Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Today's the Feast of the Holy Archangels Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael

From Today's Office of Readings
Reading A sermon of Pope St Gregory the Great


Icon of the Holy Archangels Michael, Gabriel, and RaphaelYou should be aware that the word “angel” denotes a function rather than a nature. Those holy spirits of heaven have indeed always been spirits. They can only be called angels when they deliver some message. Moreover, those who deliver messages of lesser importance are called angels; and those who proclaim messages of supreme importance are called archangels. And so it was that not merely an angel but the archangel Gabriel was sent to the Virgin Mary. It was only fitting that the highest angel should come to announce the greatest of all messages.

Some angels are given proper names to denote the service they are empowered to perform. In that holy city, where perfect knowledge flows from the vision of almighty God, those who have no names may easily be known. But personal names are assigned to some, not because they could not be known without them, but rather to denote their ministry when they came among us. Thus, Michael means “Who is like God”; Gabriel is “The Strength of God”; and Raphael is “God’s Remedy.”

Whenever some act of wondrous power must be performed, Michael is sent, so that his action and his name may make it clear that no one can do what God does by his superior power. So also our ancient foe desired in his pride to be like God, saying: I will ascend into heaven; I will exalt my throne above the stars of heaven; I will be like the Most High. He will be allowed to remain in power until the end of the world when he will be destroyed in the final punishment. Then, he will fight with the archangel Michael, as we are told by John: A battle was fought with Michael the archangel.

So too Gabriel, who is called God’s strength, was sent to Mary. He came to announce the One who appeared as a humble man to quell the cosmic powers. Thus God’s strength announced the coming of the Lord of the heavenly powers, mighty in battle. Raphael means, as I have said, God’s remedy, for when he touched Tobit’s eyes in order to cure him, he banished the darkness of his blindness. Thus, since he is to heal, he is rightly called God’s remedy.

Source: Universalis.com

Monday, September 27, 2010

Catholic-Orthodox Dialogue Progresses

Folks, speaking of improvement relations between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Churches, this opportune report was filed by the Catholic News Agency:
Vienna, Austria, Sep 27, 2010 / 11:54 am (CNA).- Though qualifying that full unity is still in the distant future, leaders from Catholic and Orthodox churches recently indicated that progress is underway in the reunification efforts of the two faith communities.

Reuters reported on Sept. 24 that church heads meeting this week in Vienna concurred that the two traditions – which have been separated since the Great Schism of 1054 – could eventually become “sister churches” that recognize the Holy Father as head but maintain their individual liturgies, customs and church structures.

Leaders from the International Commission for Catholic-Orthodox Dialogue, a group comprised of around 30 theologians who meet annually, gave comments to reporters in Vienna last Friday, noting the positive advances both churches have made towards full communion.
Read it all here.

Commentary. "Though qualifying that full unity is still in the distant future." And a great qualifier it is. A year ago the headline was Catholic-Orthodox Reunion Reported "Within a Few Months". Not bloody likely. Now they got it straight.

And this is why, if you are an Orthdox Christian lay person, this survey should interest you. I am trying to ascertain more-or-less "scientifically" the interest on reunion with the Roman Catholic Church held by the Orthodox rank-and-file. Please, access it here. I continue to follow and evaluate all these developments with a lot of interest, for all of you.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Attention Orthodox Christians: Please, Kindly Complete This Survey

Dear Brothers and Sisters of the Orthodox faith:

I want to impose upon your kindness and invite you to complete a 19 question survey, with the purpose of gauging existing support of adult (18 years of age and older) Orthodox Christian lay men and women across the world for reunion with the Roman Catholic Church.

The survey starts with questions of a general nature and then progresses to questions of specific theological and ecclesiological import; then, respondents will be asked about their general geographical location and their Orthodox affiliation. After that, the survey will collect general, anonymous demographic information and, finally, the last questions are aimed at gauging the respondents' support for this survey and to collect commentaries and suggestions.

The survey will NOT collect personal information. Please, don't answer a survey more than once. I will share the raw data with all those who request it.

The closing parameters for this survey will be 500 respondents or Sunday, October 10, 2010, whichever happens first.

The URL for this survey is http://bit.ly/bVM51J. Again, the URL for the survey is http://bit.ly/bVM51J. It’s running on Google Docs. You don’t have to subscribe in any way, shape, or form.

Please, share it with other Orthodox Christians. Thank you kindly for your contribution.

****

This survey is now CLOSED. Please access the results here.

Video: Catholic and Homosexual

Folks, an absolutely beautiful teaching. Enjoy.


Saturday, September 25, 2010

NPR Interviews Colombian Ingrid Betancourt

Folks, I heard this very moving interview of former Colombian presidential candidate and one time prisoner Ingrid Betancourt in today’s NPR’s All Things Considered. It is a moving testimony of how faith in God strengthens one’s character and all theological virtues in the face of terrorism, torture, and hopelessness. She came out with her Catholic faith renewed and strengthened. This is an excerpt:

Author Ingrid Betancourt spent six years in the jungle as a captive of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, known as the FARC.

In 2002, Ingrid Betancourt was campaigning for the presidency of Colombia. En route to a remote village, she was stopped by a group of armed men. Betancourt knew the area was controlled by the FARC, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, but thought she could pass through without trouble.

Author Ingrid Betancourt spent six years in the jungle as a captive of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, known as the FARC.

She was wrong.

Betancourt was brought deep into the jungle, tortured, underfed and forced to march through the rain forest for six years.

"At the beginning, I thought it was going to be for a couple of weeks," Betancourt tells NPR’s Guy Raz. "Then I thought, perhaps a couple of months, because it was just lingering, and I said, 'OK, perhaps till the end of the presidential campaign,' and then when a year went on, I thought, my god, this is a year now?"

She tells the story of her time with the FARC in a new book,Even Silence Has an End: My Six Years of Captivity in the Colombian Jungle.

Betancourt spent most of her time in one main prison camp along with other hostages.

"We were … confined in a very small space," she says, "surrounded with barbed wire. And in this very confined space, we had to live with people we didn’t know, men and women all together."

Read it all or listen to the interview here.

Commentary. The beautiful country of Colombia which I’ve had the pleasure to visit, and its warmth, welcoming, friendly people, has been the victim of a relentless communist terror group since the late 1960’s. Since the 1990’s, the FARC has been a principal actor in the production and transportation of cocaine, as well as leaders in kidnappings and extortions. One of their victims was Ingrid Betancourt.

What a classy lady she is! And you know, she beat them. She came out unbroken, spiritually strengthened and untouched by the FARC’s wanton evil. Glory be to God on high.

Listen to the interview and allow yourself to be moved.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Pope Compares Atheism to Nazism

Folks, this according to the BBC:

A speech in which the Pope appeared to associate atheism with the Nazis has prompted criticism from humanist organisations.

However, the Catholic Church has moved to play down the controversy, saying the Pope knew "rather well what the Nazi ideology is about".

Humanists have said the comments were a "terrible libel" against non-believers.

In his address, the Pope spoke of "a Nazi tyranny that wished to eradicate God from society".

He went on to urge the UK to guard against "aggressive forms of secularism".

The Pope made his remarks in his opening address to the Queen at Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh.

He said: "Even in our own lifetimes we can recall how Britain and her leaders stood against a Nazi tyranny that wished to eradicate God from society and denied our common humanity to many, especially the Jews, who were thought unfit to live.

"As we reflect on the sobering lessons of atheist extremism of the 20th century, let us never forget how the exclusion of God, religion and virtue from public life leads ultimately to a truncated vision of man and of society and thus a reductive vision of a person and his destiny."

'Highly political'

A statement from the British Humanist Association said the Pope's remarks were "surreal".

Read the entire piece here. Read also Pope Compares Atheism to Nazism, Draws Fire.

Commentary. British atheists surely can dish it out when it comes about their hatred of God and the Catholic Church, but when we respond, they cry foul.

Tough.

The Pope spoke the truth. Deal with it.

US Bishops Pan Creighton University Professors’ Book on Sexuality

Folks, this according to US Conference of Catholic Bishops:

Bishops’ Doctrine Committee Says Book By Creighton University Professors Conflicts With Catholic Teaching On Sexuality

WASHINGTON (September 22, 2010)— The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Doctrine has issued a statement in response to a request from the former and current archbishops of Omaha to review the content of a book by Creighton University professors Todd Salzman and Michael Lawler, The Sexual Person: Toward a Renewed Catholic Anthropology. In the statement, "Inadequacies in the Theological Methodology and Conclusions of The Sexual Person: Toward a Renewed Catholic Anthropology," the Committee asserts that the authors of The Sexual Person "base their arguments on a methodology that marks a radical departure from the Catholic theological tradition" and "reach a whole range of conclusions that are contrary to Catholic teaching."

The Committee concluded that "neither the methodology of The Sexual Person nor the conclusions that depart from authoritative Church teaching constitute authentic expressions of Catholic theology. Moreover, such conclusions, clearly in contradiction to the authentic teaching of the Church, cannot provide a true norm for moral action and in fact are harmful to one's moral and spiritual life."
The views of the two professors previously came under episcopal censure in 2007, when Archbishop Elden Curtiss, then archbishop of Omaha, published a notification in his diocesan newspaper regarding the conclusions of two articles by these professors.

Archbishop Curtiss wrote: "In these articles, Professors Lawler and Salzman argue for the moral legitimacy of some homosexual acts. Their conclusion is in serious error, and cannot be considered authentic Catholic teaching." When in 2008, Salzman and Lawler published their book, The Sexual Person, Archbishop Curtiss wrote to the Committee on Doctrine asking for assistance. After studying the book and conferring with Archbishop Curtiss's successor, Archbishop George Lucas, the Committee decided that the most effective way to address the problem presented by the book was to prepare a statement on the problematic characteristics of its methodology, which leads the authors to a number of conclusions that contradict Catholic moral teaching.

The full statement is available online: www.usccb.org/doctrine/Sexual_Person_2010-09-15.pdf

The USCCB Committee on Doctrine includes Archbishop Donald W. Wuerl of Washington, chairman; Bishop Leonard P. Blair of Toledo, Ohio; Archbishop Daniel Buechlein, OSB, of Indianapolis; Coadjutor Archbishop José Gomez of Los Angeles; Bishop William Lori of Bridgeport, Connecticut; Bishop Robert McManus of Worcester, Massachusetts; Bishop Kevin Rhoades of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Indiana; Bishop Arthur Serratelli of Paterson, New Jersey; and Archbishop Allen Vigneron of Detroit.

Commentary. Good for our bishops for showing leadership and providing guidance! Academics who present faux Catholic views as Church teaching should be singled out and their teaching exposed as false. There’s enough confusion already as to who speaks for the Church and who doesn’t, and those who pretend to speak for the Church while misleading their students must be called to account.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Triangulation Likely in Orthodox-Catholic Reconciliation

News Analysis


Folks, this according to CNA:

Vatican City, Sep 22, 2010 / 09:52 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The Pope called the faithful to a greater commitment to Christian unity during Wednesday's audience. The "peace and harmony" of Christians, he said, shows the world an "authentic" witness to the Gospel message.

At the end of Wednesday morning's audience in St. Peter's Square, Pope Benedict drew attention to the concurrent plenary meeting of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church.

The meeting is taking place in Vienna, Austria this week, with participants examining "the role of the Bishop of Rome in the communion of the Universal Church," particularly in the first millennium of Christianity.

Of this, the Holy Father said, "obedience to the will of the Lord Jesus and consideration for the great challenges facing Christianity today, oblige us to commit ourselves seriously to the cause of re-establishing full communion among the Churches.

"I exhort everyone to intense prayer for the work of the commission and for the ongoing development and consolidation of peace and harmony among the baptized, that we may show the world an increasingly authentic evangelical witness."
Analysis. As I've indicated before, the reconciliation between the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches has been a primary goal of every Pope since the end of the Second Vatican Council. Although the East-West split happened much later after the first schisms that took place after the Council of Chalcedon which originated what we now call "the Oriental Churches," the split between Rome and Constantinople had profound political, theological, and moral consequences that persist to this day.

The schism created a Europe that was "of two minds" and in a certain way, "schizophrenic" which led to intriguingly similar results: in the West, it led to the Protestant Reformation and through it, to the moral relativism and religious indifference we see today. In the East, the autocratic mindset of Byzantine Christianity was transferred to the Turkish Sultan, and through Orthodox Moscow, to the Tsars and then to the Bolsheviks. Religious indifference, the absence of religiously-sensitive mindsets, rampant secularism, and practical atheism - at times under a culturally Christian, sentimental veneer - can be said to be a result of the chain of causes originated by the East-West schism.

Therefore, the Pope in Rome, the Ecumenical Patriarch, and perhaps the Patriarch of Moscow may think that healing the schism may result in the healing of Europe's and even the West's - Russia included - spiritual, moral, and "mental" split. Of course, each hierarch probably has a different idea of how to heal the schism, and are probably acutely aware of the shifts in the power equations that a theoretical reconciliation between the churches would bring about. The Pope and the Patriarchs probably know already how much they can "give up" in order to achieve reconciliation, but perhaps know even better what they want the other parties to surrender.

I mention the Rome, Constantinople, and Moscow axis specifically because, although Moscow and Constantinople may hold common theological and philosophical objections against Rome, the fact is that Moscow and Constantinople have had recent jurisdictional grievances in the Baltic and in Ukraine. The Russian Church is vastly superior in members and is the largest autocephalous Orthodox church - even though how much of their membership is truly evangelized, catechized, and "formed" is an open question. Constantinople, however, enjoys a long and undisputed primacy in rank among the Orthodox and its Patriarch enjoys a right of initiative, even though, on paper, he only rules over a flock of a few tens of thousands, a ruling hierarch in a vast American diocese, and the Orthodox Church "in the mission lands" however is that defined. Moscow has challenged this latter jurisdiction in the case of the Baltic Republics. Resentment and mutual suspicion still mars their relationship. It is not inconceivable that Moscow and Constantinople may side with Rome on some issues in order to "triangulate" against each other and balance their claims.

And then, of course, there's the Holy Spirit, who is always in the details - and not the devil. So, let us pray that in the end is God's will what prevails, and not the grievances, hatreds, and suspicions that have pervaded our relations for the last 1,000 years. Healing the schism will prove to be a New Pentecost that will renew evangelism across the world in these sad, dangerous days. Let us pray, in Jesus' Holy Name. Amen.

Read also:

- Catholic-Orthodox commission resumes dialogue on papal primacy at Catholic-Culture.Org

- Catholic, Orthodox Churches to try to overcome millennium-long disagreement (Interfax)

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The law is on marriage’s side in California’s Prop 8 litigation

Folks, this from my favorite activist group, the National Organization for Marriage:

The Prop 8 legal defense team has filed their opening brief with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in the Perry v. Schwarzenegger case, and it is a tour de force.

Authored by chief Prop 8 litigator Chuck Cooper, the 100+ page brief shreds the decision of federal district court Judge Vaughn Walker, and lays bare all the legal, logical, and factual errors that Walker made in his ruling. Read it here.

Citing case after case from court after court, Cooper thoroughly and meticulously dismantles Walker’s outrageous opinion finding that voters have no right to protect marriage as one man and one woman.  As noted legal commentator Ed Whelan has pointed out, the alleged “Dream Team” of Olson and Boies have lost in every court they have argued this case--with the sole exception of the rogue Judge Vaughn Walker.  Judge Walker ignored mountains of evidence--from binding Supreme Court precedent, to at least 9 other state and federal court precedents, along with the conclusions of academic research and eminent scholars, and even common sense--to reach his radical conclusion.

“This is not a hard question,” Cooper writes. “Indeed, because of the distinguishing procreative characteristics of heterosexual relationships, until quite recently ‘it was accepted truth for almost everyone who ever lived, in any society in which marriage existed, that there could be marriage only between participants of different sex.’ And marriage has existed in virtually all societies, from the ancients to the American states, because it serves a vital and universal societal purpose – a purpose, indeed, that makes marriage, as the Supreme Court has repeatedly emphasized, ‘fundamental to the very existence and survival of the [human] race.’”

Here are some more of the many terrific quotes from the brief:

On the procreative purpose of marriage:

“The institution of marriage serves society’s existential interests, in the words of the California Supreme Court, by ‘channel[ing] biological drives that might otherwise become socially destructive’ into enduring marital unions and ‘ensur[ing] that care and education of children in a stable environment.’”

On the historical recognition of the connection between marriage and procreation:

“And the abiding link between marriage and its procreative and child-rearing purposes has been routinely recognized, without a hint of controversy, not only  by the California Supreme Court, as noted above, but repeatedly by state appellate courts addressing the purpose of marriage. Likewise, eminent scholars, past and present, from all relevant academic fields were agreed on the animating purpose of marriage. Blackstone put it well: the ‘relation of parent and child…is consequential to that of marriage, being its principal end and design; it is by virtue of this relations that infants are protected, maintained, and educated.’”

On the long list of appellate cases that address the validity of traditional marriage:

“In light of all this, it is hardly surprising that every appellate court decision, both state and federal, to address the validity of traditional marriage laws under the federal Constitution has upheld them as rationally related to the state’s interest in promoting and regulating procreation and child-rearing.”

On Baker v Nelson, a U.S. Supreme Court case from Minnesota where a gay couple claimed a constitutional right to same-sex marriage:

“The United States Supreme Court dismissed the couple’s appeal for want of a substantial federal question. Not a single Justice found the couple’s constitutional claims – the same ones at issue here – substantial enough even to warrant plenary review. These, too, are not hard questions.”

On Walker’s purported findings of “fact”:

“These findings are, we respectfully submit, patently false, and only by assiduously ignoring the ‘history, tradition, and practice of marriage in the United States’ and everywhere else, could the district court make them. Nowhere in his 136-page opinion does the district court even cite any of the evidence overwhelmingly acknowledging responsible procreation and child-rearing as the animating purpose of marriage. All of the evidence – the judicial authority from California and numerous other states, the works of eminent scholars from all relevant academic fields, the extensive historical evidence – is simply ignored. And the district court ignored it quite deliberately; in the court’s view, only oral testimony presented at trial constituted “evidence” of the issue (and its treatment of even this evidence was egregiously selective and one-sided.)”

On Walker’s finding that the People of California acted with animus in adopting Prop 8:

“This charge is false and unfair on its face, and leveling it against the people of California is especially unfounded, for they have enacted into law some of the Nation’s most sweeping and progressive protections of gays and lesbians, including a domestic partnership law that gives same-sex couples all of the same substantive benefits and protections as marriage. And it defames as anti-gay bigots not only the seven million California voters, but everyone else in this Country, and elsewhere, who believes that the traditional opposite-sex definition of marriage continues to meaningfully serve the legitimate interests of society – from the current President of the United States, to a large majority of legislators throughout the nation, both in statehouses and in the United States Congress, and even to most of the scores of state and federal judges who have addressed this issue.  The simple truth is that ‘there are millions of Americans’ as one of the Plaintiff’s own expert witnesses has acknowledged, ‘who believe in equal rights for gays and lesbians…but who draw the line at marriage.’”

This is the kind of terrific lawyering that we need to protect marriage as this case makes its way to the Supreme Court. NOM is working hard to raise money to support the outstanding legal team under Chuck Cooper’s leadership.

Please help NOM help them.

Commentary. Don’t count on the Lame Stream Press to plaster this on their news reports, comment on them, and question experts based on these arguments. Their pro-homosexualist agenda is all too clear for fair reporting. Judge Walker’s royal edict is going down; the voice of the people will prevail.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Let them protest, yes, but let us ignore them

Folks, this according to AP via YahooNews:


LONDON – Pope Benedict XVI apologized Saturday to five people who were molested by priests as children in his latest effort to defuse the sex abuse crisis shaking his church, as thousands of people angered at the
Vatican's response marched in central London in the biggest protest of his 5-year papacy.

Benedict met for about 30-40 minutes with the victims — four women and a man from Scotland, England and Wales — at the Vatican's ambassador's residence in Wimbledon and expressed "his deep sorrow and shame over what the victims and their families suffered," according to the Vatican.

"He prayed with them and assured them that the Catholic Church is continuing to implement effective measures designed to safeguard young people, and that it is doing all in its power to investigate allegations, to collaborate with civil authorities and to bring to justice clergy and religious accused of these egregious crimes," it said.

Across town, abuse victims and demonstrators opposed to the pope's stance against homosexuality, abortion and using condoms to fight AIDS marched peacefully from Hyde Park to Downing Street, the major protest of Benedict's controversial four-day state visit.

They carried banners reading: "The pope is wrong — put a condom on" and "Pope protects pedophile priests."

Please, continue reading here.

Commentary. Let them protest. The Church has changed her internal procedures across most affected countries. Obviously, some necessary help has been slow in coming but it is not that it will never come, or that it isn’t in the process of comment.

Rather, the protestors are using the very emotional issue of clerical ephebofilia to push their own agenda of church “reform”: homosexual “equality,” reproductive “rights,” womyn “priests” and the like. That’s why, well sure. Let them express themselves. The UK still is a free country. But, to acquiesce to their demands?

Not a chance in hell.

May the Lord continue to bless, protect, and prosper, Pope Benedict XVI and his work.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Suffering and the Cross

Father Nicolas Schwizer

Suffering is something which disgusts men and women. For many, the reality of suffering is precisely the proof that God does not exist: it seems impossible for them that an all-powerful Being, full of love, would not use that love and that power to prevent wars, murders, injustices, children who are born deformed, cancer which kills mothers when their children most need them, etc.

Much more is asked of the Christian: not only to believe in God in spite of the existence of suffering, but to also know how to accept that suffering as a way of love.

This is the point where the attitudes divide and where it is decided if we are Christians or not. We are true Christians from the moment in which we accept the Cross because it is on the Cross where our heart of a child is proven.

The Cross emerges when our will “crosses” with the will of the Father God: when I want something and He asks me for something else or permits that something happens which is contrary to my desires. If I then accept the Cross, I become a true child because I demonstrate that I trust in my Father because I believe that His ways are wiser than mine and that I allow myself to be led by them – renouncing my own – even if it hurts me.

Being good, God could never allow bad for bad if something good would not come from it. What happens is that we do not always discover the positive fruitfulness which comes forth from the bad because we do not know the totality of God’s plan.

Perhaps in Heaven we will understand the meaning of many of our sufferings. In Heaven – when we see the total plan which God had for our life – we will understand that all our sufferings were permitted by God because of love: to correct us and educate us, to free us from selfishness and from the fondness for earthly goods, to obligate us to grow in new dimensions, to enrich us spiritually.

Therefore, suffering is not a punishment from God but, on the contrary, a proof of his love as a Father. St. Peter compares suffering to a melting pot where God purifies the gold of our faith and of our love.

When God allows suffering, it means that He is giving us an opportunity to grow in love and confidence, to develop new aspects of our Christian personality which until now were dormant, atrophied or sick.

Christ and the Blessed Virgin suffered greatly, precisely because they were the most loved by God. This has also been the destiny of all the saints, the great favorites of God.

All suffering and Cross which we accept as Christians is always a participation in the Passion of Christ. He surrendered unto the Cross as expiation for our sins. In this way, we participate through our suffering in this expiation not only by our own sins but also by the sins of others.

And when we are given a new Cross, we should view it in union with Him, our Redeemer. When we see our Cross in this way, as a part of His Cross, we learn more easily to carry it patiently, obediently, and in time even joyfully.

This is how, above all, Mary the Mother of Jesus did it. She accompanied Him during His life in the happy times and in the difficult times, even to the foot of the Cross. Therefore, it is not only Christ who is with us in times of pain, but also His Mother – who is our Mother – She is with us at the foot of our Cross.

And in the measure in which we participate like Her in the Passion of Jesus, we also have the promise to participate in the glorified life of Christ in Heaven just as She is participating since her Assumption.

At each Eucharist, let us place our suffering and personal Cross on the paten as our offering in order to unite it with the perfect sacrifice of Christ on the Cross.

Questions for reflection

1. Which are the crosses I fear most?

2. Do I believe God punishes me or is unjust with me?

3. Do I offer my crosses and my sufferings?

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Much ado about nothing

Folks, I saw this video this morning on CNN:



Commentary. These ladies did not receive the Sacrament of Holy Orders validly. They are NOTHING. Their celebrations are mere simulations, their "consecrations" empty movements and play. They are not pioneers, rather, they are disobedient brats in ugly robes and stoles who knowingly and willfully use their status as excommunicates to paint themselves as victims and heroes in order to push their malignant agenda.

All the motions captured in this video are empty motions; graceless, and powerless. They perform no Mass, there's no Real Presence, no Sacrifice, no Paschal Feast, nothing. Their bread remains bread, their wine remains wine. They are, well, "nothing" but what the sympathetic reporter want to make of them.

Do not follow them. Do not pay them any attention other than raising awareness of their misdeeds.

And let's pray for them, for their eternal salvation, and for their return to the full communion of the Church of Christ, the Catholic Church, which they've left due to their pride.

Selective Blasphemy

Folks, I was walking though a shopping mall located in Tyson’s Corner, Virginia and a Halloween costume store caught my attention. I was curious and I went in. I laughed for a bit until I saw these:

blasphemy

How about that. Now you can go to your favorite costume party dressed as Our Lord or Our Lady. Our Lord’s costume comes with a beard and a crown of thorns. I looked for a Muhammad costume but they didn’t have any. They did have a rabbi, though, along with costumes for priests, monks, nuns, and pontiffs.

Look I don’t mind too much the monk, priest, nuns, etc. costumes. Poking fun at clergy and religious goes all the way back to the Middle Ages when the comic material was even more abundant. But poking at sacred figures like this is blasphemy in my book – unless we’re talking about Passion or Christmas play. In that instance, the store should’ve been called “Costume Store” instead of “Halloween Store”. Context is everything for meanings.

Of course, there will not be mobs of enraged Catholics in a rampage and burning the Halloween Store chain’s CEO and Board in effigy any time soon. In fact, I’m looking forward to see what happens when they deploy their Muhammad costume.

Don’t hold your breath.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Opposing Worldviews of Christianity and the Culture of Death

Folks, I’ve just finished reading Fr. Tom Euteneuer’s book, Demonic Abortion, a worthy sequel of Exorcism and the Church Militant, a book which I’ve also read and that I expect to review some time in the future.

Fr. Euteneuer displays a table in Demonic Abortion which I want to reproduce here. The table contrasts the worldviews of the pro-abortion Culture of Death and the authentic Christian pro-life stance. The former is in complete opposition to the latter. Take a look:

Pro-Life / Christian Position Pro-Abortion / Culture of Death Position

Jesus Christ is the Lord of Life

Worship of no god or worship of pagan deities – secular humanism as a religion.

Authentic freedom is always accompanied by duties and responsibilities to others

“Freedom of choice” is an absolute value with no obligations attached to it.

Abortion is murder and the violation of the most of the most fundamental human right to life.

Abortion is a fundamental human right.

Women are partners with men in marriage and society.

Women are in competition with men in marriage and society.

Parents are the rightful teachers of their children about matters of human sexuality.

Hedonistic “sexuality educators” and mandatory school-based sex education are in charge of children’s education in matters of human sexuality.

‘Be fruitful and multiply,” children and fertility are a blessing; large families a positive.

Children and fertility are a burden and oftentimes considered a curse; large families are irresponsible.

Contraception is destructive of fertility and the marriage covenant.

Contraception is freedom from fertility.

Chastity is a virtue and fornication is a sin.

Promiscuity is a human virtue and chastity is ridiculed.

Embryonic stem-cell research is the destruction of human life.

Embryonic stem-cell research is advancing science and leading to cures for other human beings.

Physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia are murder.

Physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia are ways to exercise autonomy in decision-making.

Homosexual activity is immoral and homosexual marriage is an illegitimate right.

Homosexuality is a lifestyle and should receive endorsement from society as equal to marriage.

“God made them male and female” and created human nature as determinative of the relationship between them.

“Genders” are defined by social convention and are not fixed in nature.

Authentic social and political development for the good of societies.

Population control to keep down the breeding of those people considered “undesirable.”

 
“Which worldview, pro-life or pro-abortion” – asks Fr. Euteneuer - “gives a more accurate picture of reality, will be determined by history. ‘Time will prove where wisdom lies’” (Matthew 11:18).

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Blogfast in Effect

Folks, I'm undergoing a busy work season right now and I can't post for the moment. Please enjoy the contents already online.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Prayer for Our Country

Folks, considering the current state of our country and the upcoming anniversary of the terror attacks of September 11, 2001, we might do well to pray for our country. I invite you to do so using the following prayer:


Almighty God,
bless our nation
and make it true
to the ideas of freedom and justice
and brotherhood for all who make it great.

Guard us from war,
from fire and wind,
from compromise, fear, confusion.

Be close to our president and our statesmen;
give them vision and courage,
as they ponder decisions affecting peace
and the future of the world.

Make me more deeply aware of my heritage;
realizing not only my rights
but also my duties
and responsibilities as a citizen.

Make this great land
and all its people
know clearly Your will,
that they may fulfill
the destiny ordained for us
in the salvation of the nations,
and the restoring of all things in Christ.

Amen

Pastor Jones Is Waffling

Folks, Pastor Terry Jones is waffling and his statements are very confused - so is the situation.

Despite that, I still think Pastor Jones has a Christian conscience that may be influenced by reasoned appeal and prayer. Therefore, let us pray that Pastor Jones abandons his idea of burning Korans for the right reasons, and not merely because of quid pro quo with the New York imam whose conscience, so far, has been shown to be impervious to reasoned requests to respect our memories.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

I'm impressed with Pastor Jones

Folks, I'm impressed with Pastor Jones. The man has demonstrated he has a conscience that can be appealed to. For the moment, that decouples him from the New York imam.

God bless Pastor Jones. May he be open to further guidance in the ways of returning good for evil.

- Friday September 10 Morning Update: Pastor Jones is Waffling.

They’ll do it because they can

Folks, the pastor of that small Florida congregation bent on burning all those Korans and the “moderate” Muslim cleric bent on building a “prayer space” (a mosque, along with undetermined “prayer spaces” for Christians and Jews) in the immediate perimeter of “Ground Zero” in New York City, share something in common: they are going to do what they want to do because they can.

Both Pastor Terry Jones and Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf are justifying their actions appealing to precious constitutional and property rights – basic rights no one in their right minds deny them. Their fallacy is so simple that has fallen by the side of the Big Media talking heads. They think that if something is legal, it is therefore morally justifiable.

It is the same reasoning underlying abortion, same-sex marriage, euthanasia, and other assaults against Human Life. If it’s legal, it’s moral; if it isn’t legal, make it so and civic morality will change accordingly.

Love toward neighbor dictates neither Pastor Jones nor Imam Rauf’s declared intentions. Wrapping themselves in the language of rights and supposed divine inspiration, these gentlemen are about to spit in the general direction of basic human decency.

Pastor Jones and Imam Rauf are joined by their hips. They are of the same kind. If they do what they intend to do, America would have crossed a Rubicon that, will regret having crossed for what remains of of our existence as a unique civilization.

A civilization that once was great but that now, if not terminally ill, it’s at least gravely sick.

Say “no” to the Ground Zero Mosque; say “no” to the Koran burning.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Catholic League: Burning Koran is Deadly Wrong

Folks, this according to Bill Donohoue, President of the Catholic League:
Catholic League president Bill Donohue comments on reports that a Florida pastor is planning to burn a copy of the Koran on 9/11:

Minister Terry Jones wants to show his anger at radical Muslims by burning a copy of the Koran on September 11. He is wrong morally, and he is literally endangering innocent lives.

The Koran is embraced by Muslims who are law-abiding men and women, as well as by terrorists. Jones knows this to be true, but somehow in his twisted understanding of Christianity, he thinks he has a right to insult and smear all Muslims. Furthermore, he is endangering innocent lives—including Americans—as Gen. David Petraeus has warned. Already, there are Muslims who have taken to the streets in Afghanistan and Indonesia.

While it would be wrong to sustain the "heckler's veto" by giving in to those who seek to veto free speech by heckling, in this instance the "heckler's veto" is moot: no one is in jeopardy of losing his free speech rights. What is being requested is a plea not to inflame passions needlessly by assaulting the sensibilities of Muslims worldwide.

In 1998, I criticized gay radicals who burned a copy of the Bible at Syracuse University to protest an appearance by Pat Buchanan. Now we have extremists on the right seeking to stoke the flames of bigotry against Muslims. It, too, must be criticized.

Minister Jones is more than a disgrace—he is engaged in agitprop and must be unequivocally condemned. There are plenty of legitimate ways to protest the wrongdoing that took place on September 11, 2001. Burning copies of the Koran is not one of them.
Commentary. A burning Koran can be easily replaced, not so the life of an American sailor, marine, airman, or soldier. Once again I ask Pastor Jones not to carry out his threat. Instead, his church should sponsor a disfigured Afghani girl for reconstructive surgery or other such good work. Burning a Koran is not the way to raise awareness of the nature of extreme Islamism.

- Read also Don't burn the Koran, Pastor Jones

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Don't burn the Koran, Pastor Jones

Folks, this according to Associated Press via Yahoo News:
KABUL, Afghanistan – The top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan warned Tuesday an American church's threat to burn copies of the Muslim holy book could endanger U.S. troops in the country and Americans worldwide.

Meanwhile, NATO reported the death of an American service member in an insurgent attack in southern Afghanistan on Tuesday.

The comments from Gen. David Petraeus followed a protest Monday by hundreds of Afghans over the plans by Gainesville, Florida-based Dove World Outreach Center — a small, evangelical Christian church that espouses anti-Islam philosophy — to burn copies of the Quran on church grounds to mark the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States that provoked the Afghan war.

"Images of the burning of a Quran would undoubtedly be used by extremists in Afghanistan — and around the world — to inflame public opinion and incite violence," Petraeus said in an e-mail to The Associated Press.

Muslims consider the Quran to be the word of God and insist it be treated with the utmost respect, along with any printed material containing its verses or the name of Allah or the Prophet Muhammad. Any intentional damage or show of disrespect to the Quran is deeply offensive.
Read the entire news piece here.

Commentary. I have two reasons not to do it. First and foremost, we Christians are commanded not to give gratuitous offense to anyone, and second, I value American lives more than burning a Koran. If not burning a Koran saves one American life by all means, this little church in Florida and its pastor should refrain from doing so.

I understand that Muslims find burning a Koran deeply offensive. Granted. I also wish they would find punitive mutilation and stoning, a barbaric practice common in Iran and Afghanistan, as equally, if not more offensive to their religion than burning a Koran. Also, who destroyed the Buddhas of Bamyan? It was them, but did they protest? Nope. Destroying other people's religious symbols - not to say their bodily integrities or even their lives - are not crimes for Muslim protestors worldwide.

If we could only witness droves of Muslims protesting in the streets for the above abuses with the same passion they vented during the Muhammad Cartoons episode, it would've made their opposition to the impending Koran burning more convincing and less hypocritical. It's because they lack credibility that we Christians have to pick up their slack and ask one of our own to refrain from an action inspired by misguided zeal. Protecting American lives is also, like I've said, another imperative. Despite the moral fog and incoherence found on the Muslim street, we must do what is good.

Pastor Jones, please, refrain from burning the Koran. Don't refrain because of them, but because the Word of God, written in our hearts, impels us to return good for evil.

Monday, September 06, 2010

Obstacles on the way to the Father

Father Nicolas Schwizer

There is no doubt that many countries possess a great love for the Blessed Virgin. But it is obvious that some communities which are so Marian, do not manifest the same sense of a profound personal attachment to the Father of Christ. And it is often the case that someone severed their relationship to God, became an atheist, but still maintains a relationship with the Virgin. It seems to be the last thing which is lost.

The reason for this situation is not difficult to understand if we look closely at the reality of the family. Often, the father in many families is a very weak figure. In comparison to the mother, he is almost a stranger. He is absent from the home throughout the entire day, and in general, he lacks the ability for personal dialog with his loved ones. His way of acting is normally distant and hard. In popular sectors he is the one who yells and hits; he is the one who is authoritarian and unjust with the children; he is the one who is alcoholic and therefore mistreats the mother.

In the middle class and higher class, the fatherhood crisis is not so much expressed in violence. There, the father is usually the great absentee from the home: the one who is always occupied with important things which do not leave him time for the children. He believes that his paternal function means to work for his family, to give things to his loved ones. How many children do not clearly make it known that they would prefer to have less money, and instead have a father who is nearby!

For many, the word “father” is only a word which evokes rebellion and frustration. We cannot say to youths who are wounded or frustrated by an absent or violent father: I have good news for you: God is Father and He loves you. For youths who reject their father or try to flee from him, that good news of the Father God becomes bad news.

Therefore, Father Kentenich, founder of the Schoenstatt Movement, affirms that we live like the prodigal son in “a state of flight from the house of the Father.” In his opinion, the problem of modern atheism is due in the first place to the crisis of the family. “Times without fathers are times without God.”

Father crisis, crisis of authority

The deepest cause of the crisis of authority resides here, in society as in the Church. Ultimately it is about the rejection of authority which modern man identifies with his own father. The deterioration of authority in the family leads him to consider any authority as abusive and oppressive. Modern man thinks that what is proper to authority is to “order (rule).” In a culture of efficiency, that is what authority becomes: ordering because the order is quickest.

But the function of true authority is to give life, to help grow. The model of that authority is the Almighty Father God and his reflection, the Good Shepherd. Therefore, orders are not given to the newborn child. He/she is simply clothed, fed, and caressed. He/she is shown/taught.

No one teaches a child to walk by giving him/her orders, rather, the child is taken by the hand and is encouraged. Ordering only has meaning if it helps to grow. Authority, any authority can only be justified if it is at the service of life, as a source of life.

In light of this vision, the present concept of authority is very poor! At all levels, human authority has strayed from its model, the Father God. Those who should reflect Him – on the religious level, political, labor and family – do not reflect Him. Therefore, the words “father” or “authority” for many persons sound empty or cause them to reject them.

How must it feel for them to hear the news of a Providential Father who always sees us and who with infinite power has us at hand’s reach? Without a doubt, it must be the worst and most depressing news they could hear.

Questions for reflection

1. Do I offer my privileged time to my family?

2. How was my relationship with my natural father?

3. Is it easy for me to attach myself to the Father God?

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Our Home Shrine – Heart of Our Domestic Church

Folks, I must confess that ever since I was a youth I always had a space dedicated to the Lord, a “holy table” or “special wall” that would make me pause and reflect, even pray. At the times of my greatest unfaithfulness the space would disappear, I would take it down not to be reminded of the Lord. In those times I fled from Him as Jonah, refusing to know as Jonah refused that one can’t really flee God, particularly if one has already been touched by Him.

But I digress. Every time I returned to the Lord I would rebuild the sacred space. By His grace I haven’t run from Him in quite some time, despite circumstances that would have pushed my weaker self to flee before. The sacred space has reached an intriguing permanence and reflects what I think what is the current state of my mature faith. Here are some pictures:

Let me also say that the table is a real Catholic Church altar, or technically, “former altar” that was “deblessed” and thrown in the garbage after years of faithful service as a table of sacrifice. A friend and I rescued it and gave it a new lease of life.

The strip below shows pictures of the individual objects of my home altar. Click on any picture to see it larger.

 

The Fathers of the Second Vatican Council had this to say about the family as the “domestic church” in their Dogmatic Constitution On The Church, Lumen Gentium:

Finally, Christian spouses, in virtue of the sacrament of Matrimony, whereby they signify and partake of the mystery of that unity and fruitful love which exists between Christ and His Church,(108) help each other to attain to holiness in their married life and in the rearing and education of their children. By reason of their state and rank in life they have their own special gift among the people of God.(109) (7*) From the wedlock of Christians there comes the family, in which new citizens of human society are born, who by the grace of the Holy Spirit received in baptism are made children of God, thus perpetuating the people of God through the centuries. The family is, so to speak, the domestic church. In it parents should, by their word and example, be the first preachers of the faith to their children; they should encourage them in the vocation which is proper to each of them, fostering with special care vocation to a sacred state.

Dedicating a specially holy, sacred space in one’s home to the Lord Our God reminds us of all the events leading to our salvation and visibly confirms the presence of the Lord among and a focus for family prayer. It is in this domestic church where the father of the family realizes his baptismal priesthood in its best setting. I encourage all of you to dedicate a space of your home to the Lord, as you already dedicate your hearts to Him.

- Visit the Oblate Spring site to find out more about Prayer Corners, Home Shrines, Home Altars, Mary Gardens.

- Visit the Fish Eaters site to read more about The Domestic Church: The Catholic Home

Friday, September 03, 2010

A conversation between Stephen Hawking and a young child

Folks, this from Carl Olson of Insight Scoop:
I imagine this conversation happening, preferably on a major television broadcast:

Hawking: Something, what we call "the Universe", came from nothing.

Young Child (waving his hand wildly): How?

Hawking: By "creating itself".

Young Child (frowning): But how?

Hawking: Spontaneously.

Young Child (irritated): Using what?

Hawking: Nothing.

Young Child (through clenched teeth): How did it use "nothing" to make something?

Hawking: By using the law of gravity.

Young Child (hands on hips, glaring): Wait, isn't the law of gravity "something"?

Hawking: Yes, but the law of gravity exists because of creation, which exists because the Universe created itself out of nothing using the law of gravity.

Young Child: Yeah, right.
Excellent piece! Read it all here.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Our Stay at Maria’s Garden & Inn, Berkeley Springs, West Virginia

Folks, last weekend we got away for a little bit to this awesome Bed and Breakfast and restaurant named Maria’s Garden & Inn located in colorful Berkeley Springs, West Virginia. I want to share with you a little bit of what we saw and learned.

First, this is a Catholic, Marian-themed, bed and breakfast. Awesome! This is the facade below. Click on the pictures to see them full size.

Now, a little bit of background: What exactly is Maria's Garden & Inn? Well, there is quite a story behind this unique and faith filled family business. Nestled in the Heart of Town is one of the areas first Bed & Breakfast and Italian Restaurant. Originally begun as a small pizza shop in the early 70’s, Maria’s has evolved into one of the most unique and original places of destination in the world. Not only will you learn of the B&B, the restaurant, group and banquet facilities, you will also discover a spiritual world unlike you have ever experienced. You see, Maria is the Italian for Mary, in this case “Ave Maria.” Maria’s Garden & Inn, through the graciousness of the many guests, houses Icons, statues, grottoes, 1st class relics, and religious memorabilia of the Virgin Mary from the world over.

Maria’s Garden has several wings. We stayed in the “Angel Wing,” with rooms named each for an archangel: Michael, Raphael, and Gabriel. Ours was the Raphael Room. Here are some views. Click on a picture on the strip below to see that picture larger.

There are literally dozens of icons, religious pictures, statues, and relics all over the house, some of them very rare. Also, a small Catholic bookstore with the largest collection of Thomas Merton’s books for sale that I’ve seen outside of my own library, along with numerous other books and religious objects. Even a small chapel! Check out some of these treasure corners in the strip below. Again, click on any picture to view it larger.

Who are the great souls behind this beautiful inn? Meet Margaret “Peg” Perry. She was born in Hagerstown, Maryland in 1933. Her mother, Constantina Davalos, was of strong Spanish descent from Argentina. Peg always displayed an extraordinary gift in the kitchen. Most of all she has always manifested a deep and undeniable faith in God that was taught her by the Catholic Church. In 1953 she married Jim Perry and moved to Berkeley springs. Jim was in the U.S. Marine Corp. and spent the first segment of the marriage fighting for his country in Korea. Jim and Peg bore two children, James Curtis and Alesa Margaret. The family life of the Perry’s was wholesome and traditional. Jim was called to Our Father’s House earlier this year.

After a trip to Portugal, strange circumstances had resulted in Jim, Peg, and son Curtis purchasing a 1929 2-story brick home with a large auto repair garage. The catalyst for the purchase was the idea of moving Perry’s Pizza Parlor to that location. Peg also had an “itching” to expand the menu to offer the Eastern Panhandle good spaghetti. “How many times have you asked spaghetti when you go out to eat?”, she asked. The garage was converted into what is now two dining rooms while the basement became the kitchen. The original intent was modest, but the Perry’s couldn’t resist adding on. But that is not the end of the story by any means.

Mrs. Peg Perry, Owner, Maria's Garden  & InnThe inspiration for the Bed & Breakfast followed a year of success in the restaurant and from the many friends made there. “God just opened the door for us and we just walked in,” Curtis said. The upstairs of the first house was remodeled during the winter of 1984-85 followed by the purchase of the adjacent house in 1985. All the rooms have been given their own special name. Alesa and her husband Bill have the honor of having the rooms on the second floor of the second house named after their children: Laura, Aaron, Stephen, and Louisa. After the conversion of both houses into the B&B, the quaint patio between the houses was miraculously transformed into a garden dining room with glass top tables, balcony dining, and sliding Glass doors to give view to the garden and grotto of Our Lady of Fatima.

Maria’s Garden has now started offering small retreats during the week on scheduled days. Speakers of various backgrounds come and share their faith in God, the Virgin Mary’s roll in their walk of faith, and the wisdom that the Holy Spirit has granted. People from all walks of life, religious convictions(or not) come to attend and be enlightened. Peg shares her insights and the poetry that she has been inspired to write over the years. Read the whole story here.

Let me share with you some final thoughts. While listening to Peg speak, I became convinced of a truth once stated by C.S. Lewis: we are chords in a Great Dance,

…woven out of the intertwining undulation of many cords or bands of light, leaping over and under one another and mutually embraced in arabesques and flower-like subtleties…Wherever the ribbons or serpents of light intersected minute corpuscles of momentary brightness…these particles were the secular generalities of which history tells – peoples, institutions, climates of opinion, civilisations, arts, sciences, and the like – ethereal coruscations that piped their short songs and vanished.

I am convinced that Peg Perry has been given a glimpse of this Great Dance of Creation and the ability to describe the multitude of interconnecting tendrils as she perceives them and then to speak about them simply, unselfconsciously, and humbly. I left knowing that I had met a great contemplative soul, for her contemplative gift is the pillar of her business success and the inspiring beauty surrounding all the guests of her inn. I wonder, even, if I might have beheld this elusive thing we call “holiness” for which, consciously or unconsciously, we all pine.

Find out for yourself! Go and dine, or better still, stay at Maria’s Garden and Inn.

Maria’s Garden and Inn is located at 42 Independence Street. Berkeley Springs, WV 25411. For reservations you may call them at 304-258-2021 or toll free at 888-629-2253. You can also e-mail them at info@mariasgarden.com.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

The Sign of the Cross - An Orthodox View

Source: Orthodox Prayer

Make the sign of the cross regularly to acknowledge the presence of our Lord.
This signifies Christ’s suffering, Crucifixion and Resurrection for our salvation.
This reminds us that we are called to follow in the steps of Christ.
This helps us bear our sorrows and deprivations in His name
This keeps the image of the cross in front of us.
This helps gain strength against our battle with the devil.
This keeps in mind the glory of Christ in the Second Coming which is preceded by the sign of the Cross in the sky.

We make the sign on our bodies by putting our thumb and first two fingers together symbolizing the Holy Trinity. We tuck the last tow in the palm of our hand symbolizing the to natures of Christ: Fully human and and fully divine. Then we start with our forehead moving our hand down to the waist then to the right shoulder and then to the left. some will close the prayer by bringing the hand to the heart. We can say "Glory be to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit" as we make the sign on our Body or some other short prayer.

This is a very simple way to make a prayer anytime during the day. When ever you are feeling distraught stop and make the sign of the cross. Make it before you have your meal. Make it in Church whenever there is reference to the Holy Trinity, Christ, Theotokos or a saint or loved one. Make it any time and it will bring you back to remembrance of God so the Holy Spirit can help you.

The Sign of the Cross

Author: Father Arthur Tonne | Source: Sacred Music Volume 117, Number 4, Winter 1990 via EWTN

God forbid that I should glory save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ." Galatians, 6:14

In April of 1945 American artillery in the town of Siegburg, Germany, was shelling a nearby village, in which there were about 20 German soldiers. The natives were in constant danger of being hit by bullets from either side. Toward evening of April 12 the people persuaded the German soldiers to cease fire.

Next morning the village priest carried a white flag to the American outpost to inform the commander that the German soldiers had gone and the civilian population had no desire to resist further. Instructions were given to fly white flags from all the houses.

The question uppermost in the minds of the towns-people was: How will the Americans treat us? They had heard terrible tales of cruelty on the part of the Russians. How would these conquerors act?

The Americans began a thorough search for weapons and German soldiers. Two soldiers armed with pistols came to a certain three-room home. They stopped short in the living room before a hand-carved family altar. Into the bedroom they went, to find there a beautiful crucifix.

The soldiers noticed the cross. They stopped, took off their steel helmets, changed their automatics from right hand to left, and respectfully made the sign of the cross. As a member of the family related, the members of that household feared no longer.

Yes, the sign of the cross is the salute of the true follower of Christ whether he is conqueror or conquered, whether he is German, Chinese, American or Australian. It is the countersign of the Christian. In particular, it is the special salute of the Catholic.

The sign of the cross is one of the most important and one of the most frequently used of the sacramentals. It is the sacred sign first taught to the feeble fingers of the child at its mother's knee; it is the sacred sign traced by the faltering fingers of the dying Catholic. From birth to death it is the holy sign, the holy ceremony that continually reminds the Catholic of the source from which all spiritual blessings come—the cross.

The two most common forms of this sacramental are the large sign of the cross made by touching the forehead, the breast, and the left and right shoulders. The cross thus covers the body—at least the most important members—the head and heart. The smaller sign of the cross is traced upon the forehead, lips, and breast.

1 Why do we make the sign of the cross?
a. To remind us of the Blessed Trinity—Father, Son and Holy Ghost. We repeat their names.

b. To remind us that the Son of God died on a cross for all men. Before Calvary it was a sign of disgrace. Christ made it a thing of glory and power.

c. To stir up our faith. It recalls that God is one and God is three; it recalls that the Second Person of the Trinity died for all men; it professes our faith; it identifies the Catholic. That is why the family of our story felt so secure, so much safer, as soon as they saw those American soldiers make the sacred sign.

d. To strengthen our hope. By making this sacred sign we express the hope that through the cross all blessings will come to us.

e. To kindle and feed our charity. Making this sign recalls the limitless love of Him who died upon the cross. We determine to return love for love.
2. The uses of this sacred sign in the Catholic Church are practically without limit:
a. According to many our Lord and the Apostles used it. Many affirm that our Lord blessed the Apostles with the sign of the cross on the day of His Ascension. Certainly the early Christians used it constantly.

b. It is used in all the public worship of our Church:
i. The sign of the cross in some form or other is made about 54 times during Holy Mass [in the Extraordinary Form].

ii. It is used frequently in the Divine Office or daily prayer of the priest.

iii. It is used in all blessings bestowed by bishop and priest.

iv. It is used in all the sacraments: 14 times in Baptism; 17 times in Extreme Unction. Yes, even in the semi-darkness of the confessional the priest makes the sign of the cross over you.

v. It is used in everything blessed for the service of God—altars, linens, holy water, etc.
c. It is used frequently in personal devotions:
i. In the morning and evening to seek God's help.

ii. Before and after prayer, against distractions.

iii. Before and after meals, asking God's blessing.

iv. In dangers of soul, like temptation and occasions of sin.

v. In dangers of body like storms, sickness, travel.

vi. Before our chief actions and undertakings, to make them pleasing to God and to obtain God's help in performing them properly.
Let me quote the instructive words of St. Gaudentius:

"Let the sign of the cross be continually made on the heart, on the mouth, on the forehead, at table, at the bath, in bed, coming in and going out, in joy and sadness, sitting, standing, speaking, walking—in short, in all our actions. Let us make it on our breasts and all our members, that we may be entirely covered with this invincible armor of Christians."

An indulgence of 100 days is granted for making the sign of the cross and saying the words. An indulgence of 300 days for making the sign of the cross, with holy water.

A love and devotion toward this sacred sign is the mark of a true follower of Christ. Just as it identified those two American soldiers as genuine Catholics, so the sign of the cross will identify you. Use it frequently, use it thoughtfully, use it lovingly. It will bring you countless blessings. Amen.