Saturday, June 03, 2017

The African Proto-Martyrs of Uganda

Blessed Pope Paul VI canonized Charles Lwanga and his companions 
on June 22,1964.

Saint Charles Lwanga and Companions

"They left this life in triumph and entered God's eternal city with joy."

It is providential that the feast day of a group of martyrs who were put to death for refusing King Mwanga of Uganda homosexual advances is celebrated during what has come to be known as Gay Pride Month. Though many Christians were killed by Mwanga, a group of pages were sentenced to death not only out of hatred for the faith but for resisting homosexual relations with the King. Homosexuality is a cultural taboo in Uganda to this day, although it is thought the king learned and acquired the practice from the Arabs. (Source) Since certain cultural taboo accorded with European moral standards, practices such as polygamy were also condemned by Christian missionaries.  Hence Mwanga sought to rid the country of the new religion and all Christians.

The story of the martyrs is at once gruesome and edifying. Imagine accepting torture and death rather than committing a sexual sin which has become so commonplace in our day? The sacrifice of the martyrs demonstrates that conquering sin is indeed possible for anyone, and their witness offers the Christian great hope, reminding us how they "endured the opposition of sinners", thus encouraging us, "not to grow despondent or abandon the struggle." Their intercession is powerful before God, for their blood cries out on our behalf, encouraging us... "In your fight against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood." - Hebrews 12: 3-4

It is important that hagiographers do not rewrite the history of the martyrs guided by revisionist motives to make their deaths about something less politically controversial.  Saints are made saints because of their heroic virtue and because they exemplify the Christian life and teaching. Martyrs are martyrs because they suffered for the faith, their death is their witness to Christ and the Gospel. The Martyrs of Uganda are saints because they refused to renounce the faith and submit to homosexual sin. Though St. Sebastian has been adopted by gay people as a patron (the depiction of his physique plays a big part here), he was martyred out of hatred for the faith. Martyrs of chastity were killed because they resisted sexual sin, and so on.

It seems I mention these saints every year on their feast day.  I think it is necessary to remind people that homosexual acts are indeed sinful and cannot be approved, which pretty much cancels out any expectation that same sex marriage could ever be approved by the Catholic Church.  We don't have to beat people over the head about this, but it is important from time to time to affirm Catholic teaching on the subject, and the occasion of the Martyrs of Uganda feast day is an excellent time to do that.  I've several posts on the martyrs here.  Within that series I also discuss violence against homosexuals, why that in itself does not make them martyrs for the faith, and also the fact that Uganda and other African nations have criminalized homosexual acts and consider it as a a form of ideological colonization.

As I noted in the past, the cultural assault on Africa is very real, as expressed by the concern voiced by African Bishops during their Rome Synod in October of 2009:

"One of the major themes of the Synod has been the denunciation of Western anti-life and anti-family programs as a new form of colonialism and "cultural imperialism" from the West, which is trying to impose a set of alien values onto African society." - Archbishop Sarah, Source

In no way were the African Bishops suggesting, approving, much less promoting capital punishment for persons who engage in or promote homosexual activity, nevertheless they did note the cultural and spiritual threat it poses, especially by foreigners and NGO active in these regions.

St. Charles and Companions pray us.

Friday, June 02, 2017

Some stuff is really beginning to bother me ...

All of them witches?

So I will try to ignore it.

Little Therese always cautioned her novices never to lose their peace over things that they have no control of or are not their responsibility.  So that's what I try to do as well.  I don't want to be censorious, finding fault with everything.

A few things caught my attention this past week.

Statements made by Jesuit Superior Fr. Arturo Sosa Ascobal suggesting that there were no tape recorders to record every word Christ taught - that was some time ago and I just blew it off.  More recently he suggest the devil is a 'symbolic construct'...

From my point of view, evil forms part of the mystery of freedom. If the human being is free, he can choose between good and evil. Christians believe that we are made in the image and likeness of God, therefore God is free, but God always chooses to do good because he is all goodness. We have made symbolic figures, like the devil, to express evil. Social conditionings also represents that figure, since there are people who act this way because it is in an environment where it is very difficult to do the opposite. - Source

That's troubling.

I'm not in to all the devil stuff many other Catholics seem to be enthusiastic about, exorcists and their stories and preoccupation with possession and obsession and so on, but what the Jesuit Father says is contrary to Scripture, the Catechism, and even the frequent sayings of Pope Francis concerning the devil.  It is a good reminder for me to go back to the sources, especially the Gospel, the Catechism, and mystical theologians such as Garrigou-Lagrange.

I wonder you should ask me whether it is essential to keep the patient in ignorance of your own existence. That question, at least for the present phase of the struggle, has been answered for us by the High Command. Our policy, for the moment, is to conceal ourselves. Of course this has not always been so. We are really faced with a cruel dilemma. When the humans disbelieve in our existence we lose all he pleasing results of direct terrorism and we make no magicians. On the other hand, when they believe in us, we cannot make them materialists and sceptics. At least, not yet. I have great hopes that we shall learn in due time how to emotionalise and mythologise their science to such an extent that what is, in effect, belief in us, (though not under that name) will creep in while the human mind remains closed to belief in the Enemy. The "Life Force", the worship of sex, and some aspects of Psychoanalysis, may here prove useful. If once we can produce our perfect work—the Materialist Magician, the man, not using, but veritably worshipping, what he vaguely calls "Forces" while denying the existence of "spirits"—then the end of the war will be in sight. But in the meantime we must obey our orders. I do not think you will have much difficulty in keeping the patient in the dark. The fact that "devils" are predominantly comic figures in the modern imagination will help you. If any faint suspicion of your existence begins to arise in his mind, suggest to him a picture of something in red tights, and persuade him that since he cannot believe in that (it is an old textbook method of confusing them) he therefore cannot believe in you. - Screwtape

Thursday, June 01, 2017

Spiritual Communion

My 'formula' for spiritual communion is pretty much based upon today's Gospel ...

Lifting up his eyes to heaven, Jesus prayed saying:
"I pray not only for these,
but also for those who will believe in me through their word,
so that they may all be one,
as you, Father, are in me and I in you,that they also may be in us,
that the world may believe that you sent me.
And I have given them the glory you gave me,
so that they may be one, as we are one,
I in them and you in me,that they may be brought to perfection as one,
that the world may know that you sent me,
and that you loved them even as you loved me.
Father, they are your gift to me.
I wish that where I am they also may be with me,that they may see my glory that you gave me,
because you loved me before the foundation of the world.
Righteous Father, the world also does not know you,
but I know you, and they know that you sent me.
I made known to them your name and I will make it known,
that the love with which you loved memay be in them and I in them." - JN 17:20-26
I pray something similar throughout the day and night, beginning like this:

I unite myself to your silent loving action in the Holy Eucharist,
to the offering of yourself in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass celebrated throughout the world,
for all the intentions of your most Sacred Heart and the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
Since I am not worthy that you should come under my roof,
and since I cannot receive you now in Holy Communion,
I pray that you will come spiritually into my soul, as if I just received you...
live in me O Jesus, you in me and I in you,
in time and in eternity,
in Mary,
in the very bosom of the Holy Trinity.

Though it seems like a lot to say, I also shorten it throughout the day praying:

I pray that you will come spiritually into my soul, as if I just received you...
live in me O Jesus, you in me and I in you,
in time and in eternity,
in Mary,
in the very bosom of the Holy Trinity.

I really do pray this frequently throughout the day and night, and when I do yard work or some other manual occupation, I use the prayers of the Divine Mercy Chaplet to remain united to the silent, loving action of Christ in the Eucharist.  It is helpful to recollection and helps me to remain in the presence of God, to sanctify every thought, word, action and desire.  

I credit this habit/practice with freeing me from many occasions of sin and habits of sin.  I also think it is a good preparation for sacred reading, prayer and most especially Mass.

The Gospel readings between the Ascension and Pentecost beautifully express the intimacy and union God desires for us - wills for us - "that the world may know that you sent me, and that you loved them even as you loved me."  Jesus claims each of us as the Father's gift - to him.  That is awe-inspiring.

"What more do you want, o soul! And what else do you search for outside, when within yourself you possess your riches, delights, satisfaction and kingdom -- your beloved whom you desire and seek? Desire him there, adore him there. Do not go in pursuit of him outside yourself. You will only become distracted and you won't find him, or enjoy him more than by seeking him within you." - Saint John of the Cross

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

For a long time I wandered through many places ...

" The Christian is bound to perform many good works, but before all else what he ought to do is to pray, for without prayer no other good work whatever can be accomplished. Without prayer he cannot find the way to the Lord, he cannot understand the truth, he cannot crucify the flesh with its passions and lusts, his heart cannot be enlightened with the light of Christ, he cannot be savingly united to God. None of those things can be effected unless they are preceded by constant prayer. I say 'constant,' for the perfection of prayer does not lie within our power; as the Apostle Paul says, 'For we know not what we should pray for as we ought' (Rom. 8:26). Consequently it is just to pray often, to pray always, which falls within our power as the means of attaining purity of prayer, which is the mother of all spiritual blessings. 'Capture the mother, and she will bring you the children,' said St. Isaac the Syrian. Learn first to acquire the power of prayer and you will easily practice all the other virtues. But those who know little of this from practical experience and the profoundest teaching of the holy Fathers have no clear knowledge of it and speak of it but little." - Way of the Pilgrim

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

I am but a pilgrim on the earth ...

The stories of the martyrs thrills me.

The Coptic martyrs from May 26 were on pilgrimage - what a wonderful sign that is.  We always look for signs - what better sign can we have?  Look at the crosses in the photo at top.  That is our sign.

Today's Gospel, read in consideration of the martyrs and their going out to meet our Lord, is deeply moving for me.

"I revealed your name to those whom you gave me out of the world.
They belonged to you, and you gave them to me,
and they have kept your word.
Now they know that everything you gave me is from you,
because the words you gave to me I have given to them,
and they accepted them and truly understood that I came from you,
and they have believed that you sent me." - Jn 17: 1-11

Blessed day by day be the Lord,
who bears our burdens; God, who is our salvation.
God is a saving God for us;
the LORD, my Lord, controls the passageways of death. - Ps 68

Prayers for the families and survivors.
Prayers for those who will be called next.
God is a saving God for us.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Remembering Martyrs too ...

Relatives of Coptic Christians carry coffins of their relatives who were killed following their funeral service, at Abu Garnous Cathedral in Minya. - Source

I noticed an 'ask father' post on Fr. Z's blog wherein a reader asked, "What if we are alive when Christ returns?" It seemed like a strange question to me, especially in view of the recent martyrs. They were alive when Christ returned for them - they are alive. Christ is alive.   We just celebrated the Resurrection - we celebrate it every Sunday.

Fr. Z plugged ad orientem worship in his reply - to face East to greet the Lord. Inserting a plug like that seems so banal compared to the blood of the martyrs and their going to meet the Lord.  The martyrs were alive when they met Him, no matter which way they were facing.

Read your catechism...
677 The Church will enter the glory of the kingdom only through this final Passover, when she will follow her Lord in his death and Resurrection. The kingdom will be fulfilled, then, not by a historic triumph of the Church through a progressive ascendancy, but only by God's victory over the final unleashing of evil, which will cause his Bride to come down from heaven. God's triumph over the revolt of evil will take the form of the Last Judgment after the final cosmic upheaval of this passing world. - CCC

For some, every day is Memorial day.

When someone you haven’t seen in ten years appears at the door...

I was looking through some photographs of my old neighborhood, friends and their families, which I've always said 'are just like Moonstruck'.  Not so much.  Not so glamorous.  Not so close.  Yes, the kitchen was the center of the home, and everyone just popped in and out, unannounced.  They just stopped by.  But that was pretty much only at my friend Linda's house - and that was very much like Moonstruck.  There were people in the neighborhood just like the characters in the film, but maybe not always as amiable as portrayed on screen.

Anyway.  Paging through the photo albums, combined with being in touch with a few old friends on Facebook, along with the prospect of a high school reunion in a few months brought me back to reality.  The 'Moonstruck' thing was all my fantasy, a romantic recall of what I had wanted that period of my life to be.  I wanted it to be my life, my home, my family.  Except I haven't seen many of these people in over 20 years - or longer.  I 'left' immediately after graduation - moved away as soon as I could.

If they say We should get together say why?

A few years later some of my old friends came looking for me, but once again - I left them.  My brother had married into one of the families, I enjoyed some time with them, but once again I left them.  Why did I keep leaving?

Now that I'm older, I think I know.  I think I always knew it wasn't my life, I wasn't a good fit, and I'm not Italian.   On some level, it helped to find out their fantasies didn't line up so well either.

 It's not that you don't love them.

In high school one of my friends whom I had always admired told me his mom felt sorry for me.  I think I must have told him that I didn't think she liked me - and that's when he explained she knew I came from a messed up family.  I guess everyone knew that, so I was really fortunate to be welcomed into their homes.  Although it could never remove the shame I felt.

As a newcomer to the neighborhood, we moved into a duplex while my dad was in the workhouse.  He had been chronically unemployed, in and out of trouble, we moved every year or so, left behind unpaid rents, my parents fought and caused trouble, and out of shame, I pretended to have a wonderful home life.  For a very long time I had no idea everyone knew how bad it was.  I was so busy trying to invent a normal life.

When they invite you to the party remember what parties are like ...

It still clings to me - that shame.  So over time I tried to flee, I disappeared.  My parents both shamed and defamed me, as it were.  They complained endlessly about how ungrateful I was, how they had 'reached out' to me, and how I disowned them and so on.  My dad beat my little brother warning 'don't turn out like Terry!'  My brother was sexually abused by a neighbor, and my parents blamed my brother and 'forgave' the perpetrator.  I felt guilty, that I had abandoned my brother and was no longer able to protect him because I had moved away.  Perhaps literally to save my life.  My dad once chased me out of the house with a meat cleaver.  Shortly after, I left with my things in a grocery bag, my brother pleading with me not to go.  "I have to leave."  I can see him standing there crying.  That still breaks my heart.

When I tried to get closer, to 'heal things' - Christians have to do that, the pain was so intense, that it took several days to 'get over it' - which is why I avoided 'reunions', holidays, and even weddings and funerals.

When they say Don’t I know you?  say no.

Recently, a younger cousin who is pretty much a stranger to me, actually said in an email, "I'm reaching out to you ..."  I do not even know him.  It was a thoughtful gesture, but I don't think he knows me at all.  When I was still living at home, we had very little contact with relatives.  My parents alienated them, and at times, one of my uncles forbade my aunt from even speaking to my mother on the phone.  Frequently the relatives were denigrated and slandered, more or less out of jealousy and envy by both my parents.  If the relatives were the victims of detraction and calumniated by my parents, one can easily believe mums and dadums did the exact same thing telling tales about their own children.  They were completely untrustworthy.

This weekend, I was looking for a photo of one of my uncle's paintings of his experience in WWII.  He died a couple of years ago.  He was one of the few who continued to keep in touch with me.  I discovered his obituary and noted he had a Catholic funeral and burial.  Years ago my mother told me he had quit the Church after divorcing his first wife and returned to the Lutheran church.  Long story short, I was deeply consoled to know he died a Catholic.  I only find out by chance when someone dies.  I suppose it's because I've been gone so long.  They think I don't care, or wouldn't show up for the funeral.  They try to think for me.  Sometimes they try to speak for me.  Other times they try to spare my feelings, maybe.

Tell them you have a new project.  It will never be finished.

This little essay helps explain why I avoid holidays.  It's not a complaint or a desire for sympathy - nothing like that at all.  It's just that the memories flood back on days like this.  For some of us, every day is Memorial Day, and so when the actual holiday arrives, it gets compounded.  It's difficult to explain.

It doesn't need to be fixed ... ah!

That is meaningful on so many levels:  It doesn't need to be fixed.

It doesn't need to be fixed.

Headings from Naomi Shihab Nye

Memorial Day 2017

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Rue du Bac, Paris

The apparitions of Our Lady to St. Catherine, 1830.

It is said these initiated the Marian Era we have experienced since then.  It would be good to consider Our Lady's purpose and mission which began with this important revelation, not to forget, the gift of the Miraculous Medal.  On the reverse of the medal are the  two hearts - the Sacred Heart and the Immaculate Heart.  At Fatima Our Lady revealed her Immaculate Heart and stated Our Lord wishes her heart to be honored along side his own.  At Fatima Our Lady came to establish devotion to her Immaculate Heart.  See the thread of this outpouring of grace, which began at Rue du Bac, Paris?

The first apparition.
July 18, 1830, the eve of the feast of Saint Vincent whom she loved so much and whose heart she had seen overflowing with love, Catherine prayed that, through his intercession, her desire to see the Blessed Virgin would finally be fulfilled. At eleven-thirty at night, she was called by name. A mysterious child was at the foot of her bed and asked her to get up. “The Blessed Virgin is waiting for you.” Catherine dressed and followed the child who was “bringing rays of brightness wherever he passed.” Having arrived in the chapel, St. Catherine stopped near the chair used by the priest in the sanctuary (current location of the statue of Saint Joseph). She then heard a sound “like the rustle of a silk dress.” Her little guide said, “Here is the Blessed Virgin.” She hesitated. But the child repeated in a stronger tone of voice, “Here is the Blessed Virgin.” In a single bound, Catherine was at the feet of the Blessed Virgin, seated on a chair and rested her hands on the knees of the Mother of God. “There, a period of time passed, the sweetest of my life. It would be impossible for me to say what I experienced. The Blessed Virgin told me how I should behave towards my spiritual director and also several other things.” The Blessed Virgin pointed to the altar where the tabernacle was and said, “Come to the foot of this altar. Here, graces will be spread over all who ask for them with confidence and fervour.” - Apparitions et Médaille