Become a Spiritual Father to a Priest - Catholic Exchange article by Dave McClow

Following is an article at Catholic Exchange website writen by Dave McClow entitled, "St. Joseph: Our Model for Fatherhood".

Fatherlessness has become an epidemic in our society:  43% of our kids grow up without fathers (US Census), approaching a catastrophe rivaling the 1918 flu pandemic when an estimated 56% of the world was infected.  Fatherlessness is devastating—legally, morally, psychologically, and spiritually. A shocking snapshot of our fatherless youth shows they comprise 63% of youth suicides (US Dept. Of Health/Census)–5 times the average; 90% of all homeless and runaway children–32 times the average; 85% of all children who show behavior disorders–20 times the average (Center for Disease Control); 80% of rapists with anger problems–14 times the average (Justice & Behavior, Vol 14, p. 403-26); and 71% of all high school dropouts–9 times the average (National Principals Association Report).

Fatherlessness is a Catholic problem in two ways:  1) because God is father, it creates a crisis of faith and is partly responsible for the rise of the religious “nones” (70% are millennials, 23% are adults, and 57% are men) and 2) it challenges how we evangelize the fatherless.

The antidote is men fully living out their faith as spiritual fathers by informally adopting our lost generation.  Our faith calls us to care for the “least” and the vulnerable (Mt. 25:40) and to “Go and make disciples of all nations” (Mt. 28:19)—that’s spiritual fatherhood; that’s the summit of being a man, and St. Joseph is our prototypical model.

How is St. Joseph a Spiritual Father?

St. Joseph took two roads to spiritual fatherhood: 1) through the incarnation, and 2) through participation in a new order of family.

God the Father, our real prototype of spiritual fatherhood (Eph. 3:14), asked St. Joseph to be Jesus’ father.  John Paul II says that even though his fatherhood is not biological, he is not just an “apparent” or “substitute” father.  Rather, he “fully shares in authentic human fatherhood and the mission of a father in the family“ (RC, 21).  How is this so?  As the Incarnation, Jesus’ whole purpose is to reveal the Father and true fatherhood (Jn 14:9).  And John Paul II explains that the Holy Family is inserted directly into the mystery of the Incarnation.  And so, though St. Joseph is not Jesus’ biological father, when he reveals, relives, and radiates the very fatherhood of God, he becomes Jesus’ authentic human, and I would add spiritual, father.  His masculinity is fully expressed in his spiritual fatherhood, as it should be for all men, first and foremost, even if they are not biological fathers.

A New Order of Family

“Who are my mother and brothers?  Whoever does the will of God is my brother, and sister, and mother” (Mt. 12:46-50; cf., Mk. 3:31-35; Lk 27-28).  Is Jesus trying to escape a stereotypical overbearing Jewish mother?  I don’t think so!  Instead, John Paul II believes Jesus is establishing a whole new order of family and parenthood based on obedience.  And who is more obedient than Mary?  Jesus is preparing her for the crowning event of her new spiritual motherhood at the foot of cross: “Son, behold your Mother” (Jn 19:26-27).  In the new order, Jesus gives us and the Church his own mother.

Similarly, St. Joseph, as Jesus’ spiritual father, can also be our father.  Spiritual fatherhood (or motherhood) includes any action of care for others, i.e., the corporal or spiritual works of mercy.

“Joseph did.…” These two words and their variants, “he took the child…and went…” define St. Joseph’s role in salvation history.  He is not known for what he said in the Gospels—he said nothing!  But he listens to God in his inner life—his dreams—and then does the hard thing!  He protects the Son of God and his mother through many obstacles and threats—spiritual fatherhood is always an adventure!  He cares for and educates a child who is not his own in obedience to God’s word.  And as a just and generous man, he is willing to sacrifice much.  He is a good spiritual father to Jesus, and to us.

Spiritual fatherhood, as the summit of masculinity, is open to any age.  For years I watched the 5th and 6th grade boys at my local parish mentor or shepherd the younger boys during Mass.  When men or boys live out who they are created to be as spiritual fathers, they become more themselves, more masculine; they follow St. Joseph, our model, in revealing, reliving, and radiating God’s fatherhood to others.  In Part 2 I will explore more of the practical side of St. Joseph’s spiritual fatherhood as priest, prophet, and king.

The fatherlessness of this generation will spread like a cancer if unopposed.  Catholic men must be a witness, exercising their God-given gender and masculinity as spiritual fathers.  Our Church and culture depend on us!  We must imitate our father St. Joseph in revealing, reliving, and radiating God’s fatherhood to spiritual children who are not our own.  To whom can you be a spiritual father in your neighborhood or parish today?

image: St Joseph and the Angel by Fr. Lawrence Lew, O.P. / Flickr

Fatima: Mary and the Struggle Against Satan

“O my Jesus! Forgive us our sins, save us from the fire of hell. Lead all souls to heaven, especially those who are most in need.” According the memoirs of Sr. Lucia of Fatima, this prayer was directly taught by the Virgin Mary to the seers.

On the one-hundred-year anniversary of the apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima, the universal Church reflects on Mary’s apparition. With joy, we celebrate the canonization of two of the seers who received the revelations. Jacinta and Francesco Marto lived Mary’s message with heroic charity and zeal for the salvation of souls. Now we must consider the weightiness of the events; Fatima’s relevancy over the past one hundred years, and its meaning for this present hour.

I did not orchestrate this, but Providence arranged that I celebrate the Centenary of Fatima in the Eternal City as a student at a Rome university in a course on liberation from evil through the ministry of exorcism. Enlisted by clergy into this ministry of mercy, I am receiving continuing education together with 240 students (mostly clergy and some lay assistants), representatives of thirteen countries, gathered to learn more about the task and responsibility of the hard fight with the devil.

This holy work requires “a deep bond with Jesus Christ, a constant and scrupulous care of self together with sacrificial love for suffering souls”. Believers and non-believers are more frequently calling the bishop’s office or knocking on the door of the parish priest seeking liberation from evil spirits. Christ’s ministers seek to respond with generous pastoral charity. The salvation of a great number of souls is at stake. One professor reminded us of the words of St. John Paul II, “We have to fight against the devil; only then are we witnesses of the Gospel.”

Fittingly, on the first day, Cardinal Angelo Amato, Prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Cause of Saints, (who has been busy preparing for the canonization of seers Jacinta and Francesco Marto), gave an inspired talk titled, “The Role of Mary in the Struggle Against Satan” articulating nine key points. Here I will share a few of his reflections.

The Cardinal reminded us of the Marian aspect wherein, from the book of Genesis to the book of Revelation, the scriptures present Mary as the “women” uniquely chosen by God to restore the dignity of woman after Eve’s fall into the temptation of Satan. The Virgin “Mary gives us a love that regenerates. Satan is absent love.”

In the book of Revelation, the two characters “the woman” and the “dragon” represent good and evil; life and death. Mary represents the Church according to some interpretations. “In modern and ancient interpretations, the Son of a woman is a personal messiah, Jesus Christ. He comes to send the devil away.”

“The event of Fatima underscores the victory of Mary over Satan.” Mary is the protagonist. Fatima presumes the presence of the Church though Mary. She comes to us in a time of war, anti-Catholic persecution, Communism, Fascism, Christian terrorism, and oppression of any religious values.

The Cardinal emphasized that Sister Lucia said, “Nothing is secret anymore; there is no fourth secret; all was published in 2000.” The Cardinal then commented, “Pope John Paul II is the great interpreter of the Fatima Secret.” After the assassination attempt on 13 May 1981, the Holy Father contemplated the events, and entrusted himself to the Virgin Mary whose maternal hand re-directed the path of what would have been a fatal bullet. He understands that the Lord and the Virgin Mary have intervened.

The third part of the secret refers to the killing of a bishop dressed in white (the Pope) surrounded by a group of soldiers who died also (the blood of the martyrs?). “There are various interpretations… the “official one is a publication in the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith, by then Prefect, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger.

“Fatima helps us to understand the signs of the times. Children see hell. They are exposed to this terror; enlisted to help save souls by prayer and penance. The children respond in faith with obedience to the revelation.” They understand “the key word: penance!”

“The free will of man is to choose between good and evil. Sometimes the future is presented in an irrevocable way: the vision of a city in ruin; a bishop in white is killed; martyrdom— (the future of the Church in the 20th century). Pope John Paul II acknowledged his own fate. The maternal hand of Mary says, ‘There is no unchangeable fate. Prayer is stronger than a gun!’ Mary shows us this.”

“Protagonist Pope John Paul II interpreted the secret of Fatima. He was overwhelmed by the message of Fatima. He felt the need to reflect on the meaning and value of the angel and Mary of Fatima.”

“He was wounded by a professional killer. We are before a Pope who stopped at the beginning of his “rebirth”. John Paul II realized that the Blessed Virgin Mary gave him a second life, a “Marian Kairos” (a propitious moment for decision or action). The Holy Father had other intentions for his papacy but the assassination attempt and, consequently, his reflection on the secret of Fatima, gives him the way to interpret Fatima, and his present and future. The vision convinced Pope John Paul II that death was avoided only by the powerful intercession of Mary. This was a turning point in his pontificate. The secret of Fatima reveals the fight against Satan (murderer) and the maternal guidance (power) of Mary.”

“Fatima introduces the symbol of the Blood; it reveals the battle between Satan and the Virgin Mary. The message throws light on the world today. Fatima opens a new vision of our future: a dark future enlightened by hope because of the maternal Heart of Mary. Fatima is a prophetic vision of the war waged against the Church and of immense suffering. I am a Salesian. I am reminded of the prophetic dream of St. John Bosco who humbly lowered his prophetic reality to call it a dream. He saw a ship in the sea attacked by smaller ships. The ship anchored itself to two columns: The Virgin Mary and Jesus in the Eucharist. We cope with the battles of this life with Mary and the Eucharist.”

“O my Jesus! Forgive us our sins, save us from the fire of hell. Lead all souls to heaven, especially those who are most in need.” This prayer said at the end of each decade of the Holy Rosary punctuates the spiritual weapon that defeats evil.

  • “O my Jesus!” is the cry of the believing human heart.
  • “Forgive us our sins” is the desire of a good conscience, a response to God who poured out His Blood for the forgiveness of sins.
  • “Save us from the fire of hell” is a reminder that hell exists. We have complete freedom to choose NOT to go there.
  • “Lead us to Heaven” –the union of our free will with the divine will. Grace carries us there if we vigilantly respond to God.
  • “Especially those who are in most need”—penance, reparation, sacrifice –intercessory prayer for the salvation of souls.

The words of Cardinal Angelo Amato deserve repeating:

  • The maternal hand of Mary reveals, ‘There is no unchangeable fate. Prayer is stronger than a gun!’ Mary shows us this.
  • Fatima opens a new vision of our future: a dark future enlightened by hope because of the maternal Heart of Mary. Fatima is a prophetic vision of the war waged against the Church and of immense suffering.
  • I am a Salesian. I am reminded of the prophetic dream of St. John Bosco who humbly lowered his prophetic reality to call it a dream. He saw a ship in the sea attacked by smaller ships. The ship anchored itself to two columns: The Virgin Mary and Jesus in the Eucharist. We cope with the battles of this life with Mary and the Eucharist.

Once, my father-in-law commented that the fall of the Berlin Wall was an answer to the prayers of a generation of Catholics who took to heart the message of Fatima. How will this present generation live the Fatima message?

Our Lady of Fatima, pray for us.

Diocese of Austin, Texas, 2017 Women's Conference

This fall - Saturday, September 23, 2017 - Kathleen is scheduled to speak at the Diocese of Austin Women's Conference.
As it says on the poster below - The day includes Mass with Bishop Daniel Garcia, surprise guest testimonials, confession, eucharistic adoration, intercessory prayer teams, great women's fellowship and Catholic books and gifts for purchase.
See further details on the poster below.

Marian Eucharistic Conference: 100 Years of Fatima: A Message for Today

Coming up May 19-21, 2017, Kathleen will be one of several speakers at the Ave Maria University Marian Eucharistic Conference: 100 Years of Fatima: A Message for Today. Kathleen will give 2 conferences at the Annual Ave Maria University Marian Eucharistic Conference in Ave Maria, Florida.
- Our Lady of Fatima's Role in the Defeat of Evil

- The Fatima Angel's Eucharistic Lessons

Here is a poster with further details about this event.

Defeating the Tempter by Trust in Divine Mercy

In the book of Job we read, “And the Lord said to Satan, ‘Have you noticed my servant Job, and that there is no one on earth like him, faultless and upright, fearing God and avoiding evil? He holds fast to his innocence and although you incited me against him to ruin him without cause.’ And Satan answered the Lord and said, ‘Skin for skin! All that a man has will he give for his life. But now put forth your hand and touch his bone and his flesh, and surely he will blaspheme you to your face’,” (Job 2:3-5).

We know the trials and tribulation contained within the pages of the book of the Job. The Lord ordained that His good and faithful servant, endure diabolical vexation; He tested his love and fidelity. After Job’s longsuffering the Lord restored him and his household a hundredfold.

The words that Satan spoke to the Lord, “…surely he will blaspheme you to your face” represent a consistent goal of the Tempter—to cause us to blaspheme the Lord.

About blasphemy:

Blasphemy is directly opposed to the second commandment. It consists in uttering against God – inwardly or outwardly – words of hatred, reproach, or defiance; in speaking ill of God; in failing in respect toward him in one’s speech; in misusing God’s name. St. James condemns those “who blaspheme that honorable name [of Jesus] by which you are called.” The prohibition of blasphemy extends to language against Christ’s Church, the saints, and sacred things. It is also blasphemous to make use of God’s name to cover up criminal practices, to reduce peoples to servitude, to torture persons or put them to death. The misuse of God’s name to commit a crime can provoke others to repudiate religion. Blasphemy is contrary to the respect due God and his holy name. It is in itself a grave sin (CCC 2148).

The Tempter tries to incite us to reject God and His will for our life; to become angry with God; to blame the Lord for all that is wrong, tempting us to negativity, indifference and then blasphemy in thought and deed. Such temptations vary from subtle to strong. Like Job, the saints model how to resist the Tempter.

In her spiritual diary, St. Faustina records Satan’s temptations, how she responded and what Christ taught her.

When I went, in my thoughts, to the chapel, my spirit was plunged into even greater darkness. Total discouragement came over me. Then I heard Satan’s voice: “See how contradictory everything is that Jesus gives to you: He tells you to found a convent, and the He gives you sickness. He tells you to set about establishing this Feast of Mercy while the whole world does not at all want such a feast. Why do you pray for this feast? It is so inopportune.” My soul remained silent and, by an act of the will, continued to pray without entering into conversation with the Spirit of Darkness. Nevertheless, such an extraordinary disgust with life came over me that I had to make a great act of the will to consent to go on living…(1497). (St. Faustina, Diary: Divine Mercy in My Soul, Marian Press, Stockbridge, MA, 2014)

And again, I heard the tempter’s words: “Ask for death for yourself tomorrow after Holy Communion. God will hear you, for He has heard you so many times before and has given you that which you asked of Him.” (1497)

Here Satan tempts a saint against God’s will and entices her to ask God to end her life at the precise moment of Holy Communion, which is the Eucharistic bond of the love life between Creator and creature. Satan abhors the moment of Holy Communion and seeks to corrupt it with the desire for death instead of life. The Tempter knows this humble nun is a threat to his kingdom of darkness. Like Job, Faustina must engage with an act of her will to overcome such temptations.

The tempter went on: “Why should you bother about other souls? You ought to be praying only for yourself. As for sinners, they will be converted without your prayers. I see that you are suffering very much at this moment. I’m going to give you a piece of advice on which your happiness will depend: Never speak about God’s mercy and, in particular, do not encourage sinners to trust in God’s mercy, because they deserve a just punishment. Another very important thing: Do not tell your confessors, and especially this extraordinary confessor and the priest in Vilnius, about what goes on in your soul. I know them: I know who they are, and so I want you on guard against them. You see, to live as a good nun, it is sufficient to live like all the others. Why expose yourself to so many difficulties?” (1497)

Now Satan tempts a saint to cease praying for others and to pray only for herself. Intercessory prayer for others is so important that Satan is tempting Faustina to cease this type of prayer. Then Satan emphasizes her suffering and taunts her to happiness that he says depends upon “never speaking about God’s mercy”. He tempts her against the will of God and her mission. In particular Satan exhorts her to cease encouraging sinners to trust in God’s mercy and he emphasizes justice and punishment.

Finally, the last temptation recorded in this diary entry is one against honesty with her confessor and against the priest in Vilnius. Satan sows seeds of doubt and tries to intimidate her, “I know them.” Satan abhors priests, confessors, and our confession of sins. The sacrament of Reconciliation saves countless souls from perdition and heals our spiritual sicknesses.

In response to the above temptations, St. Faustina “remained silent, and by an act of will I dwelt in God, although a moan escaped from my heart. Finally, the tempter went away and I, exhausted, fell asleep immediately.” (1498) The next morning, after she received Holy Communion, she renewed her act of submission to God’s will, “Jesus, I ask You, give me the strength for battle. Let it be done to me according to Your most holy will.”

Variations of the temptations of Job and of the saints such as Faustina are unleashed upon us also. The ancient serpent of the Garden of Eden who enticed Adam and Eve still roams the earth seeking the ruin of souls. In the desert, during the threefold temptation of Jesus Christ, He modeled how to conquer the wiles of the Tempter (cf. Luke 1:1-13). We are called to imitate Christ’s wisdom, fidelity, virtue and faithfulness to the Father’s will for our life’s vocation. We do so for the sake of the greatest love, eternal beatitude.

After St. Faustina resisted the tempter and recommitted her will to God’s will, the Lord said:

Satan gained nothing by tempting you, because you did not enter into the conversation with him. Continue to act in this way. You gave Me great glory today by fighting so faithfully. Let it be confirmed and engraved on your heart that I am always with you, even if you don’t feel My presence at the time of the battle. (1409)

Recently a priest advanced in age who has been my spiritual father underwent open-heart surgery. Twice he nearly died during the first weeks after surgery. Father asked for prayers because he experienced temptations such as, “Your God is all about suffering. Suffer, suffer, suffer priest! That’s all God wills for you. You are alone and God has rejected you and you will suffer unto death and be mine.” Father made many acts of faith and fought valiantly against the Tempter. Then he somehow experienced the truth of divine mercy saying, “It’s all real!”

That God allows the Tempter to try us is a mystery not to be solved but to be believed. Before Job’s restoration he said to the Lord, “I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be hindered. I have dealt with great things that I do not understand; things too wonderful for me, which I cannot know. I had heard of you by word of mouth, but now my eye has seen you. Therefore I disown what I have said and repent in dust and ashes” (Job 42: 1-6).

As one who, for the past fifteen years, has witnessed much deliverance from evil during major and minor exorcisms, the manifestations of the evil one are not nearly as impressive as are the manifestations of God’s mercy working in and through the priest and church.

Take heart when the Tempter assails you because you are not alone, Jesus defends you, choirs of good angels and the communion of saints engage on your behalf, and as a member of the Church, her goods are your spiritual armor.

If like Job, you suffer loss in the fray with the evil one, trust that the Lord will restore you in unimaginable good. He is preoccupied with your eternal salvation and His mercy is your covering and protection. Repay His mercy with your loving trust.

Editor’s note: For approved spiritual warfare prayers please visit www.foundationforpriests.org, under the spiritual warfare section. See also Kathleen Beckman’s God’s Healing Mercy: Finding Your Path to Forgiveness, Peace, and Joywhich is available from Sophia Institute Press.

image: Archangel Michael defeats the Devil, relief by Marcantonio Prestinari on the facade of Sant’Angelo church in Milan, Italy. Picture by Giovanni Dall’Orto, April 11, 2007, / Wikimedia Commons.

Lenten Retreat in Amarillo, Texas

Coming Friday, March 31 and Saturday, April 1, 2017, Kathleen Beckman will conduct a Parish Lenten Retreat in Bishop Zurek Parish Hall at Blessed Sacrament Church in Amarillo, Texas. The Roman Catholic Diocese of Amarillo website has a page with further details and contact information for those who wish to attend the retreat. Those interested can see the Amarillo Diocese page by clicking >here. Also, you can view details about this Lenten Retreat by visiting our Events page >here. Lentan blessing to all!

Ephesians Six: Prayers in Spiritual Warfare

St. Paul, in his letter to the Ephesians, chapter six, brilliantly describes the real spiritual battle that is the human experience on earth. Defending our selves and families against the wiles of the devil requires grace, not self-reliance; prayer, not fear; wisdom, not folly.

It is foolish and outside Church teaching to deny that the devil is not in the mix of the spiritual world. Yet, he isn’t to blame for every evil thought or deed since sin is at work in our fallen nature. Daily we decide, consciously or unconsciously, to cultivate virtuous habits that strengthen our spiritual armor or destructive vices that weaken or remove the armor. Absent God’s armor we become extremely vulnerable to diabolical vexation (cf. Book of Job).

We may get weary of the spiritual battle, and procrastinate about doing anything constructive to combat the interior or exterior onslaught of negativity, lies, doubts, fears, and darkness that weigh heavily on the soul. To a degree, we give up; lethargy sets in. We just want the spiritual tension and torment to end. The flesh cries out for pleasure; the world beckons us to comfort. The devil taunts us, “Your God wants you to suffer. He doesn’t care. You’re in a fantasy world. Get real.” How do we respond to spiritual combat at its various levels of temptation, oppression, or obsession?

Eight weeks ago I took a strange fall and broke my right upper arm bone. This new physical incapacity and chronic pain took a toll on my prayer life. Attending daily Mass was impossible because I couldn’t drive for weeks. I felt my spiritual armor weaken, even as I offered up the deprivation of the Eucharist and chronic physical pain. Undergoing an intense purification in the silence and solitude of suffering, I thought I’d be swallowed up by the darkness. I didn’t feel like praying at all but with great effort of my will I prayed to the best of my ability. Daily grace was sufficient to keep my eye on the light at the end of the dark tunnel.

Taking up the word of God, I prayed chapter six of Ephesians in the following way. It is always more fruitful to pray, to turn to God, than to complain about the fiery ordeal.

Ephesians Six Prayers

Ephesians 6:10: Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might.

Lord, I’ve never felt weaker or more defeated in the battle against the evil spirits. In your mercy, hold me upright in the strength of your might. Protect me from this evil onslaught and increase my faith that I may not succumb to diabolical temptations. O Incarnate Mercy, embrace your suffering servant with tender strength.

Ephesians 6:11: Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.

Lord Jesus, you are the whole armor of the Christian soldier—cover me please. Wherever there is a weak link in my spiritual armor, please heal and restore its integrity. The wiles of the devil are manifold leading me into darkness, discouragement, doubt, and division—even against my self, friends and family. I need your light to see, your encouragement to persevere, and affirmation that, with your grace, I can resist and the enemy will flee.

Ephesians 6:12: For we are not contending against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.

Eternal Father, what defense do I, a poor sinner, have against powers and principalities, and their wickedness? You have given me your Son Jesus Christ as spiritual armor. Father, graciously place me into the depths of the Sacred Heart, my refuge against this present darkness. If I have succumbed to evil, lead me to repentance, reparation and restoration. I am your unworthy child but the Blood of your Son Jesus is my garment because you willed it. Thank you for your loving, perpetual care. 

Ephesians 6:13: Therefore take the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.

Eternal Father, I reach for you like a child who seeks to be picked up into the arms of his or her loving daddy. Only in your arms am I safe from the evil one. Have I done all, to stand for Christ against the evil day? I’m sure that I have not. Therefore, have pity on me and supply what is lacking in your servant please.

Ephesians 6:14: Stand therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness,

Jesus, Incarnate Truth, please build me up in the truth that I may stand against my soul’s enemy. You, the only Righteous One, be my breastplate, shield and protection in this present spiritual battle. With Incarnate Truth, I can stand, am safe, and able to proclaim the victory that you won on the cross. My only righteousness is your Precious Blood; and because of it, the devil is defeated. Consecrate me in this truth, I beg you.

Ephesians 6:15: and having shod your feet with the equipment of the gospel of peace;

Lord Jesus, the gospel of peace rests in my heart but my feet feel the hot coals of the fire set by the evil one. Teach me please, the way of surrender, strength and suffering wherein I do not lose my peace of soul. Did you lose your peace on the Via Dolorosa? No! You entered into the fiery ordeal with confidence in Your Father’s plan. Teach me this way of wise confidence, I beg you. I admit my faith, hope, love are too small. Increase it, I pray.

Ephesians 6:16: above all taking the shield of faith, with which you can quench all the flaming darts of the evil one.

Mother Mary, first disciple of the Lord Jesus, I implore your maternal help to strengthen my faith so it becomes an impenetrable shield. When the flaming darts of the evil one raged against you, they could not mortally wound you. You who where privileged to see God’s glory with greatest clarity also saw the unimaginable depths of evil at work all around you. You were not afraid, you believed, and proclaimed God’s victory in the greatest battle at the foot of the cross. You stood in valiantly in faith. Please strengthen the faith of your battle worn child now.

Ephesians 6:17: And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

Lord Jesus, please renew my mind, that I may think the holy and good thoughts of a redeemed child. Please secure the helmet of salvation upon me so I am never without protection.

 Holy Spirit, come and fill me now. Graciously release your gifts of faith, hope and love, discernment and praise. Help me to pick up the sword of the Spirit to cut down and clear away all that is not of you. Keep me rooted in your living Word that is sharper than a two-edged sword against my enemy.

Ephesians 6:18: Pray at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints.

Most Holy Trinity, as a member of your Church militant, I have recourse to the Church triumphant. On earth I can look to, count on, and pray to saints as my heavenly family. In the midst of spiritual battles I have saint friends who passed the test, and their witness strengthens me to fight the good fight. Thank you, my Triune God, for your loving mercy, assurance, protection and blessing.

 St. Michael the Archangel, most powerful against Satan and his cohorts, defend me in battle now, and until I am safely home with the Church triumphant. Archangel Michael and beloved guardian angel, please aid me in wearing the full armor of God.

image: Our Holy Redeemer by Fr. Lawrence Lew, OP / Flickr

Advent: Joyful Mysteries for Holiness of Priests

Fr. John Hardon, S.J. writes, “Having taught priests for over 30 years, having lived with priests, and having labored for them, loving them and suffering with them—no words I can use would be too strong to state that the Catholic priesthood needs prayer and sacrifice as never before since Calvary…” (Quoted by Beckman, Praying for Priests: A Mission for the New Evangelization, p 20)

Advent season is a perfect time to pray Our Lady’s rosary for the holiness of priests; an intention most pleasing to the Immaculate Heart. We can consider it a fruitful spiritual work of mercy.

For that purpose, I offer the following reflections.

As you consider these rosary reflections, kindly recall the teaching of Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa, OFM, Cap.,

“It is true that laypeople contribute to the support of the clergy, but their contribution to the kingdom and to the priests should not stop there. The Lord today is calling the faithful in ever-growing numbers to pray, to offer sacrifices, in order to have holy priests. A concern, a passion, for holy priests has spread as a sign of the times throughout today’s Church. …The royal and universal priesthood of believers has a new way of expressing itself, contributing to the sanctification of ministerial priesthood.”
(Quoted by Beckman, Praying for Priests: A Mission for the New Evangelization, p 19)

First Joyful Mystery: The Annunciation of Our Lord

Intention: Priestly obedience of faith

Fruit: the gift of wisdom and for yes to the divine will

Scripture: The angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin’s name was Mary. And coming to her, he said, “Hail, favored one! The Lord is with you.” But she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her. (Luke 1:26-33, 38)

Prayer: Father, I pray for priests to listen, hear and respond, as did Mary so that their hearts are receptive to the divine will. Please grant to priests the gift of wisdom to ardently desire holiness of life. Graciously protect them from temptations to flight, compromise, compensation, vice or sin.

Second Joyful Mystery: The Visitation

Intention: Joyful, faithful service

Fruit: virtues

Scripture: During those days Mary set out and traveled to the hill country in haste to a town of Judah, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice and said, “Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And how does this happen to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.” (Luke 1:39-45)

Prayer: Father, I pray that priests never tire of going forth to serve wherever they are needed. Please grant to priests the experience of joy in their sacrificial love for souls. Sanctify your priests that they may sanctify your people, attracting souls to your kingdom.

Third Joyful Mystery: The Nativity of Jesus

Intention: Humility of the Christ child

Fruit: to love and be loved

Scripture: While they were there, the time came for her to have her child, and she gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. Now there were shepherds in that region living in the fields and keeping the night watch over their flock. The angel of the Lord appeared to them and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were struck with great fear. The angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is Messiah and Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.” (Luke 2: 6-12)

Prayer: Father, the prophet Isaiah said, “A little child shall lead them” (Is. 11:6). I pray for priests to be humble with a childlike trust in divine providence. Please heal priests of any fear of vulnerability that is required for authentic Christ-like love and service. May the Christ Child be born anew in the heart of every priest so they remember the Gift of Love.

Fourth Joyful Mystery: The Presentation

Intention: Growth in personal prayer

Fruit: holiness, purity, perseverance

Scripture: Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon. This man was righteous and devout, awaiting the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he should not see death before he had seen the Messiah of the Lord. He came in the Spirit into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus to perform the custom of the law in regard to him, he took him into his arms and blessed God, saying: “Now, Master, you may let your servant go in peace, according to your word, for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you prepared in sight of all the peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people Israel.” (Luke 2:25-32)

Prayer: Father, I pray for priests to grow in the gift of personal prayer, that they may know the joy of encountering Jesus Christ and of having a lively interior life. Please raise priests to know the power of prayer from the heart.

Fifth Joyful Mystery: Finding the Christ Child in the Temple

Intention: Zeal for the Father’s House

Fruit: self-emptying charity for souls

Scripture: Each year his parents went to Jerusalem for the feast of Passover, and when he was twelve years old, they went up according to festival custom. After they had completed its days, as they were returning, the boy Jesus remained behind in Jerusalem, but his parents did not know it. Thinking that he was in the caravan, they journeyed for a day and looked for him among their relatives and acquaintances, but not finding him, they returned to Jerusalem to look for him. After three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions, and all who heard him were astounded at his understanding and his answers. When his parents saw him, they were astonished, and his mother said to him, “Son, why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety.” And he said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”  But they did not understand what he said to them. (Luke 2:41-50)

Prayer: Father, I pray that priests will be always breaking open the living Word in Your temple, the Church. Graciously grant priests the gift of zeal for your house, zeal for Christ, zeal for souls, zeal for the priesthood, zeal for loving service, and zeal for heaven.

Closing Rosary Reflection

 

Self-Offering: Intercession for Priests

Heavenly Father, I, a poor servant, ask that I may glorify the Trinity in the offering of my daily prayers and sacrifices for the holiness of priests. I am inspired by the glorious witnesses of saints who went before me on the path of spiritual motherhood and fatherhood. I unite my offering to all the spiritual mothers and fathers of priests through the history of the Church. I pray that I may imitate their fidelity and fruitfulness in handing down the Faith to future generations by spiritually supporting all clergy in prayer –which is the heart of the New Evangelization. Amen.

Excerpts from: Praying for Priests: A Mission for the New Evangelization available from Sophia Press. For more on spiritual motherhood or fatherhood of priests: www.foundationforpriests.org.

Kathleen Has A New Book Coming Next Spring

Hey faithful readers! Kathleen's new book is expected to be released April 19, 2017. It's called, "When Women Pray: 11 Catholic Women on the Power of Prayer".

This book features chapters by popular Catholic women, including: Johnnette Benkovic, Kathryn Jean Lopez, Marilyn Quirk, Dr. Mary Healy, Vicki Thorn, Kelly Wahlquist, Lisa Hendey, Dr. Ronda Chervin, Dr. Pia de Solenni, and Joan Lewis.

Sophia Institute Press already has a listing where you can pre-order the book. They also have a brief description of the contents along with further details.

To see the listing or pre-order a copy, just click the image of the book's cover above.

Litany of Trust: A Deliverance Prayer

“God’s mercy is creative. There are times when all seems lost and beyond hope and then God surprises us through an unexpected turn of events and something new is brought to life”—this is the wisdom of Mother Agnes Mary of the Sisters of Life as printed in their magazine, Imprint. Here we are reminded of the truth that God makes all things new. As this Jubilee Year of Mercy draws to a close in a few weeks, we can be extremely grateful for the many extraordinary occasions of undeserved grace.

God’s mercy is creative whenever we forgive, repent, reconcile, convert, and heal. These are just some of the ways that divine mercy has manifested over the months of the Jubilee. I’ve had the joy of traveling internationally to lead many “God’s Healing Mercy” retreats wherein divine mercy manifested in deep inner healing, reconciliations, conversions, and physical healings. When the Vicar of Christ declared a Jubilee of Mercy, we entered a year of extraordinary favor.

In the Jubilee Year, God didn’t erase the great human problems that confront us presently. He did reveal that He is with us always. The battle is the Lord’s, and like David we face Goliaths of opposition, persecution, threats, and the mystery of human suffering and pain. But we don’t face these perplexing issues alone. We know that our Creator God who is Love has everything in the palm of His Almighty Hand. It sounds simplistic perhaps, but the gravitas of truth is simple in that God has ordered everything according to His divine will. There is a divine plan in our midst. God’s working—He’s faithful to His part. What are we to do? Believe. Adore. Hope. Love. Watch. Pray. Work. Fast. Sacrifice. Kiss our cross. Be merciful disciples. Be faithful and trust, trust, trust. Christ is our undefeatable Deliverer.

As Mother Agnes reminds us, “there are times when all seems lost and beyond hope and then God surprises us”—how much we relate to this true statement. The beauty of being a spiritual child is that we are assured of the care of Our Father in Heaven. The Most Holy Trinity is worthy to be trusted; worthy to be worshiped with confidence; worthy of our surrender. Divine providence always amazes.

Mary, Mother of Trust

The saints of divine mercy, Sr. Faustina and St. John Paul II, and others remind us that by trust and confidence God’s heart of mercy is moved. To grow in trust, we can look at the Virgin Mary at the wedding feast of Cana. Mary saw a problematic situation for the family at Cana. She simply turned to her Son Jesus and said, “They have no more wine” and what happened? Her maternal faith and trust moved Christ to act and He performed His first miracle. Expectant faith acts in confidence. We know that Mother Mary was not anxious at Cana; worried that Jesus would not do anything to fix the problem. She moved in expectant faith, anticipating a miracle. Jesus certainly provided in an extravagant way! Trust is the way of love. Maternal Marian mercy is the way of confidence.

Need to Be Delivered

Sometimes our journey of healing and deliverance is similar to the Israelites passage from slavery. God worked the miracle of the parting of the Red Sea and then they waited in the desert for forty years. God was with them, providing the manna. But there was grumbling, and some even desired to return to what they knew well—slavery. Healing and deliverance is a process wherein the renewal of the mind is necessary because makes us a new creation. What gets in the way too often are the chains of seven deadly sins: pride, envy, avarice, lust, gluttony, anger, and sloth.

In the remainder of the Jubilee of Mercy, let us pray for one another to be delivered from everything that gets in the way of trust in God. We need to be delivered from many small and big obstacles to faith and confidence. Oh, how the evil spirits want to make us feel hopeless, loveless, alone, rejected, powerless in a world that seems to be spinning out of control. It is way out of our control. But we know the Lord orchestrates everything according to His wisdom. Patient endurance, steadfast faith, persistent prayer carries us.

In the Sisters of Life magazine, I was blessed to find the Litany of Trust penned by Sr. Faustina Maria Pia, S.V. I recognized that it is an anointed prayer that would bless everyone. I’m grateful to the editor of the magazine, Sr. Mary Elizabeth, who kindly gave permission to reprint the litany here.

Litany of Trust

From the belief that I have to earn Your love … Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear that I am unlovable … Deliver me, Jesus.
From the false security that I have what it takes … Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear that trusting You will leave me more destitute … Deliver me, Jesus.
From all suspicion of Your words and promises … Deliver me, Jesus.
From the rebellion against childlike dependency on You … Deliver me, Jesus.
From refusals and reluctances in accepting Your will … Deliver me, Jesus.
From anxiety about the future … Deliver me, Jesus.
From resentment or excessive preoccupation with the past … Deliver me, Jesus.
From restless self-seeking in the present moment … Deliver me, Jesus.
From disbelief in Your love and presence … Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being asked to give more than I have … Deliver me, Jesus.
From the belief that my life has no meaning or worth … Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of what love demands … Deliver me, Jesus.
From discouragement … Deliver me, Jesus.

That You are continually holding me sustaining me, loving me … Jesus, I trust in you.
That Your love goes deeper than my sins and failings, and transforms me …Jesus, I trust in you.
That not knowing what tomorrow brings is an invitation to lean on You … Jesus, I trust in you.
That you are with me in my suffering … Jesus, I trust in you.
That my suffering, united to Your own, will bear fruit in this life and the next …Jesus, I trust in you.
That You will not leave me orphan, that You are present in Your Church …Jesus, I trust in you.
That Your plan is better than anything else … Jesus, I trust in you.
That You always hear me, and in Your goodness always respond to me …Jesus, I trust in you.
That You give me the grace to accept forgiveness and to forgive others …Jesus, I trust in you.
That You give me all the strength I need for what is asked …Jesus, I trust in you.
That my life is a gift … Jesus, I trust in you.
That You will teach me to trust You … Jesus, I trust in you.
That You are my Lord and my God … Jesus, I trust in you.
That I am Your beloved one … Jesus, I trust in you.

Editor’s note: Learn more about the good work of the Sisters of Life: www.sistersoflife.org.

More about healing and deliverance: God’s Healing Mercy book and Foundation of Prayer for Priests: www.foundationforpriests.org.

A Litany For Healing

Christ Healing the Blind - from WikiPedia

Christ Healing the Blind - from WikiPedia

Far too many people in the world are suffering. There is a great need for healing. Knowing the power of prayer, we all can pray this Litany For Healing asking for God's Healing Mercy on all the people who are suffering.

This Litany For Healing prayer is available in PDF format so it can be read in a web page, downloaded or printed. You can access the Litany For Healing prayer >here.

Fatima: Mary, Angels, Seers, & Spiritual Weapons

According to Sr. Lucia, seer of the Fatima apparitions, in the spring of 1916… “When three little Fatima shepherds were on the slope of the hill known as the Cabeco, beneath a rock called the Loca, they saw, some way off, a young man approaching them who seemed to be made of light. When he reached them, he said, Do not be afraid. I am the Angel of Peace. Pray with me. Then kneeling down on the ground, he bowed low until his forehead touched the earth and said the following words three times, My God, I believe, I adore, I hope and I love You. I ask Your pardon for those who do not believe, do not adore, do not hope and do not love You. He then straightened himself up and said, Pray thus; the Hearts of Jesus and Mary are attentive to the voice of your supplications. (Sr. Lucia, Calls from the Message of Fatima, p 64).

This first message of the angel given to Lucia Santos, Jacinta and Francesco Marto before the apparitions of Mary prepares the way. This is consistent with the work of the angels in scripture. The Fatima angel’s message is a prayer of faith, adoration, hope and love. It’s the prayer I’ve silently uttered at every liturgy in preparation for receiving the Eucharist. It’s a Eucharistic prayer of intercession, reparation and beauty. The angel’s last sentence assures the children that the “Hearts of Jesus and Mary are attentive to their supplications”—a good reminder for all. This prayer of the angel is a little catechism on the message of Fatima.

Mary’s Deliverance Team: Lucia, Jacinta, and Francesco

Recently I had the honor of coordinating a conference on the subject of Mary’s role in the defeat of Satan. Priests and laity serving in the Church’s ministry of healing, deliverance and exorcism were the attendees. One of the speakers, a monsignor, gave a conference on the relevancy of the message of Fatima for the present age. During his power point presentation, the picture of the three little children of Fatima was shown and monsignor said, “Here is Mary’s deliverance team!” His comment struck me as being a profound lesson on Fatima’s message as it relates to the armor of God (cf. Ephs. 6). Jesus Christ is the chief exorcist and He commissions The Virgin Mary to proclaim His victory by her unfathomable love and virtue that crushes the evil one. Once we witnessed a possessed young man who was completely liberated by praying Mary’s Magnificat prayer in Luke’s Gospel.

Mary, the rosary, intercessory prayer and reparation are part of God’s armor. Lucia, Jacinta and Francesco were taught by Our Lady, Pray, pray very much, and make sacrifices for sinners. Many souls go to hell because there is none to make sacrifice to prayer for them (Fatima, 19th 1917). This is a vital, perennial Marian exhortation. It’s an urgent call to reparation for sinners. It focuses on the eternal salvation of souls. The response of the children was exemplary, so concerned were they about souls falling into hell. An unforgettable vision of hell was granted them. The children of Fatima were part of Mary’s deliverance team because they interceded against the powers of hell that want to drag as many souls as possible into the abyss of eternal suffering.

If, by self-sacrificing, intercessory prayer and reparation, Lucia, Jacinta and Francesco were part of Mary’s deliverance team, could those who do the same be part of Mary’s deliverance team? Some may resist the thought of spiritual warfare. It’s unpleasant but it’s real. Denying or disengaging from the reality of spiritual warfare is futile and makes one more vulnerable. The work of saving souls in cooperation with God’s plan, the Gospel, is the work of the entire Church. Living sacramentally united to Christ and His church qualifies us to be part of the deliverance team of Jesus and Mary. Our yes to God is a yes to becoming Christ’s soldier. The Fatima apparitions remind us of the reality of hell, the consequence of un-repented sin and rejection of God. The message of Fatima is relevant as ever now.

The spiritual arsenal entrusted to Catholics is infinitely more powerful than demonic tactics of destruction and death. The one third fallen angels, Satan and his cohorts are wreaking havoc presently but we should not attribute to the powers of darkness more credit than is due them. As children of the Light, our weaponry of Light is more powerful then we comprehend. Evil spirits cower to Our Lady, the Eucharist, angels and saints, and the rosary prayer. These are all components of the Fatima message.

Fatima: The Marian Monstrance

Fr. Donald Calloway, in his new, magnificent, Marian opus, Champions of the Rosary, writes, “When Sr. Lucia became a cloistered nun, she was able to enter into a more prayerful and intense Eucharistic life. Sister Lucia viewed Mary as the first monstrance that revealed Jesus to the nations. (The word ‘monstrance’ stems from the Latin word monstrare, which means, ‘to show.’) In her writings, Sr. Lucia emphasized that Mary is also the living tabernacle of the presence of Jesus Christ. The entire work of our redemption started in Mary’s Immaculate Heart.”

Fatima’s Marian apparitions are a revelation of Christ’s incarnational love and mercy. Mary is sent from heaven. She doesn’t come of her own will but she appears according to the divine will. She always comes as Christ-bearer. The Eucharist is the incarnational love of God—body, blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ. The message of Our Lady of Fatima is about the salvation of souls. The call is to faith, the Eucharist, prayer, reparation, hope, and transforming love.

In union with Christ and with his Church, the message of Fatima invites and reminds us to offer ourselves as victims of incarnational love, victims of expiation for the conversion of humanity. We are to be incarnational love, Christ-bearers even to those who contradict or persecute us. Real love sacrifices, repairs, and creates. Mary, who radiates the light of Christ and is a living monstrance, helps us to become humble, poor and broken so we can become a living Eucharistic monstrance.

Fatima: The Weapon of the Rosary

Regarding Sr. Lucia, according to Fr. Donald Calloway, “after receiving the Eucharist for the first time, she knelt down and prayed before a statue of Our Lady of the Rosary, and later testified that the statue smiled at her. During the Fatima apparitions, Mary stressed the importance of the recitation of the rosary. All three children became champions of the rosary and encouraged others to pray it with them before each apparition. …After the Fatima apparitions, Our Lady continued to instruct Sr. Lucia on the importance of the rosary” (Champions of the Rosary, p 246).

Rosary Gems

From the Servant of God Lucia Dos Santos, as quoted by Fr. Calloway:

The Most Holy Virgin, in these last times in which we live, has given a new efficacy in the recitation of the rosary to such an extend that there is no problem, no matter how difficult it is, whether temporal or above all spiritual, in the personal life of each one of us, our families…that cannot be solved by the rosary. There is no problem, I tell you, no matter how difficult it is, that we cannot resolve by the pray of the holy rosary.

All well-intentioned people can, and should, recite the five decades of the rosary every day. The rosary should constitute each person’s spiritual food.

When lovers are together, they spend hours and hours repeating the same thing: “I love you!”  What is missing in the people who think the rosary monotonous is Love; and everything that is not done for love is worthless (Champions of the Rosary, p 247).

Closing Prayer

Our Lady of Fatima, pray for us, your children on earth who have great need of your help. Grant, through your maternal intercession, that we are fully clothed in the armor of God. Mother of Grace, aid us to become a living Eucharistic monstrance, and a member of God’s deliverance team for the work of saving souls. With you, holy Mother, we believe, adore, hope and love your Son Jesus. We beg pardon for those who do not believe, adore, hope and love the Lord.

image: Zvonimir Atletic / Shutterstock.com

Spiritual Warfare Lessons from St. Padre Pio

Profusions of written and oral accounts exist about the signs and wonders in the life of St. Padre Pio. Three times I visited San Giovanni Rotundo in Foggia, Italy to venerate the tomb of the Italian mystic. These unforgettable visitations made a lasting impact on my spiritual life.

On my first visit to the shrine in the early 1990’s, I was leading a pilgrimage group along with a priest and religious sister. We were very fortunate to meet Fr. Alessio Parente, O.F.M., Cap, a faithful friend and assistant to the saint. Fr. Alessio joyfully and methodically told us of the wonders of grace that he witnessed in Padre Pio—stories that elicit awe and wonder at the mystery of Providence. Pio’s life was lived in communion with Christ’s as he experienced occasions of glory such as Peter, James and John at Mount Tabor, but he more often experienced Christ’s sacrificial suffering as at Gethsemane and Calvary.

For this reflection, I’d like to consider how Padre Pio was victorious over persistent diabolical attacks. He imitated his Lord Jesus Christ in resisting the devil’s cunning temptations, mockery, and persecution within and without. We can learn from his example some helpful lessons for our daily battle with the ancient enemy of our soul.

At the St. Pio shrine in Foggia, I purchased three volumes of the Saint’s writings that are not readily available in English as I understand. The following Padre Pio quotes are as stated in his written correspondence to his spiritual director. They give us a glimpse into the saint’s interior life. Following the quote, I attempt to draw forth a practical lesson.

December 20, 1910

“I am in the hands of the devil who is trying to snatch me from the arms of Jesus. Dear God! What a war he is waging against me! There are moments in which I am on the point of losing my reason through the continual violence I must do myself. How many tears and groans, dear Father, I send up to heaven in order to be set free. But no matter, I will never tire of praying to Jesus.”

Lesson

  1. The aim of the devil is to take us from the arms of Jesus, to isolate us from God. In writing to his spiritual director, he brings the struggle into the light and receives prayers.
  2. It is necessary to do violence to our self, to engage our free will in resisting diabolical temptations.
  3. Amidst tears and groans, we must turn to God, not away from God to be set free.
  4. Perseverance is necessary to pray until the trial ends.

August 17, 1910

“I laugh at all this as being of no account, following your advice. It sometimes worries me, though, that I am not quite sure if I have been ready to put up a fight at the enemy’s very first attack”.

Lesson

  1. Following the advice of his spiritual director, St. Pio is attempting to keep things in perspective, not to give too much credit to the demons.
  2. Pio reminds us that we must immediately fight off the devil’s first attack that will be aimed at our most vulnerable area (illicit relationships, sin-patterns, vices, etc.)

May 18, 1913

“Now, my dear Father, who could tell you all that I had to bear! I have been alone by night and alone by day! From that day I became involved in a bitter strife with those ugly wretches. They tried to make me believe that I had been rejected by God for ever”.

Lesson

  1. The temptation that God has completely rejected us is a common diabolical tactic. We should cling to the truth of God’s covenant of love even in the darkness of spiritual warfare.
  2. The spiritual director notes, “Padre Pio does not retreat nor admit defeat. He declares sincerely and firmly that he willingly accepts every kind of torment and tribulation, if only he may remain steadfast and faithful to his promises and ensure his salvation” (Padre Peio of Pietrelcina, Letters, 1, published by Our Lady of Grace Capuchin Friary, Italy, 1984, p 153)
  3. We should remain faithful to our obligation to God and keep our eyes fixed on eternal salvation—the bigger context of life.

June 25, 1911

“My dear Father, what is God’s purpose in allowing the devil so much freedom? Despair is trying to take hold of me, yet, believe me, Father, I have no intention of displeasing God. I cannot account for and much less understand how it can ever be possible that such a resolute will prepared to do good can be combined with all these human miseries. If you perceive, then, that my soul is in danger, help me, for I want at all costs to save my soul and to offend God no more.”

Lesson

  1. During times of spiritual attacks, God usually provides someone such as a spiritual director, or confessor, or spiritual friend to help us resist despair or discouragement that are never of God.
  2. We can train our will to be resolute and prepared to do good despite our human misery.
  3. We may feel confounded by spiritual attacks but as Pio writes we must want at all costs to save our soul and not to offend God.

May 9, 1915

“The enemies are continually rising up, Father, against the ship of my spirit and they cry out in unison: “Let us knock him down, let us crush him, since he is weak and cannot hold out much longer”. Alas, my dear Father, who will set me free from those roaring lions all ready to devour me?”

Lesson

  1. Though we pass through moments of extreme trial when the crushing power of the enemy is felt and our weakness is all too apparent, trust in God wins the day.
  2. The devil crushes the soul. The Lord lifts up the soul. If the Lord reprimands, He does so with gentleness and utmost charity, never crushing the soul. But the devil’s aim is soul crushing. Know your enemy. Know yourself. Know the Almighty One. Christ and you proclaim victory over all evil.

August 4, 1917

“Satan with his malignant wiles never tires of waging war on me and attacking my little citadel, besieging it on all sides. In a word, Satan is for me like a powerful foe who, when he resolves to capture a fortress is not content to attack one wall or one rampart, but surrounds it entirely, attacks and torments it on every side. My dear Father, the malignant wiles of Satan strike terror into my heart, but from God alone through Jesus Christ I hope for the grace to obtain the victory continually and never to be defeated.”

Lesson

  1. In spiritual warfare, by acknowledging our weakness, we depend upon God’s mercy that is always
  2. Satan is not interested in half measures against us. Therefore, he attacks from all sides. We must be battle ready in the state of grace, walking with the Church Militant.
  3. Satan may strike fear in us but we are able to turn that fear trigger into the virtue of faith because God provides grace.

Letter of Padre Benedetto, spiritual director to Padre Pio

“…Don’t worry about the darkness however much it afflicts you. It is useful, however, to make the Sign of the Cross every now and then on your forehead while saying these words, “May the Holy Spirit enlighten our senses and our hearts with his grace”, or else, “Seat of Wisdom, pray for us.” In temptations against faith, invoke St. Michael and Sts. Peter and Paul.

You want the dawn to break while you are sometimes enjoying midday, but your soul, which wants to have the light continually, feels when it passes into the shadow, that it has never enjoyed the light. On this earth it is mainly winter, and darkness lasts longer than the splendors of light. The time of eternal light will come and then you’ll enjoy the reward of the darkness endured. I earnestly hope and I am convinced that for you this light will begin already in the present life. I bless you and wish you an everlasting noon.”

Lesson

  1. Don’t worry. Trust does more to strengthen the soul.
  2. Make the sign of the cross on your forehead and pray to the Holy Spirit and/or to Mary, Seat of Wisdom.
  3. When in the darkness of spiritual desolation or spiritual warfare, we may forget that we ever experienced the consolation of love and light. A spiritual diary helps us to remember.
  4. Great is God’s reward for the persevering, believing person –starting on earth and climaxing in Paradise.
  5. No creature is greater than the Master. Christ’s life on earth is lived in us who believe. We suffer, die and rise in Him.

St. Padre Pio, pray for us please.

Exalt the Holy Cross; Love the Sorrowful Mother

In the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem is the ever-venerated rock of Calvary upon which stood the royal cross of Jesus Christ. A few feet to the right of the Calvary memorial is the icon of the Sorrowful Mother that dramatically portrays Mary’s heart pierced by one singular, large sword. In Jerusalem both memorials are appropriately side-by-side just as the Church’s liturgy honors the Exaltation of the Cross and Our Lady of Sorrows coupled in consecutive days.

The first reading of the Mass describes the Lord’s reaction to the disgruntled Israelites in the desert. After sending a plague of snakes, the Lord relented because they repented. Then the Lord told Moses to make a bronze serpent, which he put on a stand so that if any afflicted person looked upon the bronze figure, they’d be cured. This was the foreshadowing of Christ being lifted up on the cross so that we who gaze upon Him with faith receive the gift of salvation. The Lord told Nicodemus, “The Son of Man must be lifted up as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life” (Jn 3:14-15). Henceforth, the cross is the path of salvation, holiness, healing.

The cross is present in our lives in different ways. Today’s feast offers the opportunity for us to prayerfully consider what is our habitual disposition when we come face to face with the cross, with the Crucified Jesus, and His Sorrowful Mother? Personally, in the darkest hours of suffering I find the greatest consolation by contemplating the crucifix, the passion of Christ, and the sorrows of Mary. The cross is the place where my suffering meets the Lord’s and finds meaning and value. The sorrowful Mother is my refuge; she understands every kind of human suffering. She stays with us while grace carries us through the fire of purifications and pain.

In my work in the Church’s ministry of healing, deliverance and exorcism, repeatedly I observe the unspeakable power of lifting up the cross of Jesus as the most effective victory sign over evil. That is why the devils cower before the Crucifix now. And they flee the presence of the all-humble, holy Mother of God who did not recoil from the cross.

The Seven Sorrows of Mary

In the Church of the Holy Sepulcher Mary’s seven sorrows are represented in the one very large sword that pierces through her maternal heart and represents the perfect suffering of Mother of Christ.

Our Lady’s seven sorrows include the following. I’ve proposed the grace we can gain from them.

  1. The Presentation
    Faith to receive the prophetic word of God
  2. The Flight Into Egypt
    Trust in divine providence
  3. Loss of Jesus for Three Days
    Perseverance to look and find the Lord
  4. The Way of Calvary
    Courage to be faithful in suffering
  5. The Crucifixion
    Love sacrifices
  6. The Descent from the Cross
    Hope in the face of tragedy
  7. The Burial of Jesus
    Mercy in caring for the body and soul

On pilgrimages to the Holy Land, I received the grace to spend many hours in prayer in the still of the night sitting at Calvary and at icon of the Sorrowful Mother.

For the feast of the Exaltation of the Cross and the memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows, I offer the following reflection wherein we consider what the Lord Jesus may have communicated to His sorrowful Mother—speaking heart to heart on the Via Dolorosa.

Mother, be valiant as you always are. Mother, they deride me, but they will not disrespect you. No one will lay a hand on you, Mother of the Condemned One. No one will speak an unkind word to you, Mother of the Messiah. They will not cease their cruelty against me until I breathe my last. Death by crucifixion is their only aim. It is sport to them.

The devils are unleashed to enter this crowd to carry out the most tortuous execution possible. But the devils will not dare to harm you. The Father will not permit it. Legions flee from you because you are altogether too much for the fallen angels. Any number of people will do their evil bidding but not you.

Mother, I know that you choose to share in my physical pain. It is enough that you share the pain of my soul. Your sorrow is seven times complete. Our two hearts are beating in love’s synchronized rhythm that we always share. This maddening crowd stares at you, “There is his mother”. While they have no sympathy for me, you elicit sympathy from them.

Mother, your tears are sanctifying the earth. They fall and mingle with my blood and sweat to purify the earth’s children. Mother, your Son’s hour is now. We talked about this moment. We prepared one another for this hour. My enemies think that it is their hour. But we know the truth.

Mother, your tender heart is pierced as the prophet Simeon foretold. Your noble heart is completely anguished, and at the same time, rapt in selfless love. My pure Mother, your love always tends upward. You could no more wish ill upon my persecutors than I could. Your suffering is complete because of the affection that you have for these people. You know that I love them and so do you. Love bears all things with equanimity.

Mother, your eyes speak volumes to me. You are always full of grace, my humble, tender Mother. Valiant Lady, thank you for accompanying me on the Via Dolorosa. My friends fled in fear. You remain with me always. Take courage now, as I must complete the mission. That I may finish the sacrifice I shall not receive the consolation of your loving gaze again until this Body is raised on the third day.

Let me look at your lovely face one last time before it is finished. Your countenance is sorrowful but noble, more beautiful than ever. My Queen, your heart is well prepared for the piercing sword of bitter sorrow. Most holy Mother, I die for you also. My will is fixed, Mother, fiat!

With the praying Church that exalts the Cross and loves the Sorrowful Mother, let us sing, “Lift high the Cross, the love of Christ proclaim ‘til all the world adore His sacred Name. Come, brethren, follow where our Captain trod, our King victorious, Christ the Son of God. Led on their way by this triumphant sign, the hosts of God in conquering ranks combine. Each newborn soldier of the Crucified bears on the brow the seal of him who died. This is the sign which Satan’s legions fear and angels veil their faces to revere. Saved by this Cross whereon their Lord was slain, the sons of Adam their lost home regain. From north and south, from east and west they raise in growing unison their songs of praise. O Lord, once lifted on the glorious tree, as thou hast promised, draw the world to thee. Let every race and every language tell of him who saves our souls from death and hell. From farthest regions let their homage bring, and on his Cross adore their Savior King. Set up thy throne, that earth’s despair may cease beneath the shadow of its healing peace.” (Words: George William Kitchen and Michael Robert Newbolt, 1916)

A Catholic Response to Demonic Seductions

“Prepare to get possessed” is the banner text on the trailer for the Fox television network’s series, The Exorcist, scheduled for release in September 2016. The ad campaign develops, “Two very different priests tackle one family’s case of terrifying demonic possession in the all new Fox series, The Exorcist.

Recently I was interviewed on a global Catholic radio program, in part to discuss the Catholic response to media such as “The Exorcist” and “Lucifer.” The day of the radio program, I received an unsolicited email, “Your reading for the day,” with an invitation to “explore what the psychic has to offer you; we all want to know what the future holds, etc.”

Knowing what the future holds was precisely what a stranger, a well dressed woman offered in the midst of a crowded Southern California mall, saying to me, “I would like to offer you a free palm reading right now, right here. You’ll discover things you need to know about the future.” I responded, “No, thank you. I walk by faith in Jesus Christ.” Noting my firm expression, she turned away, entering into the crowd.

Here’s what the Catechism teaches about such things:

2116. All forms of divination are to be rejected: recourse to Satan or demons, conjuring up the dead or other practices falsely supposed to “unveil” the future. Consulting horoscopes, astrology, palm reading, interpretation of omens and lots, the phenomena of clairvoyance, and recourse to mediums all conceal a desire for power over time, history, and, in the last analysis, other human beings, as well as a wish to conciliate hidden powers. They contradict the honor, respect, and loving fear that we owe to God alone.

Curiosity has been the downfall of many people since the ancient serpent’s temptation to Adam and Eve. “The serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field the Lord had made” (Gen. 3:1). In the Garden of Eden, the serpent’s tactic was multifaceted: 1) suspicion of God’s goodness, 2) curiosity for hidden knowledge to become like God, 3) lead to disobedience.

The ancient serpent hasn’t changed his ways. He’s keenly aware of our fallen nature that reaches for forbidden fruit. A partial list of common demonic temptations include: curiosity about the future, hidden or secret knowledge, power or unbridled control, disordered indulgence of the senses, disobedience to God’s law of love, deceit, attachment to carnal, material things, and the seven capital sins: pride, envy, lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, and anger. Satan tempts to destroy. Christ tests to give the crown.

Efforts to soften or deny the continuous threat of the devil have left too many Catholics unprepared and unarmed. On the opposite extreme, we must not blame the devil for everything or see Satan everywhere he is not.

Without exception each person is tempted by the devil, and often when he least expects it. With eyes of faith firmly set on Jesus Christ Victor, the Holy Spirit makes the baptized aware of temptations and demonic antics. In the battle against evil, we must engage our God-given gift: free will!

Christ told St. Faustina that all merit lies in the will—not in our feelings. (Cf. God’s Healing Mercy, 123.) While emotions are neutral, they can lead in two opposite directions: vice or virtue. Resisting temptation leads to virtue; indulging the temptation leads to vice. It’s a continuous battle. An exorcist advised his “patient” (energumen) that demonic antics would cease only after his death.

St. John records how war in heaven broke out. It’s important to remember—especially the role of St. Michael the Archangel who, presently, and to the end of time, battles against evil on our behalf.

And war broke out in heaven; Michael and his angels fought against the dragon. The dragon and his angels fought back, but they were defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. The great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. Then I heard a loud voice in heaven, proclaiming, “Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Messiah, for the accuser of our comrades has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. But they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they did not cling to life even in the face of death. Rejoice then, you heavens and those who dwell in them. But woe to the earth and the sea, for the devil has come down to you with great wrath, because he knows that his time is short!” (Rev. 12:7-12).

The enormous good that St. Michael the archangel does for us cannot be overemphasized. He protects and guides against the clever, constant wiles of satanic legions. In all the major exorcisms that I’ve witnessed, serving as part of a team assisting exorcist priests, I can only conclude that St. Michael’s presence is not only real, but also extremely powerful. He is a mighty angelic spirit, feared by the evil spirits. My devotion to St. Michael only grows deeper. In times of personal spiritual trials, the great Archangel amazes me by his protection extended to my family. We do well to cultivate true devotion to St. Michael.

Spiritual Warfare 101

  1. Who is Satan and what do Catholics believe about the devil, evil spirits?

“Demon is the name applied to all varieties of evil spirits, including the devil or Satan. Demons, like angels, are pure spirits, which means they do not have bodies and are invisible; nevertheless, they sometimes manipulate or possess the human or animal body (cf. Gen 3:13; Isa 34:14).” (Scott Hahn, Catholic Bible Dictionary, 210.)

“Chief among the demons was Satan. He is the judicial adversary or accuser in Job (Job 1:6ff, 2:1ff; cf. Zech. 3:1), and the chief evil spirit, tempter who took the form of the serpent in Gen 3 (Wis 2:24). In the New Testament, demons—also called unclean spirits, evil spirits, and similar names—are an assumed reality. They are servants of evil, the angels of Satan, determined to tempt and destroy humanity and to spread evil and suffering in the world.” (Scott Hahn, Catholic Bible Dictionary, 211.)

  1. Why does the God of mercy ordain a spiritual battle for his people on earth?

Christ’s words to St. Faustina, recorded in her spiritual “Diary” (no. 1489) lend understanding, “But child you are not yet in your homeland; so, go, fortified by my grace, and fight for my kingdom in human souls; fight as a king’s child would; and remember the days of your exile will pass quickly, and with them possibility of earning merit for heaven. I expect from you, my child, a great number of souls who will glorify my mercy for all eternity.”

This principle applies to all believers. A greater number of souls will eternally glorify The Divine Mercy because they received mercy in the way that David did in the defeat of Goliath (cf. 1 Sam. 17). (Beckman, God’s Healing Mercy, 113.)

Temptation: demonic seduction to sin

While much attention is given to the more extraordinary demonic tactics (infestation, possession, obsession, oppression), the most common demonic tactic is temptation to sin. The emphasis falls upon sin—the universal phenomenon. We are all born with original sin, and even after sacramental baptism, we suffer from its effect, finding ourselves attracted to actions that God forbids because they harm others or us. Insights:

  1. Never underestimate how clever the evil one can be in tempting us.
  2. In the moment of temptation, we often deny the negative consequences of our sin.
  3. Sin can be attractive in appearance even though it’s wrong.
  4. Sin is a social reality; our own sin affects others.
  5. We often try to blame others—including God—for our sin.
  6. Sin is serious. It’s an offense against the eternal God.
  7. The debt we owe due to sin is never repayable by us, only by Jesus Christ.

Resisting Temptations: sacramentals

Those who have witnessed the use of the Church’s sacramentals during minor or major rites of exorcism attest to their powerful effectiveness. For example, when the priest exorcist commands the energumen to “look at the crucifix” the reaction is one of obvious torment to the demon. Why? The crucifix is the true victorious proclamation of Christ’s victory over the devils. The sprinkling of holy water during deliverance sessions also causes loud cries of pain from demons. The recitation of the rosary, even if prayed silently, elicits violent demonic outbursts such as, “Stop those beads!” This is shared only to emphasize the unfailing, efficacious power of sacramentals. They are not magic or superstitious. They are the Church’s tools to bless and help liberate God’s beloved people.

Practical lessons

  1. Practice custody of the senses: misuse of the five senses can become a portal for evil.
  2. Do not neglect God and prayer: cultivate a Eucharistic life: become what you receive.
  3. Pray for detachment from sin: decide for holiness.
  4. Trust in God: anxiety can lead to more temptations.
  5. Avoid complaining and negativity: cultivate gratitude and prayer in all circumstances.
  6. Forgive and accept God’s forgiveness.
  7. Live the present moment: in the presence of Christ, the Virgin Mary, angels and saints.
  8. Read and pray with the living Word of God: use it as a weapon against temptation.
  9. Rely on God’s power, not yours: discern, resist, and run to the Lord.
  10. Sacramentals: In faith, use them pro-actively as protection.
  11. Sacraments: all sacraments are perpetual powerful resources of grace.
  12. Freedom: know the power of your free will to choose good over evil.

More: visit the spiritual warfare section at www.foundationforpriests.org.

15 Modern Women Celebrate St. Mary Magdalene

Ateleia is a Catholic social networking website that gathers together "seekers of the truth" - a project of the Foundation for Evangelization through the Media (FEM), developed under the patronage of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications and the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization. Ateleia describes itself, in it's YouTube video, as "The 1st Question and Answer Community About Faith, Life and Society". July 22, 2016, Kathryn Jean Lopez writes an article announcing the first time the Church celebrates the feast of St. Mary Magdalene. In her article Kathryn gathers a symposium of Catholic women to share their thoughts on the "Apostle to the Apostles", including a submission by Kathleen Beckman. Learn more about the significance of this new feast day by reading Kathryn's article here.

Profile in Mercy: Eucharistic Witness

Providence ordained that Cardinal Francis Xavier Van Thuan exercise his priestly ministry as a Vietnam prisoner of war for thirteen years. He entered the school of the cross when he was captured in the midst of a terrifying war and put in a Vietnamese prison camp. He had to overcome himself, his plan, to give assent to God’s permissive will. Could he drink the bitter chalice now offered him, as did Christ in Gethsemane?

He not only drank the bitter chalice to the dregs, he proclaimed Christ’s victory by his witness to merciful love. His Eucharistic witness to divine mercy transformed the prison camp. If a Vietnamese prison camp can be transformed by the witness of one holy priest, one believing, humble, forgiving, man of God, perhaps we can learn from his example how to transform our homes and world.

The Eucharist played a central part in the transformation of the prison camp. The Eucharist then is key to transforming our environments. Yes, the Eucharist must enter into the darkest areas of humanity to transform it. After all, it is true that eyes are opened and we recognize Christ in the breaking of the bread (cf. Luke 24:31). The Cardinal’s story proves this again.

Triumph of Mercy through the Witness of Suffering

In the Cardinal’s own words: “Alone in my prison cell, I continued to be tormented by the fact that I was forty-eight years old, in the prime of my life, that I had worked for eight years as a bishop and gained so much pastoral experience and there I was isolated, inactive and far from my people.

‘One night, from the depths of my heart, I could hear a voice advising me: “Why torment yourself? You must discern between God and the works of God. Everything you have done and desire to continue to do, pastoral visits, training seminarians, sisters and members of religious Orders, building schools, evangelizing non-Christians—all of that is excellent work; the work of God but it is not God! If God wants you to give it all up and put the work into His hands, do it and trust Him. God will do the work infinitely better than you; He will entrust the work to others who are able than you. You have only to choose God and not the works of God.

‘This light totally changed my way of thinking. When the Communists put me in the hold of the boat, the Hai-Phong, along with 1500 other prisoners and moved us to the North, I said to myself, “Here is my cathedral, here are the people God has given me to care for, here is my mission: to ensure the presence of God among these, my despairing, miserable brothers. It is God’s will that I am here. I accept his will.” And from that minute onwards, a new peace filled my heart and stayed with me for thirteen years.”

 Eucharistic Transformation Amidst the Darkness

“I was taken to prison empty handed. Later on, I was allowed to request the strict necessities like clothing, toothpaste, etc. I wrote home saying, “Send me some wine as medication for stomach pains.” On the outside, the faithful understood what I meant. They sent me a little bottle of Mass wine, with a label reading, “medication for stomach pains”, as well as some hosts broken into small pieces. The police asked me, “Do you have pains in your stomach?” “Yes.” “Here is some medicine for you!” I will never be able to express the joy that was mine: each day, with three drops of wine, a drop of water in the palm of my hand, I celebrated my Mass.

‘At night, the prisoners took turns and spent time in adoration. The Blessed Sacrament helped tremendously. Even Buddhists and other non-Christians were converted. The strength of the love of Jesus is irresistible. The darkness of the prison turned into light, the seed germinated silently in the storm.

‘When I began to discern between God and God’s works, when I chose God and His will and left everything else in His hands, and when I learned to love others, especially my enemies as Jesus loved me, I felt great peace in my heart.”

The Eucharist Empowers Forgiveness of Enemies

“It was very hard for my guards to understand when I spoke about loving our enemies, reconciliation and forgiveness. “Do you really love us?” “Yes, I really love you.” “Even when we cause you pain? When you suffer because you’re in prison without trial?” “Look at all the years we’ve been together. Of course I love you!” “And when you get out, will you tell your people to find us and beat us and hurt our families?” “I’ll continue to love you even if you wish to kill me.” “But why?” “Because Jesus taught us to love always; if we don’t, we are no longer worthy to be called Christians.”

Reflecting on the Cardinal’s merciful love for his enemies is equally inspiring and challenging. Who is our enemy? The Psalmist articulates, “For wicked and deceitful mouths are opened against me, speaking against me with lying tongues. They beset me with words of hate, and attack me without cause. In return for my love they accuse me, even as I make prayer for them. So, they reward me evil for good, and hatred for my love” (Ps. 109:2-5).

There is heavenly beauty in the forgiveness we grant to our enemies because it is the essence of Divine Mercy. The Christ life within us, made possible by Eucharistic transformation, makes us capable of great acts of mercy. But mercy for enemies is not cheap. It costs our pride to sacrificially grant mercy as God wills.

Mercy in the Grace of the Present Moment

“On 15 August, 1975, on the Feast of the Assumption of Our Lady, I was invited to the Palace of Independence, the President’s Palace in Saigon, only to be arrested. The motive was the Pope Paul VI had transferred me from my diocese in Nha Trang where I had been bishop for eight years, between 1967 and 1975, to Saigon, to become Archbishop Coadjutor. For the Communist Government this transfer, made one week before their arrival in Saigon, on 30 April 1975, was proof of a conspiracy between the Vatican and the Imperialists.

‘From the very first moment of my arrest, the words of Bishop John Walsh, who had been imprisoned for twelve years in Communist China, came to my mind. On the day of his liberation Bishop Walsh said, “I have spent half my life waiting.”

‘It is true. All prisoners, myself included, constantly wait to be let go. I decided then and there that my captivity would not be merely a time of resignation but a turning point in my life. I decided I would not wait. I would live the present moment and fill it with love. For if I wait, the things I wait for will never happen. The only thing that I can be sure of is that I am going to die. No, I will not spend time waiting.”

Lessons from the Cardinal’s Eucharistic Witness

  1. Interior torment can exist because of our unwillingness to let go and let God.
  2. It is necessary to distinguish between the works of God and God himself. By so doing, we are set free for more love.
  3. Live well the grace of the present, unrepeatable moment in time. One well-lived day at a time is all that God asks. Resist temptations to look back or too far forward.
  4. Cardinal Thuan made his prison cell a Eucharistic sanctuary. When we bear witness to Eucharistic life, are transformed by it, we bring the Eucharistic Lord into our circumstance, thereby transforming it.
  5. Even non-Christians were converted by Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament in the Vietnamese prison camp. Adoration is transformative as we gaze upon God rather than problems and ourselves. Christ is the solution.
  6. In the prison camp, the Mass made all the difference in the lives of those who encountered the Eucharist as the saving light in the darkness. This should be our experience also.
  7. The Eucharist empowers us to forgive our enemies as Christ forgave us from the Cross and as Cardinal Thuan forgave his tormenters.
  8. We can echo the Cardinal’s words in our circumstance: “…Here are the people God has given me to care for, here is my mission: to ensure the presence of God among these, my despairing, miserable brothers. It is God’s will that I am here. I accept his will.”
  9. Do not spend your life waiting. Eucharistic life is about engaging in truth not escaping.

Editor’s note: This article contains an excerpt from God’s Healing Mercy: Finding Your Path to Forgiveness, Peace, and Joy, which is available from Sophia Institute Press.

All priests, saints and strugglers alike, need our prayers

The CRUX website bills itself as "Taking The Catholic Pulse -  ...where different voices in the Catholic conversation can interact, be taken seriously and treated with respect, without the deck being stacked against anyone in advance." June 12, 2016, Kathryn Jean Lopez writes about her conversation with Kathleen Beckman regarding the dire need for our prayers for priests everywhere. In her article Kathryn declares, "There’s a book called Praying for Priests that I find myself carrying around more often than I ought to." It reminds her to sound a siren just as we all should - our priests need our prayers! You can read the full article over at the CRUX website by clicking here.