Friday Five – Volume 112

Friday Five-Mere Observations

— 1 —

To all of the veterans I know, and most especially to my own son, I want to say a heartfelt thank you on this Veterans Day.

I am, in particular, fond of this screen capture from that video:

veteransday_kofc

— 2 —

The United States of America held an election this week. That’s a good thing. Before continuing below, please listen to this two minute NPR clip.

These are women who have put all their identity into the ideology of the liberal feminist and into the person that is Hillary Rodham Clinton. They have chosen to not embrace being made in the image and likeness of God, but have made themselves into the image of Hillary Clinton. They are not alone in this, as the temper tantrums, protests and violence that came after Clinton lost the election have shown. All of these protestors seem to have identified their candidates and party’s success with their own success. This is never a good idea. When Obama was elected in 2008, I prayed for the man and for his success as leader of my country. I didn’t cry. I didn’t lash out on social media. I accepted the result and moved on. I did the same in 2012.

From Robert Royal’s column on Monday comes the following imagined exchange between Socrates and Glaucon:

Glaucon: What, then, are we to do, Socrates?

Socrates: First, O impetuous Glaucon, we must clearly understand our condition, which will not be solved by the vote because the disease is not, in the first place, political. To think that it is, is like the bad physician who prescribes a treatment for the stone when the real malady is gout. We are in a life-threatening state and cannot afford illusions about our health.

Glaucon: But what can we DO?

Socrates: We can do what good men must always do. Implore the god. Act well. Try to do good to our fellows, even when they do not do good to us. Make sacrifice for the city. Above all, the city that is divided will not become undivided unless the people undertake a serious time of conversing, face-to-face, among themselves, about the kind of city they wish to be. If the choice is a city that lives for the moment, that looks not to the past and the wisdom of the elders, or that cares not for those who must be allowed to be born for the city to survive – and for people to realize their own place in the generations – then the votes may hasten or slow the end. But the end will, in either case, be near.

— 3 —

It is well worth your time to read this entire article by Kenneth Crowther over at Crisis. In particular I thought the following passage did a tremendous job of describing the noise of this past election season, and if the current nightly rioting is any indication, the noise to come. Our challenge is in recognizing the noise and learning how to combat it with silence.

Humanity’s hideous strength is our ability to create. It is a strength because it is a gift from God—he purposed us to work the land, to co-redeem his creation. It is hideous when it is perverted; we have turned our ability to create into our desire to destroy. In the shadow of that hideous strength the sons of Noah lost their capacity for communion and that same shadow still stretches through time and darkens the hearts and minds of men. It is the shadow which even now we find ourselves in; the shadow that spreads the babble of Babel.

And babble is everywhere. Politics has been reduced to a farcical parody, people merely talking past each other. Debate lacks all logic. No one is interested in hearing, only speaking. Our opinion is fact and requires no proof. Other opinions are false, and no amount of proof will convince us otherwise. Words mean what we want them to mean, and because meaning is fluid, they’re not worth the breath with which they’re spoken. What we have may seem like communication, but it is most certainly not communion.

Every day it is the babble of Babel that corrupts conversation. It is evident on Facebook posts and Disqus comments; in conservative and liberal media alike; in classrooms and schoolyards; on talk show panels and presidential debates; at home in the nursery while the young mother scrolls through Instagram, and at work while the middle-aged man cannot go five minutes without checking the football score. It is why students no longer read books, and neither do teachers. Josef Pieper once wrote that people have lost the ability to see because there is too much to see. The same can be said for hearing. Noise, chaos, confusion and pandemonium fill our ears and desensitize us to the rhythms of created order and the common sense of logic and reason.

We cannot communicate properly because we do not want communion. We want dominion. We choose to reign in a Hell of confusion, rather than serve in a Heaven of true communication.

— 4 —

Becoming Catholic is to respond to a call to take up position in the front line of a battle – it is not for the faint hearted, or the cowardly; perhaps most importantly of all, it is, not for those who choose to leave something of themselves with the enemy – a sin, perhaps, or a ‘moral position’ that they are unwilling to surrender. In this war, which we call ‘life’, compromise with the enemy is fatal.

From Award-Winning Atheist Poet Writes Memoir with a Twist: Her Conversion

Perhaps the most truth-filled paragraph I’ve read in a long, long time.

— 5 —

If you’ve read my blog for any length of time you know how fond I am of the psalms. This article pulls from Chapter 14 of Peter Kreeft’s book You Can Understand the Bible. In particular the thing I like about it is its emphasis on how Christ is foreshadowed in the Psalms. Do yourselves a favor this weekend. Grab a highlighter, sit down with your bible, and make note of the following 22 Old and New Testament passages that Kreeft lists below.

*****

Many passages in the Psalms, as well as whole psalms, are messianic.  If we had none of the rest of the Old Testament but only the Psalms, we would still be able to “check it out” and we that Christ fulfilled the Old Testament patterns and predictions.  For instance, compare:

  1. Psalm 2:7 with Matthew 3:17;
  2. Psalm 8:6 with Hebrews 2:8;
  3. Psalm 16:10 with Mark 16:6-7;
  4. Psalm 22:1 with Matthew 27:46;
  5. Psalm 22:7-8 with Luke 23:35;
  6. Psalm 22:16 with John 20:25, 27;
  7. Psalm 22:18 with Matthew 27:35-36;
  8. Psalm 34:20 with John 19:32-36;
  9. Psalm 35:11 with Mark 14:57;
  10. Psalm 35:19 with John 15:25;
  11. Psalm 40:7-8 with Hebrews 10:7;
  12. Psalm 41:9 with Luke 22:47;
  13. Psalm 45:6 with Hebrews 1:8;
  14. Psalm 68:18 with Mark 16:19;
  15. Psalm 69:9 with John 2:17;
  16. Psalm 69:21 with Matthew 27:34;
  17. Psalm 109:4 with Luke 23:34;
  18. Psalm 109:8 with Acts 1:20;
  19. Psalm 110:I with Matthew 22:44;
  20. Psalm 110:4 with Hebrews 5:6;
  21. Psalm 118:22 with Matthew 21:42; and
  22. Psalm 118:26 with Matthew 21:9.

(This list was compiled by Dr. Kenneth D. Boa.)

The Psalms are like an ocean fed by many rivers, many writers.  They are for wading in, bathing in, swimming in, surfing in, boating on, and even drowning in (for the mystics have loved and used them too).  Their authors include David (about half), Moses (90), Ezra (119), Solomon (72 and 127), Asaph, and many others.  They were written during a period of perhaps a thousand years, from the time of Moses, about 1400 B.C., to the return from exile about 430 B.C.  They will last forever.

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National Dog Day, Cromwell, Liberty Valance, and so on…

A cool breeze and Supertramp on the radio.

A cool breeze and Supertramp on the radio.

Today is National Dog Day. In the spirit of this designation I thought I’d share a photo of the ever faithful Buster the Wonder Beagle™ doing what he does.

Snippets of what I’ve been reading or observing are below. Instead of the Friday Five format that I’ve been using for the last several years I’m switching up a bit this week. Basically because I have more than five things I wanted to include and rather than hold some over for next week I wanted to get them published today in case I get too busy next week. Mostly it’s because I’m too lazy to edit myself.

• Today is Day 12 of the 54-Day Rosary Novena for Our Nation and so far I’ve remained engaged. I have enjoyed getting up earlier to watch the sunrise while praying. I also continue to read Fr. Calloway’s excellent book Champions of the Rosary.

An unexpected treat in this book has been the history of the Rosary through the centuries. A little sampling perhaps? Ok then, here’s an excerpt from pages 93-94:

One telling account of the tremendous love that the Irish people had for the rosary during this time of persecution was written by the hand of the man who was sent to persecute and kill Catholics in Ireland: Oliver Cromwell.  Cromwell was an English military leader bearing the title “Lord Protector of the Commonwealth of England, Scotland, and Ireland.” During his military campaign in Ireland, he sought to rid the country of Catholics and made the following report back to his superiors in England.

All is not well with Ireland yet. You gave us the money, you gave us the guns. But let me tell you that every house in Ireland is a house of prayer, and when I bring these fanatical Irish before the muzzles of my guns, they hold up in their hands a string of beads, and they never surrender.

Incredibly, to this day in the town of Clonmel, in County Tipperary – an area of Ireland where the Dominicans have not had a house since medieval times – the following prayer is said by the faithful during the recitation of the rosary:

Glorious St. Dominic,
intercede with Mary Immaculate
to crush the serpent,
and let peace reign in the whole world.
You are the founder of the most holy rosary.
Do not permit the enemy
to penetrate into these places
where the rosary is recited.
Amen.

• This bit about the bloodthirsty fanatic (well he was) Cromwell struck me this week as I encountered an individual online who was a classic relativist. She persisted in defending the innocence of Islam while condemning the “bloody history” of Catholicism. She hit all the standard lines: the Inquisition, the Crusades, the Holocaust (wait…what?). After yet again citing the historical fact that 3000-6000 persons were killed over a 500 year period of the Inquisition (not “hundreds of millions”), and how the Crusades were a counter-attack and a defense brought about by Muslim aggression, I admit I shut it down when she trotted out the Holocaust.

Fr. Calloway’s book has already covered the Siege of Vienna, the Battle of Lepanto, and various other battles waged by Catholic Christians in defense against Muslim aggression.

• While we’re in the medieval era of Europe: I stumbled across a film I’d never heard of this morning called Ironclad (2011). According to imdb.com:

It is the year 1215 and the rebel barons of England have forced their despised King John to put his royal seal to the Magna Carta, a noble, seminal document that upheld the rights of free-men. Yet within months of pledging himself to the great charter, the King reneged on his word and assembled a mercenary army on the south coast of England with the intention of bringing the barons and the country back under his tyrannical rule. Barring his way stood the mighty Rochester castle, a place that would become the symbol of the rebel’s momentous struggle for justice and freedom.

The trailer is below, and I’ve already saved it to my Netflix watch list. I’m in the mood.

• As long as I’m in movie mode one of my favorites was brought to mind yesterday when I retrieved a rather thick, important looking envelope from my mailbox informing me that I was on call for jury duty for two weeks in October. Immediately my mind raced for ways to recuse myself before a possible jury selection process and for whatever reason this scene from The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance popped into my head:

What do you think? If I stand up and holler “That’s right! Hang him! Give him a rope necktie and let him swing!” the attorney for the defense will want to keep me on the jury?

Just a (admittedly bad) thought.

• One more comment about medieval times and for that I defer to Hilliare Belloc, a favorite historian and an essay he wrote in 1912:

The Barbarian hopes—and that is the very mark of him—that he can have his cake and eat it too. He will consume what civilisation has slowly produced after generations of selection and effort but he will not be at the pains to replace such goods nor indeed has he a comprehension of the virtue that has brought them into being. Discipline seems to him irrational, on which account he is for ever marvelling that civilisation should have offended him with priests and soldiers. ~Hilaire Belloc: This That and the Other. (1912)

Did I say it was about medieval times? Sure sounds like it could have been referring to our 2016 barbarians, donit?

By the way, I’m not a Game of Thrones guy. Never seen an episode or read a page. Is that odd? Maybe, but I’ve read enough about it to know that in the limited time it just doesn’t draw me in.

And now you think less of me. Ah well, can’t win ‘em all.

• Michael Baggot, a Legion of Christ brother, wrote an article that caught my eye over at First Things this week. In “Lectio Divina and the Facebook Newsfeed” he begins:

Puppies bounding through a field, a jubilant wedding, a new round of beheadings in the Middle East, homemade tacos al pastor, an Olympics triumph over adversity. As my thumb slides over the Facebook newsfeed, I am drawn hypnotically to swipe and swipe again. Perhaps I will rediscover an old friend from college, or scroll upon a factoid to share at the dinner table. As I feed my curiosity, I realize that I have lost a half-hour, with little to show for it. I paid a visit to Facebook for a refreshing diversion, but instead I have grown wearier.

There is so much more I’d like to quote from this brief article, but it is brief and I do not want to steal his thunder and would instead very much encourage you to click over to read it yourself. Baggot points out how the endless scrolling and consuming all manner of different things from our Facebook newsfeed (and I would also include Twitter) affects our minds, as well as our ability to think, read and reflect. I have noticed as much during the past year when I read. I cannot seem to endure long passages of time spent in a book like I used to and have had to own up to the fact that each night I can’t stop picking up my phone to scroll through my timeline. Ironically the day before I read this article I logged out of Twitter and deleted it from my phone. Baby steps.

Baggot’s article is here. Please do yourself a favor and read it.

• The “On This Day” feature on Facebook is one in which it displays all the posts you made on that specific date during the year. This includes photos, links or your friend’s posts in which you were “tagged”. As I’ve read these over the past year the thought has occurred to me (more than once) that I was much more carefree, interesting and funny from 2009-2014. In short, I’ve passed my “sell by” date on social media. Or more accurately one might say that from 2009-14 I was Don Knotts’ character Barney Fife: affable, likeable, and funny now and then. But now I’ve morphed into Ralph Furley: the annoying, unfunny, overstayed-his-welcome guy who lives downstairs.

• Even my metaphors and references are as dated as the jumpsuits and ascots Furley wore.

Just a few more items and I’ll wrap this up.

• Brandon Vogt has produced yet another useful free service for Catholics that want to spend some time ahead of Sunday Mass reflecting on that week’s gospel passage. Simply go to DeeperGospel.com and sign up. Every Thursday you will receive an email containing that coming Sunday’s Gospel text along with three reflections from various saints or popes regarding that passage. I received my first email yesterday (Luke 14:1, 7-14) and the reflections were from St. John Chrysostom, St. Josemaria Escriva and Pope Benedict XVI. I read through it Thursday, did again this morning and will once more on Saturday.

A much better use of time than scrolling through cute kitty videos on Facebook, no?

• PS: You don’t have to be Catholic to put this to use.

• My bishop, James D. Conley of the Diocese of Lincoln, was featured in an interview that appeared in Catholic World Report yesterday. In the course of the interview Bishop Conley discusses his background, as well as that of our diocese and our high amount of priestly vocations. You can read the whole interview here.

• Yesterday I read this wonderful post by blogger John Pavlovitz from this past February. The title is “On the Day I Die” and is a marvelous meditation and reflection on what will happen on that fateful day. It is also a call to live. I was going to post a portion of it. But then I remembered the second reading from The Liturgy of the Hours that I’d prayed yesterday on the Memorial of St. Louis IX. It is from a spiritual testament written to his son are contains some great advice on how to live. I’ve decided to close out this week with some bulleted excerpts from it below. Both the words of St. Louis and of John Pavlovitz are worthy of mental chewing over the weekend.

  • My dearest son, my first instruction is that you should love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your strength. Without this there is no salvation.
  • Keep yourself, my son, from everything that you know displeases God, that is to say, from every mortal sin. You should permit yourself to be tormented by every kind of martyrdom before you would allow yourself to commit a mortal sin.
  • If the Lord has permitted you to have some trial, bear it willingly and with gratitude, considering that it has happened for your good and that perhaps you well deserved it.
  • If the Lord bestows upon you any kind of prosperity, thank him humbly and see that you become no worse for it, either through vain pride or anything else, because you ought not to oppose God or offend him in the matter of his gifts.
  • Listen to the divine office with pleasure and devotion.
  • As long as you are in church, be careful not to let your eyes wander and not to speak empty words, but pray to the Lord devoutly, either aloud or with the interior prayer of the heart.
  • Be kindhearted to the poor, the unfortunate and the afflicted. Give them as much help and consolation as you can.
  • Thank God for all the benefits he has bestowed upon you, that you may be worthy to receive greater.
  • In conclusion, dearest son, I give you every blessing that a loving father can give a son. May the three Persons of the Holy Trinity and all the saints protect you from every evil. And may the Lord give you the grace to do his will so that he may be served and honored through you, that in the next life we may together come to see him, love him and praise him unceasingly. Amen.

Fighting back

There has long been a deep reservoir of hate in this country just waiting to be tapped. Now Hillary Clinton on the left and Donald Trump from wherever he comes have both tapped it – it is open and gushing, it is vile, and it is threatening to bring this country down.

The only thing that will stop it is prayer – the ONLY thing. – online commenter Terry at Crisis Magazine online

_______

The life of man upon earth is a warfare… – Job 7:1

***

Last night I entered the fray.

I joined the battle.

We established a beachhead.

I haven’t been writing much for more than a few weeks now. My efforts to continue with The Screwtape Letters project is, for now, on hold. I got tired of staring at an empty screen and will try to continue another day.

The bitter and honest truth is that I’ve been…how to say this…out of sorts.

Out of whack. Lost my equilibrium.

I’ve been under attack.

I’ve said before that I believe the great battle of our times is before us. I’ve also said that it will be a spiritual war.

After the events of the last month I stand behind those assertions.

It’s been a rough year. A year filled with self-doubt and second-guessing. A year of “what ifs”. Through it all I’ve struggled to keep my balance and maintain both my optimism and stay upright. At times I’ve come perilously close to giving in to despair. One beam of light guided me through this fog.

Prayer, specifically the Liturgy of the Hours, also known as the Divine Office.

We are living in strange times. Or hadn’t you noticed? Many have not. Distracted by the soft comforting glow of their various screens they are oblivious to history’s verdicts. How else does one explain our youth’s embracing of the culture of death and socialism? How else to explain the unhinged, vehement attacks levied at anyone who points out the obvious lack of conservative bona fides in the candidate widely embraced on the right as “the true conservative candidate”?

Thought and reason have no traction today because emotions and slogans have superseded them.

What the hell is going on?

And that’s the answer. Hell is going on.

***

Of late I’ve read many things online to ramp up my sense of urgency regarding this war. If the results from this survey by the Barna Group are in fact true, then I’m already to be considered an extremist in the eyes of many. The war is already being waged against me. I just as well fight back and make damn sure I live up to the evidence and label that may someday be used against me.

Society is undergoing a change of mind about the way religion and people of faith intersect with public life. That is, there are intensifying perceptions that faith is at the root of a vast number of societal ills.

Though it remains the nation’s most dominant religion, Christianity faces significant headwind in the court of public opinion. The decades-old trend that Christianity is irrelevant is increasingly giving way to the notion that Christianity is bad for society.

A new major study conducted by Barna Group, and explored in the new book Good Faith, co-authored by Barna president David Kinnaman, examines society’s current perceptions of faith and Christianity. In sum, faith and religion and Christianity are viewed by millions of adults to be extremist.

A growing portion of society considers me an extremist by virtue of my actually professing and living by my beliefs as a Christian. As a conservative I’ve watched myself or anyone else who questions the candidacy of Donald Trump be labeled a “rich, establishment, power mad” fool who is not a “true conservative” and will get “what’s coming to you!”. Ummm…what? I’ve watched those members of the media who call themselves conservatives outed for the carnival barkers that they are, nothing more than shills looking to make a book for the candidate du jour.

I’ve seen spleens vented at Pope Francis and any Catholic who dares call him or herself Catholic while pleading for some decent human decency be shown the less fortunate or the poor.

Obama voters the past two elections just pissed me off. I laughed them off as unserious kids fawning over an unqualified leftist. Supporters of Trump who spew their hatred and bile towards anyone who dare point out the flaws in their reason or simply ask for clarification on their stance scare the hell out of me because this lot is filled with rage and they are looking for someone to pour it upon. And I get it. I’m as upset with the Republican party leadership as anyone on how they’ve said one thing to get elected and then done the opposite once in office, while sending out letters for more money. I stopped supporting the GOP in 2006 when despite having control of all three branches of government they did not one blessed thing about abortion in this country. But as soon as Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid took over in 2006 the fundraising letters once more were filling the mailboxes of pro-lifers everywhere.

So I get the anger and disillusionment. But Trump? And to vent that anger out on not just your fellow citizens of either party, but against those who are in tune with the Constitution and our nation’s history?

It’s nothing new. History has shown us examples of a citizenry embracing anger during the Reign of Terror in France, in Puritan England, and  in pre-World War II Germany.

The lessons from this history is that it never ends well for the likes of people like me.

***

Already being bloodied from the blows received, I read the following from scripture one  evening while in prayer:

My brothers, count it pure joy when you are involved in every sort of trial. Realize that when your faith is tested this makes for endurance. Let endurance come to its perfection so that you may be fully mature and lacking in nothing. – James 1:2-4 (Evening Prayer for January 29)

The very next morning I read this during Morning Prayer:

In everything you do, act without grumbling or arguing; prove yourselves innocent and straightforward, children of God beyond reproach in the midst of a twisted and depraved generation—among whom you shine like the stars in the sky. – Philippians 2:14-15 (Morning Prayer for January 30)

I decided I needed to make a call.

***

During mornings or evenings above 30 degrees you will find me outside with these.

During mornings or evenings above 30 degrees you will find me outside with these.

It has been a long-time goal of mine to initiate the praying of Vespers, or Evening Prayer, at my parish. A few weeks ago I finally got around to setting up a meeting with my parish priest to discuss it. I say finally because I could no longer ignore what I see going on. I needed to stop fighting alone, and begin to form a squad to wage the only form of warfare that matters and the one for which I’m best equipped. My son is a United States Marine. He’s trained for the more conventional battles of this world. He has been raised to fight the other, too, but for now his task is elsewhere.

Mine, however, is not. Mine is against the “powers and principalities” of this world.

This is your fight as well.

I have prayed the Liturgy of the Hours for just about fifteen years, ever since I first worked up the nerve to ask our former assistant pastor Father Hottovy to show me the book he always carried with him. It was slow going and a struggle at many times, but I persevered until now my day feels unbalanced if I fail to pray at least Morning or Evening Prayers. Being a historian I researched its origins and revisions over the years, even purchasing an expensive set of pre-Vatican II era books containing the Divine Office in both Latin and English.

But mostly I have done so in order to sanctify time for God. Except for a handful of occasions I have prayed this communal prayer alone.

I wanted to change that. Father Johnson agreed. And we selected Wednesday evenings at 6pm immediately following 5:30 Mass. We agreed that instead of announcing it in the bulletin for now or at weekend Masses he would simply announce it at the end of last night’s Mass and invite people to stick around to join me.

***

About the same time that I first contacted Father for a Saturday morning meeting over coffee the attacks upon me intensified. As last night drew near they threatened to suffocate me. I struggled to smile or find happiness. Optimism about almost anything seemed to disappear. I found myself hit with dreams and visions in broad daylight…horrible and awful images of my family, especially my children, and at times my friends. I saw horrific scenes, too terrible to recount, that involved my children bloodied, in danger, or worse. I couldn’t sleep and had little energy. My despair would turn to frustration and in a flash my anger would flare with words against those who mean the most to me. Two days ago I was sitting at a red light when one flashed before my eyes and caused me to cry uncontrollably as the light turned green through my tear-streaked eyes. The devil knows our weakness. It has ever been so.

I honestly thought I was falling apart. Believe it or not thoughts of my own death and of not being a burden to my loved ones crept into my mind.

But then little pinpoints of grace would shine forth. Nothing huge, but small indications that I did have worth, that I mattered, and that I made a difference began to emerge. Two examples:

Two weeks ago my Marine and I were texting about his younger brother’s upcoming baseball season. Jonah is twelve and at this point in his young life already a much better baseball player than his older brother. Considering that Nolan was able to contribute and then start on two spring high school state champion baseball teams and compete for summer state titles as well, that’s saying a lot about his younger brother. A back injury almost cost Nolan his high school baseball career and deeply affected his attitude, causing lethargy and depression. Prior to his sophomore year he was going to quit and we argued back and forth about it for weeks before the treatment and work he’d been doing to heal his injury caused him to relent and play. Ever since 2012 I’ve beat myself up and wondered how much resentment my coaxing him to play had caused. I wondered if he’d ever appreciate all that he and his buddies had accomplished. Lately I’ve wondered if I would have the strength to do so again with Jonah should he travel a similar path.

It turns out I won’t have to get after Jonah. His big brother will. This is a part of our text exchange:

Nolan: Make him play at least through high school. He’ll be glad one day.

Me (after taking a big gulp): Are you thankful I pushed you to play?

Nolan: More than anything. I’ve been talking to some of the guys out here. We all want more than anything to be able to go back and play under the lights one more time. Whether it’s football, baseball, basketball, soccer, whatever…everyone wishes they could go back just one more time.

I hoped I would hear those words before I was 60, never dreaming I’d hear them at 48.

The last occurrence was the unexpected gift of a book from a friend. I had loaned her five books from the World War II era on the fate of Christians, including St. Maximilian Kolbe and Edith Stein to use as research for a college paper she was writing. Becky is my age but has gone back to school in order to finish up her teaching degree. Several weeks later she showed up unannounced and unexpected in order to present me with a copy of a book published late last year called Church of Spies. For fifteen minutes we stood outside as she talked about her research and thanked me several times for the use of books from my library. She couldn’t see it in the twilight, but I was so quiet because I was trying to keep from crying after being overwhelmed by her simple generosity. I’d been beaten down and was nearly exhausted, but her gesture was like a cool drink of fresh water.

And then yesterday I began to understand what was happening. While praying during my lunch hour at the Pink Sisters chapel and sitting before the Blessed Sacrament, I began to understand that I was under attack. Satan did not want me to introduce Evening Prayer at St. John’s nor did he want those I met with to understand they could use this great treasure of the Church themselves. The tradition of sanctifying time to God through the praying of the psalms goes back thousands of years before Christ when the Jews would pray them throughout the day. Jesus himself prayed these same psalms. The Catholic Church has done the same ever since. But not just Catholics. Anglicans, Lutherans and other Protestant denominations all have their own traditions that grew from the trunk of this tree.

While sitting slump-backed in that pew yesterday I was encouraged and renewed. Despite my self-doubt and fears I would press on. I was too close to quit now after wanting to begin for so long.

***

In the grand scheme of things it was hardly noticeable. After Mass last night I stood in front of the sanctuary with the booklets I’d printed for use. I made only ten, hoping for at least one or two people to join me. After a few minutes of thinking no one would I found myself suddenly surrounded by around 15 people. After a brief introduction on my part we began. Fifteen minutes later it was done. We finished while the church was filling for a 7pm First Confession service held for our second graders and their parents. I doubt very many were aware of us or what was going on.

But something did happen. A toe-hold was made. A command post was established.

Last night we began fighting back. In community. Communion.

I slept like a baby last night for the first time in months.

We will continue every Wednesday night going forward. We may grow in number or we may not. But I believe we will see an increase in numbers over time.

I believe there are many who want to fight back. They see the shroud of darkness descending and are hungry to learn about whatever weapons available to them.

Based on the comments and positive feedback received last night I stand by that belief. And I will be better prepared in the future for the spiritual attacks that I know will come. There’s always a counter-attack.

I’m hopeful that last night we struck a blow and that as we continue others will have their eyes opened to the beauty and power contained within the Divine Office. All are welcome to join us for 15-20 minutes of prayer. Perhaps in time we’ll extend it for 15-30 minutes of discussion. In the meantime I have made plans to include a sheet each week that teaches on some aspect of the Liturgy of the Hours and history of the Divine Office.

But I’m taking it slow. Better a start than none at all. For while we live in seemingly more desperate times and there is a sense of urgency, I feel a calm that tells me to not rush according to my own schedule.

It’s His time, after all. Sanctified.

History.

His story.

***

For though we live in the world we are not carrying on a worldly war, for the weapons of our warfare are not worldly but have divine power to destroy strongholds. – 2 Corinthians 10:3-4

There is No Other Stream (How We Forgot our Song)

At the still point of the turning world. Neither flesh nor fleshless;
Neither from nor towards; at the still point, there the dance is,
But neither arrest nor movement.
And do not call it fixity,
Where past and future are gathered. Neither movement from nor towards,
Neither ascent nor decline. Except for the point, the still point,
There would be no dance, and there is only the dance.

T.S. Eliot
Burnt Norton (1935)
Four Quartets

*************

A few hours ago I was sitting in a pew near the rear of the Eucharistic Adoration Chapel of the Sister Servants of the Holy Spirit of Perpetual Adoration (we know them as the “Pink Sisters”), listening to them sing Midday Prayers before the presence of the exposed Blessed Sacrament. I come every Friday…to pray, to think, or to simply sit in silence. Today I came for the silence, seeking a respite from the angry, hurting and confused voices we all have heard over the past week since the terrorist attacks in Paris, Beirut and elsewhere last Saturday. We’ve heard them again soon after as the debate about whether or not to accept Syrian refugees into the United States rages on.

[As to that specific question I have decided not to enter into the fray here. If I were, however, I would surely quote extensively from what I consider to be the best response yet to the question by Dr. Taylor Marshall, who takes the most clear-eyed and pragmatic approach that I’ve found so far. You may read it here: Islamic Refugee Crisis: Good Samaritan or Maccabean Response? Or both, and in fact I encourage you to do so. As Dr. Marshall writes in the introduction: This article is politically incorrect and says things that might shock you. Please read the entire article until the very last two paragraphs before making a judgment or writing incendiary comments. This might be one of the clearest things you’ve read on the topic, because it draws on virtue ethics of Thomas Aquinas – something generally ignored in our day and age.]

I’ve found it difficult to even begin to write something to make sense of it all. The need to place blame. Or offer solutions. As if I could do any of that. What I sought at the chapel today was peace with a side order of clarity. I found some today.

Without getting into specifics I will say that some of the fog that has lifted is the quick-trigger response I often have to blame Islam. Before you think I’ve gone off the deep end please hear me out. While Islam is a heresy, and often a dangerous ideology, I do not lay the blame for the terrorist actions or the growth of ISIS solely on Islam. For the conclusion I’ve arrived at is simply this: Islam is one of many ideologies competing to fill the void left by the West’s abandonment of its Judeo-Christian heritage. And before we lose our minds over Islam we need to recognize that we’ve got an even bigger problem to confront at home.

isis-terrorists

I’ve read that great civilizations held their course and their prosperity as long as its people knew its story. That story is what provided them with common purpose. Vision. It gave them their song.

We in the West have long ago abandoned our story and have lost our conviction. We have forgotten our song.

They have given us into the hand of new unhappy lords,
Lords without anger and honour, who dare not carry their swords.
They fight by shuffling papers; they have bright dead alien eyes;
They look at our labour and laughter as a tired man looks at flies.
And the load of their loveless pity is worse than the ancient wrongs,
Their doors are shut in the evening; and they know no songs.

G.K. Chesterton, The Secret People

I began to connect the dots as I watched the BlackLivesMatter movement spread like wildfire across the campuses of our nation’s universities. Watching the videos, reading about their demands, and marveling at the speed in which they are filling a vacuum left by the lack of purpose felt by the youth in our country has led me to this theory. Our nation abandoned its traditions and began to tear down the institutions that made it strong long ago, but especially after World War II.

The sexual revolution begat the pill, unlimited abortion, the desecration of the sanctity of marriage by way of adultery and no-fault divorce, the destruction of the family, multitudes of single parent homes, the feminization of men and the epidemic of fatherless children, not to mention the rampant glorification of porn and unfettered access thereof. Pornography itself leading to the objectification of others, an inability to connect and maintain personal relationships and the constant pursuit of the orgasm over everything else (not to mention sex-trafficking and prostitution). All of which creates the majority of the ills we face as a society today; the ills we tells ourselves we must find solutions to at the costs of millions upon millions of dollars and social programs. We throw buckets of money at the problem but never dare address the solution that would cost us nothing. I’ve often thought that a great subject for a book would be about what the consequences are of doing the exact opposite of each of the Ten Commandments.

Our nation is increasingly becoming a citizenry without purpose. Men and women seek adventure. We yearn for a deeper purpose and contribute something during our time on this earth to help bring order and clarity. But we have removed that sense of belonging by way of Cultural Marxism and Critical Theory. We are committing suicide while wandering through a fog of our own choosing. And while we stumble aimlessly, threats to our existence and our civilization are growing stronger inside (Cultural Marxism) and outside (Islamic extremism) our culture because they are helping many to find a purpose, nihilistic though it may be.

despair

Writing in The American Conservative, Rod Dreher brought to my attention an interview between Sophie Shevardnadze of Russia Today and Scott Atran, an anthropologist who studies terrorism that was an eye opener. Among the more interesting parts of the interview was this exchange:

SS: Dr. Atran, I know that you’ve mentioned that even if ISIS is destroyed in Iraq and Syria, it will spring up elsewhere and you’ve said, Africa, for instance, and Asia. Is the potential of this movement limitless? How many people can there be who want to live in a blood-thirsty, genocidal state run by psychopaths? I mean, I know, you’re saying it’s a repetition of history…

DR.SA: Well, first, I don’t think they’re psychopaths…

SS: …and you know, it’s like French Revolution or Bolshevik revolution – but you’d think that we’ve learned something from history, no? I mean, I don’t want to be back in Bolshevik revolution times…

DR.SA: No, I don’t think so. Look, George Orwell in his review of Adolf Hitler’s “Mein Kampf” back in 1939 have described the essence of the problem. He said: “Mr. Hitler has discovered that human beings don’t only want peace and security and comfort and free from want. They want adventure, glory and self-sacrifice, and Mr. Hitler’s appealed to that –  and while the Oxford student union at that time vowed to never fight again, Mr. Hitler has 80 million people fall down to his feet, in one of the most advanced countries in the world.” How did that happen? Again, ISIS is appealing to the same sort of sentiments, that have been appealed to throughout human history… and no, I don’t think we’ve learned much from history about that.

[snip]

SS: But, you know, we’re used to think that young people, teen in transition, like you say, they want freedom. They want to have fun, they want to have sex and drugs and drink. What we see with ISIS is forbidding this, for young people and for everyone – yet, there is this flock towards ISIS. I still don’t understand why, because whatever they’re trying to convince young people of, it’s pretty obvious there is no freedom where they are going. And young people usually strive for freedom…

DR.SA: Yeah, but I believe they do think they’re getting freedom. Instead of freedom-to-do-things, it’s freedom-from-having-to-do-things, where a life well-ordered and promising. I mean, again, they appeal to people from all over the world. I got a call from head of Medical School telling me that her best students have just left to set up field hospital for ISIS in Syria, and she was asking me why would they do this; and I said, “because it’s a glorious and adventurous mission, where they are creating a Brand New World, and they do it under constraints.” I mean, people want to be creative under constraints. A lot of young people just don’t want the kind of absolute freedom you’re talking about. The choices are too great, there’s too much ambiguity and ambivalence. There are too many degrees of freedom and so one can’t chart a life path that’s at all meaningful, and so these young people are in search of significance, and ISIS is trying to show them a way towards significance. Again, we have to take it very seriously, that’s why I think it’s the most dynamic counter-cultural movement since WWII, and it’s something I don’t think people are taking seriously, just dismissing them as psychopaths and criminals and… this, of course, is something that we have to destroy. I think, we’re on the wrong path in terms of the way we’re going to destroy it.

The West became bored and complacent with its story and wandered from the path. A new siren song has been whispered into the ears of the culture and is having an affect. Need proof outside of the headlines of the day? Easy. Wade into the comboxes. Engage someone in a simple back and forth. It is nary impossible as everyone has dug their collective heels deep into the fatty flesh of their malaise. Forgive me for sounding arrogant, but it’s like trying to talk reason to a room full of pre-Kindergarten toddlers. It’s pointless.

Now before I get accused of comparing college students to ISIS terrorists, read the boldfaced print in that portion of the interview again, but do by thinking not of ISIS, but of those college student movements. I don’t know how much of the video or accounts of the confrontations at the University of Missouri, Yale or Dartmouth that you’ve read, but I saw most of them. And when I read of the storming of the library at Dartmouth in which protesting students yelled at their peers who were only there to do what college students usually do—study—and demanded that their peers stand and chant along I got an ill feeling. And when those same protesters then got in the faces and screamed horrible things and threats at those students who refused to stand I did get ill. Because anyone who has studied the history of fascist countries has seen that behavior before. It started with students in Nazi Germany. It evolved into much worse. The Taliban took it even further, putting a gun to the back of the heads of those who did not stand in solidarity with Islam or renounce Christianity. Then they pulled the trigger.

People, we have seen this before. Too many times to count. Don’t tell me I’m going down a slippery slope. We’ve already skidded far below that slope’s bottom.

The West is a body that is sick, if not approaching its deathbed. ISIS, the worst sort of Islamic extremism, is simply filling the void.

There is a new book out called The Devil’s Pleasure Palace, written by Michael Walsh. It is currently the #1 in Education Reform & Policy on Amazon. I used to read Walsh for years when he wrote for the National Review under the pseudonym David Kahane, but I’d lost track of him. Earlier I referred to Cultural Marxism and Critical Theory. So what is that exactly?

The Cultural Marxists of the Frankfurt School believed economic Marxism would fail because of the resistance of the working classes. They believed Marxism could only ever be achieved by undermining the institutions, all of them. They began what they called the long march through the institutions. Who would have thought even a few years ago that the Boy Scouts would go gay? The Frankfurt School would have.

Critical Theory is central to their plan. More than likely, whether you knew it or not, this is what you got in college and probably even in high school. This will sound familiar to you, as familiar as the bromides you now hear from the students at the University of Missouri. Critical Theory seeks societal transformation through the emancipation of mankind from all forms of slavery. The slavers happen to be the Church, the family, and the free market.

When you hear someone badmouthing American history that is Critical Theory. The incessant intonations against the Crusades? Critical Theory. The patriarchal family, rape culture, multiculturalism, political correctness, speech codes; all Critical Theory. The idea is to make you question everything and in the questioning institutions fall.

You can read the entire review by Austin Ruse of Walsh’s book here. Like me, you may also want to pick up a copy, and the Amazon link is here. I have already ordered mine.

It was after I spent some time thinking more about the book’s subject, the protests at universities and the Islamic terrorism/Syrian refugee issues that I read this soon after the Pink Sisters finished their Midday Prayers:

It seems that there is an almost ubiquitous denial of anything sacred in our contemporary world. In our day, a very false opinion is popularized which holds that the sense of religion implanted in men by nature is to be regarded as something adventitious or imaginary, and hence, is to be rooted completely from the mind as altogether inconsistent with the spirit of our age and the progress of civilization.[10] How striking it is to note that the propagators of these ideas, who claim to be themselves so highly cultured, receive with such credulity the prognostications of computer programming. Everybody believes that there is ‘Someone’ ruling the universe, ‘Someone’ who is not bound by human knowledge or technology. They have no faith, but they do have superstitions.[11]

[10] Pope St. John XXIII, Encyclical, Mater et Magistra, 15 May 1961, 214
[11] St. J. Escrivá, The Way, 587

From In Conversation with God, Vol. 5, by Francis Fernandez, page 517

I believe with all my heart that unless man returns to God, the faith and the traditions of the earliest Christians that all will be lost. The modern citizen of the West lacks that ability because it is no longer taught or revealed to him or her. No longer do we live in a society where it can be taken for granted that the person you’re talking to has any inkling of the Golden Rule, the Ten Commandments or what the Beatitudes involve. There is no common or agreed-upon foundation upon which to build consensus or understanding. Our house is literally built on sand. We suffer from poverty, but not of a solely economic nature. We suffer from a poverty of spirit and attempt to fill that emptiness by singing that most inane and vapid of post-modern anthems, “Imagine” by John Lennon.

stuckinarutBut Western man still wants to believe in something. He has retained his capacity for superstition and myth, misguided though they may be. But his stories are nothing more than comic books and his songs pop ditties compared to the incredible legacy and canon of thought and song bequeathed to him. He has laughed at, scoffed at, and disowned the heritage left to him, brushing it aside as mere foolishness and folly.

Will Western men and women drink once more from the one true stream of life? Or will they return to comic books and refuse to have their thirst for life, purpose and meaning quenched because of stubborn pride?

The future of our nation, and in turn the world itself, will be determined by their answer.

******

“Are you not thirsty?” said the Lion.

“I’m dying of thirst,” said Jill.

“Then drink,” said the Lion.

“May I—could I—would you mind going away while I do?” said Jill.

The Lion answered this only by a look and a very low growl. And as Jill gazed at its motionless bulk, she realized that she might as well have asked the whole mountain to move aside for her convenience.

The delicious rippling noise of the stream was driving her nearly frantic.

“Will you promise not to—do anything to me, if I do come?” said Jill.

“I make no promise,” said the Lion.

Jill was so thirsty now that, without noticing it, she had come a step nearer.

Do you eat girls?” she said.

“I have swallowed up girls and boys, women and men, kings and emperors, cities and realms,” said the Lion. It didn’t say this as if it were boasting, nor as if it were sorry, nor as if it were angry. It just said it.

“I daren’t come and drink,” said Jill.

“Then you will die of thirst,” said the Lion.

“Oh dear!” said Jill, coming another step nearer. “I suppose I must go and look for another stream then.”

“There is no other stream,” said the Lion.

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Silver Chair, by C.S. Lewis. Chapter 2.

Of Monsters and Men

As a follow up of sorts to yesterday’s post I’ve placed together three seemingly unrelated items that I read or came across today. The first, a quote from St. John Paul II is from a daily devotional book I use with Mass readings each day whether I’m able to attend or not. The second is from an article written by Karen Ullo for Dappled Things. And last is a new video put together for Josh Garrels. I’m including the lyrics below the video.

As JPII points out evil thrives when we choose to look the other way and prefer not to notice its existence. Ms. Ullo then discusses the power that fiction has to shape our souls and to convey the existence of evil and, most importantly when the monsters come, the meaning of Christ’s redemption to the world. She uses Frankenstein (Mary Shelley), The Hunchback of Notre Dame (Victor Hugo) and Dracula (Bram Stoker) to illustrate her point. And finally, in the lyrics of Josh’s song we see the struggle that we all go through as fallen humanity. We fall, we fight, we resist. Through God’s grace and the recognition and acknowledgement of the dark and its monsters we can finally find our way back to the light.

I cry at your feet, wounded for me
And all of the monsters and men
But here in your light
We can begin again

*****

There are times when the existence of evil among people is particularly apparent. Then it becomes even clearer that the powers of darkness that reside in and operate through man are larger than him.

It seems that people today almost do not want to see this problem. They do everything to put the existence of those ‘rulers of this world of darkness’, those ‘tactics of the devil’ referred to in the Epistle to the Ephesians, from their minds. Yet there are times in history when this reluctantly accepted truth of revelation and of Christian faith is completely manifest, almost tangible.

St. John Paul II, Address, May 3, 1987
From In Conversation with God, Volume 5 – Ordinary Time: Weeks 24-34, p.239

*****

It really should not come as a surprise that stories about monsters can be rich with Christian meaning. There is only one story that matters in Christianity: Adam’s first sin leads to humanity’s demise, but Jesus comes to save us through His death and resurrection. It is a blood-soaked tale that features more than its fair share of monstrosity. And there is this: as ridiculous and devoid of metaphysical meaning as most modern horror stories may be, horror remains the one genre in our “post-Christian” society where it is not laughable to call upon Christ and the Church in one’s hour of need. When the monsters come, no one flees to the protection of the local non-denominational minister. When the monsters come, our society still knows that only the fullness of Truth entrusted to the Bride of Christ can challenge them. Our job as Catholics is not to convince the world that such hocus-pocus is beneath us. Our job is to convince them that the monsters are real. The monsters live inside each and every one of us: malformed, lonely, hopeless, vengeful monsters with their fangs latched deep into our hearts. Once we recognize them for what they really are, we know, deep in our bones, that it is only Christ crucified who can drive them out.

From The Catholicity of Monsters, by Karen Ullo. Dappled Things.

*****

Born Again

I came into the world, into the wild
No place for a child
Used my voice to howl
With the ghouls of night
In the dying light

Had to learn to get what I need
In the dark, empty
Instincts are guiding me
Like a beast to some blood
And I can’t get enough

I’m losing control; my body, my soul
Are slowly fading away
But I’m ready now
To feel the power of change

I’m my mother’s child
I’m my father’s son
It took me awhile
But my time has come
To be born again

Running scared in between what I hate
And what I need
Savior and enemy are both trying
To take my soul
And I can’t hide no more

Stumble out to the light
Raise my fist up to fight
Then I catch your eye
So full of love
Lord, what have I done?

I cry at your feet, wounded for me
And all of the monsters and men
But here in your light
We can begin again

I’m my mother’s child
I’m my father’s son
It took me a while
But my time has come
To be born again

Visit Josh Garrels website for more information: http://joshgarrels.com

Preface excerpt: Hostage to the Devil

bible_breviary_spiritualwarfare

Image source

For we are not contending against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. – Ephesians 6:12

Three articles on my news feed yesterday caught my attention.

UK Police Says Witchcraft, Exorcism Cases on Rise

Britain’s Metropolitan Police have reported an increase in the number of child abuse cases that involve allegations of witchcraft and exorcism.

Police said Sunday a specialist unit received 46 such cases in 2014, more than twice as many as the year before.

The “Project Violet” unit says 60 incidents have been reported so far this year, continuing the upward trend.

Aspiring Vampires Enjoy a Blade-Themed “Blood Rave”

Just before midnight, a squadron of technicians suited up with body-mounted sprayers surrounded the crowd and, on cue, soaked the writhing masses with synthetic blood. No leather corset or bare tattooed back was spared as the ravers seethed with fanged glee beneath the crimson rain. For a few hours, it was truly weird and wonderful to see a sea of giddy daywalkers living out fantasy bloodlust.

Pope Francis: ‘When the devil numbs your conscience, he has won’

With his “good manners,” Francis said, the devil makes the man fall into moral relativism, calming his conscience.

We start saying things like “This happens everywhere” and “We are all sinners,” Francis said. Yet “When we say everybody, we mean nobody,” he said. “And so we live this worldliness that is the child of the evil spirit.”

“Calming the conscience, numbing the conscience, this is a great evil,” he said.

“When the devil manages to numb your conscience he has won a real victory,” Francis said, because “he has become the master of your conscience.”

Ever since I was a young boy I’ve been keenly aware that there are forces at work in our world. Long before I was a Catholic I had this sense. It was not due to any sort of Bible-based indoctrination…my family was nominally Protestant and though I did attend a week-long Bible Camp for a few summers in South Dakota and Sunday School into middle school, it was hardly a strict or fundamentalist upbringing. Snacks, crafts, and bible stories on felt boards from what I remember.

But as for the spiritual battle I just knew. And when you are aware of this ongoing battle you pay attention to things that others miss. You learn that what is mere coincidence to some is far from it in reality. Items in the news (missing children here, mutilated bodies there) are noticed despite your best efforts to take a break from the onslaught of internet information. It’s as if you’re being taunted. “See what I’m doing? Nobody cares. Go ahead and say something. Nobody will listen to you and will laugh at you as some sort of nut. I can’t be stopped.”

Then I became a Catholic and joined the battle full on. One cannot ignore it then as begin to connect the dots and find that it’s all around you.

There is a reason why the Church (ALL Christians) comprised of the living on earth is referred to as the Church Militant. From Father Z’s blog:

The Church Militant is made up of the living, we who are still on pilgrimage through this vale of tears, as the Salve Regina describes our earthly life. The whole Church can be described as having three main kinds of membership, namely, those who are still alive here on Earth, those who are in an earthly sense dead but who live in Heaven (the Church Triumphant) and those who have died but who are, during their time of purification in Purgatory, awaiting their entrance into Heaven (the Church Suffering or Penitent). These three are united, in one Holy Church, in a common “communion of saints”, even though we of the Church Militant often aren’t very saintly.

So that’s what the Church Militant is. But what does it mean for those of us who are its members? Fr. Z again:

As a Catholic who is militans, “militant”, that means that we dedicate ourselves with obedience and zeal to the role we are given in life through our calling and through our talents and good inclinations, our vocations in life. It means that we are also prepared to fight the enemy wherever and whenever threats to the salvation of our own souls and our neighbor’s souls present themselves. It means working together as units and not as individuals merely.   It means good conditioning and through drills in knowing well our Catholic Faith and practicing virtues and discipline in the use of the Sacraments. It means submission to the Church’s teaching authority and her duly ordaining pastors. It means fidelity, loyalty and even a willingness to die.

In the Breitbart article I linked to above regarding Pope Francis, he went on to say that the key to combatting the devil is discernment and vigilance.

We need to be able to discern situations, he (Pope Francis) said, to see what comes from God and what comes from the devil who “always tries to deceive” and to “make us choose the wrong path.”

The Christian cannot just accept anything, but must “discern and look well to see where things come from, and what their root is,” he said.

discernment_proverbs

I learned the importance and relevance of spiritual discernment from St. Ignatius while attending retreats based upon his spiritual exercises. A nightly examination of conscience is a key part of Compline (or Night Prayer) as prayed before bed each night. And while I admit that I lag in my use of the Sacrament of Confession I always strive to attend more often and can attest to its graces and benefits. Today more than ever before I wield these devices as weapons in the intensifying war around us and urge you to consider doing the same.

Still not convinced about spiritual warfare? Fair enough. Below I’m going to paste the first paragraphs of the updated Preface to Malachi Martin’s book Hostage to the Devil. For years I’d read about this book that was originally published in the 1970s and re-issued in the 1990s. I came across it the other day in a bookstore, bought it, and haven’t been able to put it down since. I own a copy of the book An Exorcist Tells His Story by Fr. Gabrielle Amorth but it’s still near the bottom of my stack of books to read. But as I’ve practiced more discernment and looked “well to see where things come from and what their root is” my interest in this type of warfare has increased. At Christmas last year I picked up the then-new book Manual For Spiritual Warfare and found it to be so good that I’ve bought copies to give as gifts to friends.

As I sat here for a few minutes deliberating on whether to hit the PUBLISH button or not the familiar thoughts came to mind:

“Nobody cares. Go ahead and say something. Nobody will listen to you and will laugh at you as some sort of nut. Once you hit that button you will be dismissed as a nutter and people will no longer read your blog or take you seriously.”

And then I thought about how we live in a culture that celebrates death. Our government has worked to enshrine abortion and euthanasia as unholy sacraments of a sort. Porn is rampant and we feed it unfettered to our children through benign devices such as smartphones, tablets and television. ABC Family celebrates “a new kind of family” and has done its best to promote anything except the traditional one…and our children watch because what parent denies their child a harmless network named after the family? We celebrate zombies, the undead, vampires, witchcraft and death…and not the cartoonish kind, but with as real of special effects and CGI as possible so we shock our systems with the viscera…and thereby desensitize ourselves to it. We do all this, and then are shocked when someone who has immersed themselves in our culture shoots up children in a school or slaughters their family before destroying themselves. We blame guns and mental illness, because they are easy to target and impersonal, but never ourselves for fostering such an environment. That would be too personal and we long ago did away with the concepts of personal responsibility or shame. The devil has no need to unleash hell on earth. We opened the door with an open invitation.

In The Screwtape Letters C.S. Lewis wrote:

There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors and hail a materialist or a magician with the same delight.

I do not count myself to be in either camp. I do not disbelieve in their existence as to do so would deny Sacred Scripture. I do not have an excessive or unhealthy interest in them. I’m merely aware of their presence and the need to be prepared for combat. On at least two occasions in my lifetime I have come face to face with the presence of evil and experienced how suffocating it is. I have also encountered the holy and divine too many times to count.

I am a happy warrior, but not an ignorant one. That is my calling as a member of the Church Militant. It is yours as well. But before you can engage in the battle you must recognize, acknowledge and know your enemy. Open your eyes.

soldiercrucifix

_______________________________

Preface to the New Edition: Possession and Exorcism in America in the 1990s

In the blink of God’s eye since Hostage to the Devil was first published in 1976, nothing has changed on the one hand. And everything has changed on the other.

Nothing has changed in the process by which an individual is Possessed by personal and intelligent evil. Nothing has changed, either, in the requirements for successful Exorcism of a Possessed individual. All of that remains as described and summarized in the chapters and cases that follow.

What have changed are the conditions of the society in which we all now live. To a far greater degree than most of us could have imagined fifteen or so years ago, a favorable climate for the occurrence of demonic Possession has developed as the normal condition of our lives.

In 1976 Satanism was presented, and was probably regarded by most Americans, as a box office and a bookstore draw. In fact, Hostage to the Devil was intended as a clear warning that Possession is not — nor was it ever — some tale of dark fancy featuring ogres and happy endings. Possession is real; and real prices are paid.

Now, in America of the 1990s, there is little question of demonic Possession as an entertainment. Among families everywhere and at every level of society, there is instead a justifiable fear. Most of all, this fear is for children. And in point of fact, there are few families not already affected in some way by Satanism. Even by ritualistic Satanism—formal ceremonies and rites organized and performed by individuals and groups in professed worship of Satan.

For obvious reasons, we don’t know everything about organized Satanist groups, or covens as they are called, in the United States. But the ample knowledge we do have justifies the fear among average families for their children and their way of life in the future.

We know, for example, that throughout all fifty states of the Union, there are now something over 8,000 Satanist covens. We know that in any major American city or large town, a Black Mass — almost always organized by covens — is available on a weekly basis at least, and at several locations. We know that the average membership of Satanist covens is drawn from all the professions as well as from among politicians, clergy, and religious.

hostagetothedevil_coverWe know further that within those covens, a certain amount of “specialization” has come about. One can choose either a heterosexual or a homosexual coven, for example. In at least three major cities, members of the clergy have at their disposal at least one pedophiliac coven peopled and maintained exclusively by and for the clergy. Women religious can find a lesbian coven maintained in a similar way.

We know, too, that in many public schools in any major city, it is a virtual surety that there is at least one group of teenagers engaged in ritualist Satanism. And though we know very little — again for obvious reasons — about human sacrifice as an element in ritualist Satanism, we do know that in certain covens in which confidentiality is an absolute, life-or-death condition, the penalty for attempting to quit the coven is ritual death by knife, with one stab wound inflicted for every year of the offending member’s life.

Hard admissible evidence concerning human sacrifice as an element in Satanist rituals is limited by the fact that disposal of human remains has been developed into one of the dark art forms within Satanist circles through use of portable incinerators and cremetoria; and because there are no birth or baptismal records — no records of existence — of intended Victim infants.

Nevertheless, we have enormous amounts of anecdotal evidence indicating that some thousands of infants and children are intentionally conceived and born to serve as Victims in Satanist sacrificial rites. In the world of Satanist worship, boys are preferred as gender-replicas of the Christ Child. But girls are by no means excluded.

In this regard, the emergence of child abuse as a characteristic of our time must claim particular attention. Not all — perhaps not even most — child abuse originates in ritualist Satanism per se. Each case must be weighed on the evidence. But the extent of child abuse in America today and the concrete evidence of Satanism as a factor in many such cases, begins to give some idea of the degree to which the inverted standards that are the prime hallmark of Satanist activity in any form — and of ritualist Satanism above all — have infiltrated and influenced all levels of our society.

As horrifying as even that much information is — though it is not all of the information we have, by any means — still more shocking is the realization of the fact that in this, the America of the 1990s, one is never far from a center where such activity is carried out on a routine basis. No one lives far from some geographical area where some form of ritualistic Satanism is practiced. Ritualistic Satanism and its inevitable consequence, demonic Possession, are now part and parcel of the atmosphere of life in America.

That a more favorable climate exists now than ever before for the occurrence of demonic Possession among the general population is so clear, that it is attested to daily by competent social and psychological experts, who for the most part, appear to have no “religious bias.”

Our cultural desolation — a kind of agony of aimlessness coupled with a dominant self-interest — is documented for us in the disintegration of our families. In the breakup of our educational system. In the disappearance of publicly accepted norms of decency in language, dress and behavior. In the lives of our youth, everywhere deformed by stunning violence and sudden death; by teenage pregnancy; by drug and alcohol addiction; by disease; by suicide; by fear. America is arguably now the most violent of the so-called developed nations of the world.

Parents do have every reason to be concerned, then. For above all, the greatest changes in the conditions in which we have come to live over the past twenty years or so have meant that young people are left as the most defenseless against the possibility of Possession. Raised more and more in an atmosphere where moral criticism is not merely out of fashion, but prohibited, they swim with little help in a veritable sea of pornography. Not merely sexual pornography, but the pornography of unmitigated self-interest. Whether spoken or acted out without explanation, the dominant question of the younger generations among us is, What can you do for me? What can my parents, my friends, my acquaintances, my enemies, my government, my country, do for me?

The difficulty is that as individuals and as a society, we are no longer willing— many of us are no longer able — to give an answer to that question that will satisfy anyone for long.

Such pervasive cultural desolation is the most fertile ground one could possible imagine for the causes of Possession to take root and flourish in almost unimpeded freedom. It is in this context that Satanism — including ritualized Satanism — is causing such justified fear among so many parents for their children. For, it is in that context that at least some may best be sought out by that Ancient Enemy of our race who, in the words St. Peter used in one of his letters, “prowls around like a lion seeking whom he can devour.”

_______________________________

Hostage to the devil : the possession and exorcism of five Americans / Malachi Martin. — HarperSanFrancisco ed. p. cm.
Originally published: New York: Reader’s Digest, 1976.
Includes index.
ISBN: 978-0-06-065337-8
FIRST PERENNIAL LIBRARY EDITION PUBLISHED IN I987;
HARPERSANFRANCISCO EDITION PUBLISHED IN 1992.

A better response to “I’m Christian, but I’m not…”

we are catholic

Yesterday I wrote a post as my reaction and reply to a certain video. You may read the post and watch the video here.

After thinking about it this morning what I should have responded with is much more basic and straightforward. That response is below.

*****

I’m Christian, and I…

I believe in one God,
the Father almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
of all things visible and invisible.

I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ,
the Only Begotten Son of God,
born of the Father before all ages.
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made, consubstantial with the Father;
through him all things were made.
For us men and for our salvation
he came down from heaven,
and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary,
and became man.
For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate,
he suffered death and was buried,
and rose again on the third day
in accordance with the Scriptures.
He ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory
to judge the living and the dead
and his kingdom will have no end.

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father and the Son,
who with the Father and the Son is adored and glorified,
who has spoken through the prophets.

I believe in one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church.
I confess one Baptism for the forgiveness of sins
and I look forward to the resurrection of the dead
and the life of the world to come. Amen.

Moreover, I’m Catholic Christian, and we are…