life is unlike that of others.”

Once we boldly but humbly accept the fact that our manner of life is unlike that of others, then it’s easy “to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people. For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to His own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit.”—Titus 3:2-5

Marriage Defenders: Part 1 of 2

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The reason why the Greek Orthodox and Russian Orthodox hesitantly accept divorce and remarriage today can be traced back to a 9th century synod, where Greece had a pre-emptive episode of England’s Henry VIII’s libido issues. In fact, the Greek bishops of the 9th century held a synod to recognize the legitimacy of the emperor Constantine’s second marriage. A Greek monk, St. Theodore, stood alone in the breach, calling this synod the “Adultery-Synod,” moecho-synodus in Greek. Like history that would be repeated seven hundred years later in England with Henry VIII versus St. Thomas More, the Greek bishops and the emperor stood behind the synod of adultery, not behind the saint.

St. Theodore the Studite was also a champion in speaking against slavery and iconoclasm (removing pictures from Churches.) But in upholding traditional marriage, he suffered the most. He was whipped, imprisoned and exiled away from his monastery. The saint not only blew the whistle on the emperor, but also on those priests who gave silent consent to his sin. St. Theodore said that in “crowning adultery, the priest, Giuseppe, is in opposition to the teachings of Christ and has violated the law of God.”  Roberto de Mattei remarks that “for Theodore, the Patriarch Tarasios had likewise to be condemned, since, even if not approving the new marriage, he showed himself tolerant of it, thus avoiding the Emperor’s excommunication and the priest Giuseppe’s punishment.”

St. Theodore simply stood by Jesus Christ who said:  “Everyone who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, and he who marries a woman divorced from her husband commits adultery.”—Luke 16:18

Before applying this to the upcoming synod, I want to consider an important question of Catholic morality:  When a monk-saint quotes Scripture against his own bishops, how is this different from Martin Luther? If both used the Bible-alone for morality, then how could it be true that one died a heretic and the other a saint? Indeed, even the 1983 Code of Canon Law says “Christ’s faithful are bound to adhere, with a religious submission of mind, to this authentic magisterium of their Bishops.”—Can 753.  Where do we draw the line as Catholics?

Before getting to the answer, I want to further build up my argument against St. Theodore. Orthodox and Catholic theologies rightly consider the transmission of truth to flow through the hierarchy of the Church (Bishops to Priests to Laity.) This is a reflection of the hierarchy of truth given through the 9 choirs of angels (Seraphim, Cherubim, Thrones, etc.) This hierarchy of communication should not be broken. This is how Orthodox and Catholics are different from Protestants: The order of hierarchies is not to be considered clericalist, but angelic.

For humans, the true interpretation of Sacred Scripture comes from God through the bishops through the priests through the parents to the children. This is how catechesis should work. Notice this beautiful cascading down of the truth.  Similarly, within the angelic choirs’ hierarchy, there is a cascading-down of truth, but it is a non-verbal, angelic illumination: The angels who are closest to God, the Seraphim, communicate down to the Cherubim and likewise to the Thrones to the Dominations to the Powers to the Principalities to the Archangels to the Angels to finally the angels’ work in our lives on earth. (Notice that the highest angels do nothing but contemplation and the lowest angels deal with measly human affairs.)

In any case, besides the hierarchy of the transmission of truth among the angels revealing the perversity of a Sola-Scriptura-interpretation of Divine Revelation, there is the positive and beautiful call to an order of obedience to the hierarchy in this transmission of truth in both communities—on earth and in heaven. This obedience of low angels to high angels was never violated.

Except for once—now my counterargument—when St. Michael the Archangel himself attacked Lucifer for placing himself above God Almighty. During the great angelic battle in heaven (Rev 12:7), the military ranks were indeed broken and God blessed the lower angel reminding the disobedient higher angel that no one is like God (מיכאל, Mi-cha-El? Who is like God?) Not even the Seraphim are like God.

Not even the bishops. Martin Luther broke rank against the bishops to begin a mutiny against Divine Revelation on marriage. St. Theodore the Studite broke rank against the bishops to end a mutiny against Divine Revelation of Marriage. Actually, Theodore never broke rank. He essentially said Who is like God’s Divine Revelation on the indissolubility of a sacramental marriage. Even in this, Theodore obeyed the Church hierarchy who supported the Emperors who threw him into exile three times. He never started a new “Church.” Theodore suffered within the Church—not without in schism—all for the sake of the truth. Holy Orders must be honored, but still Theodore gave primacy of place to God: No synod can change the truth of the Gospels and the traditional Magisterium.

People often say that the sensus fidei (sense of the faithful on doctrinal issues) is infallible, implying that we need a democratic vote of doctrines like contraception. Bishop Morlino of Madison wonderfully answers these people by reminding them that the infallibility of sensus fidei actually includes not only those Catholics alive, but also those dead: the billions of Catholics who have gone before these dark days, who held firm to the truths of the Gospel (or at least tried to, an important attraction to the Divine Mercy of Our Redeemer.)

Speaking of ancestors, all four of my mother’s grandparents relocated in the early 20th century from Counties Mayo and Roscommon, Ireland to the South Side of Chicago. Thus, I have a great love for Chicago Catholicism. My heart broke when I read the new Archbishop’s homily from this week (23 August 2015.) Archbishop Cupich said the following about the upcoming synod of sexuality:

“With the upcoming synod, it is clear that the Holy Father is calling the Church to examine our categories of expression about what we believe and be open to new avenues and creativity when it comes to accompanying families. All of this has much to say to us in Chicago, that we not settle for solutions that no longer work, expressions that no longer inspire and ways of working that stifle creativity and collaboration.”

With my extended family’s roots in Chicago, I have to wonder: Which expression of Catholicism is not working in Chicago? Bernadin’s seamless garment? Or perhaps Cupich is speaking of the many families found in this video of a Mass in Chicago in 1941, narrated by Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen:

To be sure, there is nothing wrong with Archbishop Cupich’s denotation in the above quote. He said nothing heretical in the above quote. But let’s remember: Only a legalistic society considers denotation without connotation. Is the connotation of Archbishop Cupich’s quote that the Catholic Church will integrate “creativity” in regards to doctrinal “solutions that no longer work” in reference to the morality of homosexual actions or Holy Communion for the divorced and remarried? We’ll have to wait until the synod to see!

Telescoping outside of the world of sexual morality, let me say a brief word on the morality of the tongue and pen: I wonder how many of us Catholics of all vocations, priest and laity, right or left, think that we’ll be able to stand before God at our death and justify our small lies and large deceptions of others by saying things like, “Technically in my denotation, I did not say…”

We priests and bishops will answer to God for teaching sins of both commission and omission, for God will not be tricked by our legalistic subterfuge. I think that at our judgment, each one of us will answer both for the denotations and connotations of our words. We will answer not only for what we “technically” said, but for the fruits in others’ lives produced by our teachings and even attitudes.

These fruits (life-based or rotten) found in others’ lives (most especially our children’s catechesis, be them our spiritual children or biological children) will all be made clear at the General Judgment, for then we will see the outcome of the lives that we formed so intimately. There will be no word games at the General Judgment—only an arrival at our eternal reward—where we join those we guided in word and example, for better…or for worse.

Immaculata Dedication

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I petition the intercession of the following two saints as I  consecrate this blog to St. Maximilian Kolbe and the Holy Mother of God, aka the Holy Theotokos, the Immaculata, Mary Most Holy…”Mamma Mary!” as all the Philippina women at my parish lovingly call our mother.  I also dedicate it to all the guardian angels of the entire world, and especially the angels of any people the Eternal Father has destined to read my mediocre but true blog.

May I suggest St. Maximilian Kolbe’s consecration prayer to the Mother of God?  I believe St. John Paul II prayed this every day:

O Immaculata, Queen of heaven and earth, refuge of sinners and our most loving Mother, God has willed to entrust the entire order of mercy to you. I, [name] cast myself at your feet, humbly imploring you to take me with all that I am and have, wholly to yourself as your possession and property. Please make of me, of all my powers of soul and body, of my whole life, death and eternity, whatever most please you. If it please you, use all that I am and have without reserve, wholly to accomplish what was said of you: She will crush your head and You alone have destroyed all the heresies of the whole world.  Let me be a fit instrument in your immaculate and merciful hands for introducing and increasing your glory to the maximum in all the many strayed and indifferent souls, and thus help extend as far as possible the blessed kingdom of the most Sacred Heart of Jesus. For wherever you enter you obtain the grace of conversion and growth in holiness, since it is through your hands that all graces come to us from the most Sacred Heart of Jesus.

St. Mary Magdalene Part 2 of 2

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The above picture is taken from Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ.  It is clear in this movie, and in most private revelations, that Mary (the Mother of Jesus) knew Mary Magdalene long before the crucifixion.

Granted, Scripturally I know of no other time when Mary and Mary are found in the same place, except John 19:25 (the three Mary’s at the crucifixion.)  So my theory can’t be proved from Scripture.  However, using common sense, we can be very sure that Mary and Mary didn’t simply introduce oneself to each the other at the foot of the cross.  It can be assumed that this would be an inappropriate time for introductions; Mary and Mary had to have known each other long before the crucifixion.

Even though she has very few words, let’s look at who Mary (the Mother of God) knew in the New Testament.  Of course, she is at the four most important events of salvation history, which gives us an idea of who knew her:

1) The Incarnation of God as a zygote (Luke 1:38)

2) The Death of Jesus (John 19)

3) The Resurrection (Sacred Tradition)

4) Pentecost (Acts 1 and 2)

But then, on a smaller scale, it’s surprising who Mary knew.  Mary seemed to have a quiet presence in the life of everybody:

On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus also was invited to the wedding with His disciples.—John 2:1

Mary seems to be the star of the invitation, where Jesus’ band of 12 fishermen were “also invited.”  Of course, Jesus never committed any sin of gluttony, but maybe Jesus’ disciples ate too much at weddings or something, because John makes it pretty clear they were an afterthought!

The Apostles all knew Mary.  Foremost was John the beloved, who was to live with the Blessed Virgin Mary after Christ’s Death (John 19:27) and assumedly after the Ascension.  (Their home was uncovered in Turkey in 1891, using the private revelations of Bl. Emmerich—the same visions that guided the making of the movie, the Passion of the Christ.)

John’s brother James, whose feast day we celebrate today, was not left orphaned by Mary.  As you know, Jesus sent James to evangelize Spain.  However, at one point James was ready to give up after only gaining 8 disciples.  Mary bi-located to him when he was praying at modern day Zaragoza, and (during the first approved Marian apparition) Mary told James not to give up, for the faith of that people would be as strong as the pillar that she was standing on.

There is a 17th century Spanish nun named Mary of Agreda who was given a private revelation of the entire life of Mary (the Mother of God.)  It is put into several thousand pages of a book that you can buy, the Mystical City of God (not to be confused with the work of St. Augustine by almost the same name.)  In the Mystical City of God, it is revealed to the nun of Agreda that Saul was always slated in God’s Providence to become the great Apostle of Jesus Christ to the nations.

However…this event was to happen much later that when it was originally “scheduled” by God, so to speak.  What changed the course of history was the prayers of the mother of Jesus.  After Pentecost, Mary saw in prophesy that Saul would become the chosen vessel, but she saw this was coming much later than when the Church needed such a weapon of love.  Mary begged God the Father to speed up this conversion, and God the Father answered; Saul became Paul much earlier than he was slated to.

What does any of this have to do with Mary Magdalene?

A few days ago, as I was offering the Mass on the Feast day of St. Mary Magdalene, the above scene from the movie hit me:  Mary holds Mary during the torture of Jesus.  I realized at that moment that all the great saints of the New Testament were really close to the Mother of God.  Even if you don’t believe in the private revelations that filled the movie of Mel Gibson or the Mystical City of God, common sense applied to Scripture reveals that the mother of Jesus intimately knew all the slobs and dignitaries of the New Testament.

Here’s how I want to tie all of this together:

After doing Total Consecration to Mary for the first time several years ago, I had actually come to believe the words of St. Louis De Montfort, namely, that there were a few certain saints (like St. Bernard or St. Bonaventure) who chose Mary as the quickest and surest way to Jesus Christ.  For a long time, I had taken this to be a development of doctrine of the middle-ages—a wonderful and valid one, to be sure—but a development of doctrine nonetheless.

But at the Mass a few days ago in honor of St. Mary Magdalene, as I thought of the above scene of Mary and Mary, I had this realization that Jesus’ mother is the dispersal vector of zeal for her Son for not only for the great saints of the middle-ages—but for all the tycoons of the New Testament.  This would surely include the conversion of St. Mary Magdalene.

In light of all the great people and the events of the first century Church, we have to come to the conclusion that the Holy Theotokos—she who carries God as the God-Bearer—is the one who gently brings all the top dogs of the New Testament to her Christ Jesus.  Even with Mary Magdalene, I imagine the mother of Jesus was the quickest and strongest way to her son.  So it will always be, for you and for me, too.

St. Mary Magdalene Part 1 of 2

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Before I was a priest, I was a paramedic.  I remember running a call with the SWAT team in Southwest Denver. It was a midnight drug-bust and we had to accompany the police in the event that someone become wounded in the raid. We entered minutes after the SWAT team…and it had a pretty anticlimactic ending.  The police arrested only two people.  The young man and woman were caught in a compromised position, so to speak…and it smelled filthy. I was surprised at the stench, and it wasn’t the smell of drugs that was off-putting. Later in seminary, I remember reading on my own about how certain saints (like St. Christina the Astonishing) could smell impurity on people. I’m not claiming that the SWAT team or I had that gift. I just mean that there is a natural and a preternatural link to the fact that impurity stinks, literally.

Today, on both the old and new Catholic calendars, it is the feast of St. Mary Magdalene (22 July.) She too was filthy and with demons before meeting Jesus.  How interesting, then, that the Tradition Latin Mass Gospel of today recognizes the following woman as St. Mary Magdalene:

Then turning toward the woman, [Jesus] said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave Me no water for My feet, but she has wet My feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You gave Me no kiss, but from the time I came in, she has not ceased to kiss My feet. You did not anoint My head with oil, but she has anointed My feet with ointment. Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.” And He said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” Then those who were at table with him began to say among themselves, “Who is this, who even forgives sins?” And He said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”—Luke 7:44-50

There is a mention in another Gospel of the smell surrounding Mary Magdalane:

Mary anointed the Feet of Jesus, and wiped Them with her hair; and the house was filled with the odour of the ointment.

This quote from John 12 was actually the morning prayer antiphon taken from John chapter 12. Thus, the ancient Western Church took the controversial women of Luke 7 and John 12 to be both the same person:  St. Mary Magdalene.

But notice the word “filled” in the above italics from John 12:3.   The word “filled” comes from the Latin impleta or Greek “ἐπληρώθη,” meaning that the whole house was filled with that smell of that spiked nard of extremely rich oil. What the ancient liturgy is telling us in placing those words in the morning-prayer antiphon is clear: No longer was the house filled with the stench of the sins of impurity.

Not only is Mary forgiven, but the smell of purity fills the entire house. The house is clearly analogous to the temple that is the body of St. Mary Magdalene. She now sits in the home, at Jesus’ feet, not only cleansed from her sin, but with a pacifying inebriation that comes from the anointing of a transformed soul.  She is beautiful and clean, and everyone can detect this, except those who remain in spiritual pride.  They remain in pride because they refuse to trust in the One they simply call “master.”

Remember also that oils were used to clean wounds. The stripped and half-dead traveller by the side of the road is approached by the good Samaritan who “binds up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine.”—Luke 10:34. In ancient culture, oil was used to clean wounds, assumedly because most bacteria could not survive when drowned in strong oil.  Thus, Jesus doesn’t just take away the juridical imputation of sin, but at that point makes her strong again, inside and out, through and through, to the point that the overwhelming smell of spiced nard fills the whole house, the whole new life of Mary Magdalene.

This is not just post-modern presumption of God’s mercy. How do I know? Because within the ancient office of readings that we pray (the Divine Office) there is the equally astounding call-and-return a few hours later within the Psalms called “Tertia,” still referring to St. Mary Magdalene:

  • In thy comeliness and in thy beauty.
  • In thy comeliness and in thy beauty.
  • Go forward, fare prosperously, and reign.
  • In thy beauty.
  • Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost.
  • In thy comeliness and in thy beauty. Go forward, fare prosperously, and reign.

Who would have thought that the Messiah would spiritually wed the Magdalene? But the ancient liturgy today is clear: God-Incarnate, Jesus Himself, is calling a soul once-filthy to be His bride, for she is now filled with comeliness and beauty. So go forward, and reign in that anointing that fills the whole royal house with Christ your king, your spouse.  Forget your past, for you now exist in comeliness and beauty.

Ransom Note

Last week, Planned Parenthood was exposed for handing over the tissue of dead babies for research.  The president of Planned Parenthood, Cecile Richards, immediately made a press release explaining that Planned Parenthood itself did not make any money on this. Here’s proof she was lying:

America will be shocked, but the question remains:  What will end abortion?  Today, a woman in Louisiana texted me the answer:  “Our Response: Prayer and fasting isn’t enough! We need to sacrifice all for the love of God.”

We need to sacrifice all for the love of God.

America has seen the evil of abortion, but we continue to slaughter 3,500 children a day.  Why?  Most women are afraid and alone when they walk into that clinic, but we as a country find ending abortion difficult because of our minor inconveniences to the libido and bank account.

Thus, the end of abortion will come only through Divine Intervention.

But maybe God Almighty is waiting for this Divine Intervention.  Maybe He is waiting for people to step up to the actual doors of abortion mills for peaceful prolonged-fasts or hunger strikes. Imagine who would follow Cardinal Dolan if he led a hunger strike in front of the Planned Parenthood in the East Village of Manhattan?  I would.

For nearly 800 years, young celibate men from Europe, under the mantle of Our Lady of Ransom, would offer to take the place of women and children who had been kidnapped by Muslims.  Christians were rescued through several different religious orders, but it took men who would not just give up candy in Lent, but young men would agree to be handed over to the forces of darkness so that others may live.

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With Planned Parenthood and ISIS promoting more death than ever in the history of the world, I believe that God is raising up young men who will give their lives in ransom.  I don’t mean figuratively.  I mean that we can use YouTube to reach ISIS to offer ourselves to be slaves for them.  Each man could then ask ISIS that they release 5 Christian girls and 5 Muslim girls for every celibate brother or priest given in ransom against the innocent.  These 10 girls (multiplied) could then return to their families.

This offering of love could be offered to the Blessed Trinity for the end of abortion, too.

ISIS is just traditional enough to partake in this exchange.  Did you know that over 1,000,000 Christian slaves (from 1200 to 1900) were returned by Muslims in exchange for monks, brothers, priests (and funds raised) during the Middle Ages?  Times are more ripe than ever.  Surely God is raising up men for ransom again, for even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.”—Mark 10:45 and “greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”—John 15:13

 

Miracle

As a seminarian in 2009, I introduced two of my close friends to each other at the March for Life in San Francisco.  Although from different parts of the country, they too became good enough friends for Beth to fly out to Denver for Fr. Nepil’s ordination in 2011.  There, Beth came to know Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati, a 20th century Italian mountain-climber and servant of the poor who died young; he was found on Fr. Nepil’s ordination card. What Beth did with that ordination card led to a series of events (on Long-Island with her family of origin) which were recently scrutinized by the Papal Nuncio of the Vatican to possibly make this story below the second miracle needed for Frassati to become a Catholic saint:

Sons of Thunder

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By a strange turn of events, I have to spend a day in Istanbul while trying to get home from Spain—even though it’s the opposite direction.

The reason this is especially strange is because these two countries were evangelized by the brothers James and John, sons of a Galilean fisherman named Zebedee.  These two men became first century Apostles of Jesus Christ.  Jesus nicknamed them “Sons of Thunder” because of their attitude towards life.  After His resurrection, Our Lord sent St. James to Spain and St. John to Turkey (with His own Blessed Mother.)  I flew from James’ land to John’s land today, and I’m tryıng to navigate a keyboard set up for the Turkish language at 9pm here in the city center of Istanbul.

Now, it’s a Muslim country.  But did you know that for the first 500 years of Christianity, Turkey had a Christianity as booming and as heroic as the newly-converted Roman Empire?  The two centers of Christianity in the first 500 years of the Church were Italy and Turkey.  Constantinople was first evangelized by St. Andrew (Peter’s brother.)  Turkey then became the home of the Blessed Virgin Mary and St. John the Evangelist.  Years later it was the home to St. John Chrysostom, the Cappadocian Church Fathers and countless heros of Byzantine Catholicism.  Except for Jewish converts, the most successful areas of conversion in the first 500 years of Christianity were Italy and Turkey.  Roman Empire and Byzantine Glory.

Now Turkey is 0.2% Christian.

What happened?  This great loss is usually blamed on Islam.  It is true that the violent conquest of Turkey happened as early as the very century of Mohammed (7th century.)  It was completed in the 15th century.

But Jesus is always faithful to His Church, especially in persecution, so something else happened.

We have to remember that Jesus speaks directly to the Turkish Churches in the book of the Apocalypse and warns:

I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false. I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for My name’s sake, and you have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent.—Rev 2:2-5

This was evidently not an empty threat from Our Lord.  The light in Turkey would indeed extinguish.  It was lukewarmness that sunk the Church here in Constantinople/Istanbul, just like it is 20th century lukewarmness that has nearly sunk the living Faith within the country I just walked across, Spain.

How do I know it was lukewarmness and not Islam that has extinguished the fire in the two countries of the Sons of Thunder?  Because Spain is the only country in the history of the world that was conquered by Muslims and reconquered by Christians to again become a Christian country.  This reconquest was done by a woman, Isabel “la Católica,” an outrageously beautiful name, considering she came from a line of 800 years of Catholic kings attempting that very reconquest of Spain that Isabel (a married queen who knit her children’s own clothes and rode horseback alone at night in the rain to quell uprisings) finished once and for all in the 15th century.  She did it on horseback and in battle, but mostly on her knees.

The next three centuries then witnessed Spain evangelize most of the Western hemisphere.  In fact, this deed was also due to Queen Isabel “the Catholic” who took a risk on Christopher Columbus.  (She originally told him “No” and then sent her courier to inform him that she changed her mind when he was several kilometers outside the city.)  Whether you like Christopher Columbus or not, the point is that Islam didn’t ultimately stop the greatest Catholic nation in history from producing St. Francis Xaviers.  In fact, in some strange way within the permissive will of God, Islam helped the evangelization of the World.

Now, Spain has fallen to secularism harder than she ever fell to Islam.  This may sound like an exagerration, but I promise the following is true:  Almost every day on the Camino, a Spanish man or woman would see my Roman Collar and preach New-Age relativism to me (in Spanish) before I could ever explain the Gospel, or even say my name.  What St. James and Queen Isabel won heroically—what Islam could not extinguish but strangely fueled—has been trashed by the heresy and lukewarmness from within the Church, not without, especially in the past 50 years.

I’m not much of a patriot for the country that St. John Paul II called “the culture of death” (the USA) but after travelling the world the past year, I can glorify God for the USA for this reason:  We Americans have a hope for a renewal and restoration of the Faith which is greater than the hope of Spain or Turkey, (at least if grace keeps building on the nature of these countries’ attitude to Christ and His Church.)  Yes, miracles can change anything overnight (like Mexico from the miracle of Our Lady of Guadelupe) but right now, I’m proud to be an American.

But if the Catholic Church in the land of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Turkey) can nearly collapse, we must move beyond our extreme presumption of God Almighty and return in sackcloth and ashes to Him.  Better, we must return to our first love (see the quote from Apocalypse chapter 2 above.)   We need Sons of Thunder to do the works those men did at first.

Why did Jesus call them Sons of Thunder, anyway?  One example is this:  When a Samaritain village rejects Jesus, St. James and St. John have an idea:

His disciples James and John…said, “Lord, do you want us to tell fire to come down from heaven and consume them?” But (Jesus) turned and rebuked them.—Luke 9:54-55

In regard to that passage, we have all heard a thousand stupid homilies that go something like this:  “The Apostles were Old Testament—all based in justice.  But Jesus was about to teach them about love.”

Here’s two reasons why that’s a silly homily:

1) Has anyone ever considered how or by Whom the Apostles thought (or knew) that they had the power to call down fire anyway?

2) Jesus chose fighters, not lovers.  He chose fighters to turn them into lovers.  Lovers of “the brethren” as John wrote.  Lovers of “Christ crucified” as Paul wrote.  Christ needed fighters who believed in something, precisely so Christ could turn these fiery-fishermen into lovers of the peace that only Christ can give.  He warned there would be no peace from compromise with the world.

Perhaps a 20th century fear of that zeal is why seminaries the past 50 years got so full of men acting out effeminate sexual-perversions.  Apparently it was worth it for dioceses to keep the sacraments flowing out and the money flowing in towards these charming men at the pulpit.  But the real test of a priest is how many men he has inspired to follow Christ into religious life or a holy seminary.  The Sons of Thunder cared more about spiritual multipication than the numbers of money or popularity raised among those making  sacriligious communions.  Just google St. James and Our Lady at Zaragosa if you think discipleship among priests is a new idea.

Globally, we will see the Triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, as she promised at Fatima.  But how many souls will be lost before then?  I believe that the USA, Africa and Asia will be called upon to bear the torch to rekindle the ancient faith in the world, but you must pray for priests who will be fighters and lovers…those who will fight the battle of love for the peace that only the cross of Jesus Christ can bring.  Peace with God the Father comes only from the sacrifice of Christ—the only One who can reconcile us to a God who is infinitely holy.  Divine Mercy and ancient Tradition.

The Church desperately needs priests who wıll not be simply charming and semi-orthodox, but Sons of Thunder.

Raise such men in your families.

Fire of India

Y’all know I’m in India, but I haven’t told y’all about why I came to India for the first time last autumn. It was to help with a new video on the lives of three saints who came to India (St. Thomas the Apostle, St. Francis Xavier and Mother Teresa.) The short movie was produced by my friend Anand and created by my friend Keenan. My job was apparently to sit on the set and drink chai tea. I was very good at that, and good at little else.  But I’m happy to say it’s going to be released on Ask a Bishop, so here’s the short preview of what they worked on: