Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Marian Eucharistic Conference Notes: Part 2

Even though there were 400 people at this conference, the venue sold out, when Al Kresta spoke it was as if he were speaking personally to you. He spoke on Romans 12:2 Be Not Conformed To This World. This means, don't let the world dictate your agenda. 1 John 2:15 reiterates. Do not love the world or the things in it. World refers to the things under the sun, as ruled by Satan, money, sex, power. For the practical atheist, the world is the end of all things. In Ecclesiastes, the author evaluates life under the sun and comes to the conclusion that it is all vanity, ie meaningless. But we are meaning-seeking creatures. We are made for God and if we do not have Him, we fill our hearts with other things. We replace the love of Father God with lust of the flesh, pride of life. 

Lust of the flesh refers to finite, bodily life--food, sex, pleasure, comforts, carnality. Most advertisements aim at this. They manipulate you into thinking that having a certain product will give you what you need. But now advertisers are turning customers into true believers. They try to evoke feelings of transcendence, love, global community, etc. There are kids who now have emotional ties to Nike or Apple. Kresta shared the story of a 17-year-old who was murdered for his Nike shoes.

Pride of life refers to your own importance and ego. He focused it on info-tainment: information as entertainment. We got a little history of the news business. It's not just the reporting of public occurrences but the manufacturing of a product. The creator of a Boston newspaper said it's a commercial enterprise designed to hold an audience. Kresta gave the example of the missing plane. There was no news to report because the plane wasn't found but reporters were talking nonstop about it for 40 days and most of it was self-referential.

Christians are barely tolerated nowadays. There is common misconception that faith is a private matter and we should keep it to ourselves. In our lifetime, we've seen the collapse of Christian civilization, sometimes abetted by Christians. For ex.:

1. We ignore the Lord's Day. Pope Saint John Paul II thought it important enough to write an encyclical on this: Dies Domini. God's grace gives us what we need. We need to observe the Lord's Day.

2. Non Catholic Christians have redefined marriage. Once divorce became commonplace, it paved the way for homosexual marriage. Marriage has become something for adults to express their feelings. But the words of Christ can never be changed.

3. We adopt American emphasis on individualism. Sunday Mass attendance does not correlate to those who proclaim to be Catholic. Of the ones attending Sunday Mass, only 6-8% are engaged. JPII said that Catholics are baptized and sacramentalized but not evangelized. The new evangelization is driven by the laity, which is one of the fruits of Vatican II.

Kresta encourages us to proclaim the Gospel. Many people attribute "Preach the Gospel at all times; use words if necessary" to St. Francis but he never said it. We need words!!! Jesus preached and told stories. It was a life-changing announcement about the Kingdom of God. He is calling us to repent and to faith. This news is different than anything else. It's God coming down to us as a lowly Babe, who suffers and dies for us to save us from sin and death. His resurrection points to our eternal life with Him. The Gospel demands a response. It is obedience. He says, "Follow Me." Jesus should rule your life, your work, your leisure, your finances, your entertainment, your relationships, etc. Everything in life becomes secondary. What are you going to lose? Nothing! He has conquered death. So seek first the Kingdom of God and everything else will be added.

Be a saint! Leon Bly said, "The only tragedy is not to be a saint." Nothing impure shall enter heaven. We are perfected in Christ.

The question is, why are so many Catholics lukewarm? Why do they fall away? And Kresta thinks it's because they don't catch the vision of what God wants for their lives. Catholicism is transformative. It's not just a bunch of rules to follow, rather it gives a framework to live your life in a way that is pleasing to God. People looked at the earliest Christians and were amazed, "See how they love each other!" And there is no love without sacrifice, no resurrection without the crucifixion. The Kingdom of God is hidden behind suffering. It's the opposite of what the world tells you.

Patrick Madrid gave a wonderful lecture on apologetics: Answers to Lies Society Tells Us. He began by reminding us that apologetics isn't apologizing for being Catholic, but rather a defense. So what are these lies:

1. If it feels good, do it. This was a bumper sticker from the 60s and unfortunately many people follow this lie, giving rise to the Hollywood culture of using people. What does "good" mean? We know experientially that if it feels good doesn't necessarily mean it *is* good. Ex. eating a gallon of ice cream. Conversely, there are many things that don't feel good that are good for you. Ex. forgoing lunch to feed a hungry person. This can open a conversation about sacrifice vs. selfishness. 

2. Religion causes violence. I thought this was true but Madrid pointed that the historical data disagrees. Someone took the time to study this and catalogued 1,763 wars in The Encyclopedia of War. Of those, only 123 were of religious origins, which is 7%. Of those 7%, 50% were Muslim. I haven't checked this source but it's a far cry from religion causing violence. More people killed by atheist regimes.

3. Christianity is anti-science. As a scientist, I can say with great confidence how bogus that is. Copernicus, Mendel, Lemaitre, and the list goes on. Science is natural revelation but there isn't a telescope powerful enough to see God. There's physics and then there's metaphysics.

He answered these and many other lies. He gave a second, very sobering lecture on Global Aging. Because we live now in a culture of death caused by contraception and abortion, the natural pyramidal shape with the youngest at the bottom and the oldest at the top is slowly shifting so that we have fewer and fewer younger people to support the large numbers of older people. This is already leading to forced euthanasia because the right to die is turning into an obligation to die.

We are facing the possibility of extinction. The fertility rate is so far below replacement (2.1), it's causing huge problems in countries like Japan, Russia, and Western Europe. China has begun to recognize that their one-child policy was suicide so now they are encouraging women to have two children. But it might already be too late for them. Immigration and robots cannot solve these deep-seated problems.

We have to be the solution. God's command was to "be fruitful and multiply." We have to pray, live the faith. Don't contracept--it's a sin. Don't be afraid to speak the truth. Don't be afraid to suffer for the truth. He's a man of his word. He shared a beautiful story about going to a restaurant with his wife and newborn baby. The waitress asked if this was their first. Nope--'tis the 11th. There was a very negative reaction and then three waitresses came by to speak about their environmental impact. But Nancy, Patrick Madrid's wife, said, "children are a gift from God and being open to life has blessed our marriage." These simple words were the truth. When they were leaving the parking lot, the first waitress came running to them and thanked them for those words. She was going to change her ways.

Take a look at his books here: I believe Al Kresta's reversion to the Catholic Faith is in Surprised by Truth :)


Fr. Chris Alar gave a wonderful lecture on Catholicism. He was so funny, quizzing us on the faith, and teasing us when we got it wrong. I'd love to see him in a classroom because he is so lively and when I sum up his talk, I will not confess which points I got wrong :)

For 1,500 years the Church Fathers spoke and wrote extensively on Mary and the Eucharist. We only had the Catholic Church. It has the fullness of the truth. Think about it. Can you have thousands of different truths? No. All religions have a piece of the truth.

Jesus founded the Catholic Church. Peter is the rock. Would He not guide it for 1,500 years until Martin Luther's arrival? The reformation is not of God. Division is always from the evil one. He cited the founding members of various sects. For the Mormons, it's Joseph Smith; Baptists, John Smith; 7th Day Adventists, Ellen White; etc. It reminds me of this cartoon.

Only in the Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church is there apostolic succession, meaning that every priest has had hands laid upon him that can be traced back to one of the 12 Apostles. It's the oldest running institution. Empires come and go, but we have the promise of Christ that the gates of hell will not prevail.

The Catholic Church is responsible for the formation of universities, hospitals, schools, charities. It has formed many saints.

It's true that the Catholic Church has had many bad priests, bishops, and even popes. But that's because they are human and subject to all the same temptations as everybody else. Being Catholic doesn't mean you're immune. The sex abuse scandal that broke in the 2000s hit the Church hard. But I was gratified to hear the statistics. Jenkins studied criminal records and found roughly 1% of Catholic priests guilty and that's 1% too many. Non-Catholic Christians 3%, Jewish 5%, Muslim 8%, public schools 9%. Statistically speaking, your kid is safest with a Catholic priest.

People say Catholics don't read the Bible. Every Sunday Mass has more Scripture than any Protestant service. Until fairly recent in Church history, 90% of the population was illiterate. They received the faith through tradition, hearing Mass. The Bible was written for the Mass. Mass predates the Bible. The Catholic Church guided by the Holy Spirit, decided what books would be in the Canon of Sacred Scripture. It's true that after the invention of the printing press the Catholic Church burned Bibles. They did so because some of them were heretical. Ex. Luther removed seven books from the Canon and added words. However in Rev 22:19 it warns that "if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from these things that are written in this book." This is pretty important stuff.

The Catholic Church has 3 legs: Scripture, Tradition, Magesterium, which is the teaching authority. We follow the Jewish tradition. After all, Jesus tells us that He didn't come to abolish the law, but to fulfill it. Matt 5:17.

They chained Bibles to rocks to prevent stealing. It took a monk 3 years to copy a Bible. It was in Latin, not so nobody could read it, but because it was the language of the educated people. So if you read the Bible and accept it as authority, then you are accepting the authority of the Church.

On the forgiveness of sins. When I was an Episcopalean, I liked to say that we had a direct line to Jesus. And of course, we do. But Jesus gave us an organized religion and gave the power to His priests to absolve sins. So when you are contrite and confess your sins, the priest forgives by virtue of his ordination. When the priest forgives, Jesus forgives. You can be assured of this after you make your penance. You again have sanctifying grace. 

Fr. Chris spoke about many other things that even Catholics get wrong, like Marian dogmas, Crusades, salvation, relics, etc. but I wanted to share a couple of theological beauties without resorting to Part 3 (but maybe I should've).

Holy Matrimony and the family reflects the Trinitarian nature of God. We say, God is love. But to have love, you must have a lover (God/Husband) and a beloved (Son/Wife) and the love between them is so great, it results in a third Person (Holy Spirit/Child). And this is why it is insanity to think that two men or two women can marry.

The Church teaches that there is no salvation outside the Catholic Church. Christ's Body is the Church and vice versa. However, sitting in the front pew doesn't guarantee heaven, nor does being a pygmy in Africa mean he goes to hell. Judgment is dependent on what you know. The pygmy is judged according to natural law based on what he knows. But a Catholic who knows the Truth but does not accept it is judged by the higher standard. To whom much is given, much is expected. Lumen Gentium makes it clear how we will be judged. Those who are truly searching will find Jesus as their end. At this point Fr. Chris choked up because he is the godfather for a nephew who is now questioning and unbelieving and Fr. Chris is liable for the soul of his nephew. And so we pray for him.

So thankful to Michael for taking the time to go to this marvelous conference. Please note we are not worshipping Mary or the saints, but asking them to pray for us :) They had a relic of Saint Faustina, the saint who gave us the Divine Mercy Chaplet and this picture of Jesus. And thank you, dear readers, for sticking with me to the end. God bless you.


Saturday, November 25, 2017

Marian Eucharistic Conference Notes: Part 1

Fr. Dwight Longenecker began the best ever Marian Eucharistic conference with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass on the Feast of St. Charles Borromeo. This year marked the 500th anniversary of the reformation begun by Martin Luther. Alas, it shattered the unity of the Church. Of course, the church needed reform--there was widespread corruption and widespread ignorance of the faith--but instead of reforming from the inside, he broke away and the result has been terrible: a deformation of the faith outside the Church.

Enter Charles Borromeo, who had a true reformer's heart and brought the Church back to its true mission, which is to bring our Lord Jesus Christ to all people so that they might be saved through Him.

Look around. We have the same problems as 500 years ago. Lots of sins, bad priests, lax Catholics, etc. The poor we'll always have with us, but now it's more than material poverty. We see people who are spiritually poor or dead. We see lack of virtue. Do not despair. Take heart. We need to follow the example of St. Charles Borromeo, who did what he could, where he was, with what he had, and God blessed it enormously.

Father Longenecker also gave a lecture on praying the rosary for spiritual warfare. He begins with the basics. What is prayer? The childish notion can be that of a vending machine. But our Lord Jesus Himself taught us how to pray. The core and heart of every prayer is: Thy will be done. C. S. Lewis said there are two types of people. Those who say, "Thy will be done," and those to whom God says, "thy will be done." They reject God and God will never force Himself upon anybody.

We don't become God's mindless little robots when we pray: Thy will be done. Our will is very important. We have been created in God's image. Look at the attributes of God and ask how those same attributes are reflected in us. Our free will is a smidge of His omnipotence. We can do what we want within the limitations of our life. We can choose God or choose to sin. We can choose to repent, etc. Prayer is the way we hitch our will to God's.

What is evil? It is the distortion or destruction of the good, beautiful, and true. The devil cannot create anything. He can only destroy. He only breaks, twists, tears things. He presents what he's doing as good. Dresses up the rat poison. Just like darkness is the absence of light, cold the absence of heat, so evil is the absence of good, true, and beautiful.

People say Catholics are obsessed with sex. Why are we against pornography, adultery, fornication, etc.? Those things are evil because they break marriage. Marriage is a lifelong commitment between one man and one woman to nurture love that has the capacity to create a new life for all eternity. Satan hates this.

All this to say that the rosary is us praying with Mary. She tramples down evil and when we pray the rosary we fight with her. All the saints recommend this because it is a way to enter more deeply into prayer. One way to counter evil is to pray for all the good. It follows the saying: Better to light a candle than curse the dark.

He has another book: The Mystery of the Magi that sounds fascinating.



Father Wade Menezes has a new book out on the Four Last Things: Death, Judgment, Heaven, and Hell. But his lecture was on the 1917 message of Our Lady of Fatima to the three shepherd children. He calls it CPR: a call to conversion, prayer, penance, reparation, repentance. The message still reverberates and is as relevant as before.  

2016 was the Jubilee Year of Mercy. We need mercy because of sin. Baptism wipes away original sin but its effects remain.

God is more interested in the person you can become than the person you were. No matter what your sins are, they can be forgiven. But you have to admit your fault before God, then you receive mercy. Sin wounds you; mercy heals you. Jesus wants to give us His peace; He doesn't want you to fall to pieces. So repent and confess your sins. Jesus showed us His wounds so that we will not be afraid to show Him ours, both physical and moral. The root of all problems is sin. So we must pray and make sacrifices. Personal conversion and amendment of life leads to social change. Yes, we change the world by changing ourselves.

Fatima is the most prophetic modern-day Marian apparition and it is approved by the Holy See. It showed the frightening reality of hell, and if prayers and penance not offered, an even greater evil. Communism will spread. Cities will be annihilated (could this refer to nuclear war?). Now we have a widespread culture of death, not only on a global level with genocide, terrorism, suicide attacks, chemical, biological weapons, etc. but also at the personal level. The five non-negotiables are: abortion, euthanasia, contraception, cloning, unnatural marriage (adultery, fornication, divorce & remarriage, cohabitation, homosexual acts). When sin becomes the law of the land, you have to wonder how--it's rooted in personal sin.

An interesting tidbit. Our Lady warned of evil fashions. This was 1917. Clearly it was referring to the future. If only flapper dresses and coquettish hats were fashionable now. 

Fr. Wade also talked about the recently deceased Cardinal Caffara's communication with Sister Lucia. He had asked for prayers for the John Paul II Institute of Marriage and Family and she wrote him back: "the final battle between the Lord and the reign of Satan will be about marriage and the family. Don’t be afraid, she added, because anyone who works for the sanctity of marriage and the family will always be fought and opposed in every way, because this is the decisive issue. And then she concluded: however, Our Lady has already crushed its head."


We had supper on Friday night at Swad -- best dosa I've had since our days in WA. This was the sunrise from our hotel and best of all, zero headaches. Like I said, best Marian Eucharistic Conference ever.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving!!! How's everybody? Stuffed with turkey and cranberries and pie, I hope. I'm having deja vu. Five years ago, my family took a trip to Disney World and I stayed home with the pets for a writing retreat. This year, Michael and Dagny went down to Ave Maria to be with Max and I'm supposed to be having a writing retreat, working on my Nano book, but I've been bested by a horrid migraine. Believe me, I am thankful to stay home to soak in the quiet. I've been praying with my new rosary Dagny made, enjoying my furry friends, the lovely fall colors. This year, Thanksgiving falls on my mother's birthday so it is extra-special. She would've been 82 but because she died so young, I am now older than her.


Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Two Debuts: HIGH FIVE and THE STAR

This is the type of mail I love!!! My poem in Highlights High Five and a book review in the parish newsletter!!! I confess I feel like a *star* though most people will say, crazy cat lady. But I hope many people pick up ATGIB. This particular issue is a keeper not just because I wrote in here but for the goodbye pictures of Jack and our new parish choir and youth group directors' stories. Feeling so very blessed for our Stella Maris Church family.