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Archive for December, 2013

Christmas: No Longer Afraid

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Pondering the Gospel narratives from the Annunciation to the Presentation, it is striking how all of the principals in the story were confused, troubled and even gripped by fear. All of them. And from Heaven came the constant, soothing admonishment:

“Do not be afraid.”

Beginning with the appearance of the Angel Gabriel to the priest, Zechariah, in the Temple to announce that Zechariah’s barren wife, Elizabeth, would have a son (John the Baptist). Standing before the Altar of Incense, Gabriel appeared to this righteous priest to announce the favor of the Lord, but Zechariah was filled with fear.

Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer is heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son…”

When she received her visitation, Mary was troubled at the greeting from Gabriel, prompting him to tell her,

Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God…”

Evidently, Joseph had a fairly typical reaction to the news that his betrothed was pregnant with a child not of his issue, and was contemplating putting her away quietly. In a dream came the gentle admonishment,

“Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit; she will bear a son and you will call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”

When Heaven opened onto earth in that great Theophany on the night of Jesus’ birth, with a multitude of angels singing God’s praise, the shepherds too were filled with fear, and the Angel of the Lord said to them,

Be not afraid, for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people…”

Matthew tells us that when the wise men came to Herod looking to worship the new king of the Jews, “…he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.”

Here there was no angel to admonish or console. Herod and all of Jerusalem (presumably the ruling class) were troubled, but not afraid. Herod and many of the ruling class were corrupt and did not fear God. If anything, as with all tyrants, there was the fear of retribution by the oppressed and the fear of losing status and privilege gained at the expense of the down-trodden. As Mary said to Elizabeth in her great Magnificat,

“His mercy is on those who fear Him, from generation to generation.”

All of those to whom the Angel of the Lord came were in God’s favor. Not so the wicked, such as Herod. As the Heavenly Choir sang that first Christmas,

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased.”

A far cry and a better translation from the old and inaccurately indiscriminate, “Peace on earth, good will to men.”

For the virtuous principals in the nativity story, they are sought out because of their holiness, because they worked at it. Daily virtue. Because of their response in faith, living their faith, keeping their faith, God seeks them out and asks of them a great responsibility; and because of their faith and fidelity they were afraid.

We’re really no different. We are filled with all sorts of fear. We fear failing at what God has tasked us with, of being inadequate. It is the most common fear among parents.

We fear the trials that come with holiness, knowing that holiness requires emptying ourselves completely. In a materialistic culture with forty flavors of narcissism and hedonism, working at such holiness is a full-time job.

We fear success, knowing that it becomes the new baseline against which future painful growth is measured.

We fear the uncertain future, which causes us to hang on more tightly to the present moment.

While we fear all of these things, and so much more, we need to bear in mind that we are no different in many ways from the principals in today’s story. The good and virtuous Elizabeth and Zechariah feared the judgment of men, the interpretation that her barren womb was a reproach from God. They were delivered from their great fear, from that terrible stigma in their day.

Simeon in the Temple feared death before beholding the Messiah.

Joseph feared the stigma of a wife with a child not of his issue.

Mary feared how things would happen since she knew not man.

Holy people fearing the appearance of unholiness, fearing offending God’s goodness, love, and majesty.

Then, as now, it wasn’t all up to them in some Pelagian sense. God was with them, powerfully and dramatically. For doubting the Angel, Zechariah was struck mute until John was born, and when his tongue was loosed, what issued forth was his powerful Canticle. Mary and Joseph were provided all that they would need to sustain them in Egypt. God used the Wise Men for that.

And then there was the leading of the Holy Spirit.

When all was said and done, there was Easter and the assurance that our most dread fear will be swallowed up in the same loving providence that swallowed all of Mary and Joseph’s cares and woes. Between Christmas and Easter, there was a public ministry where God the Son repeatedly admonished us to not be afraid, to trust the Father’s providence, to trust His plan for our lives.

Simple holiness is all He asks. Daily virtue.

Most of us do it already, but we look too high up and too far away to see it, missing the great goodness that is the daily fabric of our lives. Good people, such as the virtuous principals in today’s story, fear failing at their call to holiness and action.

The Herods among us fear the call to holiness itself. For them, there is no consoling, “Be not afraid.” They need to fear. They ought to fear.

For the rest of us who walk daily with God, we have no reason to fear the newest call.

He is at once with us on the road, and waiting at the end.

Merry Christmas.

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It’s been quite a journey, one that I swore I would never make.

I would never blog, and I would never get involved in the pro-life movement. Having worked with unwed mothers for five years, then with kids with HIV/AIDS for two at Covenant House in New York’s Times Square during the 1980’s (before Disney took over), I had put my social activism behind me as I embarked on a career in science.

God, evidently, had other plans.

Not appreciating the power of the medium, nor of the maturity and sophistication of the pro-life movement, I was stuck in the typical academic mindset of refereed journals and academic conferences. But the truth be told, while there is still the great need for peer-reviewed research, there are precious few peers left in academia who hold to traditional morality and ethics. The American academy has been thoroughly infiltrated by leftist hacks who know only radicalized autonomy. It says something when Princeton’s Peter Singer has to stay awake at night trying to invent ways of staying ahead of the extremist curve.

No, the real intellectual mavericks have gone back to the future. The wedding of traditional Hippocratic medicine and Catholic Healthcare with contemporary medicine, technology, and law. They are not so present in the colleges as they are in the think tanks, the laws firms, the pro-life organizations on the right. The real heavy-lifting is being done on blogs and in the other social media, while the left have marched straight into Auschwitz and Dachau and set up shop.

In four years, I have tried to chronicle the descent of medicine into hell, the expansion of abortion within hospitals as clinics continue to close, of the increase in euthanasia, of Planned Parenthood’s ongoing eugenics program aimed at blacks and other people of color, of Obamacare’s thorough malignancy, and of the corruption of the scientific leadership in the nation.

Along the way, we’ve seen the fall of pro-life titans in the clergy, and the continued rise of an ever-younger and more vocal generation who have had enough of the culture of death.

I have met and had the privilege of working with hundreds of the finest people God ever made, and have become involved in some excellent research endeavors, as well as traveling the nation to teach the fundamental truth of medical science, showing how it all lines up on our side of the fence.

It’s been anything but boring, and for so many blessings I am truly grateful.

I am grateful to all who stop in and read, who comment, who challenge and argue, who affirm, who offer sage counsel, and their own priceless experiences.

I am grateful to know that so many others travel the same road, and have allowed me the privilege of walking that road with them.

I am grateful to God for all of that, and most especially for a wife and children who walk this road, too; who are so understanding when daddy needs to travel to so many cities and states, and who support me with their love, their prayers, and their patience.

There are times when I miss the solitude and the zen of lab work, but they are few and far between. In truth, I never realized how necessary this work is, how many physicians and scientists are needed out here in the virtual town square. I never realized how challenging and rewarding it would all be as we all join to save what is left of a Judeo-Christian civilization.

For as challenging as it all is, I sincerely believe the toughest fights are still before us.

I have no illusions about seeing the end of abortion in my lifetime. It won’t happen.

That’s not to say that I don’t believe in miracles, I’m just not sure that a miracle is what is necessary for the big picture.

God desires our hearts first. Our legislation ought to flow from hearts overflowing with love of God and neighbor. In the broader economy of salvation, it’s more important that we rebuild a civilization rooted in an understanding of who we are, of our great dignity, and of our resultant duties.

There is simply no room in such a civilization for abortion, eugenics, euthanasia, gay marriage, and all the rest.

My children aren’t perfect, but they’re wonderful. They radiate an inner beauty that comes from knowing who they are, knowing how unconditionally they are loved, how perfectly they are valued. Because they know how perfectly they are loved by their parents, they can believe they are loved even better by God. That security gives them the room to grow into the sort of citizens God expects both on earth and in Heaven. What we have here in microcosm is what is needed in macrocosm.

We’ll never end abortion, nor any of the other ills, until that day comes.

Along the way, we have much work to do in rebuilding Western Civilization from the ground up. It’s a blessing to have the company, the prayers and encouragement, of so may extraordinary people along the way.

As Coming Home embarks on its fifth year, we need to double our efforts at prayer for the bishops of the Church, the priests and religious, as well as all clergy of the other faiths. We will never build a civilization of love without them.

Once again, thanks to all who have welcomed me into the movement, and who have sustained me with your kind words, prayers, and good humor. It’s appreciated more than you know.

God Bless.

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Tonight we conclude our Divine Mercy Novena for Dr. Joseph Booker and all abortionists, living and dead. May the mercy requested by all who prayed with us be returned a hundred-fold.

We Pray…:

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Day 9
Today bring to Me SOULS WHO HAVE BECOME LUKEWARM,* and immerse them in the abyss of My mercy. These souls wound My Heart most painfully. My soul suffered the most dreadful loathing in the Garden of Olives because of lukewarm souls. They were the reason I cried out: ‘Father, take this cup away from Me, if it be Your will.’ For them, the last hope of salvation is to run to My mercy.

On this final day of the Novena for Dr. Joseph Booker, we ask God’s most merciful judgment of him, for complete forgiveness of all his many, many sins in life, and for an end to his purgation, knowing that the beatific vision is the greatest healing of all.

Most compassionate Jesus, You are Compassion Itself. I bring lukewarm souls into the abode of Your Most Compassionate Heart. In this fire of Your pure love, let these tepid souls, who, like corpses, filled You with such deep loathing, be once again set aflame. O Most Compassionate Jesus, exercise the omnipotence of Your mercy and draw them into the very ardor of Your love, and bestow upon them the gift of holy love, for nothing is beyond Your power.

Eternal Father, turn Your merciful gaze upon lukewarm souls who are nonetheless enfolded in the Most Compassionate Heart of Jesus. Father of Mercy, I beg You by the bitter Passion of Your Son and by His three-hour agony on the Cross: Let them, too, glorify the abyss of Your mercy. Amen.

Chaplet of Divine Mercy

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We continue our Divine Mercy Novena today.

We Pray…

✞ ✞ ✞

Day 8
Today bring to Me THE SOULS WHO ARE DETAINED IN PURGATORY, and immerse them in the abyss of My mercy. Let the torrents of My Blood cool down their scorching flames. All these souls are greatly loved by Me. They are making retribution to My justice. It is in your power to bring them relief. Draw all the indulgences from the treasury of My Church and offer them on their behalf. Oh, if you only knew the torments they suffer, you would continually offer for them the alms of the spirit and pay off their debt to My justice.

Lord Jesus, we take the pain of our doubts and confusion, of disappointment and despair including those of Dr. Booker and offer them to you to be washed clean by the waters of your love and mercy. In life, he lived the very definition of Hell as he practiced his murderous trade. We ask that if he is in Purgatory, that you accept the merits of the saints in the pro-life movement, the sacrifices all in this movement make, and apply their merits to Dr. Booker and any from the abortion industry who suffer the pains of purgatory.

Most Merciful Jesus, You Yourself have said that You desire mercy; so I bring into the abode of Your Most Compassionate Heart the souls in Purgatory, souls who are very dear to You, and yet, who must make retribution to Your justice. May the streams of Blood and Water which gushed forth from Your Heart put out the flames of Purgatory, that there, too, the power of Your mercy may be celebrated.

Eternal Father, turn Your merciful gaze upon the souls suffering in Purgatory, who are enfolded in the Most Compassionate Heart of Jesus. I beg You, by the sorrowful Passion of Jesus Your Son, and by all the bitterness with which His most sacred Soul was flooded: Manifest Your mercy to the souls who are under Your just scrutiny. Look upon them in no other way but only through the Wounds of Jesus, Your dearly beloved Son; for we firmly believe that there is no limit to Your goodness and compassion. Amen.

Chaplet of Divine Mercy

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We continue our Divine Mercy Novena today.

We Pray

✞ ✞ ✞

Day 7
Today bring to Me THE SOULS WHO ESPECIALLY VENERATE AND GLORIFY MY MERCY,* and immerse them in My mercy. These souls sorrowed most over my Passion and entered most deeply into My spirit. They are living images of My Compassionate Heart. These souls will shine with a special brightness in the next life. Not one of them will go into the fire of hell. I shall particularly defend each one of them at the hour of death.

Let us pray for the penitent abortionist and their staff, that through the mercy of God and through the Blood of the Lamb, has been reconciled to God; that by this gift of reconciliation may be an example of how merciful our loving God is and lead others to seek that same mercy. We pray too for Dr. Booker, that he has come to know the divine mercy of Jesus.

Most Merciful Jesus, whose Heart is Love Itself, receive into the abode of Your Most Compassionate Heart the souls of those who particularly extol and venerate the greatness of Your mercy. These souls are mighty with the very power of God Himself. In the midst of all afflictions and adversities they go forward, confident of Your mercy; and united to You, O Jesus, they carry all mankind on their shoulders. These souls will not be judged severely, but Your mercy will embrace them as they depart from this life.

Eternal Father, turn Your merciful gaze upon the souls who glorify and venerate Your greatest attribute, that of Your fathomless mercy, and who are enclosed in the Most Compassionate Heart of Jesus. These souls are a living Gospel; their hands are full of deeds of mercy, and their hearts, overflowing with joy, sing a canticle of mercy to You, O Most High! I beg You O God:

Show them Your mercy according to the hope and trust they have placed in You. Let there be accomplished in them the promise of Jesus, who said to them that during their life, but especially at the hour of death, the souls who will venerate this fathomless mercy of His, He, Himself, will defend as His glory. Amen.

Chaplet of Divine Mercy

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We continue our Divine Mercy Novena today.

We Pray…

✞ ✞ ✞

Day 6

Today bring to Me THE MEEK AND HUMBLE SOULS AND THE SOULS OF LITTLE CHILDREN, and immerse them in My mercy. These souls most closely resemble My Heart. They strengthened Me during My bitter agony. I saw them as earthly Angels, who will keep vigil at My altars. I pour out upon them whole torrents of grace. Only the humble soul is capable of receiving My grace. I favor humble souls with My confidence.

Let us pray for the gift of humility to pray for repentant abortionists as they seek refuge in Christ’s Ocean of Mercy. In their humility may they find reconciliation and a renewed sense of mission to spread hope through Christ’s bountiful mercy. We pray too for the humility to lift up those as yet who are unrepentant, that they might not be lost, but saved.

Most Merciful Jesus, You yourself have said, “Learn from Me for I am meek and humble of heart.” Receive into the abode of Your Most Compassionate Heart all meek and humble souls and the souls of little children. These souls send all heaven into ecstasy and they are the heavenly Father’s favorites. They are a sweet-smelling bouquet before the throne of God; God Himself takes delight in their fragrance. These souls have a permanent abode in Your Most Compassionate Heart, O Jesus, and they unceasingly sing out a hymn of love and mercy.

Chaplet of Divine Mercy

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From Deacon Greg Kandra’s blog: The Deacon’s Bench another of his masterful homilies. If you don’t know of his blog, bookmark it now. It’s superb. Now, Deacon Kandra:

Honestly, I thought it must have been a joke.

When I saw the story online last Sunday, I didn’t quite believe it. Many of you probably saw it, too: it’s Amazon.com’s proposed new delivery system. The idea is to use small, unmanned airplanes—drones!—to pick up packages at a warehouse and deliver them to your door, in 30 minutes or less.

When it was unveiled on “60 Minutes” last weekend, I think Charlie Rose summed it up eloquently in one word:

“Wow.”

No one has explained yet exactly how this project would work—how thousands of these would be able to hover over cities without crashing in to one another, defying wind and rain and skyscrapers. And I imagine, if they can get it to work, this kind of convenience will not come cheap. Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon.com, conceded that it will take a few years to realize his vision. They have to work out the details and get federal approval. But he seemed serious about it. I have to think, if he doesn’t pull it off, someone else probably will.

Aside from the audacity and daring of the idea, I think the Amazon proposal says much about who we are and what we have become.

We are people in a hurry. We are people who are saying, insistently: Give it to me. Now.

Once, overnight delivery was more than enough. Then we wanted same day delivery. Now, we want everything in 30 minutes—whether it’s a pizza or a paperback. We want our food fast, our dinner microwaved. We can’t wait to get to a phone or a computer—and we don’t, because the phone and the computer are with us, every second, of every day, in our hand or in our pocket. Remember when we used telephones in phone booths? Remember when computers were confined to big boxes on desks in our offices?

What did we do before we had tiny smartphone screens to check every 10 minutes?

In 2013, we just don’t want to wait. For anything. Ever.

But in the middle of this, for four short weeks, we do.

The Church presses the “pause” button.

In the middle of all the hurrying and impatience and insistence comes…Advent.

We find ourselves suddenly in a state of suspended animation. It’s the season of expectation. Of longing.

Of waiting.

A child is coming, a hope is dawning. In our liturgies and in our lives, we yearn for something we cannot quite name. We pray for deliverance. We cry out to God, “O come, Emmanuel! Ransom us! When will we be freed?”

Like prisoners in a cell, we mark the days.

We light candles, one at a time, week by week, to slowly bring forth light.

We fold open the cardboard windows of the Advent calendar, day by day, one day at a time, for 25 days.

This is Advent. It is the season when we wait—but also when we have work to do.

“Stay awake,” Jesus told us in the gospel last week.

“Repent,” John the Baptist says today. “Prepare the way of the Lord.” Make the crooked path straight.

If you ask a child what we are waiting for, they’ll tell you in one word: “Christmas.” It’s that simple.

For a child, of course, it can’t come fast enough. For the rest of us, we’d probably like more time—a few more weeks to plan, shop, wrap and ship. But the reality of Advent—the astonishing truth at its center—plunges us into something deeper. The question demands an answer.

What, exactly, are we waiting for? What are we preparing for?

Spoiler alert: It isn’t really Christmas. It isn’t the presents and the tree, the cards and the tinsel.

No.

It is Christ. We are waiting for Christ.

St. Bernard of Clairvaux wrote beautifully about the three comings of Jesus: in Bethlehem, at the incarnation; at the end of time, for the final judgment; and here and now, through the sacrament of the Eucharist, and the grace of God, and the prayerful awakening of our hearts.

I would suggest to you that it is this last one that we need to pay closest attention to. That is what Advent is really about: Christ, the savior, dwelling within each of us. Gracing us with mercy, with humility, with patience, with love. If we make that a priority, we will make of our lives an ongoing Advent. We will live waiting and watching in joyful hope for Christ to enter our lives and to be with us, always.

That is the very essence of his name: “Emmanuel.” God with us.

Only by making ourselves ready to encounter Christ today, can we make ourselves ready to encounter him at the end of history.
So prepare. Repent. Make the crooked paths straight.

Heal a wound. Mend a quarrel. Comfort the lonely. Console the grieving. Pray for the poor, the outcast, the forgotten. Look beyond. And look within.

And do it all deliriously, wondrously, tenderly, with love.

Remember this: Advent is the time when we wait not for Christmas, but for Christ. We wait for him to step into the doorway of the heart. We put out the welcome mat. We light a candle. We make the walkway to the front door of our lives straight. We stand at the door and invite him in.

It’s worth asking ourselves: What will he find when he arrives?

In a few weeks, wise men will be scanning the skies. They won’t be looking for a drone from Amazon.com. They will be looking for the sign that the waiting is over, that hope is on the horizon.

A star will appear. Light will break through.

Christmas is coming, yes. But more importantly, Christ is coming.

That is what all the waiting and wondering and worrying is all about. We can’t lose sight of that.

In an age when nobody wants to wait for anything, Advent reminds us: some things are worth the wait.

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