Saturday, March 5, 2011

Apostolic Succession By Francis J. Beckwith

Francis J. Beckwith
In 2007, when I was prayerfully thinking about returning to the Catholic Church, there were four theological issues that were deal breakers for me: justification, penance, transubstantiation, and apostolic succession. I have already discussed penance, transubstantiation, and justification. Here, I offer a brief account of how I became convinced that the Catholic Church is also right about apostolic succession. Catholicism holds that if a Church claims to be Christian it must be able to show that its leaders – its bishops and its presbyters (or priests) – are successors of the Apostles. This is why the Catholic Church accepts Eastern Orthodox sacraments as legitimate even though the Orthodox are not in full communion with Rome. What amazed me is how uncontroversial apostolic succession was in the Early Church, as Protestant historian J. N. D. Kelley points out in his book Early Christian Doctrines. I expected to find factions of Christians, including respected Church Fathers, who resisted episcopal ecclesiology. There aren’t any. In fact, a leading argument in the Early Church against heretics was their lack of episcopal lineage and continuity and thus their absence of communion with the visible and universal Church. In his famous apologetic treatise, Against Heresies (A.D. 182-188), St. Irenaeus (c. A.D. 140-202) makes that very point in several places. Tertullian (A.D. c. 160-220) offers the same sort of apologetic as well. 
Link (here) to read the full fantastic piece by Francis J. Beckwith

Monday, February 21, 2011

Zakaria Botros

Meet Coptic priest Zakaria Botros from Egypt. Little known in the West but making waves with Muslims in the Middle East. 
He fights fire with fire. He sits with the Christian Scriptures and the Koran in front of him. He is an expert at Classical Arabic and all the literature of Islam. He challenges the Muslim to respond and refute him. 
To read the article about this courageous Christian, click here. To see him on video, go to and search for Zakaria Botros. To read his Nine Demands of Islam, click here.
Link (here) to Catholic Convert

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Who Is Your Favorite?

Best Catholic Blog Finalists:

  • American Papist (
    American Papist, by Thomas Peters, is hosted at Peters, the son of a canon lawyer, focuses largely on the intersection between Catholicism and politics, and the American Papist is always a good place to turn to for breaking news.
    (visit blog)
  • Catholic Icing (
    Catholic Icing, by Lacy, a 25-year-old wife and mother of three, is "a place to find Catholic Arts and Crafts, Cute Food Ideas, Feast Day Celebration ideas, and much, much more! Once you have a solid foundation for your Catholic Cake, why not add some icing?"
    (visit blog)
  • The Faith Explained With Cale Clarke (
    Cale Clarke reverted to Catholicism in 2004, "after spending ten years in Evangelical Protestantism, with much of that time spent in pastoral ministry." Director of The Faith Explained Seminars and creator of The New Mass iPhone app, Cale explains the Catholic Faith in everyday language.
    (visit blog)
  • Fr. Z's Blog - What Does the Prayer Really Say? (
    Featuring "Slavishly accurate liturgical translations & frank commentary on Catholic issues – by Fr. John Zuhlsdorf o{]:¬)", a regular columnist for The Wanderer, What Does the Prayer Really Say? is the first place to turn for those who want answers concerning the celebration of the Mass, in both its Ordinary and Extraordinary Forms.
    (visit blog)
  • Whispers in the Loggia (
    "One of global Catholicism's most prominent chroniclers, Rocco Palmo has held court as the 'Church Whisperer' since 2004," and his Whispers in the Loggia has developed a reputation for having the inside scoop on Vatican politics.
    (visit blog)

VOTE NOW (Here) Which is the Best Catholic Blog?

Friday, February 11, 2011

Espresso bars and soul-patches (here)

Saturday, July 24, 2010

23 Reasons Why A Priest Should Wear His Collar

Msgr. Charles M. Mangan & Father Gerald E. Murray. “Why a priest should wear his Roman collar.”
  1. The Roman collar is a sign of priestly consecration to the Lord. As a wedding ring distinguishes husband and wife and symbolizes the union they enjoy, so the Roman collar identifies bishops and priests (and often deacons and seminarians) and manifests their proximity to the Divine Master by virtue of their free consent to the ordained ministry to which they have been (or may be) called.
  2. By wearing clerical clothing and not possessing excess clothes, the priest demonstrates adherence to the Lord’s example of material poverty. The priest does not choose his clothes – the Church has, thanks to her accumulated wisdom over the past two millennia. Humble acceptance of the Church’s desire that the priest wear the Roman collar illustrates a healthy submission to authority and conformity to the will of Christ as expressed through his Church.
  3. Church Law requires clerics to wear clerical clothing. We have cited above number 66 of the Directory for priests, which itself quotes canon 284.
  4. The wearing of the Roman collar is the repeated, ardent desire of Pope John Paul 11. The Holy Father’s wish in this regard cannot be summarily dismissed; he speaks with a special charism. He frequently reminds priests of the value of wearing the Roman collar.In a September 8, 1982 letter to Ugo Cardinal Poletti, his Vicar for the Diocese of Rome, instructing him to promulgate norms concerning the use of the Roman collar and religious habit, the Pontiff observed that clerical dress is valuable “not only because it contributes to the propriety of the priest in his external behavior or in the exercise of his ministry, but above all because it gives evidence within the ecclesiastical community of the public witness that each priest is held to give of his own identity and special belonging to God.”In a homily on November 8, 1982 the Pope addressed a group of transitional deacons whom he was about to ordain to the priesthood. He said that if they tried to be just like everyone else in their “style of life” and “manner of dress,” then their mission as priests of Jesus Christ would not be fully realized.
  5. The Roman collar prevents “mixed messages”; other people will recognize the priest’s intentions when he finds himself in what might appear to be compromising circumstances. Let’s suppose that a priest is required to make pastoral visits to different apartment houses in an area where drug dealing or prostitution is prevalent. The Roman collar sends a clear message to everyone that the priest has come to minister to the sick and needy in Christ’s name. Idle speculation might be triggered by a priest known to neighborhood residents visiting various apartment houses dressed as a layman.
  6. The Roman collar inspires others to avoid immodesty in dress, words and actions and reminds them of the need for public decorum. A cheerful but diligent and serious priest can compel others to take stock of the manner in which they conduct themselves. The Roman collar serves as a necessary challenge to an age drowning in impurity, exhibited by suggestive dress, blasphemous speech and scandalous actions.
  7. The Roman collar is a protection for one’s vocation when dealing with young, attractive women. A priest out of his collar (and, naturally, not wearing a wedding ring) can appear to be an attractive target for the affections of an unmarried woman looking for a husband, or for a married woman tempted to infidelity.
  8. The Roman collar offers a kind of “safeguard “for oneself. The Roman collar provides a reminder to the priest himself of his mission and identity: to witness to Jesus Christ, the Great High Priest, as one of his brother-priests.
  9. A priest in a Roman collar is an inspiration to others who think: “Here is a modern disciple of Jesus.” The Roman collar speaks of the possibility of making a sincere, lasting commitment to God. Believers of diverse ages, nationalities and temperaments will note the virtuous, other-centered life of the man who gladly and proudly wears the garb of a Catholic priest, and perhaps will realize that they too can consecrate themselves anew, or for the first time, to the loving Good Shepherd.
  10. The Roman collar is a source of beneficial intrigue to non-Catholics. Most non- Catholics do not have experience with ministers who wear clerical garb. Therefore, Catholic priests by virtue of their dress can cause them to reflect – even if only a cursory fashion – on the Church and what she entails.
  11. A priest dressed as the Church wants is a reminder of God and of the sacred. The prevailing secular morass is not kind to images which connote the Almighty, the Church, etc. When one wears the Roman collar, the hearts and minds of others are refreshingly raised to the “Higher Being” who is usually relegated to a tiny footnote in the agenda of contemporary culture.
  12. The Roman collar is also a reminder to the priest that he is “never not a priest.” With so much confusion prevalent today, the Roman collar can help the priest avoid internal doubt as to who he is. Two wardrobes can easily lead – and often does – to two lifestyles, or even two personalities.
  13. A priest in a Roman collar is a walking vocation message. The sight of a cheerful, happy priest confidently walking down the street can be a magnet drawing young men to consider the possibility that God is calling them to the priesthood. God does the calling; the priest is simply a visible sign God will use to draw men unto himself.
  14. The Roman collar makes the priest available for the Sacraments, especially Confession and the Anointing of the Sick, and for crisis situations. Because the Roman collar gives instant recognition, priests who wear it make themselves more apt to be approached, particularly when seriously needed. The authors can testify to being asked for the Sacraments and summoned for assistance in airports, crowded cities and isolated villages because they were immediately recognized as Catholic priests.
  15. The Roman collar is a sign that the priest is striving to become holy by living out his vocation always. It is a sacrifice to make oneself constantly available to souls by being publicly identifiable as a priest, but a sacrifice pleasing to Our Divine Lord. We are reminded of how the people came to him, and how he never turned them away. There are so many people who will benefit by our sacrifice of striving to be holy priests without interruption.
  16. The Roman collar serves as a reminder to “alienated” Catholics not to forget their irregular situation and their responsibilities to the Lord. The priest is a witness – for good or ill – to Christ and his Holy Church. When a “fallen-away” sees a priest, he is encouraged to recall that the Church continues to exist. A cheerful priest provides a salutary reminder of the Church.
  17. The wearing of clerical clothing is a sacrifice at times, especially in hot weather. The best mortifications are the ones we do not look for. Putting up with the discomforts of heat and humidity can be a wonderful reparation for our own sins, and a means of obtaining graces for our parishioners.
  18. The Roman collar serves as a “sign of contradiction” to a world lost in sin and rebellion against the Creator. The Roman collar makes a powerful statement: the priest as an alter Christus has accepted the Redeemer’s mandate to take the Gospel into the public square, regardless of personal cost.
  19. The Roman collar helps priests to avoid the on duty/off duty mentality of priestly service. The numbers 24 and 7 should be our special numbers: we are priests 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. We are priests, not men who engage in the “priest profession.” On or off duty, we should be available to whomever God may send our way. The “lost sheep” do not make appointments.
  20. The “officers” in Christ’s army should be identifiable as such. Traditionally, we have remarked that those who receive the Sacrament of Confirmation become “soldiers” of Christ, adult Catholics ready and willing to defend his name and his Church. Those who are ordained as deacons, priests and bishops must also be prepared – whatever the stakes – to shepherd the flock of the Lord. Those priests who wear the Roman collar show forth their role unmistakably as leaders in the Church.
  21. The saints have never approved of a lackadaisical approach concerning priestly vesture. For example, Saint Alphonsus Liguori (1696-1787), Patron Saint of Moral Theologians and Confessors, in his esteemed treatise The Dignity and Duties of the Priest, urges the wearing of the appropriate clerical dress, asserting that the Roman collar helps both priest and faithful to recall the sublime splendor of the sacerdotal state instituted by the God-Man.
  22. Most Catholics expect their priests to dress accordingly. Priests have long provided a great measure of comfort and security to their people. As youths, Catholics are taught that the priest is God’s representative – someone they can trust. Hence, the People of God want to know who these representatives are and what they stand for. The cherished custom of wearing distinguishable dress has been for centuries sanctioned by the Church; it is not an arbitrary imposition. Catholics expect their priests to dress as priests and to behave in harmony with Church teaching and practice. As we have painfully observed over the last few years, the faithful are especially bothered and harmed when priests defy the legitimate authority of the Church, and teach and act in inappropriate and even sinful ways.
  23. Your life is not your own; you belong to God in a special way, you are sent out to serve him with your life. When we wake each morning, we should turn our thoughts to our loving God, and ask for the grace to serve him well that day. We remind ourselves of our status as His chosen servants by putting on the attire that proclaims for all to see that God is still working in this world through the ministry of poor and sinful men.
Msgr. Charles M. Mangan & Father Gerald E. Murray. “Why a priest should wear his Roman collar.” Homiletic & Pastoral Review (June, 1995).
Founded over one hundred years ago, Homiletic & Pastoral Review is one of the most well-respected pastoral magazines in the world. HPR features solid articles on every aspect of pastoral life and eloquent weekly sermons that illuminate through exposition of Scripture. Subscribe to HPR here.
Msgr. Charles M. Mangan has been appointed by His Holiness, Pope John Paul II, to a position serving the Vatican’s Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life. Ordained in 1989, Msgr. Mangan formerly served the Diocese of Sioux Falls in several parishes.
Father Gerald E. Murray is a priest of the Archdiocese of New York. He is a graduate of Dartmouth College and was ordained in 1984 after completing studies at St. Joseph’s Seminary in Dunwoodie, N. Y. Currently he is studying canon law at the Gregorian University in Rome.
Copyright © 2010 Homiletic & Pastoral Review

Monday, July 5, 2010

"‘The Tablet" Finally Died

There is a custom in the Catholic Church of a Month’s Mind Mass, which liturgically is the Mass on the 30th day after death or burial. As The Tablet' finally died as a Catholic magazine with its 5th June 2010 pro-abortion issue, today is it’s Month’s Mind. Others will write, and have written, long polite articles explaining The Tablet’s long and painful spiritual death. 
Link (here) to the blog entitled, Ecumenical Diablog. Stuart McCullough is a convert to the faith, his post is entitled, "Catholics Don't Take The Pill or The Tablet".

Hat Tip to Fr. John T. Zuhldorf at WDTPRS (here)
Photo (here) 

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Book Review: Earthen Vessels: The Practice of Personal Prayer According to the Patristic Tradition

Published by Ignatius Press

A great book recommended to me by a friend of mine Marco De Vinha,  I did not have to time to read the book so I asked Marco to write a review, I must say he did an excellent job.
I came upon Fr. Bunge quite by chance (or would it be Providence?). He was mentioned in passing on a program on Ancient Faith Radio, in relation to his book on Rublev's icon of the Trinity. I then googled his name and found an article with an excerpt from his book on personal prayer. What I read was very much in line with what I have been looking for, so I figured I might as well take the risk and buy the book.

Fr. Bunge offers a solution to the Christian West's current spiritual dryness - a return to its practices, a reclaiming of its identity. According to Fr. Bunge, "faith 'evaporates' when it is not practiced in accord with its essence", and Christian praxis is not just "social action" (though this is one of the facets of agape) since it can become something merely exterior or even a subtle form of acedia. He also points out something often neglected (and sometimes even denied) in today's world: that the apostolic unwritten traditions have just as much weight as the written ones. Another point: that the "contemplative life" is not opposed to the "active life"; they are simply different stages on the spiritual path, and that they are always present to a greater or lesser degree. Also clarified is the correct order in what pertains to theory and practice. Currently we understand that theory is subservient to practice; the Fathers well knew that it is actually the other way around: all "practice" is only a means to "theory", which is the knowledge of God. Fr. Bunge dedicates a sub-chapter to explaining just what does it mean for a Christian to say that he is "spiritual". This is a much welcomed explanation! With the word "spiritual" tossed about so casually nowadays one sometimes wonders what it actually means. Fr. Gabriel leaves no doubts: according to Scripture and the Fathers, the "spiritual man" (pneumaticos) is one who is taught by the Person of the Holy Spirit, in whom the Spirit dwells; any other claims of being spiritual are, in fact, nothing of the sort, but are relative to the "natural man" (psychicos), who is led simply by the "unaided soul". In this book one learns also about the authority of tradition, and why one cannot ignore the sacred traditions handed down to us: they are tried and true ways of attaining salvation, i.e., of entering into a living communion with God. Another welcome point made in the book is the role of the body in prayer. Though it seems to have been lost to us (at least in the West), the Fathers well knew that the body plays an important role in prayer since man is not just spirit, but body AND spirit. Yet the Christian does not have "methods" for prayer as Eastern religions do since it is the Holy Spirit that prays within; rather the body reflects the spiritual realities in prayer. We are then given a list of a number of practices as well as their rich theological meaning. One also learns some practical methods for dealing with demons.

I cannot recommend this book enough for anyone trying to discover what it means to truly be a Christian, to truly pray as a Christian. It has opened up my eyes to many things which I had previously overlooked. I only regret that I had not heard of Fr. Gabriel before and that it had to be an Eastern Orthodox mentioning him. Not that I have anything against the EO, much to the contrary, but that he should be ignored by his fellow Roman Catholics is quite strange. God bless Fr. Bunge as well as all those that help to bring us pack to our Patristic heritage. 
Read the original review (here) at Amazon.  

Photo with short bio and book description at Ignatius Insight (here)

Thursday, March 11, 2010

3,500,000 Visit Jasna Gora In 2009

Fr Ignacy Rekawek, custodian of the Jasna Gora Shrine and Fr Stanislaw Tomon, Jasna Gora Press Office.
– About 3,500,000 pilgrims came to the Jasna Gora Shrine in the year 2009. – 167 national pilgrimages gathered 867,298 people. The biggest pilgrimages were: Radio Maryja Family, Renewal in the Holy Spirit, Farmers, Workers, Motorcyclists, Family of the John Paul II Schools, Anonymous Alcoholics, Children’s Yard Rosary Circles, Electricians, Married Couples and Families, Teachers, Legion of Mary, Postmen, Catholic Action, Railwaymen, Secular Franciscan Order and Amazon Women (breast cancer survivals).
– There were 252 walking pilgrimages, embracing 142,316 people.
– There came 156 cardinals, archbishops and bishops from 15 countries: Poland, Ukraine, Austria, Hungary, Germany, the Vatican, the Republic of Congo and Gabon, Brazil, Belarus, Croatia, the Republic of South Africa, France, Mexico, Slovakia and the United States. The visitors included Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Ennio Antonelli, the President of the Pontifical Council for the Family, Cardinal Paul Poupard, retired president of the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue and the Pontifical Council for Culture, Archbishop Jan Pawlowski, the new Nuncio to the Republic of Congo and Gabon; Archbishop Francesco Coccopalmerio, the President of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts.
– Pilgrims and tourists from 83 countries visited the Shrine. The Jasna Gora Information Centre provided guided tours in 10 languages. 2,742 international groups, embracing 65,741 people, used the guide services.
– Priests celebrated 61,544 Masses. They delivered 5,930 sermons, homilies and Jasna Gora Appeals. 1,866,000 consecrated hosts were ministered. Confessors devoted 35,300 hours to pilgrims, serving them in confessional booths through the sacrament of reconciliation. 88 couples got married, 62 people were baptised. Various prayer groups held 220 vigils of prayer. There were 14 congresses and scientific-pastoral symposia. 21 series of retreats were conducted for various organised groups. And there were 27 musical concerts.
– 1,422 people looked for help in the Family Counselling Centre. 1,560 individual and group talks were given in the Psychological-Religious Counselling Centre. 2,375 people called the Jasna Gora Helpline. The Central Centre for Spiritual Adoption trained 680 animators. 32,000 people decided to join the Spiritual Adoption Programme. 75,000 people wrote their prayer intentions in the Book of the Jasna Gora Appeal.
– The Charity Centre at Jasna Gora provided financial and material help to 30,000 poor, homeless, unemployed and lonely people. 650 families, i.e. ca. 1,200 people, are under its continual care.
"Niedziela" 3/2010

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Fr. Dwight Longenecker's New Book "The Gargoyle Code"

The Gargoyle Code

Not since the Screwtape Letters has there been such a devastatingly diabolical collection of correspondence. Master Tempter Slubgrip writes daily to trainee tempter devil Dogwart, advising him on the temptation of a confused young Catholic, while he struggles to control his own 'patient', an older man who is facing a serious illness. Meanwhile, Slupgrip has to watch his back, ieep control of various under devils who are plotting to take control of his territory and send him to the banqueting house of his Father below.

The Gargoyle Code makes for un-put-downable reading at any time, but it is especially designed as a book to be read during Lent. The letters from the tempters begin on Shrove Tuesday and follow day by day, taking the reader on an entertaining enlightening and sobering journey to Easter Day.

Link (here) to purchase.

The Curt Jester has a nice review on the book (here)

An excerpt.

The original Screwtape Letters were brilliant and I think Fr. Longenecker has pulled off equal brilliance. Having a specifically Catholic context really improves the concept and offers excellent spiritual advice at the same time.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

A Love Letter From Your Father

My Child, you may not know me well…
But I know everything about you.
Psalm 139:1
I know when you sit down and when you rise up.
Psalm 139:2
I am familiar with all your ways.
Psalm 139:3
Even the very hairs on your head are numbered.
Matthew 10:29-31
For you were made in my image.
Genesis 1:27
In me you live and move and have your being.
Acts 17:28
For you are my offspring.
Acts 17:28
I knew you even before you were conceived.
Jeremiah 1:4-5
I chose you when I planned creation.
Ephesians 1:11-12
You were not a mistake,
for all your days are written in my book.
Psalm 139:15-16
I determined the exact time of your birth
and where you would live.
Acts 17:26
You are fearfully and wonderfully made.
Psalm 139:14
I knit you together in your mother’s womb.
Psalm 139:13
And brought you forth on the day you were born.
Psalm 71:6
I have been misrepresented
by those who don’t know me.
John 8:41-44
I am not distant and angry,
but am the complete expression of love.
1 John 4:16
And it is my desire to lavish my love on you.
1 John 3:1
Simply because you are my child
and I am your Father.
1 John 3:1
I offer you more than your earthly father ever could.
Matthew 7:11
For I am the perfect father.
Matthew 5:48
Every good gift that you receive comes from my hand.
James 1:17
For I am your provider and I meet all your needs.
Matthew 6:31-33
My plan for your future has always been filled with hope.
Jeremiah 29:11
Because I love you with an everlasting love.
Jeremiah 31:3
My thoughts toward you are countless
as the sand on the seashore.
Psalms 139:17-18
And I rejoice over you with singing.
Zephaniah 3:17
I will never stop doing good to you.
Jeremiah 32:40
For you are my treasured possession.
Exodus 19:5
I desire to establish you
with all my heart and all my soul.
Jeremiah 32:41
And I want to show you great and marvelous things.
Jeremiah 33:3
If you seek me with all your heart,
you will find me.
Deuteronomy 4:29
Delight in me and I will give you
the desires of your heart.
Psalm 37:4
For it is I who gave you those desires.
Philippians 2:13
I am able to do more for you
than you could possibly imagine.
Ephesians 3:20
For I am your greatest encourager.
2 Thessalonians 2:16-17
I am also the Father who comforts you
in all your troubles.
2 Corinthians 1:3-4
When you are brokenhearted,
I am close to you.
Psalm 34:18
As a shepherd carries a lamb,
I have carried you close to my heart.
Isaiah 40:11
One day I will wipe away
every tear from your eyes.
Revelation 21:3-4
And I’ll take away all the pain
you have suffered on this earth.
Revelation 21:3-4
I am your Father, and I love you
even as I love my son, Jesus.
John 17:23
For in Jesus, my love for you is revealed.
John 17:26
He is the exact representation of my being.
Hebrews 1:3
He came to demonstrate that I am for you,
not against you.
Romans 8:31
And to tell you that I am not counting your sins.
2 Corinthians 5:18-19
Jesus died so that you and I could be reconciled.
2 Corinthians 5:18-19
His suffering and death was the ultimate
expression of my love for you.
1 John 4:10
I gave up everything I loved
that I might gain your love.
Romans 8:31-32
If you receive the gift of my son Jesus,
you receive me.
1 John 2:23
And nothing will ever separate you
from my love.
Romans 8:38-39
Come home and I’ll throw the biggest party
heaven has ever seen.
Luke 15:7
I have always been Father,
and will always be Father.
Ephesians 3:14-15
My question is…Will you be my child?
John 1:12-13
I am waiting for you.
Luke 15:11-32

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Politics, Morality and a President: An American View

by Charles J. Chaput

One of the strengths of the Church is her global perspective. In that light, Cardinal Georges Cottier’s recent essay on President Barack Obama ("Politics, morality and original sin," 30 Days No. 5, 2009) made a valuable contribution to Catholic discussion of the new American president. Our faith connects us across borders. What happens in one nation may have an impact on many others. World opinion about America’s leaders is not only appropriate; it should be welcomed.

And yet, the world does not live and vote in the United States. Americans do. The pastoral realities of any country are best known by the local bishops who shepherd their people. Thus, on the subject of America’s leaders, the thoughts of an American bishop may have some value. They may augment the Cardinal’s good views by offering a different perspective.

Note that I speak here only for myself. I do not speak for the bishops of the United States as a body, nor for any other individual bishop. Nor will I address President Obama’s speech to the Islamic world, which Cardinal Cottier mentions in his own essay. That would require a separate discussion.

I will focus instead on the President’s graduation appearance at the University of Notre Dame, and Cardinal Cottier’s comments on the President’s thinking. I have two motives in doing so.

First, men and women from my own diocese belong to the national Notre Dame community as students, graduates and parents. Every bishop has a stake in the faith of the people in his care, and Notre Dame has never merely been a local Catholic university. It is an icon of the American Catholic experience.

Second, when Notre Dame's local bishop vigorously disagrees with the appearance of any speaker, and some 80 other bishops and 300,000 laypeople around the country publicly support the local bishop, then reasonable people must infer that a real problem exists with the speaker – or at least with his appearance at the disputed event. Reasonable people might further choose to defer to the judgment of those Catholic pastors closest to the controversy.

Regrettably and unintentionally, Cardinal Cottier’s articulate essay undervalues the gravity of what happened at Notre Dame. It also overvalues the consonance of President Obama’s thinking with Catholic teaching.

There are several key points to remember here.

First, resistance to President Obama’s appearance at Notre Dame had nothing to do with whether he is a good or bad man. He is obviously a gifted man. He has many good moral and political instincts, and an admirable devotion to his family. These things matter. But unfortunately, so does this: The President’s views on vital bioethical issues, including but not limited to abortion, differ sharply from Catholic teaching. This is why he has enjoyed the strong support of major "abortion rights" groups for many years. Much is made, in some religious circles, of the President’s sympathy for Catholic social teaching. But defense of the unborn child is a demand of social justice. There is no "social justice" if the youngest and weakest among us can be legally killed. Good programs for the poor are vital, but they can never excuse this fundamental violation of human rights.

Second, at a different moment and under different circumstances, the conflict at Notre Dame might have faded away if the university had simply asked the President to give a lecture or public address. But at a time when the American bishops as a body had already voiced strong concern about the new administration’s abortion policies, Notre Dame not only made the President the centerpiece of its graduation events, but also granted him an honorary doctorate of laws – this, despite his deeply troubling views on abortion law and related social issues.

The real source of Catholic frustration with President Obama’s appearance at Notre Dame was his overt, negative public voting and speaking record on abortion and other problematic issues. By its actions, Notre Dame ignored and violated the guidance of America’s bishops in their 2004 document, "Catholics in Political Life." In that text, the bishops urged Catholic institutions to refrain from honoring public officials who disagreed with Church teaching on grave matters.

Thus, the fierce debate in American Catholic circles this spring over the Notre Dame honor for Mr. Obama was not finally about partisan politics. It was about serious issues of Catholic belief, identity and witness – triggered by Mr. Obama’s views – which Cardinal Cottier, writing from outside the American context, may have misunderstood.

Third, the Cardinal wisely notes points of contact between President Obama’s frequently stated search for political "common ground" and the Catholic emphasis on pursuing the "common good." These goals – seeking common ground and pursuing the common good – can often coincide. But they are not the same thing. They can sharply diverge in practice. So-called “common ground” abortion policies may actually attack the common good because they imply a false unity; they create a ledge of shared public agreement too narrow and too weak to sustain the weight of a real moral consensus. The common good is never served by tolerance for killing the weak – beginning with the unborn.

Fourth, Cardinal Cottier rightly reminds his readers of the mutual respect and cooperative spirit required by citizenship in a pluralist democracy. But pluralism is never an end in itself. It is never an excuse for inaction. As President Obama himself acknowledged at Notre Dame, democracy depends for its health on people of conviction fighting hard in the public square for what they believe – peacefully, legally but vigorously and without apologies.

Unfortunately, the President also added the curious remark that "... the ultimate irony of faith is that it necessarily admits doubt... This doubt should not push us away from our faith. But it should humble us." In a sense, of course, this is true: On this side of eternity, doubt is part of the human predicament. But doubt is the absence of something; it is not a positive value. Insofar as it inoculates believers from acting on the demands of faith, doubt is a fatal weakness.

The habit of doubt fits much too comfortably with a kind of "baptized unbelief;" a Christianity that is little more than a vague tribal loyalty and a convenient spiritual vocabulary. Too often in recent American experience, pluralism and doubt have become alibis for Catholic moral and political lethargy. Perhaps Europe is different. But I would suggest that our current historical moment – which both European and American Catholics share – is very far from the social circumstances facing the early Christian legislators mentioned by the Cardinal. They had faith, and they also had the zeal – tempered by patience and intelligence – to incarnate the moral content of their faith explicitly in culture. In other words, they were building a civilization shaped by Christian belief. Something very different is happening now.

Cardinal Cottier’s essay gives witness to his own generous spirit. I was struck in particular by his praise for President Obama’s "humble realism." I hope he's right. American Catholics want him to be right. Humility and realism are the soil where a commonsense, modest, human-scaled and moral politics can grow. Whether President Obama can provide this kind of leadership remains to be seen. We have a duty to pray for him – so that he can, and does.

Link (here)

Friday, August 21, 2009

Orlando Shrine Becomes A Basilica


ORLANDO, Fla. — Even though Mary Jo Smith and her husband had just arrived in Orlando to start their vacation late the night before, they still showed up for noon Mass at the National Shrine of Mary, Queen of the Universe before hitting the theme parks with their five children.

"You've got to start the day with God," said Smith, 43, of Manassas, Va.

The Smiths are ideal visitors for the 2,000-seat shrine, home of a ministry that began in the trunk of a car in the 1970s and is aimed at the millions of tourists who visit central Florida every year for attractions like Walt Disney World, Sea World and Universal Studios.

Pope Benedict XVI recently designated the church a minor basilica, one of only 63 in the United States, and the church planned a celebration Saturday to commemorate the honor.

Becoming a minor basilica is "kind of like a stamp of approval" for the church, said the Rev. Ed McCarthy, the basilica's rector. "This is an affirmation by the Church that ministry to people who are traveling, tourists, is an important thing."

A major basilica is a term assigned to only the most important churches in Catholicism, currently eight, most of which are in Rome. Minor basilicas are more numerous and geographically diverse, and they're given the distinction for their historic significance, architectural beauty or ministerial uniqueness. In their respective cities, they sit atop the pecking order of churches, and are given certain ritualistic privileges.

Located next to a high-end outlet mall about 1 1/2 miles from the entrance to Walt Disney World, the red-tiled, triangular, stucco edifice built 16 years ago rises off Interstate 4, framed on either side by one-story buildings, a separate bell tower and a tranquil garden.

"If the pope ever comes to central Florida, he would feel at home in this particular church," Bishop Thomas Wenski said.

It's a different pace from a typical parish church for the three priests who serve the shrine. There are no baptisms, weddings or funerals to perform. Familiar faces at the Mass are rare because 95 percent of attendees are tourists. Relationships built up from years of regular contact with families in the parish don't exist. The shrine relies on tourists for donations to support its $1.5 million operating budget.

One of the attractions for priests is ministering to an audience from all over the world, even if they only attend Mass a few days during vacation. Several thousand visitors a week attend Masses, which are held twice daily during the week and five times over the weekend. Confession is held seven days a week.

"In a home parish, I see a family on Sunday and that family may have children, so they'll be celebrating first communion, first confession, confirmation," McCarthy said. "Here, you have one shot at helping people feel at home."

At a recent weekday noon Mass, the Rev. Thomas Kenney did just that with a warm smile and a reassuring Irish voice. About 50 worshippers packed into a small side chapel dominated by a dark blue stained-glass window flecked with white to resemble a night sky filled with stars. The priest left the worshippers with a serious message to think about on their vacations.

"We're living in very materialistic times, where people are not measured by who they are but what they have," Kenney intoned.

Not all the parishioners at the Mass were tourists. Some like 67-year-old Richard Janetka, a Disney resort worker, pray at the shrine because it's close to work.

"It's very peaceful," said Janetka, who attended a noon Mass with his wife, Ellen.

The ministry for tourists started in 1975, just four years after Disney World opened, when several Masses a day were organized for visitors at nearby hotels. The driving force was Monsignor Joseph Harte, who led the ministry from the trunk of his car, carrying Mass vestments from hotel to hotel. Harte, who became director of the Orlando diocese's tourism ministry, realized that makeshift hotel Masses wouldn't be able to accommodate the growing number of tourists coming to the area.

The diocese eventually purchased 17 acres off I-4, where high-rise hotels and restaurants catering to tourists eventually would sprout up like kudzu, and ground was broken in 1984. The main church wasn't built until 1993. An accidental wrong turn into the shrine's parking lot lands one in the parking lot of a Nike outlet store, and vice versa.

But that's OK if non-Catholics accidentally stumble onto the church's grounds: One of the ministry's goals is evangelization.

"It probably gives non-Catholics an opportunity to experience Catholic worship that they might be more hesitant to pursue in their hometowns," Wenski said.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The Smile

Irena Sendler

There recently was a death of a 98 year-old lady named Irena. During WWII, Irena, got permission to work in the Warsaw Ghetto, as a Plumbing/Sewer specialist. She had an 'ulterior motive' ... She KNEW what the Nazi's plans were for the Jews, (being German.) Irena smuggled infants out in the bottom of the tool box she carried and she carried in the back of her truck a burlap sack, (for larger kids..) She also had a dog in the back that she trained to bark when the Nazi soldiers let her in and out of the ghetto. The soldiers of course wanted nothing to do with the dog and the barking covered the kids/infants noises. During her time of doing this, she managed to smuggle out and save 2500 kids/infants. She was caught, and the Nazi's broke both her legs, arms and beat her severely. Irena kept a record of the names of all the kids she smuggled out and kept them in a glass jar, buried under a tree in her back yard. After the war, she tried to locate any parents that may have survived it and reunited the family. Most had been gassed. Those kids she helped got placed into foster family homes or adopted. Last year Irena was up for the Nobel Peace Prize ... She was not selected. Al Gore won, for a slide show on Global Warming.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Pope Benedict XVI broke his right wrist in a fall during his vacation in the Italian Alps, officials and the Vatican said Friday. A hospital spokesman confirmed the pope was undergoing surgery to reduce the fracture. Link (here) to the full story

Communists Are Fundamentally At Odds With Catholicism

HUE, Vietnam (UCAN) -- Catholic villagers in Thua Thien-Hue province say they have tried their best to follow Church teaching on the use of artificial birth control methods in the face of the government's two-child policy.

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Children celebrating an autumn festival in Vietnam. Catholics
have opposed the government’s two-child policy. -- UCAN photo

Huong Toan villagers, just like Vietnamese elsewhere in the country, are required to have no more than two children per family since 1994, when village authorities launched a nationwide family planning program. Families with more than two children have to pay rice to the government as a fine.

Many local Catholics say they have done their best to remain true to Church teaching but some have had to resort to using contraceptives later on as they could not afford the hefty fines.

Catherine Pham Thi Thanh, 44, said that since 1996, she has been fined a total of 3,800 kilograms of rice for having six children.

Thanh, who produces rice alcohol and raises pigs to support her family, said she was fined 300 kilograms for her third child, 600 kilograms for the fourth, 900 kilograms for the fifth and 2,000 kilograms of rice for the sixth. Her children range from two to 15 years.

She pointed out that her family makes an annual profit of only 700 kilograms of rice from their 1,000 square-meter farmland the local government grants them.

Thanh said that in 2007, she decided to use an intrauterine device to save her family from having to pay 3,800 kilograms of rice if she were to have a seventh child.

Thanh, who has studied only until the first grade, said she knows about natural family planning methods accepted by the Church, but is unable to practice them.

She recalled that in 2005, local village authorities confiscated the possessions of a family who could not afford to pay the fine for having more than two children.

Another villager, Anna Pham Thi The, 50, said she has seven daughters aged 2-29 years. The, who produces rice alcohol and raises pigs, said she is willing to be fined for having more children because her husband wants a son.

According to sources, local people who have two children have been asked to use artificial contraceptive or undergo vasectomies free of charge.

Father Joseph Nguyen Van Chanh, Huong Toan parish priest, said 90 percent of his 1,200 parishioners have agreed to pay fines as a way to be faithful to Church teaching. Local Catholics are taught natural family planning methods during marriage preparation courses, he noted.

Some local Catholics said Father Chanh is asking for donations from benefactors to support local people with large families. Huong Toan village has about 14,000 people.

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, "'every action which, whether in anticipation of the conjugal act, or in its accomplishment, or in the development of its natural consequences, proposes, whether as an end or as a means, to render procreation impossible' is intrinsically evil."

Meanwhile, local state media reported that Pham Ngoc Minh, executive director of Vietnam Airlines, was chided by the prime minister recently for having a third child.

Vietnam, with a population close to 86 million, has an annual increase of 1.12 million people, according to media.

Link (here)

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Southern Catholic College Has New Leadership

ATLANTA (July 16) – The Legion of Christ and Southern Catholic College (SCC) have now officially agreed to make the college a Legion institution.

“This is a great step for Southern Catholic and, we hope, for Catholic higher education in North America,” said Jeremiah J. Ashcroft, president of SCC. “With the Legion’s experience and leadership, we’ll be able to attract students from across North America and develop programs with institutions around the world. This expanded reach and support greatly enhances our ability to achieve our mission to prepare moral and ethical leaders who will enlighten society and glorify God.”

“We want to build on the great reputation SCC has established,” said Father Scott Reilly, LC, territorial director for the Legion. “There will be considerable sharing of best practices with our existing institutions. I expect that SCC will experience significant growth in the years ahead, as we can expand the availability of Catholic higher education to students from across North America.”

Southern Catholic College is a co-educational liberal arts college, Georgia’s first and only residential Catholic college. The school provides a learning environment for academic excellence grounded in the Catholic intellectual and moral tradition. SCC was founded in 2000 and has more than 200 students from 25 states on its campus in Dawsonville, GA, an hour north of Atlanta.

The Legion of Christ currently operates 15 universities, 50 institutes of higher education and 176 schools. It is present in 22 countries, with 800 priests and over 2600 seminarians worldwide.

For more information about Southern Catholic College, visit the web site at

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Congratulations! You Have Just Been Excommincated

Excommunicated Woman Deacon

Michelle Chava-Redonnet, author and hospital Chaplin won the 2006 Women's Ordination Conference Bishop Murphy Scholarship. This past weekend she was ordained a woman priest in the Woman Priests she was promptly reminded of her excommunication by Cardinal Justin Rigali.

More links (here) , (here) , (here) and (here)

Some Background

According to the Spring 2008 newsletter of the Rochester, NY, Catholic Worker House, a woman named Chava Redonnet is preparing to exercise her ministry at the Rochester Catholic Worker as a “priest” once she is “ordained”. Many of the leaders of this Rochester house who are good people, have unfortunately been led away from the Catholic Church by Fr. James Callan’s breakaway (here) Spiritus Christi Church (here) here in Rochester. It looks like a trend, unfortunately.

Link (here)

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

We Are At War

by Bishop Robert W. Finn

Dear friends,

Thank you for coming together for this second annual Gospel of Life Convention, co-sponsored by the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas, and the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph. It is a privilege to welcome you and greet you this morning. I am grateful for the encouragement of your presence and – as a Bishop it is my solemn and joyful duty to do all I can to fortify you in your own faith.

But as I speak a word of encouragement today I also want to tell you soberly, dear friends, “We are at war!”

We are at war.
Harsh as this may sound it is true – but it is not new. This war to which I refer did not begin in just the last several months, although new battles are underway – and they bring an intensity and urgency to our efforts that may rival any time in the past.

But it is correct to acknowledge that you and I are warriors - members of the Church on earth – often called the Church Militant. Those who have gone ahead of us have already completed their earthly battles. Some make up the Church Triumphant – Saints in heaven who surround and support us still – tremendous allies in the battle for our eternal salvation; and the Church Suffering (souls in purgatory who depend on our prayers and meritorious works and suffrages).

But we are the Church on Earth – The Church Militant. We are engaged in a constant warfare with Satan, with the glamour of evil, and the lure of false truths and empty promises. If we fail to realize how constantly these forces work against us, we are more likely to fall, and even chance forfeiting God’s gift of eternal life.

The ultimate promise of the Gospel.
Before I go any further I must proclaim a most important truth – a truth that we have just been celebrating throughout the last week: Jesus Christ, in His life, death, and Resurrection, has already won the war: definitively and once for all. He has conquered sin and death and has won the prize of life on high in heaven forever. We know the final outcome, but the battle for eternal life is now played out in each human heart with a free will to love or not, to be faithful or to walk away from the life which has been offered as God’s most wonderful gift.

Every day the choice is before us: right or wrong; good or bad; the blessing or the curse; life or death. Our whole life must be oriented toward choosing right, the good, the blessing; choosing life.

If you and I fail to realize the meaning and finality behind our choices, and the intensity of the constant warfare that confronts us, it is likely that we will drop our guard, be easily and repeatedly deceived, and even loose the life of our eternal soul.

As bishop I have a weighty responsibility to tell you this over and over again. This obligation is not always easy, and constantly I am tempted to say and do less, rather than more. Almost everyday I am confronted with the persuasion of other people who want me to be silent. But – with God’s grace – you and I will not be silent.

This work of speaking about the spiritual challenges before us is not just the responsibility of the Bishop. I am not the only one entrusted with the work of faith, hope and charity. You are baptized into this Church militant. You are also entrusted with the mission of righteousness. You have the fortification of the sacraments, and the mandate to love as Jesus loved you. You share in the apostolic mission and work of the Church.

What can we say about this constant warfare?
Our battle is ultimately a spiritual battle for the eternal salvation of souls – our own and those of other people. We are not engaged in physical battles in the same way military soldiers defend with material weapons. We need not – we must not – initiate violence against other persons to accomplish something good, even something as significant as the protection of human life.

But it is true that we might have to endure physical suffering to prosper the victory of Jesus Christ. He carried the Cross. He promised us that – if we were to follow Him – we also would share the Cross. We must not expect anything less. When you stand up for what is right – you will be opposed. The temptation will be to avoid these attacks. But through our responses we must see what kind of soldiers we are.

Who is our enemy in this battle of the Church Militant?
Our enemy is the deceiver, the liar, Satan. Because of his spiritual powers he can turn the minds and hearts of men. He is our spiritual or supernatural enemy when he works to tempt us, and he becomes a kind of natural enemy as he works in the hearts of other people to twist and confound God’s will. In our human experience people deceived by Satan’s distortions and lies may appear as our “human enemies.”

But, in his Letter to the Ephesians, St. Paul makes, for us, a very important distinction. “Draw strength from the Lord and from His mighty power,” He tells them and us. “Put on the armor of God, in order that you can stand firm against the tactics of the devil.” “For, our struggle,” St. Paul tells us, “is not with flesh and blood but with the principalities, with the powers, with the rulers of this darkness, with the evil spirits in the heavens.” (Eph 6:10-12).

So let’s be clear: Human beings are not Satan, but certainly they can come under his power, even without their fully realizing it. When we, in our sinfulness, put something in the place of God: pleasure and convenience; material success; political power and prestige, we open a door for the principalities and contrary spirits who war against God. They want you and me for their prize. When we forsake God and outwardly reject His law and what we know to be His will, we make an easy victory for our supernatural enemies. We fall right into their hands.

But what about the so-called human enemies?
What about the persons who wish to establish a path of living which contravenes God’s law: promoting abortion; unnatural substitutes for marriage, and all such distortions of true freedom? Here Jesus is clear: “But I say to you, love your enemies: and pray for those who persecute you.” (Matt 5:44)

We cannot hate these human enemies, and we must find a way to love them. But we need not show them any sign of agreement. We pray for them. We do not lie to them – and we seek that which pertains to their conversion – not to their worldly comforts, but to their eternal salvation. To ignore their destructive errors, particularly those that cost the lives of others, is to shirk our responsibility to attend to their eternal salvation.

There are people who make themselves the public enemies of the Church. They openly attack belief in Christ, or the Church’s right to exist. Quite honestly such groups or individuals are less prevalent than they might have been in prior moments of history. In some ways they are not the most dangerous opponents in our spiritual warfare, because they show themselves and their intentions more forthrightly.

The more dangerous “human enemies” in our battle are those, who in this age of pluralism and political propriety seek ways to convince us of their sincerity and good will. With malice or with ignorance, or perhaps with an intention of advancing some other personal goal, they are willing to undermine and push aside the values and the institutions that stand in their way. They may propose “tolerance” and seem to have a “live and let live” approach to all human choices – even if the choice is not to “let live,” but actually to “let die,” or “let life be destroyed.” These more subtle enemies are of all backgrounds. They may be atheists or agnostics, or of any religion, including Christian or Catholic.

This dissension in our own ranks should not surprise us because we all experience some dissension against God’s law of love within our own heart. But the “battle between believers,” who claim a certain “common ground” with us, while at the same time, they attack the most fundamental tenets of the Church’s teachings, or disavow the natural law – this opposition is one of the most discouraging, confusing, and dangerous.

In my first U.S. Bishops’ Conference meeting – June of 2004 – the bishops passed what seemed to me to be a compromise statement as a result of our lengthy debate on politicians and Communion. There we stated that pro-choice leaders (and specifically, Catholic leaders were mentioned) should not be given public platforms or honors. As we all know the eminent American Catholic University, Notre Dame, is poised to bestow such an opportunity and honor on President Obama, who is, of course, not Catholic. But it doesn’t take another Bishops’ Conference statement to know this is wrong: scandalous, discouraging and confusing to many Catholics.

God knows what all motivates such a decision. I suspect that, since Notre Dame will need a scapegoat for this debacle, and Fr. Jenkins will probably lose his job, at this point perhaps he ought to determine to lose it for doing something right instead of something wrong. He ought to disinvite the President, who I believe would graciously accept the decision. Notre Dame, instead, ought to give the honorary degree to Bishop John D’Arcy of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, who has supported and tried to guide the University, despite their too frequent waywardness, faithfully for 25 years.

In my remaining time this morning I want to talk principally about three things: 1) I want to comment briefly on some of the particular battles we face in the cause of the protection of the life of human beings. 2) I want to reflect on some of the costs of doing battle; and 3) I will suggest some ways we can fortify ourselves to go forth in this mission.

First – the battle for Human Life.
The battle we face for the salvation of our souls is the most important one we face – bar none. Where I spend all eternity; where you spend eternity – in bliss or in damnation – is important beyond any individual choice I make. But the individual human choices I make – even one grave choice in which we remain unrepentant – can determine the direction of my salvation.

To deliberately destroy a human person, and without any justification of self-defense, is to preempt without an equal and sufficient cause, the right to life bestowed by God alone. Life is a gift which we have from God, not from man. This right cannot be taken away by means of a human law. It ought to be protected and assured by human law.

The constant magnitude of this crime against humanity is staggering. We must never get used to it. In the United States there are 4000 abortions every day. Compare that to the tragedy of September 11, or to any other war, or even to the genocidal Holocaust of six million Jews and many others under the Nazi regime.

The count of abortions over the 36 years, since its legalization in January, 1973, is beyond 50 million human lives. These are just the reported abortions. There are more. There are many, many more worldwide. But keep reflecting on 4000 killings a day of innocent babies. Recently someone told me the number of abortions had gone down. I don’t believe it, but if you wish, you can think of 3500 killings a day or even 3000 per day.

Thousands of human lives every day: If we keep saying this – first of all – some people will get very upset with us. They will want us to stop. They may quote other statistics about the tragedies of poverty and war. We must truly share their horror at these things too. However, in the end the measure of our society is in how we treat the most vulnerable in our midst. The unifying thread is “the value of human life and the dignity of the human person.”

4000 abortions each day in the United States. This is the tally of the enemy. Are we in a war? Absolutely. Are we winning? Are we even battling to win? Or do we consider this someone else’s war?

We can hardly know how many human embryos have been destroyed in pursuing in vitro fertilization, and other experimentation, or through abortifacient contraceptives. Our President has just signed a law providing government funding – your tax money and mine – for the funding of these human embryonic stem cell experiments. Are we at war? Absolutely. Are we winning? Missouri lost a valiant battle to constitutionally outlaw human cloning and human embryonic stem cell research. We haven’t given up, but it requires a constant effort. We won many people over through good instruction in the truth. We were outspent 30 to 1.

Assisted Suicide is now legal in Oregon and Washington State. There are more efforts underway and polls, sadly, show a steady decline in the numbers of people opposing such referenda. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that matters concerning the regulation of medicine and other health issues are up to the states. Several state supreme courts have already ruled that assisted suicide would not be unconstitutional. Are we at war? Absolutely. Are we winning? Unfortunately, there is reason to believe that people are losing their sense of the moral evil of assisted suicide. But we cannot give up.

The fight for life is a constant warfare. Those who vied for the leadership of our country last November offered Americans a clear choice in this regard. The President is keeping his promises – one by one. We are getting what we chose. Is the war over? Never. Is the battle over? We must not give up. Remember: we already know the final outcome. The battle now is about our readiness to remain faithful – our readiness to suffer while we peacefully, legally, and prayerfully seek the victory of life.

We must defend life, but also build.
In his encyclical Evangelium Vitae, on the Gospel of Life, Pope John Paul II said that we must oppose the culture of death, and he said we must construct a civilization of life and love. So, we must defend the right to life, but even beyond that we must take action for the promotion of what is good. We must build a civilization that proclaims the Gospel of Life.

Occasionally we still hear an elected official speak of his or her personal opposition to abortion, while they support the legal right to an abortion. We should be very clear: Such a person places him or herself completely OUTSIDE the moral framework, the moral imperative of Evangelium Vitae and other Church teaching on these issues. They are NEITHER defending human life against the forces of death, NOR or they taking steps to build a culture of life. They have abandoned their place in the citizenship of the Church. Quite simply they have become warriors for death rather than life.

Such a person who makes a public stand – and acts directly – in defense of the right to kill - endangers their eternal salvation. If you and I support such a person who has so flatly told us of their intentions to protect a fraudulent Right to Death, a Right to an Abortion, we make ourselves participants in their attack on life. We risk our salvation, and we better change. Why? – because Bishop Finn is going to condemn you? No, I must say what the Church says, but I will not finally judge any human soul.

I know Catholics in our country are looking to their bishops for leadership in this. Four out of five letters I receive on these issues urges me to do more, not less. I was not able to attend the installation of Archbishop Timothy Dolan in New York this week, but I watched part of the Mass on EWTN. I heard the homily and saw how well the new Archbishop was received. But there was one place in the homily that was particularly dramatic. When Archbishop Dolan mentioned the defense of human life, all St. Patrick Cathedral thundered with spontaneous applause and rose to its feet. At no other spot in the homily did any such thing happen.

Please note: This is NOT partisan politics on the part of bishops or their flock. This is zeal for life, pure and powerful. This is care for truth, and attention to the salvation of souls. It cannot and must not be neglected, even if it means we might get scolded at times by those who want us to speak less. We bishops should note it carefully – how our people are starving for more leadership – more unanimity – more courage in this regard.

Every believer is called to be a warrior for righteousness – a soldier in support of human life. Are we at War? It is clear we are, and we will each stand before Jesus Christ, the Lord of Life.

Dr. Scott Hahn makes an interesting observation about a well known passage from Matthew’s Gospel. St. Peter is entrusted with the leadership of the Church; he is handed the “keys” to the Kingdom. “And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.” (Matt 16:18). Hahn points out that it is not just the work of the Church to hold strong against the powers of hell. Rather: in the battle, the Church must beat upon the gates of hell. We must not give up until those sorry gates fall off their hinges and the victory of Jesus Christ is made full and complete and final. Bishops are called to teach, lead and sanctify. These are not defensive postures – but elements of a powerful offensive designed to promote and extend the Kingdom of God.

It is not enough for us to defend against the assaults of Satan. It is not enough for us even to defend innocent human life. Of course, if we fail to do this, we fail in our most urgent task. But by good deeds of love and charity, we must build this active culture of life that is ready and capable of turning back hell itself. If we won’t put the abortionist out of business we are pitiable souls. If we don’t enact laws and work tirelessly to change human hearts so that life is forever reverenced and protected, we have not fought the good fight which is our charge as the Church Militant. As warriors we must first beat back the enemy. But then let us not forget that we are warriors for the victory of life!

How do we arm ourselves for what is first and foremost a supernatural war?
First: Unless we are living in God’s life we should not go near this battle. I don’t care if you are the strongest and most brilliant and clever person on the planet. The devil – as he has shown over and over again – will turn you inside out. If you are not fortified by the sacraments – frequent confession and worthy Holy Communion – you cannot succeed in an ultimately supernatural battle. We must live – no longer ourselves – but Christ in us. Be always in the state of grace.

Pray. Be a prayer warrior. One modern day saint said when you are going out to try to change someone’s heart determine to make your effort 80 % prayer and 20% words or actions. Prayer defeats the devil. Prayer aligns us with Christ. Pray for the abortionist. Pray for the legislator. Pray for the mother (and father and other family members). Pray for the child in the womb. Pray for yourself and allow God to guide you. Pray that you will be a warrior of faithfulness and love and mercy. Remember that God often chooses the foolish to shame those who are clever.

Use the symbols and instruments of our devotion. Arm yourself with the rosary. Protect yourself with the scapular or a blessed medal. Ask for a blessing as a sign of unity in the Church in what we do: unity with the Holy Father, with your bishop, with your pastor. What I am supposed to do as bishop (teach and lead, and sanctify) I must, in turn, delegate in proper measure to my pastors. They, in turn, need you as soldiers.

Don’t worry very much about numbers. If you read the accounts of the Old Testament battles, over and over again God used a tiny misfit army to overthrow a legion 1000 times its size. In this way it is so much clearer that God is fighting the battle. We are only His instruments.

What will happen to us if we take up this war in faithfulness?
Do you really want to know? You will be hated by some powerful people. You may be rejected by those whose approval you most desire. You will be loved and supported by some and this will be a wonderful encouragement. You will be misunderstood by many – and this can be very painful. After you have suffered a little in your battle, some will tell you that you have done nothing – or that you have done it the wrong way.

Yes, if you push – others will “push back.” We should always be very careful to obey the law. But, regardless, some will threaten you with legal action, and law suits cost money and you may suffer that difficult hardship. In the end, dear friends, if we err let it be on the side of life. Life! 4000 human lives a day!

What if I suffer greatly trying to change this tragic trajectory – through prayerful, legal, peaceful means? It is in God’s hands, and you and I are warriors for the victory of life. The stakes in terms of human life are high. The stakes in terms of human souls are even higher.

A final word
There is much more we might say, and I know that today’s many presentations will be of great value to you all. Years ago I first heard Dr. Janet Smith teach so eloquently about the dangers of contraception: to our souls, on marriages, on our culture, as a preamble to abortion and as a degrading stain on human love. I am so pleased she has joined us to teach this truth so much at the foundation of the sad culture of discarded life and love.

I wish to thank Adrienne Doring and Ron Kelsey who, with much assistance from so many of you, coordinated this event. To my brother and co-worker Archbishop Joseph Naumann, whose leadership in pro-life is so well known throughout our country, I express my thanks and admiration.

May the Peace of the Risen Lord Jesus – the glory of His Easter triumph– the hope and promise of undying love and the power of Life sustain you all in your high calling as Warriors for the Victory of life.

© The Catholic Key Blog, Diocese of Kansas City