Pope Francis Highlights the Role of Mary in 2017

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Novena for the Persecuted Church, Day 1

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Duncan Harris https://www.flickr.com/photos/duncanh1/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Duncan Harris https://www.flickr.com/photos/duncanh1/

Then war broke out in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him. Rev 12: 17 – 18

A Novena is a nine-day prayer. The idea behind a nine-day prayer comes from the prayers of the Disciples, along with Our Lady, before Pentecost. It is also based on the Jesus’ many admonitions in the Gospels to pray to God the Father for our needs without ceasing.

It sometimes sounds in the Scriptures as if Jesus is telling us to nag God. His parables about the man who will not stop asking his neighbor to get up and give him bread and the reluctant judge tell us frankly that God responds to our repeated requests.

Another example in Scripture is Abraham, interceding for Sodom and Gomorra. He repeatedly asked God to spare the city if a certain number of righteous people were found there. Each time, God granted Abraham’s request, and each time Abraham asked again, this time with a lower number of righteous people. He finally received the promise that God would spare the cities if only 10 righteous people were found in them.

Sadly, there were not even that many.

However, the principle of praying repeatedly is well established in scripture.

The position that St Michael the Archangel occupies in the heavenly host is also well established. He is God’s warrior, the defender against Satan. I quoted one scripture about Michael above. But there are others scattered throughout scripture. Daniel refers to him several times in ways that show quite clearly that St Michael is our defender against the devil, as well as heaven’s.

Pope Leo XIII composed a powerful prayer to St Michael the Archangel that begins St Michael the Archangel, defend us in the day of battle after he was given a vision of the evils to come in the 20th Century.

It appears that these 20th Century evils have taken root in human society and are expanding and bearing much evil fruit after their kind in the 21st Century, as well. Among these are the increasing and widespread violent persecution of Christians. Our brothers and sisters in Christ suffer every indignity possible in this life, including martyrdom.

This is happening today, right now.

In this Lenten season, let’s commit ourselves to a Nine Day Novena for our brothers and sisters in Christ who suffering and dying for His name. It seems the least we can do.

I chose the Novena to St Michael the Archangel because he is our protector against the devil. These attacks against Christians and Christianity are coming straight from Satan. As usually happens, he is not sending an army of demonic creatures to do his bidding. His army on this earth is almost always sin-sick human beings who are following the darkness rather than the light.

Most of these people don’t know who they are following. It is not necessary to give knowing assent to follow Satan. All you have to do to follow him is do his work and speak for his desires in this world.

The prayer that Pope Leo XIII composed has always seemed like a kind of exorcism to me; an exorcism that we all can access by simply asking St Michael to do the exorcising for us.

The Novena I’ve chosen for us to pray is the Novena to St Michael. It is almost eerie in the way it fits the persecution Christians are facing today.

I will post it every morning, beginning today, for nine days. Please pray it with the rest of us faithfully.

I took the liberty of choosing an intention for all of us. I pray for the conversion of the world, that from pole to pole, dateline to dateline, all with call out Jesus’ name.

Here is the Novena to St Michael.

Glorious Saint Michael,
guardian and defender
of the Church of Jesus Christ,
come to the assistance of His followers,
against whom the powers of hell are unchained.
Guard with special care our Holy Father,
the Pope, and our bishops, priests,
all our religious and lay people,
and especially the children.

Saint Michael,
watch over us during life,
defend us against the assaults of the demon,
and assist us especially at the hour of death.
Help us achieve the happiness
of beholding God face to face
for all eternity.

Amen.

Saint Michael,
intercede for me with God
in all my necessities,
especially

for the conversion of the world, 
that from pole to pole, 
dateline to dateline, 
all will call out Jesus' name. 

Obtain for me a favourable outcome
in the matter I recommend to you.
Mighty prince of the heavenly host,
and victor over rebellious spirits,
remember me for I am weak and sinful
and so prone to pride and ambition.
Be for me, I pray,
my powerful aid in temptation and difficulty,
and above all do not forsake me
in my last struggle with the powers of evil.

Amen.
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Immaculate Conception: A Person’s a Person, No Matter How Small

 

Today is the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.

It is one of my favorite days in the Church year because it commemorates the first turn of the prophetic wheel that led to our salvation. God blessed Mary with the Immaculate Conception, meaning that He removed from her soul the stain of Original Sin at that first moment when she existed.

There is meaning, wrapped inside meaning, in this event. For the moment, I want to focus on one meaning that is especially pertinent to Catholics who are trying to follow Our Lord in this Advent over 2,000 years after Our Lady was conceived.

The many meanings of the Immaculate Conception almost have no limit, applying as they do to the nature of the woman who was to become the Mother of God and Our Mother, as well. But one meaning that can get lost in the tinsel and Christmas carols that decorate this season of Advent is the simplest and most obvious.

Mary was Mary from the moment of her conception. God is not remove the stain of original sin from a little girl. The Angel Gabriel did not announce it to a young woman at the Annunciation. Christ did not endow his mother with it from the cross.

The meaning and the reality of the Immaculate Conception were woven into Mary’s biological and spiritual being from the precise moment that she began to exist as herself; a separate, entire, unique, individual, human person.

God did not remove the stain of original sin from a pile of chromosomes wrapped around one another. He did not deign to honor an anonymous cell that would shortly begin dividing and taking on the outward shape of what we have learned to identify as a human being.

The Immaculate Conception was God’s gift to Mary, the Mother of the Christ, the contributor of all that is human in our Lord and Savior from her first moment of life. Mary was conceived without sin in a silent miracle that would eventually bear the fruit that would become the I Am made human. Mary was, as parents always are, the co-creator, along with God, of the child that she birthed.

Her assent at the Annunciation was the same assent every woman gives today when she chooses to give her child life. Mary, like every other woman, was one of the life bearers of humanity. God recognized this great gift of maternity, not in the young woman whose fiat changed all of history, but in the single cell, the conceptus, that was Mary at her beginning.

If ever a believing Christian needs proof that a person’s a person, no matter how small, this is it.

The grisly deaths of human embryos, slaughtered for their body parts and used in embryonic stem cell research, can never be justified by any cure of benefit obtained from their executions at the hands of a society gone totally mad. Embryonic stem cell research is a form of cannibalism. It is the ultimate version of the biggest and meanest, making all the rules to their benefit.

Abortion was its door-opener, just as the Immaculate Conception was the door opener to our salvation. One door leads to the destruction and murder of innocents for the benefit of scientific industry and commercialized medicine. The other door, the one that the Immaculate Conception opened, leads to love, forgiveness and eternal life.

If you are a Christian, and most especially if you are a Catholic and have the benefit of the full understanding of Mary’s conception and her maternity, of who she is and what she means, you can not support embryonic stem cell research. You can not follow Jesus and go through that door both. You have to choose. The door of embryonic stem cell research is an evil wrong turn that leads away from the cross, away from salvation, away from eternal life and straight into eternal death.

The human person is made in the image and likeness of God, and you may not kill an innocent human person.

Because, as Doctor Seuss wrote, a person’s a person, no matter how small.

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Mary Knew.


Mary Did You Know is a pretty song.

I rather like it myself.

But it is based on the false premise that there is a question as to whether Our Lady knew that the Baby she was carrying was the Messiah, the Son of God, the Lord of Lords, Christ the King.

Here’s the short answer to that question: She knew.

Here’s how I know she knew.

When the Archangel Gabriel spoke to Mary, he asked — not told, but asked — her if she would consent to be the mother of the Son of God. He made it clear that was what he was asking.  He told her that the Holy Spirit would “come over her” and the “power of the most high would overshadow” her and for that reason the Holy Child will be called the Son of God. If that wasn’t clear enough, he also said, He will be called the Son of the Most High and the Lord will give Him the throne of His father David, and He will reign over Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end.

Do you still wonder if Mary “knew?” Then flip forward a few pages and read the Magnificat. This incredible hymn of praise comes from the lips of a young girl who has just had what the angel told her recognized and confirmed by her cousin Elizabeth who said, Who am I that the mother of my Lord should come to me? when she saw Mary. Blessed are you, and blessed is the fruit of your womb, she said.

Elizabeth goes on to tell her that the baby she was carrying leapt in her womb in recognition of the presence of the unborn Christ Child.

Here is how Mary responded to this recognition. It is not the warbling of a naive youngster. It is the praise and acknowledgement of a theologically aware woman who knew absolutely that she was the Mother of God. The answer to the song’s question, Mary did you know? is yes, absolutely. She knew.

My soul magnifies the Lord
And my spirit rejoices in God my Savior;
Because He has regarded the lowliness of His handmaid;
For behold, henceforth all generations shall call me blessed;
Because He who is mighty has done great things for me,
and holy is His name;
And His mercy is from generation to generation
on those who fear Him.
He has shown might with His arm,
He has scattered the proud in the conceit of their heart.
He has put down the mighty from their thrones,
and has exalted the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich He has sent away empty.
He has given help to Israel, his servant, mindful of His mercy
Even as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his posterity forever.

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Advent: Come Lord Jesus

 

The Bible ends with a poignant verse.

Come Lord Jesus, cries in a voice that resounds in the heart of every Christian.

Two thousand years ago, the conquered children of Israel looked forward to Him, even though they didn’t fully understand Who He was, and they certainly misunderstood what He would do.

The prophecies of the Christ begin in Genesis when God tells the serpent He will set enmity between the serpent and the Woman, that she would crush his head, and he would strike at her heel. This was not, note, a prophecy of Eve’s life, but of Mary, the New Eve whose quiet birth, unmarked as it was by the larger world, was the door opening on our salvation.

With Mary’s Immaculate Conception, the primal hope of the garden before the fall reawakened in human existence. It was given back to us as a free and totally unmerited gift by God. It set the stage for the coming of His Son, the long hoped-for Messiah.

Prophecies of Jesus began at the beginning, in the Garden, and are woven throughout the many thousands of years of history that tell the tales of His family in the book we call the Old Testament. It is the story of God, raising up a people by first calling one man to leave his home and go out into the wilderness.

It began, as these things always do, with a family; in Abraham’s case, a troubled and often sinful family that nevertheless trusted God. Not everything Abraham did was right, but he believed the Lord’s promises, and Scripture tells us that God “reckoned that to him as righteousness.”

There is a message in this for all of us. That message is simply that we need to trust God and follow Him without placing the unreachable burden of perfection on ourselves. Righteousness is found in trying to do God’s will and trusting our lives and our salvation to His mercy. Whatever we lack in ourselves and our efforts, He will supply. All we need to do is trust Him and do our best.

But how does God supply the lacks? How does He reach across the unfathomable gulf between our finiteness and His infinite transcendence? He did it by doing the unthinkable, by taking on human flesh, being born of a young woman and living, suffering and dying as one of us. Jesus was foretold over and over again throughout the Old Testament, but, as Steve Jobs famously said, it’s impossible to connect the dots going forward; you can only connect them looking back.

In the case of the many prophecies of Jesus the Christ, the prophecies of His second coming are intertwined with those of His first coming. The triumphant Lord of all history is foretold alongside the Suffering Servant of Calvary. Connecting those dots going forward was as confounding to the people of that day as connecting the dots of the Second Coming are to us. Theories and theology abound, and all of them are, to a great extent, educated guesses.

People of Jesus’ day skipped over the Suffering Servant prophecies and misinterpreted the salvation prophecies to weave together an interpretation of a warrior king who would make the nation of Israel into the dominant world power. They tried to connect the dots going forward and came up with a political interpretation which, while it comforted them in their sufferings as a conquered people who occupied the bottom rung on a significant trade route for the Roman Empire — The trade route mattered to the Romans. The people who lived there, not so much. — was wildly inaccurate.

They took comfort in the promised messiah of their own interpreting who would place his foot on the back of the Roman neck and make the Israelites the rulers of the world. Although this inaccurate interpretation comforted them in their daily problems, it led them into the mistake of missing the real Messiah when He actually came to them.

Nothing in their grandiose imaginings came close to the lowly carpenter’s son, born of a virgin in a stable and then forced to flee into exile soon afterwards. They were unprepared for parables and stories urging them to love and care for one another and talking about a Kingdom that would grow like a tiny mustard seed or the leaven in bread into something they could not fathom.

The idea that the Messiah would be executed like a common criminal and then rise from the dead only to leave the whole enterprise of Kingdom building in the hands of 12 men chosen from ordinary fishermen and tax collectors made no sense according to the false interpretation they had believed for so long.

And so the cornerstone of the new Kingdom became the stumbling block for God’s chosen ones. They, the apple of God’s eye, the ones from whom salvation comes, turned aside from their own salvation while the prostitutes and sinners, the rabble and riff-raff of outsiders, walked right in.

Advent is the season we set aside to consider these things. We know about the first coming of Christ. The dots are in our past, where we can see the pathway they form with clarity. We have the Church to explain these things to us, and we have 2,000 years of Christian teaching to make them clear.

So long as we confine our Advent meditations to mulling over the First Coming of Christ and think about our personal piety and our need for repentance and conversion, we are on fairly solid ground. We know what is expected of us as His followers. We know the story of God made man for our salvation.

But we are not at the end of the story. We still await the fulfillment of the prophecies. We are somewhere along the long row of dots that connect the planting of the mustard seed and the final harvest. We are, all of us, awaiting the day when He comes again.

Perhaps more to the point, we are traveling along our own road of life, journeying from birth to grave. We know — know — that our end of time is always imminent. One day our souls will be required of us, and none of us knows the day or the hour that will happen. That will be our end of time, when we go to Him, even if He has not yet returned to us.

Advent is the prophetic pot, simmering. It is a few weeks set aside for us to contemplate the mystery and the majesty of Christ coming. We have the history of His First Coming and the probably seriously misunderstood promises of His Second Coming, all intertwined with the certainty of our departing and going to Him.

We can’t — any of us — connect the dots looking forward. But we don’t have to. All we have to do is follow in the footsteps of Abraham, or Mary or Stephen or Priscilla or Paul or the woman with the hemorrhage or the blind man who would not deny Him and was put out of the Temple for his fealty. All we have to do is just believe Him and follow Him and trust that, even if the dots don’t connect in meaningful ways for us looking forward, they will be form a pattern of salvation when we look back.

Advent is a good great time to consecrate however much of our lives we have left to His Mercy. Trust and obey the old hymn says. There is no other way to be happy in Jesus. 

Truer words were never spoken.

Spend a few minutes this advent contemplating the dots going forward into your eternity as well as those going back to the Immaculate Conception and to the stable. Are we living in the End Times? Perhaps. But in truth, it doesn’t much matter if we are.

Each and every one of us is living in his or her “end times” every single day. There is absolutely nothing to fear in this if you trust and obey. God’s mercy, which was poured out on all humanity from the wounded side of Jesus, is greater than our weakness, stronger than our failures, more loving than all our fears.

Just put your hand in His and let Him lead you Home. There is no other way.

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Our Lady of the Rosary is also Our Lady of Victory is also a Lady for Our Times

It has always been the habit of Catholics in danger and in troublous times to fly for refuge to Mary.

Pope Leo XIII

Today is the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary. It’s alternate name is the Feast of Our Lady of Victory.

This feast commemorates the battle of Lepanto, which took place in 1571, and which CatholicCulture.org says is the battle that saved Europe.

In our politically-correct, revisionist history that we use in place of real history these days, the Battle of Lepanto is one of those events about which we may not speak. It, along with the Crusades, has been re-written or, in the case of this battle, ignored, in order to create a version of history that demonizes Christianity and gives Islam a complete pass for its invasions and wars.

In truth, the Crusades, which were horribly executed, were a series of defensive wars against invaders who took over large areas of the world by the sword. There was corruption and terrible mis-use of victories in the Crusades. As such, there is much to criticize about the way they were executed. These points of legitimate criticism are the key to the Crusades ultimate failure to achieve their stated objective, which was to free people who had been conquered by invasion.

This objective is what current history has lied about. I say lie, because there is no other word for it.

The Battle of Lepanto was a sea battle fought to repel invading Muslim armies. The Ottoman Empire, which came about as a direct consequence of wars of conquest against peaceful countries, had spread throughout the Mediterranean. The Sultan’s fleet controlled the Mediterranean. The military goal was to bring all of Europe within the dar al-Islam, the “House of Submission,” i.e., submission to sharia law. They called Europe the dar al-harb, the “House of War.”

The reason for this name was simple: Europe was the land of the infidels, i.e., Christians.

The invading armies gained purchase for the same reasons they were able to conquer Constantinople in 1453: Divisions within Christianity. In that instance, the argument was over who should be pope. This  had led to a bitter division of Christianity. In the Europe of the 1500s, the argument was between Protestants and Catholics, with some Protestants becoming so insane with their hate that they actually welcomed the invading Muslims as fellow enemies of the Pope.

On the day of battle, October 7, 1571, the pope called on the faithful to pray the Rosary, asking for Our Lady’s intercession. Crew members on the Christian ships prayed the Rosary prior to battle, as did Christians everywhere. Churches were opened for people to gather together to pray the Rosary. It is said that Pope Pius V was given a miraculous vision of the victory.

The Battle of Lepanto was not only a pivotal victory for Europe and Christendom, but the loss was so costly to the invaders that it turned them back permanently. All but 13 of the nearly 300 Turkish ships were sunk, and 33,000 Turkish sailors were killed, wounded or captured. Twelve thousand Christian slaves were freed.

The deeper symbolism and symmetry of this historic battle connects like a row of dots with the miracles and warnings that Our Lady gave us at Fatima. Fatima, which acquired its name during the time the area was a territory under Muslim conquerers, was the place. Our Lady appeared at Fatima to warn us of the reality of hell, the fall of Russia to Communism and the cataclysmic wars of the 20th Century. She introduced herself to the shepherd children by using a name that harkens back to Lepanto.

I am the lady of the Rosary, she said.

 

 

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From Xyklon B to Machetes: Our Lady in the Age of Genocide

I wrote this a couple of years ago. Since I was too busy to write anything yesterday, I’ve decided to post it again today. It’s in serious need of updating in light  of recent events, (which I may do on Monday) but I think it’s still worth a look, as it is. 

Genocide was the 20th Century’s iconic crime. It was, for much of the world, a 100-year bloodbath.

Murderous governments used killers armed with everything from Xyklon B to machetes to wage war against civilians with the aim of wiping entire tribes and populations of people from the earth. It began with the Armenian Genocide and kept on rolling through to the Sudan. Other eras were guilty of genocidal war. But when it came to efficiency and numbers, nobody did it better than the genocidal warriors of the 20th Century.

Our hope, as we left the old century behind, was that we had somehow contrived to leave these impulses for organized murder behind us. We thought they belonged in the forgotten junk drawer of that era, beside the vacuum tubes and eight track tapes. Unfortunately, genocide trailed us into the 21st Century and is already making a real name for itself here.

Not so long ago, within living memory, we stood beside the mass graves and crematoriums of the Third Reich and vowed “never again.” But, as my grandmother used to tell me, “Never say never.”

Genocide led us on a blood-drenched march through the last half of the 20th Century. In 50 short years of history, it drug us from the Nazi death camps to the Killing Fields of Cambodia, through the slaughter in Rwanda, and on to the Sudan.
 Today, it is the Christians who are being targeted for extermination.

Each day brings a new and horrific story of Christians murdered because they are Christians in many places around globe, but particularly the Middle East and parts of Africa. Deacon Greg Kandra, over at The Deacon’s Bench, posted Monday on the plight of Christians in Syria.

In his post, Can Syria’s Christians Survive? Deacon Greg quotes a Wall Street Journal article that says in part:

“… Syria’s Christian communities are being severely tested by the uprising that has racked the country for more than a year. They think back to 636, when the Christian Byzantine emperor Heraclius saw his army defeated by Muslim forces south of present-day Damascus. “Peace be with you Syria. What a beautiful land you will be for our enemies,” he lamented before fleeing north to Antioch. In the 8th century, a famed Damascus church was razed to make way for the Umayyad Mosque—today one of Islam’s holiest sites.

Not a few Christians in modern-day Syria worry that the current crisis could end the same way for them if Bashar al-Assad and his regime are defeated by the rebel insurgency … ” Read more here:  Can Syria’s Christians Survive?

This is especially poignant today, on the Feast of the Assumption, since this feast honors Mary, Our Lord’s mother. Our Lady spent her last years in what is modern day Turkey. Her last home is believed to have been high on a hillside not far from the city of Ephesus.

When I visited this site last year, I was impressed by the long lines of believers who had traveled from all over the world to stand in the cool shade of this hillside. It was equally striking to see Muslims and Christians in line together, waiting their turn to enter the tiny rooms of the reconstructed ruin of Our Lady’s home.

You can touch the stones that formed the lower portion of her original house, hear the breeze riffling through the trees, and drink from a spring that may have supplied her water. It’s easy to imagine how peaceful this home would have been for her, especially after visiting the stone metropolis of Ephesus not far away. Her empty grave must lie a short distance from this place. She was assumed into heaven from here.

I wanted to attend mass at this spot, but we got there too late in the day. What I did instead was break the “no entry” rule posted beside the ropes surrounding the little outdoor chapel and take a seat in one of the chairs. I wanted to be alone, to feel the Presence in that place and to pray. The guard eyed me quietly and then respectfully backed away, his rifle hanging limp at his side.

When I had told one of my Muslim companions that I wanted to be alone to pray, he said, “Pray for me too,” and I did.

It was easy here, in this quiet bubble of grace next to the long lines of pilgrims chattering in their many languages, to believe that we could put it all aside. We could give up the things that divide us and remember the things that make us one.

We are all born of woman. We will all die. We are children of the same One God Who loves us the way any parent loves his children.

That should be enough. It should be more than enough to make us think long and hard about this nasty habit we have of killing one another.

What are we going to say when we stand before God and try to explain ourselves?

It was unfathomable to me, sitting in that holy place, that there are people so demented and lost that they honestly believe that God will reward them for the wanton killing of His children. But I know that such people exist. I’ve witnessed first-hand the carnage that terrorists cause.

If there is one message in this Feast of the Assumption, it’s that we not only have One Father; we have One Mother, as well.

I saw Muslims and Christians, standing in line together to honor her. A hardened Turkish guard respectfully backed away to let me pray my Christian prayers. From The Deacon’s Bench, to the bleached stones of Ephesus and on uphill to the riffling breezes of her last home, Our Lady does what mothers always do.

She makes us family.

Mary truly is the Mother of God. Jesus gave her to humanity when He told the Apostle John, “This is your mother.” She is mother to us all, Muslim and Christian alike.

I think her love is the bridge that will one day bring us together.

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Book Review: The Cross and Gendercide

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It is not often that I read a book that I could have written.

It’s even more rare when I read a book that is somewhat similar to one that I intend to write.

But that is what happened when I read The Cross and Gendercide, A Theological Response to the Global Violence Against Women and Girls.

I have devoted much of my adult life, beginning when I was barely out of my teens and going right through to this afternoon, to two majors issues: The way we treat our elderly, and a search for an end to violence against women.

Elizabeth Gerhardt, the author of The Cross and Gendercide, sounds like my sister from another mother. The differences between us are obvious, of course. She’s an academician/theologian and an administrator of shelters to protect and help women who are victims of violence. I have worked almost exclusively through the political arena.

She evidently has clung to her Christian faith throughout her career. I, on the other hand, left Christianity and God altogether for most of my early adulthood. My reason, ironically enough, was violence against women.

That leads me directly to the subject of Dr Gerhard’s book. I walked out of Christianity and spent around 17 years seething with anger toward Christ and his followers precisely because of the indifference and often the hostility I witnessed within the church toward women who were victims of violence. In particular, I was almost destroyed spiritually by the response I saw in one church toward a rape victim.

Dr Gerhard approaches this topic from a more scholarly perspective than I can muster. Even today, that old rage kicks off when I think about these things.

I think Dr Gerhard’s more measured approach is needed. But I also know from experience that my take-no-prisoners way of doing things has its place is this fight, as well. We are agreed on the topic of her book. The Church does not have an adequate theological response to violence against women. And that adequate theology is not difficult to find. It is right in front of every Christian in the cross of Calvary.

There is a reason why victims of human trafficking cry for hours after seeing The Passion of the Christ. The God they encounter in that movie is a God Who can understand them.

Watching Jesus being reduced to an object and then beaten, tortured and murdered resonates with them in a way that it does not with people who have never experience these things themselves. The cross changes God from a frowning figurehead off in the distance into a brother God Who understands and shares their anguish in a way that goes beyond words and does not need them.

Through the miracle of salvation, Christ dignifies their own dehumanization and lifts them out of the shame and loss of self that scars them.

That is the miracle of the cross. It is the message of Christianity.

The other miracle, and one which the Church ignores at its peril, is that these women from all over the world, including our own neighborhoods, who are victims of savage violence are our Jesus. They are Christ crucified, right in front of us. If we ignore them, we ignore Him.

That also is the miracle of the cross. It also is the message of Christianity.

I didn’t see this for a long time, for two reasons. First, I sought solutions in creating social responses such as rape crisis centers, and in changing laws. Second, I had x-ed both God and the church off my list of possible allies. I believed they did not care about violence against women, that in many circumstances, they promoted it.

My conversion experience was mostly an encounter with the living God. It was not intellectual. But it forced me to reconsider almost everything in my life, which was, many times, a deeply thoughtful and prayerful process. The first thing I had to learn is that my understanding of the nature of God and especially my understanding of His reaction to violence against women was wrong.

I learned, through prayer mostly, the depths of God’s love for womankind. I also learned the degree of depravity that violence against women really is. To call it a human rights violation does not touch it. Our God is Jesus Christ, Who was born of a woman. Everything that is human about Him came from His mother. She is the only human being who has ever or who ever will be elevated to the status of Queen of Heaven.

Violence against women is a direct sin against Our Lady.

After decades of starting organizations and passing laws and still encountering violence against women and indifference to that violence at every turn, I had a sort of epiphany. I had been too angry to see it before. In fact, it took me a long time to be able to think about it at all. And that epiphany was simply that the Church owes Jesus and Mary more than they have given where violence against women is concerned.

The victims of egregious denial of their basic human rights change from clime to clime. The group of people singled out to suffer varies from one location to the next. But no matter where you go, the one group who always has a firm grip on second place, and who is always subjected to violence and degradation of many sorts, is girls and women.

Women are bought and sold, marketed like chattel, all over the globe. With the crime against humanity that is egg harvesting, their bodies are harvested to be sold on the internet. With surrogacy, their bodies are rented out as incubators. With prostitution, trafficking and porn, they are sold and used as if they were appliances.

Women are subject to the most brutal violence imaginable in every country in the world. Women must fear being attacked for no reason wherever they go.

This is not random violence. It is a universal, global, culturally-sanctioned human rights violation that in terms of scale, persistence and ubiquity outweighs all others.

Where is the Christian outrage over violence against women? I’m not talking about a few seminars and a couple of tut-tut speeches scattered around. Where is the Christian response to this degradation of half the human race that the Cross demands?

The Church cannot sit idly by while Christ is crucified over and over again in His sisters all around this globe of ours. The Church does not dare be silent when Our Lady is degraded by this degradation of the female.

The Church needs to stand up on the whole issue of violence against women. Violence against women is a historic, endemic, universal human rights violation that spans humanity from dateline to dateline, pole to pole. It is the universal human rights violation of humanity.

The Cross and Gendercide raises the serious question of how we should develop a theology against violence against women. The author correctly points us to the cross in our search for this theology.

The Cross and Gendercide is is well worth reading. I recommend it.

 

 

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Evangelizing the World Begins with Protecting Your Kids

Pope Francis has called us to evangelize the world.

Jesus Christ also called us to evangelize the world.

That is our Great Commission as believing Christians.

It requires us to go out into the world wearing our faith on our sleeves. It means that we will have to consign ourselves to the barbs and slings that certain folk aim at Christians who stand for Christ. It is a call to give up the cheap grace of hiding our light under a bushel and to stand upright and live our love for Jesus out loud and in public.

I am not talking about becoming the mirror image of the atheist boor who goes around verbally assaulting and insulting Christians for entertainment and sport. We are not called to force our beliefs on those who will not hear them.

Our call is something much more difficult. We are called to live as if we believe what we say we believe and to do what Jesus told us to do in every aspect of our lives. That means we don’t lie, steal, cheat to get ahead. It means we practice personal chastity and sexual cleanliness. It means we do not defame, slander or try to destroy those who disagree with us, even when they do their best to defame, slander and destroy us.

It means that we study the faith so that we stand ready to, as Paul instructed, give a good report of what we have believed. It means we must know our faith and are always willing to talk about it in a positive and faith-filled way.

But there is one thing it does not mean. It does not mean that we throw our children to the secular and anti-Christian wolves when they are unformed babies. By that I mean specifically the schools where they spend most of their waking hours.

I hate saying this, hate worse that I think it’s true, but the schools have become a means of indoctrinating our children into a worldview that is not only anti-Christian, but is in many ways, anti-child. Consider this, this, thisthis and this.

Do you really want your children going to schools whose sex ed courses hand out chemical birth control and give lectures on how any sexual behavior is “normal?” Do you want your daughters taking the morning after pill like candy? Do you want your kids confused with “gender identity” lectures?

And I’m not even talking about the other kids, coming from their messed up homes and the bullying and cruelty that, based on my experience when my kids went to the public schools, is ignored and allowed. There are kids who can manage to get through this intact. But most of them can’t. That means that the public schools, especially big city schools, are no longer a safe place to send your kids if you are a Christian who wants your children to grow up with Christian values.

Add to that the fact that the public schools do not provide a good education for everyone. Public education is at least two-tiered. We have the schools in the “right” neighborhoods where the best teachers teach, the facilities are top notch and everyone has access to all the learning equipment they could ever need. Then, we have the inner city schools where there aren’t enough textbooks for every child to have one, and, while some of the teachers have a missionary zeal, most are burnt out and just building time toward retirement.

Ironically, the parents in these inner-city schools are the ones who are least able to provide alternatives for their kids. Rich kids can always go to private schools. But inner-city kids are stuck.

Those of us who are adults need to assume an adult faith and stand up for Jesus in the larger culture. Not one of us is too precious to take a few slings and arrows for Our Lord. On the other hand, we also need to take a parallel stand for Christ by protecting our children from this toxic culture until they are old enough to engage with it without being overwhelmed by it.

We live in a bizarre world where adults run and hide, duck and cover, while they put their kids out there on the front lines. If we are going to stand for Christ, our first mission is to reverse that.

You need to stand for Christ while you simultaneously protect your child from evil influences until that child is an adult who can stand on his or her own.

The best way to illustrate this is by taking a look at the Holy Family. Joseph and Mary protected Jesus and kept Him safe throughout His childhood. They did not go around announcing “We’ve got the Son of God here! Come have a look!” They gave Him a childhood of normal time, safe and protected within His family.

Men, I want you to consider the role of Joseph. When Herod decided to kill the baby Jesus, God didn’t wake up Mary. He went to Joseph and told him to get his family out of danger.

Men, if you are not helping your wives to be the mothers to your children that those children need, then you are failing. It is your job to protect your families and keep them safe. That is why God made you strong. That is why God woke up Joseph, and not Mary, when it was time to flee into Egypt.

Women, I want you to consider the role of Mary. She is the Mother of God. The Archangel Gabriel greeted her, “Hail Mary!” which is the greeting extended to Caesars. She outranks every other human being. But her first and most important job was to deliver her baby son to adult manhood as a loved and fully-formed human being.


One of the things that amazes and touches me, as both a mother and the daughter of a mother, is that when mothers do their jobs right, their children never stop coming to them for comfort and support. Never. The safest place on earth for well-raised people is always Mama. Or, as a priest friend of mine once said, “Home is where your mother is.”

What about the single parent who doesn’t have a husband or wife to lean on? The mess we’ve made of marriage and the inability of our young people for form families of their own, has led to a whole generation of fatherless children. Mothers are stretched beyond what any one person was ever designed for. There are also some men raising their children alone.

How does a Christian single parent, who has to work full-time and who doesn’t have the money to provide choices in education or in life for their kids, manage to do it? We have one example among the Catholic Patheosi in Katrina Fernandez, The Crescat.

I think we need to support single parents in their efforts to raise Christian children. We need to help them as much as we can. Maybe God will call someone to develop a lay ministry to support children who are missing a parent and for parents who are trying to be two people. Things are in such a mess right now, that I think we need to begin by ministering to our own struggling Christian people before we move out to the rest of the world. In these trying times, Christians need ministry from other Christians.

We are called absolutely by both the Holy Father and Christ the Lord to take a stand in this life and this world for Jesus. No one should ever be in doubt that you are a Christian. None of the people who know you should have to guess that you follow a risen Lord.

But the single most important way we can do that begins, not in public, but in the safety of our own homes. Protect your children first. Whatever it costs you, protect your children.

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Seek Him this Christmas

The true meaning of Christmas.

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