Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Foundation of America

As Socialism's beastly head rears back with it's mouth wide open, ready to take a bite out of the United States of America, maybe we'd better brush up on our history.

CLICK HERE to read the documents upon which this nation was founded.  If you've read these and still have the warm and fuzzies for the sitting President, you may have a problem with reading comprehension.

Thanks, Mom, for passing it along.

The Station of the Silent Church

The roots of this hatred and intolerance of religion lie in the essence of communist ideology. Marx dubbed religion the “opiate of the masses,” and opined that, “Communism begins where atheism begins.” --Paul Kengor, The War on Religion

The Station of the Silent Church
Our Lady Comforter of the Afflicted Shrine
Youngstown, OH

We adore You, O Christ, and we praise You:
because by Your holy cross You have redeemed the world.

   Yet you drew me forth from the womb, made me safe at my mother's breast.
   Upon you I was thrust from the womb; since birth you are my God.
   Do not stay far from me, for trouble is near, and there is no one to help. Ps 22:10-12

It should be no surprise that Catholic teaching does not support Socialism. Pope Leo XIII's Encyclical Letter Rerum Novarum directly denounced Socialism outright. As long as the Church remained silent, the Soviet Union could carry out it's diabolical scheme without opposition. The people could be effectively indoctrinated and would serve the state without question if there was no Church to so blatantly contradict the fundamentals of communism. It was the darkness of which Our Lady warned the world at Fatima.

With their Churches destroyed, their priests arrested and executed, the Church oppressed was forced to operate secretly. Some lost hope, and it became harder and harder to continue.  Many, though, pressed on, carrying their faith on in secrecy.  Those priests who were able to escape arrest were vigilantly protected by the faithful. Confessions and Masses were held in the woods, homes, barns, wherever space could be found out of sight from the KGB. A clandestine network of believers worked tirelessly to smuggle hand-copied segments of the scriptures, sacramentals, money, even priests between the stolen lands of the U.S.S.R.

How much do I really know about Catholic social teaching?
Have I spent time studying scripture, the Catechism, or papal documents and encyclicals to help me to better understand my faith?
Have I been formed enough in my faith to persevere the misinformation and erroneous teachings about my beloved faith?

Lord Jesus, just as your holy mother suffered silently with you while you carried the burden of your cross upon your back, never leaving you until you were laid to rest, your bride suffered silently for decades beneath the burden of Socialism, and continued to worship.  Thank you for the gift of your mother--may we all revere her as our perfect model for salvation. Give us the desire to seek out the truth that is your Church, waiting for us to discover it.  There may one day come a time when we are forced into silence; but until that happens, Lord Jesus, give us the courage to speak out, and the grace to live that which we preach.

   A great sign appeared in the sky, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars.  She was with child and wailed aloud in pain as she labored to give birth.
   Then another sign appeared in the sky; it was a huge red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and on its heads were seven diadems. Rv 12:1-3

To be a disciple requires vigilance in the face of any obstacle.

Our Lady Queen of Peace, pray for us.


Monday, March 22, 2010

The Station of the Betrayed and Enslaved

O Merciful Lord Jesus, Our Savior, hear the prayers and petitions of Your unworthy sinful servants who humbly call upon You and make us all to be one in Your one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church. Flood our souls with Your unquenchable light. Put an end to religious disagreements, and grant that we Your disciples and Your beloved children may all worship You with a single heart and voice. 
Fulfill quickly, O grace-giving Lord, your promise that there shall be one flock and one Divine Shepherd of Your Church; and may we be made worthy to glorify Your Holy Name now and ever and unto the ages of ages. Amen.
– Bl. Leonid Fedorov

The Station of the Betrayed and Enslaved
Our Lady Comforter of the Afflicted Shrine
Youngstown, OH

We adore you, O Christ, and we praise you;
because by Your holy cross You have redeemed the world.

   My God, my God, why have you abandoned me? Why so far from my call for help, from my cries of anguish? 
   My God, I call by day, but you do not answer; by night, but I have no relief.
   Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One; you are the glory of Israel.
   In you our ancestors trusted; they trusted and you rescued them.
To you they cried out and they escaped; in you they trusted and were not disappointed. Ps 22:2-6

Religion in Communist Russia was persecuted openly beginning in the 1920s. Elaborately staged show trials where the verdict had already been reached were conducted all around the Soviet Union to further repress faith among the Russian people. Priests and bishops were arrested, imprisoned and sometimes executed. Churches were looted and torn down, statues and icons destroyed.

The Russian Orthodox Church was compromised early on; patriarchs and priests were promised freedom for attempting to persuade Byzantine and Roman Catholics to break with Rome. Those who didn't willingly support the regime were either threatened or were killed and replaced with an imposter. Soviet authorities offered a choice: renounce Rome and be spared or lose everything and be arrested. Few Catholics took the bait, and eventually the Orthodox Church was targeted, as were all religions, and they were turned over to the state like the rest. These same tactics were exercised in every nation overtaken by the USSR. It was a methodical exercise with one sole purpose: to destroy faith.

* * * * * * *

Blessed Leonid Feodorov was one of many faithful who continued to live, teach and preach the Catholic faith in prison and exile, was one of the few who spoke on his own behalf at his own show trial prior to his 10-year sentence. In his book The Forgotten: Catholics in the Soviet Empire from Lenin through Stalin, Fr. Christopher Lawrence Zugger describes the scene:

Dressed in the traditional Russian black cassock, with his long hair a beard often described as 'Christ-like', Feodorov was a man of the narod, of the ordinary Russian people for whom the Revolution had been fought. His presence put the lie to the usual description of Catholicism as 'the Polish religion.' His presentation -- a moving testimony of Russian spirituality and the history of the Church in that country -- evoked the best of Russian Christendom. He pointed out that Greek-Catholics greeted the Revolution with joy, for only then did they have equality. There was no secret organization, they had simply followed Church law. Religious education, the celebration of Mass, and the administration of the Sacraments of marriage and baptism had to be fulfilled. He pointed out that the Church, accused of having neglected the starving, was at that moment feeding 120,00 children daily. Following a scathing rebuttal by Krylenko, Exarch Feodorov rose for his final remarks: "Our hearts are full, not of hatred, but of sadness. You cannot understand us, we are not allowed liberty of conscience. That is the only conclusion we can draw from what we have heard here."*

Liberty of conscience--isn't this the point of contention between faith and secularism?
Do I realize the price of state-determined morality, particularly when it opposes Church teaching?
The US just passed a monumental health care bill that OUR BISHOPS have vocally opposed. They now lay fallen beneath this cross, as do all who follow them.
Do I lie beneath this cross as well, or have I traded in my cross for the easy path of secularism?
How can I help to lift this heavy cross and carry it for the Lord?

Lord Jesus, as Leonid Fedorov and so many of your faithful fell under the weight of oppression, You were with them. Even as they were taken to prison, they never lost sight of the truth. Help us to remain fixed on the truth, even when we fall, and to get back up and continue to evangelize.

   But I am a worm, hardly human, scorned by everyone, despised by the people.
   All who see me mock me; they curl their lips and jeer; they shake their heads at me:
   "You relied on the LORD--let him deliver you; if he loves you, let him rescue you."  Ps 22:7-9

To be a disciple is to press on under tremendous weight.

Blessed Leonid Fedorov, pray for us.


*Zugger, Christopher Lawrence. The Forgotten: Catholics in the Soviet Empire from Lenin through Stalin. University of Syracuse Press, 2001. p. 186.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Station of the Torn Apart

The present is dark and the future uncertain and full of cares, but do not lose heart. Rather so display yourselves, presenting "such a the whole creation, men and angels alike," that all the faithful of Christ may see in your endurance and courage a shining example. 
Courageously, and steadfastly enduring this attack of your enemies, and afire with a divine love for the Church, you become "the good odor of Christ unto God, in them that are saved and in them that perish." 
In bonds as you are, and separated from your sons, it is not in your power to give them instruction in our holy religion, but your very bonds more fully and profoundly proclaim and preach Christ. 

The Station of the Torn Apart
Our Lady Comforter of the Afflicted Shrine
Youngstown, OH

We adore you, O Christ, and we praise you;
because by Your holy cross You have redeemed the world.

   Consequently, Pilate tried to release him; but the Jews cried out, "If you release him, you are not a Friend of Caesar. Everyone who makes himself a king opposes Caesar." When Pilate heard these words he brought Jesus out and seated him on the judge's bench in the place called Stone Pavement, in Hebrew, Gabbatha.
   It was preparation day for Passover, and it was about noon. And he said to the Jews, "Behold, your king!" They cried out, "Take him away, take him away! Crucify him!" Pilate said to them, "Shall I crucify your king?" The chief priests answered, "We have no king but Caesar." Jn 19:12-16

In a godless world, faith is the enemy. Religion was deemed a clear threat to the atheist Communist establishment; to accomplish the goal of total state control the Church must be driven out. How could a people completely serve the state when their first duty was to their God and to His Church in Rome? Many bishops and hundreds of priests were arrested, kidnapped, tortured, imprisoned or exected in the name of a godless state.

Catholics, though, were not alone. War was declared on all religions. From Romanian Pastor Richard Wurmbrand's account titled Tortured for Christ:

"Thousands of believers from churches of all denominations were sent to prison at that time. Not only were clergymen put in jail, but also simple peasants, young boys and girls who witnessed for their faith. The prisons were full, and in Romania, as in all communist countries, to be in prison means to be tortured."

Still they refused to renounce their God, their faith, or the love they had for their Church. They each took up their crosses and gave their lives over for God as families, parishes, congregations, cities and nations were torn apart by the godless state.

Would I have the conviction to walk into certain torture and death for my faith?
Have I ever allowed the pressure of those who don't understand or don't believe cause me to cave in and reject my cross?
Are faith in Christ, Christian values and the Church Herself being ridiculed, denounced or blatantly ignored today? Do I take up my cross and bear the criticism and ridicule in defending my faith in Christ and in Mother Church?

Lord Jesus, so many of your faithful took up their crosses, accepting the punishment doled out by a godless regime. They would rather die at the hands of evil men than renounce faith in You. Bless your faithful today with the conviction to defend our faith, our values and our Church, no matter the cost.

   Then he handed him over to them to be crucified. So they took Jesus,
and carrying the cross himself he went out to what is called the Place of the Skull, in Hebrew, Golgotha. Jn 19:17-18

To be a disciple is to take up our cross.

20th Century Martyrs of Eastern Europe, pray for us.


Saturday, March 20, 2010

The Station of the Condemned

"The frontier between Uzhorod and the Soviet Union is only 60 kilometers away--Whatever will be will be. My commitment is to my apostolic work precisely among them. I have no intention of running away--Besides, it would be no disgrace if they were to kill me. To die for Christ is to live for eternity". 
 --Blessed Theodore Romzha

Station of the Condemned
Our Lady Comforter of the Afflicted Shrine,
Youngstown, OH

We adore you, O Christ, and we praise you;
because by Your holy cross You have redeemed the world.

    They brought charges against him, saying, "We found this man misleading our people; he opposes the payment of taxes to Caesar and maintains that he is the Messiah, a king."
    Pilate asked him, "Are you the king of the Jews?" He said to him in reply, "You say so."
   Pilate then addressed the chief priests and the crowds, "I find this man not guilty."
   But they were adamant and said, "He is inciting the people with his teaching throughout all Judea, from Galilee where he began even to here." Lk 23:2-7

Among the tens of thousands of Christians condemned to death behind the Iron Curtain was Blessed Theodore Romzha, born in 1911 in a small village called Velykyy Bychkiv in the Transcarpathian region that is now a part of Ukraine. His region changed hands a half dozen times during his lifetime. He was drafted into military service for Czechoslovakia in 1937, a year after being ordained a Byzantine priest. After returning to the Transcarpathian region's Mukachevo Diocese (or Mukacheve, depending on the source) and serving as parish priest for several small churches and teaching philosophy at their seminary, he was elevated to Bishop of Mukachevo in 1944.

During the next three years, the Soviets persecuted, imprisoned and executed hundreds of Ukrainian priests and religious, and attempted to coerce the faithful into splitting with Rome. Romzha was also approached to break with Rome, and his reply was: "I'd rather die." After a failed assassination attempt (where he was nearly beaten to death with iron bars), he was administered a lethal injection by a mysterious nurse who was never seen again. Bishop Romzha's dying words were, "O Jesus..." It's rumored that his death was ordered by Nikita Khrushchev himself.

Within two years Ukraine ceded to the Soviet Union and the Church was forced underground.

Christ sacrificed His very life for His beloved. Do I love Him enough to do the same? 
How strong is my faith? 
Do I have the courage to defend my faith in the face of any kind of accusation?
Am I too afraid of being condemned by friends, acquaintances, coworkers or any member of society to speak up when my faith is challenged?

Lord Jesus, you filled Blessed Theodore Romzha with the courage to stand up for his faith, even unto his death. He understood that political and social orders come and go, but that the truth You've entrusted to Your Church will endure eternally. Fill us with the desire to learn Your truth, and bless us with the grace to live it lovingly and courageously.

   Pilate said to [Jesus], "Do you not speak to me? Do you not know that I have power to release you and I have power to crucify you?"
   Jesus answered (him), "You would have no power over me if it had not been given to you from above. For this reason the one who handed me over to you has the greater sin." Jn 19:10-11

To be a disciple is to courageously stand beside Our Lord and be condemned to death.

Blessed Theodore Romzha, pray for us.


Friday, March 19, 2010

Journey into the past, and into our future...

Why zero in on the Iron Curtain as a Lenten meditation 21 years after its fall?

Not far from my house is a beautiful Franciscan Shrine to Our Lady Comforter of the Afflicted.  On the grounds is an extraordinary Stations of the Cross carved in granite, depicting the horrors of the Iron Curtain. I discovered this Way about a year ago and I have been thinking about it ever since.  It's haunting, beautiful, historic, timeless.  Works such as these must be shared.

Perhaps THIS STATEMENT by Karel Schwarzenberg of the Czech Republic can shed some light on another of the reasons I've chosen this particular Way of the Cross to pray these next 14 days. Schwarzenberg says:

", who did not experience it, can hardly imagine the lack of freedom especially in the 1940s and 1950s. Even completely innocent people were sent to prison because they were farmers, private entrepreneurs or priests because the regime did not like them. 

"It is worth remembering it. Not only in order to commemorate  them, but to remind us that fight for freedom does never stop. Freedom is always in danger."

How right he is...but my third reason is that it's not always a murderous dictator who binds us in chains.

Lord Jesus, as we walk with You during the next fourteen days,
remind us not only of your anguish,
but teach us the meaning of our own sufferings.

Teach us the vital importance of staying true to ourselves,
true to You and to Your Church.

Remind us that we are not merely flesh and blood, 
but also spirits meant to soar into the arms of our Father in heaven.


St. Joseph, Pray for Us!

I attended Mass first thing this morning for the Solemnity of St. Joseph.  He's interceded for me on so many occasions I can't list them.  Giving honor to him at Mass today on his feast day reminded me of how much I rely on the prayers of the Saints, as if I am the paralytic being lowered through the roof to the feet of Jesus.  It's the faith of His Church Triumphant that He sees, and He forgives me, heals me, and gives me whatever I need to carry on.

I love being Catholic.

 * * * * * * *

Our Lady Comforter of the Afflicted Shrine is right around the corner from my house and workplace (I am really fortunate to work only 1.2 miles from home). After Mass this morning, I spent some time on their grounds, where one of the most intense depictions of the Stations of the Cross I've ever seen resides. It's called The Iron Curtain Stations of the Cross, depicting elements of the most horrifying forms of human suffering, and bringing them into the heart of Jesus' suffering.  This Stations gives me a much deeper understanding of His great love for each and every one of us. Over the next 14 days, I'll be sharing my own photographs of the marble sculptures, along with meditations I write myself in response to the images.  Please join me in prayer beginning this evening. 

NOTE:  I decided to take this on after examining the Way of the Cross Toward Justice and Peace presented by the CCHD (they've removed it from their website, but you can click here to get a look at them for yourself). As Catholics, we need to be wary of the misuse of devotions, prayers, sacramentals or any element of the Church.  This Stations of the Cross is essentially a 15-page brochure for CCHD affiliate organizations, not a devotional.  I'm not encouraged by a USCCB organization degrading one of the great prayers of the Church by turning it into an advertising campaign for themselves.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Where Did the Bible Come From?

I'm one of the lucky few for whom prayer and Scripture study is encouraged in the workplace, and I don't work for a Church or religious organization.  I'm in Sales, which means I'm on the phone alot, which means I'm on hold alot.  Which means I can spend quite a bit of time with Scripture every day.

Right now, coincidentally, I'm in the Gospel of Luke.  A few weeks ago I read about the Centurion who asked Jesus to heal his servant.  Have you ever noticed that the filmmakers kind of get this story wrong when they depict it?  Luke 7:1-10 if you're interested.

The History Channel people could learn a thing or two about historical accuracy from these guys.  The presentation is about 40 minutes, so watch it when you have the time.

Monday, March 15, 2010


My parish was so fortunate Sunday to have have our Bishop, George Murry, with us to celebrate Mass. Bishop Murry's Homily on the Prodigal Son had a tidbit that I've been thinking about since the second it hit my ears.

We all know the parable of the Prodigal Son: a young man takes his inheritance and squanders it in the world. The Bishop talked  about (and I'm of course paraphrasing here) how the audacious young man looked at his father's riches selfishly, and decided for himself what he thought was important--his share of the property. He wanted what suited his worldly desires and left the rest behind. Bishop Murry also pointed out that the son decided to come home not out of love for his father, but to save himself from starving to death. Essentially, his coming home was motivated by the same selfishness that sent him off seeking the pleasures of the world.

His father running out to meet him with so much love took his breath away--he couldn't even finish his carefully rehearsed plea for forgiveness.

It made me think of my own conversion...technically, conversions is the far more accurate term.  All my life I have identified myself as a Catholic; but there were many times over the years that I was clearly "of the world".  It's that pesky condition of Original Sin:  deciding for ourselves what is right and what is wrong based on what we want, like, desire, think, feel...and creating for ourselves a faith that suits our little delusions of godhood.

When I finally returned home for real--that is when I just accepted the fullness of the Truth for what it is--it was because I was starving to death. Not physically starving, you see, but there was this nagging emptiness that far too many people are unwilling to recognize or admit is there. It's why I believe so many people chase the external stimuli (the feel-good stuff) of religious practices both within Catholicism and in other faith traditions.

Like it or not, however, deciding for yourself what you think is right, wrong, valid or unimportant, will tear your soul right out of the hands of God and hook it up to a vacuum that will suck the life right out of it. Call it grace, call it my imagination, but in a moment of utter clarity I saw my soul's emaciated condition thanks to my seflishness, and it scared me right back to life.

Through my 20's and into my early 30's, I was as guilty as anyone of carrying around with me a big ol' serving spoon and plopping piles upon my tray the things I wanted to believe, and passing on those things that just didn't fit into what I thought faith in God was all about. This is the inheritance I want.  That practice or tradition or doctrine or dogma is not for me.  I can have faith my way.  Even today, having long ago given up the nonsense of cafeteria-style Catholicism, I still once in a while have the audacity to think that I can reach for that spoon and tell God what I think is right and what is wrong.  Honestly. Who do I ever think I am? This audacity is very short-lived, though, as I see those traps much more clearly than I ever have.  It's then that I run with all my might back to my Father's house, fall to my knees and beg His forgiveness.

Even after all these many, many times, Love Himself running out to meet me as I return home still takes my breath away.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Monday, March 1, 2010

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