Monday, January 25, 2016

Francis pioneers a merciful way to oppose abortion, gay marriage

Soon after Pope Francis was elected, there was speculation that he might lead a retreat by the Catholic Church in the wars of culture. This was a pope, after all, who said he didn’t need to talk much about abortion, gay marriage, and so on, because people already “know perfectly well what the Church’s position is.”

Two events this month, however, suggest that rumors of the death of the Church’s aggressiveness may have been exaggerated.

On Friday, a diminished but enthusiastic crowd stared down a gathering blizzard to take part in the annual March for Life in Washington, DC, held each year on the anniversary of the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision. As always, Catholics were on the front lines.

Next week, a vast number of Italians is expected to turn out in Rome for a Jan. 30 rally known as “Family Day,” called to protest a draft law in the Italian parliament recognizing civil unions for same-sex couples and granting them adoption rights.

Neither event is a Pope Francis initiative, but both feel supported by him. More to the point, there’s little evidence that the advent of the Pope Francis era has dimmed the fires of Catholics motivated to defend traditional values on matters such as unborn life and the family.

As to the March for Life, Francis didn’t offer any direct endorsement, but US leaders in the anti-abortion movement say they’re convinced he’s got their backs.

“The Holy Father has made some tremendous statements on the sanctity of human life,” said Richard Doerflinger, who for 36 years has been the intellectual architect of the US bishops’ approach to abortion and other “life issues.”

“Very often he takes a more casual approach, but this man is obviously a leader on pro-life concerns,” he said.

With regard to Italy’s Family Day, Francis used an address to judges of the main Vatican court on Friday to insist that “there can be no confusion between the family willed by God and any other type of union,” which was taken locally as a green light for resistance to the civil unions measure.

In the long run, a pope’s impact is measured not just by what he says or does, but also by which impulses in Catholicism rise or fall on his watch. Almost three years in, it does not seem that a drop-off in the Church’s commitment to what St. John Paul II called the “Gospel of Life” will be part of Francis’ legacy.

Perhaps the question is not whether Pope Francis will lead the Church away from its traditional positions, but whether he’s modeling a different way of making the argument.

It’s sometimes been said that the worst enemies of the anti-abortion movement can be the abortion opponents themselves, because they can seem shrill, angry, and judgmental, turning people off to the message because of the unattractiveness of the messengers.

That’s probably unfair, because fierce partisans of any position can sometimes exhibit those qualities. Maybe it’s just that when the issues are abortion or gay rights, the shrillness seems uglier to some because passions run deeper and the stakes are higher.

Two examples suggest that Pope Francis is trying to point to a different path.

The pontiff has designated 2016 as a special jubilee Year of Mercy, and one of his more imaginative gestures intended to get the point across has been to give Catholic priests all over the world permission to absolve the sin of abortion.

Under Church law, participation in abortion — whether by the woman who has the abortion, the doctor who performs it, the boyfriend or husband who supports it, etc. — is considered a grave sin and normally can be forgiven only by a bishop or a priest to whom the bishop has given special authority. During the jubilee year, however, Francis has decreed that any priest can do it.

It was hailed as a gesture of compassion for women who’ve had abortions, and of course it is. Yet the underlying assumption is that abortion is still a very serious sin, for which everyone involved desperately needs forgiveness.

The second example came in August 2014, when Francis made arguably the strongest anti-abortion statement of his papacy.

During a trip to South Korea, the pontiff added an impromptu visit to a symbolic “cemetery” for the victims of abortion at a Catholic health care facility outside Seoul, formed by a rolling grassy hillside dotted with small white crosses and topped with a statue of the Holy Family: Jesus, Mary, and Joseph.

Notably, Francis didn’t say anything at all during that visit. He didn’t have to, because the visuals of the cemetery, combined with his haunted, anguished visage, told the whole tale, without the need to scold anyone.

In a recent interview with Crux, Doerflinger of the USCCB said it’s important that “love and respect” for the other side in abortion debates “become much more visible, permeating everything we do.”

“We’re pro-life because we’re trying to reflect the love God has for everyone,” he said. “That’s an entirely different attitude toward an issue than what you often see in the political realm.”

Perhaps that’s where Francis is an innovator — not in rethinking whether Catholicism should still oppose abortion or same-sex marriage, but in pioneering a more compassionate, and thus at least potentially more convincing, way of doing it.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Our Lady of the Miracle: The Happiness of Unpretentiousness, Purity, and Admiration

Our Lady of the Miracle: The Happiness of Unpretentiousness, Purity, and Admiration
Our Lady of the Miracle (Madonna del Miracolo) venerated
in the Church of Sant’Andrea delle Fratte (Rome)

After narrating the history of the Miraculous Medal and the conversion of Alphonse Ratisbonne to Catholicism in Rome (January 20, 1842) with Our Lady’s splendid apparition, Prof. Plinio CorrĂȘa de Oliveira comments on the ineffable happiness of unpretentiousness, purity, and admiration in the picture of Our Lady of the Miracle (Madonna del Miracolo) placed over the altar where the portentous event took place.
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The picture of Madonna del Miracolo (Our Lady of the Miracle) shows her with the forehead topped by a crown and a halo-shaped ring of 12 stars.
Her face is slightly smiling, her eyes turned to those kneeling in front of her. She is very affable but at the same time very regal. She gives the impression of being a tall and slender person without being thin; she is very well proportioned and displays an imponderable awareness of her own dignity.

One gets the impression of a queen, much less by the crown than by her overall deportment, a mixture of grandeur and mercy.

A person who contemplates it tends to be appeased, serene, reassured, as if soothed in his stirring evil passions. I think this appeasing aspect is the most touching element of this image. It is as if she were saying, “My son, I will it get all worked out; do not fret, I am here listening to you — who are in need of everything — but I can do anything and it is my desire to give you everything. So, do not doubt; wait a bit and I will heed you abundantly. For you I have no reservations or refusals, not even recriminations for your sins. I am looking at you with a state of soul, a disposition of mind in which you will obtain from me all that you ask for and even much more.”

The painting has a certain air of mystery, but a suave and diaphanous mystery. It would be like the mystery of a day with a very blue sky when you ask yourself what could there be beyond the blue. It is not a thick mystery, but one behind the blue and not behind clouds. And it is as if that mystery were saying: “If you only knew the gift of God, if you knew how much I have to give you and what wonders exist in me, then you would understand. I see these wonders and overflow with desire to give them to you. How well you would understand who I am if you wanted to open your eyes to these wonders.”

The appeasement she communicates is a kind of first step for a person who wants to open himself to marvel so that, when receiving that mysterious action of grace he begins to admire and try to figure out what is in her and what she is saying or expressing.
The Altar above which Our Lady, Madonna del Miracolo, appeared to Alphonse Ratisbonne, and where he converted to Catholicism
The altar above which Our Lady, Madonna del Miracolo, appeared to Alphonse Ratisbonne, and where he converted to Catholicism.

Note the impression of purity the picture conveys. She communicates something of the pleasure of being pure, making you understand that, contrary to what many people think, happiness is not found in impurity, but the opposite. By truly having purity we understand the ineffable happiness it gives, compared to which all the pseudo happiness of impurity is trash, torment, and affliction.

Note also her humility. She displays the bearing of a queen but shrinks from all superiority over the person praying in front of Her. She treats the person as if he were proportional to her whereas none of us has that proportion, not even saints.

However, if Our Lord Jesus Christ were to appear she would kneel to worship the One Who is infinitely more than her: She has the ineffable happiness of unpretentiousness and purity.

In a world which the devil increasingly drags toward evil through the pleasure of impurity and pride, Our Lady of the Miracle communicates to us this pleasure of unpretentiousness and purity.

It is a most suave call to herself without scolding or reproaching, as if saying: “My son, do you remember the early days of your innocence? Don’t you remember what you were like before sinning? Don’t you remember how things like that existed in you? That is what I offer you. I will restore you! Open yourself up to me, look at me. I will give you that. Come! On the path leading to me there is only forgiveness, kindness and attraction. Come soon!”

It is not difficult for us to establish a relationship between these traits and the Counter-Revolution, presented here not in Our Lady’s militant aspect while crushing the serpent’s head but in her maternal aspect as she tries — with a smile — to pry from the claws of the Revolution those being victimized by it and thereby does a most excellent work for the Counter-Revolution.
Our Lady of the Miracle (Madonna del Miracolo) with her head crowned and a halo-shaped ring of 12 stars

Is it not true that a soul that accepts being impressed and influenced by this image becomes highly conducive to admiration? And highly conducive to admire the hierarchy of things superior to him and — in his own dignity — to wish everything below him to be hierarchically organized as well?

Under this point of view, while it would be exaggerated to say that this image represents Our Lady of the Counter-Revolution, we could say that for those fighting for the Counter-Revolution this picture is a very lofty expression of one of Our Lady’s aspects: her permanent Counter-Revolution until the end of the world.

These are a few comments about this image along the lines of “Ambiances and Customs.” With what advantage for our souls? I do not know. At least, they might perhaps explain a little to our youth how to analyze an image, what to look for when viewing one, what good effect it can produce in us and what state of mind — simply by existing — a picture can communicate to our souls.

~The preceding article is taken from an informal lecture Professor Plinio CorrĂȘa de Oliveira gave on January 20, 1976. It has been translated and adapted for publication without his revision.

The Sant’Andrea delle Frate Church sits a few blocks away from the famous Piazza di Spagna and next to the headquarters of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples. An extraordinary event took place at this sanctuary: Our Lady appeared to a rich and famous Jew, Alphonse Ratisbonne, who carried a Miraculous Medal although not by devotion, converting him to Christ.

Above the altar where the Blessed Virgin appeared there was a picture of Saint Michael the Archangel striking the devil that can be admired today elsewhere in the church.

It was at this same altar of the Apparition that Saint Maximilian Kolbe, killed in the infamous Nazi concentration camp of Auschwitz, celebrated his first Mass on April 29, 1919.

Monday, January 11, 2016

The Importance of Womanhood

“The level of any civilization is the level of its womanhood.” ~Venerable Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen

All the way back to 1947, the then, Reverend Fulton J. Sheen was warning us about the choices that lay ahead for our culture as it relates to the roll of women.

It is not only difficult but almost impossible to have a conversation with anyone about the roll of women as wife and mother being more important than her drive to become equal to men in every way. 

We are so blinded by the possibility of having a woman lead what was once the greatest nation in the world we don't seem to mind who this woman is or what she represents to women. 

Fidelity in marriage should be front and center on our minds and in our hearts.  Not any more.  Hillary Clinton broke the glass ceiling on that. What is the example to the young women of today?

A woman for president who campaigns on the promise that you will be able to continue to have sex with whom ever and kill the results if necessary. Not only that but you can donate the limbs and organs of this tiny being, all the while the entire country is paying for it.  

We are not only killing babies but ourselves.  How many deaths will it take to get our attention?

The Venerable Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen was a man before his time whose prophetic wisdom speaks to us even more clearly today. Our profound gratitude for his wisdom, Faith and outstanding oratory should be coupled with our prayers for his canonization. Wisdom which God refers to as feminine. The feminine genius still exists in every woman.  Please pray that women will allow themselves to be women once again.  

Margaret of souls for Jesus

Monday, January 4, 2016

A New Beginning to Pray

How much time should we spend beginning to pray? What happens when human liberty is raised by grace? Dr Anthony Lilles reflects on these mysteries.

Adoration of the Shepherds by Charles Lebrun, 1689 Beginning to pray is the project of a lifetime.   The entry of the Word of the Father into human history makes this project possible.  This entry is not convenient or easy for God or man.   Love never is.  It demands taking up our freedom in the most difficult and most worthwhile of all human endeavors – the effort to attend to and respond to love.
Beginning to pray is learning to respond with love to the Living God who has called out for our love as if helpless and completely vulnerable.  The Creator of the whole Cosmos speaks to us in supreme humility allowing His almighty voice to be contained in the hopeful cries of a hungry infant.
One does not always hear at first how His invincible will reverberates. For those who persevere in listening for this voice, they hear its harmony resound in the gentle way the the Word made flesh allowed Himself to be encompassed by the frailty of human freedom: conceived and born of the “fiat” of a lowly handmaid, bound by her in swaddling clothes, placed by her in a manger in the cave in Bethlehem. This is what we must attend to in our hearts and respond to with our lives — God’s still small voice is echoed in the plight of those entrusted to us, the poor, the vulnerable and the most needy in our midsts.
In this still darkness, “the Visible Image of the Invisible God” speaks into our reality, historical and personal, impatiently awaiting our response.  He believes in our liberty so much that He freely chose to enter into it and submit Himself to it. He kisses human freedom with divine freedom – over two thousand years ago in history; today right now in mystery.   This kiss cost Him dearly and those who attempt to respond to Him also must renounce themselves, pick up their cross, and follow Him.  Yet those who pray pay this price gladly because human liberty raised by grace is capable of love — and one free thought filled with love of Him is worth more to Him than all the universe combined.


For more of Anthony’s insights on prayer, don’t miss his book, Hidden Mountain Secret Garden, an experience like no other. Anthony has an unusually profound understanding of mystical theology and lives a life of deep prayer. Among his many accomplishments and responsibilities, Dr. Lilles now teaches theology for the Avila Institute.

Friday, January 1, 2016


At Mass this morning I heard these words from St. Luke's gospel, 4:18: "I came to bring good  news to the poor and to heal the broken hearted."

The words of Pope Francis that for me get to the heart of the matter was his parting statement when biding Farwell to the people of the Phillipines. "Live in your heart, live from your heart."

There was so much screaming yet I was able to hear what he was saying. While he was in the United States, I was sick in bed for the week, so I heard most every word. He is perfect for our times. I listened very carefully. He was tender, kind and very honest with us. He was respectful to us as a nation but frankly pointed out our need to  reevaluate were we are and where we are going.

In the coming months of 2016 I think it would be wise to examine what is rolling  off our tongue coming  from our own heart. Jesus is among us to heal wounded hearts and to set us free.  A free pure spirit bares much fruit for the Kingdom of Heaven.

I was a very angry person  as I have expressed in the past. I will be forever grateful to the priest who helped me over the course of years to clean up my heart and make it more like that of the Mother of Jesus.  Let's make 2016 a year of surrender, surrender your soul to the Mother of Jesus and allow her to bring you humbly to the Feet of her Son.
Let the purification process begin.

God bless,
Margaret of souls for Jesus