Tuesday, September 29, 2015

My personal favorites from Pope Francis' visit to America!

Just a quick rundown of the things that struck me the most during the Holy Father's recent visit to America, in no particular order...

The sheer joy (and tears) he brought with simple acts of love and kindness:

Underneath this video on Facebook, the comments were extraordinary, including these:

From a Muslim commenter -- "Pope Francis makes me believe in humanity."

From a secular commenter -- "I am not a religious person but i have so much respect and admiration for this pope. He is doing so much good in this world. You can tell he truly cares about people and has an amazing heart. If there is a god, this is exactly the kind of person who should represent him."

And who could not be moved by this woman's reaction to seeing the pope? Fourteen years ago, she was a first-hand witness to the devastation of 9/11, and she has been searching for hope ever since:

The Vicar of Christ's job description is to restore hope to a weary world.

How heartening was Pope Francis' unscheduled stop to visit and support the Little Sisters of the Poor, who are embroiled in a lawsuit against the Obama administration, fighting for religious liberty and conscience rights!

Pope Visits US Nuns Involved in 
Obamacare Contraception Lawsuit

Those who would say that gay marriage laws trump rights of conscience might want to know what the pope had to say about that when questioned by reporters on a flight:

...conscientious objection is a right that is a part of every human right. It is a right. And if a person does not allow others to be a conscientious objector, he denies a right." 
Francis added: "Conscientious objection must enter into every juridical structure because it is a right, a human right. Otherwise we would end up in a situation where we select what is a right, saying, 'this right has merit, this one does not.'" 
Asked if this principle applied to government officials carrying out their duties, he replied: "It is a human right and if a government official is a human person, he has that right. It is a human right."
Is anyone listening? Obama?

UPDATE! Check this out:

(And he told her to "stay strong!")

And in the "Funniest and Weirdest Thing I've Seen in a Long Time" category:

Take note that this Congressman and the other Democrat he called over are Catholics who proudly support the evil of abortion. Perhaps their "thirst" for something holy, as misguided as it was, is a sign that they might one day turn back to Christ and Truth? Someone should tell them that the Sacrament of Confession, rather than thievery, would be a better way to cleanse their souls.

My nephew in New York waited outside for four hours to get into Madison Square Garden for the pope's mass, and he texted me after:
Mass was amazing! I've never seen so many people packed in the streets -- even for New York -- or someone so wildly popular. It was an incredible experience. You would never guess that New York was secular and liberal based on the reception haha 
Oh yes, the dying, irrelevant, out-of-touch Catholic Church, led by an old, celibate white man had secular New York City electrified and cheering! Go figure. ;)

And oh wasn't it beautiful, during the Festival of Families in Philadelphia, when several international Catholic families greeted the Pope and told their stories! The Jordanian family who has endured real persecution for Christ; the Nigerian wife and mother who poured out her painful and incredible story of faithfulness; St. Gianna Molla's own daughter reading a love letter from her mother to her father, Pietro, written just days before they married, then the saint's daughter embracing the Holy Father!

Too many other incredible moments to mention, but all so affirming of families, of our Faith, and of the universality of the Church. We are blessed, and everyone is invited to join us!

Now, as for commentary, this is my favorite. So many Catholics and non-Catholics have their reasons for loving Pope Francis, but also their reasons for criticizing him for what he did or did not do. Dr. Gerard Nadal, a pro-life and pro-marriage warrior of many years, said it best:

[Some traditionalist Catholics] paint a picture of a pope who has ignored the red meat issues of American Catholicism’s troubles in favor of a left-wing socio-political agenda. How do you solve a problem like Francis? How do you catch a cloud and pin it down? (Cue the Sound of Music) 
But as this papacy has unfolded, something about traditionalists’ complaints over Francis calls attention back on the traditionalists and their hero popes, John Paul II and Benedict XVI. In thirty-five years of these two giant popes, we have witnessed all of the heavy-lifting both philosophically and theologically on the sexual revolution and the decline of the status of human persons in the twentieth century. We’ll be unpacking their writing for decades to come. As western civilization has crumbled, we clamor for more writing, more words, more defense of the sacred. And we get to the point where this author needs to ask, “What more needs to be said?” How many more words? How many more documents? How many more encyclicals? How many more speeches, homilies, press conferences?
Read the whole thing, here:

And if some of you are still bothered by what you perceive to be Francis' "silence" on the issue of abortion, why did Planned Parenthood get so upset with him? They heard him loud and clear. Don't we hear him, too?

And as for marriage, what about this?

And this?

Needless to say, our understanding, shaped by the interplay of ecclesial faith and the conjugal experience of sacramental grace, must not lead us to disregard the unprecedented changes taking place in contemporary society, with their social, cultural – and now, unfortunately juridical – effects on family bonds. These changes affect all of us, believers and non-believers alike. Christians are not “immune” to the changes of their times. This concrete world, with all its many problems and possibilities, is where we must live, believe and proclaim. 
Until recently, we lived in a social context where the similarities between the civil institution of marriage and the Christian sacrament were considerable and shared. The two were interrelated and mutually supportive. This is no longer the case.

And, if there was any doubt about the Pope's very reason for visiting America, he cleared that up when he said to the US Bishops:

“I appreciate the unfailing commitment of the Church in America to the cause of life and that of the family, which is the primary reason for my present visit.”

Can anyone be unsure of what he meant?

Finally, our Papa is fully aware of the crisis of young people who are forgoing marriage and family. In perhaps my favorite passage from his trip, Pope Francis asks pastors, in his address to bishops from around the world, to invite young people to choose marriage and family over the "culture of discouragement":

Many young people, in the context of this culture of discouragement, have yielded to a form of unconscious acquiescence. They are paralyzed when they encounter the beautiful, noble and truly necessary challenges which faith sets before them. Many put off marriage while waiting for ideal conditions, when everything can be perfect. Meanwhile, life goes on, without really being lived to the full. For knowledge of life’s true pleasures only comes as the fruit of a long-term, generous investment of our intelligence, enthusiasm and passion. 
...[W]e are living in a culture that convinces and pushes young people toward not founding a family. Some because of a lack of material resources and others because they have so many resources that they are very comfortable as they are. And this is the temptation: to not found a family. 
[We must extend] a sincere invitation to young people to be brave and to opt for marriage and the family.... We have to make young people excited about taking this risk, because this is a risk for fecundity and life.... 
...A pastor must show that the “Gospel of the family” is truly “good news” in a world where self-concern seems to reign supreme! We are not speaking about some romantic dream: the perseverance which is called for in having a family and raising it transforms the world and human history.

There is so much more from his trip to America that I missed! I want to find a way (and time) to go back and watch all the footage, every event and homily, and yet I'm pretty sure I won't be able to. At least I have these highlights, and I'd love to hear yours!

PS: The US Bishops have pretty much every event and homily and speech right here on their site.

Friday, September 25, 2015

An invitation for non-Catholics who love Pope Francis

Craig Ruttle/AP

As we all see joyful images like this on the news and social media, I am so heartened to see the outpouring of affection for our Holy Father from so many non-Catholics around the nation!

The Lord works to draw all people to Himself, and whatever stirring of hope or happiness there is in the non-Catholic heart at seeing our wonderful Papa is there for a reason. I would like to offer this invitation to those who are drawn to Pope Francis: Find out what animates this holy man of God.

Go to your library or bookstore and pick up a copy of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Open it and read the faith that drives not only Pope Francis, but which was the fire within of all the saints throughout the past two millennia. You can also go online and read the Catechism here.

I think you will find that there is a cohesiveness, a continuity, an integrity there that is compelling, and if nothing else, you will have educated yourself on a major world religion.

The Catechism is broken into four main parts:

The Profession of Faith (what we believe)

The Celebration of the Christian Mystery (how we celebrate what we believe)

Life in Christ (how we live what we believe, i.e., morality)

Christian Prayer (how we pray)

If you can't read it all, read the first section, and find out what we Catholics believe and why. Each chapter ends with a handy "in brief" summary of the points covered, and the Catechism contains copious footnotes with references to Scripture, the Church Fathers, the documents of the Church, and the writings of the saints.

Catholics who would like to understand their own faith better will also benefit from a reading of the Catechism, which Pope St. John Paul II called "a sure norm for teaching the faith".

Now, back to watching the coverage!

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

What Obama forgot to mention in his welcome to Pope Francis!

Forgive me, I promised not to be negative, but then I woke up to this.

A welcoming speech by the President (well, by his speechwriter) that made me choke a little.

I thought I'd take a few excerpts of the speech and add some words that Obama surely inadvertently omitted (in red, with links to evidence provided)...

Photo: AP/Pablo Martinez Monsivais

...all Americans, from every background and of every faith, value the role that the Catholic Church plays in strengthening America. From my time working in impoverished neighborhoods with the Catholic Church in Chicago to my travels as president, I’ve seen firsthand how, every day, Catholic communities, priests, nuns and laity feed the hungry, heal the sick, shelter the homeless, educate our children and fortify the faith that sustains so many.

[Aaaand....I am suing the Little Sisters of the Poor, all the way up to the Supreme Court, demanding that they either violate their religious vows or face crushing fines and ruin.]

What is true in America is true around the world. From the busy streets of Buenos Aires to remote villages in Kenya, Catholic organizations serve the poor, minister to prisoners, build schools and homes, and operate orphanages and hospitals. And just as the Church has stood with those struggling to break the chains of poverty, it has given voice and hope to those seeking to break the chains of violence and oppression.

[Except for the thousands of victims of sex trafficking that the Catholic Church was most effective in helping over many years. My administration pulled all federal funding for those programs because the Church would not violate her sacred tenets by providing contraception and abortion advocacy and services.]

You call on all of us, Catholic and non-Catholic alike, to put the “least of these” at the center of our concern. You remind us that in the eyes of God our measure as individuals, and as societies, is not determined by wealth or power or station or celebrity, but by how well we hew to Scripture’s call to lift up the poor and the marginalized, to stand up for justice and against inequality, and to ensure that every human being is able to live in dignity – because we are all made in the image of God.

[Well, "all" except for millions upon millions upon millions of human beings against whom I advocate with vigor. I am hugely thrilled to consistently and unashamedly promote and ensure the killing of unborn human beings, and even the newly-born if they survive an attempt on their life, in the name of what I hold most sacred -- abortion.]

You remind us that “the Lord’s most powerful message” is mercy. That means welcoming the stranger with empathy and a truly open heart – from the refugee who flees war-torn lands to the immigrant who leaves home in search of a better life. It means showing compassion and love for the marginalized and the outcast, those who have suffered and those who seek redemption.

[Oh, except for the increasingly desperate and specifically Christian refugees who are the victims of an ongoing genocide in the Middle East. Those folks I will not welcome.]

You remind us that people are only truly free when they can practice their faith freely. Here in the United States, we cherish religious liberty. Yet around the world at this very moment, children of God, including Christians, are targeted and even killed because of their faith. Believers are prevented from gathering at their places of worship. The faithful are imprisoned. Churches are destroyed. So we stand with you in defense of religious freedom and interfaith dialogue, knowing that people everywhere must be able to live out their faith free from fear and intimidation.

[Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! Whee-boy, that is funny!! Whoops, sorry, back to my speech, and watching carefully for bolts of lightning....]


Well, you get the picture. I'm trying to be less of a cynic, but when I wake up to this load of bunk, it's hard!

And I didn't even go into how Obama's administration decried Catholics in Poland as dangerous bigots for opposing gay "marriage"! But let's just pretend that Obama is a friend of the Church.

God bless the Holy Father! May his very presence bless our troubled land!

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Handy guide for the media during Pope Francis' visit:

(In other words, don't believe what you read in the secular, mainstream media. We all know that by now, right?)

Friday, September 18, 2015

Ninth and tenth undercover Planned Parenthood videos, and thoughts on sex as idol

As you watch the ninth and tenths videos (no graphic images, just the banality of evil amid laughter), I wonder if you feel as I do: These women have lost touch with their own humanity. 

Let's begin with the tenth video, where PP execs talk openly about "generating a fair amount of income" from baby parts trafficking and another speaks of not wanting to be "bullied by the ridiculous laws" on the books, that PP "should not curtail our business for ridiculousness". This is the same Planned Parenthood that gets -- and feels righteously entitled to! -- half a billion taxpayer dollars a year. And, note the executive caught in a lie (start around 9:40) regarding PP's routine altering of abortion procedures to obtain better, more intact body parts (which is illegal).

If you are a Planned Parenthood or abortion supporter, watch what you are supporting, and shame on you if you do not watch it all:

And back to video #9, which should shock the conscience, assuming the conscience is still alive:

From fetal organs procurement manager, Perrin Larton, at 4:50 on the video:

"...the whole point is not to have a live birth" (Oh, really? How good of you to have a goal of a dead baby before delivery!), but sometimes, especially if the mother has had many previous children, the baby "just falls out" (alive! whoops! But hey, they actually get an "intact specimen" that way. Score!)

And when she talks about the babies' body parts, I wonder at the irony. For example, at 6:12, we hear that "...a lot of times the [baby's] abdomen presents first and they [the abortionists] just go in and start pulling" and rip apart the baby's liver. That really "pisses off" this laughing lady, who is looking to procure good smooth baby livers, darnit!

I find myself thinking, "But, she has her abdomen, her liver, her head and her limbs. She has them all intact. She got to stay alive and keep her body parts. She's strong and has a voice, so she has her life and her limbs. The unborn are weak and voiceless, so they get to have their body parts pulled and ripped and sold for scrap.

The irony, the irony of all these embodied women, going through the decades with all their parts, all intact from head to toe, growing up and growing old, living valuable lives, being worthy and important and untouchable. Protected by law.

Laughing and chatting about the other ones -- the ones they kill and package and sell.

But that abdomen, that liver, that body belonged to someone. And you had no right to touch it. You had no right to harm the integrity of that human being. Human, just like you.

The ABR procurement manager, by appearances, seems like such a nice lady. Someone's mom or grandma. I can picture her at a PTA meeting, a band concert, a church function. She could be a kindergarten teacher. And yet, she is in the business of trafficking human baby parts. Surreal.

And yet, sin blinds us as well as binds us.

I was thinking about our idols in this nation and the western world in general. 

What was it, exactly, that trumped the fundamental right to life itself

Sexual license.

What was it, exactly, that first weakened marriage and then ultimately led to its un-defining? 

Sexual license.

What is it that is threatening religious liberty more and more each day? 

Sexual license. 

How sad that the idolization of sexual pleasure has trumped the most fundamental of human rights (life and religious liberty), and dismantled society's fundamental building block (marriage). Sexual pleasure has become the most important good on the face of the planet for those who have or know nothing more, nothing higher. Sex is the idol. We kill for it (abortion, sex trafficking) and we die for it (AIDS, disease).

We take sexual pleasure out of its proper and sublime context and we put it above every other good, including human life itself, which is the very fruit of human sexuality and the communion of persons. 

And then we find ourselves having lost our own humanity. If you still don't believe me, then you have not watched the videos, or you have become terrifyingly blinded by sin. 

It is never too late to turn around.

If you still support Planned Parenthood, turn around. 

Friday, September 11, 2015

Is Fr. Keating's "Centering Prayer" Catholic?

As my passion for prayer has increased and I have learned more about Christian prayer (see recent post), I have become more and more concerned about the popularity of "centering prayer" among Catholics and even in Catholic parishes. Fr. Thomas Keating is a leading Catholic proponent of centering prayer, and yet what he says and promotes is not in line with the very clear teachings of our Church (through the Catechism and the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith) and her saints (especially prayer master and Doctor of the Church, St. Teresa of Avila).

If you are Catholic, stay away from centering prayer. You will not advance to supernatural, infused contemplation using the techniques, methods, and philosophies promulgated by Fr. Keating and his followers.

If you have any doubts, then you need to read what our very own Connie Rossini has written in her latest book, Is Centering Prayer Catholic?: Fr. Thomas Keating Meets Teresa of Avila and the CDF.

I had the privilege of reading this short, clear, and concise work when it was still just in e-book form (it is now available in paperback), and here is the review I wrote on Amazon:

I came to this book looking for a clear understanding of the Catholic position on centering prayer. I had heard good things about Fr. Thomas Keating from several Catholics of good will, and I had also been warned by other good Catholics to steer clear of his writings and methods. More than anything, I strive to be faithful to the teachings of the Catholic Church, and for that reason, this book is a godsend.

With the utmost charity and detached consideration, Connie Rossini has given us a simple, clear, and practical way to compare authentic Catholic prayer and centering prayer. She places the words of St. Teresa of Avila (Doctor of the Church and prayer master) and the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (the office which spreads and defends sound doctrine) side-by-side with Fr. Keating's words on centering prayer.

The results are astonishing and, frankly, frightening for anyone practicing or considering centering prayer.

While Fr. Keating and his supporters claim that centering prayer is compatible with Catholic prayer traditions, it becomes clear early on in the book that such a claim is impossible. In fact, true Catholic contemplation stands in stark contrast to the methods and goals of centering prayer, which is simply eastern transcendental meditation under a "Catholic" label.

For example, Fr. Keating "states repeatedly that one should ignore every thought during prayer, and every type of communication and inspiration coming from God himself. He urges his followers to use a 'sacred word' during prayer, but not only can that word be something completely secular if one chooses, Fr. Keating says that 'the less the word means to you, the better.'"

Contrast that to what we read about prayer in the Catechism of the Catholic Church:
"Meditation engages thought, imagination, emotion, and desire. This mobilization of faculties is necessary in order to deepen our convictions of faith, prompt the conversion of our heart, and strengthen our will to follow Christ. Christian prayer tries above all to meditate on the mysteries of Christ..."

And St. Teresa utterly contradicts Fr. Keating's directive of "letting go of every kind of thought during prayer, even the most devout thoughts” when she says:
"Taking it upon oneself to stop and suspend thought is what I mean should not be done; nor should we cease to work with the intellect, because otherwise we would be left like cold simpletons and be doing neither one thing nor the other."

Chapter by chapter, subject by subject, we see clearly how Fr. Keating's centering prayer theologically confuses almost every aspect of Catholic meditation and contemplation. By the end of the book, we have seen that...
"...Centering Prayer proposes an unorthodox relationship between God and the soul. It speaks of the spiritual life as coming to a greater consciousness, rather than conquering sin and learning to live according to God’s will. It misconstrues the place of the intellect and will in prayer. It sees no real distinctions between Catholic theology and Eastern religions. It denies the real change that takes place at death, sees growth in emotional freedom as the primary sign of spiritual growth, tells practitioners to ignore thoughts of God or inspirations from him during prayer, and urges the use of a 'sacred word' that might as well be gibberish. Centering Prayer takes Buddhist and Hindu meditation techniques, adds a few Christian terms, and calls it a new expression of the Catholic contemplative tradition. Its focus, its purpose, and its practice are all out of step with the teachings of Teresa of Avila, the unrivaled master teacher of the contemplative life." [And the teachings of the CDF and the Catechism as well.]
The phrase "accept no substitutes" comes to mind when I think of those tempted to centering prayer. If you desire to move through the stages of holiness and prayer and to achieve true spiritual union with God through infused contemplation, stay on course with Catholic tradition and teaching presented by the masters of Christian prayer and by the Church herself, and stay far, far away from the New Age philosophies and emptiness of centering prayer.

Learn more about prayer, learn how to pray, and you will find union with God while still on this earth. The peace and joy that comes with that union is not an emptiness or a loss of ourselves, but rather a personal and intimate relationship with the Beloved, a relationship for which we were all made, and without which we can never be satisfied.


Wednesday, September 9, 2015

A reminder from MLK, as he sat in jail...

Martin Luther King, Jr. wasn't too interested in a contrived "separation of church and state", by the way. 

From "Letter From a Birmingham Jail", April 16, 1963. Emphases mine:

One may well ask: "How can you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others?" The answer lies in the fact that there are two types of laws: just and unjust. I would be the first to advocate obeying just laws. One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that "an unjust law is no law at all."

Now, what is the difference between the two? How does one determine whether a law is just or unjust? A just law is a man made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law. To put it in the terms of St. Thomas Aquinas: An unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal law and natural law.


There was a time when the church was very powerful--in the time when the early Christians rejoiced at being deemed worthy to suffer for what they believed. In those days the church was not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles of popular opinion; it was a thermostat that transformed the mores of society. Whenever the early Christians entered a town, the people in power became disturbed and immediately sought to convict the Christians for being "disturbers of the peace" and "outside agitators." But the Christians pressed on, in the conviction that they were "a colony of heaven," called to obey God rather than man. Small in number, they were big in commitment. They were too God-intoxicated to be "astronomically intimidated." By their effort and example they brought an end to such ancient evils as infanticide and gladiatorial contests. Things are different now. So often the contemporary church is a weak, ineffectual voice with an uncertain sound. So often it is an archdefender of the status quo. Far from being disturbed by the presence of the church, the power structure of the average community is consoled by the church's silent--and often even vocal--sanction of things as they are.

But the judgment of God is upon the church as never before. If today's church does not recapture the sacrificial spirit of the early church, it will lose its authenticity, forfeit the loyalty of millions, and be dismissed as an irrelevant social club with no meaning for the twentieth century.


Never before have I written so long a letter. I'm afraid it is much too long to take your precious time. I can assure you that it would have been much shorter if I had been writing from a comfortable desk, but what else can one do when he is alone in a narrow jail cell, other than write long letters, think long thoughts and pray long prayers?

Read his whole Letter from a Birmingham Jail, here.