Let Us Pray Anew for Pope Francis and Our Church

With a heavy heart, I invite us to join anew in prayer for our Holy Father and our Church. Never in the history of the Church has there been a conference focused on the topic of how to depose a heretical pope. On March 17th at Life Site News, it was reported that canon lawyers and theologians will hold a conference in two weeks in Paris, entitled: “Deposing the Pope: Theological Premises, Canonical Models, Constitutional Challenge.”

This news evoked such sadness that I reached out to Yong Duk, asking if he would write for us on this development. We are so blessed with his wise and heartening shepherd’s voice:

Let me pray on this, Beckita.

My heart is telling me that we have hit a junction that Charlie has spoken of before which the Bible speaks of time and again.

Recall yesterday’s Gospel (Friday of the Second Week of Lent: Mt 21:33-43;45-46).

The Pharisees and the Chief Priests.

We saw it under John Paul II from the one side and now we are seeing it from the other side under Pope Francis.

Where is the docility? Yes it is the responsibility of the theologians to speculate and to ponder tough questions but always under Docility to the Holy Spirit and, thus, also to the Church.

Many have spoken on the need that there has to be a necessary Hardening of Hearts. That is God’s way. Look at yesterday’s Office of Readings (Exodus 19:1-19;20:18-21). The same with the Pharaoh. The same with the Pharisees and Chief Priests. The same Today. Then look at the Second Reading from St. Iraneus’ Against Heresies: the Covenant of the Lord.

To go to Hell, one need be perfect in one’s choice, have chosen freely, and to have known what was chosen. The Perfection of a Soul in a radical Choice, a Moral Act, against Charity, against Love, against the Holy Spirit, against Communion and against the Communion of Saints. 

That is the Hardening and it is necessary again within the Body of Christ, just as it was 2,000 years ago against Christ.

Then the Crucifixion. Then the Resurrection. The Church is necessarily going through the Same.

Pace Bene

O let us pray anew for Pope Francis and our Church!

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A Sign of Hope

(Since I stepped in to continue keeping TNRS site going, I have thought a great deal about Janet’s request made some time ago concerning guidelines for speaking about prophecy here. It will always be important to honor the Archdiocesan statements and, as events of the Storm continue to unfold, it seems only natural, at times, to refer to the broad sweep of events to come as we have so often discussed them here. Let us continue.) 

When viewing the Birmingham dinner video, I first learned of the numbers of Muslims, millions of them each year, converting to Christianity. This week, a new report concerning this ongoing development was printed by Michael Snyder at his site, The Most Important News:

“Millions of Muslims all over the world are giving their lives to Jesus Christ, and in many instances this is happening because of dreams, visions and other supernatural encounters… Fortunately, the decaying state of the Church in the United States is only a small part of the overall story. In other areas of the globe, Christianity is experiencing absolutely explosive growth even in the midst of horrendous persecution. This is particularly true in Islamic nations where we are seeing things happen that could have come straight out of the Book of Acts.”

Snyder relays stories of dreams and visions, including the story of a former ISIS fighter who had been killing Christians. This fighter conveyed that a “man in white” was coming to the fighter in dreams and said, “You are killing my people.” At one point, this ISIS fighter was given a Bible from a Christian man just before the fighter killed the Christian. The fighter began reading the Bible and, in yet another dream, he was invited by Christ to follow Him.

Snyder shares stories and statistics from Iran, Africa, and Asia. He closes his article with something very familiar to NRSteppers.

“I believe that a great move of God is coming to the western world too, but a great shaking is going to have to come first. Hearts have grown so hard and so prideful that it is going to take a great humbling before most people understand that they need the Lord. So even though the shaking will be very challenging, we should welcome it, because it will shake multitudes into the Kingdom of God.”

May there be a great harvest one day and may we be so blessed to participate in the ordinary ways of helping people in our local communities both now and in the days of greatest difficulties.

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Mary and the Saints

(As we continue on the Lenten Journey, praying, watching, waiting on the Lord and living our lives as sherpas, I reprint the following article, written by Charlie, for our consideration and contemplation. Even as a cradle Catholic, familiar with these understandings from childhood, I appreciate Charlie’s teaching style and how this article gives witness to the gift of Our Lady and the Communion of Saints. They are eager to help us and all we need do is ask for their assistance. With the Queen of Heaven and Earth, may all the saints and angels intercede for us as we make our way through the Storm!)

Mary and the Saints – for Protestants

mary and the saints

By Charlie Johnston

I was in my early 20s when I went to my first Catholic Mass as a worshipper. Oh, I had been to many in my teens as a hired trumpet player, but the musicians in the choir loft don’t follow the same rules as the regular worshippers as far as standing, kneeling and sitting. For a lifelong Protestant, attending your first Mass is a very baffling disorienting affair. People just spontaneously stand up, or sit down, or kneel, or talk back to the priest in unison for no reason you can quite fathom. Within about 10 minutes of the beginning of Mass, I found a woman near the front row who seemed to know what she was doing – so I just determined to watch and do whatever she did.

A few years after my conversion, I was at a wedding Mass where there were a lot of baffled Protestants. About 15 minutes in I realized, with a little irony, that some of them were carefully watching me. Now, apparently, I was the guy who looked like he knew what he was doing. I must confess, every time I am at a Mass that I know has drawn a lot of Protestants out, I have to fight back the temptation to do a cartwheel in the aisle – just to see how many do one with me.

Cradle Catholics cannot imagine how disorienting and baffling even the liturgy is to lifelong Protestants. Even more puzzling is the Catholic devotion to various saints and to the Virgin Mary, the Mother of Our Lord. Even the language of faith can be perplexing, for often the two camps mean different things while using the same words. Throw in that Catholics often have a hard time explaining what, exactly, they believe, much less why they believe it – and that many Evangelical Protestants have often been told some pretty absurd caricatures of what Catholics profess and it is a wonder the encounters are not even more awkward and confused.

Now, I am not going to discuss everything that Catholics do not believe here that many think we do. I will also note from the outset that some Catholics abuse what the Church teaches in ways that help foster misconceptions about what the Church actually teaches. I am only going to focus here on Mary and the Saints – and what the Church actually proclaims.

Many Protestants believe that we worship Mary, in particular, and the saints to a lesser extent. I know – that’s what I used to believe, because that’s what everybody said. To the contrary, when we pray to a saint, including Mary, we are asking them to pray for us, usually for specific intentions. Everyone of faith, Protestant or Catholic, asks their friends to pray for them. It is so common and well-accepted no one disputes the propriety of it. Many Protestants only count those on earth among the communion of the faithful and, thus, properly to be asked for prayers. Catholics consider all the faithful, both in this world and in the next, to be among the communion of the faithful. If it is proper and fruitful to ask friends here to pray for you, how much more fruitful to ask those who already behold the Face of God?

Some argue, though, that it is improper to ask those who are dead to pray for us. Yet in Luke 20:38 and Mark 12:27, Jesus notes that Moses called God the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob – and that He is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for all are alive to Him. If all the faithful are alive to God – and Jesus says they are – then it is at least as good to ask St. Peter to pray for you as it is to ask your cousin, Peter, to do the same. That is properly what Catholics are called to do.

We do not worship any of the saints, including Mary. Rather, together with all the saints, we worship the One God alone, the Holy Trinity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Contrary to the belief of many, including many Catholics, the Catholic Church has no power whatsoever to “make” saints. That power belongs to God, alone. The power the Church does have is to recognize infallibly a small handful of the saints God has made. A person is not honored by being recognized as a saint here. If he is a saint, he already has received all the honor he may ever receive by being called to join the heavenly host. The honor is less meaningful to the saint than it would be to give a King a participation certificate for attending a pancake breakfast. That does not mean it is a matter of indifference to the saint involved, for his love still calls him to the same thing it did while he walked this earth: call his fellows to the joy and peace which is in Christ. That takes us to why God chooses to reveal some saints to us in the first place. It is not for their sake, but for ours.

Saints come in all shapes and sizes. There are those whose lifelong purity and steadfastness are breathtaking and astounding. But to limit saints to icons of improbable virtue is an error, if a common one. More often, their sanctity is demonstrated by their transcendence of their own flaws and limitations through their love of God, manifested through their love of those around them. Oh, how I would that people would read good biographies of the saints! St. Francis, that great icon of poverty, purity and love of the poor, was once a wealthy, reckless dandy. St. Augustine was a cynical manipulator of public opinion and a lusty rake in his early life. St. Mary Magdalene was once a prostitute. Saints are often portrayed as universally soft-spoken, gentle souls. But many were lions – and often irritable lions at that. St Teresa of Avila was known for her tart tongue. St Catherine of Sienna was not shy about directing and cajoling Popes, though she was discreet about it. That popular modern saint, St. Padre Pio, was often abrupt and scathing – even as he submitted with humility to errant efforts by his superiors to suppress his spirituality and charges of fraud and humbug from critics.

Among the saints can be found virgins and those notable for the abundance of their progeny, peasants and kings, pacifists and warriors. In fact, saints are to be found from almost every walk of life. Some New Age commentators have used this fact as evidence that there are many paths to God, which is a trivialization of what is true. What is true is that there are many trails to the single path that leads to God, which is the way of love. Love is the only motivation strong enough to sustain a noble purpose through trials, hardships and even martyrdom. God gives each person a unique personality, then intends that authentic personality to be used for a unique mission in His service to His people. For each fundamental quality of a man, there is a disordered and a properly ordered manifestation of that quality. God has uses for a passionate man, but passion can easily manifest itself as cruelty or lustfulness. God has uses for a soul of notable purity, but even that can degenerate into self-righteousness and an arid sterility. Weighted down by the burden of original sin, we are constantly tempted to use our talents to serve ourselves and our own appetites. Transformed by love of God, the saints use those talents in service of their neighbor, which they love in the image of God. They often struggle with the old disorder, but progressively live service with ever greater fortitude and resolve. The sinner constantly asks, “What about me?” The saint constantly seeks to hearten those around him. A pretender can – and often does – use the forms of piety for mere self-aggrandizement, a species of blasphemy. A saint does not hesitate to get his hands dirty to bring the hope of God to those furthest from Him. A pretender is sensitive to any hint of insult to his imagined dignity. A saint is impervious to any slanders seeking to keep him from caring for those around him. Whatever he says, a pretender is always looking inward, concerned about what events mean for him. A saint is always looking upward to God and outward to the needs of those around him.

The great variety of saints can help hearten us that whatever the nature of our authentic personality, God has use for it. We can find friends among the saints, people who shared trials and temptations similar to our own. We can ask for their prayers and guidance just as we would a trusted, bosom friend. We can find inspiration in how they handled similar troubles – and hope in how they transcended them by trusting to God.

If there is so much variety among the personalities of authentic saints, what is the heart of sanctity, the visible sign? I long contemplated that. The focus I settled on was St. Joan of Arc. Technically, she was not a Christian martyr. She fell into the hands of an enemy power. Though a corrupt Bishop was used as the means to condemn her, she was condemned for having defeated England, not for her faith. She was often prophetic, but her prophecies were wrong almost as often as they were right. Oh, the ones that were right were so improbable it was comparable to choosing the exact right lottery numbers six out of ten tries – a margin of error anyone would gladly accept for such stakes. So what was it that revealed her sanctity?

I came up with an answer that struck me in considering the great prayer of Mary, the Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55). In most English-language Bibles, the first line is translated as, “My soul magnifies the Lord.” Think of that. At its most basic, every saint ultimately becomes a pure lens through which our vision of the Lord is magnified more clearly. The holier the saint, the more pure the magnification.

The French people were disheartened, dispirited, given over to despair as the 100-Years War appeared it would end in the extinction of the Nation of France. When Joan appeared, this dispirited rabble was infused with new heart, new hope, new resolve. Her soul magnified the Lord – and the people felt the effects of it. But there were others who felt it, too, the self-promoters, those whose field of vision never rose above their own temporal ambitions and covetousness. Some of those, even, were to be found in the French Court. They all hated Joan with an irrational fury, constantly trying to pull her down. There is nothing that so infuriates a fraud as to be confronted with the real thing. That is the heart, the visible evidence of sanctity. A saint’s soul magnifies the Lord, giving new heart to those who have lost heart, while infuriating those who are absorbed in themselves and their petty ambitions. The Lord speaks through His saints. His sheep recognize His voice in them and rejoice. But satan’s goats recognize His voice in them, too, and rage at them.

No one is closer to Our Lord than His Mother. She lived the sorrow of His passion with Him, at His feet – and a sword pierced her soul. (Luke 2:35). As Jesus was dying on the Cross, He committed His Mother to His beloved disciple, John – and committed John, the Church, to the care of His Mother. (John 19:26).

Throughout the ages, Mary has prayed unceasingly for her children, the Church – and all of her children have recourse to her. She busies herself constantly running out to greet people, encouraging them to come on in, come in to the warmth and safety of Her Holy Son. Most Protestants think the Rosary is a worshipful devotion to Mary. It is not; it is an extended contemplation of the Life of Christ alongside Mary, through her loving heart. A full Rosary goes through four sets of mysteries, each of which contemplates some aspect of the life of Our Lord.

As I studied the history of Christianity in depth I was surprised to learn that the line, “Holy Mary, Mother of God…” was not incorporated into the Hail Mary to underscore Mary’s motherhood. Rather, there was a great heresy raging that claimed that Jesus was just a man, a created being Who achieved divinity by His righteousness. Christianity teaches that Jesus Christ is True God and True Man. The Eternal, Uncreated Son chose to take on our humanity at a particular point in time, to suffer and die in that humanity, that all might be saved. People often note that Jesus is the Son of God. That is absolutely true, but because of our limitations, it sometimes blinds us to the fact that it is equally true that the Eternal Father is the Father of God. They are One. We also stumble because our experience tells us that the child proceeds from the parents. This is true except in the case of Christ, the one case in history in which the parents proceeded from the Son. The phrase, “Holy Mary, Mother of God…” was incorporated into the “Hail Mary” to underscore Christ’s divinity, not Mary’s motherhood.

Even knowing these things, and even having fallen in love with the Catholic Church, my old Evangelical Protestant training filled me with dread at the sound of the phrase, “Holy Mary, Mother of God…” in the “Hail Mary.” Intimations of blasphemy would fill my head and whiffs of brimstone fill my nostrils at it, choking it off in my throat, so I had decided that would not be a devotion I practiced. But at my reception into the Church, one of the gifts was a beautiful, elegant Rosary. I knew that a sense of dread was often God warning us away from something sinful. But I also knew it could be used by satan to keep us from something fruitful. So I added a new tool of discernment. I prayed, telling God that He knew I loved Him…that this Church had been such a wonderful and unexpected gift that I was going to pray this Rosary for three weeks – and depend on Him to show me whether it was proper or not. If it was not, I would quietly refrain from ever saying it again. Those next three weeks were an unprecedented period of extravagant and improbable graces and blessings. Ever since, like the beloved disciple, I have joyfully followed the Lord’s command to take His Mother into my heart as my mother.

And that is why I say, with profound gratitude and joy,

Hail Mary, full of grace,

The Lord is with you.

Blessed are you among women,

And blessed is the Fruit of thy womb, Jesus.

Holy Mary, Mother of God,

Pray for us sinners,

And spread the effect of the grace of thy flame of love,

Over all humanity,

Now, and at the hour of our death.

Amen.

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The Lady of All Nations

A movement continues to stir within the Church. For years, it has been welcomed for the hope rooted in its promises and, at the same time, it has been opposed in the face of misunderstanding. As I continue to contemplate what we have been through, where we now find ourselves and where we are headed, the apparitions of Our Lady to Ida Peerdeman in Amsterdam, Holland, continue to surface in the silence and in the news. In these series of apparitions, Blessed Mother makes known that she is the Lady of All Nations, or, Mother of All Peoples. Ida began to receive the messages on the Feast of the Annunciation, March 25, 1945, the same year in which WWII came to an end.

Before considering what our Mother requested from Amsterdam, let us recall that Our Lady of Fatima appeared for the last time to the three shepherd children on October 13, 1917, when the Miracle of the Sun was witnessed by thousands. On that very same day, Our Lady silently appeared to another child, Ida, twelve years old at the time, on a street near this child’s home in Amsterdam. The convergence of Fatima and Amsterdam extends to Akita, Japan, but for this discussion, we’ll focus on Amsterdam.

The 56 Marian messages were given in apparitions which took place between 1945 and 1969. On May 31, 2002, Bishop Jozeph M. Punt declared: “In light and virtue of all the recommendations, testimonies and developments, and in pondering all this in prayer and theological reflection, I have come to the conclusion that the apparitions of the Lady of All Nations in Amsterdam consist of a supernatural origin.” More detailed information can be found at the website.

The Lady of All Nations tells us she will bring peace to the world with a new outpouring of the Holy Spirit and that, through the declaration of the Fifth Marian Dogma, she can proceed to open floodgates of grace. She urged us to often pray a special prayer and to venerate her image as this would hasten the declaration of the new dogma.

Another site rich with resources is Mother of All Peoples. There, you will discover an invitation to write Pope Francis, requesting the declaration of the dogma. You will also find writings explicating theological foundations and understandings concerning the Fifth Marian Dogma which would declare Blessed Mother: “Coredemptrix, Mediatrix and Advocate.” Perhaps the greatest hurdle has been overcoming the misinterpretation of the “Coredemptrix” title. The prefix “co” comes from the Latin word “cum” so we can remember Our Lady is NOT equal to her Son who is the ONLY Redeemer. Rather, Blessed Mother is the preeminent coredeemer and we, her children, are called to follow in her footsteps as coredeemers.

“Now I rejoice in what I am suffering for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church.” (Colossians 1:24)

“Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” (Matthew 16:24)

In highlighting these apparitions, I invite each of us to consider praying the prayer, daily, and venerating the image so we may have a direct role in hastening the declaration of the Fifth Marian Dogma, thereby actively bringing us closer to a world where peace abounds with a new outpouring of Holy Spirit. No phylacteries needed at TNRS. Just a simple prayer with reverent veneration for an image of our Mother who never ceases to intercede for us as she prays with us. We will continue to strive to live the ordinary way and kindle the flame which burns as reminder to do the little we can, right before us, even while chaos, confusion and division abound. As we cling to the hope of Rescue with a New Beginning, it is heartening to remember,  “The law was brought in so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more.” (Romans 5:20)

Not only our country, but our entire world is so deeply troubled. Always trusting God and His Plan, it must be said, we live in very dangerous times. Oi! Let us welcome the Lady of All Nations and her promises as a sign of hope in the Storm.

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Patient Trust

patience-in-godPatience and trust are steadying virtues to cultivate in these days. A poem shared with Quin Hilyer brings renewed inspiration to trust in God and His ways at work within each of our lives, in this community, in our country and in our world. No matter the circumstances, God is with us, sometimes working perceptibly and, so often, working beyond our ability to perceive.

The poem evoked contemplation on the common goal we profess here: to be sherpas, even now, in our ordinary circumstances and in the face of any sort of intense trials the Lord might allow as a means of calling souls back to Himself. Without a pressing deadline for a specific event, these days are rather quiet in the comment section yet, surely, within each of our hearts and souls burns the flame of desire to be at the ready with comfort and hope to all around us should the Storm, this global civil war being fought on cultural lines, enter intense moments. For now, we watch, wait and pray while living the core message to acknowledge God, take the next right step and be a sign of hope to those around us.

In 65 days we’ll honor the 100th Anniversary of the first apparition at Fatima. Let’s consider, again, the apparition in which Our Lady showed a vision to the three young children and said,“You have seen hell where the souls of poor sinners go.” She also exhorted, “Sacrifice for sinners and repeat many times, especially when you make a sacrifice: ‘O my Jesus, this is out of love for you, for the conversion of sinners and in reparation for the sins committed against the Immaculate Heart of Mary!‘” This directive from Our Lady rings with new tones of urgency as we see hearts being revealed and as we are aware each one must choose. Praying and sacrificing are next right steps with tremendous import at this time, hope for the conversion and salvation of souls.

As we pray and sacrifice while waiting on the Lord, Hilyer reminds us of the heroes around us and the cloud of witnesses gone before us:

“There are, of course, countless examples in all our daily lives, and countless more significant examples in the history books, of people who pressed on amidst frustration and confusion, apparent failure and disappointment, wondering why their efforts were unavailing but never losing faith — and, after years in the wilderness, suddenly finding that God had given them their moment and their calling.”

In his article, Hilyer links to Winston Churchill’s famous address avowing that the British would fight in every place even as he proclaimed the victory would come, “In God’s good time.”

Are you waiting on the Lord for something? Perhaps many things? Certainly, we are all waiting, hopefully in joyful expectation, as God’s Plan continues to unfold. May we, too, press on, never losing faith, despite the division and the confusion swirling all about us.

Patient Trust Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

Above all, trust in the slow work of God.

We are quite naturally impatient in everything

to reach the end without delay.

We should like to skip the intermediate stages.

We are impatient of being on the way to something

unknown, something new.

And yet it is the law of all progress

that it is made by passing through

some stages of instability—

and that it may take a very long time.

And so I think it is with you;

your ideas mature gradually—let them grow,

let them shape themselves, without undue haste.

Don’t try to force them on,

as though you could be today what time

(that is to say, grace and circumstances

acting on your own good will)

will make of you tomorrow.

Only God could say what this new spirit

gradually forming within you will be.

Give Our Lord the benefit of believing

that his hand is leading you,

and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself

in suspense and incomplete.

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Be Not Afraid

god-has-a-plan

When pondering how God repeats a certain theme or message in the Scriptures to stress its importance, I found an information gem from an online reference source. The King James version of the bible includes the phrase, “be not afraid,” 29 times. The New American Standard Bible includes, “do not fear,” 57 times and, “do not be afraid,” 46 times. Some assert that, “fear not,” and similar phrases are present in the bible 365 times.

Pope St. John Paul II began his papacy with the cry, “Be not afriad!” An often repeated segment from a talk given by then Cardinal Wojtyla when he was in the USA in 1976 heralded our current struggle.

“We are now standing in the face of the greatest historical confrontation humanity has ever experienced. I do not think that wide circles of the American society or  wide circles of the Christian community realize this fully. We are now facing the final confrontation between the Church and the anti-Church, of the Gospel versus the anti-Gospel. This confrontation lies within the plans of Divine Providence; it is a trial which the whole Church, and the Polish Church in particular, must take up.

It is a trial of not only our nation and the Church, but in a sense, a test of 2,000 years of culture and Christian civilization with all of its consequences for human dignity, individual rights, human rights and the rights of nations.”

Recent headlines and news excerpts provide more evidence of this “greatest historical confrontation humanity has ever experienced,” this civil war being fought on societal and cultural norms.

Pyongyang launches 4 missiles towards Japan

Christians are the most persecuted religious group, according to studies

South Sudanese Bishops Call for Food Aid, Peace Negotiations

Somalia: 110 Dea from Hunger in the Past 48 Hours in Drought

Media Bias on Steroids Since Trump Election

Enraged Protesters at Town Hall Event

Trump, Sex Trafficking & How It Ties to Russia

Live Action Released Footage Showing That  Planned Parenthood Trained Employees on How to Identify Undercover Journalists Instead of Sex Traffickers 

Our country, our world and, as you all must see around you, individuals and families are going through severe trials. We must choose, in the face of pervasive evil, to fear not, to have faith and to embrace trust. I continue to hear accounts witnessing to the power of the Prayer of Miraculous Trust so I remind us all to reach for it and pray it with firm resolve to choose trust. As the ugliness vents, erupting and spewing all around us, remember the Surrender Novena and its fruit, bearing Christ’s Peace amidst great turmoil. Just yesterday, Pope Francis reminded us of another shield against evil which brings direction, consolation and strength: the Word of God. It has been said that reading the Sacred Scriptures is a powerful medicine. Anyone on maintenance meds knows the need for the daily dose(s). Our Holy Father suggests we treat the bible as we treat our cellphones: check our bibles as often as we check our cellphones.

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Strangers in a Strange Land Are We

charles-chaput

Hat tip to reader and commenter,  Christene, for bringing to our attention a newly released book by Archbishop Charles J. Chaput: Strangers in a Strange Land: Living the Catholic Faith in a Post-Christian World. My copy came this week and, as I have begun reading and contemplating, echoes of voices in our community have rung in my heart.

JT Brannigan’s questions linger as I am reading: “Who will be signs of hope to the frightened society?  Who will proclaim that Mary intercedes and Jesus is with us?  Who will proclaim that God wants our salvation?”

Phillip Frank’s words reecho as well: “I liken this new course for us as the way Jesus thwarted the 5000 after He fed them with the 5 loaves and 2 fish. They, in their hysteria over this miracle, wanted to make Him king. He quickly quieted them with His command for them to “eat His body and drink His blood” and, because of this mystery, they quickly abandoned Him as it was “too hard” to follow. Jesus then turned to his disciples (future sherpas) and asked if they too would leave Him. They, of course, did not. So we, who are still here, have chosen the discipleship (Sherpaship?) of TDL. We have chosen not to abandon TNRS and to trudge on IN the world but not OF the world!”

SteveBC’s words, too, resonate: “A person’s outward circumstances matter little. Which world one actually lives in is determined by what is in one’s heart. A person surrounded by the old world who holds the positives of the new world in one’s heart lives in the new world. Someone who believes that one is living in the new world but whose heart is filled with the negatives of the old world lives in the old world despite that belief. My comments about the old and new worlds and to which world a person is attached are asking people to let go of the dark thoughts and feelings you have been suffering from. If you are constantly on edge and angry about what is going on with the Old World, not only are you in it but you are also of it, for those feelings are what make up the “heart” of that Old World. There is something better for you. Focus on love and God instead of anger, grief, and darkness. Why do you grieve when the New World is a change of heart away from you, and when that change of heart is yours to Choose?”

As we continue to move forward, focusing on the actions and attitudes we embrace in our daily lives, living as so many sherpas scattered throughout the world, I think this new release from Archbishop Chaput has great value for its potential to develop, nurture, challenge and inspire us on our way. Perhaps the following excerpts from the book can help you decide if you wish to purchase and read it.

“More than fifty years after Vatican II, the world is a bloody and fractured place. Some of those fractures reach deeply into the Church herself. But this isn’t news. It’s always been so. Scripture is a record of the same story told again and again, in different ways but always with the same theme, for more than three thousand years. God loves man. Man betrays God. Then God calls man back to his friendship. Sometimes that call involves some very painful suffering, and for good reason. God respects our freedom. But he will not interfere with our choices or their consequences, no matter how unpleasant. As a result, the struggle in the human heart between good and evil—a struggle that seems burned into our chromosomes—projects itself onto the world, to ennoble or deform it. The beauty and the barbarism we inflict on one another leave their mark on creation. But still God loves us, and his love endures forever.”

“TIME PASSES. TIMES CHANGE. Watersheds happen. I sat down to write this book for everyday Catholics and others who love Jesus Christ and his Church more than they love their own opinions; people who know that something’s gone wrong with their country, but don’t understand why, or what to do about it. That expression—“everyday Catholics”—needs some unpacking. In twenty-eight years as a bishop, what I’ve seen is this: Most of the adult Catholics I know have families and demanding jobs. They’re often harried and fatigued and distracted. But they’re nobody’s fools. Most of us ordinary believers were born with plenty of intelligence, and today more than ever, we need to use it. If our mass-media culture works to make people shallow, gullible, angry, and dumb much of the time, it’s because we let it. Since you’re reading this book, you’re probably different. You probably like to think, and want to think, as a grown-up real person, in a mature Catholic spirit of faith. And you might suspect (wisely) that too many people aren’t thinking at all. Adults deserve adult food for thought, and in these pages I’ll try to honor that.”

“But religion only works its influence on democracy if people really believe what it teaches. Nobody believes in God just because it’s socially useful. To put it in Catholic terms, Christianity is worthless as a leaven in society unless people actually believe in Jesus Christ, follow the Gospel, love the Church, and act like real disciples. If they don’t, then religion is just another form of self-medication. And unfortunately, that’s how many of us live out our Baptism.”

“Thus, believers don’t have the luxury of despair. And the idea that we can retire to the safety of some modern version of a cave in the hills isn’t practical. Our task as Christians is to be healthy cells in society. We need to work as long as we can, in whatever way we can, to nourish the good in our country and to encourage the seeds of a renewal that can enliven our young people.”

God bless Archbishop Chaput and his words which inspire us to live the joy of the Gospel even in the midst of difficult days. He is a true sign of hope!

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Renew a Steadfast Spirit within Me

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As we embark on another Lenten Journey, let us resolve to live Psalm 51 anew: “Have mercy on me, O God; according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy… Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me… The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” Is this not a cry for each of us and an intercessory prayer for all human hearts?

In our recent comments, holding on to TNRS as sustenance and support while we make our way through life’s personal storms amidst the Storm in our world has been a constant theme.  Thanking God for Charlie who founded this community and fostered the message we have taken to heart, let us continue to pray for him. Let us, too, acknowledge that God often waits upon our intercessory prayer to act and that every good work which the Lord blesses flourishes on a bed rock of prayer. To this end, let us keep our community in prayer that God will bless us and that we become who and what He wishes us to be.

Now, with gratitude, I welcome and share with you the following Lenten reflection from our own JT Brannigan.

Lent begins again.  Even though it is not particularly early this year it seems to have crept up and taken me by surprise.  I don’t know if it’s the present craziness in the world, or the busyness of our family, or the unnamed respiratory issues that plagued me for almost a month.  Whatever the reasons, I was totally surprised and taken aback when my assistant innocently informed me that Ash Wednesday would be upon us in less than a week. How can that be?  New Year’s seems like yesterday.

I like Lent. It ties the Church of my childhood to the present.  It brings to mind the purple shrouds, darkened churches, lit by candle light, Latin chants, pews of people with heads bowed in fervent prayer. In my mind Lent occupies a place that is ancient as the faith itself.  Here is a practice first done by Jesus himself, passed down to us through a hundred generations and cultures.  Something medieval and modern, past and future, all at the same time. A time, set aside from time, to seek to be closer to God, to better understand the love of Jesus and the intercession of Mary.  A time to allow the realities of our faith to become more integrated, ingratiated, into our hearts, minds and lives.  It is a time to prepare our souls to accept the incredible, wonderful mystery of the resurrection.

This year Lent has a special meaning for me. About ten months ago I first encountered TNRS. In that time the participants at TNRS, have without fail championed the Blessed Virgin, urged people to say the rosary, supported the magisterium of the Church, supported the Pope, prayed for and consoled each other.

In my life, contact with TNRS has brought a renewed outpouring of the Holy Spirit. This freed me from bondage to my secular view of a coming upheaval and collapse and from the false belief that if I gathered enough food, water, medicines and guns I could save myself and my family.  Since last April, reading the postings of the many good people here has inspired me to repent of my lukewarm Catholicism, to renew my prayer life, to bring devotion to the Blessed Virgin back into my life (actually, to bring it into my life in a meaningful way for the first time), to work on those stubborn areas of sin which still clung to me, or I to them.  I find myself being more prayerful, more peaceful, more respectful of family and friends, more concerned with the status of Jesus’ church in the world and less worried about my fate and that of my family.

My sense is that coming troubles are very real.  I could see this on a purely secular and physical level long before I had heard of TNRS and long before I had a name for what was happening. The present order, which opposes God on so many levels, will not bring peace and security.

The powers that engaged in struggles of the election are not gone.  They are regrouping.  I have shared with a few others that I believe the election results were a temporary blessing, possibly a change of course due to the prayers of millions of people, but it is not the final battle.  We have been given some added time, free from persecution (which has been slowly increasing and which I believe would have begun to increase even faster if the results had been different) but this is only a temporary calm.

The irrational, emotional, bitter and violent reactions of the losing side are, I believe, a tiny fraction (and foreshadowing) of the emotions and evil that will be released should there be an economic or social upheaval or collapse. There will be tremendous need for people who have been physically, mentally and spiritually preparing for that day and who will be able to calmly approach others with the faith and certainty that this too will pass. People who will witness that God and Jesus, and Mary the intercessor, stand with us.

Who will be signs of hope to the frightened society?  Who will proclaim that Mary intercedes and Jesus is with us?  Who will proclaim that God wants our salvation?

Back to Lent. The Christian writer C.S. Lewis called the autobiography of his early years “Surprised By Joy”.  Taking cue from his great intellect, I find in my life I have been surprised by Grace.  That is what happened to me this past year.  A chance comment from a brother brings me to TNRS.  My encounters here open doors that had been closed for a long time.  I look back and realize God was pouring out his Grace long before I was aware of it.  I was at a place where I didn’t even realize the need to ask, but God in His Love provided for my unrecognized needs.

My prayers for Lent will be to ask God to make me more open to his attempts to “surprise me” by giving me Grace; even Grace I may not be consciously seeking.  I will also be praying for everyone at TNRS and for guidance as to where we go from here.

I, for one, would like to see the site continue and grow. I have learned much here. I believe I have received many graces from my contact with the other contributors.  What we will become is in the Lord’s hands.  If we put ourselves at His disposal I believe He will show us what we need to do.

Many here are facing these questions and have begun to open themselves to be God’s instruments in difficult times ahead. I hope that TNRS website and local groups will continue.  For anyone who believes God does and will continue to work through TNRS I am willing to begin that journey with you and see where God calls us to go.

My hope is that my thoughts and musings will be an encouragement to you.  If these words speak to you, I thank God.  If these words do not speak to you, or do not seem correct, that is fine. Pray for me. I do not intend to put any burdens or concerns on anyone.  I speak only for myself and my own sense of what God is saying in my life and I humbly submit these thoughts to you for your own discernment and hopefully your edification.

I have learned much from my time with you all. My prayers are for everyone here. My prayers are for Charlie. My prayers are for Beckita and Steve and the team.

My prayers are for God’s peace and Grace to all who come here.

Mary, Mother of God, pray for us.

JT

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Is Peace Possible in Troubled Times?

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Our world is noisy with anger and division, seemingly everywhere. I try to read and listen to “just enough” news to have a sense of what is occurring in our country and world.  We can see interviews where people nearly rise off their chairs in disagreement, vying for the last, definitive word. I continue to return to Dennis Prager’s point in his piece “America’s Second Civil War”:  “Without any important value held in common, how can there be unity between left and non-left? Obviously, there cannot.  There will be unity only when the left vanquishes the right or the right vanquishes the left. Using the First Civil War analogy, American unity was achieved only after the South was vanquished and slavery was abolished.”

In this environment, social media is heated with hate, accusations, smears, aggression, ridicule and denigration of persons. This wears on the spirit as it reflects the above statement from the Servant of God Cardinal van Thuan: “The greatest  mistake is in not being aware that others are Christ.”

Observing this current phenomena which gives evidence to the reality of a civil war being fought on societal and cultural norms, please ponder with me: How can a NRStepper hold fast to the truth that each and every one of us has been created in the image of God? While we hold to our values, how *do* we also hold each person as Cardinal van Thuan advised: “The most important testimony we can give is love, forgiveness and reconciliation.” How do we maintain Christ’s Peace within and how can we BE Christ’s Peace around us? St. Theresa of Avila’s poem, Christ Has No Body, gives us food for pondering:

Christ has no body but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
Compassion on this world,
Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good,
Yours are the hands, with which he blesses all the world.
Yours are the hands, yours are the feet,
Yours are the eyes, you are his body.
Christ has no body now but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
compassion on this world.
Christ has no body now on earth but yours.

Another source for reflection can be found in Sr. Theresa Alethia Noble who surveyed our society, last November, and wrote her piece, “Five Ways to Find Peace in the Midst of Chaos.” In her article posted at Aletia, she expands her thoughts based on these suggestions accompanied by wisdom quotes:

*Take time to pause and pray. Prayer does not blind us to the world but it transforms our vision of the world. – Thomas Merton

*Reach out. Get coffee with someone who thinks differently. If you want to make peace, you don’t talk to your friends; you talk to your enemies. – St. Teresa of Calcutta

*Be the light of the world. (Matthew 5:14) Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

*Ask God to reveal the source of your wounds. He approached the victim, poured oil and wine over his wounds and bandaged them. – Luke 10:34

*Find time for silence. Silence is an integral element of communication; in its absence, words rich in content cannot exist. In silence, we are better able to listen to and understand ourselves; ideas come to birth and acquire depth. — Pope Benedict XVI

Finally, another source for reflection is a song by Kathy Trocolli: Go Light Your World

Christ’s Peace be with you!

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Conscience Protection

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There is a renewed call for legislation to protect conscience rights in America. This plea is going out via various Catholic movements, apostolates and news sources. A Catholic News Agency article discusses the urgency. Articles, videos and suggestions for becoming informed and acting, a next right step, are at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops site. Amidst these efforts, last week, the Washington State Supreme Court upheld a ruling that florist, Barronelle Stutzman, who was fined for not serving a same-sex wedding, while following her conscience, violated the state’s anti-discrimination law.

On President’s Day, February 20, 2017. Msgr Charles Pope addressed religious expression in America by considering the two presidents, George Washington and Abraham Lincoln in his article I reprint here: Two Presidents at Prayer. (You can visit Msgr. Pope’s blog by clicking the title of his piece.)

Two Presidents at Prayer

We live in an age of often strident secularism. If a religious utterance is made by a government official (or it would seem, even a First Lady) a loud cry goes up from an increasingly hostile minority. The platitude about “Separation of Church and State” is usually bandied about, a phrase that does not even appear in the Constitution.

Free Exercise clause – It is true that the First Amendment decrees that Congress shall pass no law respecting an establishment of religion, but it also specifies that it shall pass no law prohibiting the free exercise of religion. This second pillar, protecting religious expression, is eroding. Increasingly, the claim is made that religious bodies (especially the Catholic Church) have no right to attempt any influence in the legislative process. But this, of course, would limit our ability to freely exercise our faith, a major tenet of is that we should evangelize, be a light to the world, and testify to the truth. Secularists are increasingly proposing that the only acceptable place for religious expression of any kind is within the four walls of a church building.

Many secularists argue that America’s founding fathers wanted it this way, that they wanted a wall of separation because most of them were either irreligious or deists. But what is interesting is that most of them spoke freely of God, including appeals to Him and His will in their remarks. This is true even of Thomas Jefferson; any visit to the Jefferson Memorial will demonstrate that. Passages from a number of his writings and speeches are chiseled into the walls, and most of them refer to God. Most of these founding fathers (who purportedly wanted this dramatic separation of Church and State) were involved in drafting the Constitution.

Many people love to point out that God is never mentioned in the Constitution, but actually, He is! The final line of the Constitution reads as follows:

Done in Convention by the Unanimous Consent of the States present the Seventeenth Day of September in the Year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and Eighty-seven and of the Independence of the United States of America the Twelfth. In Witness whereof, We have hereunto subscribed our Names:

In the year of our Lord? Oops, where did that come from? I guess the drafters of the Constitution never got the memo that God is not to be mentioned in government documents or at government functions. The Lord referred to is none other than Jesus Christ, for the year corresponds to the number of years since His birth.

The first signature on the Constitution is that of George Washington. Apparently he also never got the memo about keeping God and religion out of all things governmental, because he mentioned God frequently in his writings and speeches. Below are just three examples. The first speaks of our obligation to give thanks to God; it is a decree declaring a Day of Thanksgiving in the United States on November 26, 1789. The second is from a speech to an assembly of Delaware Indian Chiefs in 1779 and would be considered highly politically incorrect today. The third is from his last speech to the U.S. Legislature.

  1. Whereas it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor; and Whereas both Houses of Congress have, by their joint committee, requested me to “recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness:” Now, therefore, I do recommend and assign Thursday, the 26th day of November next, to be devoted by the people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country previous to their becoming a nation; for the signal and manifold mercies and the favorable interpositions of His providence in the course and conclusion of the late war; for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty which we have since enjoyed; for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national one now lately instituted for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and, in general, for all the great and various favors which He has been pleased to confer upon us. And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech Him to pardon our national and other transgressions; to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually; to render our National Government a blessing to all the people by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed; to protect and guide all sovereigns and nations (especially such as have shown kindness to us), and to bless them with good governments, peace, and concord; to promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and us; and, generally to grant unto all mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as He alone knows to be best. Given under my hand, at the city of New York, the 3d day of October, A.D. 1789 George Washington, President.
  2. You do well to wish to learn our arts and ways of life, and above all, the religion of Jesus Christ. These will make you a greater and happier people than you are (Speech to the Delaware Indian Chiefs on May 12, 1779).
  3. I now make it my earnest prayer that God would … most graciously be pleased to dispose us all to do justice, to love mercy, and to demean ourselves with that charity, humility, and pacific temper of the mind which were the characteristics of the Divine Author of our blessed religion (Last Official Address of George Washington to the Legislature of the United States).

Abraham Lincoln also often referred to God and faith:

  1. On Faith as among the Civic Virtues – Intelligence, patriotism, Christianity, and a firm reliance on Him, who has never yet forsaken this favored land, are still competent to adjust, in the best way, all our present difficulty (First Inaugural Address, March 4, 1861).
  2. On Divine ProvidenceIn the very responsible position in which I happen to be placed, being a humble instrument in the hands of our Heavenly Father, as I am, and as we all are, to work out his great purposes, I have desired that all my works and acts may be according to his will, and that it might be so, I have sought his aid—but if after endeavoring to do my best in the light which he affords me, I find my efforts fail, I must believe that for some purpose unknown to me, He wills it otherwise. If I had had my way, this war would never have been commenced; If I had been allowed my way this war would have been ended before this, but we find it still continues; and we must believe that He permits it for some wise purpose of his own, mysterious and unknown to us; and though with our limited understandings we may not be able to comprehend it, yet we cannot but believe, that he who made the world still governs it(Letter to Eliza Gurney, October 26, 1862).
  3. On Religious Liberty – But I must add that the U.S. government must not, as by this order, undertake to run the churches. When an individual, in a church or out of it, becomes dangerous to the public interest, he must be checked; but let the churches, as such take care of themselves. It will not do for the U.S. to appoint Trustees, Supervisors, or other agents for the churches (Letter to Samuel Curtis, January 2, 1863).
  4. On the Justice of God – Fondly do we hope—fervently do we pray—that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue, until all the wealth piled by the bond-mans two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash, shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said “the judgments of the Lord, are true and righteous altogether” (Second Inaugural Address, March 4, 1865).

These are just a few samples showing that the aversion to any religious reference is relatively new, and is a disposition unknown to our founding fathers as well as to those of Lincoln’s era. These quotes do not “prove” that Presidents Washington and Lincoln were perfect Christians or that they were never critical of any aspects of religion, but they do indicate that they both understood the importance of religious faith to our country and were quite comfortable articulating both the need for faith and its benefits.

Extremism – Recent attempts to completely ban any religious expression, any spoken appreciation for religion, or any encouragement of its practice, would surely seem extreme to these men—extreme and far removed from the embrace this land of ours has historically extended to faith.

Washington and Lincoln did not hesitate to invoke God, ask His blessings, and exhort their fellow citizens to hearty prayer. Let us pray for our country and all of our leaders. Happy Presidents’ Day!

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