Category Archives: Penance and Reconciliation

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

 

A Healthy Body, Mind and Spirit by Deacon Marty McIndoe

There is so much emphasis today on taking care of the body.  I just read a statistic from STATISTIC BRAIN that says Americans spend about 24 BILLION dollars on annual gym and health club memberships each year.  That is a lot of money!   People go to health food stores and shop for healthy products.  This is quite commendable.  The body is a very special gift that God has given to us and we should take good care of it.  What I find disturbing is that people are often very concerned with the physical body and forget about the true wholeness of who we are.  We, as a person, consist of so much more than just the physical body.  We have a mind that needs to be taken care of, and a spiritual side that needs to also be cared for.  Unless we properly feed and exercise all three parts of our person, we will suffer.  I would like to take a look at the body, mind and the spirit and how we can help them to grow healthy.  I see three main things to consider: Intake, Avoidance and Exercise.  I will look at all of these in relation to the body, the mind and the spirit.

BODY – The body is a wonderful creation.  It gives us mobility, sight, hearing, touch, sex and reproduction and the ability to experience so much in God’s creation.  Anyone who studies the body quickly realizes that it is a complex mechanism.  God knew what He was doing when He created our body.  It is up to us to keep the body what it is meant to be.  In order to do that, we need to consider three main things:

1 – Intake:  The foods and drinks that we take in should be healthy for us.  We really should be eating whole grain foods, and lots of fruits and vegetables and nuts.  There is a lot to be said for true organic foods as well as healthy meats.  Our body also needs a great deal of water.  Water not only replenishes the body but also helps to remove toxins.

2 – Avoidance:  Fast foods, processed foods, “recreational” drugs, soda.  Red meats should be kept at a minimum and only healthy oils such as Olive and Canola oils should be used.  It is also good to keep alcoholic beverage to low or moderate use.

3 – Exercise:  Walking, running, swimming and aerobic exercises are very important.  Weight lifting is also a positive thing to do.

 

MIND – There is a saying that “the mind is a terrible thing to waste”.  This slogan was adopted by the United Negro College Fund in 1972.  It was actually one of the most successful campaigns in television history.  The saying is so true.  Our mind needs to be educated and stimulated.  There is no doubt that the mind/brain is very complex.  It, like the body, needs sustenance, avoidance and exercise.

1 – Intake:  The brain/mind is made to take in as much information as possible.  For me that means reading good books and studying various subjects.  I take many various courses, both online and in person.  I also read many different types of books and I love researching things on the internet.

2 – Avoidance:  Pornography is a very serious assault on what the mind is meant to do.  Spending time mesmerized in front of the television is also counterproductive.

3 – Exercise:  When you are reading you are definitely exercising the brain.  When you study for courses you are exercising the brain.  When you just take time to think, you are exercising the brain.   Things like cross word puzzles are great too.

 

SPIRIT – The “thing” that gives us our personhood is the Spirit or Soul.  This is the most precious gift of all.  With that we are like God in that we will live forever.  The Spirit is ultimately what is in charge of the body and the mind.  It works along with the mind to bring us thoughts and reason.  It lifts us up to far above the ordinary.  This Spirit needs Intake, Avoidance and Exercise too.

1 – Intake:  There is no doubt that graces are given to our Spirit by the sacraments of the Church.   Baptism starts the journey and the Holy Eucharist is food for the Spirit.  Confirmation strengthens the work of the Spirit within us and gives us many gifts.  The Sacrament of Reconciliation can lift the Spirit out of the difficulties that sin causes us.  Holy Orders and Matrimony empower our Spirit to work in the vocation that God calls us to.  Even the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick heals the Spirit as it heals the body.  For me, the reception of the Eucharist each day is my daily bread that enlivens my Spirit.  The sacrifice of the mass, and participating in it, again lifts our Spirit.  The pondering of God’s Word in the Bible feeds the Spirit.

2 – Avoidance:  We must stay away from the occult, even things such as Ouija boards.  We must stay away from all the temptations of the Devil.

3 – Exercise:  We should make ourselves available to all of the sacraments, especially the Eucharist and the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  We should read and pray the bible.  We should spend a considerable amount of time each day in prayer.  Specialized prayers such as the rosary and divine mercy chaplet are great forms of spiritual exercise.  The Church’s Liturgy of the Hours is a fantastic way to pray.  I always recommend that people find a Spiritual Director.

 

In conclusion, we must remember that the Body, Mind and Spirit are all so interconnected that failure to take care of any one of them may harm the whole person that we are.  Because of this interconnection, some things that I mentioned in one subject will actually help not only in that subject but in others as well.  We are one unbelievable miracle and creation of God.  We must take care of who we are.

Romans 12: 1-2

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.  Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

The Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross by Deacon Marty McIndoe

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In the very center of the picture, under the altar, is a hole where you can reach down and touch the rock of Calvary where the Cross of Jesus was placed.

The Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross

               On September 14th we celebrate the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross.  This remembers that St. Helena, the mother of the Emperor Constantine, discovered the True Cross in the year 326.  We must remember that shortly after Jesus was crucified, the Romans destroyed the city of Jerusalem.  They wanted to remove all access to the holy sites.  The early Christians venerated the Holy Sites, especially Calvary and the Tomb.  To eradicate the influence of Christianity, Hadrian leveled the top of Mount Calvary and erected a temple to the pagan goddess Venus. He also cut away and leveled the hillside where Jesus tomb stood and built a temple to the pagan god Jupiter Capitolinus.  Ironically, this destruction actually preserved the sacred sites.

               In 312 the Emperor Constantine issued the edict of Milan making Christianity legal.  His mother, Helena was a convert and was given permission to go to the Holy Lands to try to locate the original holy places.  Christian zeal motivated St. Helena.  The historian, Eusebius described her as follows: “Especially abundant were the gifts she bestowed on the naked and unprotected poor. To some she gave money, to others an ample supply of clothing; she liberated some from imprisonment, or from the bitter servitude of the mines; others she delivered from unjust oppression, and others again, she restored from exile. While, however, her character derived luster from such deeds … , she was far from neglecting personal piety toward God. She might be seen continually frequenting His Church, while at the same time she adorned the houses of prayer with splendid offerings, not overlooking the churches of the smallest cities. In short, this admirable woman was to be seen, in simple and modest attire, mingling with the crowd of worshipers, and testifying her devotion to God by a uniform course of pious conduct” (The Life of Constantine, XLIV, XLV).

               With the help of the local bishop, St. Macarius, and a learned Jew named Judas, they discovered three crosses hidden together in a cistern.  The plaque (titulus) which said, “Jesus Nazaranus Rex Iudaeorum” was found with the three crosses.  Surely one of those three had to be the true cross.  The three crosses and the titulus were removed from the cistern.  A woman, dying from a terminal disease, was brought to the spot by St. Helena.  She touched the crosses, one by one. After she touched the third cross, she was cured, thereby identifying the true cross.  Most importantly, St. Ambrose preached that when St. Helena found the true cross, “she worshiped not the wood, but the King, Him who hung on the wood. She burned with an earnest desire of touching the guarantee of immortality.”

               Constantine then built a large shrine to mark the place of Calvary and the tomb of Jesus.  It has been modified over the ages, but the current structure dates back to the time of the Crusaders.  Thanks to the Romans for building temples over the exact places of Calvary and the Tomb, we today know their actual location.  Thanks to the Holy Spirit leading St. Helena, we have the True Cross.

               St. Paul said “but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles” 1 Corinthians 1:23.  We continue to preach Christ crucified.  We honor and exalt the cross of Christ because it is through the cross that we have been redeemed.  Jesus was highly exalted upon the cross by God and continues to be by His Church.  Let us all lift high the cross of Jesus.

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

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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.”

 

St. Mary Magdalene, Pope Francis and the Dignity of Women – by Deacon Marty McIndoe

St-Mary-MagdaleneImage from www.catholicfaithstore.com

On June 10th of this year (2016), Pope Francis issued a decree elevating the June 22nd Memorial of St. Mary Magdalene to a Feast Day in the Roman Calendar.  Feast Days are reserved for Saints of particular significance, such as the Apostles.  In doing this elevation Pope Francis stated that because St. Mary Magdalene was the first witness to Jesus’ resurrection and then told the Apostles, she was a “true and authentic evangelist”.  He entitled his decree and the article about it “Apostle of the Apostles”.  The Congregation of Divine Worship’s Secretary, Archbishop Arthur Roche, wrote that in celebrating “an evangelist who proclaims the central joyous message of Easter,” St. Mary Magdalene’s feast day is a call for all Christians to “reflect more deeply on the dignity of women, the new evangelization and the greatness of the mystery of divine mercy.”  He further stated, “Pope Francis has taken this decision precisely in the context of the Jubilee of Mercy to highlight the relevance of this woman who showed great love for Christ and was much loved by Christ.”  Archbishop Roche added that St. Mary Magdalene, who “proclaimed life from the tomb, a place of death,” is a lesson for all Christians to trust in Christ who is “alive and risen.”   “It is right that the liturgical celebration of this woman has the same level of feast given to the celebration of the apostles in the general Roman calendar and highlights the special mission of this woman who is an example and model for every woman in the church.”

St. Mary Magdalene has often been seen as the unnamed sinner woman who anointed the feet of Jesus.   However, most scripture scholars indicate that this is not indicated in scripture.  She is the woman from whom Jesus cast out seven demons.  Father Wilfrid J. Harrington, O.P., writing in the New Catholic Commentary, says that “seven demons” “does not mean that Mary had lived an immoral life—a conclusion reached only by means of a mistaken identification with the anonymous woman of Luke 7:36.” Father Edward Mally, S.J., writing in the Jerome Biblical Commentary, agrees that she “is not…the same as the sinner of Luke 7:37, despite the later Western romantic tradition about her.”   There is no doubt that she has been slandered for many years.  We do know that she was a follower of Jesus and loved by Jesus and even helped to support His ministry.  She stood by the cross of Jesus with the Blessed Virgin Mary.  Her most glorious story is of her visiting the tomb of Jesus while it was still dark.

The Gospel tells us that she peaked in to the tomb and saw two angels there.  She then sees Jesus but does not recognize Him until He speaks her name.  Pope Francis said that her tears at Christ’s empty tomb are a reminder that “sometimes in our lives, tears are the lenses we need to see Jesus”.

Even though St. Mary Magdalene has been slandered for many years, she would probably say that it didn’t matter.  She saw herself as a sinner in need of God’s MERCY.  So should we.   As we celebrate Her feast, let us remember that we too are called to love Jesus with all that we are and to tell others about the God who died for us and rose again so we might have LIFE.

 

 

 

 

A Lesson at the Library by A.J. Avila

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One of the more exciting things about having children is introducing them to the wonders of the world. Watching them make discoveries for the very first time often shows us what we’ve lost growing up.

For example, I wanted some more reading material, so my husband and I stopped by our local public library with our firstborn, who was all of two years old. Sure that watching Mommy browse the shelves in the adult section was far too tedious for a toddler, I suggested my husband take our daughter into the children’s room. Our library boasts three large aquariums there, vibrant with colorful tropical fish. Certainly she would find that more entertaining.

I figured I had hit it on the nose when about fifteen minutes later, she came back into the main section of the library, bobbing with excitement. “Mommy, Mommy, Mommy!” she squealed, grabbing my hand. “Come see!”

Her tiny hand cradled in mine, I allowed her to usher me into the children’s room, but to my surprise, she dragged me past the fish tanks and to the shelves of Easy Readers. “Look!” she cried, pointing. “They have books here!”

Books? At the library? Who would have thought?

Smiling at her enthusiasm, I suggested we examine them. What a wonderful idea! As we pulled title after title off the shelf, I sat back on my heels, enjoying her delight at opening them and exploring the wonders inside.

Then I came up with an even better idea. “Let’s take some of these home with us!”

Immediately her grin transformed into horror. Definitely not the reaction I was expecting. Puzzled, I racked my brain for the reason. Slowly it dawned on me that she thought taking the books would be stealing. Even worse, she thought her own mother would be complicit in such a terrible crime.

I explained that we wouldn’t be keeping the books. We would take them for a while, then bring them back.

That, apparently, was even worse somehow. Her lower lip trembled, and I could see she was on the verge of tears.

My pleas that this is what a public library is all about fell on deaf ears. I even offered to ask the librarians at the desk if it was okay to borrow some of the books.

“No, Mommy,” she choked. “Don’t!”

Well, I certainly didn’t want her very first trip to a library to be such a negative experience. “Okay,” I said softly. “Let’s put the books back.”

Only doing that placated her suffering.

In Romans 2:15 St. Paul declares that the law is written on our hearts. Apparently, it’s written so well even a two-year-old can see it.

Yet . . . how many of us are so horrified at sin as my toddler was that day? Do we become so inured to evil, so callous, that we don’t see the heinousness of it as we once did? It’s there every day, in our newspapers and on our television screens, yet don’t we just go on sipping our coffee as if nothing has happened?

Maybe Jesus hit it on the nose more than we realize when He told us we need to be born again and become like little children.

Maybe one of the reasons is so we can recapture seeing the world, and the evil in it, the way we once did.

 

Find A.J. Avila at Reflections on My Catholic Journey – https://reflections911.wordpress.com/author/ajavilanovels/

A.J. Avila lives in San Bernardino with her husband. She is the author of three Christian novels: Rain from Heaven, Nearer the Dawn, and Amaranth, which are available on Amazon Kindle with all net profits going to charity. (You can learn a bit about those by reading the synopses on Amazon.)

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.

 

 

Divine Mercy and our Youngest Canonized Saint – by Deacon Marty McIndoe

StMariaGorettiJPIISt. Pope John Paul II visits the remains of St. Maria Goretti in 1979

Maria Goretti was born on October 16th, 1890 in Italy.  She came from a very poor family that struggled to make ends meet.  Her father died when Maria was nine years old leaving her mother and siblings to tend the farm so that they could live.  Maria stayed home and watched the youngest child as the others worked.  Even though it was a difficult life for all of them, they were faith filled people.

A young man, Alessandro Serenelli, was a neighbor and he began make sexual advances towards young Maria.  She kept putting him off telling him that it would be a mortal sin and that she would have nothing to do with his sexual advances.  Finally, after several months of this, he attacked her forcibly trying to rape her.  This little eleven year old girl fought off this 20 year old large boy.  He finally told her that he would kill her if she didn’t give him what he wanted.  She told him that she would rather die than commit this terrible sin.  Alessandro tried strangling her and she fought him and he then stabbed her eleven times.  When she then tried to make it to the door, he stabbed her another three times.  The youngest child in the house began screaming and Alessandro ran away.

When Maria’s siblings and mother got to her, she was still alive.  They immediately took her to the hospital, but the damage was so severe that they were not able to help her.  The doctor working on her said to her, “Maria, think of me in paradise”.  She responded, “I will think of you gladly.”   The next day, Maria told her mother that she forgave Alessandro and wanted to see him in heaven with her.  Shortly after, Maria died while holding a crucifix and staring at an image of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Alessandro was arrested shortly after the incident.  He not only admitted the attempted rape and murder, but also said that he had been trying to seduce her for quite some time.  Because of his age he was sentenced to thirty years in prison, instead of life imprisonment.  A priest came to visit him in prison and Alessandro went in to a rage and began howling and lunging for the priest.  After that, Alessandro hardly ate and was nervous and filled with despair.  It was then that Maria appeared to him in a vision and told him that she forgave him.  She was surrounded by lilies, the flower symbolic of purity.  From that moment on, Alessandro was a changed man.  Real peace entered his heart and he was an ideal prisoner.  After serving his thirty year sentence, Alessandro went to a Franciscan Monastery and they accepted him as a lay brother.  He went to visit Maria’s mother to ask her forgiveness.  Marie’s mother said that if her daughter could forgive him, she would also.  They actually attended Christmas mass together in the local parish church and Alessandro spoke before the people acknowledging his sin and asking for God’s forgiveness and the pardon of the community.

Forty years later, on June 24, 1950, Maria was canonized in St. Peter’s basilica in Rome.  Alessandro, now firmly converted to the Lord, attended the canonization.   He died on May 6, 1970 in the Capuchin convent of Macerata.  A few years before that, Alessandro wrote that Maria was sent to him to guide and save him.  He said that her words of both rebuke and forgiveness were etched in his heart.  He called Maria his light, and his protectress and he anxiously awaited seeing her and her mother in heaven.

Maria is considered a virgin and a martyr because she gave up her life to keep God’s commandments.  I think that her outpouring of mercy and deep care for the one who offended her show us a glimpse of the Divine Mercy that God pours out on us.  For an eleven year old, she accomplished so much.   God’s Divine Mercy triumphs in His Saints.

 

As We Forgive Those Who Trespass Against Us – by A.J. Avila

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I stared at the computer screen. According to Facebook, my eighth grade teacher, Sister Ann (not her real name), had died at the age of 99.

Former students posted about what a wonderful teacher she had been, what a sweet person she was.

Which she was—to everybody except me.

In about the fourth grade, I began being bullied by some of the other girls in my class.

I couldn’t figure out what had caused this shift in attitude. We were still the same girls as before, weren’t we? Yet, all of a sudden they called me stupid and ugly. Despite my prowess with a basketball, I was always the last chosen for a team—and even then the team captains argued over who had to take me.

Of course my athletic skill had nothing to do with it. It was all about popularity, and it was made abundantly clear that I was at the bottom of the pecking order.

That was difficult enough, but in the eighth grade, Sister Ann joined in the bullying.

I don’t know what it was about me that set Sister off. Maybe I reminded her of someone who had done her wrong in her past. Maybe it was because she’d had my older sister as a student a few years before, and Sis could be quite a handful.

Whatever the reason, she would scream at me, her face red and her body trembling with anger, over something as trivial as a book cover. I could get into trouble for the horrible crime of saying “Excuse me, Sister” when I wanted to ask her a question.

I could not talk to my mother about this. She had already told me the bullying from the other girls was my fault. “You must have done something,” she said. But for the life of me, I couldn’t figure out what I had done to invite such animosity.

[SIDENOTE: After graduation I did find out the reason. From overhearing three of the girls talking about me behind my back, I discovered—to my utter shock—that they hated me because they thought I was prettier than they were. I understand now why envy is one of the Deadly Sins. It’s toxic. It’s the one sin that, as Dr. Peter Kreeft puts it, doesn’t even make you happy while you’re committing it.]

There was no way I could tell my mother that a teacher, a nun!, was doing this to me. Most likely she wouldn’t believe me, and even if she did, I would get blamed.

So I suffered in silence.

Eventually graduation rolled around, and I was released from the abuse. By that time my self-esteem had dropped to near zero. The pain followed me into adulthood.

It didn’t take much to trigger the anguish and an abundance of tears. Just seeing a photo or hearing a song from that time period could set me off. It wasn’t an everyday occurrence, but about once a year again the tears would flow.

“It was so long ago,” my husband said. “Why can’t you get over it?”

That was a good question. Why couldn’t I? I knew I had to forgive Sister Ann and my other tormentors, so I did. I forgave them again and again. And again. And again. And yet again.

Why did it still hurt so much?

Then one day I discovered a way to let go. I was in pain, wasn’t I? What are you, as a Catholic, supposed to do with your pain?

You’re supposed to offer it up.

And then, like a light bulb brightening over my head, it occurred to me to offer up my pain for the souls of my tormentors.

When you think about it, this is what Jesus did for us on the cross. Those were my sins that crucified Him, yet He offered up his agony for the sake of my soul.

This kind of forgiveness didn’t make the pain stop immediately. But it did diminish it. Every time the anguish returned, I offered up the pain for my abusers. And every time I did that, the pain lessened.

So now, there I was, staring at Facebook. Sister Ann had died.

“My all-time favorite teacher!” one poster gushed.

If anything was going to evoke another crying fit, this was it.

And I did feel pain. But it was just a twinge.

What kind of comment could I leave? “Praying for the repose of her soul,” I typed.

In every Our Father, we recite, “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” It is my fervent prayer that God forgives me the cruelties I’ve inflicted on others the same way I’ve learned to forgive those who inflicted them on me.

Visit A.J. Avila at her website: https://reflections911.wordpress.com/author/ajavilanovels/

Door A or Door B by A.J. Avila

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When I was growing up, there was a game show on television called Let’s Make a Deal. The host, Monty Hall, would give members of the studio audience the opportunity to swap one prize for a different, unknown prize inside a box or behind a curtain. Sometimes the recipient got a better deal by making the trade. Sometimes not.

Of course, if you could see beforehand what was in the box or behind the curtain, you would know whether or not making the trade was a good idea.

I was reminded of this when considering something St. Faustina said in her Diary. She describes being led by an angel into Hell itself. The images she paints of the torments there are staggering. (Diary, 741)

I was more shocked, though, by what she said at the end of it all.

She said she would rather undergo incredible agonies and the greatest sufferings until the end of the world than offend God by the least sin.

So let me get this straight. You have two doors, and you have to choose one of them. Behind Door A is incredible pain and suffering until the Second Coming. Behind Door B is stealing a cookie.

And she’s saying she would choose Door A. Because, apparently, that’s the better deal.

What’s difficult to accept is that she’s right.

We all have a tendency to downplay sin, especially venial sin. Well, yeah, I told a lie, but it’s not like it was a big lie. Not like lying on the witness stand or something. It was just fudging a bit on my taxes. It was just claiming the light was green instead of red when I entered the intersection. No big deal, right? Sheesh, it’s not like I’m Hitler or something!

When we start comparing ourselves to Hitler instead of the Person we should be comparing ourselves to (namely, Jesus), we’ve lost sight of just how diabolical sin is. God is infinitely greater than the universe, and I, little mote of dust that I am, sinned against That? Against Utter Perfection? Against Grace?

That’s exactly what I’ve done. And that’s exactly what Jesus went to the Cross for.

See how much my sins cost? How can sins paid for by such a great price be considered “little”?

That’s why, despite what I’ve heard out of the mouths of a couple of priests, there’s no such thing as a “little sin.” Yes, some are incredibly bigger than others, so big, in fact, that they destroy God’s grace in our souls. But none of them are small.

And that’s also why God wiping them out is such an incredible act of mercy.

 

Visit author, A.J. Avila at her blog at https://reflections911.wordpress.com/