Conversion Story: Anna

Anna’s beautiful conversion story that answers many questions about our faith.

Watch and be blessed.

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Valedictorian Rips Up Approved Speech, Recites Lord’s Prayer, Instead

We’re all going to have to start doing things like this.  it’s not a question of forcing someone else to follow our Lord Jesus. It’s whether or not we will allow others to stop us from following Him.

The story began when the American Civil Liberties Union managed to find time in their heavy schedule of advocating for abortion, polygamy, gay marriage and euthanasia to send threatening letters to every school district in South Carolina, warning them of possible lawsuits if they were caught praying in public. The illustrious Freedom From Religion Foundation cranked up their word processor up in Wisconsin and followed through with threats of their own.

The Pickens Country School District, which is in South Carolina, responded to these threats by ending all invocations at all school functions. They replaced the prayer at graduation exercises with a moment of silence.

Pickins County high school valedictorian Roy Costner IV dutifully wrote a secular valedictory speech, which was approved before the graduation exercises by school officials.

He began his valedictory remarks by starting to deliver the approved speech. But a few minutes into it, he tore the speech up and made extemporaneous remarks, praising his parents for teaching him his religious faith and concluding by reciting the Lord’s Prayer.

Vineoflife.netdescribes it this way:

“Those that we look up to, they have helped carve and mold us into the young adults that we are today,” he said. “I’m so glad that both of my parents led me to the Lord at a young age.”
“And I think most of you will understand when I say…” he continued, surprising the crowd with what came next.
“Our Father, who art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy name,” Costner declared. “Thy Kingdom come…”

As attendees realized that Costner was reciting the Lord’s Prayer, applause began to break out in the colliseum. Within seconds, the applause was accompanied by loud cheers.

“Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil,” he continued. “For Thine is the Kingdom and the power and the glory, forever and ever. Amen.”

The crowd again broke into cheers and applause as Costner concluded, and one faculty member sat smiling behind him.

“I think it took a lot of courage to do that,” attendee Logan Gibson told reporters. “People were supportive that he stood up for what he believed in.”

(Pickens County School District spokesman John) Eby said that the district will not be taking any action against Costner.

“The bottom line is, we’re not going to punish students for expressing their religious faiths,” he stated. “He’s a graduate now. There’s nothing we can do about it, even if we wanted to.”

I think it’s time for Christians everywhere in this country to consider doing things like this. These bullying organizations can threaten to sue individual school districts and other entities. But there are at least 180 million practicing Christians in this country who attend church on a regular basis. They can’t sue all of us.

Follow me

Mind you, I am not in any way advocating that we try to force anyone to join us. If they don’t believe, that’s their choice. If they are afraid, that’s their fear. But if you believe in Jesus and you’ve got the guts to say so, then do say so. You may get some rough treatment for saying it. But don’t be afraid of that. Anyone who reviles you for Jesus’ sake is giving you the Kingdom of Heaven. Instead of being afraid of them, you probably should thank them.

 

Angelina Jolie, the Cancer Gene and My Friend

Judge Twyla Gray sat opposite me twirling her fork in the salad on her plate. 

She had just told me that she was going to have a prophylactic double mastectomy. Twyla, who was a cancer survivor, had learned that she carried the brca gene. This gene predisposed her to breast cancer.

It had been decades since Twyla went through a lumpectomy, chemo and then radiation to treat a small cancer doctors found in one of her breasts. At the time she was diagnosed, Twyla put her considerable wits to researching her cancer and interviewing treatment specialists all around the country. She had a small child and she wanted to live.

I remember quite clearly her husband reading the summary of a pathologist’s report concerning that cancer to me. It was an aggressive form of the disease, and the pathologist’s advice was that she needed aggressive treatment. Afterwards, I talked to a doctor friend of mine who told me that based on her experience with patients, a cancer of that type would eventually come back, no matter what Twyla did.

More than 20 years later, Twyla seemed to have proven the experts wrong. Test after test, check-up after check-up, she was cancer free. Her child grew up to be a fine person. Her marriage thrived. Her career took off and she ended up a district judge.

Everything was looking good for Twyla.

Then she had genetic testing and learned she had the brca gene. She would always be vulnerable to this type of cancer, which is what led her to make the appointment for what she had dreaded for a long, long time: Mutilating surgery.

I asked her how she was a few weeks later and learned that she had backed out of the surgery. Then, a few months after that, the cancer recurred. She beat it back.

Again.

Another year passed, and it recurred.

Again.

There was no beating it back this time. She would die of this disease. The docs gave her three months, but she fought and won a small, though costly, reprieve. Twyla lived another year after she got the three month prognosis. Some of that time was good time. But she earned those good days by enduring horrible treatments.

I have wondered if it would have made any difference if she had gone ahead with that surgery. In truth, I do not know. But part of me doubts it. I think that the time bomb had been ticking away in the form of an occult cancer cell hiding in a corner of her body for all those years she was “cancer free.”

That’s the purgatory of cancer. No matter how many times a cancer survivor gets a clean scan, they know, and everyone who loves them knows, that it may not be entirely true. The cancer may be playing its little waiting game before it comes charging back.

Angelina Jolie’s Appearance is Critical to Her Career

I read week before last about Angelina Jolie’s decision to have a prophylactic double mastectomy. From what I read, it sounds as if Ms Jolie has the same gene my friend had. She has not had cancer, so maybe, just maybe, the surgery will save her.

All I know is that I am grateful to her for coming forward with the revelation that she has gone through this surgery. That can’t have been easy for a woman whose appearance and body are critiqued mercilessly every time she puts her foot outside her door.

Ms Jolie makes her living at least partly on the fantasies her audience has about her and her appearance. Prophylactic double mastectomies don’t quite fit with the sexy macho woman she plays in film. That kind of reality is part of our vulnerable human condition, not the cartoon character perfection of the characters she often plays.

It was a risk for her to share this. But it may encourage some other person (men can die of breast cancer, too, especially if they carry the brca gene) who gets the frightening news that they carry this gene the push they need to go under the knife for what can only be described as terrible surgery.

I want to add that the genetic testing to uncover this gene is expensive. Because of that, most people will not take the test. But if you have a history of cancer in your family, as Twyla did, especially if you have a history of breast cancer, it might be worth looking into.

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Eucharistic Adoration with Pope Francis

Pope Francis will share a Holy Hour with the whole Church this Sunday at 5 pm, Rome time. Has your parish set aside a time for this, and do you plan to join in?

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Pope Emeritus Benedict Returns to the Vatican


Pope Emeritus Benedict will return to the Vatican today. 

According to a CNA article, he will live in the Mater Ecclesiae Monastery, “where he will live a life of prayer and meditation. The monastery contains a chapel, a choir room, a library, a semi-basement, a terrace and a visiting room.

From CNA:

.- Benedict XVI will return to the Vatican on May 2 by helicopter, coming back the same way he left just two months ago when he resigned as Pope.

The return of a former Pope is something that has no historical precedent, making everything a new one for the Vatican’s staff.

Father Federico Lombardi, the director of the Vatican’s press office, told CNA April 30 that “there will be someone there to welcome Benedict XVI” but he is not yet sure who that will be.

The former Pope will arrive by helicopter around 4:30 or 5:00 in the afternoon, and after a brief greeting will head to the Mater Ecclesiae Monastery, where he will live a life of prayer and meditation. (Read the rest here.)

Mary’s Day

Today is May Day.

Mary’s Day.

The month of May is the month of Our Mother. I’m going to write more about this as times goes forward.

This is a video of the Litany of Mary. It’s a responsive prayer in which one person calls out one of the many names by which Mary is known and others respond by saying “Pray for Us.”

I chose this version because it’s easy for someone who is unfamiliar with the prayer to follow. All you need to do is follow along and pray the responses that are in blue.

The Litany Blessed Virgin Mary is a study in the theology of Mary’s role in the salvation of humanity as well as a prayer. She truly is the Mother of God and all that this means.

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Should Pastors Who Preach Against Gay Marriage Be Allowed to Speak at the National Day of Prayer?

Should pastors who preach against gay marriage be allowed to speak at the National Day of Prayer?

I have never attended the National Day of Prayer services here in Oklahoma. I can’t pray in public. When I have to stand for public prayer — as I often do — I don’t feel God. All I hear is the echo chamber of my own thoughts. A lot of times, if the matter is grave, I pray my own private prayer while the public prayer runs as background noise. The National Day of Prayer just isn’t my cup of tea.

I never gave the National Day of Prayer much thought until atheist cranks started trying to make it illegal. Then I realized that while I don’t attend because it’s not my personal religious flavor, I do think that it’s up to Congress, and not a smattering of nobody-can-do-anything-I-don’t-agree-with zealots whether such an event should happen.

So, if the topic is the National Day of Prayer, my reaction is going to be along the direction that those who want to have this day can have it rather than anything based on my personal plans to participate. I don’t intend to change my plans for this year’s National Day of Prayer. I won’t attend the event. However, if the cranks keep on cranking, I may change my mind and show up next year, not for prayer so much as for solidarity with my Christian brothers and sisters.

Once again, the war is being forced upon us.

This year’s National Day of Prayer is receiving flak from a new quarter. Rather than just the usual atheist crankery aimed at driving Christianity from the public square, we now have the LGBTQ crowd. They don’t want to end the event. They want to chose who leads it.

The Human Rights Campaign is seeking to stop participation by a pastor who has preached against gay marriage, or, as they call it, “equality.” They are asking that Pastor Greg Laurie not be allowed to lead the event.

So, the question arises: Should pastors who preach against gay marriage be allowed to speak at the National Day of Prayer? 

As nutty as it sounds, the Human Rights Campaign, seems to say no.

Their reason is that he says things like this:

“Sin is sin,” he said during the Thursday night Bible study at Harvest Orange County in Southern California.

Laurie addressed the “hot-button” issues of homosexuality and marriage while preaching on the fifth commandment of honoring one’s father and mother.

“It doesn’t say honor your mother and mother as in two women married, or honor your father and your father, or honor your mother and her live-in lover,” he said.

“God established the family … He and He alone defines the family. Maybe that’s why Satan hates the family so much and has effectively declared war on it because God loves the family.

“Tamper with God’s formula, if you will, at our own peril.”

Like many pastors who have spoken on the issue of marriage, Laurie said the issue is not political, but rather moral and biblical. (Read the rest here.)

I do not understand why gay people seem to be so blind to the fact that the same rights which allow them to promote their cause belong to everyone.

Some leaders in gay rights organizations seem committed to a program of harassment and hazing of anyone who disagrees with them. At the same time, they appear to be equally committed to creating a world where those who refuse to participate in gay marriages will lose their jobs and have their businesses closed down.

Now it appears they want to make sure that those who speak against gay marriage are locked out of public events.

The question remains: Should pastors who preach against gay marriage be allowed to speak at the National Day of Prayer? 

From C.P. US:

Homosexual activists are labeling evangelist Greg Laurie as the “anti-gay California pastor” and are asking government officials to rescind Laurie’s invitation to lead National Day of Prayer-related events in Washington, D.C. as the event’s honorary chairman.

The Human Rights Campaign, the largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) advocacy group in America, contends that Laurie has a history of speaking out against LGBT Americans. And OutServe-SLDN, an association of actively serving LGBT military personnel, is calling on the Pentagon to remove the pastor from the agenda, citing “his blatantly anti-LGBT message.”

“Pastor Laurie’s message is out of step with what the majority of people of faith across this country believe,” said Dr. Sharon Groves, director of HRC’s Religion & Faith Program.

“In greater numbers than ever before, people of faith are feeling compelled to speak up and organize for equality – because of their faith.” (Read the rest here.)

Pope Francis Calls for Release of Kidnapped Orthodox Bishops

Pope Francis called for the release of two Syrian bishops who were kidnapped earlier this week.

Greek Orthodox Bishop Boulos Yaziji and Syriac Orthodox Bishop Yohanna Ibrahim were on a humanitarian mission to negotiate the release of people who had been kidnapped earlier. They were attacked and kidnapped. Their driver was killed.

Reports circulated later that the bishops had been released, but they proved to be untrue. The fate of the archbishops appears to be unknown.

From Daily News:

Pope calls for release of Syria bishops

VATICAN CITY 

Bishop Yaziji of the Greek Orthodox Church (L) and Ibrahim of the Syrian Orthodox Church were kidnapped in the northern province of Aleppo. AP photo

Pope Francis called yesterday for the release of two Syrian bishops kidnapped by gunmen near Aleppo after a Christian group appeared to retract its claim that the clerics had been freed.Aleppo’s Greek Orthodox Bishop Boulos Yaziji and Syriac OrthodoxBishop Yohanna Ibrahim were kidnapped on April 22 by armed men en route from the Turkish border. Speaking to an audience of around 100,000 at the Vatican, Francis said there were “contradictory reports” about the fate of the bishops and asked that “they be returned quickly to their communities.” On April 23, the “Oeuvre d’Orient” Christian association announced that the bishops had been released, but it backed away from the claim yesterday. “Yesterday evening we received information from the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate questioning the release of the two bishops,” said Catherine Baumont, a spokeswoman for the group, which works to help Middle Eastern Christians. (Read more here.)

Pope Francis to People of Boston: “Resolve Not to be Overcome by Evil.”

I have no words. 

It’s really as simple as that. These tragedies that keep pounding our nation’s heart, one after the dreadful next, leave me speechless. It happens that way every time. I learn of it, and, confronted by such senseless evil, I have no words.

Fortunately, the Holy Father was able to find words for all of us. Pope Francis sent a telegram to Cardinal O’Malley of Boston in which he gave the only advice Christians need at these times — “resolve not to be overcome by evil.” 

How do we “not be overcome by evil.” What good does a “resolve” of this kind do us?

The truth is we can’t fail to be overcome by evil if all we do is try to handle it under our on strength. Evil is stronger than we are. It can and will shatter us like crystal if we try to resist its destructive force by our own power, through our own understanding and our own will. Evil will break you every time if you fight it alone. It will leave you bitter, angry, hate-filled and self-righteous. Evil, of itself, has no redeeming qualities.

It is only when evil is filtered through the prism of the cross that it becomes light instead of darkness. Evil, suffering, senseless cruelty and death take on a new dimension when we view them through the light of eternity. In truth, there is no death. There is nothing so senseless that the suffering, death and resurrection of Christ does not give it meaning.

“Resolve not to be overcome by evil,” the Holy Father tells us and I would guess by “resolve” he means to give our fear, anger, hate, rage, and in many cases, our blinded numbness to the One Who has defeated evil once and for all. We are not chained to our grief. All we have to do is realize that and walk forward from it.

Pray for the people of Boston, and for this country. Pray and trust God. Know that the dead did not die and that Jesus is Lord always, and everywhere.

From Vatican Radio:

The full text of the telegram is below

His Eminence Cardinal Sean O’Malley 
Archbishop of Boston

Deeply grieved by news of the loss of life and grave injuries caused by the act of violence perpetrated last evening in Boston, His Holiness Pope Francis wishes me to assure you of his sympathy and closeness in prayer. In the aftermath of this senseless tragedy, His Holiness invokes God’s peace upon the dead, his consolation upon the suffering and his strength upon all those engaged in the continuing work of relief and response. At this time of mourning the Holy Father prays that all Bostonians will be united in a resolve not to be overcome by evil, but to combat evil with good (cf. Rom 12:21), working together to build an ever more just, free and secure society for generations yet to come.

Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone
Secretary of State

Divine Mercy, Post Birth Abortion, Morning After Pills for Little Girls, Gay Marriage, Polyamory, Sequesters, Unending Undeclared Wars and Us

Sunday is Divine Mercy Sunday.

Divine Mercy Sunday is based on the visions of St Faustina and was instituted by Pope John Paul II.

There is a Divine Mercy Novena which you can pray in the week and a half before the feast. Lent, Holy Week, Easter and Divine Mercy Sunday all come during the busy time of the year for me, which is what I blame for the fact that I have forgotten to start this Novena in time every. single. year. It might be due to the fact that I am, as one commenter accused me of being, “a lukewarm Catholic.” But I kinda doubt it. I think I forget it because I’m an absent-minded Catholic with a lot on her plate.

My excuses don’t change the fact that Divine Mercy is an opportunity for a spiritual deep-cleaning that no one should miss. I’m not going to try to explain Divine Mercy Sunday because I couldn’t find anything I could link to that was simple, clear-cut and authoritative. I’ve read the Apostolic Decree establishing the feast, as well as clarifications from the Vatican to the United States Conference of Bishops, but I don’t feel comfortable laying down a 1-2-3 list for other people to follow.

Here is what I do feel I can say. The fount of Jesus’ mercy is opened to us in a more thorough way if we will got to confession (I’ve read that going to confession during Lent suffices) and then take communion on Divine Mercy Sunday. Jesus promised through his saints that we would receive a total remission of our sins on this day, something akin to what we received at our baptism. The important things (to me at least) are a willingness to face our own sinfulness and seek forgiveness in confession and then to unite ourselves with the risen Christ in the eucharist.

I am not speaking for anyone else but myself here. I am certainly not quoting Church authorities, but I don’t think Christ gave us this great gift of Divine Mercy just to save ourselves. I think it is also a way of equipping us spiritually to go forth and proclaim the Good News by how we live, what we say and to whomever we meet. 

We are, all of us, as God told Abraham, “blessed to be a blessing.”

So what does this have to do with post birth abortion, morning after pills for little girls, gay marriage, polyamory, sequesters, unending undeclared wars and us? For that matter, what do we have to do with anything on that list?

William Butler Yeats wrote in The Second Coming:

Turning and turning in the widening gyre

The falcon cannot hear the falconer;

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;

Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,

The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere

The ceremony of innocence is drowned;

The best lack all conviction, while the worst

Are full of passionate intensity.

The falcon cannot hear the falconer.

We are the falcon and Christ is the falconer. We live in a world whose center cannot hold. Our job — our seemingly impossible job — is to be light in a world that loves the darkness, craves death and hates the truth. We cannot be the light if we are ourselves part of the darkness. No matter how talented, sincere or dedicated we are, we can not be the light of Christ in a blackened world if we are still in love with our own sins. We delude ourselves if we think that.

Divine Mercy Sunday is a day when the sacrifice of Calvary and the reality of the Resurrection unite in one great gift of complete forgiveness for those who are willing to seek and accept it. It is a gift to us. It is also a way of blessing us, so that we can become a blessing.


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