Death. And What Comes After.

1349663921250 cached

Ascent of the Blessed, Heironymous Bosch, circa 1500

Death.

And what comes after.

Near death experiences happen to a lot of people. I know people who have been through near death experiences. I know that what these people say is the truth as they understand it.

What do these things mean? Well, first of all, the person did not die. They were near death, not dead. So, I think it’s safe to say that what they experienced was not death itself. At the same time, these are not just dreams or hallucinations as dreams and hallucinations usually are. There is a profound quality to what happened, and it fits with what also happens to the person afterward.

The near death experiences I know about that I feel secure in believing involve a good afterlife. However, this video contains the story of a Catholic priest who had to deal with the reality of judgement and hell. We will all stand before God one day and give an account of our lives. None of us will escape this. As the priest in the video says, the self-serving explanations we give ourselves for our actions here won’t avail us much on that day.

The video raises some of the most important questions any of us will ever have to answer. Give it a watch and see what you think.

YouTube Preview Image

Tornado Recovery One Month In

I drive by the path of the May 20 tornado almost every day. Recovery is moving along, even though it is painful.

In the first days, people went back into the areas to sift the rubble in an attempt to salvage what they could. I went to the 7-11 with one of my sons late in the evening a couple of days after the storm and we spoke to a man who had lost his house. He had somehow managed to find his high school ring and a photo album. That, except for his life, was all he had left.

After the first attempts to salvage what could be salvaged, an army of volunteers, just ordinary people, went into the area to sift through and try to help. They found all sorts of things. They also began the clean-up process.

After that, the heavy equipment moved in. Day after day, I drove by to see equipment lifting huge piles of rubble to be taken away.

Now, a lot of the debris is gone. Once rebuilding starts, things will begin to look more normal again. I drive by the path of the 1999 May 3 tornado every day. There was nothing left where it went through; whole neighborhoods rubbelized. Within a year it was all rebuilt and there was no way to tell by looking that anything had happened there. It will be the same with this new damage.

But for now, here’s how it looks. I took these photos of a small part of the 17-mile trail of damage, with my cell phone while I was driving. I didn’t even look at what I was snapping. I just drove at normal speed, held the phone up and clicked.

The two big buildings whose metal underparts are sort of standing in photos 1, 2 and 3 were some kind of bigger business type buildings. I can’t recognize them now, and I don’t remember what they were. There is also one house in photo 3 that somehow remained standing. It’s a tear-down, but it didn’t come apart in the storm. All these buildings were at the edge of the storm. The buildings to the right in the second photo are the small strip mall. It wasn’t hit by the tornado, but the winds off it damaged the mall badly. I think most of it will have to be demolished. Notice that the trees are beginning to grow new leaves.

Photos 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8 are of a densely populated neighborhood that was flattened. The last photo is coming to the edge of the tornado path.

It still looks bleak, but if you could compare it to what it was at first, you’d see that there’s been a lot of progress. Also, if I’d thought of taking photos of the hundreds of volunteers digging through the rubble to help people, those photos would show enormous love.

IMG 0928

IMG 0929

IMG 0930

IMG 0931

IMG 0932

IMG 0933

IMG 0934

IMG 0935

IMG 0939

Be Our Defense Against the Devil

 

ArchAngelMichael

St. Michael the Archangel, 

defend us in battle.
Be our defense against the wickedness and snares of the Devil.
May God rebuke him, we humbly pray,
and do thou,
O Prince of the heavenly hosts,
by the power of God,
thrust into hell Satan,
and all the evil spirits,
who prowl about the world
seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.

Catholics prayed this prayer, which has always seemed like a mini-exorcism to me, at the end of mass for a period of about 75 years. 

Pope Leo XIII wrote the prayer in 1884, just a few decades before the Our Lady visited Fatima. He had just finished saying mass. I’ve read several descriptions of what happened next. Basically, the Holy Father was stricken with what appeared to onlookers to be a trance that lasted for a few minutes. When he revived, he recounted a vision he had seen or heard of Satan’s future attack on the Church. 

He immediately went to his quarters and wrote The Saint Michael Prayer and gave instructions that it should be prayed at the end of every low mass throughout the world. This practice ended after the Second Vatican Council in 1964. 

Pope John Paul II encouraged faithful Catholics to pray the St Michael Prayer privately, a practice that I follow. I have even altered the prayer to fit my circumstance. My prayers asking St Michael to help me have been answered many times. I am convinced that St Michael the Archangel stands ready to aid us when we are attacked by Satan, including those times when the devil sends his emissaries on two feet to attack us for him. 

I am glad that Pope Emeritus Benedict and Pope Francis joined together yesterday to consecrate the Vatican to St Michael’s protection. I do not understand exactly what is going on in the Vatican, but, based on the rumblings in the press, it appears that there are troubles of some sort inside those walls, and that it is probably of an evil nature. 

I do know that the Church is under attack all over the world. If you doubt that, hold your nose and spend an hour reading some of the Christian-bashing blogs floating around. Their target, always and endlessly, is the Catholic Church. The Church is vilified and pilloried in private conversations, the press, and public demonstrations somewhere in the world at every minute of the day. At the same time, some of our own priests and bishops have provided kindling for the fires with their behavior. 

Whatever the immediate reasons, I believe that consecrating the Vatican to St Michael’s protection is a wise move. I entrust my own self and the lives of those I love to his protection as part of my daily prayers. I encourage you to do the same. 

From Vatican Radio:

(Vatican Radio) To the joy of Vatican City State workers, Friday morning Pope Francis was joined by Pope emeritus Benedict XVI in the gardens for a ceremony during which the Holy Father blessed a statue of St Michael Archangel, at the same time consecrating the Vatican to the Archangel’s protection.
Following a brief ceremony, Pope Francis addressed those present noting how St. Michael defends the People of God from its enemy par excellence, the devil. He said even if the devil attempts to disfigure the face of the Archangel and thus the face of humanity, St Michael wins, because God acts in him and is stronger:
“In the Vatican Gardens there are several works of art. But this, which has now been added, takes on particular importance, in its location as well as the meaning it expresses. In fact it is not just celebratory work but an invitation to reflection and prayer, that fits well into the Year of Faith. Michael – which means “Who is like God” – is the champion of the primacy of God, of His transcendence and power. Michael struggles to restore divine justice and defends the People of God from his enemies, above all by the enemy par excellence, the devil. And St. Michael wins because in him, there is He God who acts. This sculpture reminds us then that evil is overcome, the accuser is unmasked, his head crushed, because salvation was accomplished once and for all in the blood of Christ. Though the devil always tries to disfigure the face of the Archangel and that of humanity, God is stronger, it is His victory and His salvation that is offered to all men. We are not alone on the journey or in the trials of life, we are accompanied and supported by the Angels of God, who offer, so to speak, their wings to help us overcome so many dangers, in order to fly high compared to those realities that can weigh down our lives or drag us down. In consecrating Vatican City State to St. Michael the Archangel, I ask him to defend us from the evil one and banish him. “
“We also consecrate Vatican City State in St. Joseph, guardian of Jesus, the guardian of the Holy Family. May his presence make us stronger and more courageous in making space for God in our lives to always defeat evil with good. We ask Him to protect, take care of us, so that a life of grace grows stronger in each of us every day. “

Political Correctness and Editing Historic Documents

Does the code of your professional organization require you to change the wording on historic documents? How about the foundational document of our country? Does the code of your professional organization supersede that?

Samuel Adams Beer manufacturers are claiming that it does.

Their 4th of July commercial traded on the fact that their brand of beer carries the name Samuel Adams. Samuel Adams was one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. The actor in the commercial is shown drawing a brewski while he recites a version of these words from the Declaration:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

The Samuel Adams version goes like this:

… all men are created equal. They are endowed with certain unalienable rights: life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Aside from the overall cheesiness of conflating a beer with the Declaration of Independence, quite a few people are upset by the editing of the words themselves. Personally, I think that if you’re going to quote a document of the importance of the Declaration of Independence, you should quote it. This is a paraphrase of sorts, pretending to be a quote. However that is a minor quibble.

The reason the ad has drawn fire, so much fire that the beer manufacturers had to issue their flabby little explanation about how they were following their beer manufacturer’s guidelines, is what the paraphrase left out altogether.

If you compare the quote from the actual Declaration of Independence with the paraphrase used in the ad, it’s easy to spot. They left out the phrase “endowed by their Creator.”

There was a time when people would have shrugged this off. But in today’s world of politically correct censorship and overt bullying against people of religious faith, it struck a nerve, and it should have.

I am not a beer drinker. I can not stand the taste of the stuff. So it’s easy for me to say this. But, there are plenty of other brands of beer you can buy, some of them which may not be such slaves to the guidelines of their association. (Which, I would guess were voted on by the manufacturer members of the association.)

 

YouTube Preview Image

We Always Knew. Now, It’s Official.

John23jp2

Public Catholic readers are already beginning to comment on this bit of news.

The Vatican announced today that Pope Francis will canonize both Blessed John Paul II and Blessed John XXIII. As one reader commented, canonizing these two men together will “confuse the ideologues.” Hopefully, it will point these “ideologues” away from the false idols of their own personal ideologies and back to the person of Jesus Christ, who both Popes served with faithful courage.

For the rest of us, who are more concerned with just trying to live a Christian life in today’s hostile world, this announcement is a cause for joy. We always knew they were saints. Now, it’s official.

From Vatican Radio:

(Vatican Radio) Journalists in the Holy See Press Office busy getting to grips with Pope Francis’ first encyclical the Light of Faith, were somewhat surprised Friday lunchtime when Director Fr. Federico Lombardi S.J. called them back for a second announcement: Pope Francis had approved the cause for canonization of two of his venerable and much loved predecessors Blessed John XXIII and Blessed Pope John Paul II. Emer McCarthy reports: 
Meeting with Cardinal Angelo Amato, Prefect of the Congregation for the Cause of Saints, Friday morning, Pope Francis approved the promulgation of the decree and also convoked a special Consistory of the College of Cardinals to discuss the canonization of the Polish pope in depth.

Furthermore, he approved the favorable votes of the Ordinary Session of the Congregations Cardinals and Bishops regarding the raising to the altars of sainthood of Blessed John XXII.
This slightly unusual gesture was explained by Fr. Lombardi who told journalists that despite the absence of a second miracle it was the Pope’s will that the Sainthood of the great Pope of the Second Vatican Council be recognized.

Fr. Lombardi stated that a canonization without a second miracle is still valid, given that there is already the existing miracle that lead to the Roncalli Pope’s beatification. He also pointed to ongoing discussions among theologians and experts about whether it is necessary to have two distinct miracles for beatification and canonization. Certainly, he added the Pope has the power to dispense, in a Cause, with the second miracle.

However, there was no mention of dates. Neither for the Consistory nor for the Canonizations. Fr. Lombardi did not rule out that both celebrations could coincide, and he did express his belief that they would take place by the end of the year. Either way any date would be established during the Consistory.

Lumen Fidei: Pope Francis & Pope Emeritus Benedict Co-Author Encyclical

Pope Francis is a pope of firsts. His first encyclical, which was issued today, is no exception.

Lumen Fidei, the Light of Faith, is the first encyclical in history authored by two living popes. This is because Pope Benedict XVI began the encyclical before his resignation, and Pope Francis took it up and finished it.

A pope’s first encyclical is usually taken as a harbinger of the directions he will take with his papacy, in particular the areas of the Gospel he feels called to emphasize in light of the times in which he is living. However, this encyclical, coming as it does from the minds of two popes, is more of a bridge between the two papacies.

I haven’t had time to read it yet, so I won’t try to tell you what’s in it. You can read it yourself by going here. You can also download it to any device that will allow you to download pdfs.

I’m going to print out a hard copy. When I get the time later today, I’ll sit down and read it through. I may not comment until I’ve let that digest for a while.

For now I’ll just say that the Light of Faith is the only light we can walk by in this post Christian world of ours. As for me, I have decided that means I will trust the 2,000-year-old consistent teachings of the Catholic Church to be my lamp.

YouTube Preview Image

Join the Discussions of the Year of Faith

Click here throughout the Year of Faith, as the Catholic Channel at Patheos.com invites Catholics of every age and stripe to share what they are gleaning and carrying away from this gift of timely focus.

Freedom Isn’t Just about Fireworks

Red fireworks wallpaper 2

Today is the 5th of July and everyone in my family is back at work.

I asked my husband and sons why they weren’t taking today off and got explanations that amounted to one thing: Habit. They go to work. Every day.

It wasn’t until I got up this morning, and started … um … working … that I realized I’m just like them.

However, less habitual people all over this country are enjoying the second day of a four day weekend. It’s baseball, apple pie an hot dogs all around.

The questing arises: What are we celebrating? Is it freedom from the tyranny of foreign powers? Or is it freedom from the tyranny of our own government? When the signers put their names to the Declaration of Independence, they didn’t have an argument with the Czar of Russia who was trying to invade these shores. Their argument was with the government that had planted them here and that had governed them for over two-hundred years since.

They, every single one of them, was born under the English flag, had grown up under the rule of the English king, and had, until very recently, regarded themselves as English.

What changed? Distance and time had given them the freedom to think for themselves. They were inspired by the Gospels that taught that all human beings matter, that ever hair on our heads are numbered. This ethos of human dignity which began when the Son of God had chosen to be born in a stable rather than a palace had been the mustard seed of the Kingdom that was growing and expanding throughout the world.

Paine

Thomas Paine

The times were right, of course. Political philosophers had moved on from the cynical practicality of The Prince to the cynical idealism of Common Sense. If you haven’t read these two documents, I encourage you to do so, and then to compare them. The change in outlook of a few hundred years and one ocean is striking.

There is a whole world of difference between “If an injury is done to a man, it should be so severe that his vengeance need not be considered,” and “Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom, must, like men, undergo the sufferings of supporting it.”

The difference between these two outlooks is the experience of living free. Distance from England and the rigors of the frontier had worked a kind of magic on these American colonists. They had learned the power of thinking for themselves. While no one would ever claim Thomas Paine as a devout Christian, he lived in a Christian society, breathed Christian air and was influenced deeply by the Christian call to the value of each individual human person.

Machiavelli

Machiavelli

Machiavelli, on the other hand, while an observant Christian, lived in a Christian world that was half-caught between the call to human dignity that the Gospels demanded and the entrenched and cynical society in which he lived. Despite living in a faith-filled world, he was unable to realize the true meaning of Christian faith, which is human freedom.

The question I have, is which direction are we going?

Does Thomas Paine’s statement:

“I have always strenuously supported the right of a man to his own opinion, however different that might be from mine.”

Or Machiavelli’s claim:

“Men are so simple of mind, and so much dominated by their immediate needs, that a deceitful man will always find plenty who are ready to be deceived.”

Reflect our current way of thinking and living?

Are our minds and hearts governed by the singing phrases of our founding documents, or have we sunk into a mire so deep that Machiavelli would abhor it?

Machiavelli was not nearly as Machiavellian as those who’ve never read him would lead you to believe. His treatise was common sense politics of his day and in many ways of any day, including ours. On the other hand, Thomas Paine was a young revolutionary with a young revolutionary’s hot-blooded fervor.

This country was birthed by thinkers who believed in the power of the individual to think for himself. But I wonder if it is not more and more being governed and educated by thinkers who have gone past Machiavelli and into some new dark realm of governance by means of lies and propaganda that was an impossibility in yesterday’s pre-tech times.

Thomas Paine said, “A body of men holding themselves accountable to nobody ought not to be trusted by anybody.”

I do him the honor of holding my own opinion, including disagreeing with quite a few of the things he said. However, in this, as with a lot of his thinking, Thomas Paine was exactly right.

 

From Sea to Shining Sea

 

Ray Charles

YouTube Preview Image

Courage and The Declaration of Independence

I cannot imagine the gravity of the vote.

These men held destiny in their hands that day. When we connect the dots backwards, their action seems inevitable. But at the time, they were representatives of 13 separate and independent colonies, each with its own culture and government, set on the task of considering whether to try to unite in order to fight a war of independence against the country that most of them had always considered their own.

By voting yes and then putting their signatures on the document that we call the Declaration of Independence, they changed history. But none of this seemed certain, or even likely, on that hot July day when they took this vote.

They were setting themselves on a course of war, that, if lost, would result in the loss of life and property for each of them and their families and they would forever be branded traitors. This war would not be fought overseas. It would be fought among them, on their farms and in their cities. They would be the soldiers and their families and homes would be the battlefield.

They were taking on one of the great powers of the world with little more than determination and refusal to yield.

If they lost this war, the Declaration they signed would become their death warrant. It would also bring untold punishment and suffering onto their countrymen.

Courage is often foolish. It can be rash. I am sure that these men wondered if they were being both. The odds, after all, were against them, and the cost of failure extreme. But they took the step off the side of the cliff and signed.

The rest is history.

Happy Birthday America, Home of the Brave, Land of the Free.

Happy Birthday America, Land that I Love!

Red Skelton gave this Pledge of Allegiance on national television many years ago. It’s probably more valuable for us now than it was then. Watch it and ponder how great this country is. America is an experiment in government of, by and for the people.

What kind of America will we hand forward to our children and grandchildren? Each generation of Americans has the responsibility to protect and defend freedom. This does not always mean putting on a uniform and fighting for our country in war. It can, and it must, mean guarding our freedoms from those in our government here at home who would beguile us to give freedom away in exchange for false promises of security and wealth.

Freedom has a price, and that price is eternal vigilance against those who would destroy it.

Watch Mr Skelton’s moving rendition of the Pledge of Allegiance and ponder.

Happy Birthday America, Land that I love!

YouTube Preview Image


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X