Saturday, February 9, 2013

A Plea to All Catholics

Our Lady of Victory, Manhattan
I work on Wall Street in Manhattan.  Yes, it's that Wall Street.  I'm about a block away from the Stock Exchange and a couple of blocks from the Federal Reserve.  This area is not exactly a bastion of spirituality and Christian belief and practice.  But our Lord never leaves us desolate and abandoned, and Wall Street is no exception.  He has put a wonderful Catholic church, Our Lady of Victory, around the corner from my office.  This is a fairly new church by New York standards, having been built during World War II, thus the name "Our Lady of Victory."  The Church was founded by the great Francis Cardinal Spellman.  To this day, there is still a tradition in the church of praying for our military.

The main altar in our Lady of Victory
Our Lady of Victory is a very active church, with six daily Masses starting at 7:15 a.m. and the last one is offered at 5:15 p.m. (they have the main upper Church and also a chapel in the basement).  The Rosary is recited every day after the 8:20 a.m. Mass.  There are daily novenas after the noon Mass.  On Holy Days of Obligation they offer 21 Masses.  The Sacrament of Confession is offered three times every day (at 8:00 a.m., noon and 5:00 p.m.)   There is Eucharistic Adoration every day from 1:00 to 5:15.  They estimate that 22,000 people receive ashes there on Ash Wednesday.  I am very much looking forward to Lent because they are going to be offering talks on Vatican II every Thursday during lunch hour.

I try to go there as often as I can for Adoration.  And there is usually a fair amount of people there.  It really is inspiring to see high power businessmen kneeling in the pews and praying the Rosary.

But there is one thing that I find very upsetting at Our Lady of Victory and which, unfortunately, I find at far too many Catholic Churches.  It is the lack of reverence shown to our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament.  I was always taught that we must genuflect before the Tabernacle as a sign of reverence because the Lord and Creator of the Universe resides there.  And when the Blessed Sacrament is actually exposed, if you are physically able you should get down on both knees when getting in and out of the pews and whenever passing in front of the exposed Blessed Sacrament.
The Exposed Blessed Sacrament
Credit:  St. Hugh of Cluny Society
I would estimate that at least 95% of the people I see in Church never show any sign of reverence to the Blessed Sacrament.  They walk in and out of the Church as if it was any other building.  Some will give a slight bow of the head, but rarely more than that and sadly, that includes the priests.

This past week I found myself becoming very agitated when a man, after helping out at Benediction, held an animated conversation with a woman in the front pew.  He stood with his back to the Blessed Sacrament, touching and hugging the woman with whom he was talking, disturbing the rest of us who were trying to pray and worst of all, completely ignoring and disrespecting his Creator and Savior who was right in back of him.   When he finally finished his conversation, he passed in front of the Blessed Sacrament and gave a barely perceptible nod of his head.

Often I will see people walk into the Church during Adoration, completely ignore our Lord and walk up to the statue of our Blessed Mother.  I have no problem at all with giving reverence to our Blessed Mother, but to ignore Her Son for any reason, even if it is to give reverence to her, is the greatest insult you can give Our Lady.

Almost no one genuflects or kneels on entering or leaving the pews.

I would implore all Catholics to think about what they are doing.  Remember that the Blessed Sacrament is not just a piece of bread on the altar, but the One who gives us every breath we breathe, the one who formed us in the womb and causes our heart to beat, the one who created the universe and everything in it.  This is the same One who allowed Himself to be whipped and beaten on our behalf, who took up His Cross and carried it on Calvary, who allowed men to pound nails into His Sacred Body and who poured out His Precious Blood so that our sins could be forgiven and we could spend all eternity with Him.

We see only a white piece of bread with our eyes, but the reality is that in the Blessed Sacrament our Lord is with us in all of his great glory and majesty.  He who is more powerful than all of creation, more brilliant than the brightest star, who is perfect goodness and love, has come down to us under the appearance of bread so that we can spend intimate time in His Presence.  And He is not alone on the altar.  The angels and saints bow continuously before Him, crying out "Holy, Holy, Holy,"

St. John the Apostle was transported to the Heavenly Throne of Christ in a vision, and this is how he describes it (Revelation 1:12-17):
12 When I turned to see who was speaking to me, I saw seven gold lampstands. 13 There with the lampstands was someone who seemed to be the Son of Man. He was wearing a robe that reached down to his feet, and a gold cloth was wrapped around his chest. 14 His head and his hair were white as wool or snow, and his eyes looked like flames of fire.15 His feet were glowing like bronze being heated in a furnace, and his voice sounded like the roar of a waterfall. 16 He held seven stars in his right hand, and a sharp double-edged sword was coming from his mouth. His face was shining as bright as the sun at noon.  17 When I saw him, I fell at his feet like a dead person.
Notice the last verse:  "When I saw him, I fell at his feet like a dead person."  To be in the glorified presence of our Lord and Savior was so overwhelming that St. John passed out as if dead.  If we could see past the veil of the appearance of bread in the Blessed Sacrament, we too would be as overwhelmed as St. John was.

Because Our Lord has such a great desire to be intimately with us, He humbles and veils himself under the appearance of a small piece of white bread.  We enter into the Presence of the Blessed Sacrament with our faith, seeing Him not with our physical eyes but in a spiritual sense.  Our physical demeanor in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament has a direct effect on our belief and obedience to our Lord.  "Lex orendi, lex credendi" means how we pray is how we believe.  Prayer is not just the words we use but involves our whole being, and part of prayer is our bodily expression.  If we want to cultivate a true reverence for our Lord and Savior, we must manifest this in our outward appearance.

Physically genuflecting and kneeling in front of the Blessed Sacrament will actually help you grow in holiness and in love of Jesus Christ.  And don't we owe Him at least this much for the very fact that He, as Creator, has given us our physical existence and then poured out His Precious Blood on the Cross so that we may inherit eternal life with Him as well?

Please show the proper respect when entering into the presence of the Lord.  He has humbled Himself to come to us under the appearance of bread.  The least we can do is bend our knees in reverence and respect to Our Creator and Savior.


Wednesday, February 6, 2013

The United States Government Declares Legal Right to Kill American Citizens

There was a very disturbing story in the news yesterday.  This is from, written by Michael Isikoff:
A confidential Justice Department memo concludes that the U.S. government can order the killing of American citizens if they are believed to be “senior operational leaders” of al-Qaida or “an associated force” -- even if there is no intelligence indicating they are engaged in an active plot to attack the U.S.
This means that if the government decides you are a threat to the United States, then they can kill you even though they have no evidence and you have never been charged with any kind of crime.   And no, there will be no reading of your Miranda rights before they put a bullet in your head.

Mr. Isikoff quotes from the government memo:
“The condition that an operational leader present an ‘imminent’ threat of violent attack against the United States does not require the United States to have clear evidence that a specific attack on U.S. persons and interests will take place in the immediate future,” the memo states.
Instead, it says, an “informed, high-level” official of the U.S. government may determine that the targeted American has been “recently” involved in “activities” posing a threat of a violent attack and “there is no evidence suggesting that he has renounced or abandoned such activities.” The memo does not define “recently” or “activities.”
“This is a chilling document,” said Jameel Jaffer, deputy legal director of the ACLU, which is suing to obtain administration memos about the targeted killing of Americans. “Basically, it argues that the government has the right to carry out the extrajudicial killing of an American citizen. … It recognizes some limits on the authority it sets out, but the limits are elastic and vaguely defined, and it’s easy to see how they could be manipulated.”
In particular, Jaffer said, the memo “redefines the word imminence in a way that deprives the word of its ordinary meaning.”
The 16-page memo, a copy of which was obtained by NBC News, provides new details about the legal reasoning behind one of the Obama administration’s most secretive and controversial polices: its dramatically increased use of drone strikes against al-Qaida suspects abroad, including those aimed at American citizens, such as the September 2011 strike in Yemen that killed alleged al-Qaida operatives Anwar al-Awlaki and Samir Khan. Both were U.S. citizens who had never been indicted by the U.S. government nor charged with any crimes.
This is not hypothetical. It has already occurred.  You may or may not remember when Anwar al-Awlaki, an American born citizen, was killed.  He had been declared a terrorist by the government and the media, but had not been officially charged, and there most certainly was no trial.

Yet, most people thought the government's murder of this American citizen was great news, including leading pundits like Bill O'Reilly, whose logo is "Looking Out For the Folks".  This is what O'Reilly wrote on September 30, 2011, which is very representative of what many Americans felt:
Anwar al-Awlaki has left the building. The 40-year-old American-born [my emphasis] Al Qaeda propaganda chief was killed in Yemen by a hellfire missile shot from a predator drone. . . . He was a vicious terrorist who got exactly what he deserved. . . . Today America rightfully celebrates another victory over vile terrorists who kill innocent human beings.
Huh? If this is "looking out for the folks" then, please, Bill, do me a favor and forget about looking out for me.  We don't give this kind of treatment to vicious killers like Charles Manson or Ted Bundy, and in fact, to do so would have violate their constitutional rights.  So why is it okay for the government to murder Anwar al-Awlaki, an American citizen?  And this is murder.  It cannot be referred to as capital punishment because there was no justice involved.  It was a simple act of the government wanting this man dead and following through with it.

And don't think that this will be confined to "Al Qaeda" terrorists.  If you are involved in anything that the government feels is against their policies, you could very well be targeted.  And this includes the pro life movement.  From
A study published by West Point's anti-terrorism center claims the “pro-life paradigm” is a motivating factor in domestic terrorism.
Dr. Arie Perliger, director of terrorism studies at West Point’s Combating Terrorism Center (CTC), makes the allegation in his report, “Challengers from the Sidelines: Understanding America’s Violent Far-Right.” The document – which references abortion 76 times in 146 pages – was issued in November but only reported last month.
Perliger writes that the “ideological principles of pro-life violence” include the beliefs that “the abortion industry” engages in “the systematic killing of innocent and pure human beings”; that “since every human being is created in the image of God, it is by definition a sin to end their lives”; and that “any violent acts to end their lives [of 'fetuses'] are immoral and should be prevented.”
The Lifesitenews article tells us that this is a continuing narrative of the Obama administration:
Such conflation of conservatives with racist terrorists has become a staple of Obama administration anti-terrorism reports.
An April 2009 DHS report entitled “Rightwing [sic.] Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment,” identified “groups and individuals that are dedicated to a single issue, such as opposition to abortion or immigration” and opposition to same-sex “marriage,” as “the most dangerous domestic terrorism threat in the United States.” The DHS later pulled the report.
Which group is the most consistent in dedication to single issues? No group has been or will continue to be more consistent than the Catholic Church.  There are individuals in the Church who deviate from  Church teaching, but the Church herself will always stand strong on the issues of life and on the defense of marriage.  We have to be blind not to see the handwriting on the wall.  The persecution has already begun with the HHS Mandate, and it will get much worse.

From the Lifesitenews article:
Constitutional expert John Whitehead of The Rutherford Institute has voiced concerns that the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) “would allow the military to show up at your door if you’re [deemed] a ‘potential terrorist,’ and put you in military detention” indefinitely, without charges.
Kids playing cops and robbers is
now a chargeable offense
As an example of how extreme and intolerant the government has become, we are seeing small children being arrested for bringing toy guns to school, and some just for pretending to shoot with their fingers:
10-Year-Old Boy Arrested, Charged For Bringing Toy Gun To School
Cops Called on 6-Year-Old With Toy Gun
Cops Charge 7-Year-Old for Bringing Toy Gun to Class
Boy, 6, suspended from Silver Spring school for pointing finger like a gun
Parents Furious After Boys Suspended For Using Fingers As Guns
If government officials have no problems with arresting small children for playing as children have always played, will they have any tolerance for Catholics who stand by their church's teachings in defiance of the government?  The National Defense Authorization Act, for those who don't know, allows the president to order the military to arrest and detain any American who is suspected of any kind of terrorism.  The Government can hold these American citizens indefinitely in an undisclosed location and never charge them or give them a trial.

If you are a pro life, pro family Christian, it is very possible that the United States Government could label you a terrorist and arrest and/or kill you with no accountability to anyone.  And you may very well have people like Bill O'Reilly cheering them on and turning the rest of America against you and "your type."

Our current government is led by a President who disdains everything that is Christian and supports all that is condemned by our Creator.  Barack Obama does not just support abortion, he loves abortion.  He is a great champion of embryonic stem cell research.  He is in full support of same sex marriage.  And he feels that anyone who does not agree with him is an intolerant bigot.

In the words of Our Lord:  "Remember the words I spoke to you: 'No servant is greater than his master.' If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also."  (John 15:20) .  But Our Savior also told us this:  "Don't be afraid of those who want to kill your body; they cannot touch your soul. Fear only God, who can destroy both soul and body in hell."  (Matt. 10:28).

We are headed for dark and evil days, and we must be prepared for them.


Monday, February 4, 2013

Meditation on the Fourth Joyful Mystery of the Rosary: The Presentation At The Temple

Saturday, February 2, was the First Saturday of the Month. The First Saturday Devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary was first mentioned by Our Lady of Fatima on July 13, 1917. After showing the three children a vision of hell she said, "You have seen hell where the souls of poor sinners go. To save them, God wishes to establish in the world devotion to my Immaculate Heart. If what I say to you is done, many souls will be saved and there will be peace... I shall come to ask for... the Communion of reparation on the first Saturdays..." The First Saturday devotion is as follows:
It consists in going to Confession, receiving Communion, reciting five decades of the Rosary and meditating for a quarter of an hour on the mysteries of the Rosary on the first Saturday of five consecutive months. The Confession may be made during the eight days preceding or following the first Saturday of each month, provided that Holy Communion be received in the state of grace. Should one forget to form the intention of making reparation to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, it may be formed at the next Confession, occasion to go to confession being taken at the first opportunity.
It has become my practice to put my meditation online.  Saturday, February 2, besides being the first Saturday was also Candlemas, marking the official end of the liturgical Christmas season.  Candlemas is a wonderful feast day commemorating the presentation of Jesus at the temple.  This event is recalled in the fourth Joyful Mystery.   Like every other event in the life of Jesus and Mary, there are many different meanings to this day.  Candlemas refers to Jesus being the light of the world.  I attended a beautiful high  Mass on Saturday in which the traditional rubrics were followed.  Before Mass began, we all received candles while kneeling at the communion rail.  We kissed the candle, which represents Jesus the True Light of the world, as the priest handed it to us.  The candles were then lit at various times during the Mass:  during the prayers at the foot of the altar when we confess and ask for forgiveness of our sins; during the reading of the Gospel, and again from the Canon until the end of the Our Father.  The lighting of the candles is done in the same way as it is at Easter, with one candle lighting another, all from the same source, until the whole Church is filled with the light of the candles, a wonderful picture of Christ's grace spreading from one person to another and bringing light and truth to the world.

Congregation holding lit candles on Candlemas
The Presentation at the Temple involves Joseph and Mary taking Jesus to the temple as part of the Jewish tradition of presenting the firstborn to God, who says all firstborn males belong to him.  From Luke 2:22-24:
And when the days for their purification according to the law of Moses were completed, they brought Him up to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “EVERY firstborn MALE THAT OPENS THE WOMB SHALL BE CALLED HOLY TO THE LORD”), and to offer a sacrifice according to what was said in the Law of the Lord, “A PAIR OF TURTLEDOVES OR TWO YOUNG PIGEONS.”
Once the firstborn was presented to God, the parents redeemed, or bought back, the child.  Joseph and Mary were poor, so they paid the price of a pair of pigeons.  As the priest at the Mass I attended on Saturday explained, neither Jesus nor Mary were in need of any purification because they had no sin. So why would they follow this law?

Even though neither Jesus nor Mary needed purification, they submitted to the law to show obedience and humility, a lesson we all need to learn.  The very first sin, committed even before man was created, was a sin of pride when Satan rose up in pride and arrogance and said "Non serviam" or "I will not serve."  Pride is at the root of all sins, because when we sin we are rejecting God and saying we know better.  One of the first acts we see in the life of Jesus is when he and his Blessed Mother, both completely free from sin,  humbled themselves and submitted to the Law of God.  They could have said that this law does not apply to them.  But they did not pick and choose which laws to obey. They were not cafeteria believers.  They gave their total obedience to every commandment of God.

Simeon with the Christ Child
Mary and Joseph didn't know it, but there was someone waiting for them at the temple.  In fact, there were two people waiting for them.  There was an old man named Simeon, "who was righteous and devout" and who had been promised by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Redeemer.  As soon as Mary entered with the baby Jesus, Simeon knew who Jesus was.
When the parents brought in the child Jesus, to carry out for Him the custom of the Law, then he [Simeon] took Him into his arms, and blessed God, and said,
“Now Lord, You are releasing Your bond-servant to depart in peace,
According to Your word;
For my eyes have seen Your salvation,
Which You have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
And the glory of Your people Israel.”
Simeon refers to Christ as the light of revelation to the Gentiles.  Without Christ, we are in complete darkness.  Truth and light can be found only in God.  I have often thought that hell - which is the complete absence of God - must also be in complete darkness because God's light, which is the only light, is not there.  Satan's way is to cover up truth and cast us all into darkness and confusion.  God's way is to illumine our paths and show us the way of righteousness and truth.

While Simeon received the Child Jesus with great joy, he also foretold the sorrow that was to come.  Simeon prophesied that Christ, the Peacemaker sent to reconcile us to God, was "destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against".  Further, Simeon told Mary, the most humble and obedient of all humans, that "a sword will pierce your own soul too."  This embodies the schizophrenic nature of being a Christian.  Striving to live at peace and bring the love of God to the world ironically results in division and persecution.  And as seen in our Blessed Mother, living a life of obedience will often result in overwhelming sorrow.  Although Christians carry joy within themselves, their lives are filled with sorrow and pain.  Being in the Light makes us automatic targets of the Prince of Darkness, who attacks without mercy.  But it is our suffering, just as it was the suffering of Christ and his Mother, that will bring redemption to ourselves and to the world.

There was another person at the Temple who received our Lord with great joy, and that was Anna. "She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying."  Anna had lived a life of penance and hardship, having lost her husband after only 7 years of marriage.  Some commentaries say that she was not 84 years old but had been a widow for 84 years, which would mean she was most likely over 100 years old.  Anna, like Simeon, immediately recognized the Christ Child as the Redeemer, and "Coming up to [Joseph and Mary] at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem."  God rewarded Anna for giving her life to Him by allowing her to be in the Presence of the Redeemer and to announce His Coming.  If we, like Simeon and Anna, remain faithful and obedient to God despite all the hardships and sufferings we experience, we too will eventually be rewarded by entering into the Presence of God.

St. Luke also tells us in this narrative that "The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him."  Despite the miraculous conception of Jesus and the humble story of his birth in a manger, Joseph and Mary were still not totally aware of who this amazing child was and exactly what his purpose was.  The reaction he garnered from others stunned even Joseph and Mary.  We, too, even with the knowledge we have of our purpose as Christians, are not truly aware of all the mysterious ways in which God works in our lives and how He wishes to use us.  And unless we are as completely obedient to Him as Joseph and Mary were, He will not be able to use us as fully as He would like, or maybe even not at all.  Joseph and Mary were asked to do things that on the surface made no sense.  Why was Mary made pregnant before she and Joseph married, thus subjecting Mary to death if it had become known?  Why was the Christ Child born when they were so far away from home with no place to stay but a humble little manger?  And both Anna and Simeon had lived their entire lives waiting for the Redeemer with no knowledge as to how this was to come about.  They probably never thought for a moment that he would appear as a helpless baby of a poor couple coming to redeem Him at the temple.

God's ways often seem upside down and contradictory, but as He tells us in Isaiah 55:8 - "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways."  Ecclesiastes 12:13 boils it all down to this:  "Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole [duty] of man."  We cannot be part of the True Light of the world unless we are one in mind and heart with Him, giving him all of our obedience and trust that He will never lead us astray.


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