Sunday, March 29, 2015

Nourishment-Raw food


“Quality will always win out over quantity.”

The role of nutrition has become severely diminished in most of our lives.
Pressures and stresses — social, work-related, family and otherwise — have taken precedence, reducing the importance of food quality. When pondering
the role nutrients play in the maintenance and preservation of humankind, it becomes abundantly evident that without uniformly prudent choices we suffer as a whole. When an individual goes many weeks without consuming proper fare, they actually die. The critical nature of nutrition is crystallized in this scenario. If we halfheartedly choose things to chew and swallow, we enter a mode of partial starvation, making us vulnerable to a wide variety of diseases.

Malnourishment is notorious for manifesting everything from scurvy to pellagra, but it can cause even greater damage. There have long been many reports from renowned universities and government organizations stating: “Malnutrition is a major cause of catastrophic diseases such as cancer and lifestyle-related concerns like cardiovascular and diabetic disorders.”

Couple the pressures of modern living with the addictive qualities of staple “comfort foods” — sweet, caffeinated drinks and heavily processed foods loaded with sugar and animal fats — and it is no wonder so many are hooked on the standard Western diet. Considering the toxic burden of such poor food choices, it is also no wonder our bodies are on the way to ruin.

Even the now-abundant “nutrition stores” are purveyors of countless pseudo health foods. (see this issue’s Raw Fraud article on page 22 for specific examples). These products are based more on slick marketing than health-building nourishment. Food industry executives prey on prevailing addictions to fats and sugars by changing the names of these familiar substances on the ingredient lists of their product offerings. There seem to be endless ways to profit from this sort of trickery. The consumers of these products are “scratching an old itch” without even knowing it. They feel justified to indulge in these items because they are “organic,” “raw” or “natural.” These buzzwords seem to be green lights for the subconscious. If people are truly honest with themselves they will realize something that tastes just like a familiar junk food is probably not health-building, regardless of whether it says “organic & raw.”
Despite these shady practices, and the addictive tendencies they serve, there is an ever-growing sector of humanity that wants to get back to truth and the basics. A mentor once told me, “If you look at your plate at the end of your meal and determine how soiled it is, there is no better indicator as to the quality of what you have just consumed.”

If your choice is raw vegetables, sprouts, fruits, and whole raw nuts and seeds, you practically do not have to clean the china. Once cooked, though, even these healthy foods will stain your plate. Their delicate health-building qualities quickly diminish with the heat of cooking. Boiling, poaching, baking, frying, sautéing — any of these processes will result in a messy plate and an even larger mess for your digestive system to clean up.

Unfortunately, even those who attempt to be mindful in the process of choosing food, quite often get caught up in philosophy and theology surrounding cuisine. Too often, they hear, “Cooking makes it easier to digest. More nutrients are created after heating. Blending makes it more digestible.” These misguided notions obfuscate the physics that govern nutrition and have no bearing on reality. Every creature on earth except humans — and the animals we have domesticated and displaced — naturally eats a 100% raw food diet.

For more than half a century, here at Hippocrates Health Institute we
have placed hundreds of thousands of people on a raw living food program.
We have conducted clinical research on the health of our guests and life-long follow-ups on their progress.

From decades of studies, we have scientifically validated and reconfirmed the power of consuming raw plant food. More often than not, disease is prevented and eliminated, and premature aging halted through our signature Life Change Program, largely due to the raw, plant-based diet we prescribe. There is an ever-increasing body of biological evidence supporting and confirming what we have discovered in our human clinical trials.

There are those who prefer to leave this proven reality for a fantasy world based upon half-baked food notions. This tendency to withdraw from truth is based chiefly on addiction and self-loathing. Through the internationally renowned work conducted at Hippocrates and decades of experience, it has become clear to me that the underlying cause for less- than-desirable food choices is lack of self-respect. Of course, this can easily be blamed upon the pervasive advertising of processed food or the ethnic ties you have to familiar fare or even the so-called social norms of fast food consumption. At the end of the day, the question you are faced with is that of how much you like yourself.
Obesity, anorexia, bulimia and purging often morph into diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer. These are all symptoms of the suffering of a lost humanity lacking virtue or respect.

This deviation is further evidenced by the condition of the planet on which we reside. Through abusing ourselves, we consequently abuse our environment. From littered roadways to factories pouring vile waste into our atmosphere to oceans that will soon have more oil platforms than fish, we are surrounded by signs marking the disparity between a fulfilling existence and a troubled life.

Nourishment begins with finding your purpose, relentlessly pursuing it and finally soaking up the passion it provides. This ethos manifests in strong and capable people who will not concede to second best. These individuals see life as an opportunity to progress rather than a sentence to toil through. Fueling your very cells with fresh, organic, plant-based, living foods is an essential process for those who wish to raise themselves from the ashes of an ill humanity.

With distrust at the helm of the human psyche, it is no wonder that confusion and sadness reign supreme. When people doubt themselves, they doubt all. When people make conscious and pure choices, they develop self-respect and internal trust that spreads among those they touch. It is time we become serious about food. The basis of this transformation is realizing that food is not a recreational activity. Our kitchens should be our fueling stations, not our amusement parks. When individuals embrace this knowledge and utilize the wisdom of correct cuisine, they spread that goodness from themselves to the very earth they live on. Thriving health replaces disease; community gardens supplant toxic pollution; heightened awareness supersedes confusion and sadness; a new way of life blossoms from the bold, yet simple, act of proper food selection.

From this moment on, ask yourself this viable question every day: “Do I deserve the best nourishment available?” Until the answer is a consistent and constant, “yes,” keep pursuing a higher quality avenue of change. Combine this with the relevant tools of self-exploration and improvement of mind-set. This, and only this, will lead you to a full, healthy and happy life, free of discontent and disease.

The three most nourishing varieties of food on the planet are all green foods.
The most nourishing food on land is leafy sprouts.
The most nourishing from fresh water is algae.
The most nourishing food from the sea, of course, is sea vegetables.
Sprouts: buckwheat, fava bean greens, peas, sunflower, sweet potato greens, wheatgrass, etc.
Algae: blue-green, chlorella
Sea vegetables: arame, dulse, hijiki, nori, Pacific or Atlantic kelp, etc.

By Brian Clement Ph.D., L.N.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Can Christianity Survive the Sexual Revolution?

Can Christianity Survive the Sexual Revolution?

Police Chief on UVA false rape charge
When was the last time anyone heard a sermon that condemned the evils of fornication, or adultery, or cohabitation, or divorce, or bearing children outside wedlock (let alone homosexuality)? Controlling these sins is a core Christian value. At one time a preacher could be expected to devote extended attention to these sins. And he could be expected to condemn them unequivocally. Yet today, even as the social and economic fallout from precisely these practices becomes ever more glaring and serious, pastors and priests seem ever more determined to avoid discussing them.
Of course, the dowdy old parson long ago became the stuff of caricature, ranting on about unspecified “wickedness.” And since no pastor wants to be seen as old-fashioned, and most want to be modern and appeal to the ubiquitous cult of youth, one never hears much today about the sins of illicit sex. Indeed, churches that consider themselves highly orthodox or biblical or traditional or conservative or evangelical—those described by themselves and others as “fundamentalist”—even these churches avoid the problem of runaway sexual freedom. Most Christian magazines and newspapers do not publish articles about it and gatherings of clergy do not discuss how to control it. No church today would dream of admonishing or reproving, let alone excommunicating a member because of sexual misconduct.
Yet ever more conspicuously, it is precisely these sins that are wreaking havoc throughout our society.
All around us we can see—if we are willing to open our eyes—the social consequences of uncontrolled sex. The sexual decadence of popular culture—in music, television, and videos—is only the most obvious manifestation, providing material for endless and often pointless moralizing.
But beyond the lamenting and bemoaning are consequences that are concrete and serious. The vast proliferation of single-parent homes is having devastating consequences on our society, economy, and politics. The epidemics of cohabitation and runaway divorce have left millions of fatherless children on the exploding welfare and foster care rolls and spread crime and substance abuse and truancy throughout our communities. These problems are now bankrupting taxpayers and future generations with a “financial crisis” that is attributable almost in its entirety to welfare spending and its multiplier effects in crime and social anomie, while driving governments to ever more authoritarian measures to slake their insatiable thirst for revenue.
Our universities and schools have become little more than orgies, with a “hook-up” culture that dominates campus life almost to the exclusion of learning. Indeed, it now dominates the learning too, with indoctrination in not only sex education but sexual political ideology through faux-disciplines like “women’s studies,” and “queer studies,” that recast all knowledge as sexual-political grievances.
The tyrannical side of this orgiastic culture is now becoming too glaring to ignore, despite years of denial. For the inevitable corollary to licentious indulgence is authoritarianism. This is now plainly manifested in a political agenda pushed by the same sexual radicals who promote the hook-up culture: Young men are now routinely railroaded before campus kangaroo courts on obviously fabricated accusations of “rape,” “sexual assault,” “sexual harassment,” “sexual misconduct” (no clear distinctions separate these vague terms), sexual this and sexual that. In the regular courts, men are imprisoned for decades on rape accusations that are known to be false. Parents regularly lose their children through spurious accusations of “child abuse” that are never proven in any court. Fathers are incarcerated without trial by divorce courts for patently trumped-up accusations of “domestic violence,” or for simply trying to see their own children, or for criticizing judges.
The response of the churches to all this has been silence. Christians, by and large, do not know what to make of this authoritarianism. They are afraid to question accusations of sex crimes, but they also know that this agenda is not theirs. Terrified of being seen to defend “rapists,” “child abusers,” “wife beaters,” and “deadbeat dads,” the church sits mute in the face of what is claimed to be a vast epidemic of sex crimes. Tempted to play it safe by perfunctorily endorsing the purveyors of the new indulgence, the church sides with falsehood against truth.
Now in turn, Christians find themselves being accused of “hatred” and “bigotry” and threatened with punishment for criticizing the homosexual agenda by the same lobby of radicals. As Martin Niemoeller warned of a similar ideology, no one speaks out for us because we did not speak out for others.
Truly diabolical is how this neglect turns back on us and corrupts us too. Because we fail to control the sin, the sin controls us. By refusing to confront the sin on God’s terms, and instead relabeling it with terms we find easier and safer to confront, we allow the sin to enlist us as its agents. This takes the form of cheap moralizing and self-righteous posturing: refusing to confront the guilty, we join witch hunts against the innocent.
For what the radicals have done is to redefine sin. Rather than the biblical definition set forth in clear biblical language, we now have ideologically redefined, government-approved definitions formulated in politicized jargon. Sexual indulgence is no longer a sin against God; it is now a crime against the leviathan state.
Pastors nowadays are much more likely to couch sexual sins in the form that has been redefined and politicized by radical secular ideology. To disguise their own irrelevance, they join the mob to register their politically correct outrage at “sexual harassment” and “domestic violence.” (I have never heard a pastor preach at any length against the “hook-up” culture, but they will endorse the fabricated and discredited feminist claims of a “rape culture,” only to leave themselves looking foolish when the charges invariably prove false.)
Pastors who parrot this jargon cannot possibly know what these terms mean, because no one knows what they mean. I have been studying them for two decades and published articles on these topics in refereed academic journals, and I do not know what they mean, because it is precisely the purpose of these terms to be so vague as to mean anything. They are devised intentionally to circumvent the clear language that the law uses to define criminal assault and safeguard the innocent with vagaries whose only possible purpose is to criminalize heterosexual men and Christians with flexible accusations that no one really understands but everyone is terrified to question.
By contrast, pastors should know precisely what constitutes fornication and adultery, because the Bible tells them. But it is safer to preach about “sexual harassment” than about fornication, because clergy are often more frightened of feminists and functionaries than they are of God.
Thus Christian faith itself is gradually transformed from theology and morality into political ideology. “Fornication” and “adultery” were biblically defined sins committed by two people and punished by God and the moral sanctions of the community. “Sexual harassment” and “sexual abuse” are quasi-crimes committed only by the man and punished by the state gendarmerie. The preachers know whom it is safe to criticize.
The effect is to transform them from preachers of God’s Word into adjunct political prosecutors.
Christian scholars churn out pointless tracts on ever more esoteric points of theology and philosophy. But the church’s crisis today is not imprecise or unsound doctrine. The church’s failing now is lacking the courage to apply its doctrine in the face of a defiant and politicized sexual immorality.
Why do pastors now evade the basic sins that plague every congregation and the most critical sins that threaten to overwhelm our society? Why do they stand mute at the very suggestion that they should do so or mumble unconvincing excuses and evasive weasel words, before nervously changing the subject or walking away? (Try it.)
The answer is that they are frightened. No pastor or priest wants to touch the subject of sexual sin, because it will anger the liberal women who control most congregations. This is not meant as condemnation; simply a recognition of reality. The same dynamic produces similar silence from our other watchdogs and gadflies: journalists and university faculty members.
Sexual freedom is the inevitable corollary to the feminization of the church because radicals understand that sexual freedom transfers power to those who can use a sexual identity as leverage: politicized women and homosexuals. “My generation let all of this nonsense of sexual confusion, radical feminism, and the breakdown of the family go on, not realizing that we … have gravely wounded the current generations,” says Cardinal Leo Burke. “The Church has not effectively reacted to these destructive cultural forces” and has instead “become too influenced by radical feminism.”
And the first casualty of feminization is courage, the courage that is demanded foremost of men, including clergy. This is why Christian faith and radical sexual ideology are today on a direct collision course, and why the radicals believe Christian faith must lose.
In The American Conservative, Rod Dreher openly questions whether Western Christianity itself can survive the revolution in sexuality, as does the former Archbishop of Canterbury in the Daily Telegraph. The question demands an answer one way or the other.
We need to ask what remains that is still Christian not only about Western institutions—that seems clear—but about the rest of us.
If we have lost our will to enforce sexual morality in our congregations, if pastors will not defend the very marriages that they themselves have consecrated—and the rest of us the marriages we ourselves have witnessed—against involuntary divorce or enforce the discipline on cohabiting couples, then in what sense does Christian faith still have any practical meaning in our common lives? We complain that Christianity is being “banished from the public square,” but we can hardly be surprised when we ourselves have lost the stomach to defend our own parishioners, congregations, and communities against violations of God’s law, whether emanating from our ecclesiastical or secular polities.
For the rest of us are no more courageous than the clergy. Few of us will express moral disapproval when we find friends cohabiting or committing adultery or inflicting unilateral, involuntary divorce on their spouses and children. And therefore few of us speak out when the state gendarmerie, filling the vacuum that we have left, imposes the order that we refuse to enforce in its own way, by taking away our brothers and sisters in handcuffs.
“Religion is central to sexual regulation in almost all societies,” writes homosexualist scholar Dennis Altman. “Indeed, it may well be that the primary social function of religion is to control sexuality.” Abdicating this responsibility to regulate it in the name of God leaves us vulnerable not only to social anomie, but also to those who will step in and regulate it for their own purposes, imposing criminal penalties and rationalizing their measures by invoking various alternative, usually politicized theologies. “Ironically, those countries which rejected religion in the name of Communism tended to adopt their own version of sexual puritanism, which often matched those of the religions they assailed.” Today’s sexual revolutionaries are simply refining the Bolsheviks’ experiment.
Perhaps it is time that we have the courage to admit that the dowdy old parson who preached against illicit sex was a wise and sensible man all along and a more faithful Christian than those of us who made endless fun of him. Perhaps we should start encouraging the self-control that he demanded and the courage he displayed. Perhaps it is also time to regain some respect for the wisdom of elders and forsake the Pinocchio world where youth (along with its urges) is worshipped as an achievement in itself, while elders, whom the Bible sets as authority figures, are expected to hold their tongues.
Perhaps it is also time to discard the politically obligatory weasel words (“No one wants to return to the bad old days when…”) and accept that open-ended sexual freedom puts us on a trajectory that will only spread chaos, ruin more lives, destroy our freedom, and weaken our civilization, until we summon the courage to speak the truth.
In short, perhaps it is time to accept that, here too, the church does not have to change with the times and that it needs to be the “rock” that Christ mandated it to be.

Editor’s note: The image above depicts the March 23, 2015 press conference of the Charlottesville police chief announcing that their investigation found no evidence to support the allegation of a gang rape at a University of Virginia fraternity house reported in the Rolling Stone magazine last year.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Are Dolce and Gabbana truly Catholic?

Are Dolce and Gabbana truly Catholic?

Fashion designers Domenico Dolce, right, and Stefano Gabbana are facing criticism after Dolce's comments about "synthetic babies" drew the ire of many and prompted Elton John to call for a boycott of their designs. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)
By The Rev. Dwight Longenecker
Crux contributor March 18, 2015
Italian fashion designers Dolce&Gabbana waded into a gay rights hurricane last week by criticizing same sex marriage and “designer babies.” The storm started when Stefano Gabbana said in an interview with Italy’s Panorama magazine, “We oppose gay adoptions. The only family is the traditional one. No chemical offsprings and rented uterus: life has a natural flow, there are things that should not be changed.” Domenico Dolce added, “You are born to a mother and a father — or at least that’s how it should be. I call the children of chemistry, synthetic children. Rented uterus, semen chosen from a catalog.”
Singer Elton John, who used IVF technology to get two sons with his partner David Furnish, was deeply offended and fired off a response:
“How dare you refer to my beautiful children as ‘synthetic’. And shame on you for wagging your judgmental little fingers at IVF — a miracle that has allowed legions of loving people, both straight and gay, to fulfill their dream of having children.”
The pop star went on to say he would never wear Dolce&Gabbana creations again, and called for a boycott.
Gabbana fired back, calling Elton John a fascist and ranting:
“I didn’t expect this … coming from someone whom I considered, and I stress ‘considered,’ an intelligent person like Elton John … you preach understanding, tolerance and then you attack others? Only because someone has a different opinion? Is this a democratic or enlightened way of thinking? This is ignorance, because he ignores the fact that others might have a different opinion and that theirs is as worthy of respect as his.”
The sight of aging gay men publicly feuding has set the gossip columns afire. Trendy celebrities have gasped in horror at the non-PC opinions of Dolce and Gabbana, both of whom are gay, while rallying to defend Elton John and David Furnish.
The sizzling feud has sparked some genuine fireworks. But can we find more than hysteria in the histrionics? Is there light as well as heat in the pyrotechnics?
The fact of the matter is, the entire human race is reeling from the most revolutionary inventions history has ever seen. Through modern reproductive technology, we have learned how to flip the switch on the baby machine. With artificial contraception, sterilization, and abortion we turn babies off. With in vitro fertilization, artificial insemination, and surrogacy we turn the baby machine on. Never before have we had the technology to control conception with such awe-inspiring omnipotence.
A bomb has been detonated in the middle of the traditional family, and reproductive technology has been the fuse.
The clash between Elton John and Dolce&Gabbana is a public conflict that reflects millions of head-scratching, heartbreaking dilemmas in families around the world. Because of the reproductive choices available, more sexual choices are available and, as a result, ordinary men and women are faced with extraordinarily complex ethical situations that our parents and grandparents could never have imagined.
Scarcely a month goes by in which an ordinary parishioner does not seek me out for advice about a mind bogglingly difficult moral dilemma:
  • Here, a sweet old Mass-going widow asks if she should attend her lesbian granddaughter’s wedding. There, a woman in her 50s can’t decide whether to support the christening of her gay brother’s IVF-conceived newborn.
  • Here, a couple — rendered infertile because of artificial contraception gone wrong, ask if they should try IVF. There, a friend tells me, with more bewilderment than anger, how his teenaged son masturbated to provide the sperm for the artificial insemination of his lesbian daughter’s partner.
  • Here, a couple who are pillars of the church tell me in an offhand way how they have paid for an abortion for their son’s girlfriend. There, a fellow priest announces to his congregation that he’s attending a gay wedding to “support” his friends.
At a recent seminar on the family, I asked participants to raise their hands if, in their extended family, they were facing difficult decisions relating to homosexuality, same-sex marriage, and reproductive technology. Nearly every hand went up. Every pastor with intelligence and compassion admits that the situation is nearly impossible. How does one welcome all to Christ’s family while still upholding the standards of Christian marriage and family life? In the face of all these situations, do I simply shrug and say, “Who am I to judge?”
Because of reproductive technologies, everything that once seemed secure is shifting, dissolving, and falling away. The only thing various Christians can seem to agree about is that they disagree. In the face of the daunting complexity of the pastoral situations, and without a clear teaching authority, the majority of Christian denominations have, for the most part, thrown down their weapons and fled the battlefield. Most non-Catholic pastors adopt a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy or, recognizing that they have no definitive answers, throw up their hands and admit that the family game is now a free-for-all.
But it doesn’t have to be. While admitting there are immense pastoral difficulties, the Catholic Church offers objective, authoritative answers to these most difficult questions:
  • Basing her teaching in both natural law and divine revelation, the Church insists that true marriage can take place only between a man and a woman.
  • Catholic teaching prohibits artificial contraception, sterilization, and abortion.
  • It also vetoes in vitro fertilization, artificial insemination, and surrogate motherhood.
The Church promulgates these teachings for the sake of the child — insisting that a human being is more than the product of a laboratory procedure, and instead has the right to be conceived in the marital embrace of his parents and carried in the womb of his natural mother.
This is because the sexual act itself has meaning. It is not simply for self-gratification. By its very nature, it has two components — the unitive and the procreative — which are naturally united. To willfully separate the procreative and unitive aspects is to go against the natural order.
Artificial reproductive technologies raise other issues important to the human race. IVF and artificial insemination makes the child a commodity, and makes doctors, technicians, and even business people part of the conception process. Furthermore, the eggs or sperm may be provided by a third-party donor rather than the natural mother or father. Finally, most of the fertilized embryos that are frozen indefinitely for later implantation end up being used for research or are discarded. The end result is a dehumanized, mechanical process for the creation of human life.
Catholic prohibitions on sexual matters are too often perceived only in negative terms. It should be remembered that Catholic teaching, first and foremost, upholds the dignity of each person and the beauty and sacredness of marriage and family life. The Church is opposed, therefore, to anything that damages the fragile and precious life of the individual and the family. The Church recognizes the attraction of reproductive technologies and the profound pastoral complexities of individual cases; nevertheless, she insists on the high ideal of that which is universally human, historical, and natural.
While acknowledging the advantages that reproductive technologies might bring to individual families, the Catholic Church would be remiss not to point out the disadvantages and dangers to the whole human family. Taking the widest perspective, she reminds us that reproductive technology is only one aspect of a medical technology that is tinkering with the very fabric of humanity itself. Genetic engineering, sex-selection abortion, and the elimination of “defective” fetuses are stepping stones to wider acceptance of eugenics, assisted suicide, and enforced euthanasia.
In short, when we interfere with the reproductive process we interfere with humanity. When we play with the creation of life, the doctors become God, and then we must ask whether we trust the doctors with the decisions of life and death that ultimately affect us all.
Are Dolce and Gabbana truly Catholic? Although they have used graphic and negative language, they have expressed the Catholic view.
Put more positively, Catholics continue to affirm the goodness of the natural family. We affirm the lifelong union between one man and one woman because that is the most psychologically and socially secure environment for a child to be nurtured and thrive. We are therefore against anything that breaks this sacred and fragile union.
Even if there are benefits and blessings to individuals through modern reproductive technologies, for the sake of the greater good and the future of the human race, we draw back. Although we cannot prohibit, we can protect; and while we may not disallow, we have every right to disapprove.

The Rev. Dwight Longenecker is the parish priest of Our Lady of the Rosary Church in Greenville, SC. Read more by him at his website and blog. His latest book is "Slubgrip Instructs: Fifty Days with the Devil"More

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Fr. John Riccardo's Amazing Testimony

The Day God Barged Into My Life: Fr. John Riccardo's Amazing Testimony - Aleteia

My first memory is of the crucifix in my boyhood parish, Holy Name in Birmingham, Michigan. I do not know how old I was, but I knew Jesus had died for me and my whole life was suppose to be a response to this. This is certainly not a typical first memory but my family was anything but typical.  My father, John, was the Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of the Board for the Chrysler Corporation, and also a devout Catholic.  
My father proved that religion was not just a crutch for the weak. Every night he was on his knees before he went to bed, and even during his frequent travels he went to daily Mass.  My mother, Thelma, was initially a Methodist, but she accompanied us to Mass long before her eventual conversion to the Catholic faith.  
I was the youngest of five children and my very existence occurred against the advice of my mother's doctor, because of her painful and crippling back condition.  My mom later told me that I was a gift to her and my father, and in turn, they gave me back to God. 
During my childhood,  my prayers centered around my mother's bad back. Endless treatments failed to alleviate her constant pain.  When I was thirteen, one of my sisters called our mother to tell her she had just come from a charismatic prayer meeting and someone had sensed that God wanted to cure someone with a bad back.  My sister was convinced it would be our mother.   
Within a month, mom was playing tennis — completely healed — although there was no medical reason for the pain to be gone. Two years later, she formally converted to the Catholic faith. 
Growing up in this home of prayer and miracles gave me a strong anchor.  Yet, ironically, as a teenager, I began to hide my faith. I never stopped praying, but I began to live a life as one leading to hell. I no longer went to confession and by the time I attended college at University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, my attendance at Mass was sporadic. It wasn't enjoyable to hear the Gospel when I was not living a holy life. 
Not until my junior year in college, in 1986, did my life change. I began connecting with a group of young men for basketball games who were part of an ecumenical Christian brotherhood outreach group.  I saw men my own age who were normal guys but really knew God and were not afraid to talk about it. I began to examine my life and went through a conversion.  At this time, I  broke off a serious romantic attachment, leaving me free to concentrate on Christian outreach to university students.   
Upon graduation, armed with a degree in English and communications, I interviewed for jobs in the automotive industry.   It soon became clear to me that this was not the life God intended for me. So while trying to find his niche in the world, I accepted a job baking bread. With great trepidation, I drove home to tell my father of my plans to bake bread. I thought my dad would be disappointed. Instead, he told me he would be thrilled with whatever I chose to do in life  even if I wanted to be a priest. I assured him that would never happen.
Driving back to Ann Arbor that day, tears streamed down my face as I felt my life was moving beyond my own control. I wanted to follow Jesus, but as yet, I was unclear where that led. What I was suddenly clear on, however, was that following Jesus was not romantic; that the cross is heavy.  I realized I was not the one in control.
As I cried, the words to a Christian song, "God's Own Fool"  played on my car stereo.  "...So come lose your life for a carpenter's son, for a madman who died for a dream.  And you'll have the faith His first followers had and you'll feel the weight of the beam." 
At that very moment,  I had an actual vision of our Lord in my car.  He sat next to me.  It was clear that it was Him.  I was still crying.  He reached across the seat and dug his right hand into my chest and said, "John these are all your dreams, goals and desires and everything you want to do with your life." He withdrew His hand and pulled everything out and motioned throwing it all out the window.  
I said, "Lord, that's my life you just threw out the window." Jesus then said, "John, I'm going to give you my dream, my goal, my desire and what I want you to do with your life." And then He was gone. I felt panicked. This was so personal.  Still, I did not know what God had planned for me.  For the next three years, I did Christian outreach with university students. For a time I seriously considered joining a Christian brotherhood of non-denominational men, but ultimately decided it was not for me.  
By the time I was twenty-five, I took a job working in Ohio for Ford Motor Company in an account management training program. I was dating again and had decided to apply to graduate school. During this time, while reading his Bible one day, I came across this passage in Matthew: "Some are incapable of marriage because they were born so; some, because they were made so by others; some, because they have renounced marriage for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Whoever can accept this ought to accept it." 
Something stirred within me.  I thought, "Oh nuts!  I think I'm suppose to do this." I almost threw my Bible on the ground. In frustration, I cried out to God, "Lord, I don't get it.  I thought of marriage once, that didn't fit; the brotherhood didn't fit, I started dating again, that didn't fit..." 
Suddenly, I heard a clear voice speaking to me:  "John, I'm inviting you to live single and to do it as a priest."  Although the voice would not have been audible to another, it was certainly not my own voice — I had never even considered the priesthood. 
I responded, "Lord, if that's what you want me to do, then you better give me a desire for it, because I don't have it."  By the fifth day, I longed to know more about the priesthood.  

It was late December in 1990 when I contacted the vocation director of Sacred Heart Major seminary in Detroit.  I had to wait until the next school year to be admitted, but in the meantime I could take a few classes. As I walked into the building for the first time, a wave of peace washed over me.  I thought, "I'm finally home."  I knew on my end, with full clarity, that this was what God was calling me to. This was why I was made, which is an amazing thing to grasp.
After a year-and-a-half at Sacred Heart Seminary, I was asked to go to finish my theological studies in Rome.  Before final admission to the North American College, I needed a physical.  Although in excellent physical condition and only twenty-six,  testing indicated possible heart irregularities. A stress test was scheduled. After studying the results, the cardiologist questioned me about any severe childhood illnesses I may have had. There had been high fevers and seizures but nothing more.  
"No, that couldn't have done it," the doctor determined. He told me that I had unexplainable scar tissue on my heart.  The prognosis was that it was nothing to be concerned about but it could occasionally cause shortness of breath.   
I had been in Rome for a month when I was in chapel one day meditating on the three pivotal moments in my life:  my first memory of the crucifix, the vision in the car, and the invitation to be a priest. It was at that moment when it became clear to me, where the scar tissue on my heart had come from. I felt like God told me, "The scar tissue is from my hand." 
Often, during the Mass, at the moment of consecration, when I lift the bread and wine and it becomes the Body and Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ, I often lose my breath and feel as if my heart is being squeezed. It is a reminder to me of the day God barged into my life, and brought me to the joy of the priesthood. 

  Fr. John Riccardo  was ordained a priest of the Archdiocese of Detroit in 1996.  He is now pastor at Our Lady of Good Counsel in Plymouth, MI and hosts the program "Christ is the Answer" on Ave Maria Radio.  It is a catechical program of parish and Theology on Tap teachings.  Podcasts of his homilies and talks can also be found on iTunes. This story was originally published in  Amazing Grace for the Catholic Heart.

Gender Theory

The Emperor’s New Gender - Aleteia

“The Church and the heresies always used to fight about words, because they are the only thing worth fighting about.” G. K. Chesterton, The Ball and the Cross.

When Pope Francis listed Gender Theory among the most destructive threats we face today, many people had no idea what he was talking about. 

"Gender" used to be a perfectly respectable word – a grammatical term. In English some pronouns have gender: masculine, feminine or neuter. Living things, on the other hand, are categorized by sex: male or female. Recently, however, on forms rather than being asked for our sex, we are asked for our gender. The public did not object, probably assuming "gender" is just a genteel synonym for "sex," since "sex" can also mean "sexual intercourse." However, sex and gender are not interchangeable. We may speak of people "having sex," but we do not describe this as "having gender."

Most of the public were unaware that in the 1950’s gender was given another meaning. "Gender" is now used to describe one’s personal identification with a particular sex. "Sex" was reduced to the biological reality. According to Gender Theory: gender is not simply the natural expression of and inexorably linked to sex, but socially constructed; gender roles, imposed by oppressive cultures, can and should be changed; gender doesn’t have to match sex; gender is not limited to the male/female binary and can change over time; there are an unlimited number of genders; what appear to be natural differences between the sexes are oppressive stereotypes. To even mention the possibility that in some cases, sex difference should matter, is to open yourself to accusations of sexism. Pope Francis is quite correct when he points out the dangers of Gender Theory. It is a frontal attack on reality.

Gender theory owes a lot to the notorious John Money. While employed at Johns Hopkins, Money promoted a protocol for treating baby boys with severely damaged genitals. Surgeons were encouraged to amputate any remaining male parts and tell the parents to raise the boy as a girl. The parents were assured that the boy-to-girl would accept the change, because gender identity is constructed by socialization. In fact, Money was a fraud. He promoted his most famous case, that of the identical twin David Reimer, as a success for years when he knew David had rejected female identification and was living as a man. Follow-ups on other boys subjected to Money’s scheme revealed that many of them spontaneously rejected female identification. Even without external male parts, they knew they were boys.

Money also encouraged Johns Hopkins to perform so-called "sex change" operations. Biologically normal males, who claimed to have women’s brains, wanted their bodies to match their brains. Surgeons knew that the treatment was at best palliative. While they could transform male genitals into something resembling female genitals, this didn’t make their patients women. When Dr. Paul McHugh became the chief psychiatrist at Johns Hopkins, he commissioned a study of the results of the procedure. Its authors, Jon Meyer and John Hoopes, found that: 
In a thousand subtle ways, the reassignee has the bitter experience that he is not—and never will be—a real girl but is, at best, a convincing simulated female. Such an adjustment cannot compensate for the tragedy of having lost all chance to be male, and of having in the final analysis, no way to be really female.
McHugh labeled the process “cooperation with madness.”

I concluded that Hopkins was fundamentally cooperating with a mental illness. We psychiatrists, I thought, would do better to concentrate on trying to fix their minds and not their genitalia.

While the media showcases happy transitions, transsexuals suffer from a myriad of problems. They are more likely than any other group to be HIV-positive and to attempt suicides. Reading their case histories and autobiographies, one sees that while they may be able to "pass" as the other sex, their real sex is always present beneath the surface According to Dr. Robert Stoller:

What she [a Male-to-Female] could never forget –nor can any transsexual ever forget—that life began as the opposite sex. There patients are not delusional, and they are not able to deny their past, especially the knowledge that they are forever the sex into which they were born, more than many researchers on transsexualism, these patients know they will never be truly female, therefore can never be, in the depths of their identity, women.
No matter how much they may envy the other sex and covet what is not theirs, they cannot change their sex. 
Transsexual refers to those who want to make a complete change from one sex to the other. Transgender is a blanket term for all those who want, either fulltime or occasionally, to appear as a member of the other sex. After some reticence, the LGB movement adopted the transgender cause and added a T to its acronym. According to Kelly Coogan, a male-to-female, the term transgender carries a subversive message:

…a presupposition of the term transgender is that seemingly any body, irrespective of its anatomically assigned sex at birth can circulate freely through the trans, arriving at some gender identifications and leaving again momentarily for others. 
The rebellion against reality of sex differences has led to the emergence of the Queer or GenderQueer, the Q in LGBTQ. The GenderQueer want to be free to present themselves as either sex or neither. According to GenderQueer Riki Wilchins: 

…gender is the new frontier: the place to rebel, to create new individuality and uniqueness, to defy old, tired, outdated social norms, and, occasionally drive their parents and sundry other authority figures crazy.
Gender theory was taken up by radical feminists who hold that sex difference is the cause of the oppression of women. If sex differences are not natural, but socially constructed, then they can be eliminated and this barrier to equality removed. Radical feminists dream of a society without sex difference, where men and women participate in every occupation and activity in statistically equal numbers. The major obstacle to their dream of absolute equality is the fact that when two people engage in sex only one gets pregnant and it is always the woman. For the radical feminists, women can only be equal with men if women can become un-pregnant; therefore, contraception and abortion are the sine qua non of their revolution. 

Women have been unjustly discriminated against and subjected to demeaning stereotypes, but that doesn’t change the fact that men and women are different, that a bride is different from a bridegroom, motherhood different from fatherhood and children do best when raised in a home with their biological father and mother. If just equality is to be achieved, sex differences must be taken into account.

We are all familiar with the story of the Emperor’s new clothes. A pair of swindlers convinced a vain emperor that they could make him a magnificent suit of clothes, which would be invisible to anyone unfit for his position or stupid. The swindlers pretended to cut and sew on their special material. When they were finished, they pretended to dress the Emperor in his new suit. No one, least of all the Emperor, could admit that he couldn’t see the magnificent outfit, since he would be admitting he was unfit or stupid. However, when the Emperor appeared before his people, a child in the crowd cried out, “The Emperor has no clothes.” 
Gender Theory is much like the Emperor’s new clothes. Anyone who won’t pretend to see the fantasy world created by Gender Theory--anyone who knows that there are natural differences between men and women, that the relationship between two persons of the same sex is not a marriage, that hormones and surgery do not make a man a woman, or that a male dressed as a female should not be allowed to play on girls’ teams or use girls’ locker rooms--is labeled a stupid, sexist, homophobic, transphobic bigot. Otherwise intelligent people deny the reality before them. They use feminine pronouns when referring to what is obviously a man altered to resemble a woman. 
Pope Francis is the child in the crowd. He knows Gender Theory is a false and dangerous deception. He must speak out. While the Emperor only suffered embarrassment at being taken in, gender theory has real victims.

Dale O’Learyis a freelance writer, author of The Gender Agenda: Redefining Equality (which is available in Spanish and Italian) and One Man, One Woman. She writes for numerous publications and has spoken around the world.