Category Archives: Peace and Justice

On Being Bullied – by A.J. Avila (PLUS a new novel)


Not too long ago, I published a blog post about how I was spurned in church during the Sign of Peace (see https://reflections911.wordpress.com/2017/07/07/spurned-at-church and also shared on this blog).  Then I made a huge mistake. I mentioned the post on a forum.
You would not believe the negativity I got. I was told what a horrible person I am, how being spurned was my own fault, and how I should have been more sympathetic to the woman who had treated me so poorly.
Silly me. I thought it was a teachable moment. I thought I made it clear this was something I needed to work on, that since St. Paul had rejoiced in his sufferings, I should learn to do that too.
I guess I should have known better than to mention what happened since you would not believe the reactions I’ve gotten when I disclose that I used to be bullied as a kid. I’ve grouped those responses into seven categories:
1. “I Don’t Believe You”
You’re told you’re either delusional or making a mountain out of a molehill. Like Holocaust deniers, some folk find it impossible to believe others, especially children, could be so cruel. Therefore, you must be making the whole thing up, probably to gain unwarranted sympathy for yourself.
2. “You Must Have Done Something to Deserve It”
Folks who tell you this also believe others wouldn’t be so cruel—unless, of course, you’ve given them a reason. You must have been a bully first and the treatment you received was simple retaliation. When you protest that you didn’t do anything, you’re not believed.
3. “Why Can’t You Just Shrug It Off?”
People who tell you this have probably experienced some bullying themselves. I agree that most likely few kids get through childhood without such a confrontation or two happening to them. What this fails to consider is that you’re not talking about a couple of isolated incidents. You’re talking about daily bullying, and not just by other children but by those—like teachers—in authority over you. A person who tells you to just shrug it off has no idea how much shrugging this would take.
4. “Grow a Backbone!” You should have a stiff upper lip and let the insults slide off you like water off a duck. After all, sticks and stones may break your bones, but names can never harm you. What the person telling you this fails to understand is that you were only a child and that names can harm your self-image, especially if it’s chronic name-calling.
5. “You Should Have Fought Back!”
This one seems to envision two little boys slugging it out on the school playground, and the bully, once thoroughly whooped, stops antagonizing his victim. Well, golly gee willikers, why didn’t I think of that? Oh wait. I did—with disastrous results. The problem here is that you’re not bullied by just other kids but by those in authority. So if you call your bully a name, she goes whining to the teacher, and then—behold!—now you’re the bully! It doesn’t matter if you do only a tenth of what the bully did to you. In everyone’s eyes, you are automatically wrong. In fact, you’ve just demonstrated that you deserve everything you’re getting.
6. “You Were the Victim of Bullying? Oh, Goody! I’ve Been Looking for One of Those!”
Amazingly, when you mention that you were bullied as a child, adult bullies, like a shark smelling a drop of blood in the ocean, come out in droves. I’ve been told by people who don’t know me at all that I’m a terrible, horrible person who has all kinds of physical and psychological problems.
7. “It Happened to Me Too”
Every once in a while, I come across a soul I can commiserate with. Unless you’ve been a victim of this yourself, you can only imagine what it’s like. Dealing with daily badgering isn’t easy, and I entirely disagree with the extremes of either jumping off a building or shooting up a classroom. So . . . just what do you do to survive this? My own tactic was to retreat into a world of books. When my nose was in a book, I was less likely to be accosted, and each novel I read allowed me to share an adventure in another world where I wasn’t bullied. I ended up reading a book a day—and if anything good came out of this, it helped prepare me for when I myself would be the novelist creating other worlds.

A.J. Avila has a brand new novel.  Take a look below.

My third Christian novel, Amaranth, is now available in paperback.
Here’s the story:
Would you take an elixir that made you perpetually young and physically immortal?
What if the price for it was your eternal soul?
Billionaire Desmond Sceller acquires such a wonder drug. But when eighty-year-old Marie Long is rejuvenated by it against her will, she quickly discovers unending beauty and youth is not the paradise it seems. Sceller, however, intends on using the elixir to entice all mankind into submitting to his tyrannical control. When Marie and her grandson Peter unearth this evil scheme, they soon discover that only an extraordinary sacrifice on their part can free humanity from Sceller’s nefarious plan.

Click here to purchase Amaranth on Amazon
Also, right now the Kindle version is on sale for just 99¢.

 

OUR LADY OF SORROWS by Deacon Marty McIndoe

I took this picture in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem.  It is right next to the place of Jesus crucifixion.  It shows Mary’s heart pierced with a sword.

On the day after we celebrate the Exaltation of the Cross, we turn to Mary and her Sorrows. The two are inseparable. The cross, the instrument of our salvation is exalted on one day. On the next day we see the sorrows of a mother’s love for her son. Our own lives here in this world are filled with so many times of exaltation and so many times of sorrow. We experience many joys, many triumphs, many difficulties and many sorrows. It is just what human living is all about. It does help us to know that our God, in the form of Jesus, knows through personal experience what rejection, difficulties, pain and even death is. It also helps us to know that we have a mother who can really understand our times of sorrow, because she too has experienced them.

One of the most precious gifts that God has given us is the gift of His mother (John 19:26). Just as she has experienced sorrow in seeing Jesus rejected and tortured and killed, she also experiences sorrow when she sees the difficulties and sorrows that we experience. As a loving mother, she is there with us to help us in our difficulties and sorrows. When we celebrate Our Lady of Sorrows, we celebrate with our mother a love that encompasses all things, especially the difficulties of our lives. She, and her Son, are always there to comfort us and assist us. Her love for us as her children is poured out in all of the good that we experience and in all of the bad. Jesus blessed us so much in sharing His mother with us.

Traditionally there are seven sorrows, or dolors, that are attributed to Mary. These are all based on various scripture accounts. I would like to list out these seven sorrows and give a brief reflection on each one. I would suggest that you read the scripture and then the reflection questions and then pray asking Mary for help and guidance and peace.

1 – The Prophecy of Simeon over the Infant Jesus (Luke 2:34): How often do we receive news that seems to indicate some kind of impending difficulty that we just don’t quite understand? Don’t we usually fret and worry about it? How often do we carry it with us for years just waiting for something bad to happen? Mary must have experienced that with the words of Simeon.

2 – The Flight into Egypt of the Holy Family (Matthew 2:13): How many people in the world have to leave the comfort of their homes heading to some unknown place? The number of refugees in the world due to war and famine and natural disasters is unbelievable. Mary knew what it was like to leave home to escape a tyrants rage. How often do you feel like you just are not at home?

3 – The Loss of the Child Jesus for Three Days (Luke 2:43): When Jesus was missing for three days, how difficult that must have been for Mary? Many people have lost their children due to runaways, drug and alcohol addiction and psychological disorders and often just to a lack of communication.. The pain and sorrow a parent feels due to this is crushing. Ask Mary to help. She understands.

4 – The Meeting of Jesus and Mary along the Way of the Cross (Luke 23:26): Have you ever seen your child in pain? This could be medical, emotional or depressive pain. Have you seen your child mistreated, or bullied or just picked upon? This causes so much sorrow to a parent. Mary knows all about this. Turn to her.

5 – The Crucifixion, where Mary stands at the foot of the cross (John 19:25): Have you had to watch your child slowly die. Unfortunately many parents have. Sometimes it isn’t even physical death. Sometimes it is depression or even a lack of ambition. Mary feels your pain and can help you with it. Turn to her.

6 – The Descent from the Cross, where Mary receives the dead body of Jesus in her arms (Matthew 27:57): So many parents have held their child in their arms when they died. Sometimes this is from a still born birth, or sickness or accident. How many parents have had their child die in a foreign war and wished that they could have held them for one last time? The pain is excruciating. Mary understands.

7 – The Burial of Jesus (John 19:40): Probably the worst thing that a parent can do is to bury their child. To see their child enter the grave and to know that you won’t be able to hug them and laugh with them or talk to them is so painful. Mary knows how this feels. She can bring help when we turn to her.

It is important for us to realize that Mary faced all of these difficulties because of her faith and because she trusted that God could work through all things. Our Lady of Sorrows is also Our Lady of Hope. We too are called to face our difficulties with faith that God works out all things. Even in the midst of our sorrows, we are called to be filled with hope.

From the Our Lady of Hope Novena:
But above all I pray, O dearest Mother, that through your most powerful intercession my heart may be filled with Holy Hope, so that in life’s darkest hour I may never fail to trust in God my Savior, but by walking in the way of His commandments I may merit to be united with Him, and with you in the eternal joys of Heaven. Amen.
Mary, our Hope, have pity on us.
Hope of the Hopeless, pray for us.

One Remarkable Man: Brother Joseph Dutton by Deacon Marty McIndoe

Brother Joseph with some of his leper friends  More pictures at the end.

God gives us the gift of remarkable people to remind us that mankind can be so much more than it often is. One of these remarkable people is Brother Joseph Dutton. Brother Dutton was born Ira Dutton on April 27, 1847 on a family farm in Stowe, Vermont. When he was only four years old, his family moved to Janesville, Wisconsin. Ira was an intelligent boy and industrious student. He worked hard to be able to attend college. After college the Civil War began and he joined the Army on the side of the North. He was assigned duties as a quartermaster. This not only kept him out of battle, but also provided training for what God would call him to do. At the end of the war he met a woman that he fell in love with. They were married, but sadly she left him after a year and asked for a divorce. This really upset Ira because he loved his wife and took his marriage vows very seriously.

Ira took a job where he disinterred the bodies of Civil War soldiers from the battlefield graves to be able to move them to the new National Cemeteries. Ira knew this was an important job, but it was also gruesome and depressing. To deal with his depressing job, and the separation from his wife, Ira began drinking heavily. He was able to remain sober for the day job, but was usually drunk for the rest of the time. He did this for about ten years. Ira saw that alcohol was destroying him, so when our Nation was celebrating the 100th year of the Declaration of Independence in 1876, Ira declared independence from alcohol. At this time he made a decision to get right with God and he began searching out different religions. Ira decided to become a Roman Catholic. When he was baptized, he took on the new name of Joseph. He then moved to a Trappist Monastery in Gethsemane, Kentucky to live and pray and work with the monks. Joseph never took formal vows. He left after almost two years knowing that God was calling him to a life of serving others.

When Joseph attended a religious conference he heard about the work that Father Damian was doing with the Lepers in Hawaii. Joseph immediately felt called to go to Hawaii and help Father Damian. Joseph felt this was a way that he could lead a life of penance and also help others. He immediately began making preparations to go to Molokai. He contacted both Church and Civil authorities to obtain permission to go. He never thought to contact Father Damian. Joseph was set and headed for the long journey to Molokai. The day that he arrived on Molokai, July 19, 1886, a very surprised Father Damian greeted this man. Joseph told Father Damian that he had come to devote the rest of his life to serving the lepers and helping Father Damian. One can only imagine how pleased Father Damian was. Father Damian had made numerous requests to both Church and Civil leaders to send him help. None of them seemed to be able to. Now, Joseph appears and becomes Father Damian’s right hand man (and later successor). Even though Joseph was not part of a religious community, from that day on Father Damian called Joseph, Brother Joseph. He has been known as that ever since.

The day after his arrival, Brother Joseph learned how to clean and care for the lepers wounds. This was quite a hard thing for most people to do since lepers are very contagious and at that time it was a disease that ended in death after grueling suffering. Brother Joseph found that the time he had spent disinterring Civil War bodied had prepared him to be able to deal with seeing and treating the lepers wounds. Brother Joseph proved to be a hard and tireless worker. Even though he and Father Damian had quite different personalities, they became very close. They both shared the same desire to serve God’s people who suffered from leprosy. They also both shared a strong love of God. Father Damian once said of Brother Joseph, “..a middle aged, well educated man. He resides here with me and as a true brother helps me caring for the sick. He too, though not a priest, finds his comfort in the Blessed Sacrament. You will admire with me the almighty power of Grace in favor of my new companion.”

Even though Father Damian knew he was dying from leprosy himself, his new friend brought him new hope that the colony would continue. Both of them worked hard together to make the leper colony as good as it could become. On April 15, 1889, Father Damian died from the disease. They had a funeral mass of celebration (something that they did very often with each death in the colony). After his death, the full responsibility of the Leper Colony fell upon Brother Joseph. He was thankful for his training as an Army quartermaster. It helped him in making sure the Colony had all the supplies that it needed. Brother Joseph was also responsible for significant building projects in the community. Finally another priest was sent to the colony, Father Lambert Carmardy to help.

In 1898 the United States formally annexed Hawaii as a U.S. territory. This made Brother Joseph very happy. Brother Joseph was a true Patriot and from the moment he came to Molokai, he hoisted the US Flag every morning and brought it down every evening. He gave the lepers in the colony a sense of his own patriotism. Now this land was US soil and they all rejoiced. The annexation also brought more help to the colony. The government sent funds and help to improve life in the Colony.

In 1908, Brother Dutton heard that the US White Fleet would be coming past Hawaii. Brother Dutton wished that somehow the Fleet would sail past his Colony. President Theodore Roosevelt heard of this wish and sent a Presidential Order to Admiral Charles Stillman Perry to go by Molokai and give a military salute to the Colony. The ships came in battle formation and each ship dipped their colors in salute and Brother Joseph and the Colony dipped their flag in salute for each ship. It was a huge moment for Brother Joseph and the Colony to receive such an honor from the President and the US government.

Even though Brother Joseph was living a life of isolation from the world, he corresponded with many friends. Word of Father Damian’s death and all that Brother Joseph was doing reached out to the world with great interest. Brother Joseph received many letters (and donations) and requests for pictures of him. Brother Joseph was never interested in making himself a hero. He responded to his popularity by saying, “All these writers make me out a hero, while I don’t feel a bit like one. I don’t claim to have done any great things; I am merely trying in a small way to help my neighbor and my own soul”.

After serving almost forty five years at the Colony, Brother Joseph Dutton died in 1931. He was mourned and missed by all in the Colony. World leaders paid tribute to him but one of the best is by President Calvin Coolidge. He said. “Whenever his story is told, men will pause to worship. His faith, his work, his self sacrifice appeal to people because there is always something of the same spirit in them. Therein lies the moral power of the world. He realized a vision that we all have.”

In 1949, Blessed Sacrament Church was built on the land that Brother Joseph’s family farm occupied in Stowe Vermont. It has beautiful Murals painted by Andre Girard on the outside walls of the Church. These murals tell the story of Brother Joseph and the Leper Colony on Molokai. The people of Stowe wanted to tell the story of their remarkable native, Brother Joseph Dutton and to give him honor. I believe that we all should tell the story and give honor to Brother Joseph by the way we live our lives. As President Coolidge said, “he realized a vision that we all have”.

Note: On June 23rd, 2015 the Diocese of Honolulu took the first of many steps to Sainthood for Brother Joseph. They created the Brother Joseph Dutton Guild to gather information for the cause.

St Philomena Church in the leper colony.

Blessed Sacrament Church in Stowe Vermont on the farmland where Brother Joseph was born

Some of the murals depicting Brother Joseph on Molokai located on the outside of the Church in Stowe Vermont.

A close up of the mural depicting Brother Joseph meeting Father Damian

On Spending by AJ Avila

The Everlasting Gobstopper

On Spending by AJ Avila

Posted on May 24, 2017 by ajavilanovels

Occasionally I watch the television show Pawn Stars, shown on the History Channel. It can provide a fascinating look at historical objects, some of which are museum quality.

In a recent episode, the owner of the pawn shop (located in Las Vegas) took a trip to Los Angeles to procure more merchandise for his store. In particular he was searching for movie memorabilia.

But my jaw dropped at the amount of cash he doled out for one item: more money than my husband and I paid for our house. So what was it? The ruby slippers from The Wizard of Oz? Perhaps Sam’s piano from Casablanca?

Nope.

For a measly $100,000 he bought the Everlasting Gobstopper prop from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.

I’m not kidding.

I wish I were kidding.

Wait. It gets worse. The pawn store owner bought it for that price because he figures he can sell it at a profit. That’s right: he believes that somewhere out there is a person willing to pay even more for a brightly-colored thingamajig about the size of your big toe.

I puzzled over why someone would consider this item to have any worth. Personally, I wouldn’t pay 2¢ for it. What’s the value in owning such a thing? So you can show off to your friends that you’ve got the Everlasting Gobstopper and they don’t? Is this supposed to produce some sort of one-upmanship over your neighbors?

But even more – I was appalled because that money could do so much good elsewhere. What could a free clinic do with a check for that amount? Or your local crisis pregnancy center?

Imagine going for judgment before Christ and when He asks you what you did with your life, you explain that hey, you bought yourself the Everlasting Gobstopper!

Spending your money like that kind of sounds like a way to get yourself classified as a goat instead of a sheep, huh?

Anyway, I was feeling rather smug and superior about the whole business – when all of a sudden it occurred to me that I do exactly the same thing.

Except I do it in an even worse way. Oh, I don’t go out and waste a lot of moola on movie props. I waste something even more valuable.

I waste time.

Time is always more precious than money. Money I can always earn more of. I can’t earn more time.

In fact, my life is made up of time.

And how much of it have I spent playing video games or watching some inane television show? That’s time I could have spent doing something valuable like praying, especially for the conversion of sinners and for the souls in Purgatory.

When I stand before Christ for judgment, what am I going to say? Something like “Hey I spent a lot of my life on video games and stupid television shows”?

May I always remember that when I point my finger at someone, I have three fingers pointing back at myself.

After all, it’s not gobstoppers that are everlasting. It’s our souls.

 

About ajavilanovels

AJ Avila is the author of four Christian novels: Rain from Heaven, Amaranth, Nearer the Dawn and Cherish.  Her website can be found by clicking here: AJ Avila Reflections

 

Our Lady of Fatima at the United Nations –  by Deacon Marty McIndoe

The United Nations in New York City

On May 12th, the day before the 100th anniversary of the first apparitions at Fatima, my wife and I had the privilege of attending a special gathering at the United Nations in NYC entitled, THE CENTENARY OF FATIMA AND THE ENDURING RELEVANCE OF IT’S MESSAGE OF PEACE.   It was a most rewarding experience.  The Fatima apparitions have been the beginning of so many changes in the 20th century.  They began on May 13, 1917 just as Europe was immersed in WWI, a very devastating war and supposedly the “war to end all wars”.  It was also the year of the Bolshevik Revolution and the beginning of the Communist threats to the world.  The Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to three young shepherd children in a remote region of Portugal and gave a message of the need to turn to Jesus, do penance, and pray in order to keep further horrendous wars away.   Her message was filled with Hope and Love but also quite disturbing in showing the way the world was headed.   She was concerned with bringing Peace and Hope and Eternal Life to all of the peoples of the world by having them follow Jesus.

The conference itself looked at the message of Fatima and what had occurred since then.   There is still a great need for peace in our war torn world.  The threat of communism seems to be gone, but there are many other threats to world peace.   The conference had five speakers and lasted about two hours.   I would like to give a brief synopsis of what each speaker said.  There is no doubt that this 100 year old message from the Blessed Virgin Mary is still very relevant to us today.   All of the speakers were excellent in their content and in the emotional attachment to what they were saying.  Tears flowed from both men and women as they spoke.  I was impressed by the dedication of each speaker.

The Dais for the speakers.  The statue of Fatima is to the right.

Archbishop Bernadito C. Auza opened the conference and was the mediator.   He is the Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations.   His topic was “The Lessons of the Fatima Message of Peace for the Cause of Peace Today”.  The Archbishop recounted what had happened at Fatima and how it had led to many changes in the world.   He told the story of Pope John Paul II’s dedication to Fatima and how the Pope was very instrumental in the collapse of communism in Europe and in Communist Russia itself.   The Archbishop reflected the call for hope but also the need for continued conversion.   He was very pastoral in his tone, and appears to be an excellent representative of the Church to the United Nations.

Johnnette Benkovic was the second speaker.   Johnnette is the foundress and president of Women of Grace.   She is also an author and TV and radio host.   She is an excellent speaker and her topic was,   ‘Mary and the Dignity of Women’s role in a Culture of Peace”.   Johnnette did an excellent job of reminding us how women, who by their very nature are life giving and protecting, must work hard for peace.   She did say that women are not always fulfilling this role of working for peace and must step up to do so.   She definitely believes that women can be very instrumental in helping bring about peace.

The Statue of Our Lady of Fatima at the Dais.

Dr. Andrea Bartoli was the third speaker.   He is currently the Dean of the Seton Hall School of Diplomacy and International Relations.   His topic was “The Importance of Religious Leaders Serving as Examples of Peace, Tolerance, Solidarity and Justice”.   Dr. Bartoli shared several stories from his work in various nations to deal with the ravages of war.   He was quite emotional in sharing some of the things that happened to the people he was trying to help.   There was no doubt that this man is a man of faith and compassion who has worked hard to foster peace (he is an expert in conflict resolution) and to help those who suffer because of a lack of peace.   He challenged all, especially those who are religious leaders, to work hard for peace and to help those who are suffering from a lack of it.   His call was basically to be like Jesus.   We need more diplomats like him.

Dr. Maria Santos Pais was the fourth speaker.   She is the Special Representative of the Secretary General on Violence Against Children.   Her topic was, “Children as a Zone of Peace”.   Dr. Pais is from Portugal and it was apparent that she was well aware of the Fatima story.   She also seemed well aware of the terrible things that are happening to children throughout the world today.   Some of the statistics that she gave us were quite disturbing.   Dr. Pais was very clear in showing us that children are peacemakers, but unfortunately are often victims of the lack of peace.   She gave a very emotional talk.   Please pray for the children of the world.

The Shepherd Children of Fatima to whom Mary appeared.  Pope Francis proclaimed Francisco and Jacinta Marto Saints as he celebrated the 100th anniversary mass in Fatima.  Lucia only died in 2005 and her cause is pending.

Dr. Anna Halpine was the fifth and last speaker.   She is the Foundress and CEO of the World Youth Alliance.   Her topic was, ‘The Fatima Shepherd Children: the Role of Children in the Cause of Peace”.    Dr. Hapline did an excellent job of showing how these poor shepherd children responded so well to the call of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  She continued talking about children of the world living in such difficult situations.   Her talk was very complementary to the previous talk given by Dr. Pais.   The last two speakers helped us all to focus on those who suffer so much from a lack of peace, the children.  It is so sad to think that we have created a world where children suffer so much.

This sculpture is in the United Nations plaza.

In review, the conference was very much like the original message of Fatima.   It is disturbing in pointing out what mankind has done by war and by a lack of peace.   It also pointed out that we must work hard to accomplish peace.   There is hope, but we must actively seek it and work for it.   The message of Our Lady is very appropriate today.   We must seek Jesus, pray and do penance and work hard for peace.   Having this conference take place at the United Nations was quite encouraging.  The Statue of Fatima was brought there for this conference and then brought over to the Church of the Holy Family nearby.   This is the second visit of this statue to the United Nations.   It first came to the UN in 1952.  The Blessed Virgin Mary is most definitely the Queen of Peace.   May peace come forth to this world and may all peoples receive the gift of heavenly peace.  I end with the prayer that Mary taught at Fatima; O my Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of hell, lead all souls to Heaven, especially those most in need of Thy mercy. Amen…

The Statue at Holy Family Church near the United Nations

 

Advent Saints – St. Ambrose by Deacon Marty McIndoe

stambrosebasilica

The Basilica of St. Ambrose in Milan.  This was originally built by St. Ambrose and when he died he was entombed here.

               By the time he was 33 years old, Ambrose was a very successful man.  He owned a large estate, was a successful lawyer, was Governor of Milan and was a good friend of the Roman Emperor.   He was just a catechumen in the Catholic faith, but loved God and loved peace.  He lived at a time and in an area where there was great division in the Church over the heresy of Arianism.   In 374 the Bishop of Milan died and those who were for Arianism and those who saw Arianism as a heresy met in the Cathedral to try to determine who the next Bishop would be.  There was so much unrest over this that a riot began to break out between both sides.  Ambrose, as governor, stepped in to try to bring about peace by making a passionate speech, not favoring either side but seeking peace between the two sides.  It was at this time that someone shouted out that Ambrose should be made the Bishop.  The people all seemed to consent and Ambrose said that he couldn’t be, because he was just a catechumen and not even baptized.  Truthfully, it appears that Ambrose was quite happy with his life and did not want to change it.  Now the other Bishops of the Province saw this as a way to avoid making a difficult decision that would certainly upset a large number of people.  They too wanted Ambrose and decided to make him Bishop.  Ambrose quickly ran away trying to avoid this new vocation.

               Ambrose ran to the Emperor trying to get the Emperor to vacate that decision.  The Emperor refused to vacate the decision and told Ambrose that he would make a good Bishop.  Ambrose then went for instructions in Scripture and the Church studying under Saint Simplician.  Ambrose embraced the new vocation fully and was baptized and ordained as Bishop of Milan.  He sold his estate and holdings and gave to the poor.  Ambrose used his skills as a lawyer and orator to fight the Arians in church, court, senate, and even the Emperor’s own family. The same stubbornness that had made him refuse the position in the first place was now his weapon in fighting heresy and pursuing sanctity.

               Besides fighting heresy, Ambrose had to go up against the Goths who were invading the weakened Roman Empire.  The Goths often captured the Christians and offered them up for ransom.  Ambrose said, “It is a better thing to save souls for the Lord than to save treasures. He who sent forth his apostles without gold had not need of gold to form his Church. The Church possesses gold, not to hoard, but to scatter abroad and come to the aid of the unfortunate.  Would not the Lord say to us: ‘Why have you let so many needy perish of hunger? Since you had gold, you should provide for their needs’…Could we say: ‘I feared to leave the temple of God without ornament.’ But that which can’t be bought with gold does not take its value from gold. The best way to use the gold of the Redeemer is for the redemption of those in peril.”

               Not only did Ambrose have to deal with the Goths, but when his friend the Emperor died, the new Emperor tried to take Ambrose’s Church away from him and hand it over to the Arians.  Ambrose refused and was sentenced to death.  Fortunately the people sided with Ambrose and filled his Church.  Roman soldiers were surrounding the Church and the people inside stayed there for days singing songs (this is one of the first written accounts of songs being sung in Church).  They were so loud and filled with faith that even the soldiers outside began singing the songs.  The soldiers were called out for other duties in protecting the Empire.  Ambrose kept control of his Church.  It is interesting to note that later Ambrose helped out the Emperor who was against him.  He showed true forgiveness.

               Ambrose is also known for his work with another great Saint, Saint Augustine.  It was Ambrose who helped Augustine convert to the faith.  Augustine was one of the greatest Saints and impacted the Church tremendously.  Saint Ambrose was certainly a great man who changed history and the Church for the better.

There are many quotes from St. Ambrose.  I share a few of them here.

The fraternity of Christ, is closer than the fraternity of blood.        

Prayer is the wing wherewith the soul flies to heaven, and meditation the eye wherewith we see God.

If it is “daily bread,” why do you take it once a year? . . . Take daily what is to profit you daily. Live in such a way that you may deserve to receive it daily. He who does not deserve to receive it daily, does not deserve to receive it once a year. 

By Christ’s Passion our weakness was cured. By His Resurrection death was conquered. Still we have to be sorrowful for the world, as well as joyful in the Lord, sorrowful in penance, joyful in gratitude.

It is not the ambassador, it is not the messenger, but the Lord Himself that saves His people. The Lord remains alone, for no man can be partner with God in forgiving sins; this office belongs solely to Christ, who takes away the sins of the world. 

True repentance is to cease from sin. 

Our own evil inclinations are far more dangerous than any external enemies.

The rich man who gives to the poor does not bestow alms but pays a debt.

When we speak about wisdom, we are speaking of Christ. When we speak about virtue, we are speaking of Christ. When we speak about justice, we are speaking of Christ. When we speak about peace, we are speaking of Christ. When we speak about truth and life and redemption, we are speaking of Christ.

No duty is more urgent than that of returning thanks.

The Devil tempts that he may ruin and destroy; God tests that He may crown. 

He took what is mine in order that He might impart to me what is His. He took it not to overturn it but to fill it. 

The Lord was Baptized, not to be cleansed Himself, but to cleanse the waters, so that those waters, cleansed by the flesh of Christ which knew no sin, might have the power of Baptism.  

God by nature is uncompounded, joined to nothing, composed of nothing, to whom nothing happens by accident; but only possessing in His own nature that which is divine, enclosing all things, Himself closed out of nothing, penetrating all things, Himself never penetrable, everywhere complete, everywhere present at the same time, whether in heaven or on earth or in the depths of the sea, incapable of being seen or measured by our senses, to be followed only by faith and venerated in our religion.

The Church of the Lord is built upon the rock of the apostles among so many dangers in the world; it therefore remains unmoved. The Church’s foundation is unshakable and firm against assaults of the raging sea. Waves lash at the Church but do not shatter it. Although the elements of this world constantly beat upon the Church with crashing sounds, the Church possesses the safest harbor of salvation for all in distress. There is a stream which flows down on God’s saints like a torrent. There is also a rushing river giving joy to the heart that is at peace and makes for peace. 

 

 

 

              

OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST, KING OF THE UNIVERSE – by Deacon Marty McIndoe

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Christ The King statue in Świebodzin, Poland.  This is the largest statue of Jesus in the world (yes, even larger than Rio de Janeiro).  It is 33 meters (over 108 feet) tall.  One meter for each year of Jesus life.  Note the gold crown.

               The last Sunday of the Church liturgical Calendar is celebrated as the Solemnity of Jesus Christ, King of the Universe.  Although Christians have celebrated Jesus as the King of Kings since the very beginnings and the Jews have celebrated the Messiah as the coming King long before Jesus, this Feast is relatively new.  Pope Pius XI instituted this Feast in 1925 in his encyclical QUAS PRIMAS and it was first celebrated in 1926.  Pope Pius XI instituted this Feast as a result of changes that were occurring throughout the world.  There was a rise of both Communism and non-Christian dictatorships that tried to keep their people from worshiping God and following the Church.  There was a large growth of secularism that had people questioning the role of God and the Church in their lives.  People were simply denying Christ and doubting His authority and existence, as well as doubting the Church’s power to continue Christ’s authority. 

               The truth of the matter is, this seems to be occurring again today.  People are putting Jesus aside and are not going to Church.  Even our own government has tried to take away the Church’s authority over its people.  God has been taken out of our government, and schools and courts.  That is why this Feast is so timely even today.  Our recent Presidential elections have shown a great divide in our country and some people seem lost.   The problem is, our hope should not be fully in who is leading our country.  Our hope should be in the Lord.  I saw a sign before the elections that really brings this home.  It said:

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               Today’s Feast day celebrates that very thought, and much more.  Let us look at what Pope Pius XI hoped to accomplish in celebrating this feast:

1 – That nations would see that the Church has the right to freedom, and immunity from the state (Quas Primas 32).

2 – That leaders and nations would see that they are bound to give respect to Christ (Quas Primas 31).

3 – That the faithful would gain strength and courage from the celebration of the feas, as we reminded that Christ must reign in our hearts, minds, wills, and bodies (Quas Primas 33)

               The first two of these are a constant battle.  We need to make sure that the State recognizes our rights to freely worship God as we are called to do.  The second is also difficult.  We must elect leaders who can give respect to Jesus.  The third, and last, is where we ourselves need to work the hardest.  We MUST see Jesus as King of everything that we are.  He must reign in our hearts, minds, wills and bodies.  Today individualism has been so embraced that for many, the only authority is the individual self.  They reject the idea of Jesus as ruler.  Many see the title of King or Lord as archaic and borrowed from oppressive systems of government.  Certainly some Kings have been oppressive, but Jesus surely is not that kind of King.  He himself said in Mark 10: 42-45, “You know that among the Gentiles those whom they recognize as their rulers lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. 43 But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. 45 For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”  Pilate asked Jesus, “Are you the King of the Jews?” and Jesus replied in John 18: 36-37, “My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here.” 37 Pilate asked him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.”

               Jesus certainly knew the oppressive nature of some Kings and in contrast to them he showed His role as King as one of humble service and commanded all His followers to do the same.  He tied His Kingdom to His own suffering and death.  He will come again as King to judge the nations.  However He showed us that His Kingdom is one of love and mercy and peace and forgiveness.  Jesus turned around the concept of Kingship.  We know that when we make Him King of all that we are and all that we do, we will experience that Kingdom.

               Let us all strive to make Jesus our King.  Here is a prayer that may help us in doing that:

Act of Dedication of the Human Race to Jesus Christ the King

Most sweet Jesus,
Redeemer of the human race,
look down upon us humbly prostrate before you.
We are yours, and yours we wish to be;
but to be more surely united with you,
behold each one of us freely consecrates himself today
to your Most Sacred Heart.
Many indeed have never known you;
many, too, despising your precepts, have rejected you.
Have mercy on them all, most merciful Jesus,
and draw them to your Sacred Heart.
Be King, O Lord,
not only of the faithful who have never forsaken you,
but also of the prodigal children who have abandoned you;
grant that they may quickly return to their Father’s house,
lest they die of wretchedness and hunger.
Be King of those who are deceived by erroneous opinions,
or whom discord keeps aloof,
and call them back
to the harbor of truth and the unity of faith,
so that soon there may be
but one flock and one Shepherd.
Grant, O Lord, to your Church assurance
of freedom and immunity from harm;
give tranquility of order to all nations;
make the earth resound from pole to pole with one cry:
Praise to the divine Heart that wrought our salvation;
to it be glory and honor for ever. Amen.
Also known as “Iesu dulcissime, Redemptor”

 

 

An Election Editorial by Catholic Girl Blogging

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It’s funny what a strange dream can lead to.

Last night I had a dream that I was standing in a pitch black room.  The only light came from two glowing red lines, one in front of me and the other behind me.  Faint white smoke plumed from the red line in front of me, indicating its heat.  Out of the darkness, someone approached me from behind and began to chuckle in my ear.
I woke up trembling to my alarm.

The minute I logged on to Facebook, I was hit with posts about Trump and Hilary; the Clinton campaign emails about Catholics being backwards, Trump’s disgusting words about women and so on.
Not a day goes by without the election being on my mind.  November 8th once felt like a far-off event, but now it’s drawing nearer, getting closer each day like a hungry spider slowly crawling to its cocooned prey.
While I waited in the drive thru on my lunch break, I found myself pondering the dream.  As I replayed it in my head, a strange thought crept in:
“You have no choice, my dear.  You must choose.”

I silently murmured to myself, “And what if I don’t choose?”
At that moment, I had a mental image of the red lines turning into ropes and a trapdoor that had been under my feet the whole time opening.
I snapped out of it when I heard, “Welcome to Jack-n-the-Box!  May I take your order?” With a shaky voice, I ordered my food.

Just like the frightening dream, our country is locked airtight in the devil’s bind; we currently have two disordered candidates with their personal character being questionable at best and repulsive at worst.  The way I see it, this political bind was years in the making and our nation fell headfirst into this trap long ago.

I’m probably going to sound like a Republican old man living in a red state when I say this, but truth is still truth no matter who is telling it.  Out of my way, Donald, this Independent female blogger from bluest of blue California is about to tell it like it is.
We have kicked God out of America; out of our schools, out of our media, even out of our homes.  We have rejected the values our Lord holds dear.  Our nation allows unborn babies to be slaughtered for any reason, continues to redefine marriage and mocks morality.  You know something is wrong with a country where a rapist can serve only six months in the county jail for violating an unconscious woman.

Mother Teresa once said, “Find your own Calcutta.”  No need for me to look far, Mama T, because I’m living in it.  We may not have people literally dying on the side of the road, but we are a nation of homeless people, splintered families and abandoned veterans.  America may be rich in resources, but we are poor in principles.  We are a prosperous but hopeless land, thinking we can make it on our own and without the God who bestowed upon us our freedoms in the first place.

Of course the devil would take advantage of this.  He has done so little by little, convincing us to remove God from the public square in small doses.  What started as snowball removals, such as attempting to take God off the dollar bill and then successfully removing Him out of our schools, has avalanched to where we have became a nation under God in name only.  People are more divided than ever before.  We no longer see each other as children of God, but rather as enemies if we disagree with one another.
How else do you think two people whose personal values are not rooted in Christ have been able to run for the highest office in the land?

So here we are, trapped in a ditch of our own making, being forced to choose between two candidates nobody wants to elect.  We have come to a crossroads regarding what we want our nation to be and we have no idea where to go from here.  Can our divided culture be healed?  Can the damage that has been done be reversed?  Can this damning bind be undone?

In all honesty, I don’t know.  I really wish I could tell you that all will be well, but everything depends on individual Americans, and based on the way things are now, I don’t think a revolution of compassion is on the horizon any time soon.

What I do know is that society will change once we change our hearts.  We as a nation must open our hearts in order to change them.  Jesus is a savior, but He is also a gentleman and will never force Himself on any person or any country.  If we are not willing to turn to Him, then He will let us hit rock bottom if that is what it takes to open our eyes.

I say this a lot on the Catholic Girl Bloggin’ FB page and I’ll say it here: The best thing you can do is just strive to be a better person in your every day life.  Instead of getting into a shouting match with a friend over a political issue, stop and try to remember how much you value their friendship and then try to find common ground with them.  Hold open doors, call a family member and tell them you love them, smile at a passing stranger, help someone carry their things, find volunteer work or a charity event to participate in.  The list of ways you can exercise kindness is endless.

I know, this seems like a cop out, but it actually isn’t when you really think about it. Kindness means going outward instead of turning inward, which is something many Americans have done.  Once you look beyond yourself and see the struggles of others, you begin to wonder what you can do to serve them.  It was selfishness and pride that got our country in this mess, so maybe humility and mercy can be the stepping stones towards a new tomorrow.  You won’t fix this country in a day, but you can change the outlook of one person’s day and maybe, just maybe, that person will go on to help another and a gradual chain reaction will begin.

Any time you are a positive force in your family, at your job, within your neighborhood or wherever you are, you are doing the will of God.  It is written in John 13:35, “This is how all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

In the dark torrential sea of political discord, you have the opportunity to be the calm island where weary travelers seek refuge.  America is in a big mess, but you have the power to have an impact in your own humble way.

“Sanctify yourself and you will sanctify society.”
–Saint Francis of Assisi

“Modern prophets say that our economics have failed us.  No!  It is not our economics which have failed; it is man who has failed-man who has forgotten God.  Hence no manner of economic or political readjustment can possibly save our civilization; we can be saved only by a renovation of the inner man, only by a purging of our hearts and souls; for only by seeking first the Kingdom of God and His Justice will all these other things be added unto us.”
–Venerable Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen

Our Lady Undoer of Knots, pray for us.

undoer-of-knots

Bio:
Catholic Girl Bloggin’ is a twentysomething California gal who started the blog in June of 2015. She writes movie reviews, saints biographies and frequently shares quotes from her heroes, Padre Pio and Mother Teresa. You can check out Catholic Girl Bloggin’ at
http://catholicgirlbloggin.net/

HALO Missions – Africa – 2016 by Deacon Marty McIndoe

It is amazing what can be accomplished in a short period of time and with limited resources, and with God’s blessings.   Last year, two of my good friends decided to start a local charity that would bring Medical and Educational help to orphan children of the world.   We started our first mission in 2015 by going to Zambia in Central Africa.   We chose Zambia because it has one of the highest concentrations of orphan children in the world.   We shared our vision last year and had two local fundraisers, one in Patchogue and one in East Islip.  Thanks to the generosity of local people, four of us, the two co-founders, Dr. James Bopp and Christopher McGuire, Brother Jim (Nurse) and myself (Chaplain) went to Zambia (we paid our own travel, hotel and food so all the money  collected could go directly to the orphans).  With the help of Teen Missions, we were able to treat hundreds of children for various medical illnesses.   We also were able to help 109 orphans have the means to attend school and we helped finance an addition to the school.   Although we accomplished a great deal, we also saw so much need.  We knew that the children and their caretakers needed more than just medical treatments.  They also suffered from many dental and vision problems.   We were determined to help them with that.  Again with local fundraisers and asking for volunteer dentists, we assembled a team of six dentists and made arrangement with SEE International to give us vision help for our 2016 misssion.  The team is now working in Zambia and I want to share with you some pictures and comments that Christopher McGuire was able to send out.   We also, this year, sent ahead clothing for the children, as the need was so severe.  We also,  gave the children American flags so they could see who were helping them.   Please continue to pray for the team and the patients they will serve.  If you would like to help financially, please go to http://www.halomissions.org        God is so good.

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HALO Missions is off to Johannesburg and on to Ndola.

 

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42 hours door to door. Here is HALO dental team the next morning just before getting to work. Led by Dr. Wynn from Stony brook University. Devin, Justin, Michael and Nichole. The first dentists many of their patients have ever seen. Pulling many infected teeth these doctors were lifesavers.

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The kids love the younger dentists. Here fooling around on snap chat swapping faces.
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Long day today. 340 Dental patients. 240 medical patients. Tomorrow the ophthalmic starts cataract surgeries if all goes well.
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Hard at work and then taking a break to hand out clothes.
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Hicksville Dentist Michael Criss spent his birthday giving his great talents to the extreme poor. We took him to celebrate at a Zambian restaurant. If you’ve never had Zambian pizza, don’t.
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Dr James Bopp (medical) takes a break from treating patients to provide clothing to the orphans.
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Today Christopher McGuire  left the medical team and travelled with Oscar Chama of Teenmissions by bus with 13 candidates to drive to Lufwanyama Hospital, which is about 3.5 hours from our location. The hospital is new and modern for Zambia, but devoid of patients and doctors, making it a virtual ghost town. (The patients have no way to get to the hospital and can’t afford the care even if they arrived.). Since our last visit we labored to gain the approval of the hospital and the government to use the facility for cataract surgeries. Doctor James Bopp worked tirelessly with See International and Argentinian surgeon Dr. Stone to make this a reality. With so many logistical hurdles, including obtaining and transporting the equipment, today Dr. Stone started conducting the procedures. I arrived (Dr. Bopp was treating patients) just in time to see the first cataract surgery performed today and to take these pictures. Dr. Stone will perform approximately 15 more surgeries before he leaves and train the Teenmissions staff to screen candidates for future missions. (The clinic was overrun with dental and medical patients, with over 600 seen).
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Children with children.   They are so beautiful and filled with life.  Look at those eyes.
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Patients got American flags. Here’s a Zambian girl named charity.
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Best part of the day was handing out clothes. with Chris McGuire
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Before and After
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We wanted to make sure the children are aware of the best America has to offer.
Please continue to pray for this mission.  If you can help financially, please help us to help these (and other) orphans.  Go to http://www.halomissions.org for more information.

A POWERFUL SPIRITUAL WEAPON FOR US ALL by Deacon Marty McIndoe

Our Lady of the Rosary (Victory)
Our Lady of the Rosary (Victory)

               The course of world history was dramatically changed in 1571.  On October 7th, about 30,000 Muslim men and 300 Muslim ships gathered off the coast of Corinth, Greece, ready to make their attack on Europe.  A Christian army of about the same size with about 100 fewer ships went to stop them.  Europe was threatened and the Muslims had already taken over the Byzantine Empire by 1453.  An increasingly divided Christian world was being governed by Islamic law.  Even some parts of Europe, right up in to the Danube River Valley, were under Islamic rule.  In 1570 Cyprus had been overtaken.  Now the Muslim armies were attacking Greece and Italy with the intention of capturing Rome and the Church.  The future of western Christian civilization was hanging on this battle.

               Pope St. Pius V knew that something had to be done, and that the future of the Church depended upon it.  He also knew that even though the Christian and Muslim armies were about equal in size, the Muslims were fierce and determined fighters and they had 100 more ships.  He knew that God’s intervention was needed to assure a victory.  He was also aware that the Rosary was a very powerful method of prayer and he asked everyone to pray the Rosary asking for a Christian victory.   Pope Pius V asked all of the religious convents and priories throughout Europe to pray.  He also had all of the armies and fleet crew members praying the Rosary.   On the day of the battle of Lepanto, October 7, 1571, the Pope left a meeting with his cardinals to go to the window and pray the Rosary.  He had no way of actually knowing that this was the day of the battle.  He returned to the meeting and told the Cardinals that the Catholic fleet had been victorious.   Mary had assured him of that, long before any conventional news methods could reach him.

               The victory had been quite miraculous.  Even though they were outnumbered, the Christian fleet lost only 17 ships and about 7,500 men, while the Muslim fleet was totally destroyed or captured and the Muslims lost almost all of their 30,000 men.  The Christians also set free over 2,000 slaves that the Muslims had on their ships.  There was no doubt that a miracle had occurred.  Europe was saved.  St. Pius V immediately attributed the Victory to the prayers said in the Rosary.  He instituted the feast of Our Lady Of the Rosary, which we still celebrate today.

               It is interesting to note that not only the prayers of Mary through the Rosary were present, but a little bit of the New World was there too.  In 1531 when Mary appeared to Juan Diego in Central Mexico, she gave him a special image of herself that is still in existence today.  The local Archbishop of Mexico had an exact copy of this image made and sent it to King Philip II of Spain.  When the king was sending his fleet to fight at Lepanto, he gave Andrea Doria, one of the three principal admirals of the fleet, the copy of the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe.  The admiral placed it in his ship and led the fleet in to battle.  They also flew the blue flag of Our Lady of Guadalupe on their masthead.

               The Rosary has been, and still is, a powerful spiritual weapon for all of us.  When reciting the scriptural prayers of the Rosary and when meditating on the various mysteries of the Life of Jesus we draw ourselves in to the very message of the Gospel.  It lifts us to new spiritual heights.  All of us have various “battles” that we fight in our own lives.  The Rosary can help us be victorious over them.  I also think that it is important to mention that the Rosary lifts us in to the arms of Jesus, who is the Prince of Peace.  Although this article pays special attention to the military battle of Lepanto, we must remember that the primary goal of Jesus is to bring peace.  Let us continue to pray the Rosary asking God to lift us up and grant us the Peace that only He can give.

ASSISI, THE HOME OF ST. FRANCIS by Deacon Marty McIndoe

Back in 2004 I was blessed to be able to make a retreat in the beautiful, and old, city of Assisi in Italy.  It was wonderful.  Assisi has the charm of being unchanged since the middle ages.  It also has a true sense of PEACE about it, unlike I have seen anywhere else.  It is certainly a most wonderful place to visit.  I want to share with you some pictures I took there.  God bless you and may St. Francis always lead you to Jesus and the true PEACE that only He can give.

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A statue of St. Francis found in the grounds of nearby La Verna, a place he loved to retreat to.

 

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Looking from the top of the mountain down on to the city of Assisi.  This old section of Assisi was never developed over because the new city was built below it.

 

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Assisi was actually originally a Roman city.  Here is a Roman temple built before the birth of Jesus.  This is in the town square and was a temple to Minerva.  In the 300’s the Christians made  it in to a church now called Mary over Minerva.  I was blessed to assist at mass inside here.

 

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The Church of Mary over Minerva with the middle aged church tower built next to it.  This tower was present at the time of Francis.

 

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One of the city gates built by the Romans

 

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The Church of St. Claire.  This church contains the remains of St. Claire as well as the original cross of San Damiano that spoke to Francis telling him to “Rebuild my Church”.

 

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One of the many small, but beautiful streets of Assisi.

 

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A bell tower of St. Stephen’s church.  A place that Francis loved to visit.

 

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Another quaint street of Assisi.  Great food throughout the city (typical of Italy).  One restaurant that we ate in existed in the time of Francis.  It had a Plexiglas floor that allowed you to see the Roman ruins it was built upon.

 

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Since Assisi is built on a mountain side, many of its streets consist of stairs.

 

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The large Church built over the grave of St. Francis.  It is absolutely beautiful inside.

 

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The outside lawn shows the Franciscan Tau symbol as well as the PAX symbol.  St. Francis was all about the cross and peace.

 

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The actual grave of St. Francis.  The front wall was removed to be able to see his stone coffin.  We had mass here.

 

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Another quaint street of Assisi.

 

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We walked down from Assisi to the Church of San Damiano, as Francis so often did.

 

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On the walk down, we saw the beautiful olive groves with a farmer burning off clippings.

 

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The Church of San Damiano.  It was originally built in the 900’s but had fallen in to ruin by the time of St. Francis.  He loved to go there to pray.  One day the cross inside spoke to him telling him to rebuild the church.  Originally, Francis took this to mean physically rebuilding and he started that.  Later he realized that he was told to rebuild (spiritually) the whole Church.

 

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The cloisters of San Damiano.

 

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Looking up to Assisi from the Church of San Damiano.   Beauty and Peace and God’s Spirit fill all around here.

I hope that this pictorial view of Assisi has helped you to appreciate the beauty of the place St. Francis called home.  If you haven’t been there yet, I hope you get a chance to go.  May our good Lord bless you with His peace.

Hope, Abortion, Peace, and Saint Mother Teresa

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Isaiah 49: 1b – The LORD called Me from the womb; From the body of My mother He named Me.

One of the things that I learned long ago, is that God calls us to love people, not to judge them.  He is the one who judges, not us.  As I write this piece on abortion, please know that I would never pretend to know what leads a particular mother to the point of making a decision to abort her child and that I would never want to judge her for that decision.  I leave that solely to God.  I do know that all life is precious to me and that I would want to do anything I can to help someone make the choice to allow their baby to come to full life.  Perhaps some people can take this lightly, but I cannot.  Life is a precious gift and I think that built in to every woman is that desire to nurture life.  To go against that instinct to nurture, by deciding to have an abortion, must be a most terrifying decision.  I could only imagine that the mother has to be in a very difficult situation to make that decision.    I would think that she has lost all hope in what the immediate future has for her.  As Christians, we need to help women put in to that predicament.

One time, a woman that I knew, come up to me and asked me why I was always smiling and always so happy.  I told her that it was because I believed in a God who loved me, gave me hope and forgave me.  She said that she found it hard to believe in a God like that.  She had lived a very difficult life and it was only recently that she had been able to come out of those difficulties.  A few days after our initial encounter, she asked to speak to me in private.  We talked for a while and she told me that she didn’t think that God could forgive her.  I asked her why she thought that.  She told me that she had an abortion when she was quite young and that it had plagued her with guilt ever since.   She told me that she couldn’t forgive herself, so how could God forgive her?  I felt really bad for this woman, and the pain that she had held on to for over twenty years.  She had been away from the Church for quite some time, but was just now coming back.  I asked her to speak to a priest about forgiveness and receiving the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  I also hooked her up with a local organization that gave counseling to women who have had abortions.  Fortunately, she took me up on my advice and responded well and the change in her gives new meaning to the phrase, “born again”.

For those of us who see abortion as something quite wrong, I believe that we can help to prevent it by working exactly where we are, with the people that are around us.  This could be family, friends, co-workers, etc.  If we reflect a sense of HOPE, and people can see the joy that God gives us, they will come to us.  I also think that we need to ask God to put us in the right place to try to help someone make the right decision, that is, to give life to their child.  God can use us to help those around us.  The personal touch is so much better than anything else.

There is no doubt in my mind that abortion victimizes the mother, as well as the baby.  I have seen too many people suffer from the choice they made to have an abortion.  Besides hurting the individual mothers, I believe that abortion greatly hurts society in general.  We have lost about 56 million lives to abortion since the Supreme Court decision (compare this to 1,354,664 total deaths in ALL the wars we have fought since we became a nation).  I can’t help but to wonder if we killed off the person who would have found a cure to cancer, or other terrible diseases.  What if we lost another Beethoven, or Tolkien or…….   We really do not know.  Besides that, I think that Mother Teresa was correct in stating that abortion is a disrupter of the peace, especially of this nation.  She said, “America needs no words from me to see how your decision in Roe v. Wade has deformed a great nation. The so-called right to abortion has pitted mothers against their children and women against men. It has sown violence and discord at the heart of the most intimate human relationships. It has aggravated the derogation of the father’s role in an increasingly fatherless society. It has portrayed the greatest of gifts — a child — as a competitor, an intrusion, and an inconvenience. It has nominally accorded mothers unfettered dominion over the independent lives of their physically dependent sons and daughters” .  She continues, “And, in granting this unconscionable power, it has exposed many women to unjust and selfish demands from their husbands or other sexual partners. Human rights are not a privilege conferred by government. They are every human being’s entitlement by virtue of his humanity. The right to life does not depend, and must not be declared to be contingent, on the pleasure of anyone else, not even a parent or a sovereign.” (Mother Theresa — “Notable and Quotable,” Wall Street Journal, 2/25/94, p. A14).

For me, the problems we have with the huge number of abortions are because so many people lack hope and cannot find peace.  We must do all in our power to bring hope to people.  We need to help people rise out of the curse of poverty and find hope no matter what their station in life is.  We need to stand up for the unborn child who is totally helpless in defending themselves.  We need to stand up for the right of all peoples to have life.  We hear the call that “black lives matter”.  What I find so upsetting is that according to the Alan Guttmacher Institute, black women are more than 5 times as likely as white women to have an abortion.  On average, 1,876 black babies are aborted every day in the United States.  This is nearly four times the rate of white children.  Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood, the largest provider of abortions in the country, referred to blacks and other minorities as “…human weeds,’ ‘reckless breeders,’ ‘spawning… human beings who never should have been born.”  Margaret Sanger, Pivot of Civilization.  She also said, “We do not want word to go out that we want to exterminate the Negro population,”  Woman’s Body, Woman’s Right: A Social History of Birth Control in America, by Linda Gordon.  Planned Parenthood seems to be doing that now through abortion and birth control measures.  Our society seems to be ignoring this terrible race discrimination.  As Christians, we recognize that all people are equal in the eyes of God.  We are all His children.  Planned Parenthood is quickly eliminating God’s children, both black and white, but with a very unequal rate against blacks.  This has to stop.

I would like to share another quote from Mother Teresa.  She gave this at the 1994 National Prayer Breakfast, in front of then President Bill Clinton and his wife Hillary.  She said, “But I feel that the greatest destroyer of peace today is abortion, because it is a war against the child, a direct killing of the innocent child, murder by the mother herself.  And if we accept that a mother can kill even her own child, how can we tell other people not to kill one another? How do we persuade a woman not to have an abortion? As always, we must persuade her with love and we remind ourselves that love means to be willing to give until it hurts.  Jesus gave even His life to love us.  So, the mother who is thinking of abortion, should be helped to love, that is, to give until it hurts her plans, or her free time, to respect the life of her child. The father of that child, whoever he is, must also give until it hurts.  By abortion, the mother does not learn to love, but kills even her own child to solve her problems.  And, by abortion, the father is told that he does not have to take any responsibility at all for the child he has brought into the world. That father is likely to put other women into the same trouble. So abortion just leads to more abortion.  Any country that accepts abortion is not teaching its people to love, but to use any violence to get what they want. This is why the greatest destroyer of love and peace is abortion.”

So what are we to do?  First of all, pray for all those women who are considering an abortion.   Second, be open to “ministering” to those around you who may be considering abortion.   Third, pray that the Lord will lead you to what you can do.  I would highly suggest checking out the work of two people that I admire because they treat with dignity the women looking for abortion, as well as the abortion workers.  The first is Abby Johnson.  I would consider her book “Unplanned” as required reading.  Abby has a website: http://abbyjohnson.org.   The other is Sean Carney who runs 40 Days for Life.  His website can be found at: 40daysforlife.com.  God bless you and may the Life God gives us always be protected and respected.

 

THE PASSION OF ST. JOHN THE BAPTIST – by Deacon Marty McIndoe

The_Head_of_Saint_John_the_Baptist_on_a_Charger

The Church calendar is filled with many celebrations of the Saints and Holy Ones who went before us.  Usually the celebration date is scheduled on the day that person died.  We do that to recognize that the death day is the day the Holy One entered in to heaven.  In the Church calendar we celebrate the birthday and the death day of only three people.  The first is Our Lord Jesus Christ.   The second is the Blessed Virgin Mary.  The third is St. John the Baptist.  It certainly doesn’t surprise us that we celebrate Our Lord’s birthday or Our Blessed Mother’s birthday.   The fact that we celebrate ONLY one other’s birthday and death day tells us how important St. John the Baptist is to the Church.  On June 24th we celebrate the feast day (birthday) of St. John the Baptist, and on August 29th we celebrate his Passion (death day).

Jesus himself says this about St. John the Baptist, “among those born of women, there has risen no one greater that John the Baptist”.  So who then is this very special person?  John is recognized by the Church to be the Last of the Old Testament Prophets, and the first of the New Testament.  His own birth was quite miraculous, like many of the prophets that preceded him.  His parents were well beyond the normal child bearing years.  An angel, Gabriel, appeared to John’s father, the priest Zechariah, and foretold his miraculous birth.  Gabriel told Zechariah that John would be “great before the Lord” and would be “filled with the Holy Spirit, even from within his mother’s womb”.  Even his name, John, was divinely inspired.  It means, “The Lord is Gracious’.  When the Blessed Virgin Mary was pregnant with Jesus, she went to visit her cousin Elizabeth, who was pregnant with John.  As soon as Mary spoke, John the Baptist leaped within his mother’s womb.   The word translated “leaped” is the same word the Old Testament used when telling us that David danced before the Ark of the Covenant.  David leaped and danced before the Ark of the Old Covenant and St. John the Baptist leaped before the Ark of the New Covenant (Mary).  Truly, as the angel said, John was filled with the Holy Spirit even from within his mother’s womb.

John was certainly a man who was quite different from most.  Scripture says that as a child he grew and became strong and then lived in the wilderness until the day of his manifestation to Israel.  St. Mark tells us that he was clothed in camel’s hair and ate locust and wild honey.  This was the same as Elijah the prophet.  St. Mark also tells us that the appearance of St. John the Baptist was connected with Isaiah; he says, “As it is written in Isaiah the prophet, “Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who shall prepare the way; the voice of one crying in the wilderness: Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight”.  When John made his appearance, the people recognized him as a prophet and they came out to him in large numbers.  He had numerous disciples who followed him.  He proclaimed that the Kingdom of God was at hand and the people had to repent.              He baptized people as a sign of repentance.  Jesus came to John to be baptized and John protested saying that it is He who should be baptizing.  Jesus convinced John to baptize him, and he did and we have the beautiful  Trinitarian theophany where the Holy Spirit is seen and God the Father’s voice is heard saying, “This is my beloved son”.

John was quick to say that he must decrease while the Lord must increase.  He told his disciples to follow Jesus.  John was the one who called Jesus, “The Lamb of God”.    John was known for speaking out the TRUTH, no matter what the consequences were.  This is what finally brought about his passion.  John had publically rebuked Herod the Antipas telling him that his marriage to Herodias, his brother Phillip’s wife, was unlawful.  Herod threw him in prison but did not want to kill him because Herod knew that John was a Holy prophet and that the people loved John.  Herodias hated John and, through some trickery with her daughter, was able to have the king behead (if you don’t know the story, read Matthew 14: 1-12).  John’s disciples came quickly to claim his body and then immediately went to tell Jesus.  It is interesting to note that Amiens Cathedral in France claims to have the skull itself.  The history of it appears to make it quite probable.  In 2010, archeological digs in a fifth century Cathedral of St. John, found parts of a body buried in a marble box under the main altar.  Carbon dating shows these bones to be of a first century Middle Eastern man.  They may very well belong to St. John the Baptist.  In 2012, National Geographic covered this.

So why is St. John the Baptist so important to us?  Personally, especially for today, the example he set in always standing for the truth, no matter what the consequences, is extremely important.  Also, the fact that he did everything he could to try to prepare people for the coming of the Lord should resound within us.  We too, are called to prepare people to be ready for the coming of the Lord, either by their first encounter with Him, their many encounters with Him, their encounter with him at death, or his second coming in glory.

I would like to share a prayer from the Liturgy of the Hours for Aug 29th.  “God our Father, you called John the Baptist to be a herald of your Son’s birth and death.  As He gave His life in witness to truth and justice, so may we strive to profess our faith in your Gospel.  Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one god, for ever and ever.”

 

A Catholic – Christian Response to Violence- by Deacon Marty McIndoe

Israel 344This is the entrance to modern day Bethlehem, the city where the Prince of Peace was born.  It is only one reminder of how violence changes things for the worse.

Sometimes I find it so difficult to face the news of the day.  I know that there are so many good people in the world today that are doing so many good things, but then we are confronted with some people who just seem to be totally influenced by pure evil.  The recent attack in Dallas, Texas has caused me to write this post.  Five Police Officers were killed and six more wounded while they were trying to keep peace at a protest against police violence.   Police Officers have one of the toughest jobs in the world and the vast majority of them do an absolutely fantastic job.  I was really struck by the fact that when the gunfire began at the Dallas rally, Police Officers began shielding, with their own lives, the people that were protesting against them.  That is just an example of how the Police Officer operates.  He or she is trained to Protect and Serve.  In response they are often treated very poorly.

I think that this is just a small portion of the problem we have today.  People seem to think that acts of violence are a way of achieving certain goals.  We then throw in to that racial bias and you can see how messed up we really are.  We have groups like Black Lives Matter who say that Police unfairly attack blacks.  Now, there may be some occasions when this happens, but that is rare.  In 2015 Police Officers had to take the lives of 494 white people and 258 black people.  That hardly seems racist.  It is absolutely terrible that any lives had to be taken, white or black.  But, violence is a large part of our society.  There are some people who believe that making gun ownership illegal would solve that, but as a former law enforcement officer myself, I can tell you that people will get the guns whether they are legal or not.  There are plenty of statistics to show that certain cities that have outlawed guns still have a high rate of people being shot.  We really need to go down much further in to the problem to try to stem violence.

Violence seems so present in our society.  I used to work in the Family Court and I could not believe what some husbands and wives did to each other.  Even young children seemed to act out in fits of violence.  It is hard to find a movie or tv show that doesn’t have a great deal of violence in it.  I look at the video games out there, and they are filled with violence.  This isn’t something new.  Even when I was growing up the cartoons had a lot of violence.  We seem to be a people that are fascinated with violence.  Along with that, there seems to be a shrinking respect for LIFE in all of its forms.   Here in the United States over one million mothers take the lives of their children through abortion each year. Soon to be St. Theresa of Calcutta said, “We must not be surprised when we hear of murders, of killings, of wars, of hatred. If a mother can kill her own child, what is left but for us to kill each other?”  Euthanasia seems to be growing too.  We can’t be a people that JUST say, Black Lives Matter; we need to be a people that say, EVERY LIFE MATTERS.

So, as Catholics growing in our faith, how do we deal with this?  First of all, PRAYER is very powerful.  I was so moved at mass today when our Pastor dedicated the whole mass (including selecting special Eucharistic Prayers) to ending violence and establishing PEACE.  We must make it our constant prayer to ask for peace.  We also must change our lives to turn away from violence.  Instead of watching those extremely violent movies and TV shows, turn towards ones that offer less violence.  In our every day actions, we need to try to be more peaceful.  When that car driver cuts you off, don’t swear or raise a finger at him, pray for him.  We need to tone down yelling in our relationships within our family.  We must try to do things that lead toward peace.  Let us recall the words of Pope Francis, “May the God of peace arouse in all an authentic desire for dialogue and reconciliation. Violence cannot be overcome with violence. Violence is overcome with peace.”

Our Church has given us tools to help keep us from being influenced by the evil one who loves to lead us towards violence and death and disunity.  Attending mass is one of the best ways to grow in to the person Jesus wants us to be.  We become more like him, when we receive him.  The Sacrament of Reconciliation helps not only us, but the people we live with.  I already mentioned prayer, but I want to mention it again because it is so powerful.  I especially recommend asking Our Blessed Mother, Mary to intercede for us.  She loves us all as her children and wants us to live together in peace and in harmony.  We call her the Queen of Peace.   We must follow the Church’s lead in calling all people to respect LIFE in all of its form.  Respect for LIFE should be at the heart of who we are.  Be a people who say, EVERY LIFE MATTERS.  Stand up for the Christian values that have been taught us and live them out.  When we end mass we are told, “GO FORTH”; that means that we have now been empowered by the Lord and sent out to make a difference in this world.  We really need to change this world.

 

 

A Father of 23 Children Looks at Father’s Day – by Deacon Bob Mongillo

DadMongillo2Deacon Bob and Barbara Mongillo and their family

When Deacon Marty asked me to write about being a father, and fatherhood, I was both honored and humbled that he asked me.  As I was thinking about what to write, in a limited amount of words, I began to put my thoughts together.

As I began to compose this, I am sitting in the surgery waiting room at St Charles Hospital after just kissing my daughter Ivana good bye as she went into surgery.  And two thoughts came into my mind; fatherhood is sometimes when you have to make choices and put those you love dearly in the hands of professionals, who are Gods helping and gifted hands here on Earth.

Today, Friday, Ivana has surgery and Kyle graduates from grammar school.  How I wish I could split myself in two but that is not possible.  So, one of the characteristics of being a father is making choices.  I so wanted to see Kyle walk down that aisle, after learning how to walk after 10 years, and being a successful recipient of a kidney transplant almost 4 years ago. Thank God for technology!!

I can probably be most effective about my experiences of being a father by telling you my story.  Next week it will be 36 years since I married my childhood sweetheart, Barbara.  Together we have 23 children. 6 biological children and 17 adopted special needs children. But we never make any distinction between the two. They are all Mongillo’s.  I love being a Dad. I never imagined that I would be a father to this number, but if I had to do it again, I would do it all again the same way.

My Dad was a traditional Dad. He was the breadwinner and Mom was the nurturer.  I am completely the opposite of that.  I love being a part of the everyday lives of my children.  I love sharing in their triumphs and always support them and sometimes have to get them back on their feet when the chips are down.

I always try to see the good and positive in each one of them.  I also strive to give them wings so they can too can become better Moms and Dads.  And, soon becoming a Grandpa for the sixth time, is a gift.

Both Barbara and I try to plant a seed in each one of them.  And we are blessed to see the fruit of these seeds in their actions and words.  Being a Dad is a true gift from God.  There are not enough words to describe this role. Being successful in my career was important, but far less important than being a good father.  God has been good to me and blessed me.  He has helped us in our time of need.  When three of our children were called home to God, He gave us, and continues to give us, the strength to cope with loss.  So, as we set aside this special day to honor Dads, I wish all the Dads blessings today and every day.

DadMongilo familyBob and Barbara’s children in their home.

DadHookedOnA very special gift.

 

Deacon Bob Mongillo is currently a deacon at St. Francis de Sales Parish in Patchogue, NY.   He was Born in Woodhaven, Queens, NY and married Barbara in June 1980.  He is the father of 23 children.  He lived in East Meadow for 22 years before moving to Patchogue.  He was ordained a deacon in May 2001 from St Raphael’s, East Meadow.  He served as Deacon, Business Mgr and Director of Parish Social Ministry, St Rosalie parish in Hampton Bays, NY  for 10 years.

A Look at Memorial Day – by Deacon Marty McIndoe

Arlington-National-Cemetery

Memorial Day, and the whole Memorial Day weekend isn’t just about the beginning of summer and having great BBQ parties.  It is a time for us to stop and remember and pray for those men and women who sacrificed their lives in service to our country.  Pray also for their families and friends who still miss them.  I think about my grandmother who sent all three of her sons off to war in Europe (WWII).  My birth-father was in the Normandy Invasion and even though he physically came home, he suffered from “shell shock” (now called PTSD).  His brother, my uncle Milo, came home missing one leg.  My birth-father’s youngest brother, Karlo died in WWII in Italy when he was only seventeen years old.  I can’t help but to see how this has affected my family.  My birth-father and my uncle Milo suffered a lifelong disability, and my uncle Karlo never had the chance to get married, have children, or live life.  War is terrible.  Unfortunately, mankind is still violent and we need to have armies to protect us.  I myself am a U.S. Army Vietnam era veteran and proud of my service, but I always pray for PEACE.  I ask you to join me in honoring those who gave up their lives for freedom and to also pray for an end of war and terrorism.   Remember that this freedom that we have, came at a great cost.  I think that this weekend is a great time to look at some statistics that reflect that cost.  Below I have cited the war death statistics for the major wars since WWI.  Please note that there have been numerous deaths in smaller conflicts not listed.  This does not include those who were wounded.

Some very sobering statistics:

WWI                                      116,516

WWII                                     405,394

KOREA                                    52,246

VIETNAM                                58,209

AFGHANISTAN                        2,229

IRAQ                                          4,488

ALSO:  Every day approximately 22 veterans commit suicide.  This is part of the price of war.  We need to do whatever we can to keep this from happening.

I would like to ask you to join me in a prayer.

Memorial Day Prayer – by Deacon Marty McIndoe

Heavenly Father, you inspire strength in men and women to protect and to fight for freedom.  On this Memorial Day we remember, in a very special way, all those men and women who gave their life so that others might be free.  We think of the words of your son Jesus when he said, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”  Father, we offer you a prayer of thanksgiving for the sacrifice that these men and women have made.  We thank you for the freedom that we have because of them.  We thank you for the freedom that so many other countries have because of them.  We ask you Father to bless their family and friends who miss them so much.  Help them to take comfort in knowing that their lives helped bring about freedom.  Help all of us to never take for granted the freedom that we enjoy, or forget the tremendous price paid for that freedom.  We earnestly ask that war stop.  We ask you to help all of the leaders of the world to find ways of seeking peace instead of war.  We ask you to soften the hearts of those who want to take freedom away or who want to impose their own rules upon others.  We ask you to destroy terrorism.  We know that there are so many threats to our freedom.  Help and protect all those who currently serve in our Armed Forces.  May we always be proud of them.  May you lead and guide our Country in all things.