Thoughts on Obedience and Reading Maps without Guidance

Today, while making the rounds around the blogger neighborhood, I saw a great quote on a subject that is not near and dear to the heart of modern mankind: obedience. Deacon Greg Kandra shared the thoughts of a modern saint on the subject,

Your obedience is not worthy of the name unless you are ready to abandon your most flourishing work whenever someone with authority so commands…Oh, the power of obedience! The Lake of Genesareth had denied its fishes to Peter’s nets. A whole night in vain. Then, obedient, he lowered his net again into the water and they caught ‘a great number of fishes.’ Believe me, this miracle is repeated every day. –St. Josemaria Escriva [Read more...]

Because it is Only Rational That One Should Submit to Guidance

I’ve shared in this space thoughts on private interpretation of the scriptures before. Stuff from the Treasure Chest, like the article written by Father Bampfield for the Catholic Truth Society. I’ve even shared my own thoughts on this subject by way of my experience with land navigation and map reading skills.

I’ve been flipping through my new favorite classic, The Catholic’s Ready Answer, which I introduced to you this morning. Here again are Jesuit Fathers Michael P. Hill, and F. X. Brors (how is that surname pronounced?!), using their god-given ability to reason, along with God’s grace-filled gift of faith, to explain clearly, succinctly, and definitively, the Catholic approach to interpreting the Bible.

Think, “The Church interprets the Bible, as the Supreme Court of the United States interprets the Constitution”, and you’ll understand the Catholic position in a New York minute. First up? How I was taught as a child, followed by what I learned as a man (and by faith and reason knew what must be true). Common sense, and clear teaching, is coming your way.

BIBLE INTERPRETATIONS

Protestant Position:

—The Bible teaches all necessary truth to all who approach the study of it in the right spirit. In the Scriptures God speaks to the human soul, and no interpreter of His words is needed but the soul itself, enlightened by the Holy Spirit.

Catholic Position:

—The above, if we mistake not, is a fair statement of the Protestant view of private interpretation. It differs essentially from the Catholic principle, according to which private interpretation is controlled by the authority of a divinely established Church.

But now a question: What are the grounds of the Protestant position? As the Bible is the Protestant’s final rule of faith, he should be able to quote chapter and verse for this as well as for any other article of his faith. Where in the whole compass of the sacred writings is there a passage enunciating the principle of private and independent interpretation? There are passages in abundance setting forth the benefits resulting from a reading of the Word of God, but none which declare that the individual reader is independent of all control in his interpretation of it.

In opposing such independence we do not mean to imply that the Bible is simply an unintelligible book. Quite the contrary, many parts of Scripture are plain narratives of matters of fact, and the more obvious sense of the text is the true one, or at least one true one. But other parts of the Bible abound in mysteries, or in other obscurities of one kind or another. This was doubtless the case even in the original version of the several books; but what shall we say of the modern translations—the imperfect medium through which all but a few readers get a glimpse of the revealed truth?

Now, is it likely that every chance reader, however good his disposition, possesses a “key to the Scriptures” and sees his way through all their obscurity of thought and expression? Is it not to be feared that the assumption of such power of interpretation will have injurious, and in some cases even disastrous, effects upon the reader? St. Peter the apostle, speaking of the epistles of St. Paul, says of them that they “contain certain things hard to be understood, which the unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other Scriptures, to their own destruction” (2 Peter iii. 16). If this declaration, made by no less an authority than St. Peter, and to the very people to whom the epistles of St. Paul were addressed, was justified at the time, is it not to be feared that now, after twenty centuries, the same causes are producing even worse effects?

The Apostle here mentions two effects which he traces to three causes. The two effects are: 1. The wresting— that is to say, the twisting or distorting—of the meaning of Scripture; 2. The spiritual self-destruction of the reader. The causes are: 1. The intrinsic difficulties of the text; 2. Ignorance; 3. Instability (unsteadfastness, as it reads in the Revised Version). The same three causes are in operation to-day, and doubtless tend, in varying degrees, to produce the same effects. The text, with its intrinsic difficulties, remains. Ignorance remains; for the three R’s are the highest reach of knowledge for millions; and what special insight into Scripture is furnished by the three R’s?

But have not some gone much farther than the three R’s? Surely; they have learned their chemistry, or their physics, or their mathematics. But none of these sciences furnish a key to the obscurities of St. Paul. But have we no theologians or exegetes? Certainly we have; and they have helped us not a little to understand the sacred volume; but if we may believe Dr. Littledale it was just from this class that most of the ancient heresies took their rise; and all the theology in the world can not, of itself, secure a man from that instability of which St. Paul speaks—that is to say, from that intellectual and moral giddiness which often accompanies the greatest learning.

But, our opponents will tell us, at least let a man approach the reading of the Scriptures in a prayerful spirit, and he may expect to receive interior illumination. Doubtless a prayerful reading of Scripture has produced much insight into the meaning of the sacred text. But let us not mistake the issue in the present discussion. We do not deny the possibility of personal illumination. God, from the beginning, has deigned to speak to the individual soul. But—and this is the most important thing we have to say in the present article—there is nothing more illusory than the impression of having been enlightened from on high; and in the whole course of religious history nothing has proved more pernicious than the seeing in supposed illumination a practical rule of faith or of conduct.

Where God does really enlighten, no one can enlighten so well; but it is one thing to be enlightened, another to think one is enlightened. Many of our Catholic saints have received what they have described as marvelous illumination, but none were more distrustful of such illumination than the very recipients of it. And yet just the contrary has been the case with those leaders of men from Luther to Mrs. Eddy who have confidently proclaimed a special illumination in their interpretation of Scripture. And when we see the number of such claimants to inspirationand compare their clashing creeds—all based on the same Word of God—and listen to the war of words in which each denounces all the others, we begin to see the utter hollowness of the theory of private interpretation.

Religious chaos was never intended to be the result of the preaching of the Christian revelation. And yet chaos is the necessary result of Christian preaching when it is based on private interpretation. But worse than chaos are the ultimate logical consequences of the theory, for amidst the chaos at least some fragments of the truth remain; but even these are destined to disappear under the powerful solvent of independent judgment. The principle of private judgment is to-day working itself out most consistently in the land of its origin. In Germany individual judgment, even amongst the ministers of religion, who are supposed to have committed themselves to a fixed creed, is rapidly dissolving the fabric of Christianity itself.

Personal illumination is, therefore, in no absolute sense a safe guide. In one’s meditation on Scripture one may, of course, feel that reflection throws some light upon words or sentences heretofore obscure; many sound conclusions may be drawn; spiritual insight may increase; but still, considering that there are many things in Scripture “hard to be understood,” and that so many readers of Scripture have been mistaken in their interpretations, it is only rational that one should submit to guidance, if a guide can be found. And that a guide has been provided by a kind Providence can not be matter of doubt when one reflects on the unspeakable wisdom displayed in all God’s works and, on the other hand, on the sad consequences which are seen to follow the rejection of authority in so important a matter as the interpretation of the word of God.

Evidently, then, there is an infallible interpreter appointed by God Himself; and that infallible interpreter can be no other than the Church of Christ, which St. Paul tells us is “the pillar and ground of truth.” (1 Tim. iii. 15.)

If that sounds sort of like “We Hold These Truths to be Self-Evident: no one person can interpret Scriptures,” then so be it. Because the Holy Father wants you to read the Bible.

For Books By Dead Jesuits, Like The Catholic’s Ready Answer

Yesterday I published the Music for Mondays post early. Therein, I commented that Catholicism is so deep and so wide, that ideas for writing about it will never be exhausted. But the fact of the matter is, folks like the shiny new stuff better than the old, moldy stuff already sitting in the libraries of the world.

Not me. I’m the weirdo contrarian, remember? And you know what else? Lately I’ve been bumping into fantastic stuff written by long dead Jesuit priests whom I’ve never heard of. My buddy Blaise Pascal hated the Jesuits with a passion. He’s not alone with that opinion either. But I like them. Guys like Wu Li, SJ for example. And François Nepveu, SJ. Remember Wilhem Wilmers, SJ, torpedoing Ayn Rand’s “originality?” And who could forget Henry Morse, SJ?

Oh, folks love John Hardon SJ, for example, and I picked up a copy of his The Question and Answer Catholic Catechism at a used book sale. I haven’t cracked it open yet though. At the same sale, I also picked up Mission and Grace, Volume 1 written by Karl Rahner, SJ, and We Hold These Truths: Catholic Reflections on the American Proposition, by John Courtney Murray, SJ. I’m reading that selection currently and frankly, it is top notch. I promise to post on it soon.

Aside for Fr. Hardon though, I have never heard of any of these guys. It turns out they are modern giants of the Society of Jesus. See? I’ve got a lot to learn. I hadn’t heard of the Jesuit who wrote this neat little book I just added to the YIMCatholic Bookshelf either.

It’s called, The Catholic’s Ready Answer: Popular Vindication of Christian Beliefs and Practices Against the Attacks of Modern Criticism , and looking over it I can say that it will be very useful even to Catholic of today. It was written by Michael P. Hill, SJ and started off as an English translation of a German book written by Franz X. Brors, SJ. Sure, it was published in 1914, but seriously, the modernist tenor of that time was very similar to modernist thoughts encountered nowadays. Don’t believe me? Just check the contents:


AGNOSTICISM > An Agnostic Query—”Why trouble ourselves about matters such as Gods existence, of which, however important they may be, we do know nothing?” (Huxley)

THE BIBLE AND MODERN THOUGHT Objection—The Bible is for many reasons deserving of veneration, but it is quite out of harmony with modern thought. The science, the aspirations, and the general point of view of the modern world are at the opposite pole from the contents of the Bible.

EUGENICS An Accusation—Every human being should love his kind, and a love of his kind should awaken in his breast an interest in the future of his race. The improvement of the race is the object of eugenics, and a want of sympathy with the present eugenic movement betrays either selfishness or an unenlightened conservatism.

HELL Objection—God is good and merciful; but a good and merciful God would not condemn a soul to eternal torments; therefore the eternity of hell is a contradiction of our belief in His goodness and mercy.

MARRIAGE A SACRAMENT, Ultra-Protestant View— “Marriage is an outward, material thing, like any other secular business. Marriage, with all that appertains to it, is a temporal thing and does not concern the Church at all, except in so far as it affects the conscience.”—Luther

See what I mean? The whole book is full of great, modern, controversial, questions and answered briefly from the viewpoint of Catholic tradition. If nothing else, it will get you jump started on learning more about the faith. Here are several examples for you to try out: Thoughts on Tolerance and Tradition.

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TOLERANCE

An Accusation. —Tolerance is the first duty of the citizen as regards religious matters; but “the Roman Catholic Church, if it would be consistent, must be intolerant.”—Tschackert.

The Answer. —According to Christ’s teaching, the first duty of a man living in a community is not tolerance, but love of his neighbor. A pharisaical doctor of the law once “asked Him, tempting Him: Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said to him: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with thy whole mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. And the second is like to this: Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments dependeth the whole law and the prophets” (Matt. xxii. 35-40).

Justice and love are the two first duties of a man to his fellow-men. Tolerance is nowhere mentioned in the law. Mere tolerance does not go far enough. The Catholic Church does not merely tolerate her erring brethren She loves them with a divine charity—and that is more than tolerance. “Tolerance” is the catchword of genuine liberalism, which manages to put up with an obnoxious fellow-citizen, but knows nothing of charity.

But a distinction must be made in the matter of tolerance. Catholics are not intolerant of the erring, but toward their error there can be no such thing as tolerance. We can not compromise with error. What is false we can not call true, any more than we can call black white. When, therefore, the Catholic Church combats error and champions truth, she only follows the example of Christ and does what every right-thinking man will acknowledge to be just.

Dogmatic tolerance is self-contradiction. How can a Church that professes to be a teacher of truth say to the thinking world: “If you believe in the Trinity, in the divinity of Christ, and in the sacrament of Penance, well and good. If you don’t believe in them—again well and good—for I can’t be intolerant”? A Church which is the custodian of revealed truth can not compound with error; and any church—no matter what elements of truth it may retain, or what good it may do to men—any church which is seen to throw the mantle of a false charity over all vagaries of opinion within its pale is proved thereby not to have the hall-mark of Christian orthodoxy. In this connection the Catholic Church stands quite alone—and is thereby proved to be the one faithful eustodian of the doctrine revealed by Christ.

TRADITION AS A RULE OF FAITH

Objection. —Tradition can not be a source of true knowledge. There is nothing so unreliable as an old story that has passed from mouth to mouth and is subject to change at every telling. Even written documents are not safe from alteration. Every new copy made is likely to contain fresh errors.

The Answer. —Many who urge this objection are believers in Christianity; and yet what guarantee can be had for the truth of Christianity except in reliable tradition? Perhaps such guarantee is furnished by the Bible; but how can we know that the Bible is the word of God save by tradition?

Doubtless there are matters of secular interest about which neither writing nor tradition can afford any security from error; but there are also matters regarding which all fear of error is reasonably absent. No sensible man doubts about the existence of such historical characters as Csesar, Napoleon, or Luther. So, too, in the religious domain, there is a body of truth which is sealed as such by the continuous and unfailing witness of God’s Church; and what is this but tradition?

The Gospels can be proved to be genuine and reliable historical documents. And it may be proved from the Gospels that Christ, who was sent from on high, established an infallible Church—a fact which is plain from His having commissioned the apostles to preach the Faith to all nations and from His having declared that whosoever would not believe them would be condemned (Matt. xxviii. 19, 20; Mark xvi. 15, 16). The Church as represented by the apostles must be infallible, for otherwise no one would be condemned for not accepting the apostolic teaching. Now the Pope and the other bishops are the successors of the apostles; and they must be supposed to teach with the same infallible authority as the apostles, for otherwise we are forced to the very unchristian conclusion that Christ must have meant that all authoritative teaching should cease with the apostles! It follows that once the Pope and the bishops proclaim anything to be a truth of the Faith, it must infallibly be such.

Now tradition is nothing else but the continuous and uninterrupted teaching of God’s Church. God has it in His power to provide for the continued infallibility of His Church—just as of old He provided for the preservation of the writings of the evangelists and the other sacred writers from errors of fact and of doctrine.

In the Catholic Church there is every possible guarantee that the tradition on which Catholics rely is not of a loose, haphazard sort, containing a large admixture of hearsay and legend. The communion of all parts of the Church with the Apostolic See of Peter and Peter’s successors has been the one great source of unity and continuity of teaching in the Church. The decrees of the Popes, and of councils presided over by the Popes, are written in broad characters on the pages of history; but, even if there were no such record of them, the unfailing continuity of the Church’s life makes her a witness to apostolic truth in every succeeding age. It is to Catholic tradition as thus understood that Protestants owe such elements of pure Christianity as they retain in their several creeds.

Have a look at the rest of the book over on the YIMCatholic Bookshelf.

Stuff I Heard This Weekend (Music for Mondays)

Yep, you read that title right. There is nothing more to this post, and nothing less. Some of these songs I heard in the house, or on the road. None of them were from an i-Pod or anything like that. Usually, I prefer to have music arrive to my ears by chance. Call me crazy. Oh, and this post is so long, I’m publishing it on Sunday night. Call it the Early Edition.

So that is what you have to look forward to from me today. No reasoned approach to the selection. No ulterior motive to the picks. But sometimes, and trust me I’m open to seeing things this way now, the songs just come unannounced and resonate with what is happening in the world of my faith and the new oxygen supply of my life. I speak of my love of the Church here, if you hadn’t noticed that trait rearing it’s head already.

It’s a jumble of old and new, but only if “new” is used very loosely. New, as in “newer rock n’ roll.” Have a listen and see how these tunes tickled my puzzler this past weekend. Warning: The final song in the post is 24+ minutes long. LOL.

The Who, Can’t Explain. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: the subject of the Faith and the Church is so deep, and so wide, that it can never be exhausted in terms of ideas to write or blog about. Take this blog, for instance. From one author, to two, and then three, and back to one again, YIMCatholic has 1089 posts published on the books, all wrapped around the title statement and you now what? Webster and Allison are still out there writing posts too. See? She’s like a rich vein in a mine whose surface has only just been scratched. Better yet, it’s like what Our Lord says here,

the water that I will give to him will become in him a fountain of water, springing up into eternal life. —John 4:10

Other than that, my love for Christ and His Church is unexplainable except it must be Love. I saw this on the Facebook page of the Who and the first song of the set was chosen.

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Bruce Springsteen, Tunnel of Love. Love is complex, multidimensional, and multifaceted. Of late I’ve been sharing thoughts around love as agape. Of course, love also is eros, philios, and storos. Modern culture seems to highlight eros, and maybe to you this song does that too. But real love encompasses all four types of love, and that even includes the love of one’s faith. These are the thoughts I had when I heard this song in the car. It reminded me that setting unrealistic expectations for love will drown you in sorrow. Because love will make you laugh, make you cry, and even make you yodel sometimes. Just sayin’. This was written when Springsteen’s marriage to Julianne Philips was unraveling. Remember that?

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Kim Wilde, Keep Me Hanging On. Welcome to the “Big Eighties!” Big hair, big sound, and big, splashy, covers of older hits. Like this modern take on the song made famous by Diana Ross. I heard this right on the heels of Bruce’s tune. Seriously though, whatever happened to Kim Wilde? Her version of this classic reminded me that often times in love, temptations will arise and attempt to lead you astray. You have to cut them away like wreckage from a boating accident, or it will act like an anchor and drag you to the bottom. You have to say “get out of my life” to that which threatens your relationship’s health or threatens to lead you astray. Sing it Kim!

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Jon Bon Jovi, You Give Love a Bad Name. More big hair, this time on a dude wearing cool looking rags. Ever met somebody that gives “love” a bad name? Some folks think I was giving love a bad name recently. Heh. I tend to default back to a lesson I learned a long time ago: leadership is by example. Those who hit me with “do as I say and not as I do” behavior leave me cold (thank God for the Sacrament of Reconciliation). And they give love a bad name. Christ never said, or did, such a thing.

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Naked Eyes, Promises, Promises. This song, to me anyway, is YIMCatholic. Everything else is simply a string of broken promises. I’ve come to believe what W.J. Williams, G.K. Chesterton, and countless others have come to realize: the Catholic Church is the key that fits the complex lock of human nature. Every other approach is just empty promises that can’t be kept, and that leave you playing solitaire in your jail cell.

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The Fixx, Stand or Fall. Remember these guys? What a bunch of great tunes they made! Red Skies at Night, One Thing Leads to Another, Saved By Zero. Awesome stuff. And of course this tune, which issues something of a challenge. I’ve stated my piece. I choose to stand with the Church.

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Rare Earth, Get Ready. How can you not love this song or this band? Not a recognizable “star” name among them. And yet, BAM! They rock the house. This is their 1969 cover of Smokey Robinson’s classic. The boys took it to #4 in 1970. I heard a snippet of this one while sitting through the trailers in the theater before The Tree of Life started. I’ve got a soft spot for any band whose drummer is the lead singer. You just don’t see that very often. Here is their awesome loooooooong version, where every band member gets to do a solo. Because 3 minutes just isn’t good enough, you know? This is YIMCatholic too. I never met a girl like the Church, the Bride of Christ. She’s bringin’ the world a multidimensional Love that’s true. Now THAT is a rare earth! Are you ready?

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A Tale of the Laity and Priestly Scandal, Circa 1400 AD

This is Part III of a recently started series about on-going personal conversion. Part I started us off with thoughts from a vision of St. Catherine of Siena. Part II continued with words of a Franciscan friar giving an intelligence brief on our adversary. What follows is either miraculous or not depending on how you view things.

I say miraculous, in at least a minor way, because a) until today, I had never heard of this passage I’m sharing now, and b) the timing of the find is uncanny. How, pray tell, did I “find” it? It all started a few weeks ago when I picked up volume one of the Norton Anthology of English Literature for $4.00 at a flea market about an hour from my home. In mint condition, and weighing in at 2074 pages, folks who like math will delight in the fact that I paid ‎a whopping .001344989 cents per page for it. It’s chock full o’ Catholic classics too.

What does this have to do with personal conversion? Boatloads. As Qoheleth, the inspired writer of my favorite Old Testament book says, “there is nothing new under the sun.” That includes scandals involving priests. They will come, and they will go. None of us have seen the last of them, and persevere through them, we must. And despite some folks thinking that questioning priests, and holding them accountable, turns the faithful into members of the “brood of vipers and evil doers” section of the flock, I believe this story shows the opposite to be true.

So this morning, with no intention whatsoever of my own, I picked up this weighty tome I acquired so cheaply and randomly flipped it open to find myself on page 374. There, I happened upon the following tale that beckoned me with the heading Examination Before the Archbishop and started with the following words,

There was a monk should preach in York, the which had heard much slander and much evil language of the said creature.

Uh?, I thought. Do tell! Having never heard of Margery Kempe, I just plunged onward through this story as if I had entered a time machine and was whisked back to the days when England was still Catholic. Margery, it turns out, was a contemporary of St. Julian of Norwich and is honored in the Anglican Communion. She lived in Norwich, married at the age of 20, and had 14 children. She remained a member of the laiety, and yet was ahead of her time in recognizing her calling to the “royal priesthood” that St. Peter describes in his first letter to the faithful (1 Peter 2:9).

Be advised that this is a bit long, so go get a glass of your favorite beverage, or head to the loo, before you wade in. Ready? Enjoy…

from The Book of Margery Kempe

Examination before the Archbishop

There was a monk should preach in York, the which had heard much slander and much evil language of the said creature. And, when he should preach, there was much multitude of people to hear him, and she (Margery) present with them. And so, when he was in his sermon, he rehearsed many matters so openly that the people conceived well it was for cause of her, wherefore her friends that loved her well were full sorry and heavy thereof, and she was much the more merry, for she had matter to prove [test] her patience and her charity wherethrough she trusted to please Our Lord Christ Jesus.

When the sermon was done, a doctor of divinity which loved her well with many others also came to her and said,

“Margery, how have ye done this day?”

“Sir,” she said, “right well, blessed be God. I have cause to be right merry and glad in my soul that I may any thing suffer for his love, for he suffered much more for me.”

Anon after came a man which loved her right well of good will with his wife and others more, and led her seven miles thence to the Archbishop of York, and brought her into a fair chamber, where came a good clerk, saying to the good man which had brought her thither, “Sir, why have ye and your wife brought this woman hither? She shall steal away from you, and then shall ye have a villainy of her.”

The good man said, “I dare well say she will abide and be at her answer with good will.”

On the next day she was brought into the Archbishop’s chapel, and there came many of the Archbishop’s meiny, despising her, calling her “loller” and “heretic,” and swearing many an horrible oath that she should be burnt. And she, through the strength of Jesus, said again to them,

“Sirs, I dread me ye shall be burnt in hell without end unless than ye amend you of your oaths swearing, for ye keep not the commandments of God. I would not swear as ye do for all the good of this world.”

Then they gedyn [went] away as they had been ashamed. She then, making her prayer in her mind, asked grace so to be demeaned that day as was most pleasant to God and profit to her own soul and good example to her evyn [fellow] Christians. Our Lord, answering her, said it should be right well.

At the last the said Archbishop came into the chapel with his clerks, and sharply he said to her,

“Why goest thou in white? Art thou a maiden?”

She, kneeling on her knees before him, said, “Nay, sir, I am no maiden; I am a wife.”

He commanded his meiny to fetch a pair of fetters and said she should be fettered, for she was a false heretic. And then she said,

“I am no heretic, nor ye shall none prove me.”

The Archbishop went away and let her stand alone. Then she made her prayers to our Lord God almighty for to help her and succour her against all her enemies, ghostly and bodily, a long while, and her flesh trembled and quaked wonderly that she was fain to put her hands under her clothes that it should not be aspied.

Since the Archbishop came again into the chapel with many worthy clerks, amongst which was the same doctor (of theology) which had examined her before and the monk that had preached against her a little time before in York. Some of the people asked whether she were a Christian woman or a Jew; Some said she was a good woman, and Some said nay.

Then the Archbishop took his see [ecclesiastical seat], and his clerks also, each of them in his degree, much people being present. And in the time while the people was gathering together and the Archbishop taken his see, the said creature stood all behind, making her prayers for help and succour against her enemies with high devotion so long that she melted all into tears. And at the last she cried loud therewith, that the Archbishop and his clerks and much people had great wonder of her, for they had not heard such crying before.

When her crying was passed, she came before the Archbishop and fell down on her knees, the Archbishop saying full boisterously unto her,

“Why weapest thou so, woman?”

She, answering, said, “Sir, ye shall will some day that ye had wept as sore as I.”

And then anon, after the Archbishop put to her the Articles of our Faith (the Apostle’s Creed), to the which God gave her grace to answer well and truly and readily without any great study so that he might not blame her, then he said to the clerks,

“She knows her faith well enough. What shall I do with her?”

The clerks said, “We know well that she can the Articles of the Faith, but we will not suffer her to dwell among us, for the people have great faith in her dalliance, and peradventure she might pervert some of them.”

Then the Archbishop said unto her, “I am evil informed of thee; I hear said thou art a right wicked woman.”

And she said again, “Sir, so I hear said that ye are a wicked man. And,if ye be as wicked as men say, ye shall never come in heaven unless than ye amend you while ye be here.”

Then said he full boisterously, “Why, thou, what say men of me?”

She answered, “Other men, sir, can tell you well enough.”

Then said a great clerk with a furred hood, “Peace, thou speak of thyself and let him be.”
Since said the Archbishop to her, “Lay thine hand on the book here before me and swear that thou shall go out of my diocese as soon as thou may.”

“Nay, sir,” she said, “I pray you, give me leave to go again into York to take my leave of my friends.”

Then he gave her leave for one day or two. She thought it was too short a time, wherefore she said again,

“Sir, I may not go out of this diocese so hastily, for I must tarry and speak with good men ere I go, and I must, sir, with your leave, go to Birdlington and speak with my confessor, a good man, the which was the good prior’s (St. John of Birdlington) confessor that is now canonized.”

Then said the Archbishop to her, “thou shall swear that thou shalt not teach nor challenge the people in my diocese.”

“Nay, sir, I shall not swear,” she said, “for I shall speak of God and undirnemyn [reprove] them that swear great oaths wheresoever I go unto the time that the Pope and Holy Church have ordained that no man shall be so hardy to speak of God, for God all mighty forbids not, sir, that we shall speak of him. And also the gospel makes mention that, when the woman had heard Our Lord preach, she came before him with a loud voice and said, `Blessed be the womb that thee bore and the tits that gave the suck.’ Then our Lord said again to her, `Forsooth so are they blessed that hear the word of God and keep it.’ And therefore, sir, me thinks that the gospel gives me leave to speak of God.”

“A sir,” said the clerks, “here wot[know] we well that she hath a devil within her, for she speaks of the gospel.”

As such a great clerk brought forth a book and laid Saint Paul for his party against her that no woman should preach. She, answering thereto, said,

“I preach not, sir, I come in no pulpit. I use but communication and good words, and that will I do while I live.”

Then said a doctor which had examined her beforetime, “Sir, she told me the worst tales of priests that ever I heard.”

The bishop commanded her to tell that tale.

Stand-by for one of the best parables I have ever read. Everything prior, though a bit tedious, has set the stage for the following stunner. Read on me hearties!

Peach Tree in Bloom
Vincent Van Gogh

“Sir, with your reverence, I spoke but of one priest by the manner of example, the which as I have learned went wild in a wood through the sufferance of God for the profit of his soul til the night came upon him. He, destitute of his herborwe [lodging], found a fair arbor in the which he rested that night, having a fair pear tree in the midst all flourished with flowers and embellished, and blooms full delectable to his sight, where came a bear, great and boisterous, hugely to behold, shaking the pear tree and felling down the flowers. Greedily this grevious beast ate and devoured those fair flowers. And, when he had eaten them, turning his tail end in the priest’s presence, voided them out again at the hinder part.

The priest, having great abomination of that loathly sight, conceiving great heaviness for doubt what it might mean, on the next day he wandered forth in his way all heavy and pensive, whom it fortuned to meet with a seemly aged man like to a palmer or a pilgrim, the which enquired of the priest the cause of his heaviness. The priest, rehearsing the matter before written, said he conceived great dread and heaviness when he beheld that loathly beast defoul and devour so fair flowers and blooms and afterward so horribly to devoid them before him at his tail end, and he not understanding what this might mean.

Then the palmer, showing himself the messenger of God, thus areasoned him,

“Priest, thou thyself art the pear tree, somedeal flourishing and flowering through thy service saying and the sacraments ministering, though thou do undevoutly, for thou take full little heed how thou says thy matins and thy service, so it be blabbered to an end. Then go thou to thy mass without devotion, and for thy sin hast thou full little contrition. Thou receivest there the fruit of everlasting life, the sacrament of the altar, in full feeble disposition.

“Since all the day after thou misspendest thy time, thou give thee to buying and selling, chopping and changing [bargaining and exchanging], as it were a man of the world. Thou sittest at the ale, giving the to glotony and excess, to lust of thy body, through lechery and uncleanness. Thou breakest the commandments of God through swearing, lying, detraction, and backbiting, and such other sins using. Thus by thy misgovernance, like onto the loathly bear, thou devourest and destroyest the flowers and blooms of virtuous living to thine endless damnation and many man’s hindering less than thou have grace of repentance and amending.”‘

Then the Archbishop liked well the tale and commended it, saying it was a good tale. And the clerk which had examined her beforetime in the absence of the Archbishop, said,

“Sir, this tale smites me to the heart.”

The foresaid creature said to the clerk, “Ah, worshipful doctor, sir, in place where my dwelling is most, is a worthy clerk, a good preacher, which boldly speaks against the misgovernance of the people and will flatter no man. He says many times in the pulpit, `If any man be evil pleased with my preaching, note him well, for he is guilty.’

And right so, sir,” said she to the clerk, “fare ye by me, God forgive it you.”

The clerk wist [knew] not well what he might say to her. Afterward the same clerk came to her and prayed her of forgiveness that he had so been against her. Also he prayed her specially to pray for him. And than anon after the Archbishop said,

An Archbishop

“Where shall I have a man that might lead this woman from me?”

As swithe [immediately] there started up many young men, and every man said of them, “My Lord, I will go with her.”

The Archbishop answered, “Ye be too young; I will not have you.”

Then a good sad [of sober continence] man of the Archbishop’s meiny asked his Lord what he would give him and he should lead her. The Archbishop proferred him five shillings and the man asked a noble. The Archbishop, answering, said,

“I will not waryn [spend] so much on her body.”

“Yes, good sir,” said the said creature, “our Lord shall reward you right well again.”

Then the Archbishop said to the man, “See, here is five shillings, and lead her fast out of this country.”

She, kneeling down on her knees, asked his blessing. He, praying her to pray for him, blessed her and let her go.

Than she, going again to York, was received of much people and of full worthy clerks, which enjoyed in our Lord that had given her not lettred wit and wisdom to answer so many learned men without villainy or blame, thanking be to God.

****

And that’s all for today, dear reader. For more on Margery Kempe, see this new volume added to the YIMCatholic Bookshelf: The Cell of Self-Knowledge.

For All the Charities: St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital

Guest post by Warren Jewell. Warren is a long time reader of YIMCatholic and I saw he posted this on his Facebook Page. Thinking that it might be something you would be interested in as well, I asked his permission to share it with you. Though not a Catholic hospital or charity, per se, the work they do, and the amount they charge their patients (see below), are in keeping with the finest traditions of Catholic agape for our neighbor.

Saint Jude Children’s Research Hospital sent me another appeal for funds with a short sketch about What Cancer Cannot Do. But, first, a little history to try to appeal to your blessed, giving ways about Saint Jude’s.

Saint Jude’s is the ongoing act of gratitude to God by Danny Thomas, God love the man, for his success in entertainment in TV (remember ‘Make Room for Daddy’?) and stand-up comedy. He prayed that he would create Saint Jude’s if God permitted him to support his family through his career. For my part, Mr. Thomas personally recruited me, and my brother and other Chicago-area teens, at the time of his first public appeal for funds. He had us make radio ads to be aired on Chicago radio stations for his singular dedicated devotion to children dying of cancer, and their families. With a modest pride, I have observed and supported this mighty work ever since.

Of worthy note, you see, for all its powerful research, the hospital is last therapeutic resort for children approaching death due to their diseases. Saint Jude is the only pediatric cancer research center where families never pay for treatment not covered by insurance. No child is ever denied treatment because of the family’s inability to pay.

ALSAC (American Lebanese Syrian Associated Charities) is the fund-raising arm of Saint Jude. For all these years Americans of Lebanese descent (as Mr. Thomas was) have donated to cover the basic infrastructure and facilities of the hospital. Our own donations go to pay for professional and technical workers and the basic care of each child patient and his family.

And, Saint Jude’s has been blessed with great success. How blessed, how successful? Praise be to God, for a few examples:

in 1962, the survival rate for dreaded acute lymphoblastic leukemia was 4%; today it is 94%;
in 1962, the rate for non-Hodgkin lymphoma was 7%; today, it is 85%;
in 1962, neuroblastoma (cancer of nerve tissues) was 10%; today, 55%;
in 1962, osteosarcoma (bone cancer) survival was 20%; today 65%;
in 1962, medulloblastoma (a type of brain tumor) was 10%; today, it is 85%;
overall, in 1962, 20% of child cancer victim survived; today, 80% survive.

Indeed, the hospital has been so successful that it has begun to branch out into research combating other serious childhood diseases. I am proud to have played my own miniscule part of that since those first appeals for help.

Of course, such statistics make me weep in gratitude to God, Danny Thomas, and his family and fellow Americans of Lebanese descent, and all who have been instrumental in such life-saving medicine. But, also, for how many children and their families have so awfully suffered the development of therapies to make these numbers what they are.

At Saint Jude’s, the most remarkable quality of this whole process has always been the heroic confidence and cheerful endurance of their little patients. Even in losing battles, the kids have been the very ‘bricks’ of the whole enterprise.

Now, that stanza of What Cancer Cannot Do?

Cancer is so limited –
It cannot cripple love
It cannot shatter hope
It cannot corrode faith
It cannot destroy peace
It cannot kill friendship
It cannot suppress memories
It cannot silence courage
It cannot invade the soul
It cannot conquer the spirit.
~ Anonymous

Saint Jude the Apostle is the patron saint of desperate cases and lost causes. Serious childhood illness is surely still desperate; Saint Jude’s Hospital is working to lessen those ‘lost causes’. You can read more at stjude.org if you so desire.

Finally, if you will, I beg of you, mail your own donation to this grand effort:
Saint Jude Children’s Research Hospital
P.O. Box 50
Memphis, TN 38101-9929

Their current campaign is called ‘Partners in Hope’, where if you would, you can pledge a regular monthly donation. Call 1-800-822-6344 to ask about this program.

I know that these are tough times for many of us. But, it can’t get much tougher than being an innocent child hurting and fighting for her life, huh? Hey! This time, about helping these kids, it’s personal :-)

God love and bless you, always and in all ways.

The Corapi Kerfuffle and Agape (In Reply to a Reader)

A reader writes,

Wow, hey Frank are you really a Christian? Do you actually receive communion with a clear conscience? Do you enjoy stomping on a priest when he’s down? That goes for the the other un-Christian commentors above too.

Jasper

Dear Jasper,

My Christian brother, you are a few posts behind (see this and this)but let me just say that if St. Nicholas could punch Arias in the face at the Council of Nicea, and still be a Christian, then yes…I can say I am really a Christian too.

Unfortunately, you don’t seem to recognize that our brother is in direct violation of the orders of his superior. In other words there are two options here: a)rally behind the mutineer,or b) rally behind the Church.

I choose b).

Agape your neighbor as yourself. I have children and when they disobey me, I don’t just “let it go” or “pray for them,” but out of love and duty, I set them straight too. Sometimes it’s not pretty, but it is necessary. I did the same thing in the Marine Corps with juniors, peers, and even superior officers. It’s called providing counsel, even when it isn’t asked for. That too is agape.

From your comment, it seems that you believe that Catholic priests are above reproach, and that Holy Orders is a sort of “get out of Jail Free” card. Surely, after all the the scandals that have roiled the Church since 2002, you don’t believe this. And yet now that the fellow you thought was the best thing since sliced bread has gone and been exposed to have fallen, he is now attempting to lure away the faithful. All while being ordered to return to the fold. He needs to be held accountable for his actions, yet he refuses to do so. So, in your estimation(?) I should just assault heaven with prayers for him and let it be.

Christian love is many splendored and multi-faceted. In all charity, the only charitable thing to say to John Corapi now is what I said in my previous post,

Obviously the best thing to do would be for him to obey, return to base, and stand the ecclesiastical version of a court-martial.

If I was foundering in the same way, I would hope that others, such as yourself, would agape me enough to say what I needed to hear to get my head screwed on straight. Not just egg me on towards the abyss with brave words and “you can do it!” And “We stand behind you!” Thanks, but no thanks.

I’d prefer you had enough agape for me to say what this reader on the Corapi’s site said,

“John, you need to rethink your approach. You sound like a dry drunk, full of self-righteousness and blame. That you fell—who cares? You’re just a guy. That you’ve behaved this way after you got caught? That’s another thing. Cling to the misguided support of some of these folks posting, if you must. But there are plenty of recovering men out here who know stinking thinking when we hear it. We love you, and want you to repent, but we aren’t falling for any of this posturing. May God be with you, and may you listen to Him before it’s too late.”

That is the kind of counseling that John Corapi needs to hear now.

Pax Christi,

Frank

The Messenger, the Muse, and the Redeemer

Why can’t I just turn away from the John Corapi story and leave it behind? All I can figure is that it is like the aftermath of a ferry boat accident. There are a lot of passengers that are still in the water and I have the conn of a lifeboat.

Or it’s like I’ve happened upon the scene of a passenger train wreck, and I’m stepping into the role of the Good Samaritan. I don’t know how effective I will be, but I’m trying to help move survivors back to safety.

As for John Corapi himself, it appears more and more to me that he has done as Shakespeare’s lines in Hamlet state: hoisted himself on his own petard. Perhaps he feels, though, that he is Hamlet reciting these lines,

There’s letters seal’d: and my two schoolfellows,
Whom I will trust as I will adders fang’d,
They bear the mandate; they must sweep my way
And marshal me to knavery. Let it work;
For ’tis the sport to have the enginer
Hoist with his own petard; and ‘t shall go hard
But I will delve one yard below their mines
And blow them at the moon: O, ’tis most sweet,
When in one line two crafts directly meet.

–Hamlet Act 3, scene 4, 202–209

No matter. His orders from his superior are clear and he is in direct violation of them. Obviously the best thing to do would be for him to obey, return to base, and stand the ecclesiastical version of a court-martial. But that isn’t happening, as Deacon Greg’s latest synopsis clearly shows.

Leaving the errant messenger, then, I give you Johnny Cash. Johnny knows addiction, pain, and hurt. So Johnny, the muse, can help assuage your wounds now. These songs may help as he points you toward the Redeemer, Jesus Christ, who also felt the betrayal that you feel now.  The Lamb of God took that burden all the way to hell and back.

Sing it Johnny,

Ring of Fire.

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I See A Darkness.

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Hurt.

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Why Me Lord?

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Dom Lou Tseng-Tsiang once wrote this about the faith,

In every period of transition the two opposing currents are very violent. To escape from them, one must be prepared to be judged unfavorably by both. So one must learn to be alone. The Christian life, for its part, does not escape this rule. Our Lord Jesus Christ is so often all alone on His Cross.

Solitary Man.

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And by reader request (thanks!),

Redemption Song.

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Redemption Day.

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Haul yourself into the lifeboat and head back to the barque of St. Peter.

Quote of the Week

In recollection, news and vain gossip have no appeal, nor do we like to hear anything that does not advise us to withdraw further into our hearts…for their (the recollected) only wish is to see God with their hearts.

—Fray Francisco de Osuna (1492 – 1540 AD)

For Thoughts on Our Adversary by Fray Francisco de Osuna

No, this isn’t about Uncle Sam, patriotism, or anything like that. This is part two of a series on the work of on-going personal conversion that I started yesterday. Milk drinkers beware, because meat and potatoes are coming your way.  Bring your knives and forks and spoons. Napkins are optional.

Last December, I wrote of a minor miracle regarding me and Fray Francisco de Osuna. Come to think of it, St. Anthony of Padua probably had something to do with it too, as I thought a book was lost, and it was found. Francisco, see, was a Franciscan, and he wrote the book I misplaced, The Third Spiritual Alphabet, that had a huge impact on St. Teresa of Avila. Information like that gets my attention, pronto.

For me, Fray Francisco became a mentor of sorts. Sure, he’s dead and gone, and not an official saint, but if reading his book helped out the Carmelite superstar mentioned above, then I figured he could help me out too. I didn’t know too much about Franciscans at the time, except that they were founded by the peace-loving St. Francis of Assisi. But for a guy that was cloistered, Fray Francisco sure seemed an expert on human nature. And his command of the scriptures, as you’ll soon see, put this RCIA attending “soon to be former” Protestant “Bible-expert” at ease.

As for his “peace-loving” Franciscan side? Well, don’t you dare try and stereotype my mentor. Besides, the combat he refers too is spiritual, though it involves the physical as well. In my mind’s eye, I picture him as Sir Alec Guinness playing Obi-Wan Kenobi, but with a Spanish accent. However, instead of spouting modernist, Manichean, New Age, Star Warsian psycho-babble from under his brown wool habit, he’s teaching Catholic orthodoxy. The kind that, with me anyway, never goes out of style.

Take for instance the following passage from the seventh letter of “the Alphabet.” What’s this section all about? “How We Are To Cast Out Evil Thoughts, Saying: Thoughts Start War if the Gate is not Closed.” What follows is from the first chapter of this treatise. Remember my affinity for the military genius from ancient China, named Sun Tzu? My mentor Fray Francisco could teach him a thing, or two.

Chapter 1: The Devil’s Army

Astute captains always keep soldiers in reserve so that when they rush into a losing battle, the soldiers who thought themselves overwhelmed will take heart at the support, and their joy and renewed efforts will discourage the enemy. This is exemplified in the valiant, gentle captain Joshua who in the fight against the city of Hai placed five thousand men in ambush on one side of the city and thirty thousand on the other side, while he with the main body of soldiers stood openly against the city. He pretended to flee before the citizens, who ran out in pursuit, while the thirty thousand came and took the city, and the five thousand resisted those who returned to defend it; thus, with some helping others, they all enjoyed total victory. (Joshua, Chapter 8)

Just a quick note from your Marine Corps trained editor. See what I mean? Fray Francisco speaks the lingo that resonated with the recently retired Leatherneck. And now, we meet the adversary.

This strategy of clever warriors is no less known by that skilled soldier, the devil, to whom the words of the Maccabeans are applicable: “He fought many battles and took the fortresses of all, and killed the kings of the earth. He went through even to the ends of the earth and took spoils of many nations; and the earth was quiet before him. And he gathered great power and a very strong army, and his heart was exalted and lifted up. And he subdued the countries and nations, and princes became tributaries to him.” (1 Maccabees 1:2-5)

This passage describes the unjust, exceedingly prideful Alexander (Ed: Alexander the Great), who through great force became lord of what was in no justifiable sense his. He represents the devil, not only in deed but in name, for his name means the very strong, and so it can be said of him that he was a very strong and warring man, the son of a whore (Judges 11:1) His evil guilt and sin are expressed by his wicked mother whose son he became when he obeyed her and heeded the counsel of iniquity.

This devilish and most strong Lucifer, like the other Alexander, fought and fights each day many unjust battles; he took the fortresses of all when he conquered our first parents, leaving us vanquished like the subjects of a captured king. He killed the kings of the earth, who were our first parents, whom God created to rule all inferior things, when he caused them to offend God Your Majesty and be sentenced to death. He killed them, as it were, because he said they would not die for their offense, but that in itself was the reason they perished.

And it says he passed through to the end of the earth, which is human flesh corrupted by iniquity, and God says that this end has come before him in lament (Genesis 6:11-13). This passing through the earth is original sin, which goes from one to another like a perpetual burden, as slavery is handed down from mother to child, or corrupton spreads from the roots of the tree, or force of yeast affect the entire dough, or the poison of the salamander invades the tree’s fruit, for Pliny says that if the salamander touches the roots of the tree, its entire fruit and all the tree will be infected.

See Isaiah 14:12

Thus the devil passes by to take possession of mortals and steals immense wealth when he leads into sin many who previously were rich in grace. And if they do not resist, the earth becomes quiet before him, which in itself suffices to make them his. The devil gathers a great army from among the defeated, forcing them to fight against those as yet unconquered, and he protects them and arms them with cleverness like his own so that they constitute a crowd of sinners whose hearts burst with deviltry and who are more skillful than the devil himself.

He can muster such an army because there is no earthly power to equal his (Job 41:24). He took countries of nations, especially because the Gentiles worshipped him (as Alexander probably did), and as Christ explains, the tyrants became his tributaries when he named himself prince of this world (John 12:31). The tyrants are lesser devils who serve him continually, albeit against their will, for if they do not consent to honor God in heaven, even less do they wish to be subjects of Lucifer.

This extraordinarily strong warrior who, like Goliath, is trained for battle since youth (1 Samuel 17:33), fights in the style I began to describe: that is, he keeps soldiers in reserve and divides his army into three groups for a more clever attack. He orders one squadron after another into the skirmish so that if his enemy succeeds against the first, the second will defeat him, and the third, as seen in the image from the book of Kings: Three companies went out from the camps of the Philistines to fight (1 Samuel 13:17).These Philistines, who are demons, pitch their tents in the field of malice and assemble their trops in three battalions.

Luxury is the first battalion and it marches forth heavily armed and provided with everything necessary to win. St. Bernard says this battle engages every rank or class of people: all ages, the ugly, the beautiful, the great and small, the healthy and the sick –in short, the entire human race.

Many manage to escape from their ferocious opponent, but then the battalion of Pride rushes in, armed with offices, riches, honor, and such things, and those who did not wish to sully themselves in what they considered the obscenity of the first vice now fall victim to the second precisely because it seems so clean in contrast with the first and less blameworthy for the reason that so many people commit it.

If they overcome the second battalion, the third surely defeats them, for these soldiers are more ferocious and cunning, being the demons themselves who have come to battle men by thrusting into their imaginations a whole throng of spiritual vices, as expressed by the image of Sennacherib (Tobit 1:18), who launched his entire army and power against Jerusalem.

St. Paul advised the faithful about this: “Take comfort, brothers, in the Lord and the strength of his power. Put on the armor of God to counter the devil’s tricks. For now we do not contend just with flesh and blood, but with princes and powers, the rulers of the world of darkness, the evil spirits over heavenly things (Ephesians 6: 10-12).”

The apostle’s words prove the seriousness of the battle in that first he warns us that the battle will be strenuous and we will need the armor of God’s favor and effort, since our own is inadequate against such infamy, and second, he refers to trickery, which implies malice as well as strength. Third, he emphasizes the grievousness of the battle by stating that it is no mere contest of flesh and blood and by naming the demons with lofty titles so as to evoke their tremendous power to battle spiritual opponents for what he calls heavenly things, those which the commentary explains are the virtues and souls of the faithful against whom the third assault is launched.

The first two attacks are physical, clear to see, and involve the body rather than the spirit. But the third hurls a host of evil thoughts to irritate and wear us down, and our letters says concerning these: “Thoughts start war if the gate is not closed.”

It seems that in the first two battles the devil leaves the fighting to his soldiers, those who take his side: that is, the flesh, which is the first vice to plague man, and the world, which supports the devil against Christ. But when the devil sees that his companions and vassals, who are other demons, are defeated and that person has withstood successfully the siege of these two vices and lives chastely and totally devoted to God, then it can be said of him: “He sent against them the heat of indignation, anger, and fury, and tribulation, a multitude of agents of misfortune; he opened a way for his anger and he did not save them from death.” (Psalm 77:49-50)

Is your milk getting curdled yet? Perhaps it is fitting to recall that Blessed Pope John Paul II recommend the following to the flock,

“May prayer strengthen us for the spiritual battle we are told about in the Letter to the Ephesians: ‘Draw strength from the Lord and from His mighty power’ (Ephesians 6:10). The Book of Revelation refers to this same battle, recalling before our eyes the image of St. Michael the Archangel (Revelation 12:7). Pope Leo XIII certainly had a very vivid recollection of this scene when, at the end of the last century, he introduced a special prayer to St. Michael throughout the Church. Although this prayer is no longer recited at the end of Mass, I ask everyone not to forget it and to recite it to obtain help in the battle against forces of darkness and against the spirit of this world.”

Prayer to St. Michael the Archangel

Saint Michael the Archangel,
defend us in battle.
Be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil.
May God rebuke him, we humbly pray;
and do Thou, O Prince of the Heavenly Host -
by the Divine Power of God -
cast into hell, satan and all the evil spirits,
who roam throughout the world seeking the ruin of souls.
Amen.


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