Tuesday, April 25, 2017

‘Don’t Judge’ — How to Respond When Your Relativistic Friend Quotes Jesus

‘Don’t Judge’ — How to Respond When Your Relativistic Friend Quotes Jesus

It’s fascinating how some people who don’t regularly read the Bible are quick to quote one scriptural verse back to Christians: “Don’t judge” (Matthew 7:1).
This line is commonly used to silence us from speaking out on moral matters. “You shouldn’t tell others what is right or wrong! After all, Jesus said, ‘Don’t judge!’”

But the Bible speaks about judging in different ways. On the one hand, we should never judge a person’s soul. That’s what Jesus critiques when he says, “Don’t judge.”

Someone’s spiritual situation before God is between that person and God alone.
At the same time, Jesus isn’t telling us it’s evil to use our minds to make judgments about what is right and wrong. Indeed, the Bible calls us to make good, wise judgments about many things in life. St. Paul, for example, says “the spiritual man judges all things” (1 Corinthians 2:15).

Many people are afraid to say something is morally wrong because they don’t want to be “judgmental.” But we need to help them see there’s a big difference between making a moral judgment and judging someone’s soul. 

Is it okay for me to use my mind and simply make a judgment? If I notice it’s raining, I make a judgment: “I should bring my umbrella.” If it’s snowing, I make a judgment: “I should wear my winter coat.” Am I a mean, bigoted person if I do this? Of course not. God gave me a mind. He wants me to use it.

Similarly, can I use my mind to make a judgment about someone else’s actions? If I see my toddler about to run into the street, can I make the judgment, “That’s not good for her. She might get hit by a car”? If I do this, I’m not saying she’s a horrible person or condemning her to hell. I’m just observing that she is about to do something that will cause her great harm.

Let’s take this a step further. Can I use my mind and make a judgment about someone else’s moral actions? Let’s say there’s a young female college student who is sleeping around with one man after another. Can I use my mind and make the judgment, “That’s not good for her”? Can I make the judgment, “She’s not going to be happy living this way. She’s never going to find the lasting love she longs for. She’s made for something better”? Of course.

But let’s be clear: I’m not judging her soul if I do that. She may be doing something objectively wrong, but I don’t know her personal situation before God. I don’t know her background, her situation or her wounds. “Who am I to judge?” Pope Francis would say. A soul’s status before God is something between that person and God alone.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church describes how various factors in people’s lives may impair their free choices in such a way that limits their culpability or moral guilt. As Pope Francis explains, “Each person’s situation before God and their life in grace are mysteries which no one can fully know from without.”
Only God sees the whole picture. Perhaps this young woman comes from a dysfunctional family and has never experienced authentic love. Maybe she was abused. Maybe she has always been taught that this is what it means to be a liberated woman. Such a woman doesn’t need me condemning her soul. She needs to know God’s love, mercy and plan for her life.

At the same time — and this is absolutely crucial — if I care about her at all, should I say something to her about what she’s doing? If she is a close friend or family member, for example, should I talk to her about it?

I wouldn’t be judging her soul — that’s between her and God alone. But to love is to will the good of another, to seek what’s best for the other person. And if I truly love this person, then it’s the loving thing to show her the better way.
Certainly, I should do this prudently, in the right time and in the right way, and with great gentleness, humility and compassion.

But it is simply not loving to sit back and never desire to share the truth with her.
Imagine if I see my 2-year-old daughter about to touch the hot stove and I say, “I wouldn’t do that. But I don’t want to be judgmental. Whatever makes you happy.”
Or imagine if my non-swimming toddler is about to jump into a swimming pool, and I say, “Oh well … if that works for you! … I personally wouldn’t do that, but I don’t want to impose my views on you. It’s your life.” Would that be a loving thing to do? Absolutely not.

This gets to another tragedy of moral relativism: Relativism hinders us from loving people.

We can become indifferent to the needs of the people God has placed in our lives.
Instead of responding with love and compassion when we notice our brother stumbling in life, we can become apathetic and unresponsive. We can become like Cain, who said, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” That’s not love.

Let’s rise above the culture of relativism and show more love for the people in our lives by sharing the truth with them.  

Edward Sri is a professor of theology at the Augustine Institute. This article is based on his newest book and eight-part DVD small- group study, Who Am I to Judge? Responding to Relativism With Logic and Love (Ignatius Press). Part V:  “Why Relativism Is Not Neutral.”
Read: Parts 12 & 3.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

The Interior Life is Everything

It Might Not Look Like Much, but the Interior Life is Everything

I thought life was too short not to do it all, so I was willing to try anything once. I was always up to something new: apartments, jobs, travel plans, degrees, beliefs. I had long lists of things I wanted to try and places I wanted to visit. But then I converted to the Catholic Faith, had my first baby, and became a stay-at-home mom. I don’t really do a whole lot anymore.
No one calls my parents to say, “You’ll never guess what she did now!” about the soup I made for dinner. No one cheers from the sidelines: “Do it now, while you still can!” when I seize some free time to read. And I don’t send postcards from my adventures in the Land of Croup.

There is still movement aplenty in the form of toddler mischief, blocks flying past my head, and children standing on things they shouldn’t be standing on.
But for the most part, any changes, any “movement,” comes not from doing something exciting in the greater world but from an interior movement of the heart, mind, and will. I’m not crossing borders, but experiencing the slow and often painful movement of the soul toward God.

Our culture is all about the externals. We cultivate bodies and bucket lists as if there will be a crown in heaven for those who looked the best while trekking at Machu Picchu. But in heaven, joy will be found in those quiet fruits of practicing the faith: contemplation, prayer, and adoration.
The inner life isn’t flashy, it’s not exciting, and no one is going to be jealous of the time spent on your knees in prayer. But it’s the real stuff, the good stuff. The hard stuff.

More determination is required to subdue the interior man than to mortify the body; and to break one’s will than to break one’s bones. — St. Ignatius of Loyola

In seizing freedom and making lists there was little bending of the will, little in the way of sacrifice beyond saving money for the next adventure. And very little stillness.
Now I live on a much smaller, more intimate scale. There are no big trips planned, no promotions, nothing exciting—only the day-to-day attempt at joyful sacrifice and surrender of self. This is harder than the worst of flights, bedbugs, and food poisoning all in one. It doesn’t sparkle with novelty either: the battle against the flesh is an old one.

But this interior movement is everything, even when I am perfectly still, kneeling—not even “standing on my own two feet.” As the spiritual life has grown, the bucket list has shrunk. Sometimes that feels good and right, other times a backpack and a one-way ticket sound pretty appealing.
And those times I remind myself that the real destination sells no postcards, and no one’s clamoring that you should go now before it’s discovered. The crown offered there is sought in the smallest of moments, in privacy and prayer, in the constant and quiet pursuit of what is good and holy and true—and in the denial of self.
“Lord what wilt Thou have me do? Behold the true sign of a totally perfect soul: when one has reached the point of giving up his will so completely that he no longer seeks, expects or desires to do ought but that which God wills.”
—St. Bernard of Clairvaux

image: Mikhail Markovskiy / Shutterstock.com
Denise Renner


Denise is a wife, mother, and Catholic convert who writes at The Motherlands. She lives in Oregon with her husband and two children. Denise was raised Lutheran, earned a masters in theology from Southern Baptists, and, finally, was lead to the Catholic faith by her husband.

Martyrs suffer for our sins - homosexuality is one

Jan. 11, 1993

Each week, Fr. Rutler writes a column to which you can subscribe on the parish web site. In this week's column, he writes:

I do not like most jargon, as it diminishes the creative power of the noble English language rightly used. For instance, I do not like to be told by bureaucratic sorts to “prioritize.” (Apparently, the first recorded instance of its use was in the 1972 presidential campaign.) As with all things, Christ the Living Word put it better when he said, “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6:33). God and his promise of eternal life should have priority over every other desire or concern. Recently, many television viewers complained about a news bulletin covering the beheading of the journalist and devout Catholic, James Foley. Their objection was not to the horror of the news, but that it had interrupted the broadcast of a soap opera. We are learning quickly that people with that defective kind of priority will soon find out the hard way that life is not a soap opera. We are now engaged in a war, whether or not some politicians hesitate to call it that, and it must have priority over all other interests. The war is being fought by enemies of God, deluded by the conceit that they are fighting for God. 

This is so hard for an indulged and selfish culture to accept, inasmuch as it means acknowledging that good and evil exist, though many would prefer to ignore the latter. Christians are being martyred in the Middle East, and public officials still find it hard to mention that those who are being crucified, beheaded, and driven from their homes are suffering because they are Christians. 

The auxiliary bishop of Baghdad, Shlemon Warduni, said on Vatican radio: “We have to ask the world: Why are you silent? Why do not you speak out? Do human rights exist, or not? And if they exist, where are they? There are many, many cases that should arouse the conscience of the whole world: Where is Europe? Where is America?” The genocide of Christians, who have been in Iraq since shortly after the Resurrection, does not seem to have priority in the attention of many in our country. 

As this suffering continues, many in the United States are willing to tolerate heresy and moral decadence in a vain attempt to “get along” with others. While Christians must “love the sinner and hate the sin,” there are an increasing number of people who are intimidated into enabling the sinner to advertise his sin. In 1992, Cardinal O’Connor said that compromising Catholic truth for the sake of political correctness “was not worth one comma in the Apostles' Creed.”

The holy martyrs in the Middle East honor the Church and atone for our degeneracy. Their bishops are willing to struggle and die with them. They must be amazed that bishops and people in other places have their priorities so wrong. 

Fortune Telling, Ouija boards - are evil - by Fr. John Hollowell

This is Super Serious: Fortune Telling, Ouija Boards, Tarot Cards . . .

Ouija Boards and Demonic Oppression 

By Fr. John Hollowell, On This Rock:
I spoke with a young man who was battling authentic demonic oppression for over twenty years after being in a room where a Ouija Board was being used when this young man was in seventh grade.
He shared that he felt something come into him and that from that point on in his life, he knew he was battling a Demon that had considerable ability to harm him (head aches and weariness) and to suggest things to him denigrating himself, his family, discouraging him from going to Church, discouraging him from confession and priests, and much more.
Stay away from fortune telling, Ouija boards, Tarot Cards, and all that other garbage.  EVIL IS REAL.  
“All forms of divination are to be rejected:  recourse to Satan or demons, conjuring up the dead or other practices falsely supposed to ‘unveil’ the future.  Consulting horoscopes, astrology, palm reading, interpretation of omens and lots, the phenomena of clairvoyance, and recourse to mediums all conceal a desire for power over time, history, and, in the last analysis, other human beings, as well as a wish to conciliate hidden powers.  They contradict the honor, respect, and loving fear that we owe to God alone”
– Catechism 2116
Note that Deuteronomy compares all these evil consultations with killing children: “Let there not be found among you anyone who immolates his son or daughter in the fire, nor a fortuneteller, soothsayer, charmer, diviner, or caster of spells, nor one who consults ghosts and spirits or seeks oracles from the dead.”
– Deuteronomy 18: 10-11
St. Paul and Deuteronomy note that those who engage in these types of acts commit mortal sins.  It is SUPER SERIOUS
As noted from this particular young man’s story, even those AROUND this type of activity can be harmed in serious ways.

Cardinal Sarah - God or Nothing

For some in the Church today, Catholic doctrine is subject to rewriting, liturgical worship of God is primarily a chance for people to assemble and express themselves, Catholic moral teaching is now to be considered an example of outmoded rigorism, and pastoral care of the faithful means telling them to do whatever they want as long as it makes them “happy.”

But are we really happy when we reject Our Lord’s teachings and try to convince ourselves that that is what Our Lord would want us to do? Is it not rather the case that any such manipulation of the truth of Christ produces a spirit of anxiety and bitterness that inexorably manifests itself in a frenzied attempt to tear down the rest of Catholic teaching and practice?

It really does come down to God or Nothing.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

The Keys to Getting Your Prayers Answered “Praying Like You Mean It!”

The Keys to Getting Your Prayers Answered

“Praying Like You Mean It!”

By Fr. Richard Heilman, Roman Catholic Man:

Fervent Prayer: Praying Like You Mean It.
Whenever I am offering spiritual direction, and the directee laments about a situation, wondering why God has not answered their prayer … I always ask, “How are you praying?” Nine times out of ten the answer comes back with something that sounds like, “I don’t know … I guess I add a petition to my rosary or something.” It is then that I speak to them about “Praying like you mean it!”
St. Bernard of Clairvaux wrote,
“Timid prayer does not pierce heaven, because immoderate fear binds the soul so that prayer, far from flying upward, can not even come out. Being lukewarm, it grows weak in its flight and falls because it has no strength. Prayer that is faithful, humble, and fervent will undoubtedly pierce heaven and it will certainly not return fruitless.”
I have witnessed countless miracles. In each case, we offered “intense prayer campaigns” … we were “begging God.” St. Bernard is correct, as we offered faithful, humble and *fervent* prayer that sought to pierce heaven. This was much more than *just* adding a petition here or there.
Here are some of the more notable miracles we’ve witnessed …

My uncle, a priest, was confirmed by two experts, that he was brain dead. After praying for him in the Holy Land, and bringing him a stone from the Pool of Bethesda, he completely recovered.

 I prayed in the Holy Land for another woman who was filled with cancer, and brought her a stone too. She completely recovered.

 My brother-in-law’s nephew was filled with cancer, and several of us prayed with the intercession of Padre Pio (we actually added oil blessed with intercession of Padre Pio), and he completely recovered.

 My nephew was moments away from dying from pneumonia and excessive internal bleeding. We asked tens of thousands on social media to pray with the intercession of Pope Pius XII. He miraculously recovered.

 A friend’s dad suffered a nine centimeter ruptured aneurysm (I’m told there is no record of anyone surviving one this size). We asked for prayer just as we did with my nephew. He miraculously recovered.

 In Madison, WI, UW Clinics were threatening to implement late term abortions. We got over 200 people to pray the Stations of the Cross in front of the clinic, and ten days later they announced they are withdrawing there plans to go forward with this.

 Religious freedom was suddenly under great attack, notably with the Hobby Lobby case. We got 100s of people to pray every Thursday evening in the Summer in front of the State Capitol for two years. The Supreme Court ruled in favor of Hobby Lobby.

 Tens of thousands joined together with the Novena for Our Nation in the lead up to the 2016 Presidential election. The freight train of secular hedonism was stopped in its tracks.

And, here is the story of what happened just on the Western edge of Madison, WI, in the tiny town of Pine Bluff …


“As long as Moses held up the staff in his hand, the Israelites had the advantage. But whenever he dropped his hand, the Amalekites gained the advantage” (Exodus 17:11).
In the summer of 2004, I was assigned as pastor of two parishes, one of which was St. Mary’s of Pine Bluff, a Catholic parish in a small unincorporated town in southern Wisconsin, just west from Madison. The little town of Pine Bluff has one church, two bars, and a handful of homes. It is surrounded by fields and idyllic rolling hills and countryside. It’s the kind of town where people dream of raising their kids.
So it was that just months after I arrived in Pine Bluff, one of the bar owners decided to rent out his cozy establishment to a strip club owner. Neighbors were appalled, and the little town was stunned. But there was not much, it seemed, that anyone could do.
The folks in Pine Bluff, however, didn’t yet understand my resolve and my absolute trust in God’s miracle power. Lying in bed one night, I found myself in my prayer … “What in the world did you have in mind, God, by allowing this strip club across the street of my new parish?” Then one word came to me, “Mile.” It was then that I envisioned the trek from the front of our church to the end of the block, then back to the church and concluding in the cemetery behind our church. Then two words came to me, “Miracle Mile.”
These words and that image came so strong that I got out of bed at 3:00 AM in the morning and put on my sweat suit and went out in my car. I reset the odometer down to zero, and drove the path I envisioned in mind.  When I reached the end of that path (up in the cemetery), the odometer rolled to exactly one mile. I knew then that God was speaking to me.
That following week, I gathered together some of the faith-filled people I had met since my arrival, and we began to make plans. Surprisingly, they did not think I had lost my rocker when I told them about my 3:00 AM drive through Pine Bluff. They, too, believed there was something to this.
We discerned that we were called to pray the Stations of the Cross along that one mile route. Some people designed little 3 foot high crosses, and we placed a roman numeral on each one, signifying each of the 14 Stations. All the neighbors allowed us to plant these crosses in their yards, near to the sidewalk. We then chose Palm Sunday to hold this Stations of the Cross. We asked people to come, and over 200 people joined us.
CrucifixCemetarycrop1Participants carried their prayer sheets and a white ribbon (a symbol of purity and anti-pornography). The twelfth station found them at the entrance to the beautiful parish cemetery on a bluff with a life-size crucifix of our Lord and a one-hundred-year-old stone kneeler in front (pictured here). The participants tied their white ribbons to this kneeler as a prayer form, much like lighting a vigil candle in church.
After that first prayer walk, a container holding prayer sheets and ribbons was placed at the first station on the walk. All were invited to come, pick up a prayer sheet and white ribbon, and pray at anytime of the day or night, as they wished. Over the next seven months, prayer warriors walked the path and prayed the Stations. The white crosses on residents’ lawns served as a very tangible reminder to pray the Stations and to pray for God’s mercy.
Father Does the “Moses Thing”
While I walked and prayed that mile many times, my primary way of praying during those days of intense spiritual warfare was to wake up before dawn every morning and drive up to Blue Mounds State Park (When one looks west at my church, from a distance, they can see Blue Mounds  in the background … it looks like a mighty mountain). On top of Blue Mounds (Blue? Mary’s color? 😉 ) is a lookout tower (Fire tower?). It was 64 steps to rise to the top. I brought my Bernese Mountain dog, Angel, and I would leash her to the bottom of the tower while I ascended to the top. On top, I would look east and see much of Madison from the high point. And, of course, I was looking out over my entire two parishes. I made sure I was there before the sun would rise, so I was praying as the sun rose. At some point, I found a straight branch that I used, much like Moses’ staff, to hold up and pray … recalling the scripture passage when Moses prayed this way … “As long as Moses held up the staff in his hand, the Israelites had the advantage. But whenever he dropped his hand, the Amalekites gained the advantage” (Exodus 17:11). After I had prayed on the tower, Angel and I would walk the paths on Blue Mounds as I prayed various prayers, such as the rosary. I only missed four days on top of Blue Mounds from April through October of that year.
Victory!!  Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam!!
The miracle mile was, indeed, miraculous. Even though many say that the porn industry is more protected (under First Amendment rights) than are the babies in our mothers’ wombs, within seven months the strip club was chased out of town. Little Pine Bluff was overjoyed, and a victory was won for Our Lord. We estimated that over 700 ribbons were tied to that 100 year old kneeler, represented 700 miles walked in prayer.


Today’s drug crisis desperately needs solutions. Could this be one?

Today’s drug crisis desperately needs solutions. Could this be one?

An Italian nun may have an answer for opioid addiction.

It’s a story that, unfortunately, is becoming more and more familiar. “Kevin” had a degree from a university in Florida and a good job at a logistics company when he suffered a back injury. He got prescription painkillers but eventually found that he couldn’t live without them. And then he started using harder stuff.

“I was working at a good job and had the money to support my habit for a while, so it wasn’t evident in my family I was using pills and using heroin,” he said. “I drank a lot and used drugs in college and it caused problems in my life and relationships, but it wasn’t until I started using heroin that I really started to develop a true drug addiction where I would wake up and have to use drugs every day to go about my daily life or to feel normal or just to operate.”

Kevin ended up in prison for armed robbery. After all, he had a $400-a-day addiction to subsidize. A priest who visited him regularly suggested that he might be a candidate for “Comunità Cenacolo” (Community of the Cenacle), which was founded by an Italian nun to help young men and women struggling with alcohol and drug addiction. Granted probation in late 2013, Kevin entered the Community house Birmingham, Alabama. It’s one of four houses in the United States that is part of the international Comunità Cenacolo, founded in Italy by Mother Elvira Petrozzi in 1983. Houses operate in 18 countries around the world. A new one is about to open in Costa Rica, according to Albino Aragno, who oversees the communities in North America.
Leaders of the organization requested that family names of those interviewed not be used in this article.

Drug abuse has been a problem for a long time, and it knows no national borders. But the United States seems to be undergoing a particularly sharp rise in the number of people addicted to opioids right now, both legal and illegal.
As Christopher Caldwell noted in a recent article in First Things, 52,000 Americans died of overdoses in 2015—“about four times as many as died from gun homicides and half again as many as died in car accidents.”
Comunità Cenacolo doesn’t deal exclusively with drug addicts but has its fair share.

“Almost all of us are drug addicts,” said Kevin, 35, “but some have life struggles, or they need to get their spiritual life back in order.”
And Cenacle doesn’t have medical professionals or counselors on staff to lead addicts and alcoholics through a particular method of treatment. Mother Elvira refers to it as a “school of life,” focusing on work, prayer and interpersonal sharing.

“We propose a simple, disciplined, family style of life, based on the rediscovery of the essential gifts of prayer and work (‘’ora et labora’‘), true friendship, sacrifice, and faith in Jesus,” explains the organization’s website. “The spirituality of the Community is centered on the Eucharist and the Blessed Mother. The day is structured around times of prayer (Eucharistic Adoration, the Liturgy of the Hours, the Rosary), work, deep sharing about one’s own life in the light of the Word of God, recreation, and times of celebration. We believe that the Christian life in its simplicity and fullness is the true answer to every restlessness in the human heart and that, in the living encounter with God’s Mercy, man is reborn into hope and is freed from the chains that have enslaved him, thus discovering the joy of being loved and of loving others.”

Each house for men has about 20-25 residents, usually between the ages of 18-39. The daily routine begins with a wakeup call at 6am and follows a rigorous structure that includes time in chapel, workshop and garden.
“We do everything here: gardening, we take care of the grounds, we do building. All the benches you see, all the porches,” Kevin explained as he gave a tour of the 10-acre Our Lady of Hope men’s community in St. Augustine, which he now co-directs. “This time last year we redid the whole roof. We pray, we work and we share—the three things we do in community. And we eat good as well.”
That last, he added, is important for morale.

In addition to regular household chores, including cooking, growing crops and raising hogs (which gives someone a daily, though not entirely pleasant, task of cleaning out the sty), the community is engaged in woodwork, making anything from furniture to the crosses for rosary beads (which a nearby women’s community finishes off). There’s a church across the state highway where the men recently refinished the pews.

The prayer aspect of the life here includes Mass two or three times a week, recitation of three rosaries each day, adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, and Gospel sharing.

If it sounds like a quasi-religious community, here’s something else: there’s a strong emphasis on living a communal life and limiting material possessions.
“When I entered, my initial challenge was detaching from the world,” said Samantha, who joined three and a half years ago. “I come from a family that’s pretty well off, so I was spoiled and taken care of my whole life.”
Samantha, 30, who was addicted to painkillers and anxiety medication and started using heroin, said the initial adjustment to the community was hard: “working all day long and not having everything at your fingertips, waiting for things, not always hearing the word ‘Yes,’ detaching from material things. We live a really simple life here,” she said.

“We have no money, no wallets, no cell phones, so we can focus on … what we need to focus on, to recognize the things we need to change, the things we need to grow,” Kevin added. “When I used drugs I covered up everything. I didn’t want to deal with my emotions so I got high instead.”

“We don’t have TV, newspaper, phone or internet, no computer. So we learn how to have a conversation with somebody,” said 22-year-old Eileen. Those things can keep community members from communion with one another. Without them, a member isn’t able to escape from difficult confrontations.

“We have two girls who do housecleaning together every morning, and whether you got in a fight with that girl or you get along, you’re still working together,” she said. “So you learn to be consistent in a friendship. And it’s hard.”

In the life they left behind, she added, addicts were constantly running away from difficulties. “We changed jobs or changed schools, we unfriended the person on Facebook—you get rid of people you don’t get along with,” Eileen said. “We think we’re here because we use drugs, but it’s a lot deeper than that. Why did we resort to that? It was maybe because we never learned to communicate ourselves. Maybe we felt hurt or maybe we felt forgotten, maybe we ran and ran and ran and felt like nobody ever truly knew us. All these underlying things are the reasons why we started to abuse.”

Now, in the daily situations of life, she said, “you build your character so that you’re able to say no in all kinds of situations.” That will be helpful when community members leave and return to the world, where there will surely be temptations.

“Drugs and alcohol are always going to be there—and even more accessible than in my times, cheaper,” said Aragno, who came to Cenacolo some 40 years ago as a drug addict himself. “For them, the challenge is to sustain the life they have learned in community and be able to keep the faith and stay away from the old environment. And in a time when everything is global it’s much more difficult. You used to be able to move away from bad influences, but now everyone can too easily be found on the internet.”

At Cenacolo, there are times built into the schedule for sharing and “fraternal correction.” In a session called “revision of life,” community members gather every two weeks in groups of four or five. One at a time, each person shares about his feelings, his prayer, his work, his relationships with the other members, his struggles, and his behavior since the last revision of life. He also tells how well he maintained the particular “commitment” he was given at the last session.

“Then one at a time, everyone else tells you what they see in you, corrects you or encourages you,” said Aragno. “You are not allowed to respond, not allowed to explain why you are acting like that…. They give you a commitment. If you are lazy, never on time, you have to be first in every activity in the community, or if you are struggling, closed in on yourself, they give you the commitment to talk to a different guy every day, open up, come out of your shyness.”

As Samantha said, “There’s no distracting or disappearing or hiding or escaping anything. You deal with yourself here, and that’s that. There’s no running. You deal with stuff here.”

Islam is fastest growing religion, Pew study says

Islam is fastest growing religion, Pew study says

The faith of Muhammad may overtake Christianity by the year 2100.

Christianity is the largest religion in the world today, but if trends persist, Islam will overtake it by the end of the 21st century.
So predicts the Pew Research Center, which identified two factors in Islam’s current status as the world’s fastest growing faith: Muslim women are having more children, on average, than women of other religions, and adherents to Islam, on average, are younger than devotees of other religious groups.

“Around the world, each Muslim woman has an average of 3.1 children, compared with 2.3 for all other groups combined,” said the report, “Muslims and Islam: Key findings in the U.S. and around the world.”
Muslims are also the youngest (median age of 23 years old in 2010) of all major religious groups, seven years younger than the median age of non-Muslims. As a result, a larger share of Muslims already are, or will soon be, at the point in their lives when they begin having children. This, combined with high fertility rates, will fuel Muslim population growth.
The study estimates that by mid-century, Muslims will have increased across the world by 73 percent over numbers in 2010. Christians are projected to grow only by 35 percent during the same time period.

The news might  resonate particularly with Europeans. Muslims in Europe are projected to expand to 10 percent of the population by 2100. On the one hand, it might give fuel to those whose fear of a “Muslim invasion” or “Muslim takeover” of the continent was no doubt made worse by recent comments made by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

“Have not just three but five children,” Erdogan told his “brothers and sisters in Europe” while addressing a rally in central Turkey. “The place in which you are living and working is now your homeland and new motherland. Stake a claim to it. Open more businesses, enroll your children in better schools, make your family live in better neighborhoods, drive the best cars, live in the most beautiful houses.”

In addition, the recent terrorist attack outside the houses of the British Parliament, which was carried out by a Muslim with ties to Birmingham, refocused attention on that central English city, where 20 percent of the population is Muslim.

The Pew study also noted that while migration doesn’t affect the overall growth of Islam worldwide, it does increase the religion’s profile in certain areas. Europeans can certainly attest to that, as most of the recent migrants and refugees from the Middle East and North Africa are Muslim.

In the United States, Pew projects that Muslims will double by 2050, from about 1 percent of the general population currently to 2.1 percent. One of the most public manifestations of this growth, of course, is the construction of buildings for worship and the study of Islam. Though the furor over the building of the so-called “Ground Zero Mosque” in Manhattan has largely been forgotten, not everyone is open to seeing new Islamic Centers spring up throughout the country. Last year, as Muslims were having trouble getting a building permit for a mosque from Bernards Township, New Jersey, several Christian organizations offered them legal support, on the grounds that religious freedom is for all, not only Christians. Some members of the Southern Baptist Convention balked, however.
“If we defend the rights of people to construct places of false worship, are we not helping them speed down the highway to hell?” said Tennessee megachurch pastor Dean Haun, explaining why he resigned from the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention over its support for the mosque. “I want no part in supporting a false religion, even if it is in the name of religious freedom.”

Haun’s 2,800-member church also voted to withhold funds that were earmarked for the SBC’s Cooperative Program, which finances state and national missions, SBC seminaries and other projects, reported Christianity Today.

The question of how a growing Muslim population can integrate into American society is worth reflecting on so that the United States might avoid the kinds of problems experienced by, say, French society, where alienation of Muslim populations has led to civil unrest at times, says Anouar Majid, author of Islam and America: Building a Future without Prejudice.

“It’s an issue worth reflecting on because Islam in the abstract and Western values in the abstract are bound to clash. In Islam, the notion of secularism and democracy are disturbing. In addition, pious Muslims stay away from many Western dietary norms and aspects of social life. Many of these are kind of frowned upon, in fact damned, at least theoretically, by Islamic doctrines and Islamic thinking,” said Majid, director of the Center for Global Humanities at the University of New England and the founding director of the Tangier Global Forum in Morocco. “So when these Muslims come into these societies, they experience a kind of dislocation, a trauma, because now they’re forced to negotiate, they have to acclimate to a system that, according to their preachers, negates their belief system, or clashes with their ethics. All kinds of violence erupts at times, and that is a problem. The challenge is how do you take a population that has been educated to believe in a certain way of life, a certain way of being, and integrate it into a world, a society that sees culture and politics through very different lenses.”
While the upward trend in Islam is largely due to the higher birthrate, there is also a significant amount of conversion to the religion. Gabriel Said Reynolds, professor of Islamic studies and theology at the University of Notre Dame, pointed out in an April 2016 article that Islam is appealing to an increasing number of Americans.

“This is the issue which should concern the American Church,” Reynolds wrote in Church Life Journal. “Pew research estimates (in a 2007 survey) that 23 percent of Muslim Americans identify themselves as converts from another religion. In other words, about 759,000 Americans are converts to Islam. Most of these conversions are among African-Americans but an increasing number of whites and Latinos are also converting to Islam (about 67 percent of Muslim converts are former Protestants and 10 percent former Catholics).”
Reynolds wrote:
While some Christians convert to Islam for the sake of marriage (according to Islamic law a Christian man may not marry a Muslim woman), many Christians convert to Islam after Muslims invite them to do so. Muslims have a remarkable zeal for proselytism or “da’wah” (the Arabic term commonly used by Muslims now in English). Most American mosques welcome visitors regularly and pass out literature, or tracts, to them written specifically for Christian audiences (literature which often emphasizes that Islam has a high regard for Jesus as a prophet). The internet is buzzing with Islamic da’wah sites inviting visitors to “convert to Islam” and featuring options to chat or call a Muslim with any questions. Da’wah is also increasingly taking place on the street or on billboards in American cities with slogans such as “Muhammad Believed in Peace, Social Justice, Women’s Rights,” or “Abraham, Moses, Jesus, Muhammad: One Family, One Message.”  The large annual conferences of Muslim American organizations—the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA) and the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) —include sessions of da’wah training. Videos of famous Muslim da’wah activists such as the South African Ahmed Deedat (now deceased) or the Indian Zakir Naik—including their debates with Christians—have millions of hits on YouTube. On many American campuses “Muslim Student Associations” host “Islam Awareness Weeks” which seem to combine da’wah with the fight against Islamophobia.
In this light, Russell Shaw, author of American Church: The Remarkable Rise, Meteoric Fall, and Uncertain Future of Catholicism in America, said the new Pew study is a “real rebuke to Christianity.”
“Jesus tells us to preach the gospel to the whole world. After 2000 years, Christians haven’t responded nearly as well as they (we) should—and in the last half-century, i.e., since Vatican II, the steam seems to have gone out of the Catholic missionary enterprise,” Shaw said. “We are still up to our eyeballs in self-congratulating happy talk. The new books by Archbishop Chaput, [Rod] Dreher, and [Anthony] Esolen—saying things I’ve been saying for quite some time—should be a wakeup call. I hope and pray they have that effect.”

Muslim professor insists Jesus wasn’t crucified, Christian student suspended after disagreeing

Muslim professor insists Jesus wasn’t crucified, Christian student suspended after disagreeing

Rob Shimshock, DCNF
A Christian college student has been suspended after allegedly challenging his Muslim professor’s claims that Jesus wasn’t crucified and that his disciples did not think he was God.
Marshall Polston, a sophomore at Rollins College in Florida, was suspended after disagreeing with these assertions made by his professor, Areej Zufari, in his Middle Eastern humanities class, as reported by The College Fix.
“Honestly, it reminded me of some of the more radical groups I researched when abroad,” Polston told the Central Florida Post. “Whether religious or not, I believe even those with limited knowledge of Christianity can agree that according to the text, Jesus was crucified and his followers did believe he was divine… that he was ‘God.’”
After Polston challenged Zufari on this point, he received a 52 percent on an essay and says the professor refused to explain why. He was later reportedly suspended.
“I was upset, understandably,” stated Polston. “I’ve never gotten anything less than straight A’s, so I was really interested in figuring out how to possibly improve or at least understand the grade.”
Zufari reported the student to Rollins’s “Dean of Safety” and canceled class, alleging Polston made her feel “unsafe.”
When the class met again, Zufari brought up Sharia law and a male Muslim student suggested that adulterers, gays, and thieves should be decapitated, according to Polston. Multiple students thought the teacher should report the statement and one anonymous student told the FBI, but Zufari purportedly took no action beyond playfully telling the Muslim student something similar to that he was “in time-out” and should remain quiet for a bit.
Along with his suspension, Polston was ordered not to contact Zufari. The professor submitted a police report alleging that Polston disobeyed the order and had shown up outside of the classroom, but both a restaurant receipt and video surveillance stills indicate that the student was buying food at an Orlando restaurant during the class period.
Rollins College previously booted a Christian student group from campus because the organization required members to be Christian and endorse some conservative views, which violated the school’s anti-discrimination policy.
The Daily Caller News Foundation reached out to Rollins College for comment, but received no reply in time for publication.

Do we face a new “Dark Age”? Rod Dreher says Yes, citing Ratzinger

Do we face a new “Dark Age”? Rod Dreher says Yes, citing Ratzinger

A ray of hope may be found, however, in the radical service of the monks of Norcia.

As part of my extended chat with Rod Dreher, discussing his new book The Benedict Option, I mentioned that I found his thoughts to be challenging and convincing, but also rather bleak.

Q:  You even caution Christians to be ready for persecution and you allude to the “new Dark Ages” that will be coming. Many Christian writers seem to believe we are entering a dark and troubled time in history. Why do think this is so?  

A: No less an authority than Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, shortly before he became Benedict XVI, said that the West is undergoing its worst spiritual crisis since the fall of the Roman Empire. He said that we had lost our roots in Christianity, and that this would have tremendous consequences. The philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre made the same point, though not from a theological point of view. He said that we have lost the shared beliefs that bound us together, and gave us a sense of purpose and mission outside of ourselves. It was MacIntyre who said [in After Virtue – ed] that we need to look to St. Benedict as an example for how to live in this new Dark Age.

Obviously I think he’s right, and I believe that we are headed into tumultuous times, politically and otherwise. I don’t see how anybody who pays attention to politics can think otherwise. And I believe that we may well see persecution of the faithful. Europe’s crisis with Muslim immigrants is going to be of world-historical importance. That said, I believe that external persecution is far less of a threat to us as internal collapse of Christian theology and morality. This is something that is very hard for lots of us to contemplate, because we still see lots of churches around us. But it’s true. The Notre Dame sociologist Christian Smith has demonstrated in his research that Christianity, as it has been historically understood, has been hollowed out from within.

We cannot afford our complacency. The Catholic church historian Robert Louis Wilken said over a decade ago that there is nothing more important to Christians right now than for the Church to tell itself its own story. We are in an age of mass forgetting. We cannot hope to evangelize the world if we can’t even pass on the faith to our own children, and if we don’t even know what it means to be a Christian. This may not be the end of the world, but it is the end of a world, and Christians who don’t recognize this and take action are like the people of Noah’s time who figured the rain would stop sooner or later, if they just sat tight and waited.

Q: Can you offer us a ray of hope in all this?  

A: Yes, indeed. I made a pilgrimage to Norcia, St. Benedict’s hometown, last year, and spent a week going to Mass at the monastery, and interviewing the monks. They are luminous. The peace of Christ shines on their faces. They are not optimists about where the world is and is going today, but they are hopeful. What is the difference between optimism and Christian hope? Optimists expect things to keep getting better and better. I don’t think we have grounds for optimism right now. But we have every reason for hope. Hope trusts that the Lord’s hand is in all things, that His purposes are always at work. Again, look at the three faithful Hebrew men: they told Nebuchadnezzar that their God might save them from the furnace, but even if He didn’t, they would praise him. They trusted that He could use even their deaths for His purposes, just as He was using the suffering of the Hebrews in their Babylonian exile for His own purposes. In the history of the Church, the saints and martyrs were able to suffer and even to die, because they knew that death does not have the final word. Their hope was in the Lord – the same Lord who suffered and died for the salvation of the world. But He was resurrected, and that makes all the difference.

When St. Benedict left the fallen city of Rome for the forest to fast and pray and seek the Lord’s will, he experienced the calling to become an abbot. When he founded his monasteries, Benedict could not possibly have known how God was going to use his mustard seed of faith to advance the Kingdom in barbarian Europe. Benedict did not set out to save Western civilization. He only wanted to figure out how to serve God in community, under very challenging conditions. What God did through the fidelity of the Benedictines was to bring the Gospel throughout barbarian Europe, and over time, through lots of patient, ordinary work, lay the groundwork for the rebuilding of civilization. The key thing to remember here is that God did that not by raising up faithful men who wanted to Make The Empire Great Again. He did it by raising up faithful men who wanted to serve Him radically. All the rest followed from that.

As your readers may know, the Norcia basilica, and most of the monastery complex, collapsed in a catastrophic earthquake last fall.  By the grace of God, the monks survived. Because they read the signs of the times, so to speak, from earlier, milder earthquakes, they were living just outside the town, in tents pitched on the side of a hill. Because they had taken shelter there when the earth first began to shake at summer’s end, they survived the collapse, and are now there for the rebuilding. They regard the rubble of their basilica as a symbol for the Church in the West today – and they see their call to rebuild as the call for all Christians in the West today. Because the monks built their lives around ordinary practices of prayer, fasting, worship, Bible study, and work, they have within them the internal and communal resilience that was not destroyed by the catastrophic earthquake. It has been a terrible blow to them, of course, but in this crisis, we can see their hope shining brightly in the darkness. This is what the Lord calls us to as well. I’m telling you, that band of monastic brothers in Norcia are a light to the entire Christian world right now, not just Catholics.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Char Vance - Healed in Medjugorje

Spirit Daily
By Michael H. Brown
When life seems to be closing in on us, in a world that so often seems upside-down, there one way to exit, and that's through  humor. A sure cure for our ills is found in laughter!
Usually, we should be laughing at ourselves.
And one thing that should make us smile is how silly it is to worry when we have God. 
In the Light of His eternity and angels and watchfulness, there is nothing to fear but lack of prayer. We can even pray for a good sense of humor! 
Many of you have heard the experts talk about how laughter can help us recover from serious illnesses. That's because humor is a spiritual release and when we release something on that level, it goes to both our emotions and bodies. 
A great example of this -- of both healing and laughter -- is Char Vance, the television producer and comedian from New Orleans who is often out there speaking at conferences and causing people to roll in the aisles. Char had been in the radio business when she suffered a horrendous accident. It was on Halloween night at a farm she owned back in the 1980s. She and a group were riding on a tractor-pulled wagon when suddenly they caught sight of the barn on fire.
Char jumped off in hopes of running to the blaze but got caught underneath, injured so badly it looked like part of her leg would have to be amputated. The ankle was severely damaged.
Just crushed. No bone support at all. It looked like a lifelong handicap.
At the time, Char Vance was not a Catholic, but a friend got her to go to the apparition site of Medjugorje -- much besmirched these days by the devil. And for good reason: this is a place of enormous conversion. Ask Char. Her recounting of her trip and her conversion to the Catholic faith -- more importantly, to faith in Jesus -- is a hilarious excursion into deep spirituality. Finally, it has been captured on videotape.
At Medjugorje, where Char hobbled in a huge, lumbering cast, the Louisiana woman climbed the holy highland of Mount Krizevac despite those who thought it was crazy and despite her own skepticism. "I wondered why [after Apparition Hill], they wanted us to go up the mountain," she jokes. "I said, why do you have us climbing two hills, two mountains in one day? It's not like we're going to run out of fun things to do here!"
Here she was in a place with no TV and no hotels and no pools, drinking beer while everyone else was praying the Rosary in a way she saw as strange and obsessive.
But Char went up the "hill." As she walked a dirt road on the outskirts of the village, something had said to her, "You know, it will be just your luck if something big happens up there and you're gonna miss it." That's what had finally convinced her to go up. She and her companions caught a cab.  When they got to the mountain, many others were doing the same. 
"I didn't know a lot of prayers," says Char, who was not a Catholic at the time. "I knew 'Now I lay me down to sleep' and the Lord's Prayer, but that's the most wonderful thing you Catholics have: you have prayers for everything," she jokes. "You know, you got department heads. You lost something, you got St. Anthony. You got bad eyes you got St. Lucy..."
Heading up the mountain and praying at the Fourth Station of the Cross, Char propped up her cast on a boulder and here comes a monk -- a very unusual monk. "He had on this white robe and the hood up and he's carrying a tripod with nothing on it, no camera. And he's looking directly at me," says Char. "And coming to me. And he says, 'You know, when I was in Germany, I had the good fortune of meeting Theresa Neumann.' To me it was like saying, 'I met John Jones.' He said, 'You know who that is, don't you?' I said, 'No.' And he said, 'Well, she was a stigmatist.'"
Got me again, said Char.
"Don't you know what a stigmatist is?" the man asked.
Uh uh, replied Char.
He explained what a stigmatic was (someone who had received the wounds of Christ) and pulling out a rosary told her that he had put it on her stigmatic wounds and that it had since healed people of many problems, including cancer. "Here I am with this big cast on the rock, and he says, 'I would like your permission to put this on your head!'"
It's hard to convey how Char tells this story. Her inflections, her timing, her side comments are hilarious. The tape shows an audience in constant  stitches. But she was telling a serious story. "When something like this happens, you think 'somebody has tapped into your thoughts' -- and you better start thinking some holy pious thoughts QUICK!"
The mysterious stranger told Char to say seven Our FathersHail Marys, and Glory Bes, and when she got to the top, the Creed. "When he left he would talk to others," she recounts. "If they were French he would begin talking in French. If you were Spanish he would start speaking Spanish. It was like he knew what you were before he got there."
At the seventh Station, the comedian noticed the "monk" was kind of winded. Char offered him a canteen of water. "He smiled a smile that went all the way through me," she says. 
Medjugorje is famous for the reports of mysterious strangers -- including monks or nuns in white. When Char got to the top, the seers were ready to have an apparition. Char didn't want to see anything -- afraid there would be hysteria and she would fall off the mountain! They were at the large cross there. "All of a sudden it's gets quiet, quiet, quiet. All of a sudden, that cross lit up, and it lit up, best I can describe it, like those old strobe lights, quick, and I see Jesus on the cross. I saw him like I have never seen a person before or since. He looked horrible -- horrible -- his nose was laying over, and He had this enormous crown, not this little crown like you see. This thing was like a big bird's nest. That quickly it lit up again and I saw it again."
Vance wasn't alone. Others in her group were astonished to witness the same thing. The mountain is known for a wide array of phenomena -- although this particular type we had not previously encountered. It is the cross where the Blessed Mother says she prays each day.
A woman next to Char said, "Did you just see Christ on that cross?"
Char felt "totally zapped." She now knew without a doubt that God and the Blessed Mother existed. When she got back, she had to go to the doctor for x-rays. She went in the waiting room "and all of a sudden the technician comes out with all these x-rays and he says [in a loud voice], 'Charlene Vance, you've been healed, you've been healed!'"
"You should have seen the people in there with their People magazines!" she jokes.
But it was true: the nurse ran in too, and then the doctor arrived -- gracing them with his "presence." "When's the last time you saw a doctor come into the waiting room!" she recalls with a roll of her eyes. "The nurse said, 'Did you hear about?'" The doctor said he had to take a look at it. It looked like there was bone growth! He asked Char to slowly try to see if she could move her toes. She could do more than that. She could rotate her whole ankle! She was with her mother. "I started dancing around and saying, 'Ma, ma, I can walk, praise God I can walk!' He runs out and brings out another doctor and they look at the x-rays and my mother says, 'Doctor, doctor, what is it,' and he says -- direct quote -- 'There's absolutely no correlation in her x-rays before she went and when she got back. There's total bone growth everywhere.'"
Jesus is the same as He was 2,000 years ago, she tells those who see her. "Miracles do happen. Believe in miracles. Expect a miracle. Miracles do happen," says Char, who now helps produce videos for Focus International, headed by retired Archbishop Phillip Hannan. "The real miracle was when God healed my head with the gift of faith. Miracles do happen, but they happen in God's time and in His way."
Char had some medals from Medjugorje and started walking all around and passing them out to the people in the waiting room. "Have a medal! Have a medal!" She walked out of that office and never needed crutches like they said she would need crutches and never received a day of therapy. 
And of yes: Charlene Vance became a Catholic six months to the day that she had climbed the mountain.
[Footnote: she also was to learn that Theresa Neumann, the stigmatic, had been born on Friday, April 8, which is Char's birthday -- in fact she too was born on a Friday -- and was injured trying to put out a fire in a barn. It was her ankle that was injured, and the mystic was healed a year later!]
[Resources in the Spiritdaily Bookstore: Char's video is No Phones in Medjugorje; see also Our Lady Speaks From Medjugorje, Medjugorje and the Church, and Queen of the Cosmos]

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