Wednesday, October 07, 2015

Feast Day of Our Lady of the Rosary - October 7, 2015

Wednesday, October 7, 2015 is the Feast Day of Our Lady of the Rosary. This day commemorates the victory of Christian forces over Muslim invaders in the Battle of Lepanto in 1571.

What happened was Pope Pius V called for all of Europe to pray the rosary for a victory. There was even a rosary procession in Rome. After everyone said the rosary, the Christians miraculously overcame the invading Muslim forces. Remember, Muslims at the time were centered around war and conquest. They were very powerful and formidable. Most of their time and energy was spent developing new ways of subjugating various lands.

To give you an idea of the immensity of the Christian victory, the Christians killed 20,000 Muslims vs. 7500 Christians that were killed. Also, the Christians were able to release 12,000 captive Christians. This battle was extremely important and decisive. Had Christian forces failed, it is possible all of Europe would be completely conquered by Muslims, and non-Muslims would quickly become second-class citizens.

So today, say a rosary to commemorate this important event!

Tuesday, October 06, 2015

Carly Fiorina was RIGHT about demonic activities of Planned Parenthood

This is an eye-opening article about how Carly Fiorina, a Republican candidate for president, was right about Planned Parenthood and their employees trying to keep a fetus alive to harvest its organs:

Patron Saint of Expectant Mothers & Women Wanting Children: St. Mary Frances of the Five Wounds

Today, October 6, 2015, we commemorate the Feast Day of St. Mary Frances of the Five Wounds who is the patron saint of expectant mothers or women seeking to have children.

I am not sure why she is the patron saint of expectant mothers or those seeking to have children. After reading some of her biographies, it seems her father was an angry and violent person who worked Mary Frances very severely, to the point where it threatened her life. Her mother is said to have been a saint to deal with her father.

We know that this saint had a great love for the poor. I'm sure some of those poor women she tended to were pregnant. Perhaps this is why she is the patron saint.

During her lifetime, St. Mary Frances of the Five Wounds received the stigmata, which is the pain and often visible sufferings of Jesus Christ. This was in order that she become ever closer to the Saviour. St. Mary Frances passed away on Oct. 7, 2015, at the age of 71. She was the first woman from Naples to be declared a saint by the Church.

If you are expectant or if you would like help having children, please say a prayer to St. Mary Frances of the Five Wounds. There is a Shrine devoted to this saint in the historic center of Naples, Italy. It is still customary for women to have their bellies blessed by her relic.

Shrine of St. Mary Frances of the Five Wounds
If you have a story you would like to share, please do so in the comment section below. Look forward to hearing from you.

Monday, October 05, 2015

Patron Saint of Difficult Marriages

Do you have a difficult marriage or family life? Perhaps you should consider saying a prayer to St. Rita of Cascia who died in 1457 at the age of 75 or 76. At first, she did not want to marry, but her parents arranged it anyway. Her husband was very abusive to her. However, she remained patient and trusted in the Lord. Eventually after much prayer, her husband changed his ways and was no longer abusive toward her. He begged for her forgiveness, which she gave. However, sadly her husband was killed by political rivals. She had now become a widow. Another great tragedy struck when Rita’s two sons, who after declaring they would seek revenge for their father’s death, fell ill from dysentery and ultimately both died.

Rita was now a childless widow at the age of 36. To make matters worse, she was an only child and had no siblings to rely on.

Rita decided to join a convent and spend her life in prayer.

St. Rita is the Patron Saint of Abused Wives and Grieving Mothers (in many countries at least).

If you are stuck in a difficult marriage, ask St. Rita for her prayers. She will listen. Also, if you would like to share your story below, please feel free to do so.

Saturday, October 03, 2015

Confession for Beginners - what's it REALLY like?

A lot of people have apprehension about confession. Even faithful Catholics sometimes rarely go. I just want to outline some of my own experience of confession to tell people what it's really like. You might read in Wikipedia about confession. There you'll find a lot of the canon laws surrounding it, doctrines about it, etc. But like anything in the Church, there is the official explanation, then there's the reality of it.

I can tell you one thing: It's not as scary as you think. It's also not a lot of other things you think.

Confession was started when Jesus told his disciples to hear the sins of the other. He specifically told this to apostles, that's why we reserve this to priests, and I think that's a good idea overall. So we know Jesus told us to tell our sins to one another. But the question is why and what are the benefits. But before that, let me explain what confession is really like.

"But I don't know what to say"
There is sometimes a fear of not knowing the right words to say. In it's most basic form, you just enter the confession box and simply say "Father I have sinned." Say it in your own words. Even "I'm here to confess" is fine. Nothing to worry about. There is no formal structure. It's not like a secret knock you have to do for the priest to forgive you. It's simply approaching the confessional and telling the priest there are things you need to confess, to get off your chest.

Technically you should probably start by saying "Bless me Father for I have sinned. It's been [time] since my last confession." But like I said, it's by no means required. Be natural. But before saying anything, once the priests knows you are in the room, he will usually begin by blessing you in the familiar Trinitarian formula (In the Name of the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit).

What do I say after the intro?
After the initial opening part, you just lay it all out. Tell the priest any serious sins you can remember having committed since your last confession. Don't beat yourself up over not remembering every single detail. Just do what you can. But don't hold back. Don't withhold any particular sin because you think it's too bad. It can be scary, but it's like jumping into cold water. After you do it, it's done and you feel much better. It's a bit of a cliché to say the priest has heard it all before. And it's possible he has not heard your particular sin before. But that's irrelevant. The priest is not there to judge, he will not gasp and ask if you are being serious. He will address the sin at hand in a kind and gentle way. It's not necessary to go into details or explanations. It's important not to blame other people for your sins or to downplay them. Don't justify them. Also, don't confess the sins of other people or say they "caused" you to sin. Simply state your sins.

What will the priest say?
After you confess your sins, the priest will give you spiritual advice. It will be customized according to your sins. He will be loving and caring. There will be no anger or scolding. He will not tell you he is disappointed in you or that you are a bad person. This is a time of reconciliation, which is also another word for the sacrament. He will usually tell you that you seem contrite and that it is a wonderful gift that you are seeking God's grace and forgiveness. I guarantee you will appreciate what the priest has to say.

Act of Contrition
After some spiritual guidance, the priest will ask you to say a prayer called the Act of Contrition. Although it can sound intimidating, it's not. It's simply a prayer where you say you are sorry for offending God with your sin and that you will do everything you can to avoid the sin in the future. Sometimes people worry that they haven't fully memorized an act of contrition or they don't remember it from their childhood. Again, don't worry. Just tell the priest. You can ask him if it would be okay to say it in your own words and they almost always agree. Sometimes they will tell you not to worry about it and you are then not required to say it. And sometimes they just tell you to say it later on your own time. Priests will sometimes do this to speed up the process if there are many other penitents waiting or they must say Mass soon or some other reason.

When are my sins erased?
After giving some advice and spiritual guidance, the priest will, with the power entrusted upon him by the Church through Jesus Christ, bestow forgiveness upon you. Besides some very rare sins like assaulting the pope, the priest will always give immediate absolution. You don't have to beg for it or prove that you are worthy. It's an unwarranted gift. It's important to remember that it's not the priest that's forgiving you, it's Jesus Christ, who imparts this gift to the Church and her ministers - the priests and bishops.

So if you make a valid confession, confessing everything you can remember that was a serious sin, you will immediately receive forgiveness.

How do I make up for it?
After confessing your sins, there is a great weight lifted from your soul. You feel much better, much lighter, you are now filled with hope and grace. It's an amazing feeling. The priest will now give you some small penance to perform. Almost always the penance will be small and easy to do. The point is not to outweigh the sins with the penance. You sins are already forgiven. This is just a small step in the right direction.

Common penances include:

  • Say an Our Father and a Hail Mary
  • Say 3 Our Fathers and 3 Hail Marys
  • Spend 2 or 3 minutes in prayer thanking God for his forgiveness
  • Say a prayer to St. Joseph and your Guardian Angel

The point of the penance is to give you something you can do quickly and easily right after confession. It's also important to note the penance is not related to the seriousness of the sins. I suspect many priests give the same penance to everyone.

Why not just tell God?
Some people ask, why can't I just approach God and ask forgiveness directly? Why do I have to tell everything to a priest who I might not even know that well? First of all, even in Catholicism, with perfect contrition, you can go directly to God and your sins are forgiven. You are still told to go to a normal confession when possible, but the point is God forgives sin in every circumstance. But the real answer to this question is that this is how Jesus designed it. We are social creatures, when we sin we sin against ourselves, those we hurt, and the community. There is a different quality to the entire situation when there is a human being acting on behalf of Christ through the Church who utters the words "Go, your sins are forgiven."

This human element is the reason people pay thousands of dollars to visit psychologists. If you have a psychological issue, you could ask: why can't I just deal with it myself at home? Why do I have to go to a professional for help? Well, in theory it's possible. But we recognize the value of getting things off our chest to another person. Plus, the confession box itself is located in a holy and quiet place, a place of reflection and prayer. And to get there, we have to make an effort, to go out of our way, to prepare ourselves. This contrasts with saying a quick private prayer to ourselves. Our mind marks the event as more significant.

Why not Today?
When it comes to confession, there is no better time than the present. You will never be "completely" ready I don't think. And we can always put it off until some other time. But trust me, you won't regret it. It's like hitting the reset button spiritually. You will feel more at peace and tranquil.

For me personally, often after confession I can sometimes become a little obsessive. Usually this disappears after a day or two. I become extremely careful not to commit a sin and it can border on scrupulosity, which is an obsession that our actions may be sinful. It's kind of a spiritual OCD. But like I said, after a day or two it subsides. I guess you could compare it to buying a brand new cell phone. At first people are extremely cautious, they barely want to even touch it, it's just too delicate. But after some time, you are throwing it around all over the place, dropping it, etc. I'm not saying you shouldn't be concerned about sin, I'm just saying we should not become scrupulous.

What if I fall again
Even if you fall to sin very soon after confession, don't fret. Simply go back and confess again. If you feel too embarrassed you can always visit another priest in a different church. It's no big deal. Christ is always ready to forgive you and will be waiting there with open arms.

What if I forgot something?
Even if you honestly forgot to confess a particular sin, you are still fully forgiven. It only becomes a problem when you willfully withhold a sin. If the sin you forgot is of the mortal (i.e. serious) variety, simply go back again soon to confess it. If however, it's something minor you probably don't need to worry about it. Something like this is currently happening to me. I confessed several times over the past couple of months. However, after yesterday's confession, I wonder if I forgot to confess something in particular. It's pretty minor and I'm pretty sure I already confessed it, at least in general. So I will have to think about it. But I have been known to become obsessive about certain things anyway.

Bottom line
The main thing is, the whole process is not as scary as it seems. Once it's done you'll feel much better. And you don't have to learn or memorize anything beforehand. God is there, waiting with open arms for his child to come back to him like in the parable of the Prodigal Son. The Son didn't memorize a long speech or do anything formal. He simply came back to his father who, upon seeing his son, ran - not walked - to embrace him. That's how God embraces us when we seek reunion with him.

Thursday, October 01, 2015

Oregon College Shooting: A Catholic Response

Today there was a serious tragedy which occurred at Umpqua Community College in Oregon, USA. There were at least 10 people killed and 20 additional people injured. This is according to Oregon State Police spokesman Bill Fugate. In this overwhelming tragedy, what is the Catholic response.

Many instinctively believe the best response is to enact a gun ban. However, we can see that criminals like this lunatic who killed these people do not follow these rules. The school where the massacre occurred is strictly anti-gun. This didn't stop the carnage.

What are we to do in such circumstances as Catholics? Many suggest we "turn the other cheek". But this will prove futile in such a hostile situation. You will simply end up dead. We have a moral obligation to protect not only ourselves, but others as well. To find out how to deal with such a situation, we turn to the Angelic Doctor from whom we derive so much Catholic thought: St. Thomas Aquinas.

In his Summa Theologica, Thomas Aquinas addresses the question of self-defense. He brings up objections from sources such as Augustine and others which seem to say that defending your life by killing another is sinful because we should instead let the other person kill us. But then the Doctor replies.

He first quotes the Bible:

On the contrary, It is written (Exodus 22:2): "If a thief be found breaking into a house or undermining it, and be wounded so as to die; he that slew him shall not be guilty of blood." Now it is much more lawful to defend one's life than one's house. Therefore neither is a man guilty of murder if he kill another in defense of his own life.
Aquinas continues to lay the groundwork for self defense by thoroughly dismantling the anti-self-defensers. He explains his reasoning by explaining the law of double-effect. Basically this law says that what is important is the intention of what a person is seeking to accomplish. This is to be distinguished from the side-effects. Under certain rules, an act is permissible, even if the unintended side effect would normally be immoral. It's much more complicated than I just stated, but that's the essence of it.
Accordingly the act of self-defense may have two effects, one is the saving of one's life, the other is the slaying of the aggressor. Therefore this act, since one's intention is to save one's own life, is not unlawful, seeing that it is natural to everything to keep itself in "being," as far as possible. And yet, though proceeding from a good intention, an act may be rendered unlawful, if it be out of proportion to the end.
Bottom line here is that we have a duty to protect our own bodies, especially against an aggressor, however we must not go overboard. If killing the aggressor is unnecessary then we shouldn't do it.

The same principle applies to protecting our loved ones.

I think when it comes to guns (something not yet invented in the time of Aquinas), he would say it would be permissible to carry a gun for the purpose of self defense or the protection of innocents. In more modern day terms: the only thing that can stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.

Let us pray for the souls of those killed in this tragedy, and for the recovery of those not killed, and for everyone involved in general.

10 Most Shocking Facts about Pope Francis!

Pope Francis just left after a 6-day tour of the United States. He is very popular now with many people, Catholic and non-Catholic alike. But there are some things about Pope Francis that are downright shocking. Here is a list of the top 10 most shocking things about Pope Francis:

10. Pope Francis lives in much smaller apartment in the Vatican
Upon being elected as pope, Francis decided to live in the Domus Sanctae Marthae guesthouse, which is reserved for visiting priests or cardinals participating in an conclave to elect a new pope. The room is much smaller and not as grandiose.

9. The Pope Drives an Ancient 1984 Renault 4L!
The pope drives this 31 years old vehicle which has already clocked in over 186,000 miles. It gose along with his deisre to live simply.

8. He's the First Jesuit Pope
Pope Francis is the first Jesuit pope ever. The Society of Jesus (the official name) was formed 1540. For a while it was suppressed, but later became one of the largest congregations of priests in the Catholic world. It marks a complete turn-around that Pope Francis comes from this order of priests.

7. The Holy Father Doesn't Speak Very Good English
The most difficult language the pope has tried to conquer has been English. In an interview, he once said: “The hardest [language] for me has always been English. Above all, the pronunciation, because I don’t have an ear for it.” He did a pretty good job when he was in the US recently.

6. Francis Often Visits Prisoners
In his recent visit to the States, the Holy Father met with inmates in Philadelphia's Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility. Earlier this year, on Holy Thursday, the pope washed the feet of several prisoners in Italy.

5. Instead of the Traditional Fisherman's Ring, Francis Wears a Simple Silver Ring
Unlike Pope Benedict who wore his Fisherman's Ring daily, Pope Francis chooses instead to wear a silver ring he had as archbishop of Buenos Aires.

 4. Francis Enjoys Dancing Tango
Pope Francis is known to enjoy dancing the tango. The dance is popular in his home country of Argentina.

3. He's the First Non-European Pope in almost 1300 years!
The current pontiff is the first one born in the Western Hemisphere or the Southern Hemisphere. He is also the first non-European pope in almost 1300 years, the last being Pope Gregory III from Syria, who ended his reign in 741 AD.

2. He was a Bouncer at a Night Club
The pope was at one point a nightclub bouncer in Buenos Aires

1. He had Part of his Right Lung Removed. 
After a severe lung infection where doctors discovered 3 cysts, part of Pope Francis's the upper part of his right lung was removed. He is said to have experienced great pain during this ordeal. Many news sources originally erroneously reported that Pope Francis only has one lung which isn't really true.