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Friday, October 17, 2014

The Hallucination that Keeps on Giving...

The empty tomb...
Former Atheist turned Christian, Lee Strobel, of A Case for Christ fame, wrote that people may be willing to die for something they believe is true, if they truly believe it to be, but people are not willing to die for something they know is a lie, even if they want to believe it's true.  

He was referring, of course, to the Apostles.  The men who ran for cover when Jesus was arrested and cowered behind closed doors for days, thinking they were next. 

Then, all of a sudden, from one day to the next, without having gone to see the Great Oz in the Emerald City, like the cowardly lion, they came out from the shadows and boldly and courageously proclaimed the Risen Lord, despite persecution, despite threats, despite being tortured, despite being thrown in jail and despite most of them, except for St. John, the beloved disciple, dying for what they proclaimed.

In fact, they began to promulgate that Christ had risen from the dead in the same place where it all had happened; Jerusalem, where hundreds of eye witnesses had seen Jesus be crucified, die and be buried and could easily dispel their claims as a hoax.  

In other words, if I were making up a story, would I start it where it could easily be challenged?  Or, would it make more sense to go to some far away and obscure township, where nobody knew or saw anything and I could make up a fantasy without having it contested?

And yet, thousands were converted and Christianity spread like wildfire.  And, within three hundred years of the Crucifixion, those cowardly and mostly uneducated men, and their successors after them, had converted the entire Roman Empire, not by the sword as Islam did when it conquered a region, but in spite of it. 

In one of my favorite "go-to" books on the faith, Catholic Christianity, author Peter Kreeft (Who is a Philosophy and Theology Professor at Boston College, a Catholic convert and one of the most prolific Christian writers of our time), writes, "Liars do not suffer and die for a lie as they did; nothing proves sincerity like martyrdom.  And if they were deceived rather than deceivers, they must have been hallucinating or projecting their subjective faith into objective reality. But they had touched the risen Christ.  He had eaten food.  He had had long conversations with many men at the same time.  He had been seen by all who were present, not just some.  No hallucination in history ever behaved like this.... And no hallucination ever had such power to transform lives and to give love, joy, peace, hope, and meaning to millions of men for thousands of years.  For the sake of this "hallucination" saints joyfully endured tortures, persecutions, crucifixions, and martyrdoms.  This "hallucination" changed soft, cowardly hearts into hard, courageous ones and converted the hard, cruel Roman Empire to a religion of unselfish love..."

Kreeft goes on to quote St. Thomas Aquinas, who wrote, "In this faith there are truths preached which surpass every human intellect; the pleasures of the flesh are curbed; it is taught that the things of the world should be spurned.  Now for the minds of mortal men to assent to these things is the greatest of miracles... For it would be truly more wonderful than all miracles if the world had been led by simple and lowly men to believe such lofty truths, to accomplish such difficult actions and to have such high hopes."

A Pharisee in the Acts of the Apostles may have said it best when he told the Jewish Council after the Apostles were arrested and brought before them, "Fellow Israelites, consider carefully what you propose to do to these men... because if this plan or this undertaking is of human origin, it will fail; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them.  In that case, you may even be found fighting against God."  (Acts 5:35, 39) 

For me, it all comes down to the empty tomb.  They discovered the empty tomb, of which Fulton Sheen eloquently noted, "In the history of the world, only one tomb has ever had a rock rolled before it, and a soldier guard set to watch it to prevent the dead man within from rising... What spectacle could be more ridiculous than armed soldiers keeping their eyes on a corpse?" and they encountered the Risen Lord. 

Their "hallucination" was a reality, that even doubting Thomas had to admit was true.  A reality that they were willing to sacrifice their lives for and now, two thousand years later, despite constant attempts to dispel it, is still burgeoning and being proclaimed throughout the world...



Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Christian Cheer Over Wings and Beers...

A little taste of heaven...
"Wherever the Catholic sun doth shine, there's always laughter and good red wine."  -- Hilaire Belloc.

I have a great group of friends.  We don't always agree on everything.  We may even have different approaches to faith, life and politics.  But, what binds us, most of all, is our sincere love of God, family and, for the most part, one another.

Over the past eight years, some of my closest friends are the guys in my men's church group.  We have become a tight-knit community that share in each other's personal lives; spending time socially with our families, as well as time serving God through our ministry and encouraging, supporting and guiding one another through difficulties.

We joke, we laugh, we even shed a few tears from time to time (me more than others) and we earnestly enjoy each other's company; usually centered around meals, wine and spirits, conversation and an occasional cigar.

Now, some Christian groups might frown upon our mixing of faith and spirits (in the alcoholic sense of the word) because they see the body as the temple of God and are against anything that may defile the body; i.e. liquor.  Fortunately for us, Catholics are not one of them!

That's not to say that the Church promotes drunkenness or overindulgence, and we all walk a fine line between social drinking and going over the edge, but, the way I look at it, God gave us physical pleasures for our enjoyment out of love, and, so, who are we to reject that love, as long as we don't distort it's intent and purposes, where we lose dominion of our senses, end up praying to the porcelain god and can't recall what we did the next morning (not that I know from personal experience!).  Therefore, sharing a few laughs with friends and with some cocktails in hand is definitely within limits!

Let's just say, my friends and I take to heart the advice of St. Paul, who, when writing to Timothy, encourages, "No longer drink only water, but take a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments."  Since, most of us are in our 40's and 50's, where getting out of bed to go to the bathroom in the morning is sometimes painful, boy, do we all have ailments!

One of my favorite quotes by Archbishop Fulton Sheen is a reference to Jesus at the Wedding at Cana.  He said, "You've got to love a guy, whose first miracle was to keep the party going."

Partying, celebrating and merriness are part of the Christian identity from the beginning.  In fact, for Jesus, meals, wine and good cheer were part of the human condition and served as a powerful bond among friends; think Last Supper! 

In the Gospel of Matthew, the Lord himself admonishes the Pharisees for their criticism, "The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, 'Behold, a gluttonous man and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!'" (Matt 11:19)

Moreover, not only did He take an occasional drink, He appeared to be a connoisseur.  He knew the difference between good and bad wine, "no one who has been drinking old wine desires new, for he says, 'The old is good.'" (Luke 5:39)   

In any case, Jesus is a man's man and, while wine was the drink of choice during His time on earth, I'm sure he would enjoy a good brew if he were walking around today (Maybe, like the Most Interesting Man in the World; a Dos Equis or two), as my friends and I do at our favorite watering hole every week after our meetings. (The owner reserves a table for us!)

It is there over beers, burgers and chicken wings (and an occasional lentil soup, since one friend is usually dieting) that we bond and share in friendly banter on sports, politics, life and family.  It is there, however, that we also sometimes share in the most intimate and profound conversations on faith or personal struggles; marriages on the rocks, children who have gone wayward, and fears and temptations that appear to consume. 

Christianity is not always rosy; it wasn't meant to be.  Suffering, pain and loss are part of the equation.  Jesus came to teach us about suffering; the ultimate gift of one who loves ("Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.").  Maybe, that's why God gave us wine.

As the great GK Chesterton once put it, "In Catholicism, the pint, the pipe and the Cross can all fit together."  And, to my friends and I, they clearly do...   


Saturday, September 27, 2014

Self-Rejection and the Truth of Our Existence...



“Over the years, I have come to realize that the greatest trap in our life is not success, popularity, or power, but self-rejection. Success, popularity, and power can indeed present a great temptation, but their seductive quality often comes from the way they are part of the much larger temptation to self-rejection. When we have come to believe in the voices that call us worthless and unlovable, then success, popularity, and power are easily perceived as attractive solutions. The real trap, however, is self-rejection. As soon as someone accuses me or criticizes me, as soon as I am rejected, left alone, or abandoned, I find myself thinking, 'Well, that proves once again that I am a nobody.'... [My dark side says,] I am no good... I deserve to be pushed aside, forgotten, rejected, and abandoned.  Self-rejection is the greatest enemy of the spiritual life because it contradicts the sacred voice that calls us the 'Beloved.'  Being the Beloved constitutes the core truth of our existence." 


-- Fr. Henri Nouwen, internationally renowned priest, college professor and author, who wrote 40 books on the spiritual life, including one of my favorites, The Return of The Prodigal Son; A Story of Homecoming, and taught at the University of Notre Dame and the Divinity Schools of Yale and Harvard. 

The Dutch-born clergyman and scholar was heavily influenced by hospital chaplain and educator Anton Boisen, Trappist monk and author Thomas Merton, Dutch impressionist artist Vincent van Gough and philosopher, theologian and humanitarian Jean Vanier.

During the 70's, Nouwen lived and worked with the Trappist monks in the Abbey of the Genessee in New York.  In the early 80's, he lived with the poor in Peru and Bolivia.  He went on to work with mental and physically handicapped people in France and Canada before his death in 1996.

His books have sold over 7 million copies and have been published in over 30 languages.  Since his death, his popularity has increased among readers, teachers and seekers...


Saturday, September 6, 2014

Guardians of the Galaxy and Manly Time with My Son...

It's funny, after having two daughters, I thought for sure our next child was going to be a girl.  I have three friends that have three daughters and I thought I was also destined for what Cubans call, "chancletero" status (a term which a translation could do no justice!).

Still, in all honesty, I always wanted a son.  I was hopeful my first child would be a son, so he could take care of his sisters.  Then, I was hopeful our second would be a son, so he would have his older sister's friends to chase after.  Then I was hoping it would be my third, which my oldest daughter started calling her baby brother but, unfortunately, my wife lost during her eleventh week of pregnancy.  By the time, my wife conceived our fourth, I had accepted that my destiny would be to raise girls and, in sincerity, I was happy as a clam with the prospects.

Then, my son was born.  He was unexpected and a welcomed gift from God.  I envisioned him playing Major League Baseball, growing up to be strong, just and responsible, and, of course, courageously standing up for righteousness and defending the meek.  In other words, like many fathers, I envisioned my son of becoming a superhero; a guardian of the galaxy. 

But then came the first hiccup in my vision; potty training!

We didn't know what to do.  Let's face it, a girl you sit on the toilet when she has to go.  What were we supposed to do with our boy?  How was I going to teach him to stand in front of the toilet, point and release?  It was so easy in the pamper!  He didn't want to learn.  And, when he finally did start going into the toilet, it was like we needed a raincoat and rubber boots to keep dry from his wild and out-of-control spraying (not that I'm suggesting his mini cap gun had any resemblance to a fire hose but you get my drift).  I was perplexed and thus began my novice adventure into raising a son.

Several years into the adventure (He is now seven), and although he is still mastering his aim in the bathroom, I'm learning about as much from him about love, nobleness, humility and the innocent faith of a child, as I am teaching him.  

A few weeks ago, on a random Saturday, my wife and daughters had a busy itinerary planned with dance practice, Zumba class (my wife's a teacher) and then appointments at a beauty parlor to get dolled up for the beginning of the school year.  So, I got to spend a little quality time with my boy or, as he acutely referred to it recently, he was spending time with "the big guy." (which, believe it or not, he meant affectionately in reference to my girth!)

The plan was for the girls to do what they had to do and the boys do our thing and then we would meet at home to get ready for the Vigil Mass at five, where I was scheduled to be a lector.

We all got off to an early start.  Shortly after my wife and the girls left for dance, my son asked if we could go watch the Guardians of the Galaxy movie, which I had no particular interest in watching but I told him if we did a couple of things that we needed to do in the morning, I would take him to the movie at twelve thirty.  He agreed.

Time for a hair cut...
The first stop was at the barber shop for his pre-beginning-of-school haircut.  It's a routine he and I started a couple of years ago, since we have been letting his hair grow over the summer.  During the school year, the school makes him keep it short!  

I took him to a barber shop I go to regularly that is less than 5 minutes from our house, is cheap and you're in an out in about 15 minutes (because there's usually more barbers than customers!).

I like to help the owners out, despite their little Santeria altar dedicated to St. Barbara (aka Chango) in a back corner of the shop, because it's a group of young Cuban refugees, all pretty recent arrivals, who are trying to make it on their own.  Still, in all honesty, I don't think the quality is that great.  In fact, I don't even think most of them know how to handle scissors (which is not a skill deficiency a barber should have!).  They do most of their hair cuts using an electric sheerer.

For me, it's not a big deal because I keep my hair short and tight to the scalp but my wife doesn't like it when I cut our son's hair too short.  So, I immediately had second thoughts as we walked into the place and the youngest guy in the back of the place with the pimples and peach fuzz (not even one of the regular guys I have gone to), jumped out of his chair and said, "Come this way," as he brushed some hair off his chair with a towel (It's one of those places where the barbers take turns so they all get their fair share of customers).  Well, it went downhill from there. 

Sensing he was not exactly the LeBron James of the barber shop world, I told him to just trim a little off the top, cut his bangs off his eyes and even out the rest.  A simple request right?  What could go wrong?  I figured, if it wasn't great, I could take him for another haircut in a few weeks!

Well, about five minutes into the haircut, I noticed he had sheered a beautiful 45 degree line of hair from the immediate top of my son's right eye up to the middle of his forehead over his left eye.  I pointed out the obvious discrepancy and he said he would fix it.  The rest of the haircut was a blur.  He would sheer one side, then sheer the other, then go back to the first side to try to make it even.  It was a disaster. 

He kept saying my son was moving and I would look at my son, who was as stoic as a renaissance sculpture, and trying to give the barber the benefit of the doubt, I would tell him, "Don't move, Buddy." And, he would answer in earnest, "I'm not moving!"

At the end of the exercise in futility, which left my son looking like a punk rocker, who after a night of binge drinking with his buddies, woke up half asleep and still drunk in the middle of the night and attempted to cut his own hair, the barber tried to cover up the evidence by slathering gel on my son's head.  By that point, I just wanted to get my son out and hope it would grow back fast!

It wasn't exactly the best way to start our father son day, but fortunately, my son couldn't tell.  He was as happy as Sylvester the Cat after having swallowed Tweety Bird and I wasn't about to spoil his fun!

"Can we go see Guardians of the Galaxy now?" he asked.

"Not yet," I told him.  "The movie doesn't start for several hours.  First I have to go to Confession."

"Oh, no!," he complained.  "That's boring."  Now, everything that doesn't involve him playing or being entertained is "boring."

"If you want to go to the movie, you have to go with me to Confession." What was he going to do?

We stopped for a quick breakfast at a nearby bakery and when we got to the church, there was already a line of people waiting for Confession.  I told him to sit down in one of the pews and he started playing with several toy figures that he put in his pocket before leaving the house.

It took about 40 minutes and, while it crossed my mind to confess the bad haircut given to my son that morning (which definitely was a sin, albeit maybe not mine, depending on how you look at it!), we were finally heading to the movies.

Don't mess with Rocket...
It was a 12:30pm showing but what I didn't notice was that it was 3-D.  I'll be honest, I had never watched a 3-D movie; mostly because of the price tag involved, since it is usually five of us.  But, because the next regular showing would end about an hour later, which would complicate our plans for Mass, and since it was just the two of us, I splurged.

It was a great decision.  The movie was great.  I enjoyed it tremendously.  It was funny.  It was exciting.  It had a great soundtrack; targeting the older generation that would be taking our kids.  And, the fact that I went in with low expectations only enhanced my appreciation for the film. 

Moreover, it was a well told story of good versus evil.  A ragtag gang of misfits who band together for a greater good and are willing to sacrifice their lives, despite the overwhelming odds, to save the galaxy.  It's the tried and tested formula of Lords of the Ring, Chronicles of Narnia, Star Wars and many other films but what made Guardians, very enjoyable for me, aside from the 3-D quality, is that it didn't take itself too seriously.

As we walked out of the theatre and headed towards our car in the parking lot, talking about the movie, my son turns to me and says, "Daddy, we're spending manly time together."

"Yes, we are," I told him but the comment didn't hit me until later that night.

We went home to get ready Mass and wait for the girls.

To make a long story short, the girls couldn't make it in time so I went with him and, since it was a Saturday vigil Mass, and we got to the church early because I was reading, I couldn't find anyone to leave him with so I took him to the first pew in the church and told him to sit there.

It was amazing.  The entire Mass I kept looking at him and he was sitting there quietly.  He sat when he had to sit, kneeled when he had to kneel and stood when he had to stand; all by himself without anyone to tell him.

After Mass, I couldn't be prouder.  We went home, met up with the girls and went to dinner.

Just kicking back on "the big guy"... 
As I recapped the day, later that night before going to sleep; I thought, we had gone to get a bad haircut, he had gone with me to Confession, we watched a movie and attended Mass together.  It was a wonderful day.  I then reflected on my son's comments.  We really had spent "manly time," because a true man is a man of faith, a man of love, a man of sacrifice.

A couple of days later, while watching him go to the bathroom in the morning, I thought; aside from teaching him to point correctly, what kind of legacy of truly important lessons was I leaving for my son? Was I teaching him the importance of faith, integrity and honor, to respect women and authority (not to be confused as one and the same although, sometimes at my house, it's hard to tell), to love his mother, sisters and country, to take responsibilities for his actions, help others, provide for the less fortunate and never be afraid to stand up for truth and righteousness, even, like the Guardians of the Galaxy, in the face of danger?

A few days later, the question was still lingering in my mind and I asked a group of friends, what kind of men they wanted to raise their sons be.  And, one friend, who has two girls responded, "What kind of son should you raise?  You know since you have two girls yourself, raise him to be the type of son that I can trust with my daughters."  And, that in a nutshell is probably the best answer.

And, in a culture that tries to emasculate men by making them more like women and women more like men, that is probably the best any father of a son can hope and pray for.

The fight of good and evil starts in the mundane; the daily battles within against sin and complacency.  We must fight the good fight of faith, as St. Paul urges, and take hold of the eternal life which we have been called. (1 Tim 6:12)

In the words of Peter Quill, aka Star-Lord, "So here we are a thief, two thugs, an assassin and a maniac but we're not going to stand by as evil wipes out the galaxy."...

Friday, August 29, 2014

From Atheist Blogger to Catholic Evangelist...

Leah Libresco
In his classic book, Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis, who once set out to disprove Christianity, stated, "Now that I am a Christian I do not have moods in which the whole thing looks very improbable: but when I was an atheist I had moods in which Christianity looked terribly probable."

And, thus is the internal conflict that a lot of Atheists face on a daily basis.  It's the tension of being confronted with a reality that goes far beyond the explainable, according to the scientific method, and cuts to the deepest core of the human heart.

As former Protestant Minister turned Catholic, Ken Hensley describes it; it's like the struggle of a young boy trying to keep a beach ball submerged under water in a pool.  The ball, like the truth, always wants to pop up. 

Yet, for many, it's as St. Thomas Aquinas once stated, "To one who has faith, no explanation is necessary. To one without faith, no explanation is possible."  Of course, this recalcitrant denial is usually rooted in pride.

It's hard to deny everything you believe, or fail to believe; just ask former pagan St. Augustine of Hippo, who once wrote, "God make me chaste, but not yet," or once Atheist St. Edith Stein, or one time Anglican Bl. John "Cardinal" Newman.  There are consequences to conversion. 

It takes humility, or as St. Paul puts it, a willingness to "die" to self.  It takes a sincere desire for truth, regardless of where it may lead.  And, it takes courage, since often it flies in the face of friends, family and sometimes even careers.

Before the so-called "New Atheists" or the self identified "Four Horsemen," comprised of Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett and, since deceased, Christopher Hitchens, who set out to eradicate God from society, through an aggressive campaign of books, articles, movies, lectures and public appearances, not to mention, billboards and bus ads, there was Anthony Flew.

Flew was the "pope," you might say, of modern atheism.  He was a philosopher and scholar at Oxford, Aberdeen, and several other universities.  He wrote dozens of books and articles, arguing vehemently, loudly and unabashedly against the existence of God (Unless, he would say, empirical evidence for God would surface).  Well, it turns out, Flew was a sincere searcher and his last book was titled, There is a God, which despite the outcry from atheists questioning his lucidity at 84, was affirmed several times by Flew himself and a series of letters he exchanged, and were later published, with a Christian apologist on his newfound belief in God before his death. 

All that is to lead to the story of Leah Libresco.  Several years ago, the well known Atheist blogger shocked the blogosphere with her announcement that she had converted to Catholicism.  Let's just say, in Atheists' circles, it couldn't get any worse!  (I could almost hear the words of the legendary kid who found out White Sox star Shoeless Joe Jackson was involved in the fix to throw the 1918 World Series, who said, "Say it isn't so, Joe.  Say it isn't so.")

Libresco grew up in a non-religious household with college professor parents and in an environment that was totally isolated and void of any religion.

In fact, it wasn’t until she joined the Yale philosophical and political debating society that she  realized that all Christians were not fundamentalists who believed in Creationism. 

While in college, she started dating a Catholic man and made a playful deal that she would go to Mass with him every week, if he, in turn, would go to ballroom dancing with her.  They also agreed to exchange books on religion. 

The relationship eventually ended but, by then, she started blogging, became a regular contributor to Patheos.com, and continued debating with her readers about religion; mostly about Christianity versus Atheism.

Like C.S. Lewis, she struggled with rejecting Christianity in its entirety and accepting Atheism as a philosophical truth.  She says, she started seeing Christianity, "a lot more plausible but not necessarily true... I thought of myself an Atheist, while I thought it was coherent, but false also."

Her belief in an objective morality proved critical.  She argues that just as mathematical rules existed before humanity, and were discovered, the rules on right from wrong, good and evil and just and unjust also existed before us.

"(Christianity had) more explanatory power to explain something I was really sure of.  I'm really sure that morality is objective, human independent; something we uncover like archeology not something we build like architects."

That breakthrough led her to explore Christianity deeper and eventually led her into the Catholic Church in 2012. 

In other words, she humbled herself or, as C.S. Lewis once wrote, "I gave in, and admitted that God was God, and knelt and prayed: perhaps, that night, the most dejected and reluctant convert in all England."  Only Libresco lives in the U.S.!

Check out an interview she did with CNN after her conversion.






Thursday, August 21, 2014

Faith Helps James Foley Find Freedom...

"... Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now, and at the hour of our death.  Amen."

That is the last line of the Hail Mary and may well have been the last words in the heart of American journalist James Foley, who was horrifically murdered by the Islamic terrorists group ISIS, while a camera captured the barbaric beheading.

Foley was no stranger to turmoil and violence.  He had been reporting on the atrocities and casualties of war from the front lines in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and Syria, almost from the time he left his teaching career to become a journalist and graduated from Northwestern University's Merrill School of Journalism in 2008.

He disappeared in Syria, near the Turkey border, in November of 2012, a year and a half after being abducted and held hostage for 44 days in Libya, in April 2011.  Family and friends had feverishly organized prayer vigils and a worldwide campaign for his release ever since.

Shortly, after Foley was released in Libya, he credited his faith with helping him get through the ordeal.  In a letter to Marquette University's staff and students, the Catholic Jesuit school he had graduated from with a degree in history, before attending Merrill, he wrote:

"I began to pray the rosary. It was what my mother and grandmother would have prayed. I said 10 Hail Marys between each Our Father. It took a long time, almost an hour to count 100 Hail Marys off on my knuckles. And it helped to keep my mind focused."

Foley continued, "If nothing else, prayer was the glue that enabled my freedom, an inner freedom first and later the miracle of being released during a war in which the regime had no real incentive to free us.  It didn't make sense, but faith did."

Foley was the eldest of five children.  His parents are very devout and parishioners of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary in Rochester, New Hampshire, where a Mass was celebrated for family and friends Wednesday morning.

In an article I came across on the shock in Foley's hometown, the writer, Maeve Reston, points out that Fr. Paul Gausse, the family's parish priest, said to the grieving congregation, "There is no sense to be made of senselessness; you cannot find any kind of sanity in insanity.... We are not just praying for us and the Foley family, but praying for those who perpetrated this kind of evil.  These people need prayers... This is being done in the name of God.  How insane can that be?"

Fr. Gausse told reporters that when he visited the Foley family Tuesday night, James' mother Diane asked him, "Father pray for me that I don't become bitter.  I don't want to hate."

Outside their Rochester home, Foley's mom spoke about how proud they were of him because of his great compassion for the suffering in Syria.  Breaking down in tears, she said, “We just thank God for the gift of Jim.”

Foley's father, John added, "He was courageous to the end and I think he accepted his situation and I think he accepted God's faith in him and his faith in God... We believe he was a martyr; a martyr for freedom... It's difficult to find solace at this time, but we know Jimmy's free.  He's finally free.  And we know he's in God's hands... and we know he's in heaven."

I can't imagine the pain and horror Foley felt as the brutal executioner slashed his neck but hopefully, within his many Hail Marys and the prayers of countless of other people over the past 20 months, as his father said, he found that innermost freedom that can only be ascertained through faith, hope and trust in God...

"Pray for us, Oh Holy Mother of God now, and at the hour of our death. Amen."  











[photo credit: Steven Senne/AP]


Friday, August 15, 2014

A Great Sign in the Sky...

A great sign appeared in the sky, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars.
She was with child and wailed aloud in pain as she labored to give birth.
Then another sign appeared in the sky; it was a huge red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and on its heads were seven diadems.
Its tail swept away a third of the stars in the sky and hurled them down to the earth. Then the dragon stood before the woman about to give birth, to devour her child when she gave birth.
She gave birth to a son, a male child, destined to rule all the nations with an iron rod. Her child was caught up to God and his throne.
The woman herself fled into the desert where she had a place prepared by God.... 
Then the dragon became angry with the woman and went off to wage war against the rest of her offsprings, those who keep God's commandments and beat witness to Jesus.  (Rev. 12:1-6, 17) 

Today, the Church celebrates the Feast of the Assumption of Mary.

On November 1, 1950, in the Apostolic Constitution, Munificentissimus Deus, Pope Pius XII proclaimed ex cathedra, i.e., using the gift of infallibility handed to Peter by Christ, the Assumption of Mary as a dogma of the Catholic Church.  It was the second of two times, Roman pontiffs have ever used that authority; the other being the Immaculate Conception in 1854.

In the pronouncement, Pope Pius stated, "We pronounce, declare and define it to be a divinely revealed dogma that the Immaculate Mother of God, the ever-virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heaven."

With that, an ancient tradition, first recorded in the 4th Century but believed from the time of her passing, became Catholic doctrine and the Assumption was declared a truth revealed by God...