Mary’s House, Stations of the Cross and Visions – by Deacon Marty McIndoe

Mary’s House in Ephesus

We find the Stations of the Cross in just about every Catholic Church. Walking and praying the Stations of the Cross has been a popular Catholic devotion from the earliest of times. It is especially popular during the season of Lent. Did you know that the first Stations of the Cross were made by the Blessed Virgin Mary and that what we have today followed the pattern that she set up 2000 years ago? Our earliest traditions tell us that St. John took the Blessed Virgin Mary out of Jerusalem to Ephesus to protect her from the dangers in Jerusalem. Tradition tells us that Mary, after Jesus’ ascension used to walk the path that He had walked on His way to the Cross. When she moved out of Jerusalem she could no longer walk on that very path.
St. John built for her a House on a hill just outside of Ephesus (modern day Turkey). I was fortunate to be able to visit that home and it was an earthshaking spiritual experience for me. When Mary lived there she decided to walk out a path remembering the way of the cross that Jesus and she walked in Jerusalem. She set up stones and markings on trees to commemorate Jesus’ walk. Mary would walk along that path with its Stations of the Cross just like she had walked it on the actual streets that Jesus had walked. It was a special devotion for her.
One of the Church’s modern mystics and visionaries was Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich who was born in 1774 and died in 1824. She had numerous visions of Jesus and Mary and in her writings she recalled her visions, “Behind the house, at a little distance up the hill, the Blessed Virgin had made a kind of Way of the Cross. When she was living in Jerusalem, she had never failed, ever since Our Lord’s death, to follow His path to Calvary with tears of compassion. She had paced out and measured all the distances between the Stations of that Via Crucis, and her love for her Son made her unable to live without this constant contemplation of His sufferings. Soon after her arrival at her new home [in Ephesus] I saw her every day climbing part of the way up the hill behind her house to carry out this devotion. At first she went by herself, measuring the number of steps, so often counted by her, which separated the places of Our Lord’s different sufferings. At each of these places she put up a stone, or, if there was already a tree there, she made a mark upon it. The way led into a wood, and upon a hill in this wood she had marked the place of Calvary, and the grave of Christ in a little cave in another hill. After she had marked this Way of the Cross with twelve Stations, she went there with her maidservant in quiet meditation: at each Station they sat down and renewed the mystery of its significance in their hearts, praising the Lord for His love with tears of compassion. Afterwards she arranged the Stations better, and I saw her inscribing on the stones the meaning of each Station, the number of paces and so forth. I saw, too, that she cleaned out the cave of the Holy Sepulcher and made it a place for prayer. At that time I saw no picture and no fixed cross to designate the Stations, nothing but plain memorial stones with inscriptions, but afterwards, as the result of constant visits and attention, I saw the place becoming increasingly beautiful and easy of approach. After the Blessed Virgin’s death I saw this Way of the Cross being visited by Christians, who threw themselves down and kissed the ground.”
Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich’s writings were published about 50 years after her death. At that time Mary’s House in Ephesus was unknown to the western world. Two priests, Fr. Julien Gouyet and Fr. Eugène Poulin were so intrigued by the descriptions of Mary’s house in Emmerich’s writings that they went in search of it. The house was found using the descriptions from the visions. It was located in the center of old ruins of a monastery. The foundation of the house dated to the first century and Hebrew inscriptions were found on its stones. Even the hearth was located at the exact location of Emmerich’s visions. Although unknown to the western world, the locals celebrated the place for as long back as they could remember. They called the place “Panaghia-Capouli” which meant “The Door of the Holiest.” Perhaps more remarkable to us today is the fact that the locals had an annual pilgrimage that took place each year on August 15th, which was not declared the Feast of the Assumption of the Immaculate Virgin Mary until 1950. Today, some use the name “Panaya Kapulu” to describe the house on the hillside. Even though the majority of the locals are Muslims, they continue to celebrate and honor Mary there.
Our local guide told us that about ten years ago there was a terrible brush fire on the mountain where Mary’s house is. They said that the town people (Muslims) gathered to protect Mary’s house from the fire, even leaving their own houses in harms way. Fortunately they were successful.
I hope that each Friday of Lent you are able to pray the Stations of the Cross. When you do, say a special thank you prayer to Our Lady.

NOTE: There are several traditions about Mary’s house and about the location of her Assumption.  The Church has not ruled on this.

THE FOURTEEN STATIONS OF THE CROSS

1. Jesus is condemned to death
2. Jesus takes up his Cross
3. Jesus falls for the first time
4. The Virgin Mary meets Jesus
5. Simon of Cyrene is made to help Jesus bear the Cross
6. Veronica wipes the face of Jesus
7. Jesus falls for the second time
8. Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem
9. Jesus falls for the third time
10. Jesus is stripped of his garments
11. Jesus is crucified
12. Jesus dies on the Cross
13. Jesus is taken down from the Cross and laid in the arms of Mary
14. Jesus is laid in the tomb

In God We Trust – by Andy Rooney

    Andy Rooney

DID YOU KNOW?
As you walk up the steps to the building which houses the U.S. Supreme Court you can see near the top of the building a row of the world’s law givers and each one is facing one in the middle who is facing forward with a full frontal view it is Moses and he is holding the Ten Commandments.

 

DID YOU KNOW?
As you enter the Supreme Court courtroom, the two huge oak doors have the Ten Commandments engraved on each lower portion of each door.

 

DID YOU KNOW?
As you sit inside the courtroom, you can see the wall, right above where the Supreme Court judges sit, a display of the Ten Commandments!

 

DID YOU KNOW?
There are Bible verses etched in stone all over the Federal Buildings and Monuments in Washington, D.C.

 

DID YOU KNOW?
James Madison, the fourth president, known as “The Father of Our Constitution” made the following statement:
“We have staked the whole of all our political institutions upon the capacity of mankind for self-government, upon the capacity of each and all of us to govern ourselves, to control ourselves, to sustain ourselves according to the Ten Commandments of God.”

DID YOU KNOW?
Patrick Henry, that patriot and Founding Father of our country said:
“It cannot be emphasized too strongly or too often that this great nation was founded not by religionists but by Christians, not on religions but on the Gospel of Jesus Christ”.

DID YOU KNOW?
Every session of Congress begins with a prayer by a paid preacher, whose salary has been paid by the taxpayer since 1777.

DID YOU KNOW?
Fifty-two of the 55 founders of the Constitution were members of the established orthodox churches in the colonies.

DID YOU KNOW?
Thomas Jefferson worried that the Courts would overstep their authority and instead of interpreting the law would begin making law an oligarchy.

DID YOU KNOW?
The very first Supreme Court Justice, John Jay, said:
“Americans should select and prefer Christians as their rulers.”
How, then, have we gotten to the point that everything we have done for 220 years in this country is now suddenly wrong and unconstitutional?
Lets put it around the world and let the world see and remember what this great country was built on.

It is said that 86% of Americans believe in God. Therefore, it is very hard to understand why there is such a mess about having the Ten Commandments on display or “In God We Trust” on our money and having God in the Pledge of Allegiance. Why DO WE LET THE 14% DICTATE WHAT WE SAY AND DO???!!!

 

 

Quotes from St. Francis de Sales by Deacon Marty McIndoe

A Picture of a stained glass window of our church, St. Francis de Sales in Patchogue, Long Island, New York

Saint Francis de Sales is one of the most quoted Saints and I thought that on this, his Feast day of January 24th, I would share some of them with you.  St. Francis was known as the gentleman Saint.  He is one of the great Reformation era Saints who helped people to return to the fullness of the Church.  Enjoy these quotes.

If your eye is simple all of your body will be too.
Make yourself familiar with the Angels, and behold them frequently in spirit. Without being seen, they are present with you.
The most perfect degree of humility is to take pleasure in contempt and humiliations. It is worth more before God contempt suffered patiently for love of Him than a thousand fastings and disciplines.
All the good we do, we do for love of God, and the evil we avoid, we avoid for love of God
Have patience with all things, but chiefly have patience with yourself. Do not lose courage in considering your own imperfections but instantly set about remedying them – every day begin the task anew.
Do not wish to be anything but what you are, and try to be that perfectly.
‘Be very quick to turn away from whatever leads or allurs to lewd conduct, for this evil works without our knowing it and from small beginnings moves on to great difficulties. Such things are always easier to avoid than to cure.’
A sign that we love truly love God is that we love Him the same in all occasions
If we say a little it is easy to add, but having said too much it is hard to withdraw and never can it be done so quickly as to hinder the harm of our success.
The saints feel that Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament is diffuse and communicated totally in their souls and bodies. He repairs all, modifies and vivifies; loves in the heart, hears in the mind, sees in the eyes, speaks in the tongue; does all in all, and then it is not we who live, but Jesus Christ who lives in us.
The soul cannot live without love. All depends on providing a worthy object to love.
Do not fear what may happen tomorrow. The same loving Father who cares for you today will care for you tomorrow and everyday. Either he will shield you from suffering or He will give you unfailing strength to bear it. Be at peace then and put aside all anxious thoughts and imaginings.
Know that the virtue of patience is what assures us the most perfection.
You learn to speak by speaking, to study by studying, to run by running, to work by working, and just so, you learn to love by loving. All those who think to learn in any other way deceive themselves.
Nothing is more like a wise man than a fool who holds his tongue.
The true and solid devotion consists in the constant will, resolve, promptness and activeness to execute what is pleasing to God.
Nothing is so strong as gentleness. Nothing so gentle as real strength.

You learn to speak by speaking, to study by studying, to run by running, to work by working; and just so you learn to love God and man by loving. Begin as a mere apprentice and the very power of love will lead you on to become a master of the art.

Holiness is found in a path opened to us in our daily lives, the duties of our daily lives are offered to us with unequal attractiveness.
Let us not lower our eyes without humiliating at the same time the heart; let not others think we want the last place without truly desiring it.
When you encounter difficulties and contradictions, do not try to break them, but bend them with gentleness and time.
‘Those impure words which are spoken in disguise, and with an affectation of reserve, are the most harmful of all; for just as the sharper the point of a dart, so much deeper it will pierce the flesh, so the sharper an unholy word, the more it penetrates the heart. And as for those who think to show themselves knowing when they say such things, they do not even understand the first object of mutual intercourse among men, who ought rather to be like a hive of bees gathering to make honey by good and useful conversation, than like a wasps’ nest, feeding on corruption. If any impertinent person addresses you in unseemly language, show that you are displeased by turning away, or by whatever other method your discretion may indicate.’
A heart full of love loves the commandments and the more difficult it seems, the more sweet and pleasing they become because it pleases the Beloved and gives Him more honor.
We have to do everything for love, not out of force.
Prayer, united with the Divine Sacrifice of the Holy Mass, has an indescribable force; therefore by this means celestial favors united to the Beloved abound in the soul.
Within the practices of religion, the Blessed Sacrament is what the Sun is to the stars; it is truly the soul of the Christian religion. It is the ineffable mystery that comprehends divine charity, by which God, truly uniting to us, communicates to us his magnificence, graces and favors.
O my child, bethink you that just as the bee, having gathered heaven’s dew and earth’s sweetest juices from amid the flowers, carries it to her hive; so the Priest, having taken the Saviour, God’s Own Son, Who came down from Heaven, the Son of Mary, Who sprang up as earth’s choicest flower, from the Altar, feeds you with that Bread of Sweetness and of all delight.

Stretch forth your hand towards God as an infant towards its father to be conducted by Him.
There is a light-hearted talk, full of modest life and gaiety, which the Greeks called Eutrapelia, and which we should call good conversation, by which we may find an innocent and kindly amusement out of the trifling occurrences which human imperfections afford. Only beware of letting this seemly mirth go too far, till it becomes ridicule. Ridicule excites mirth at the expense of one’s neighbour; seemly mirth and playful fun never lose sight of a trustful, kindly courtesy, which can wound no one. When the religious around him would fain have discussed serious matters with St. Louis at meal-times, he used to say, “This is not the time for grave discussion, but for general conversation and cheerful recreation,” – out of consideration for his courtiers. But, my daughter, let our recreation always be so spent, that we may win all eternity through devotion.

The Last Jedi and 6th Century Irish Monks by Deacon Marty McIndoe

I have to confess, I love the Star Wars movies. They appeal to my love of science fiction as well as my love of seeing good triumph over evil. The last two movies have been quite interesting. In the 2015 The Force Awakens we are reunited with some of the original cast members. It ends with the search for the Jedi, Luke Skywalker. They search throughout the galaxy and he is finally found, all alone, in a mysterious land with ancient stone structures. The new 2017 movie, The Last Jedi takes us back to this mysterious land. It is beautiful and remote and ancient looking. The movie cameras do a great job of capturing the strange beauty that this land holds. Luke Skywalker went there to “get away” and now a new Jedi comes to be trained by him in the ways of the Force and the Jedi. The interesting thing is that this new mysterious beautiful land is not a construct for the movie. Rather, it is a place that has been a “get away” since the 6th century. It is an island off the coast of Ireland called Skellig Michael.
Skellig Michael appears to have been uninhabited until the 500’s when Irish monks came and built their monastery there. It is a beautiful island surrounded by turbulent seas and high winds. That is what kept the people from inhabiting it and what caused the monks to move there. Escaping from the world or getting away is nothing new. From about the 2nd century before Christ, the Jews had a monastic community called the Essenes. They escaped from the main communities by going in to uninhabited parts of the Jewish desert. Early Christians knew of the Essenes and also knew of St. John the Baptist who “got away” and of Jesus who went in to the desert for 40 days and nights to pray. Inspired by this, early Christians would often go out in to the desert and live in caves and pray. Around the 3rd century they started forming small monastic communities in remote areas so they were away from the normal society and its distractions. Eventually monastic rules of life developed and larger communities thrived. Most of this originally was in North Africa, the mid east and the holy lands. This spread somewhat in to western Mediterranean cities in Italy and France. By the 500’ s it spread to England and Ireland. Skellig Michael is one of the early Irish monastic communities.
The monastic community on Skellig Michael was a small community but flourished until the 13th century when climate changes and changes in Church culture forced it to be abandoned. The structures now there consist of stone bee-hive buildings as well as a larger gathering hall and a Church. After the monks left Skellig Michael the only inhabitants were the sea birds. The buildings that we see today are those built 1500 years ago. The Irish office of Public Works repaired some of the buildings in the 1800’s. At that time they built two lighthouses on the island. Except for lighthouse personnel, the island has remained uninhabited. In 1996 it was made a World Heritage Site. When the Star Wars producers decided to use the location for filming the Irish government gave them permission. Because of this, there are now tours out to the island. I didn’t know about it the last time I was in Ireland, but the next time I go, I plan on visiting it. I am a little worried about the 600 stone steps you need to take to get to the monastery.
So how does this affect us? This Hollywood movie that takes place in the future has caused us to look back at our past. Just as the future Luke Skywalker went to the island to get away and reflect, the early Christian monks went to the island to get away and reflect. This need to remove ourselves from the distractions of everyday society is no less valid today than it was for the Essenes over 2000 years ago or for the early Christians or for us today. Everyday life and its distractions make it difficult to reflect on what God is trying to tell us. We all need to get away once in a while to try to center in on God. It isn’t necessary to go to Skellig Michael. We certainly can find places much closer. We don’t have to spend our lifetime away, but we should spend a little time away as often as we can. Certainly religious retreats can help us with that, but sometimes things much easier are good too. If we plan well, we can find some down time to sit by ourselves and reflect. Sometimes it is as easy as turning the radio off when we drive or going out for a quiet walk.
Star Wars talks about the Force. They continually use the phrase, The Force Be With You. We Catholic ‘s should be used to the phrase, The Lord Be With You. It is easy to see that the Star Wars force is none other than a reflection on our own God. Just as in Star Wars when the Jedi are called to put the force to the work of good, we too are called to put our faith to the work of good. Just as in Star Wars the Jedi need to reflect on and grow in their use of the force, we too need to reflect on and grown in our use of faith and God’s presence. Luke Skywalker knew what the early Irish monks of Skellig Michael knew; that to get closer to the Force/God, we need time away. Do yourself a favor; find some time to get away.

Judge Not by A.J. Avila

Judge Not – by A.J. Avila

We all have a tendency to jump to conclusions.
That was certainly the case for me one time after a visit to my local library. Back then I was still single, and so I had gone there alone. On the way out, my arms laden with books, a rather seedy-looking man—who obviously hadn’t bathed for quite some time—held the door open for me. I thanked him as any lady should do when extended this courtesy.
But when we got outside in the parking lot, it was a different story. It was night, and except for the two of us, the lot was empty. I could hear this guy’s footsteps right behind me. And he was whistling the way a man whistles at a woman he thinks is attractive.
I began to panic. If he grabbed me, I had no defense. Fortunately, the police station shared the same parking lot. It occurred to me I should turn around, hurl my books at him, and run for the police station as fast as I could.
As I approached my car, I readied myself. To my distress, the footsteps were getting closer, and he was still whistling. I whipped around, about to pelt him with my books—
—and fortunately discovered what was really happening.
He wasn’t whistling at me.
He was calling his dog.
I have to admit the greater part of the reason I thought he was going to attack me was because of his appearance. Yes, I had judged him based upon that.
In Matthew 7:1, Christ admonishes us to “Judge not, that you may not be judged.”
So . . . what does that mean, exactly? Some folk seem to think anyone who judges another is guilty of breaking this prohibition. But then, ironically, those who think that way have already set themselves up as judges.
Does it mean I can’t judge someone without the proper placard or license plate parking in a handicapped space? Well, no—but also yes.
I can judge that it is breaking the law to park in such a space without the proper authorization. However, I can’t judge what is inside the heart of the person doing so.
For all I know, he missed the sign saying it’s a handicapped space. For all I know, he forgot his placard at home. (Not, I believe, that those would make any difference to a police officer who merely sees the car parked there.)
I can, in other words, judge an action, but I can’t judge a motive. We can’t judge even someone like Hitler that way. We can judge Hitler’s actions as wrong. But for all we know, Hitler was insane and therefore not responsible for them. Only God can infallibly determine that.
I’m sure that man in the library parking lot had no idea he was scaring me. I’m certain he wasn’t thinking about me at all.
I was right to be cautious about his actions.
But I was totally wrong about the motive for his behavior.

Posted on November 21, 2017 by ajavilanovels.  Visit A.J. Avila at Avila web page

REFORM YOURSELF – a review by Deacon Marty McIndoe

REFORM YOURSELF! How to Pray, Find Peace, and Grow in Faith with the Saints of the Counter-Reformation: written by Shaun McAfee – review by Deacon Marty McIndoe

If the main title, REFORM YOURSELF! doesn’t catch you; take a good look at the subtitle: How to Pray, Find Peace, and Grow in Faith with the Saints of the Counter-Reformation. The subtitle is exactly what this book is all about. For me, it lived up to what it promises. I love to read and some books are really great…..this is one of them. It is easy to read, informative, interesting and causes a change to the very Spirit within us.
I have read two other books by Shaun McAfee; Filling our Fathers House (2015) and St. Robert Bellarmine (2016). I enjoyed both of those and in reading them, saw Shaun as an upcoming author. This last book proved me correct. His writing style has grown to the point that I would say that he definitely is a great author. I am anxious to see what he comes up with next.
Shaun belongs to the same “club” as Brandon Vogt, Jennifer Fulwiler, Peter Kreeft, Scott Hahn, and so many more people do that I don’t have room to mention including myself. That “club” is that we are all converts to the Catholic faith and live much of our life trying to spread the good news of new life in Jesus, especially through Catholic spirituality. It makes me proud, as a convert, to see Shaun do such a great job of this. Shaun is a lay Dominican (Order of Preachers) and this book shows that he continues the Dominican tradition of preaching and teaching.
The book is timely as we recognize the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation in 2017; it looks at the Catholic response to the Reformation by choosing ten Saints who ministered during the Catholic Counter-reformation. The importance of this book is that it not just a historical book, but rather a book where we can look at these Saints and bring about REFORM within us. The ten Saints that Shaun chose are all great examples of what we need to do to walk with Jesus and respond to His call to share the Good News. They are all powerhouses of faith. Shaun also shows their true humanity which helps us see that we too can strive to achieve what they did.
There are ten chapters, one for each Saint. The ten Saints are; Francis de Sales, Ignatius of Loyola, Teresa of Avila, Robert Bellarmine, Aloysius Gonzaga, Pope Pius V, Philip Neri, John of the Cross, Frances de Chantal, and Charles Borromeo. In each chapter Shaun tells us about the Saint and shares some stories from their lives. He includes some of their quotes and makes suggestions on how we can be more like them. He includes a number of scripture passages to augment his suggestions. When reading many of Shaun’s suggestions I felt like I was listening to a Spiritual Director. Shaun ends each chapter with a conclusion, information for further study and a prayer to the Saint. I definitely grew spiritually through the experience of reading, and praying, this book. I believe that you will too. I highly recommend this book. It is available from its publisher, Catholic Answers (www.catholic.com), Amazon (www.amazon.com) and other bookstores.

The Real First Thanksgiving – by Deacon Marty McIndoe

The Great Cross marks the spot where the Spanish first landed in St. Augustine, Florida on September 8, 1565.  The statue of  Father Francisco Lopez marks the spot where the first THANKSGIVING mass was celebrated.

We always think that the first Thanksgiving happened in 1621 with the Pilgrims who settled in Massachusetts. In this Thanksgiving the local Indians came to the Pilgrims and brought them native food. There is no doubt that this really happened, but was it really the first Thanksgiving in the Americas? History says no. The first Thanksgiving occurred about 56 years before that in 1565. This one, like the Pilgrim Thanksgiving also involved European settlers and American Indians.
On September 8th, 1565 (the day the Church celebrates the birthday of the Blessed Virgin Mary), Spanish settlers landed at what is now St. Augustine, Florida. The first person to come on land was Father Francisco Lopez, the chaplain of the expedition. He came on land holding a cross. The leader of the exposition, Pedro Menéndez de Avilés, then came on land while Father Francisco was holding the cross. The leader then kneeled down in front of the cross and kissed it. The rest of the exposition came on land and did some preliminary set up and then gathered to celebrate mass in thanksgiving for the safe passage they had been given. Catholic’s know the mass as the celebration of the Eucharist. Eucharist in Greek means Thanksgiving.
Immediately following the mass, Father Francisco, now the first pastor of the first settlement in the Americas, declared that they would celebrate a fraternal meal by inviting the Timucua Indians to dine with the settlers. The landing site of the Spanish was right next to a large Timucua village. The two peoples celebrated a Thanksgiving feast together. This was certainly the first Thanksgiving meal celebrated in the Americas.
Our traditional Thanksgiving dinner usually consists of roasted turkey, potatoes and vegetables that were probably used at the Pilgrim’s Thanksgiving in Massachusetts. The Indians provided these foods to be shared with the settlers. The Spanish Thanksgiving in St. Augustine, Florida was quite different. Historical records show that it consisted of food brought by the Spanish settlers. This food was salted pork, garbanzo beans, ship’s bread and red wine. It also, most likely, consisted of some foods gathered by the Spanish settlers when they stopped in the Caribbean Islands. The Timucua Indians probably provided corn, fresh fish, berries, or beans.
The two Thanksgiving dinners had much in common. They both included the European Settlers and the Native Americans. They both were done in Thanksgiving to God for all that He had done. They both included food that was shared by all. They both had a sense of Thanksgiving to God as well as a sense of fraternal gathering. The main difference is that the Catholic Thanksgiving began with a Thanksgiving meal that goes all the way back to the Apostles and the early Church and has been celebrated every day since then by the Church.
The Pilgrims came to the America to escape from governmental persecution of their Puritan religion. The Spanish came to America with direction from their government and with a twofold mission; first to bring the message of Jesus’ salvation, and second to gain new lands for Spain. It is interesting that the first thing done is to have the Chaplain of the exposition bring a cross on to the new land and then, almost immediately after, to celebrate the Eucharist. The fraternal dinner with the Native Americans was to follow the mass. This is very much like the early Church which first had the celebration of the Eucharist followed by the Agape fraternal meal. Even today, in many families, we go first to mass on Sunday and then have a family Sunday dinner. The real first Thanksgiving gets the order right: first give thanks to God and then celebrate our fraternal love with each other. This is something we should do every day, not just once per year.

RCIA – A Journey of New Life – by Deacon Marty McIndoe

Many Catholics have heard the initials RCIA used within their church but often do not fully understand what this program is. It is important for all Catholics to know about this program since all Catholics have a place within the program. I would like to take some time to briefly talk about what the program is and then give some reflections on it. I came in to the Church through the RCIA program about 44 years ago and today, as a Deacon, I run our parish RCIA program. I see it as a source of real life to me and to so many others. RCIA simply stands for Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults. The program is the way that adult members learn about Jesus and His Church and then come in to it.
One of the principal ways that all Catholics are involved in RCIA is through their witness. Hopefully the life we lead and the faith we share make others interested in our Lord Jesus and in His Church. When we touch others through our own lived out faith it makes them want to learn more about the faith. RCIA is a way that they can do that. We often have people that were never baptized and never lived out the Christian faith. We also have people who have been baptized and have lived out the faith in a Protestant Church. Some of our RCIA people were baptized Catholic but never received Confirmation and Holy Communion. Some have received all the sacraments and have left the Church but have now returned. RCIA is for all of them.
It is impossible to put a time limit on the RCIA process. How much time we need is based upon the needs of each member in the group. For some, several years may be involved. For others it may be less than one year. We divide the RCIA program in to four distinct groups. Let us take a look at these four groups:
1 – INQUIRER: This is often known as the Period of Evangelization and Precatechumenate. Here we preach the basic Christian message and explain the role of the Church in living out the Christian life. We use this time to try to teach and inspire. We also use this time to discern whether the person is ready to make the formal step of becoming a full Catechumen.
2 – CATECHUMEN: When the RCIA team discerns that the inquirer is ready to make a faith commitment, we have a ceremony in front of the Church community at a Sunday mass where the inquirers make a decision to become a full Catechumen. The inquirer declares their intentions to the community and the community welcomes them. The process of further teaching continues by the RCIA team and the Church community continues to pray for them.
3 – ELECT: On the first Sunday of Lent, the Catechumens attend a special diocesan celebration where the Catechumens publically express their desire for baptism to the diocesan bishop. Their names are recorded in the Book of the Elect. Instructions continue during the days of Lent. There is usually additional prayer and spiritual direction given to the Elect leading them up to the Easter Vigil service. At the Easter Vigil the Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and Holy Eucharist are given to the Elect in front of the Church community. The Elect are now fully initiated in to the Catholic Church. However, their training continues.
4 – NEOPHYTES: The newly initiated Catholics continue their training with RCIA during the Easter season. This is known as a time of MYSTAGOGY. It continues to the Feast of Pentecost. The neophytes share their experiences of the Easter Vigil and continue to learn more about the Catholic faith.
As I mentioned earlier, some people come in to the program already baptized and with different levels of faith experience. Some need Confirmation and Holy Eucharist; some need just confession and a profession of faith. Depending upon the circumstances, these people can also receive these at the Easter Vigil or at a later date. Pentecost is often used.
The RCIA program tries to deal with each individual’s needs. Some people may need more time than others and some may need to straighten out difficulties like previous marriages. The good RCIA leader and team learn to deal with the various needs of the person apart from the training within the program. It is a program that calls people to follow Jesus within His Church community. The Church community has to realize that they too are part of this process. They help the Inquirer, the Catechumen, the Elect and the Neophyte through prayer and example. I have seen that the community itself grows in a positive direction due to their contact with the RCIA people. It is truly a program that brings life, not only to the individual, but also to the community.
When I did my RCIA process, it was quite different from ours today. I (my wife came also), and another candidate, met weekly with our parish pastor and he taught us. It was good for me, and I became very close to the pastor through it. Today we have a team of several individuals and during our sessions we take turn doing the instructions and we emphasize group discussions. We also spend time reflecting on the Sunday reading. One thing that we added is to discuss where we have seen the Lord working in our lives during this last week. This has proved quite fruitful. RCIA must help its people come in to a relationship with Jesus, as well as His Church.
As a person who has taught in the RCIA program for many years, I can tell you that the program continues to help me grow in my own faith. It is very heartwarming to see people grow in their faith and in their love for Jesus and His Church. Please make sure that you pray for all those who are part of the RCIA program. It is a real blessing to the Church.

 

What Every Protestant Can’t Not Know – by Matt Nelson (Reasonable Catholic blog)


I have never met an insincere Protestant.
And if I have, either I don’t recall it or I was fooled. But as far as I can tell, every Protestant I’ve ever mingled with has truly believed with all sincerity that the Catholic Church is not the Church founded by Christ; not one has believed that the Catholic Church is indeed what she claims to be – the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Christian Church.
I believe every Protestant has chosen to “protest” because he believes that his non-Catholic tradition is true, and that the Catholic tradition isn’t. Out of reverence for the truth (as he believes it to be) he cannot go where he does not believe true religion is being taught. If he does not believe that the Catholic Church is what she claims to be, he’s not going to be Catholic; and that’s fair and commonsensical.
But what if we could show our Protestant brothers and sisters that there are good reasons to believe that Catholicism is true? What if we could demonstrate that Catholicism is the truest and most complete form of biblical Christianity? If we could do that, who knows what good would come of it. Then, perhaps, the world would be less scandalized by Christian disunity and bickering; perhaps Christians could be more united on the moral and ethical fronts of society; perhaps more lives and souls would be saved; perhaps God’s will would be done.
I am certain that if Protestants saw the Catholic Church as she really is, most would enter the Catholic Church at any cost; not as a “change of denomination” but as a perfection – a completion – of the faith they’ve held previously as a non-Catholic Christian.
If the Catholic Church really is “the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets” and the “pillar and bulwark of the truth” then what Christian would not want to be in it (see Eph 2:20; 1 Tim 3:15). Indeed, if Christ really did establish a Church on earth as the Scriptures clearly reveal – one that “the powers of death shall not prevail against” – then where is it? This is the question that every Christian must ask; and if he seriously desires to be in it, he must not stop asking “where is it?” until he is certain he has found it.
G.K. Chesterton, a convert to Catholicism, remarked that a convert’s first step towards conversion is when he decides to be fair to the Catholic Church. Once the convert-in-the-making (who often doesn’t know he’s going to be a convert) decides to be fair to the Church, he soon becomes fond of her:
“It is impossible to be just to the Catholic Church. The moment a man ceases to pull against it he feels a tug towards it. The moment he ceases to shout it down he begins to listen to it with pleasure. The moment he tries to be fair to it he begins to be fond of it.” (from Catholic Church and Conversion)
Catholicism makes sense; she is beautiful and wise. And everybody loves beauty and wisdom. Thus everybody loves the Church once she is seen for what she truly is.
How, then, can we draw our dear Protestant friends into relationship with “the whole Christ” (see CCC 795)? How can we show them that Catholicism is true? There are many ways (some of which are not intellectual in nature). But here is a way that I believe has proven itself to have great power and potential for conviction:
What exactly is it that every Protestant can’t not know? That the earliest Christian Church was Catholic, through and through.
The fact of the matter is that most Protestants just don’t know these things. I dare assume most barely think about (if at all) the historical details of the 16th century Reformation, not to mention the historical details of the, say, second century Church. The early Church is off most Protestants’ radar. But it shouldn’t be.
Discovering the writings of the early Church Fathers has been, for many converts from Protestantism, the “straw that breaks the camel’s back”. Adding fuel to the wavering Protestant’s fire – in addition to the discovery of those “elusive” biblical texts that support Catholic doctrine – are often the early Church writings as they emerge from obscurity. And there are a lot of them.
Marcus Grodi is a former Evangelical pastor, and now the founder and president of The Coming Home Network International, an organization that helps new converts make the transition (especially former non-Catholic clergy). He writes:
“Certainly an amazing majority of converts mention how reading the Early Church Fathers, either for the first time or for the first time with awareness, convinced them that the early Church was amazingly Catholic and certainly not Protestant!” (from “The Early Church Fathers I Never Saw”)
Now where’s the evidence? Are there really good sources that show the early Church was Catholic; and Catholic in the sense that we mean today? Let’s take a look.
‘Catholic’ can be said to mean “according to the whole” or “universal”. That’s what it has always meant in a Christian context. There is one Church founded by Christ, and everyone is invited to be part of it. It is the one, universal Church.
The earliest recorded use of this term is found the early second century from St. Ignatius of Antioch:
“Wherever the bishop shall appear, there let the multitude of the people also be; even as wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church.” [Letter to the Smyrnaeans, 8]
St. Ignatius does not explain what “Catholic” means here. He just uses it without qualification, suggesting that it was already a familiar term in the wider Church community.
And what about the ranks in the Church conferred by the sacrament of Holy Orders: bishop, priest and deacon. It’s clear that these designations existed from St. Paul’s epistles (see especially 1 Tim, 2 Tim, Titus and Acts). But what about the early Church writings?
Consider this passage from St. Ignatius’ Letter to the Magnesians in A.D. 110:
“Take care to do all things in harmony with God, with the bishop presiding in the place of God, and with the presbyters [priests] in the place of the council of the apostles, and with the deacons, who are most dear to me, entrusted with the business of Jesus Christ…” [6.1]
There was a succession of the apostles; and this succession – called apostolic succession – has continued to present day. Every bishop in the Catholic Church today has been ordained in a direct line from the original twelve apostles of Christ (see Acts 1:20) .
St. Clement of Rome, one of the Church’s first popes and a disciple of Peter the apostle, writes around A.D. 80:
“Our apostles knew through our Lord Jesus Christ that there would be strife for the office of bishop. For this reason, therefore, having received perfect foreknowledge, they appointed those who have already been mentioned and afterwards added the further provision that, if they should die, other approved men should succeed to their ministry” (Letter to the Corinthians 42:4–5, 44:1–3 [A.D. 80]).
An early record of the line of successive popes (and bishops of Rome), beginning with St. Peter, is provided by St. Irenaeus at the tail end of the second century (see Against Heresies 3.3.3). From the beginning, it was understood that the bishop of Rome was the “chief” bishop – the one who held “the keys to the kingdom of heaven” (see Matt 16:18-20).
Here is a later excerpt from the early Church (there are earlier examples that confirm the bishop of Rome’s primacy within the college of bishops). St. Cyprian of Carthage writes in A.D. 251:
“Indeed, the others were also what Peter was [apostles], but a primacy is given to Peter, whereby it is made clear that there is but one Church and one chair….If someone does not hold fast to this unity of Peter, can he imagine that he still holds the faith? If he [should] desert the chair of Peter upon whom the Church was built, can he still be confident that he is in the Church?” (The Unity of the Catholic Church 4).
Now when you read the New Testament, here’s what you’ll find regarding St. Peter:
1. Every time the apostles are listed, Peter is the first to be mentioned (Matt 10:2; Luke Luke 6:13-16; Acts 1:3).
2. Peter is called the chief apostle (see Matt 10:2)
3. Peter is always listed before James and John, when Jesus’ inner three is listed (Mt 17:1; Mk 5:37; 9:2; 14:33; Lk 8:51; 9:28).
4. On several occasions Peter is the only name mentioned when referring to the group of disciples. St. Paul does this (1 Cor 9:5; 1 Cor 15:5). St. Luke does this (Acts 2:37), as does St. Mark (Mk 16:7).
5. Peter’s name (in the forms of Peter, Kepha and Cephas) is mentioned in the New Testament more than all of the other apostles’ names put together.
This is why the Church has remained so rock-solid through the ages. That the people of God would heed His prayer that “they may be one”, Jesus, in His infinite wisdom, built His house upon the rock (see Matt 7:25; 16:18). Peter (from “Petros” meaning rock) was given the strength to uphold the integrity of the Church (see Luke 22:32). The apostles and their successors are established guardians of the deposit of faith – fallible men with a special gift from God to help them do the job (1 Tm 4:14; 2 Tim 1:6) – lead by a chief guardian who represents God as His prime minister until He returns once and for all (see Isaiah 22).
God’s Word, which the bishops protect, has been handed down both in written and oral forms to the Church (see 1 Thess 2:15; 1 Pet 1:25). The Bible was never considered the sole authority in the early Church. The Bible (1 Tim 3:16), along with Tradition (1 Thess 2:13; 2 Thess 2:15; 1 Cor 11:2) and the teaching authority of the Church (Matt 16:18; 18:18) served as a tripod – as they do today – holding the Church steady in faith and morals.
Now what about the Mass, Sacraments, and in particular, the Eucharist? Can these key components of the Catholic faith also be found in the writings of the early Christians?
Catholics believe we are saved by grace (Eph 2:8) through faith (Rom 3:26) working in love (Gal 5:6; 1 Cor 13) and believe, along with the unanimous testimony of the early Church Fathers, that the Sacrament of Baptism is the way that initial regeneration by “saving grace” comes to the Christian. This is why babies aren’t excluded. Salvation is free; though bought at a price.
From baptism onwards, “salvation is worked out in fear and trembling” (Phil 2:12) and “he who endures to the end will be saved” (Matt 10:22).
Our first pope writes in 1 Peter 3:21, “Baptism…now saves you.” This was the belief from the beginning: that baptism cleanses the baptized of all sin – a free gift of sanctifying grace by means of water – and as a result the baptized were born again into new life (see John 3:5).
Tertullian writes:
“Happy is our sacrament of water, in that, by washing away the sins of our early blindness, we are set free and admitted into eternal life. . . .” (Baptism 1 [A.D. 203])
But Christians are likely to commit wrongdoings again due to the wounds of previous sin. Jesus said to the apostles, “Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them” (John 20:21-23) so that we might experience forgiveness “in the presence of Christ” through the priests and bishops (2 Cor 2:10). This is why we have confession or the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
St. Basil the Great writes:
“It is necessary to confess our sins to those to whom the dispensation of God’s mysteries is entrusted. Those doing penance of old are found to have done it before the saints. It is written in the Gospel that they confessed their sins to John the Baptist [Matt. 3:6], but in Acts [19:18] they confessed to the apostles” (Rules Briefly Treated 288 [A.D. 374])
The Eucharist – which comes to us in the Holy Mass when bread and wine is mysteriously changes in substance but not in physical appearance to Christ’s body and blood at the blessing of the priest – was at the center of Christian worship even in the earliest stages of Christianity.
Why? Because the Eucharist is Christ (see 1 Cor. 10:16–17, 11:23–29; John 6:32–71 and all the Last Supper accounts).
St Ignatius of Antioch, who was a disciple of John the apostle, writes at the turn of the second century:
“Take note of those who hold heterodox opinions on the grace of Jesus Christ which has come to us, and see how contrary their opinions are to the mind of God. . . . They abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer because they do not confess that the Eucharist is the flesh of our Savior Jesus Christ… They who deny the gift of God are perishing in their disputes” (Letter to the Smyrnaeans 6:2–7:1 [A.D. 110]).
St. Justin Martyr wrote:
“We call this food Eucharist…..For not as common bread nor common drink do we receive these; but since Jesus Christ our Savior was made incarnate by the word of God and had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so too, as we have been taught, the food which has been made into the Eucharist by the Eucharistic prayer set down by him, and by the change of which our blood and flesh is nurtured, is both the flesh and the blood of that incarnated Jesus” (First Apology 66 [A.D. 151]).
Finally, what about Mary and the saints in the early Church?
St. Ambrose, the mentor of St. Augustine, in the 4th century writes this regarding Mary who is “blessed among women”:
“The first thing which kindles ardor in learning is the greatness of the teacher. What is greater than the Mother of God? What more glorious than she whom Glory Itself chose?” (The Virgins 2:2[7] [A.D. 377]).
And Ephraim the Syrian writes in the fourth century:
“You victorious martyrs who endured torments gladly for the sake of the God and Savior, you who have boldness of speech toward the Lord himself, you saints, intercede for us who are timid and sinful men, full of sloth, that the grace of Christ may come upon us, and enlighten the hearts of all of us so that we may love him” (Commentary on Mark [A.D. 370]).
Final Thoughts
This post doesn’t even begin to touch all of the writings of the early Church available to us today. I’ve only provided a small sample of excerpts; but I recommend that you go and read the writings for yourself. Many of them aren’t long (although another many of them are!). If you and I hope to help our Protestant brothers and sisters see the Catholic Church as she really is, the testimony of the early Church will be indispensable in helping them arrive at that affirmation.
The goal is to lead our separated brethren to “the whole Christ”, which resides ultimately in the Eucharistic Church (see Catechism of the Catholic Church 795).
Indeed one of the greatest affirmations I’ve experienced personally in my decision to be Catholic (in addition to discovering the rich biblical basis for Catholic beliefs) has been my discovery of the writings of the early Church. “To be deep in history is to cease to be Protestant”, wrote the great convert from Anglicanism, Blessed John Henry Newman. Indeed.
I believe what the Catholic Church teaches because I have every reason to believe the Catholic Church of today is the same Church founded by Christ in the first century. Along with St. Augustine and the rest of the early church Fathers:
“We believe also in the holy Church, that is, the Catholic Church” (Faith and the Creed 10:21 [A.D. 393]).

***All the early church quotations in this article were obtained from Catholic.com

Check out Matt Nelson’s blog at Reasonable Catholic
———————————————————————————————————————
Recommended Reading:
The Fathers Know Best by Jimmy Akin
The Mass Of The Early Christians by Mike Aquilina (anything by Dr. Aquilina, really)
The Apostasy That Wasn’t by Rod Bennett

 

The 500th Anniversary of the Protestant Reformation; a Lament – by Deacon Marty McIndoe

This year, on October 31st we will have the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. I keep seeing signs saying that we will be celebrating this anniversary. To me, I can’t celebrate this. It reminds me of when an old friend of mine decided to have a party celebrating the one year anniversary of his divorce from his wife. I could not fathom celebrating the fact that these two people who had loved each other and had forged a beautiful life together with four children decided that they could not work out their differences but decided to split apart. I had seen the damage that this divorce did to each of them as well as to their children. How could I celebrate this? I feel the same way about the Protestant Reformation. How can I celebrate the fact that the Church that Jesus had called to be ONE had divided? Jesus prays in John 17: “that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me.” That prayer for unity suffered a massive blow beginning on October 31st, 1517. I lament that.
You need to understand that even though I am proud to be Catholic and consider it to be the ONE Church founded by Jesus; I do have a great love for my Protestant brothers and sisters. I grew up as a Protestant (Methodist) before I converted to the Catholic faith. I give thanks to God for all that He showed me as a Methodist. I was given a Trinitarian baptism (not all Protestant Churches do this) and was taught to love God and to love the scriptures as a Methodist. Even today I pray and share faith experiences with my Protestant brothers and sisters. The Vatican II document, Decree On Ecumenism keeps referring to our Protestant brothers and sisters as “separated brethren”. We need to see that there is still a connection between us. However, the sense of unity is gone. I have seen estimates varying between 33,000 and 51,000 as to the number of “Christian” denominations. It seems that whenever one pastor disagrees with another as to the correct interpretation of scripture or how to live out that interpretation, they start a new church. This is so very sad and so far away from what Jesus and the scriptures call us to. Saint Paul in 1 Corinthians 1:10 says, “I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought.” We certainly do not have that in Christianity today. I am thankful that the Catholic Church lives out that Unity throughout the four corners of the world.
When Martin Luther posted his 95 Theses, he had very legitimate gripes against what the Church was doing. Most of this was due to the fact that the Church was building Saint Peter’s in Rome and it was a costly undertaking. The Church started to sell indulgences and Martin Luther’s gripes were mostly about this and the power of the Pope and the existence of Purgatory. Martin Luther even removed seven books from the Bible that had been accepted from the beginning, and by every Church council, because they taught about the doctrine of Purgatory and praying for the deceased. These books are still missing from most Protestant Bibles. Luther also wanted to remove Hebrews, James, Jude and Revelation because they did not go along with his thoughts on grace and works. Fortunately these still remain in the Protestant Bible.
It doesn’t appear that Martin Luther really wanted to break the Church apart. However, that is exactly what happened. The Catholic Church responded with its own reforms to deal with the abuses, but it came too late. Others joined Martin Luther in professing other ideas about how scriptures were to be interpreted and these “reformers” started several different religions. Unfortunately, not only was unity lost, but many of these churches gave up the sacraments, sacramentals, Saints, Mary, Apostolic succession of Holy Orders and a central Magisterium that the Catholic Church kept. These new religions ignored what the Church had been doing from the very beginning. It is interesting that today many Protestants (especially many ordained ministers) are coming home to the Catholic Church as a result of their study of Church history and the early Church fathers. The numbers doing this are staggering (see the Coming Home Network at http://www.chnetwork.org).
Instead of Celebrating this 500th Anniversary, I lament it. I feel bad that so many people today are really in love with God and have committed their lives to Him, but don’t have the Sacraments to help them and don’t have Mary to be with them. Even Martin Luther was upset at the reformers who lost these things.
Here are some quotes of Martin Luther about the Blessed Virgin Mary (taken from Church Pop https://churchpop.com/2017/03/07/5-surprising-quotes-from-martin-luther-on-the-blessed-virgin-mary/) :
1) Mary has no equal among creation
“She became the Mother of God, in which work so many and such great good things are bestowed on her as pass man’s understanding. For on this there follows all honor, all blessedness, and her unique place in the whole of mankind, among which she has no equal, namely, that she had a child by the Father in heaven, and such a Child….
“Hence men have crowded all her glory into a single word, calling her the Mother of God…. None can say of her nor announce to her greater things, even though he had as many tongues as the earth possesses flowers and blades of grass: the sky, stars; and the sea, grains of sand. It needs to be pondered in the heart what it means to be the Mother of God.”
2) Mary was without sin
“God has formed the soul and body of the Virgin Mary full of the Holy Spirit, so that she is without all sins, for she has conceived and borne the Lord Jesus.”
3) Mary was a perpetual virgin
“Christ, our Savior, was the real and natural fruit of Mary’s virginal womb… This was without the cooperation of a man, and she remained a virgin after that. […] Christ… was the only Son of Mary, and the Virgin Mary bore no children besides Him.”
4) On the veneration of Mary
“The veneration of Mary is inscribed in the very depths of the human heart.”
5) Mary is the mother of all Christians
“Mary is the Mother of Jesus and the Mother of all of us even though it was Christ alone who reposed on her knees… If he is ours, we ought to be in his situation; there where he is, we ought also to be and all that he has ought to be ours, and his mother is also our mother.”
6) You can never honor Mary enough
“[Mary is the] highest woman and the noblest gem in Christianity after Christ… She is nobility, wisdom, and holiness personified. We can never honor her enough. Still honor and praise must be given to her in such a way as to injure neither Christ nor the Scriptures.”
And Martin Luther said the following about the Eucharist (taken from Bread From Heaven : https://bfhu.wordpress.com/2011/05/13/martin-luther-on-the-real-presence/)
Who, but the devil, has granted such license of wresting the words of the holy Scripture? Who ever read in the Scriptures, that my body is the same as the sign of my body? or, that is is the same as it signifies? What language in the world ever spoke so? It is only then the devil, that imposes upon us by these fanatical men. Not one of the Fathers of the Church, though so numerous, ever spoke as the Sacramentarians: not one of them ever said, It is only bread and wine; or, the body and blood of Christ is not there present.
Surely, it is not credible, nor possible, since they often speak, and repeat their sentiments, that they should never (if they thought so) not so much as once, say, or let slip these words: It is bread only; or the body of Christ is not there, especially it being of great importance, that men should not be deceived. Certainly, in so many Fathers, and in so many writings, the negative might at least be found in one of them, had they thought the body and blood of Christ were not really present: but they are all of them unanimous.”

I pray that someday all Christians may be one and experience the fullness of the Sacraments, the presence of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and the unifying force of the Magisterium. May we continue the prayer of Jesus, “that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me.” May we truly be ONE, HOLY, CATHOLIC AND APOSTOLIC CHURCH (Nicene Creed, 325 ad). Until then, I will lament our disunity.

Note: the Catholic Church is the only institution in History that has lasted 2,000 plus years. I know that Satan would love to destroy the Church, but so far he has only wounded it (several times). I trust in the words of Jesus in Matthew 16:18 when He said, “Now I say to you that you are Peter (which means ‘rock’), and upon this rock I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it.”

 

 

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¢.

 

Guardian Angels; a Personal Encounter – by Deacon Marty McIndoe

I wonder how many adults really believe in guardian angels. It is now, and has been since the beginning of the Church, one of our beliefs. Today’s Catechism of the Catholic Church says, “Beside each believer stands an angel as protector and shepherd leading him to life”(#203).  The scriptures have numerous accounts of angels. In Psalm 91: 11-12 we hear “For He will command His angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways. On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.” Again in Exodus 23:20 we read “See, I am sending an angel ahead of you to guard you along the way and to bring you to the place I have prepared.” The New Testament continues in Matthew 18:10 “Beware that you don’t look down on any of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels are always in the presence of my Heavenly Father.” In Hebrews 1:14 we hear “Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?”. Hebrews 13:2 adds “Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.” Besides scripture and Church teachings many of the Saints talk about angels. They are very real and I have personal knowledge of that from many events that occurred in my life. I would like to share with you one of those events.
In the late 1970’s my wife and I received an invitation from our good Friends Tom and Lyn Scheuring (who now run LAMP Ministries in NYC) to come in to the Grace Estate in Manhasset to see Leo Joseph Cardinal Suenens. He was going to be staying at the Estate for a few days and was giving talks and celebrating mass. Since Cardinal Suenens was one of the most influential leaders of the Vatican Council, and also involved in the Charismatic Renewal, we knew that we just “had” to go. Tom and Lyn said that we could bring another couple with us. We invited friends of ours, Ed and Maria Marini to go. We all packed in to my Ford Camper Van and headed from Patchogue to Manhasset using the Long Island Expressway. My Ford Van had a huge front window that, combined with being raised fairly high above the road, gives the driver and passengers an excellent view of the road in front of us.
We were driving in the far right lane at about 60mph when all of a sudden a sports car comes on to the entrance ramp at a very high rate of speed. The ramp was curved as it came on to the expressway and the sports car was going so fast that it lost control and was headed straight at us. We all saw it happening and it seemed that a serious crash was impossible to avoid. All of a sudden, that sports car that was coming directly at us from the right was lifted up in the air high enough to pass over the small front hood of the van right in front of our front window. It looked as if we had collided but there was no collision. The sports car was heading directly across the flow of traffic and landed to our left in the middle and far left hand lanes. Even though there was considerable traffic that day, it did not hit any car and landed in the median of the road. All of us in the car saw what happened but couldn’t believe that it happened. There was no way that sports car could have become so highly airborne on its own. I later examined that ramp and saw nothing that could have lifted that car up. I really believe that the four guardian angels of the people in my car, as well as the two guardian angels of the people in the sports car lifted the sports car high enough so that we didn’t collide. All four of us in my van agreed. I wonder what the people in the sports car thought. I know that our guardian angels were at work there.
We have told that story to people several times and there is always a sense that the people listening don’t quite believe it or that we have exaggerated. They were not there and I know that you as a reader probably think the same thing. I was there and I know that God’s intervention, probably using guardian angels, is what kept us alive that day. God is so good.
“Beside each believer stands an Angel as protector and shepherd, leading him to life.” – St. Basil the Great
Angel of God, my Guardian dear, to whom His love commits me here, ever this day (or night) be at my side, to light and guard, to rule and guide. Amen. d

7 Things to Know That Will Change Your Next Mass Experience by Matt Nelson

“Take, eat; this IS my body.” Mt 26:26

I believe that we live in an age where fallen-away Catholics don’t really know what they’ve left, non-Catholics don’t really know what they’re missing, and many Catholics don’t really know what they’ve got. They don’t really know the Mass.
The Mass is the climactic form of Christian worship and within it is contained the greatest miracle on earth. It is a mystery in the fullest sense, and yet, it is comprehensible. As Christians we possess faith, but do we possess understanding? Do we even seek it? I know personally that my understanding of the Mass and what happens during it is inexcusably deficient, mostly from neglect. But I (and you) can change this — and it begins here.
I want to help change your next Mass experience, by the grace of God. So I’ve compiled a list of 7 interesting facts about the Mass, each with a brief explanation. I hope you learn something new!

1. The Mark of the Christian
The Sign of the Cross that marks the beginning and end of the Holy Mass, and which signifies the sealing of the Word of God “in our minds, on our lips and in our hearts” at the reading of the Gospel, has its origin in the first centuries of Christianity.
Tertullian wrote in the mid-3rd century:
“In all our travels and movements, in all our coming in and going out, in putting on our shoes, at the bath, at the table, in lighting our candles, in lying down, in sitting down, whatever employment occupies us, we mark our foreheads with the sign of the cross” (De corona, 30).
The sign of the cross, done by faith, has immense power. St. Benedict once did the sign of the cross over a poisoned drink meant to kill him, and as his hand moved reverently through the four directions of the cross, the glass shattered. What would have happened if he had been insincere, or worse, not blessed his food and drink at all with the sacred sign? God only knows.
Each sign of the cross is also a sign —a renewal even — of one’s personal decision to accept Christ as Lord and Savior. How many times have we gone through the “motion of the cross” instead of the “sign of the cross”?

2. “And With Your Spirit”
When the Christian people respond “and with your spirit” to the priest’s greeting (“The Lord be with you”) in the Holy Mass, it is not just a polite (and somewhat odd) response. It is a profession of faith in the power of the Sacrament of Holy Orders. It recognizes the unique action of the Holy Spirit in the ordained priest, particularly in the Sacraments. Remember, for example, it is not the priest who changes the bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ — it is Jesus Christ. Thus, the priest receives the power to serve as a special instrument of the Holy Spirit at his ordination; that is, when he receives the Sacrament of Holy Orders through the “laying on of hands” (see 1 Tim 4:14; 2 Tim 1:6).
Here’s what the 4th century bishop, St. John Crysostom,wrote about these words and their meaning:
“If the Holy Spirit were not in this your common father and teacher, you would not, just now, when he ascended this holy chair and wished you all peace, have cried out with one accord, ‘And with your spirit.’
Thus you cry out to him, not only when he ascends his throne and when he speaks to you and prays for you, but also when he stands at this holy altar to offer the sacrifice. He does not touch that which lies on the altar before wishing you the grace of our Lord, and before you have replied to him, ‘And with your spirit.’
By this cry, you are reminded that he who stands at the altar does nothing, and that the gifts that repose there are not the merits of a man; but that the grace of the Holy Spirit is present and, descending on all, accomplishes this mysterious sacrifice. We indeed see a man, but it is God who acts through him. Nothing human takes place at this holy altar.”

3. Kiss of the Priest
The priest kisses the altar in veneration, recognizing it as the sacred place where Christ’s once and for all sacrifice will be made present in the Sacrament of the Eucharist. Jesus’s death is re-presented in the Holy Mass as a celebration of the New Covenant Passover, just as the Old Covenant Passover was made present each year it was celebrated (see Ex 12:27). St. Paul contrasts the Eucharistic sacrifice to the pagan sacrifice in 1 Cor 11. Jesus is therefore not re-sacrificed at each Mass but rather, His one sacrifice becomes present to us as He is eternally presenting Himself to God as the sacrificial Lamb of God (Heb 7:25; 1 Cor 5:7; 1 Cor 11:26; Rev 5:6).
Around 70 A.D. Church leaders wrote this about the Eucharistic sacrifice (the Mass):
“Assemble on the Lord’s day, and break bread and offer the Eucharist; but first make confession of your faults, so that your sacrifice may be a pure one. Anyone who has a difference with his fellow is not to take part with you until he has been reconciled, so as to avoid any profanation of your sacrifice [Matt. 5:23–24]. For this is the offering of which the Lord has said, ‘Everywhere and always bring me a sacrifice that is undefiled, for I am a great king, says the Lord, and my name is the wonder of nations’ [Mal. 1:11, 14]” (Didache 14 [A.D. 70]).

4. What’s Inside the Altar?
Did you know that many Catholic altars have a relic placed inside?
Father Carlos Martins, CC, of Treasures of the Church describes relics in this way:
Relics are physical objects that have a direct association with the saints or with Our Lord. They are usually broken down into three classes. First class relics are the body or fragments of the body of a saint, such as pieces of bone or flesh. Second class relics are something that a saint personally owned, such as a shirt or book (or fragments of those items). Third class relics are those items that a saint touched or that have been touched to a first, second, or another third class relic of a saint.
The General Instruction of the Roman Missal, No. 302, contains the following statement:
“The practice of placing relics of Saints, even those not Martyrs, under the altar to be dedicated is fittingly retained. Care should be taken, however, to ensure the authenticity of such relics.”

The bones of St. Polycarp of Smyrna (a disciple of John the beloved apostle) were venerated in the early Church, for example:
“We took up his bones, which are more valuable than precious stones and finer than refined gold, and laid them in a suitable place, where the Lord will permit us to gather ourselves together, as we are able, in gladness and joy and to celebrate the birthday of his martyrdom” (The Martyrdom of Polycarp [A.D 156])
For more, I also discuss relics in this recent article.

5. Cross or Crucifix?
A cross with a figure of Christ crucified must be present on or near the altar. This is mandated by the Church. A bare cross or a cross with Jesus depicted in a non-crucified way (like the modern “resurrected” Christ portrayal which has become more common) does not meet this requirement. Like St. Paul in his first letter to the Church in Corinth, we preach Christ crucified as an ultimate sign of God’s love for us and the salvation won for us through His crucifixion:
“we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles” (1 Cor 1:23; see also 2:2)
The crucifix, properly understood, is not an image of a mere gory execution; rather, it is a sign of the once for all sacrifice of the Lamb of God (1 Cor 5:7).
The General Instruction for the Roman Missal states:
There is also to be a cross, with the figure of Christ crucified upon it, either on the altar or near it, where it is clearly visible to the assembled congregation. It is appropriate that such a cross, which calls to mind for the faithful the saving Passion of the Lord, remain near the altar even outside of liturgical celebrations (GIRM 308).

6. Sit, Stand, Kneel and Bow
A genuflection before the Jesus in the tabernacle is not meant to be a purely physical action. It requires a simultaneous “bow of the heart.”
The venerable practice of genuflecting before the Blessed Sacrament, whether enclosed in the tabernacle or publicly exposed, as a sign of adoration, is to be maintained. This act requires that it be performed in a recollected way. In order that the heart may bow before God in profound reverence, the genuflection must be neither hurried nor careless (Inaestimabile Donum 26).
Some people may wonder what’s up with Catholics and all the bowing, standing, sitting, kneeling that they do in the Mass. It’s a good and honest question. Catholics assume these gestures because of who and what they are encountering in the Mass — the King of Kings and His Word. In the case of veneration with the body, the body leads the heart.
Consider these words from C.S. Lewis’s Screwtape Letters:
“At the very least, they can be persuaded that the bodily position makes no difference to their prayers; for they constantly forget, what you must always remember, that they are animals and that whatever their bodies do affects their souls” (Letter IV).
Our postures matter, especially in the Mass — the climax of Christian Worship. As King David writes in this beautiful Psalm:
“O come, let us worship and bow down, let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker! For he is our God…” (Psalm 95)

7. The Fraction Rite
After the consecration (when the bread and wine are changed into the body and blood of Jesus) but before Communion, the priest breaks off a piece of his “big” host and adds it to the precious blood (which still maintains the physical properties of wine). This breaking and commingling of the broken piece of the Body with the Blood is rich in significance:
First, it is not a separating of Christ, as though a “part” of Christ is here and a “part” of Christ is there. In each molecule of the consecrated host, the resurrected Christ is totally and perfectly present in His infinite divine substance.
Second, this “breaking”, called the “Fraction Rite”, follows Christ’s breaking of bread at the Last Supper and is rich in biblical significance (Luke 22:19; Acts 2:42, 46; 1 Cor 10:16).
Third, the commingling of the broken fraction with the blood in the chalice symbolizes the reunification of Christ’s body and blood in his glorious resurrection.
Now here’s an interesting tidbit to end off this post:
Originally, this Fraction rite and commingling had another important significance. At each Mass, the priest would break off a piece of the host (as he does now) but then, that consecrated fraction would be sent to another celebration of the Eucharist at another location. There, the fraction sent from the parish “down the road” would be commingled with the blood of Christ. The fraction of the host from that Mass would then be sent off to another Mass, and so on. This ritual created a great sense of unity among the faithful in the Mass, and signified the continuity of the eucharistic sacrifice in the Church (Mal 1:11; 1 Cor 10:17). This practice was known as fermentum, but has fallen out of practice in modern times.
If you would like to read more about the specifics of the Mass I highly recommend Mass Revision by Jimmy Akin to get you started.
See you in the Eucharist!

Visit Matt Nelson at Reasonable Catholic

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.

The Birth of Mary and the Protoevangelium of James by Deacon Marty McIndoe

If we asked most Catholics who Mary’s parents were they would probably answer Anna and Joachim. But if we look in the Holy Bible there is no mention of Mary’s birth or the name of her parents. So how do we know their names? The simple answer is through tradition. As Catholics, we believe that God reveals His truths to us through the Holy Bible AND through tradition. Tradition was sacred to the Jews (we all know that great song from Fiddler on the Roof) and is also sacred to us. St. Paul tells us to “stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter” (2 Thess. 2:15).
On September 8th we celebrate the birthday of Mary. This is exactly nine months after we celebrate the Feast of the Immaculate Conception on December 8th. This feast was celebrated no later than the 6th century. An eastern Saint, St. Romanos, a deacon who composed numerous liturgical songs, wrote a hymn celebrating the birthday of Mary. The hymn was quite popular and used in liturgies to celebrate the birthday of Mary which helped lead us to the feast day. The Eastern Churches first celebrated it and then within a century the Roman Church celebrated it. St. Romanos relied heavily upon the apocryphal writing, The Protoevangelium of St. James, in composing the lyrics to his hymn on the Nativity of Mary.
As an apocryphal writing, we must realize that the Church decided that this book was not inspired as scripture and it was not placed in the canon of the bible. However, this writing has been seen as a good source of tradition from the earliest times of the Church. Most scholars believe that it was composed around 145 AD. Because of this, and the language structure, we know that St. James did not write it. However it came from an area where St. James had followers and there may be some things passed on from him in the writing. In view of all of this, and with a certain amount of caution, I would like to share some of the points covered in the Protoevangelium concerning Mary and her birth and upbringing.
The Protoevangelium does repeat many items found in the scriptures concerning Mary and the birth of Jesus. But it adds details prior to that not mentioned in the sacred scriptures. It tells us that her parents were named Joachim and Anna and that Joachim and Anna were unable to conceive for many years and that both of them became depressed at not being able to have children. It tells us that Joachim became so depressed that he went out to the desert to live in solitude in a tent where he fasted for 40 days and 40 nights pleading with God. At the same time, Anna grieved not having Joachim with her and not being able to become pregnant. She prayed that God would bless her as He had blessed Sarah with Isaac. The Protoevangelium tells us that an angel appeared to Anna and told her that God had heard her prayer and that “you shall conceive and bring forth; and your seed shall be spoken of in all the world”.
About the same time, an angel appeared to Joachim and told him that God had heard his prayers. He was told to go to Anna and that Anna would conceive a child. Nine months later Anna gave birth to a little girl and they name her Mary. The Protoevangelium tells us that at the birth Anna said, “My soul has been magnified this day.” The writings go on to say that Mary walked at six months old. When she was one year old, Joachim held a great birthday feast for Mary and invited the priests, scribes and elders and all the people of Israel. The priests blessed Mary saying, “O God of our fathers, bless this child and give her an everlasting name to be named in all generations”.
The Protoevangelium tells us that at the age of three Joachim and Anna took Mary to the temple to be raised there hoping that her heart would be captivated by the Temple. When they gave her to the priest he kissed her and blessed her saying, “The Lord has magnified your name in all generations. In you, on the last of the days, the Lord will manifest His redemption to the sons of Israel.” The priest put her down on the third step and the grace of God came upon her and Mary danced with joy and the people loved her.
The Protoevangelium goes on to tell us that Mary stayed in the temple until she was 12 years old. At that time the chief priest received a visit from an angel while in the Holy of Holies telling him to assemble the widowers of the people and that God would give a sign as to which widower He chose for Mary. When all of the widowers assembled the High Priest again prayed to God for a sign to show which widower would receive Mary as his wife. When a dove appeared and landed on Joseph’s head, the high priest declared him to be the one who was chosen. At first Joseph declined saying that he had children and was an old man and it wasn’t good for him to take such a young girl. The chief priest reminded Joseph that it was God’s will and Joseph said to Mary, “Behold I have received you from the temple of the Lord; and now I leave you in my house and go away to build my buildings, and I shall come to you. The Lord will protect you”.
As interesting as all this is, we must remember that the Church refused to recognize the Protoevangelium as sacred scripture. We cannot be sure of any truth found here, but as I said earlier, this is a very early writing that passes on at least some of the tradition handed down about our beloved mother, Mary. It might help us imagine a little better the life of the most significant woman who ever walked the earth (and rule in Heaven). Hail Mary full of grace…….
As Saint Augustine said, “She is the flower of the field from whom bloomed the precious lily of the valley. Through her birth the nature inherited from our first parents is changed.”
HAPPY BIRTHDAY MOTHER MARY….WE LOVE YOU

 

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

Spurned at Church by A. J. Avila

Spurned at Church

When we go to Mass, we don’t necessarily expect the folks there to be warm and welcoming. After all, it’s human nature to occasionally be aloof. We’re weak, sinful people, and we don’t leave our foibles at the church door before coming inside.
But we do expect—have a right to expect—that the people we encounter there will at the very least be polite, especially during that one time in the service when we greet one another: the Sign of Peace.
So imagine my surprise when at one weekday Mass I put out my hand to shake that of the young lady in front of me and got snubbed.
Well, a lot more than snubbed. One look at my hand offered in friendship and she crossed her forearms in front of her head, turned her face aside, and shuddered with what I can only describe as utter disgust.
As though touching me would make her vomit.
Before you even ask, yes, I bathe, and yes, I use deodorant.
Now I realize some people are germaphobes, but a simple “No, thank you” or “I don’t shake hands” would have sufficed.
Needless to say, I was shocked. More than shocked, I was deeply hurt.
Of course I immediately forgave her and offered up the pain to God for her sake.
In case you’re wondering if she ever shakes anybody else’s hand, I wouldn’t know. Since this was a weekday Mass, the church wasn’t very full and we two were the only ones within arm’s reach of each other.
When something like this happens, it bumps up against what I find to be one of the most difficult verses of the Bible: “And we know that to them that love God, all things work together unto good, to such as, according to his purpose, are called to be saints” (Romans 8:28).
“All things work together unto good.” All things, including this.
So I had to stop and ask myself how this worked unto good.
It reminded me of an incident from the life of St. Teresa of Avila. She’d been poorly treated, and she complained to Jesus about it. He answered her, “But Teresa! That’s how I treat My friends!”
She immediately snapped back “No wonder You have so few!”
Yet . . . how on earth could what happened to me be something positive? How could I see it as God treating me like one of His friends?
Then I remembered another difficult Bible verse: “I now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up those things that are wanting of the sufferings of Christ, in my flesh, for his body, which is the church” (Colossians 1:24).
St. Paul is telling us he actually rejoiced in his sufferings.
Okay. I can tolerate what happened. I can even get to the stage where, intellectually, I can thank God for it. But in all honesty, I don’t think I’m far enough along in my spiritual journey to where I can rejoice at being treated like last week’s garbage.
Definitely something I need to work on because, you know, suffering makes us more like Christ, and that is cause for rejoicing.
As for that young lady, I sincerely hope that if both of us make it to heaven, she’ll be glad to shake my hand then.
She might even allow me to give her a hug.

You can visit A. J. Avila’s blog at Reflections On My Catholic Journey

RIVERS OF LIVING WATER – Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal by Deacon Marty McIndoe

I was fortunate enough to be able to attend the RIVERS OF LIVING WATER 2017 Catholic Charismatic Renewal Jubilee Conference in Pittsburgh last month. This conference was designed to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal. Since it was the Catholic Charismatic Renewal that led me in to the Church back in 1972 and has fed me so well with its Spiritual Fruits, my wife and I decided we had to go celebrate. I am so glad that we did. The Conference ran from Thursday July 29th through Sunday July 23rd. Many thousands of people filled the Pittsburgh convention center with songs of praise and witness to the power of the Holy Spirit at work in the Church today. Pittsburgh was chosen as the place to have the conference because the Renewal started near there.


From February 17th through the 19th in 1967, several Duquesne University students gathered at the ARK AND THE DOVE Retreat House (see picture) to experience more fully their Baptism and Confirmation. After considerable prayer, the Holy Spirit came down upon them there as in a New Pentecost. They experienced the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. This changed their lives dramatically and empowered them to go out and tell others and the Charismatic Renewal began, initially at Catholic Colleges and in local parishes. It quickly spread throughout the world so that today there are over 120 million Catholic Charismatics in the Church today. There were bus trips out to the Ark and the Dove Retreat house. My wife and I went and were so glad that we did. It is definitely a Holy Place (see pictures).

Top: Retreat House chapel where the students gathered to receive the Baptism in the Spirit.  Bottom:  Cross and Spirit placed on Retreat grounds to celebrate the 50th anniversary.  In the back you can see the DOVE house.  The large blue house is the ARK.

The Conference had large gatherings and masses for all those in attendance and included song groups that sung in English, Spanish and Haitian. There were workshops for all three languages to supplement the General Sessions. Msgr. Joseph Malagreca, from Brooklyn emceed the event. Msgr. is fluent in many languages and went back and forth in all the General Sessions. Msrg. Is a good friend of mine who actually prayed over my wife and I for the Baptism of the Holy Spirit while he was a seminarian. Bishop Sam Jacobs, and two other Bishops, were celebrants at the masses. The music and prayers of praise were outstanding.

Three bishops and many priests and deacons celebrated mass.

Another good friend of mine, Eileen Benthal, is a member of the English music group, Living Praise (see picture) that sang at the Conference. Being at the general sessions was like being in Heaven on Earth. Each general session had a keynote speaker. They included, Patti Masfield, Esther Garzon, Ralph Martin, Mario Castaneda, David Mangon and more. Father Dave Pivoka moved so many people with his homilies. Damian Stayne led a healing service where hundreds of people received miraculous healings. In the midst of so many things to do, the Conference planners took time to present a slide show featuring many of the early leaders of the Renewal. They also included, and honored, those who have died. Throughout all of the sessions, the power of God was continually being manifest. God was certainly at work.

Living Praise song group

The breakout sessions included many notable teachers and speakers such as my good friends, John and Theresa Boucher, Mary Healy, Sr. Nancy Kellar, Mary Beth McLanski Green, Vinson Synan, Michelle Moran, Fr. Bob Hogan, Dave Van Vickle, Alan Schreck, Dan and Caroline Dirkes and others. There was something for everyone. I attended a priest and deacon workshop by Bishop Sam Jacobs. He was fantastic.
On Saturday evening we had Eucharistic Adoration and then a Eucharistic procession out of the Conference, through the city streets to a park about a mile and a half away. Thousands of us went in the procession carrying lit candles. We started out of the Conference center going through their wall of water, which reminded me of Moses parting the Red sea (see pictures). It was a very moving experience and a sign of witness to the city.

We started our evening candlelit Eucharistic procession by passing through the walls of water at the Conference Center.  It reminded me of Moses dividing the Red Sea.

The Eucharis was carried under a canopy as we all sang songs of praise.

We closed the conference on Sunday by celebrating the Mass of Pentecost with Bishop Sam Jacobs presiding. The whole weekend was a witness to the Power of the Holy Spirit at work in the Church. I know that it invigorated me. God is so good.

The streets were alive with the sound of music.  This is outside our hotel.  The spirit of joy and praise carried on throughout the hotels and restaurants and city streets.

Several times, Popes have addressed the Catholic Charismatic Renewal. Below you will find some of the most important quotations that have given the Renewal light and strength. ICCRS has published a book with all the messages and addresses which the Popes have given to the CCR: The book, “Then Peter stood up…” – Collection of the Popes’ Addresses to the CCR from its origin to the year 2012.

Pope Paul VI
“How then could this “spiritual renewal” not be “a chance” for the church and for the world? And how, in this case, could one not take all the means to ensure that it remains so? […] Nothing is more necessary for such a world, more and more secularized, than the testimony of this “spiritual renewal”, which we see the Holy Spirit bring about today in the most diverse regions and environments. Its manifestations are varied: deep communion of souls, close contact with God in faithfulness to the commitments undertaken at Baptism, in prayer that is often community prayer, in which each one, expressing himself freely, helps, supports and nourishes the prayer of others, and, at the basis of everything, a personal conviction. This conviction has its source not only in instruction received by faith but also in a certain experience of real life, namely, that without God, man can do nothing, that with him, on the contrary, everything becomes possible.”

Saint John Paul II, Pope
“The Catholic charismatic movement is one of the many fruits of the Second Vatican Council, which, like a new Pentecost, led to an extraordinary flourishing in the Church’s life of groups and movements particularly sensitive to the action of the Spirit. How can we not give thanks for the precious spirituals fruits that the Renewal has produced in the life of the Church and in the lives of so many people? How many lay faithful—men, women, young people, adults and elderly—have been able to experience in their own lives the amazing power of the Spirit and his gifts! How many people have rediscovered faith, the joy of prayer, the power and beauty of the Word of God, translating all this into generous service in the Church’s mission! How many lives have been profoundly changed! For all this today, together with you, I wish to praise and thank the Holy Spirit.”

Pope Benedict XVI
“What we learn in the New Testament on charism, which appeared as visible signs of the coming of the Holy Spirit, is not a historical event of the past, but a reality ever alive. It is the same divine Spirit, soul of the Church, that acts in every age and those mysterious and effective interventions of the Spirit are manifest in our time in a providential way. The Movements and New Communities are like an outpouring of the Holy Spirit in the Church and in contemporary society. We can, therefore, rightly say that one of the positive elements and aspects of the Community of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal is precisely their emphasis on the charisms or gifts of the Holy Spirit and their merit lies in having recalled their topicality in the Church.”

Pope Francis
“You, the charismatic Renewal, have received a great gift from the Lord. Your movement’s birth was willed by the Holy Spirit to be ‘a current of grace in the Church and for the Church’. This is your identity: to be a current of grace. […] You have received the great gift of diversity of charisms, the diversity which becomes harmony in the Holy Spirit, and in service to the Church. […] The Charismatic Renewal is a great force meant to serve the preaching of the Gospel in the joy of the Holy Spirit. […] You, the people of God, the people of the Charismatic Renewal, must be careful not to lose the freedom which the Holy Spirit has given you! […] I expect you to share with everyone in the Church the grace of baptism in the Holy Spirit (a phrase we find in the Acts of the Apostles).

Your grateful Black Robe, in the Sonoran Desert, surrounded by Indians, all friendly – by Deacon Marty McIndoe

Aztec Dancers in front of San Xavier del Bac on the Tohono O’odham San Xavier Indian Reservation

If anyone looks in to the plight of the Native Americans, you can’t help but to see that they were treated very poorly by our people and our government. Even today many of them live in abject poverty. Fortunately the Catholic Church has reached out to help in so many different ways. One of the Catholic organizations that does this is Trinity Missions. My wife and I have supported Trinity Missions for many years. We receive their correspondence and keep up with what they do. They basically go out to the poor and abandoned (not just Native Americans) in 7 different countries. They have 39 permanent missions with about 120 priests, deacons, novices and brothers ministering to people in their need. They always go at the invitation of the local bishop and try to train the people they serve to be filled with apostolic zeal to help spread the good news. Over the years I have become good friends with one of their priests and I would like to share a few things about him so you can get a personal idea of what Trinity Missions does.
I first met Father Abram Dono in a strange, but providential way. In the early 80’s I began attending the Catholic Charismatic Priests and Deacons Conference held at the Franciscan University of Steubenville. At one of these meetings, I was in a break out group of about 12 men. Most of them were priests, one was an Abbot and one was a Bishop. I was the only deacon in the group. We began by introducing our selves by name and the diocese we were from. Fr. Abram was in the group and he was one of the first to introduce himself. When he did, I was happy to hear that he was a Trinity Missionary since I had been a benefactor of Trinity Missions. I was also intrigued to hear that he was working with the poor and Indians in Mississippi . I introduced myself as deacon Marty from the Diocese of Rockville Centre. At that point Fr. Abram asked me if I was, by any chance, the deacon Marty from Patchogue. When I told him that I was, he said to me that he had heard that I was a great preacher. This really floored me. The other Priests and Bishop in the room looked surprised. I asked myself how some missionary living in the Deep South could possibly hear about me. I couldn’t wait for the group to end so I could talk to Father Abram.
It turned out that Father Abram had grown up in my parish of St. Francis de Sales in Patchogue and that his mom and dad and brother and sister still lived there. He told me that they had written him mentioning the new deacon and how they enjoyed my homilies. I couldn’t help to smile about how God had put Father Abram and I together in a group of 12 from about 1200 priests and deacons at this conference. God is so good. This started a great friendship that we have right up through today. Father Abram visits our parish for a couple of weeks each summer and I so look forward to seeing him. He also sends regular letters telling about what goes on at his mission in Indian territory in Arizona. His letters are always informative and fun to read, filled with corny jokes.
In 2016 my wife and I went to visit Father Abram at his mission in Arizona. He actually services about 7 different parishes in different Indian reservations. He took us to each reservation. There is no doubt that the Native Americans there live in poverty. I was so very impressed with their faith and their welcoming spirit. When I watched Father Abram interact with them, I could see the great love he had for his people. Most of the churches were primarily open air with dirt floors. There weren’t any fancy decorations or statues, but what was there was faith building. The people went out of their way to welcome us. In the midst of the Sonora desert, near Tucson Arizona, you could feel the strength of the Church at work. Father Abram took us to San Xavier del Bac, and old church built by the Spanish on the Tohono O’odham San Xavier Indian Reservation. The original mission was founded by Jesuits in 1692. The current structure was started in 1756. Due to political reasons, the Jesuits were forced to leave this territory in 1767 by the King of Spain. In 1776 Franciscans came to run the mission. They left around 1843 and the area suffered from a loss of clergy for many years. The Franciscans told the Indians that since priests were not there they would not have the Eucharist, but would still have the Saints with them. These Native Americans embraced the Saints and there is a great devotion to them to this present day (see the picture below). Trinity Missions have been ministering to the Native Americans with all the Sacraments and education that most parishes would have. Father Abram lives with two other Trinity Missionaries in a very simple home on one of the reservations. Our stay with him (we stayed in a nearby motel) was most enjoyable. His main parish near his home is St. Kateri Tekawitha.
It is so important for us to realize that the Church does a tremendous job of reaching out to the poor and marginalized. Trinity Missions does this so very well. Please check them out at their website, www.trinitymissions.org. If you wish to make donations directly to Fr. Abram’s mission with 7 Indian Reservations, send to: Father Abram Dono, S.T., St. Kateri Tekakwitha, 101 W. 31st St., Tucson AZ 85713. If you do this, you too can receive his interesting letters filled with corny jokes.
Father Abram always signs his letters, “Your grateful Black Robe, in the Sonoran Desert, surrounded by Indians, all friendly”. He is gift from God.

Martha and I and Fr. Abram Dono at one of the reservation churches.  You can see how much they love the Saints and love to dress them up.

Lopsided Relationships by A.J. Avila

Lopsided Relationships by A.J. Avila at ajavilanovels

There’s an old saying that you have to kiss a lot of frogs before you get your Prince Charming.

That was certainly the case for me. One young man, with whom I had a summer romance, had to have everything his way. And I mean everything. A sandwich, for example, had to be made to his exact specifications: “First the mayonnaise, then the lettuce, then the meat, then the tomato, in that order only.” If the sandwich had all the same ingredients but the mayonnaise was next to the tomato, he absolutely refused to eat it.

This attitude of his drastically affected our relationship. Any behavior of mine that wasn’t completely up to his standards was cause for criticism. For example, he told me how rude I was for phoning him while he was watching television – as if I could have known what he was doing while I was dialing. Trust me, nothing makes a girl feel more special than being told talking to her is not as desirable as watching reruns of The Munsters.

One night, at the end of our date, we arrived at my home, only to find two police cruisers, their red and blue lights flashing, parked at my house. Desperate to find out if my family was okay, I jumped from his car and ran inside. Fortunately, it turned out the police had overreacted to my mother’s complaint about a neighbor. But would you believe my boyfriend griped that I hadn’t kissed him goodnight first? In fact, he told me, I should have spent at least five minutes making out with him before checking on my family.

The last straw was what he said when he was leaving at the end of summer to go back to college. He told me that if I wanted to hear from him, I needed to mail him a self-addressed, stamped envelope “because it’s too much work to get an envelope and a stamp together.” Guess I wasn’t worth even that much to him.

[SIDENOTE: Don’t you occasionally wish you could go back in time with the perfect retort? Only years later did it occur to me that I should have responded with “You’re right. It’s too much work. I don’t think I can manage it.”

If you’re wondering why I put up with such abuse for an entire summer, I can only say that like many young women, I was desperate to be loved. I was willing to endure an awful lot of bad for the little scraps of good I was getting. People do this far more than they realize. Consider: who hasn’t spent half an hour in the hot sun waiting in line for an amusement park ride that lasts just a few minutes? At the time the trade-off seems worth it.

Anyway, when I thought back on this relationship, it got me thinking about how we sometimes treat God the way this young man treated me. Instead of saying “Thy will be done” how often will we “eat the sandwich” only if it’s made exactly the way we want it? How many times do we tell God “Don’t bother me right now. I’d rather watch an inane television show” instead of communicating with Him through prayer? And, worst of all, how often do we insist that God kowtow to us by doing all the work of our relationship with Him while we just sit back and reap the benefits?

I know I’m often guilty of such behavior.

My relationship with God is already far too lopsided for me not to put into it the effort that I should.

In case you’re wondering whatever happened to my ex-boyfriend, I managed to track him down on Facebook. I saw that, not only is he still single, but the first post I read by him was a complaint about women.

Thank goodness I had enough sense to break up with him.

And thank goodness that, despite everything, God hasn’t broken up with me.