Monday, July 27, 2015

Greed Has Always Driven the Abortion Industry  - Crisis Magazine

Greed Has Always Driven the Abortion Industry  - Crisis Magazine

Greed Has Always Driven the Abortion Industry ANNE HENDERSHOTT

Planned Parenthood Video 2

For more than a century, abortion has created tremendous wealth for providers in the United States. That continues today as yet another shocking video has been released showing a top Planned Parenthood official discussing the sale of body parts of unborn children.  And, although this news does not seem to disturb many on the pro-choice side, there was a time when most believed that ending the life of the unborn child was “so egregious an offense against nature” that it deserved the harshest penalties. It was an era when even the New York Times found the practice so abhorrent that their editorial staff responded to the 1878 death of Madame Restell, an infamous abortionist, with the statement that her passing was “a fitting end to an odious career.”
Madame Restell’s death occurred during a time when she held sway over New York City’s abortion industry—owning a network of abortion parlors throughout the city that stretched from her primary facility in a house on Chambers Street all the way across the River to Hoboken.  She was joined in New York City’s burgeoning abortion business by dozens of other abortionists who were luridly described in New York’s National Police Gazette as “fiends who have made a business of professional murder and who have reaped the bloody harvest in quenching the immortal spark in thousands of the unborn.”
The practice of abortion has always been lucrative, and Restell was just the first to parlay the provision of abortion services into a personal fortune of more than a million dollars and a lavish Fifth Avenue brownstone described in the tabloids of the day as the “Mansion Built on Baby Skulls.” She shared the abortion profession with her husband, Charles Lohman, an ex-printer who took the name Mauriceau and advertised himself as a “doctor,” advocating early abortion with “potions and powders” as the “safest” alternative.  Lohman specialized in creating abortifacients, which he sold for exorbitant prices. In the extensively researched Abortion Rites: A Social History of Abortion in America, author Marvin Olasky writes that “Mauriceau was a brazen Barnum with an audacious sales technique.”
lohmanmansionIn addition to her husband’s “medicinals,” designed to eliminate the developing fetus, Restell specialized in late-term abortion. Advertising herself as “a female physician and professor of midwifery” in the daily newspapers, the self-taught Restell was able to corner the growing abortion market by developing what some authors have suggested were friendly relationships with the police and New York City politicians. While the delivery of abortion services was only a misdemeanor offense in the early nineteenth century, growing numbers of patient deaths moved New York legislators to add statutes in 1845 that mandated severe penalties if the procedure was performed after the quickening of the fetus. As a late-term abortion provider, Restell often found herself on the wrong side of that law—especially when her female patients died, as often happened—not surprisingly, considering the fact that she had no formal training as a physician, midwife, or medical professional. But the ever-resourceful abortionist always managed to find a way to escape without serious or lasting consequences. Even when arrested and sentenced to a one-year term on Blackwell’s Island in the East River, Restell was able to use her financial resources and political connections to purchase excellent accommodations in prison—bringing her own featherbed, carpeting, and easy chairs into the prison suite. Visiting hours were altered so that her husband was able to visit at will and remain alone with her as long as he wished.
So successful was Restell at evading the law that within a short time the National Police Gazette reported that the abortion law actually had the effect of “sweeping every rival from her path, as she remained mistress paramount in the scheme of practical destruction.”  With the competition at bay, Restell ruled New York City’s abortion empire. Even though the New York newspapers decried the practice of abortion and Madame Restell in particular, there was much money in the industry and sharing some of the profits with those who could help expand the abortion business bought the cooperation of police and politicians. To attempt to confront the culture of bribery and extortion that surrounded abortion at the time, Olasky points out that New York Times editor Louis Jennings used his newspaper to begin an anti-abortion crusade. Beginning with a Biblically referenced editorial entitled “The Least of These Little Ones,” Jennings complained that the “perpetration of infant murder … is rank and smells to heaven. Why is there no hint of its punishment?”
Jennings saw the need to mobilize the public and tried to do that by attempting to expose the corruption, and publishing stories of abortion cases gone terribly wrong. Focusing on abortions that ended with the deaths of the mothers, the Times complained about the “extreme rarity of trials” for abortion deaths in this City. Abortionists, the Times reported, “have openly carried on their infamous practice in this City to a frightful extent, and have laughed at the defeat of respectable citizens who have vainly attempted to prosecute them.” By 1878, it seemed that nothing could stop Madame Restell and her sphere of influence over the abortion industry in New York City.  Yet, Restell’s empire fell later that same year when she was yet again arrested following a confrontation with Anthony Comstock, the celebrated anti-vice crusader. Olasky reports that after a brief stint in the Tombs, she once again posted bail and returned home to her mansion on Fifth Avenue. Making her way upstairs, Madame Restell calmly settled back into a warm bath and slit her own throat.  While her death may have been, as the New York Times suggested, a “fitting end” to her abortion empire, it was just the beginning of an industry that continues today to provide great profits to those involved.
The 1960s ushered in a new era in abortion—and abortion profits. Entrepreneur Larry Lader partnered with his friend and Greenwich Village neighbor, Dr. Bernard Nathanson, a gynecologist and abortion provider in New York City, to become the true leaders of this new movement for New York and for the nation. For Lader, the abortion issue was indeed about money, and both he and Nathanson became very wealthy from the profits. But he also had a non-monetary motive. Lader, who had worked with Vito Marcantonio, the only Communist ever to be elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, was a progressive feminist and a great admirer of Margaret Sanger, the founder of the American Birth Control League, the precursor of Planned Parenthood. Writing about these early days of abortion in New York City in The Hand of God, Bernard Nathanson describes Lader as being “obsessed” with abortion.  Like Restell, Lader and Nathanson were effective lobbyists for the pre-Roe abortion industry.
And, as in the Restell era, lawmakers prefer the public remained ignorant of the possible crimes that take place in abortion clinics. In New York City, tanning salons are inspected more regularly than abortion facilities.  The New York Post reported that “eight of the city’s 25 abortion providing clinics were never inspected over the 2000-12 span, five were inspected just once, and eight were inspected only twice or three times—meaning once every four or six years. A total of just 45 inspections were conducted at all 25 facilities during the 12-year period.”  Restaurants in the City are inspected every year and graded, and tanning salons undergo inspections at least once every other year.
Earlier this year, Illinois Right To Life issued a report pointing out that 63 percent of licensed Illinois women’s clinics have not received a health and sanitary inspection for up to three and a half years.  The report also reveals that “40 percent of the clinics licensed between 2000 and 2014 went without health inspections for 14 to 17 years. It adds that the state’s five Planned Parenthood clinics that perform abortions are not licensed and consequently did not receive any health and sanitary inspections between 2000 and 2014.
Kermit Gosnell, the Philadelphia abortionist who was finally found guilty of the murder of three newborn children and the negligent death of one patient—had never been discovered by the Pennsylvania Department of Health because his clinic had been inspected only “sporadically” from 1978 to 1993, and never again until complaints motivated an inspection in 2010. Gosnell had been charged with eight counts of murder including seven babies who were born alive and then killed with scissors. Prosecutors said that he made millions of dollars over 20 years, performing as many illegal, late term abortions as he could. According to the Susan B. Anthony website, the reason for this is that “officials concluded that inspections would be ‘putting a barrier up’ to women seeking abortions.” This is a typical response from the abortion industry but the continued exposure of the horrific practices of this industry through the release of these undercover videos will make it impossible for lawmakers to continue to look the other way—no matter how much they are paid to do so.
Anne Hendershott


Anne Hendershott is Professor of Sociology and Director of the Veritas Center at Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio. She is the author of Status Envy: The Politics of Catholic Higher Education; The Politics of Abortion; and The Politics of Deviance (Encounter Books). She is also the co-author of Renewal: How a New Generation of Priests and Bishops are Revitalizing the Catholic Church (2013).


Sunday, July 26, 2015


We must distinguish clearly in our soul what belongs to its very nature and what is an entirely gratuitous gift of God. The same distinction must be made for the angels who also have a nature which, though entirely spiritual, is very inferior to the gift of grace.
If we carefully consider the human soul in its nature, we see two quite different regions in it: one belongs to the sensible order, the other to the suprasensible or intellectual order. The sensitive part of the soul is that which is common to men and animals; it includes the external senses and the internal senses, comprising the imagination, the sensible memory, and also sensibility, or the sensitive appetite, whence spring the yarious passions or emotions, which we call sensible love and hatred, desire and aversion, sensible joy and sadness, hope and despair, audacity and fear, and anger. All this sensitive life exists in the animal, whether its passions are mild like those of the dove or lamb, or whether they are strong like those of the wolf and the lion.
Above this sensitive part common to men and animals, our nature likewise possesses an intellectual part, which is common to men and angels, although it is far more vigorous and beautiful in the angel. By this intellectual part our soul towers above our body; this is why we say that the soul is spiritual, that it does not intrinsically depend on the body and will thus be able to survive the body after death.

From the essence of the soul in this elevated region spring our two higher faculties, the intellect and the will.(1) The intellect knows not only sensible qualities, colors, and sounds, but also being, the intelligible reality, of necessary and universal truths, such as the following: "Nothing happens without a cause, and, in the last analysis, without a supreme cause. We must do good and avoid evil. Do what you ought to, come what may." An animal will never attain to the knowledge of these principles; even if its imagination were continually growing in perfection, it would never attain to the intellectual order of necessary and universal truths. Its imagination does not pass beyond the order of sensible qualities, known here or there in their contingent singularity.

Since the intellect knows the good in a universal manner, and not only the delectable or useful good but the upright and reasonable good (for example: Die rather than become a traitor), it follows that the will can love this good, will it, and accomplish it. Thereby the intellect immensely dominates the sensitive part or the emotions common to men and animals. By his intellect and his will, man resembles the angel; although his intellect, in contrast to the angelic intellect, depends in this present life on the senses, which propose to it the first objects that it knows.

The two higher faculties, the intellect and the will, can develop greatly as we see in men of genius and superior men of action. These faculties could, however, develop forever without ever knowing and loving the intimate life of God, which is of another order, entirely supernatural, and supernatural alike for angels and men. Man and the angel can indeed know God naturally from without, by the reflection of His perfections in creatures; but no created and creatable intellect can by its natural powers attain, even confusedly and obscurely, the essential and formal object of the divine intellect.(2) To hold that it could be done would be to maintain that this created intellect is of the same nature as God, since it would be specified by the same formal object.(3) As St. Paul says: "For what man knoweth the things of a man, but the spirit of a man that is in him? So the things also that are of God no man knoweth, but the Spirit of God." (4) This order is essentially supernatural.

Sanctifying grace, the seed of glory, introduces us into this higher order of truth and life. It is an essentially supernatural life, a participation in the intimate life of God, in the divine nature, since it even now prepares us to see God some day as He sees Himself and to love Him as He loves Himself. St. Paul has declared to us: "That eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath it entered into the heart of man, what things God hath prepared for them that love Him. But to us God hath revealed them by His Spirit. For the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God." (5)

Sanctifying grace, which makes us begin to live in this higher, supra-angelic order of the intimate life of God, is like a divine graft received in the very essence of the soul to elevate its vitality and to make it bear no longer merely natural fruits but supernatural ones, meritorious acts that merit eternal life for us.
This divine graft of sanctifying grace is, therefore, in us an essentially supernatural life, immensely superior to a sensible miracle and above the natural life of our spiritual and immortal sou1.(6)
Even now this life of grace develops in us under the form of the infused virtues and of the seven gifts of the Holy Ghost. As in the natural order, our intellectual and sensitive faculties spring from the very essence of our soul, so in the supernatural order, from sanctifying grace, received in the essence of the soul, spring, in our superior and inferior faculties, the infused virtues and the gifts which constitute, with the root from which they proceed, our spiritual or supernatural organism.(7) It was given to us in baptism, and is restored to us by absolution if we have the misfortune to lose it.
The spiritual organism may be expressed in the following table of the virtues and the gifts.
 Charity -->
 Faith -->
 Hope -->
Gift of Wisdom
Gift of Understanding
Gift of Knowledge
Gift of Counsel
Gift of Piety
Gift of Fortitude
Gift of Fear
 Prudence -->
 - Religion -->
 - Penance
 - Obedience
 Fortitude -->
 - Patience
 - Humility
 - Meekness
 - Chasity
In connection with this table it would be well to consult St.
Thomas' treatise on each of the virtues, where he speaks of the corresponding gift.(8) The gift of fear corresponds both to temperance and to hope,(9) but this latter virtue is also aided by the gift of knowledge, which shows us the emptiness of created things and thereby makes us desire God and depend on Him.(10)

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Donald Trump: No apology to McCain, vows to stay the course

Donald Trump: No apology to McCain, vows to stay the course

Donald Trump gestures at a press briefing where he introduced people whose families were victims of illegal immigrants on July 10, 2015 at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel in Beverly Hills, California, where some shared their stories of the loss of a loved one. The US business magnate Trump, who is running for President in the 2016 presidential elections, angered members of the Latino community with recent comments but says he will win the Latino vote. AFP PHOTO / FREDERIC J. BROWN        (Photo credit should read FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images)
Donald Trump doesn’t care about mounting Republican outrage either.
Trump, who has stood by past statements questioning President Barack Obama’s birthplace and asserting many Mexican undocumented immigrants were “rapists,” is doing the same with his comments disparaging Ariz. Sen. John McCain’s military service because McCain was shot down and captured during the Vietnam War.
“No, not at all,” Trump said during a phone interview Sunday on ABC’s “This Week” when asked if he owed the Arizona Republican an apology.
Trump, who made his remark — “He was a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured” — at a gathering of Republican presidential at the Family Leadership Summit Saturday in Ames, Iowa, also insisted the crowd was delighted by his attack on McCain.
“I got a standing ovation, the biggest ovation they had all weekend, by far,” Trump said. “When I left the room, it was a total standing ovation. It was wonderful to see. Nobody was insulted.”
He said the the GOP presidential candidates who were quick to condemn his remarks were motivated by jealousy.
“Later on, the Republican candidates, some of whom are registering 1 percent and zero, and they’re very upset that I’m leading the polls by actually a nice margin, they’re extremely upset,” Trump said Sunday, adding: “They started attacking me.”
He also said he wouldn’t drop out of the race, as Texas Gov. Rick Perry called for him to do.
“Of course, they’d love to have me do that because I’m leading the pack,” naming Nevada and North Carolina as two states where polls show him in the lead. “I’m certainly not pulling out; I’m leading, and I’m leading in many states.”
Trump said it was actually McCain, who still cannot lift his arms above his head due to torture he experienced while a prisoner of war in Vietnam, who needed to apologize — to the citizens who showed up at a Trump rally in Phoenix last weekend. McCain said Trump “fired up the crazies” at the rally, sparking their now week-long feud.
The people in Phoenix were “devastated by illegal immigration, something I’m very proud to have brought to the forefront,” Trump said. “We had thousands of people, and he said they’re all crazies. He called them crazies. And frankly, I think he owes them an apology.”
Trump also continued to attack McCain for not doing enough to help veterans.
“I’m very disappointed in John McCain because the vets are horribly treated in this country,” Trump said. “I’m going to fight for the vets. I’ve done a lot for the vets. And the vets — I’ve been going around to the campaign trail. They’re treated like third-class citizens. He’s done nothing to help the vets. And I will tell you, they are living in hell.”
The billionaire real estate developer and entertainer said his experience helping to build the Vietnam Memorial in downtown Manhattan showed he could help veterans more than McCain could.
“He’s on television all the time, talking, talking,” Trump said of McCain. “Nothing gets done. You look at what’s happening to our veterans — they’re being decimated, OK. So, I will do far more for veterans than anybody. I’ll be able to build them new hospitals, I’ll be able to build them care centers. I’ll be able to help the veterans.”
And Trump vowed to keep a key part of his persona — responding to critics by calling people “dummy,” among other things, and insulting the physical appearance of others — even if he were elected president.
“When people attack me, I let them have it back,” Trump said. “You say physical appearance, you know, it’s my hair but people are constantly attacking my hair. I don’t see you coming to my defense.”
comments:Jack spring says:Trump's right: McCain graduated last in his class at Annapolis ... He is a dummy ... Trump did well at Wharton ... McCain then went on to lose a very expensive fighter jet because he was a lousy pilot, then went on to lose a very expensive Presidential race because he was a lousy political candidate. War hero? Why? Because he was captured and survived? He's a Keating Five cheat and was on the wrong side of comprehensive campaign finance reform and immigration reform (amnesty) ... McCain is jealous because Trump drew a crowd much larger and more enthusiastic than he ever did in Phoenix and insulted the effort saying Trump attracts crazies. McCain deserves a knockout punch from Trump to shut him up so he fades into oblivion. RINOS your days are over ... McCain and Romney, you lost the last two elections for us, gave us Obama, and lost our country. You call us crazy? We just want our country back.

VIDEO: Fiery Donald Trump Reveals How He’ll Stop Mass Military Shootings as President

VIDEO: Fiery Donald Trump Reveals How He’ll Stop Mass Military Shootings as President

America is again reeling from another mass shooting that happened in a so-called “gun free zone,” this time at the hands of a gunman named Mohammad Youssef Abdulazeez. The military locations where the attacks took place have been under gun control rules that have been in effect since the Clinton years.
Of all of the Republican candidates, none have made gun-free zones on military installations a major issue, save one: Donald Trump.
In an interview with blog Ammoland several weeks ago, Trump talked about gun-free zones on military bases and stated unequivocally that he would end them.
“As commander in chief, I would mandate that soldiers remain armed and on alert at our military bases,” Trump told interviewers. “President Clinton never should have passed a ban on soldiers being able to protect themselves on bases. America’s Armed Forces will be armed.”
In an appearance on Fox News last night, Trump again stood up for removing gun free zones on military property.
“These are four great Marines … and that they’re not allowed to carry guns is absolutely ridiculous,” Trump said.
According to the Washington Examiner, Trump — who himself is licensed to carry a concealed weapon — said that our troops “will be able to defend themselves against terrorists” if he were elected.
“Our brave soldiers should not be at risk because of policy created by civilian leadership,” he said. “Political correctness has no place in this debate.”
He also said that Americans should be on guard for attacks against the Second Amendment.
“The Second Amendment is right, not a privilege,” he said. “The small minority of anti-everything activists may be vocal, but we have facts, and the Constitution, on our side.
“Gun control does not reduce crime. It has consistently failed to stop violence. Americans are entitled to protect their families, their property and themselves,” Trump added. “In fact, in right-to-carry states the violent crime rate is 24 percent lower than the rest of the United States and the murder rate is 28 percent lower. This should not be up for debate.”
We agree wholeheartedly. Sadly, the Marines in Chattanooga never had a chance. Let’s hope that in the future, our soldiers will be able to exercise their full constitutional right to self-defense.
Please like and share on Facebook and Twitter if you agree the tragedy in Chattanooga could have been prevented by allowing concealed or open carry.
Friday, July 17th, 2015

Supreme Court -Re-Defining Marriage-Fr. Rutler-NYC

July 5, 2015-Fr. George Rutler-NYC
The Supreme Court’s abuse of its authority in the decision redefining marriage as an institution based on feelings rather than fact and sanctioning deviancy as a civil right was expected, but the surprise was its sentimental substitution of nihilistic narcissism for jurisprudence, expressed in an amorphous substitute for English diction. This passed a death sentence on Christian culture, just as Roe v. Wade sanctioned the deaths of millions of infants.

As Christ rose from the dead, so can our nation, but only the cynic and the naïf will deny that the next steps will be attacks on Christ himself in his Church, schools and charitable institutions. It can’t happen here? That is what the English said before 1534 and the French before 1789 and the Russians before 1917 and the Germans before 1923. Now is the time of trial predicted by Christ. Not all will be brave enough to endure the persecutions predicted by Christ, though great will be the reward for those who bring their white robes of Christian dignity “unstained into the everlasting life of Heaven.”

Pope Francis has said, “Same-sex marriage is not simply a political struggle, but it is an attempt to destroy God’s plan. It is a move of the ‘father of lies’ who seeks to confuse and deceive the children of God.” The President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops declared that the narrow vote of the Supreme Court “is a tragic error that harms the common good and most vulnerable among us.” Chesterton wrote in 1926: “The next great heresy is going to be simply an attack on morality, and especially on sexual morality.” In 2008, Sister Lucia, who believed that she saw the Mother of Christ at Fatima, told Cardinal Caffarra: “The final confrontation between the Lord and Satan will be over family and marriage.” Injustice takes a harsh toll, but it cannot last, whereas “justice is eternal” (Wisdom 1:15).

I yield my column to some lines from the dissenting opinion of Justice Scalia, who is Catholic in practice as well as in name:
A system of government that makes the People subordinate to a committee of nine unelected lawyers does not deserve to be called a democracy. . . . Four of the nine are natives of New York City. . . . The five Justices who compose today’s majority are entirely comfortable concluding that every State violated the Constitution for all of the 135 years between the Fourteenth Amendment’s ratification and Massachusetts’ permitting of same-sex marriages in 2003. They have discovered in the Fourteenth Amendment a “fundamental right” overlooked by every person alive at the time of ratification, and almost everyone else in the time since. . . . The opinion is couched in a style that is as pretentious as its content is egotistic. . . . The Supreme Court of the United States has descended from the disciplined legal reasoning of John Marshall and Joseph Story to the mystical aphorisms of the fortune cookie. . . . With each decision of ours that takes from the People a question properly left to them—with each decision that is unabashedly based not on law, but on the “reasoned judgment” of a bare majority of this Court—we move one step closer to being reminded of our impotence. 

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Love Unclouded by a Rainbow Filter - Aleteia

Love Unclouded by a Rainbow Filter - Aleteia

It’s been a few weeks since the Supreme Court issued its vote that made same-sex “marriage” legal in all fifty states. Since that decision, social media has been taken over by a rainbow filter, especially on Facebook as millions of people have adjusted their profile picture to be shown under an assembly of horizontally-striped colors in support of the Supreme Court’s decision.

I am personally troubled by how many of my Christian friends—especially my Christian friends who believe marriage was created by God to be between one man and one woman for life—have adopted this rainbow filter. I’ve seen several reasons tossed around: support for equal rights, support for equal recognition under the law, etc. But every rationalization ultimately can be grouped under the catch-all umbrella phrase: “Separation of Church and State.”

The reasoning, for these Christian friends of mine, is this: There is a separation between Church and State in this great country, so it’s totally acceptable to support same-sex couples being afforded the privilege of legally recognized marriages.

What troubles me about this is that it comes off as celebration. They don’t just appear to be “supporting” something political—they appear to be celebrating something culturally, well, destructive, and objectively sinful.

I would like to suggest this as food for thought: We pride ourselves, as Americans, for the separation of church and state. It is in place for good reason, and the protections it guarantees are important. However, there is another important separation I would like to remind us all of.

When Jesus was praying in the garden before his passion and death, he prayed that we might be “in the world, and not of it.” Jesus was a perfect example of this. He met people where they were, brought them a message of hope and peace, healed their diseases and forgave their sins. He supported all people in every sense of the word, and showed a profound respect for their dignity.

But one thing Jesus never, ever did . . . was celebrate sin.
As a same-sex attracted person (who is not ashamed of my attractions), I would like to offer a challenge to those Christians who think they are loving me by filtering their profile picture through a rainbow flag:

Love those who experience same-sex attraction. Not this hands-off, “you-do-you,” don’t-hurt-feelings inspired false love, but real love.

The love of Jesus wasn’t afraid to get dirty, to get bloody, to die to self. It wasn’t afraid to offend, though offense was never its goal. The love of Jesus is authentic, appreciating persons for who they are (and who we are is not defined by who we are attracted to), and supporting them in a journey of developing an ever-deeper relationship with God, others, and the self.

Jesus would not have had a rainbow-filtered profile picture. That kind of “love” is too cheap and easy for Him. He didn’t avoid hard questions or hard circumstances. He gave hope, joy, peace, healing, and ultimately His life, to show us our worth.

I beg of you, brothers and sisters, to be in the world and not of it. Love more authentically than through a rainbow filter. Let love really win. Bring the Gospel to a dying and hurting world rather than celebrating its spiral into sin. Forget the politics and buzzwords for a few moments, and consider the impact of celebrating persons made in the image of God, and refusing to ever celebrate their stepping aside from that image.

Please don’t celebrate sin. Celebrate love, namely, by showing it, really, for what it really is.

"Emily" is the penname of a 23-year-old Theology student who spends her free time reading, writing, hanging out with friends, and dyeing her hair ridiculous colors. When she isn’t doing homework, she’s assisting with the youth ministry program at her parish.

This article first appeared at The Chastity Project.  It is reprinted here with kind permission.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Understanding What it Means to be Devout

Understanding What it Means to be Devout

Understanding What it Means to be Devout

The word devotion, which is derived from the Latin, answers to that of devotedness — a vowing of ourselves, a consecration of ourselves. A devout person is, then, a person devoted to God, consecrated to God. There is no stronger expression than that of devotion to mark that disposition of the soul of a person who is ready to do everything and to suffer everything for Him to whom he is devoted.
The devotion to creatures (I mean, of course, that which is lawful and allowed by God) has necessarily its limits. The de­votion to God has none, and can have none. As soon as the least reserve, the least exception, intrudes there, it is no longer devotion. True and solid devotion is, then, that disposition of the heart by which we are ready to do and to suffer, without exception or reserve, everything that comes from God’s good pleasure, everything that is the will of God. And this disposi­tion is the most excellent of all the gifts of the Holy Spirit. We cannot ask for it too often or too earnestly; and we must never flatter ourselves that we have it in its perfection, because it can always go on increasing, either in itself or in its effects.

Devotion is interior and lasting

We see, by this definition, that devotion is something most interior, which has to do with the inmost life of the soul, for it affects that within us which is most spiritual — that is to say, our understanding and our will. Devotion consists, then, nei­ther in reasoning, nor in imagination, nor in anything that is sensible. We are not devout just because we are able to reason well about the things of God, nor because we have grand ideas or fine imaginations about spiritual matters, nor because we are sometimes affected to tears.
Again, devotion is not a thing that passes, that comes and goes, as it were, but it is something habitual, fixed, permanent, which extends over every instant of life and regulates all our conduct.
The principle of devotion is that, with God being the one Source and the one Author of holiness, the reasonable crea­ture ought to depend on Him in everything and be absolutely governed by the Spirit of God. He must be always attached to God in the depths of his soul, always attentive to His voice within him, always faithful to accomplish what He asks of him each moment.
It is, then, impossible to be truly devout unless we are inte­rior, given to recollection, accustomed to retire within ourselves, or rather never to go out of ourselves, to possess our soul in peace.
Whoever gives himself up to his senses, to his imagination, to his passions, I do not say in criminal things, but even in those which are not bad in themselves, will never be devout; for the first effect of devotion is to bring into captivity the senses, the imagination, and the passions, and to prevent the will from ever being led away by them.
He who is curious, impulsive, delighting to interest him­self in exterior things, and to mix himself up with the affairs of others; he who is never willingly alone; he who is critical, speaking ill of his neighbor, sarcastic, irritable, contemptu­ous, haughty, ready to take offense at anything that wounds his self-love; he who is obstinate, believing only in his own opinions, or he who is a slave to human respect and to public opinion to such an extent that he is in consequence weak, in­constant, and always changing his principles and his conduct will never be devout in the sense I mean.

The devout person seeks God, not himself

The truly devout man is a man of prayer, whose sole delight is to be with God, and to speak with Him, and who scarcely ever loses his sense of the presence of God. Not that he is al­ways thinking of God — for that is impossible here below — but because he is always united to God in his heart and is guided in everything by His Spirit. To pray, he has no need of a book, or of a method, or of great efforts of the head or even of the will. He has only to retire quietly into himself. There he finds God; there he finds peace — sometimes a peace full of joy, sometimes a peace in spite of dryness, but always a deep and real peace. He prefers the prayer in which he gives much to God, and in which he suffers — the prayer in which self-love is undermined gradually, until it can find nothing to feed upon; in short, a simple prayer, denuded of all images or of perceptible feelings and of all those things which the soul can experience in other kinds of prayer.
The truly devout man seeks not himself or his own gratifi­cation in the service of God, and he endeavors to practice this maxim of the Imitation of Christ: Wherever you find self, re­nounce self.
The truly devout man studies to fulfill perfectly all the du­ties of his state and all his really necessary duties of kindness and courtesy to society. He is faithful to his devotional exer­cises, but he is not a slave to them; he interrupts them, he sus­pends them, he even gives them up altogether for a time when any reason of necessity or of simple charity requires it. Pro­vided he does not do his own will, he is always certain of doing the will of God.

Devotion calls for simplicity, confidence, and generosity

The truly devout man does not run about seeking for good works, but he waits until the occasion of doing good presents itself to him. He does what in him lies to ensure success; but he leaves the care of the success to God. He prefers those good works which are obscure and done in secret to those which are brilliant and gain general admiration; but he does not shrink from these latter ones when they are for the glory of God and the edification of his neighbor. The truly devout man does not burden himself with a great quantity of vocal prayers and practices that do not leave him time to breathe. He always pre­serves his liberty of spirit; he is neither scrupulous nor uneasy about himself; he goes on with simplicity and confidence.
He has made a determination, once and for all, to refuse nothing to God, to grant nothing to self-love, and never to commit a voluntary fault; but he does not perplex himself. He goes on courageously; he is not too particular. If he falls into a fault, he does not agitate himself; he humbles himself at the sight of his own weakness; he raises himself up and thinks no more about it.
He is not astonished at his weaknesses, at his falls or his im­perfections; he is never discouraged. He knows that he can do nothing, but that God can do everything. He does not rely on his own good thoughts and resolutions, but simply on the grace and the goodness of God. If he were to fall a hundred times a day, he would not despair, but he would stretch out his hands lovingly to God and beg of Him to lift him up and to take pity on him.
The truly devout man has a horror of evil, but he has a still greater love of good. He thinks more about practicing virtue than about avoiding vice. He is generous, large-hearted, and courageous; and when there is a question of exposing himself to danger for God’s sake, he does not fear wounds. In a word, he loves better to do what is good, even at the risk of falling into some imperfection, than to omit it through fear of the danger of sinning.
No one is so amiable in the ordinary course of life as a really devout man. He is simple, straightforward, open as the day, unpretentious, gentle, solid, and true; his conversation is pleas­ing and interesting; he can enter into all innocent amuse­ments; and he carries his condescending kindness and charity as far as possible, short of what is wrong. Whatever some per­sons may say, true devotion is never a melancholy thing, either for itself or for others. How could the man who continually enjoys the truest happiness — the only happiness — ever be sad? It is the inordinate passions of human nature that are sad — avarice, ambition, love that is not sanctified by God and has not God for its chief end. And it is to divert themselves from the trouble and uneasiness that these passions cause the heart that men plunge themselves recklessly into pleasures and excesses, which they vary continually, but which weary the soul, without ever satisfying it.
Whoever really and in sincerity gives himself up to the ser­vice of God will experience the truth of that sentence “To serve God is to reign,” even if it be in poverty, in humilia­tions, and in suffering. All those who in this world seek their happiness in something that is not God — all, without excep­tion — will verify the saying of St. Augustine: The heart of man is made for God alone and is never at peace until it rests in God. “Thou hast made us for Thyself, and our heart findeth no rest until it reposeth in Thee.”
Editor’s note: This article is adapted from a chapter in Fr. Grou’s The Spiritual Lifewhich is available from Sophia Institute Press. 
Fr. Jean Nicolas Grou (1731–1803) lived through times of tremendous turmoil, first as a Jesuit novice when Jesuits were surpressed, and later during the French Revolution. In his book, The Spiritual Life, are the fruits of his sufferings and prayers.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Bullied “Out of the Closet” and (Almost) Bullied Back In

Bullied “Out of the Closet” and (Almost) Bullied Back In

Growing up, as a small boy I was overwhelmed with fear by a number of bullies in my life. Some of them lived in my neighborhood and attended my school. But the biggest one lived in my house: my father. Many boys at a young age learn to step into their fear and prove that they have what it takes to make it in this life. But there are others like myself, who are sensitive and who became paralyzed by fear. We didn’t believe we had what it took and believed the intimidating words of our bullies. I absolutely cringed when I heard, “Prosen, I’m gonna kick your a—after school.” It was difficult to concentrate on classes while worrying about this and even if I made it home okay, I still didn’t know if my father was going to be drunk and beat me.
My best friend in 6th grade (whom I’ll call Tommy), spent the night for a sleep over and initiated some non-sexual exploration of our bodies. It wasn’t appropriate, but was before we even knew about sexual feelings. Shortly after, school ended for the summer. When we returned the following fall, Tommy gave me the silent treatment and avoided me while his friends treated me the same way.
Just prior to entering into puberty, I was being called, “queer,” and “fag” by many peers. I was attracted to the same gender long before I knew what sexuality was. At first, the attraction wasn’t sexual and it couldn’t be since at that age I had no understanding of what sexuality was. For me, the attraction was an admiration to be like those I looked up to. But those I looked up to, made it clear that I wasn’t ever going to be like them. The shame inside me quickly turned this admiration into more like a deep “longing” to be like that male I idealized. I used to think: “if only I looked like him or was strong like him and could play ball like him then maybe I would fit in and not be so alone.” During puberty my attractions to the same sex became eroticized and my shame immensely increased. It was about this time when the rumors that Tommy had started finally reached me. Tommy (who had initiated the experimentation that night of the sleep over), had told everyone that I was acting “faggy” that night. I felt humiliated and betrayed.
The bullying continued on throughout high school. Teachers looked the other way. One even told me to drop her class since it was an elective and she didn’t know how to stop it. My most vivid memory was of sitting in class as two bullies sitting behind me hit me in the head and called me “fag” whenever the teacher turned to write on the board.
I became good friends with several at a church youth group and started to become close to one of the girls. Things changed when she invited me to her home for dinner. I experienced tingles, heart racing and butterflies in my stomach when talking to her brother who I judged as very handsome. I was consumed with shame and confided in someone in this church group who promised me she would not share what ever I disclosed. She broke confidence and told my friend what I shared, who became furious and ended the friendship. I pretty much quit everything at church. Is this what God was about? If so, I didn’t need it and I didn’t want it.
Growing into adulthood, I accepted myself as “gay.” As I began to come out to important people in my life, I continued to experience rejection and bullying as a result from those who I thought were friends. Some of my friends stopped talking to me once I told them that I was “gay.” In fact, one female friend took it upon herself to tell a mutual friend of ours. One night, the two were on a double date with men I did not know. All four of them made threatening and harassing phone calls to me all night long calling me faggot and queer boy. I guessed I must have been more entertaining than a movie could have been. These were so called friends of mine. I remember feeling humiliated, betrayed and deeply hurt.
One night at a gay bar, I bumped into Tommy. I was furious that he had made my life a living hell by using me as his scapegoat to deal with his own fears and insecurities. He never owned up to what he had done even though I had given him the opportunity. Ironically, most of my friends who had rejected me because of my same-sex attractions, ended up either living an actively “gay” life later, or after apologizing for hurting me, confided in me that they were questioning their sexual orientation. So it seems there is some truth in the stereotype that those who are cruelest to those of us who experience same-sex attractions, experience the attractions themselves.
Both fear and past wounds do tend to be at the root of most bullying acts. We can use fear to protect our selves. Some choose to protect themselves in a healthy way by becoming assertive and building themselves up. Some attempt to protect themselves by hurting others and themselves. The actions of bullies are a result of the latter.
Back to the story…. I was miserable living the life of a gay man. Others claim they are happy living a gay life, but I am talking about me. The loneliness didn’t stop and after much depression, and self-medicating with substances, relationships and sex, I decided to live a chaste life and work at getting to understand my Catholic Faith. I didn’t become a “religious fanatic” but instead, focused on maintaining and developing healthy friendships with others and God, rather than “looking for Mr. Right.” I had a very liberal friend who was very vocal about supporting the rights of gays and lesbians. She saw the pain I experienced while living an active gay life. She was shocked to see that not living an actively gay life was working for me. Amazed at the change in me and my attitude, she told me: “David, I can’t believe how much peace you are finally experiencing. It’s like you are a totally different person. I would have never believed it if I hadn’t seen it for myself.”
That was in the nineties and today I am still living a chaste life. I am happy and at peace more than ever before. As a child, everything about masculinity scared the living daylights out of me because of all the bullying from my father and my peers. I never in any way saw myself as masculine. But now, I am not terrified of masculinity. Even more importantly, I realize that I am masculine and that this was present all along, even when I was a little boy: I loved adventures, climbing trees, exploring caves and much more. I finally accept myself fully as a man and one who does have what it takes. As a boy I ran from conflict and fear but as an adult man, I am no longer immobilized by this fear as I manage my fear and step into it. One cannot solve conflicts without facing them.
I don’t live out or embrace a “gay” identity. That is not who I am. I am a Catholic man made in the image and likeness of Christ. That’s who I am. In addition, in therapy, I have received healing of many gender wounds from the bullying. I’m not alone. There are men and women like myself who have stopped living an active gay life. Some have been called to marriage and others have embraced a life of celibacy. Living chastely doesn’t mean living as a secluded hermit. It means living life the way Jesus did. Respecting and loving all.
Why am I writing this? Some of you might think oh no….  He’s one of them religious nuts who believes people can change. Please don’t stop reading.
I am writing to Christians, Atheists, Protestants, Catholics, “LGBTQ,” those with unwanted same-sex attractions, Republicans, Democrats, conservatives, liberals and everyone no matter with whom you are affiliated. We above all things are human beings.
Bullying is destructive and causes painful wounds not just to children but adults as well. It causes us to hate, react to fear, to seek vengeance and causes us to bully back in response.
I believe as a Christian Catholic that we are created in the image and likeness of God. This includes having the gift of reason and free will. This is what sets us apart from animals. We are able to reason where as animals are not. But when others bully, emotions rise and our ability to reason is reduced as we become victims of our own painful emotions that lead us to want to retaliate.
Every human being has the right not be bullied. Virtually every “LGBTQ” (and I am including those with unwanted same-sex attractions in this) knows what it’s like to be bullied. Many were bullied while growing up or have seen others bullied. So-called Christians like the Westboro Baptists have not tried to hide their hate and bullying tactics as they have attended funerals with signs stating, “God hates Fags.” There are other so-called Christians and non-Christians that are not as extreme but still act on their own hate and prejudice. This is wrong and is killing the spirits of many human beings.
As Christians, we are called to love one another. If you don’t like those who are “LGBTQ” just because that is who they identify as, or if you feel hate and anger as you look at them, or if you desire to hurt an individual because of this, then there is something seriously wrong. Did Jesus treat us this way? No. He taught, “Love one another as I have loved you.” “LGBTQ” identified individuals are human beings just as we all are. Take this to God and ask him to help you grow in love.
For those of you who have been bullied by Christians, or anyone else, I am so sorry. All bullying is wrong and should have never happened.
Yet, I also want to say that it is not only “anti-gays” who bully. Some LGBTQ activists are also bullies and their target is sometimes other “gays”; those who have become Christians and/or are seeking to live a chaste life.
I have been bullied by the very same people who should understand how harmful bullying can be. I have been called names by LGBTQ individuals such as delusional, hypocrite, hater and bigot. People who have never met me claim to know more about me than I do and insist that I need to accept myself. I have friends who have also chosen to be public about living a chaste life who have received vulgar emails and death threat letters sent to their house. That sounds exaggerated but unfortunately, it is not.
There is another kind of bullying that many do not recognize as such. There is much controversy about therapy done in a way that is not “gay affirmative.” We are told that there is a risk of harm in therapy that indicates a change in orientation or commitment to a life of chastity is possible and even that suicide might be a result. Several states have made “reparative therapy” illegal for minors and there is talk of a bill being introduced at the federal level making therapy that is not gay affirmative illegal for both minors and adults. Again, I am not saying that everyone living a LGBTQ life is miserable. But I was very miserable and I am not alone. Those individuals who want help to not act on their attraction, to seek healing from wounds that may have contributed to this and to have their values and beliefs accepted and validated have every right to find help. We are being bullied to accept that we must live a LGBTQ life even though it was when doing so that we experienced suicidal thoughts. With the help of therapy, many of us have moved from being depressed and not wanting to live, to feeling peace and good about ourselves for the first time in our lives. We are told by some activists that we don’t exist or that we are lying. Well… we do exist and we aren’t lying.
The bullying of some LGBTQ activists against Christian business owners has become rampant and vicious. The website, Go Fund Me, had a page listed for Memories Pizza in Indiana who answered a hypothetical question about the service they were willing to extend to homosexuals. They made a statement that all people are welcome but that they would only cater weddings between one man and one woman. The family had to close after all of the harassment and death threats.
Some “LGBTQ” individuals have repudiated such bullying. An article by The Huffington Post, reports that Courtney Hoffman, a lesbian business owner, donated to the Memories pizza restaurant in Indiana. She was hoping it would be seen as an apology for the ‘hate and intolerance’ directed towards them and believes the owners have the right to stand up for their beliefs. She said it beautifully, “If we can remember that differences don’t equal maliciousness and try to find what we have in common—you know, the ‘ands’ instead of the ‘ors’, maybe we can move beyond threats of violence and have open discussions of the things that we don’t agree on.” As a result Courtney’s beautiful gesture, other “LGBTQ” identified individuals and couples began to do the same.
I was bullied for being perceived by my male peers as being weak. Then I was bullied for being perceived as being LGBTQ. Then I was bullied for identifying as LGBTQ. Now, I am being bullied for living a chaste life and not identifying as a gay man. And I am being bullied for being a Christian.
Can’t we all stop bullying each other and learn from Courtney Hoffman? Let’s listen to each other and respond in love rather than reacting from our hurt and pain. Courtney recognized that the owners have a right to their beliefs. We can still love each other even though we may disagree. May God give all of us the graces we need to love one another for who we are: precious human beings with tremendous value and worth.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

To Listen to the Voice of God

To Listen to the Voice of God

St. Catherine of Siena, by Baldassare Franceschini (17th century).
We all have a desire to be listened to and taken seriously. There is nothing more frustrating than not being listened to, when someone does not either look at us when we talk to him, or let us finish our sentences. It leaves us feeling unsatisfied and frustrated, and we feel we have not had our point of view heard or considered. One of the consequences of not being listened to is that we will not be understood. If someone does not listen to what we have to say in relation to everyday mundane issues, from ordering something over the telephone, to more serious personal issues, then the issues will remain unresolved. The world is full of daily misunderstandings because, in the majority of instances, people do not listen to what the other person is saying. If they do listen and hear what the other person is saying, it may be interpreted incorrectly. It is easy to hear what we want to hear, and then to selectively ignore what does not fit in with our worldview or personal preference. The desire to be listened to, taken seriously, and understood is innate to us all. It is a universal desire, and it is also what God desires. He has placed his own desire in our hearts so that it can be fulfilled. We are only really able to hear what our neighbor says with the help of God’s grace, which frees us from the chains of sin. Sin clutters our heart and muffles our hearing so that we cannot hear what others say clearly, tainted with our own opinions, desires, and attitudes.
One fruit of listening to our neighbors is following their advice when they have told us our shortcomings and failings. We can then ask for the help we need to overcome these faults and make positive changes in our life. It is the same with God; he wants us to listen to his voice which mysteriously reveals to us our imperfections and weaknesses. He also inspires us to seek, and ask for his help. God’s greatest desire is that we let him become more, and we become less. “He must grow greater, I must grow less” (Jn 3:30).
God desires that we hear his voice above the din of everyday life. We can only begin to do this when we invite him to become the center of our lives through daily prayer. He will speak to us through his revealed word in the Gospels, through our conscience, the inspirations that flood our mind with holy thoughts, and the recurring desires that he places in our heart. We can also sometimes hear the voice of God through our neighbor, who advises us of our faults and imperfections. The self-knowledge we gain from our everyday interactions can bring us to know ourselves more fully in the light of God’s all-encompassing, merciful love. The reality is, however, that because of our sinful nature, we are often not likely to hear the voice of God, but rather a distorted version that fits our own desire for praise and glory. If we are honest, we admit that we do not really want to hear the truth, but rather what affirms our self-image. It is more comfortable to believe that we fully know ourselves. But, while we may fail to listen to God and discern his voice clearly, listening to him is all that really counts. Fortunately, God is infinitely patient and provides us with numerous opportunities to hear his voice.
To truly be able to hear God’s voice, we must repent and allow our souls to be healed of all sin, and attachment to sin. As this is a lifelong process—day by day, and moment by moment—we must respond to God’s grace, and recognize that God is “before” the beginning of our desires to seek his kingdom, as well as their complete fulfilment. In other words, the desire to seek the truth and the will to do what is good is hidden in the depths of our souls before we are consciously aware of it. We naturally think that it is our desire, but it is God’s grace that has placed these desires in our heart. As God breathed our soul into our human nature when we were first conceived, our soul mirrors his qualities of goodness, love, truth, and beauty. We are made in his image and likeness. But we only become like him when we respond to his grace and, so, begin gradually to assimilate his virtue. It is his grace that sustains and strengthens us to bring to fruition what we often attribute to ourselves! As the Catechism of the Catholic Church describes, God’s mercy goes before us in everything we do, follows us as we are healed, and gives us new life in Christ.
Indeed we also work, but we are only collaborating with God who works, for his mercy has gone before us. It has gone before us so that we may be healed, and follows us so that once healed, we may be given life; it goes before us so that we may be called, and follows us so that we may be glorified; it goes before us so that we may live devoutly, and follows us so that we may always live with God: for without him, we can do nothing.
The desire to be charitable on all levels, the ability to see the opportunities, and once seen, the strength to be generous, kind, forgiving, and merciful is only possible and sustainable through God’s grace. As the Catechism cites in the passage above, we can do nothing without his help. “Whoever remains in me, with me in him, bears fruit in plenty; for cut off from me, you can do nothing” (Jn 15: 5). We may have a vague desire to be charitable to others, but will miss the opportunities that are presented to us. To be aware of missed opportunities and our lack of charity is the beginning of our path of love, but we must first experience imperfect love before recognizing what perfect love really looks like.
When we feel we are really being really listened to, it’s as if the person listening to us is experiencing our same sorrow or joy, almost as if he has been in the same situation. The listener will inevitably have had a similar experience, and the recalling of this in his memory enables him to display a real understanding of what we are experiencing. This display of understanding along with attentive listening enables us to feel as if we are really being listened to, and, consequently, understood. Our neighbor, who empathizes with us through their attentive listening and display of understanding, may have shared a similar problem or moment of happiness. They may have shared the same category of problem as ours or, upon hearing it described, even had an identical problem to ours. But our uniqueness means the personal experience of the problem will be different, as only we walk the path and encounter the people in the various situations life places before us. But Christ empathizes with us perfectly, as he holds in his heart the most intimate concern for every soul who has ever been born. The Sacred Heart of Christ longs for us to share all our worries and problems with him. He listens attentively and understands perfectly, anticipating our silent sighs by responding with his consoling grace that will heal our wounded heart.

The Sorrow for Sin

Although our neighbor can empathize with us and, as a result, we feel understood, we are not transformed interiorly by the person listening to us, nor do we become one with him. That is the radical difference between our human neighbor and God. To listen to God’s voice is to share intimately with his divine nature and, so, be transformed interiorly in the depths of our souls. Those who are closest to Christ listen attentively to his voice and share intimately with his experience of joy and sorrow. In the case of the saints’ experience of sorrow, it’s as if they become Christ themselves on the cross, experiencing sorrow for sin, the horror and insult it causes his Father, and the harm it causes to souls. This sorrow is much deeper and permanent than that experienced on a purely human level. It is also not connected solely to a time bound and specific human event. Because of the divinity of Christ, his personal experience within his sacred humanity, while temporary and time bound, transcends time and space. The deep sorrow of the saints is experienced as an expression of Christ again suffering his passion; it is he himself who is suffering within them. The glorified Christ can no longer suffer here on earth. The saints “lend” him their heart, enabling Christ to suffer in and through them to the Father, and so offer a pure act of love. We are all called to share Christ’s sorrow where, to the extent we are one with his heart, we suffer his sorrow for sin. A truly surprising and unexpected fruit of listening to our Lord is to share intimately with his sorrows. We may have a fleeting or temporary experience of this sorrow for sin, but the worries of everyday life and other concerns mean that this will more likely only be experienced briefly.
One of the fruits of listening to God’s voice is that our listening becomes the continual receiving of God’s love in our soul, so that all the wordless desires and intentions we make are inspired, sustained, and mysteriously expressed by the Holy Spirit. St. Paul tells us that the Holy Spirit fills up what our prayers lack, and when we do not know how to pray properly: “… the Spirit too comes to help us in our weakness, for, when we do not know how to pray properly, then the Spirit personally makes our petitions for us in groans that cannot be put into words” (Rom 8:26). St. Catherine of Siena in her Dialogue sheds light on the mystery of St. Paul’s words when she describes how the Holy Spirit groans within the soul who is consumed with love, offering to God “the fragrance of holy desire and constant humble prayer.”
There is a weeping of fire, of truly holy longing, and it consumes in love. Such a soul would like to dissolve her very life in weeping in self-contempt and for the salvation of souls, but she seems unable to do it. I tell you, these souls have tears of fire. In this fire, the Holy Spirit weeps in my presence for them and for their neighbours. I mean that my divine charity sets ablaze with its flame the soul who offers me her restless longing without physical tears. These, I tell you, are tears of fire, and this is how the Holy Spirit weeps. Since the soul cannot do it with tears, she offers her desire to weep for love of me. And if you open your mind’s eye, you will see that the Holy Spirit weeps in the person of every one of my servants who offers me the fragrance of holy desire and constant humble prayer. This, it seems, is what the glorious Apostle Paul meant when he said that the Holy Spirit weeps before me, the Father, “with unspeakable groaning” for you.
This extraordinary passage describes how a soul set ablaze interiorly by the Holy Spirit weeps tears of fire in God’s presence. Unable to shed physical tears expressing one’s love for God and souls, the Holy Spirit weeps inside the person offering to the Father the soul’s restless longing and humble prayer.
The Holy Spirit can teach us how sin is an infinite offense against our Father in heaven—who is goodness and love itself—as well as the harm sin causes our soul. Significantly, the spirit of love and truth can teach us the sorrow experienced by Jesus by understanding dimly how our neighbors’ sins also offend God greatly, and how they endanger our neighbors’ salvation. St. Catherine describes how God permits his closest followers to be persecuted, so that the “fire of charity grows in the soul who has compassion for the soul of her abuser.”
Patience is proved in the assaults and weariness I allow my servants, and the fire of charity grows in the soul who has compassion for the soul of her abuser. For she grieves more over the offense done to me and the harm done to the other than over her own hurt. This is how these behave who are very perfect, and so they grow. And this is why I permit all these things. I grant them a stinging hunger for the salvation of souls, so that they knock day and night at the door of my mercy, so much so, that they forget themselves (as I described for you in the state of the perfect). And the more they abandon themselves, the more they find me.
To “knock day and night at the door of my mercy” is to “knock, and the door will be opened to you” (Mt 7:7). The great mystery of God’s providence is evident when those closest to Christ are knocking at the door of his mercy so that his graces be showered onto their persecutor. The fire of charity which grows in the souls of those who share most intimately with Christ’s sufferings, enables them to pray with Christ on the cross at Calvary, as he prayed for his persecutors. We, also, are called to pray for those who persecute us: “But I say this to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you” (Mt 5:44). Not only are we called to pray for those who persecute us, but also for nonbelievers. We are invited to join our prayers with Jesus, who continually intercedes for us at the right hand of the Father, and knock, so that the door of nonbelievers’ souls will be opened by God’s grace, bringing them to repentance and conversion of heart. As Jesus described to St. Faustina, the prayer most pleasing to him is prayer for the conversion of nonbelievers.
Today I heard a voice in my soul: The loss of each soul plunges me into mortal sadness. You always console Me when you pray for sinners. The prayer most pleasing to Me is prayer for the conversion of sinners. Know, My daughter, that this prayer is always heard and answered.
The souls who are very perfect, as described by St. Catherine, share most intimately in the sorrows of Christ. In loving much, they will have great sorrow.
And because they have come to know so much of me, they love me much. And, whoever loves much, will have great sorrow; therefore those whose love grows will know more sorrow.
They share in Christ’s thirst for souls, knocking at the gates of heaven for the salvation of those caught up in deadly sin. The thirst for Christ is lived out perpetually in souls who are transformed through the grace of the Holy Spirit to come closer to resembling the interior life of our Savior. Their sorrow is an otherworldly sorrow, in which the divine spirit has fully transformed not only their sorrow, but the other principal emotions of fear, joy, and hope. With a holy fear and reverence for God, the souls experience sorrow as they grieve only for the offenses committed against God. Their greatest hope is to win souls for our Father in heaven. In their experience of being loved by God and in their knowledge of his immense love for mankind, their joy surpasses all the tribulations and trials the world can send. Their otherworldly joy enables them to love their neighbors as God does, vividly seeing their beauty through contemplating them as unique reflections of their divine creator.
They grieve only for offenses committed against me, for they see how deserving I am of love and service. And they grieve for the harm that comes to souls when they see them walking so blindly through the world’s darkness. For in their loving union with me, they have contemplated and known how ineffably I love my creatures, seeing how they reflect my likeness, and they have fallen in love with my creatures’ beauty for love of me. Therefore, they feel unbearable sorrow when they see them straying from my goodness. These sufferings are so great, that they make every other suffering diminish in them until they regard nothing as being done to themselves.
Here we see how those closest to Christ share most intimately in his sufferings. He fills their hearts with the deep sorrow that he himself experienced at the sight of sinful hearts that have rejected his love. Yet the pain of Christ surpasses that of all the saints. He lives out this pain mystically in his saints, as he fills their hearts not only with his sorrow, but also with the burning desire that he himself experienced for the salvation of souls. The saints set their hope on our heavenly Father, “prodded by burning desire” to cry out to him for souls who are in most need of help. Filled with the Father’s own heavenly desire, they mirror his Son as he cried out on the cross: “Father, forgive them; they know not what they are doing” (Lk 23:34).
Then, prodded by burning desire, they cry out to me in firm hope and with the light of most holy faith, asking my help in such great need. Thus my divine providence sees, at one and the same time, to the help of the world by letting myself be constrained by my servants’ sorrowful, tender, restless longing, and to their own nurturing and growth in this way to greater and more perfect knowledge and union with me.
The journey of listening to the voice of God can be a truly remarkable one. Ultimately, we are all called to imitate the saints who knocked at the door of Christ’s heart; not only for their own spiritual needs, but also significantly for the needs of their brothers and sisters. We are invited by Christ to pray with him and all the angels and saints to the Father for the conversion of nonbelievers and for those who persecute us. The power of prayer in helping all our brothers and sisters who make up God’s family will only be truly understood in heaven.