Praying the Divine Mercy Novena in a Time of Christian Persecution

Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons, public domain

Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons, public domain

I am not going to write about this week’s events until after Easter. But I do want to make one small point.

The nasty reaction to an Indiana law that would provide religious freedom underscores that we live in a post Christian America. That fact should not frighten us. It is an opportunity for us to serve the Lord in meaningful ways. We can stand for Jesus in these times and actually suffer for having done it. That is not a curse. It is a gift.

This situation fits the meaning and the purpose of the Divine Mercy Novena extremely well. Jesus gave the Divine Mercy Novena to Saint Faustina in the years before World War II. St Faustina was an unknown Polish nun.

The point of the Divine Mercy is that Jesus’ mercy towards us knows no bounds. It is Him, reaching out to us through this humble nun to try to tell us that He is always ready to forgive us, that His mercy is available to anyone who will accept it.

The Divine Mercy chaplet, Divine Mercy novena and Divine Mercy Sunday are all manifestations of that plea from our blessed Lord to accept His mercy before it is too late. Biblical prophecies are coming true at fast clip these days, beginning with the founding of the State of Israel. I am not equipped to comment on end times prophecies. In truth, I don’t think it matters. We are each of us hurtling toward our own end of days every moment we live.

Christ Jesus offers us mercy in the face of our depravations. That is the meaning of Holy Week. Christ’s Passion, his death on the cross, which we remember today, are an expression of the depth of His love for us, and His mercy towards us.

As we ponder the horrible events on Calvary, we must always remember that this is the price God paid for our salvation. This is how much He loves us.

The Divine Mercy is another gift of love to us. It is a way of underscoring once again that we, like the thief of the cross, can find salvation and eternal life at any time, in any extremity, no matter what we have done. The eleventh hour and 59 minutes is not too late to accept Christ’s mercy. The last moments of life are not too late.

But what a waste of good living and happiness — not to mention the danger of not doing it, ever — it would be to play brinksmanship with our eternal lives. My pastor said in a homily that when we die, someone will say to us: You belong to me. We get to chose who that will be. When you die, will you meet Jesus and have Him say, “You belong to me?” Or, will it be satan? The choice is yours, and you make it now, in this life.

The Divine Mercy novena is a series of prayers in which we take those who need His mercy before the throne of God in prayer.

Today is the first day of the Novena. We pray on this day for all of suffering humankind. The world is dying for lack of Christ. The satan in people’s hearts manifests itself in attacking Christians the world over. We are no longer safe from discrimination and even violent persecution for our faith here in America.

Our world bleeds on this Good Friday. It is dripping away its life blood from a thousand self-inflicted cuts. There is one answer for this, one Way out of the abyss of hatred and violence. It is the shed blood of Jesus Christ, the blood of the Lamb of God, guarding our hearts against that day when we will stand on the threshold of eternity and someone says to us “You belong to me.”

Please pray the Divine Mercy Novena today. Pray for the whole human race, which is dying for lack of His love.

First Day
Today bring to Me all mankind, especially all sinners,

and immerse them in the ocean of My mercy. In this way you will console Me in the bitter grief into which the loss of souls plunges Me.”

Most Merciful Jesus, whose very nature it is to have compassion on us and to forgive us, do not look upon our sins but upon our trust which we place in Your infinite goodness. Receive us all into the abode of Your Most Compassionate Heart, and never let us escape from It. We beg this of You by Your love which unites You to the Father and the Holy Spirit.

Eternal Father, turn Your merciful gaze upon all mankind and especially upon poor sinners, all enfolded in the Most Compassionate Heart of Jesus. For the sake of His sorrowful Passion show us Your mercy, that we may praise the omnipotence of Your mercy for ever and ever. Amen.



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Pope Francis: Our Brothers and Sisters are Shedding Their Blood.


Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by thierry ehrmann

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by thierry ehrmann

“Our brothers and sisters are shedding their blood only because they are Christians.”

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14 Dead in Terrorist Bombings of Pakistani Churches

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by ResoluteSupportMedia

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by ResoluteSupportMedia

Fourteen people are dead and at least 78 people were injured in deadly terrorist bombings of two Christian churches in Pakistan. One of the Churches was Catholic the other protestant.

Churches in Pakistan have been forced to post guards during Church services because of the threat of violence against Christians in that country. One of the guards, spotted the suicide bomber, trying to enter the Catholic Church and tried to stop him. This forced the terrorist to detonate the bomb before entering the church. This saved many lives.

At Christ Church, guard Zahid Goga confronted the bomber, but was shot in the head by the bomber’s accomplice.

Pakistani Christians took to the streets in mass demonstrations following the attacks.

According to news reports, this particular slaughter of unarmed Christian civilians was the work of the Taliban. Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, a faction of the Pakistan Taliban has claimed responsibility for the murders. He says that the Taliban plans to carry out similar attacks in the future.

There has been little coverage of these attacks in the mainstream media.

From Catholic Herald:

Although the incident has been condemned by Pakistan’s Prime Minister, President and the majority of politicians, and compensation has been announced for the dead and injured, this is not enough,” he said.

Christians are constantly under attack, especially with their churches and colonies being attacked under the cover of blasphemy accusations, and sometimes by Taliban and extremists. Christians are living under constant fear for their lives and many have fled the country.

I believe these attacks are sustained attempts to force Christians out of Pakistan.”

There is a constant demand to provide security to Christians and even the Supreme Court of Pakistan has ordered security to be provided to them, but the government has not done anything about it, Mr Saeed continued.

I would like to salute to the bravery and sacrifice of Zahid Goga who martyred himself to save hundreds of faithful who were worshiping in church. I also salute the bravery of the policeman who was killed at Catholic church in his attempt to stop the attacker,” he said.

Mr Saeed added that the government had failed to provide justice to Christians in light of previous attacks.

From Voice of America:

Hundreds of Pakistan’s minority Christians rallied in the eastern city of Lahore, blocking roads and shouting slogans in a second day of protests against twin suicide bombings outside two churches in the city that left 15 people dead.

Hundreds of police were deployed to the area Monday as Christian schools were closed for the funeral services for the victims.

Seventy people were wounded Sunday in the attacks when two gunmen tried to shoot their way into the churches during services in the majority-Christian Lahore suburb of Youhanabad. When security guards stopped them at the gates, the attackers detonated explosives.

After the attack, angry Christian mobs blocked highways, ransacked a bus station and killed two people they suspected of being involved in the attacks.

A militant group allied to the Pakistani Taliban has claimed responsibility for the blasts.

Pakistan Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan denounced the bombings as an “inhumane act” and said terrorists are hitting soft targets like churches and mosques in utter desperation following increased military action against them.


Members of the Taliban launched suicide bombings against a Catholic church and a Protestant church in Pakistan, leaving at least 14 dead.

Arriving at the bombed church in the afternoon, Archbishop Sebastian Shah of Lahore complained, “The government has failed to protect us.” The bishop said that Christians have pleaded for protection, warning of impending attacks, to no avail. He praised the members of the congregation who had blocked the terrorists from entering the church, at the cost of their own lives, describing them as martyrs. “We are already on the road to Calvary,” the archbishop said.

Later the Pakistani bishps’ conference issued a statement deploring the bombing and calling upon all of the people of Pakistan to “stand alongside their Christian brothers and sisters, against extremist forces.” The statement demanded “extraordinary measures” by the government to protect religious minorities, and instructed Christians to “avoid violence and to cooperate with the police in their investigations.”

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ISIS Plans Video Release About the Fate of Kidnapped Christian Civilians

Martyrs Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Willstephe Vaho

Martyrs Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Willstephe Vaho

Reports indicated that ISIS release a video today concerning the 150 Christians civilians they have kidnapped.

Assyrian Human Rights Network says that the video will contain threats to kill the defenseless people. First reports put the number at 90 kidnapped Christians, but the number has now risen to 150.

“They are facing death, people are unarmed, they are peaceful. And they need help, they are just left alone — no one’s protecting them,” said Osama Edward, founder of Assyrian Human Rights Network.

Original reports said that 90 Christians had been taken prisoner by ISIS. But the number is now 150.

From New York Daily News:

The Islamic State militants who stormed Assyrian Christian villages in northeastern Syria before dawn on Monday took substantially more hostages than previously thought, and the terrorist group will release a video message on Wednesday threatening to kill the defenseless civilians, according to the Assyrian Human Rights Network.

Despite initial reports that ISIS abducted between 70 and 100 Christians during the night raids on villages along the Khabur River near the city of Tal Tamr in the Hassakeh province, the founder of the rights group, Osama Edward, told CNN his organization’s ground-level now sources place the number of hostages at 150.

The video, which Edward said will be directed to President Obama and other world leaders whose countries have joined the fight against ISIS, will warn that the Assyrians could face the same fate as the 21 Coptic Christians from Egypt that ISIS militants beheaded in a video released earlier this month.

“Maybe they are facing the same destiny. That’s why we call on all over the world, like the U.S, Europe, coalition forces — protect Assyrians, save Assyrians in Syria,” Edward said on CNN.

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If You Get Real with God. He Will Get Real with You.

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by pcstratman

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by pcstratman

Corrie ten Boom called it dying grace.

St Paul referred to it as “the peace that passes all understanding.”

I have described it as a bell jar that was over me, protecting me.

It is the grace of God, and it comes to us when we need it to do His will.

There are many caveats about this grace, none of which I’ve read in books, but which I’ve learned by walking with Christ.

First, you don’t get this grace when you don’t need it. Dying grace is for the dying. The peace that passes all understanding is for times when you’re in such deep trouble that peace of any sort would confound. The bell jar was for a time when I was being attacked while trying to pass pro life legislation.

The elements I’ve observed about this big-time, empowering grace are that (1) It is not given just because you ask for it, because, say, the hot water tank broke and flooded the floor, (2) It is given when you need it and (3) It is given when you need it to do His will, and (4) You can count on it on those times.

Dying grace comes to the dying; not those who are twenty years from dying and hypering themselves into a panic over what will happen one day.

The peace that passes all understanding comes when you are faced with that which cannot be borne without the grace of God.

The bell jar came to me — unbidden, I might add — when I was gritting my teeth to bull dog my way through doing His will, no matter what.

Dying grace/the peace that passes all understanding/the bell jar are a function of the deepest humility there is: When you are on your knees before the cross with the full knowledge of your unworthiness.

If you want to follow Jesus, you need to be ready to find yourself in situations where you need this grace. Because they will come.

How do you get ready for situations where you face anger, gossip, slander, loss of livelihood, even death, attacks, and unfathomable terror as the price of your faithfulness to the Lord?

The Bible tells us quite clearly how we do this. The message is repeated all through it.

You reject burnt offerings, a broken and contrite heart you will accept. King David prayed that when he was lost in sin. We pray the same words every Lent.

But do we “get” what the words are telling us?

Jesus told the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector who went to pray. The Pharisee in the story stands for every holier-than-thou-sure-of-their-own-righteousness person in the world today. The tax collector stands in for the drug dealers, corporatists, rapists, murderers, adulterers, Christian bashers, abortionists, pornographers, bribe-taking officials — the in-your-face sinners among us.

The Pharisee stood before God and pointed to the tax collector. I thank you that I am not like that sinner, he prayed. The tax collector bowed down before God in misery because of his remorse for his sins and prayed Have mercy on me, a sinner. 

Jesus made it clear that the tax collector, not the Pharisee, went home that day justified before God.

You reject burnt offerings which means, among other things, all the good works we are so proud of and the goodness we see in ourselves. A broken and contrite heart you will accept, meaning, among other things, genuine sorrow for the things we’ve done to hurt other people.

When we get to heaven, I think the biggest surprise may be who else shows up. There is a universal (as in, I do it too) impulse to justify and understand our own sins while condemning without mercy those of other people. But if you stand before God, clothed in the garments of your own self-annointed righteousness, the Scriptures tell us that you will be clothed in filthy rags rather than heavenly garments.

Twenty-one Christians died proclaiming their faith in Christ on a beach in Libya a couple of weeks ago. Christians live the hell of violent persecution throughout that region of the world. Christian girls are sold into sex slavery, which, in my opinion, is a much deeper and more hideous martyrdom than the one those men suffered on the beach. If I had to chose, I would chose the beach over sex slavery any day.

How do they keep their faith? How do they find the grace to proclaim Jesus in those circumstances? How does a parent whose daughter has been taken, whose son has been beheaded, find the grace to continue their walk with Christ?

The answer is, they don’t. That grace comes from God. We don’t create it or deserve it. It is given to us, like eternal life, out of His love for us.

But what of those who stumble? What of those who recant their faith and “convert” to Islam to save their lives? What of those who wet their pants in terror and cry for their mamas? What of those who fall into the alone of being helpless in the hands of human monsters and crack apart, unable to pull themselves back from the horror?

Does God stop loving them?

Are we called to punish them?

The answers are no, and no.

There is another grace that comes to believers, and it is the grace of forgiveness. It isn’t so flashy as dying grace/the peace that passes all understanding/bell jar grace. But it is the their forerunner.

If you want grace that will see you through you personal apocalypse, you have to begin by living the graces of ordinary life. Perhaps the first and foremost grace we should consider in this Lenten season is the grace of forgiveness.

Lent is not just about going to confession and getting yourself cleaned up from your sins. It is not just about no meat on Fridays and “doing” the stations of the cross. Lent is also, and most painfully for just about all of us, about forgiving.

Look into your hearts this Lent, and if there is someone who is like a running sore in your life, someone who has wronged you and hurt you and who perhaps continues to hurt you, take a moment and pray for them. Ask God to be merciful to them and take care of them. You will be amazed what this will do for you. You pray for them, and God gives to you, as well.

If you want dying grace/the peace that passes all understanding/bell jar grace when you need it, you have to do the little things now. If you cannot do them in love, then do them in obedience.

Practice forgiveness this Lent. Even if you don’t show up for the Stations and you forget and eat chicken salad instead of tuna salad on Friday, remember to pray for those who persecute you and use you unjustly. Ask God to take the beam of resentment, self-righteousness and self-pity out of your eye. Do that instead of obsessing over whether or not you hit your head on the cabinet and took the Lord’s name in vain.

Get real with God. If you do that, believe me, He will get real with you.


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Coptic Christians of Egypt and Their Long History of Persecution

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Maggu

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Maggu

This video is from January, 2014. At that time, the Muslim Brotherhood was subjecting the Copts to violent discrimination, including kidnapping their women and girls, selling them into sex slavery, or forced marriages in which they are “converted” to Islam.

Two weeks ago, 21 Coptic Christian men were beheaded in a ritualized manner by ISIS. Before they died, these martyrs to the faith proclaimed their faith in Christ.

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Would Die for Your Ashes? Cardinal Wuerl Reflects on Modern Christian Martyrs

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston

Cardinal Wuerl delivered a powerful homily on the present-day Christian martyrs yesterday.

“We can go out those doors with ashes on our forehead … however … there are parts of the world where that will just as well be a death certificate,” he said.

“There are parts of the world where Christians are regularly martyred. Where their churches are destroyed, their homes burned, their children sold into slavery.

“The first thing we owe our brothers and sisters is a sense of solidarity with them. If they suffer, we should feel that suffering. And we owe them our prayerful support, but we also owe them our voice.

“It has gone on for the longest time, because of the silence. The silence of the world community, the silence of all of us in the face of this extraordinary violence against the Gospel of Jesus Christ”

These are powerful words, but I think we should go a lot further than they ask. We should — at the least — speak often of Christian martyrdom and Christian persecution. We should agitate to allow Christians who are being persecuted to seek asylum in this country. We should gather together in prayer services for persecuted Christians around the world.

We should write about these martyrs. Pray for them. Pray to them. Help the survivors. And get serious with our elected officials who don’t get the message. We are Americans. Our government is us. That means we have immense power to change things, if we will work together, and if we can keep our focus and not lose interest because of the next sensation.

We must not forget our brothers and sisters in Christ who are suffering and dying for His Name. Remembering is the least, the smallest thing, that we can do.

From Catholic News Agency:

.- Catholics owe solidarity, prayer and a voice against injustice to their fellow Christians being martyred and persecuted around the world, Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, D.C., stressed on Ash Wednesday.

“(W)e can go out those doors with ashes on our forehead” as a public display of faith, the cardinal said. However, “(t)here are parts of the world where that will just as well be a death certificate.”

Cardinal Wuerl spoke at the end of his Ash Wednesday Mass at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle in Washington, D.C.

Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the penitential season of Lent which culminates in the Easter Triduum – Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday – followed by the celebration of Easter Sunday and the ensuing Easter Season.

On Ash Wednesday, Mass attendees may receive ashes on their forehead in the sign of a cross, to signify penance and the remembrance of human morality.

Focusing on the reality of Christian persecution in many parts of the world. Cardinal Wuerl pointed to Nigeria, India, Syria, Iraq and the Holy Land as particular areas of concern.

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Bromance Between President Obama and Indian Prime Minister: Why?

It appears that there’s a budding bromance between India’s Prime Minister and President Barack Obama.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi greeted our president at the airport with a big bear hug and then went on to describe the “chemistry” and “strong friendship” between himself and President Obama.

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons. Image Courtesy Neandra Modi.

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons. Image Courtesy Neandra Modi.

Prime Minister Modi is leader of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which is described as the Hindu nationalist party. His election raised fears that he would  undermine religious freedom in India.

He was banned from entry to the United States for several years because of his connection to religious-based, sectarian violence, in particular the Gujarat riots of 2002. He was also the subject of a Congressional resolution asking the president to continue the ban on his entry into the United States.

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons. Official White House Photo.

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons. Official White House Photo.

As always with politics, it’s wise to look at these displays of affection between two people who do not know one another and who carry the power of heads of state with a critical eye. How does Prime Minister Modi stand to benefit from his bromance with our president?

I’m not in any way criticizing President Obama for making this trip to India. World leaders need to talk, and for better or worse, Narendra Modi is now a world leader.

But I want Public Catholic readers to think past the superficial headlines to the real political reasons underneath them.


Update: President Obama ended his visit to India by pledging 4 billion dollars in investments and loans to help “tap” India’s “potential.”

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The Faith of Persecuted Christians


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Haters Gonna Hate: Christian Ministers Forced to Perform Gay Marriage or Face Jail Time


Photo Source: Catholic News Agency

Remember the lies?

Gay marriage would not lead to polygamy, they said. But before gay marriage is even fully out of the gate, the court movement to legalize polygamy is afoot. 

Gay marriage will never lead to ministers being forced to perform gay marriage wedding services, they told us. Well, so much for that one, too.

David and Evelyn Knapp, ordained ministers of the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel, have been told by Coeur d’Alene’s city officials that, due to their refusal to perform a gay wedding, they may face up to 180 days in jail and $1,000 in fines for each day they do not perform gay wedding services.

A lawsuit filed on the minister’s behalf by the Alliance Defending Freedom, says in part:

If the Knapps refuse to perform one same-sex ceremony for one week, they risk going to jail for over three years and being fined $7,000. If the Knapps refuse to perform one same-sex ceremony for 30 days, they risk going to jail for over 14 years and being fined $30,000. If the Knapps refuse to perform one same-sex ceremony for a year, they risk going to jail for 180 years and being fined $365,000.

The city is taking the legal position that the couple’s wedding chapel, which is called the Hitching Post Lakeside Chapel, is a “place of accommodation” that would is subject to the city’s anti-discrimination ordinance.

That’s kind of rich since the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel is a denomination going with over 8,000,000 members worldwide. There are 1,875 Foursquare Gospel churches here in the United States alone.

The legal basis for this contention seems to hang on the thread that the Hitching Post Chapel is incorporated as a “religious corporation limited to performing one-man-one-woman marriages as defined by the Holy Bible.” According to Fox News Radio, the Hitching Post Chapel is a for-profit corporation.

I do not know if Idaho law has a discreet entity called a “religious corporation” in its statutes, or, if it does, what that means. I do know that the City of Coeur d’Alene called these two ministers. Again, according to Fox News Radio, the city attorney claims that even ordained ministers whose church teachings do not allow gay marriage will be required to perform gay marriages.

I think it’s telling that two days after the Ninth Circuit issued an order allowing same-sex marriages, in Idaho, Pastors David and Evelyn Knapp received a phone call from the city advising them they had to perform gay marriages.

David and Evelyn Knapp are ministers who were ordained by a legitimate denomination.

According to the Gay Christian Movement Watch, here is the International Church of the Four Square Gospel’s teaching on the matter:

The Biblical record shows that sexual union was established exclusively within the context of male-female relationship and formalized in the ordinance of marriage. In the New Testament, the oneness of male and female in marriage pictures the relationship between Christ and His Church. . . . The Scriptures identify the practice of homosexuality as a sin that, if persisted in, brings grave consequences in this life and excludes one from the Kingdom of God.

The facade of lies in support of gay marriage is falling down, and it’s doing it quickly.

From The Daily Signal:

For years, those in favor of same-sex marriage have argued that all Americans should be free to live as they choose. And yet in countless cases, the government has coerced those who simply wish to be free to live in accordance with their belief that marriage is the union of a man and a woman.

Ministers face a 180-day jail term and $1,000 fine for each day they decline to celebrate the same-sex wedding.

Just this weekend, a case has arisen in Idaho, where city officials have told ordained ministers they have to celebrate same-sex weddings or face fines and jail time.

The Idaho case involves Donald and Evelyn Knapp, both ordained ministers, who run Hitching Post Wedding Chapel. Officials from Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, told the couple that because the city has a non-discrimination statute that includes sexual orientation and gender identity, and because the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals struck down Idaho’s constitutional amendment defining marriage as the union of a man and a woman, the couple would have to officiate at same-sex weddings in their own chapel.

The non-discrimination statute applies to all “public accommodations,” and the city views the chapel as a public accommodation.

On Friday, a same-sex couple asked to be married by the Knapps, and the Knapps politely declined. The Knapps now face a 180-day jail term and $1,000 fine for each day they decline to celebrate the same-sex wedding.

A week of honoring their faith and declining to perform the ceremony could cost the couple three and a half years in jail and $7,000 in fines.

Government Coercion

The Knapps have been married to each other for 47 years and are both ordained ministers of the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel. They are “evangelical Christians who hold to historic Christian beliefs” that “God created two distinct genders in His image” and “that God ordained marriage to be between one man and one woman.”

But as a result of the courts redefining marriage and a city ordinance that creates special privileges based on sexual orientation and gender identity, the Knapps are facing government coercion.

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