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From the Gospel of John, Chapter 17:14-23 (New Jerusalem Translation)

“I passed your word on to them, and the world hated them, because they belong to the world no more than I belong to the world. I am not asking you to remove them from the world, but to protect them from the Evil One. They do not belong to the world any more than I belong to the world. Consecrate them in the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world, and for their sake I consecrate myself so that they too may be consecrated in truth. I pray not only for these but also for those who through their teaching will come to believe in me. May they all be one, just as, Father, you are in me and I am in you, so that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe it was you who sent me. I have given them the glory you gave to me, that they may be one as we are one. With me in them and you in me, may they be so perfected in unity that the world will recognise that it was you who sent me and that you have loved them as you have loved me.”

Last week in the New York City Council, we were directed to an overflow room, not terribly large, and had the hearing’s proceedings piped in. There we were, the leaders of the pro-life movement and the abortionists and their deathscorts, literally sitting next to and across from one another, waiting to testify for and against the pending legislation intended to gut the effectiveness of crisis pregnancy and pregnancy resource centers in New York City. There are over 2,300 such centers nationwide, and the pro-aborts sat commenting on how they intend to take this legislation nationwide.

Many sat and taunted the pro-lifers, hoping to elicit some reaction that would redound to our detriment. Nobody took the bait. However, the evil, the malevolance was so palpable that one could have cut it with a knife. That’s a remarkable statement coming from me, as my spirituality is of the very quiet and reflective sort. I’m a Charismatic Renewal washout from the ’70’s. It never took with me. Only a few times have I ever sensed evil, true evil. I was never wrong.

There was a great temptation to hate these people who were fighting to shut us down and claim those babies for themselves. But as the hours rolled by, all I could do was return in my mind to this beautiful prayer of Jesus to the Father in John’s Gospel. It was the leading of the Holy Spirit.

These people next to me were not Satan, nor were they his angels. They are humans. Horribly lost, swimming in misery, raging against the sacred. They are not the Evil One. They are our brothers and sisters who are in the Evil One’s grip. Jesus’ prayer to the Father offers us a direction:

“I pray not only for these{Apostles, Disciples} but also for those who through their teaching will come to believe in me.”

As does this verse, which ought to be on the coat of arms of every scientist:

“Consecrate them in the truth”

Indeed, the truth of the scientific data has been badly mauled, especially the abortion/breast cancer link. Fellow scientists have turned to deception, rather than the truth. This was prominent in the Council hearings, as we were accused of “misleading women” with information that has been “roundly rejected by the scientific community”. Brinton, Beral, Rosenberg and Palmer knew what they were doing when they held their sham workshop in 2003. They represent a minority opinion in the research community dealing with abortion and breast cancer.

And that returns me to the purpose of this blog: Consecrating them in the truth. The truth of science is synonymous with the truth of God, as science is the human endeavor of discovering the truth of God’s creation (Nature). Significant illness has derailed my ABC project, but as I return to health, that will be back up and running this week. Also, sometime in mid-winter, Coming Home will begin a systematic exploration of the scientific literature dealing with the psychological/psychiatric post-abortive sequelae. We shall also further explore the roots of the eugenics movement with readings from the main eugenists of the Twentieth Century.

As we proceed, it’s good that the Church gives us this season of Advent, a time of introspection and penance. It is the best medicine for those who are tempted to hate the opposition. This Advent, John 17:14-23 will be the central theme of my meditations, as well as a reminder of this blog’s organizing principle. It is well that we focus on our own sins for a time while we go about our life’s work of addressing the monstrosities of others. It won’t keep me from being the irascible Brooklyn native that I am, but it keeps me praying for those whom we are mandated to consecrate to the truth.

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As Advent approaches, I’d like to offer an invitation to all within a few hour’s drive of Westchester, New York to an Advent Day of Recollection on December 4, with renowned scripture scholar, Dr. Scott Hahn.

Dr. Hahn is Professor of Theology at Franciscan University, Steubenville Ohio.

The day is being held at Saint Francis of Assisi Church, Mount Kisco, New York. The cost is only $25, which includes catered lunch being provided by the parish. Dr. Hahn will be available for 90 minutes during lunch to speak with attendees, sign books, etc. I would encourage anyone interested to mail in their registration to the address below ASAP.

Yours truly will be on hand as conference co-convener and MC for the day. Join us, and bring a friend or two.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Saint Francis of Assisi Church
2 Green Street
Mount Kisco, NY 10549-2306

9:00 am Registration
9:45 am Father Steven Clark
10:00 am Introduction & Welcome of Dr. Hahn, Dr. Hahn 1st Talk
11:30 am – 1pm Lunch
1 pm Dr. Hahn, 2nd talk
2 pm Break
2:30 pm Dr. Hahn, 3rd talk
3:30 pm Q & A, and Wrap-up

Admission $25.00 (nonrefundable)

Registration:

Send Checks or Money Orders only (no cash, please) payable to
Saint Francis of Assisi Church
2 Green Street, Mount Kisco, NY 10549-2306

914-666-5986

email: hahnsanfrankisco@earthlink.net

Please include your name, address and phone number with your registration.

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I only started reading blogs last January when I stumbled out of my cave and discovered the twenty-first century. I happened on Beliefnet.com, which led me to Jill Stanek, who along with Bethany and Carla are responsible for this blog coming to life. On Beliefnet, I became a fan of Rod Dreher who writes “Crunchy Con”, which is actually shutting down this weekend and reopening as “Rod Dreher” on Beliefnet.

On Rod’s site a commenter by the name of Erin Manning has also guest posted for Rod. Erin is as unapologetically Catholic as I am (refreshing), and ardently pro-life. I’ve linked her blog And Sometimes Tea in the blogroll. She, along with the others there, whom I’ll be referencing as well in the coming days, is a must read.

In the process of getting my blog up and running, I missed this gem that Erin guest-posted on Rod’s site on December 27. It’s extremely sobering food for thought when we get caught up in the War on Christmas vitriol later this year. I plan to forward this to all of my friends.

Here’s Erin:

Merry Christmas! Rod is graciously allowing me to join him and co-blog this week. This will be my last chance to put my opinions on this side of the comment boxes, so I’m grateful for the opportunity–as I have been for every time that Rod has let me participate here.

I don’t know how many of you had a chance to see this piece by Terry Mattingly of the Get Religion blog on Hank Stuever’s book, Tinsel, which Rod reviewed a while ago here. When I read Rod’s review, I wanted to read the book, and Terry’s piece on it has increased that desire–it sounds like a fascinating look at the paradox that is the modern American Christmas as experienced by the three Frisco, Texas families whom Steuver followed closely.

The Get Religion blog post highlights something I’ve been thinking about, not only about Christmas, but about the struggle to live as a serious Christian in modern America. Terry Mattingly writes:

“Stuever and I talked for more than two hours and it seemed like 20 minutes. I am, of course, a prodigal Texan who gets sweaty palms in shopping malls and, frankly, Stuever was much more patient and kind than I would have been trying to write about the material that he covered. He takes the people totally serious, even while lacing his work with large does of sarcasm and even cynicism when he deals with the culture in which they live.

“I would have jumped straight to anger, which would have sent me to my priest for confession over and over and over.”

We Christians are often–and I include myself in this, most definitely–suckers for the “us against them” narratives that are told in our culture. From our focus on stories of atheist Christmas displays to others featuring artful outrage over some (admittedly tasteless) ornaments on a tree at the White House to still other War on Christmas themes that crop up in the news at this time of year, we tend to fall for the idea that the greatest threat to Christian life is something outside of us, some threat that will make it much, much harder than it is now for us to live openly as Christians in America.

To be fair, there are aspects of modern American life that conflict with a serious pursuit of Christianity. Not all perceived threats to religious liberty are the products of fevered imaginations and conspiracy theories; it’s important to pay attention to the prevailing cultural winds. Large, heavily centralized governments are often not friends of Christianity, or of any other serious faith which sometimes puts citizens at odds with the values and principles of the State.

But as a book like Tinsel, or even our own experiences of Christmas in America, can remind us, the strongest enemies to a serious attempt to live as a follower of Christ are not the ones on the outside. They are the enemies within–they are the faces that look back at us from the mirror, as we put on our Christmas finery with little thought to the lives of the wretchedly poor people who probably made our festive clothing for pennies an hour half a world away. They are the weary sins that plague us, the hardness of our hearts, our ability to sing words of joyful good news while focusing all our mental energies on criticism of the decor chosen to adorn the sanctuary; they are the paradox of Christmas that has nothing to do with what other people are doing, and everything to do with our own thoughts and deeds.

What kind of War on Christmas is being fought, when within a family a pitched battle may rage over the burning question: white lights on the tree, or colored ones? What kind of War on Christmas is being fought when we find ourselves in debt, yet again, because we succumbed to the siren-song of materialism, and bought and paid for a false vision of piles of gifts under the Christmas tree? What kind of War on Christmas is being fought when people gather with relatives to coo and simper at each other, all the while looking forward to the delicious pleasure of rhetorically shredding each other on the way home? What kind of War on Christmas is being fought, whose generals are pride, envy, avarice, anger, lust, gluttony, and sloth?

That War on Christmas has been fought since the first Christmas, since the Light shone into the uncomprehending darkness, since Herod commanded the Magi to return to him with news of the Child, all the while plotting to kill Him. The darkness that lies buried in the hearts of men rises up each time our fallen natures get the better of us–which they do, when we are more furious over some perceived slight to Christianity miles away from us than over the injustice of hopeless poverty in our own town; which they do, each time we become so buried in the bustle and glitter each December that we forget to lay it all aside and ponder, for a handful of moments, the gift of the Incarnation, the astounding and astonishing reality that to save us from our sorry selves God Himself became Man, and dwelt among us.

And that, alas, is a War on Christmas that cannot be brushed aside as “us against them,” as something some wicked someone out there is doing to the shiningly innocent group of faithful Christians among whom we, perhaps presumptuously, count ourselves. That shining innocence is like the glitter of artificial lights on intrinsically dull tinsel, and we are too often the authors of our own wickedness to spend such an inordinate amount of time zeroing in with a microscope on the specks in the eyes of those who have not yet been granted a gift of faith.

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Elizabeth

My nine-year-old, Elizabeth has had an other-worldly devotion to the Nativity since age two. It’s grace. To see it in action is to leave no doubt. Beth also loves Santa and all of the magic associated with being the target of another’s coming with gifts. Gradually, we are folding the Santa narrative into an understanding of what that first coming was all about. Hopefully, one day, the excitement and expectation over Santa will translate into an understanding of the reading from Augustine below this post. For now, Santa’s on his way!

Merry Christmas!

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Todays Liturgy of the Hours, Office of Readings

From a sermon by Saint Augustine

Truth has arisen from the earth and justice has looked down from heaven

Awake, mankind! For your sake God has become man. Awake, you who sleep, rise up from the dead, and Christ will enlighten you. I tell you again: for your sake, God became man.

You would have suffered eternal death, had he not been born in time. Never would you have been freed from sinful flesh, had he not taken on himself the likeness of sinful flesh. You would have suffered everlasting unhappiness, had it not been for this mercy. You would never have returned to life, had he not shared your death. You would have been lost if he had not hastened ‘to your aid. You would have perished, had he not come.

Let us then joyfully celebrate the coming of our salvation and redemption. Let us celebrate the festive day on which he who is the great and eternal day came from the great and endless day of eternity into our own short day of time.

He has become our justice, our sanctification, our redemption, so that, as it is written: Let him who glories glory in the Lord.
Truth, then, has arisen from the earth: Christ who said, I am the Truth, was born of the Virgin. And justice looked down from heaven: because believing in this new-born child, man is justified not by himself but by God.

Truth has arisen from the earth: because the Word was made flesh. And justice looked down from heaven: because every good gift and every perfect gift is from above.

Truth has arisen from the earth: flesh from Mary. And justice looked down from heaven: for man can receive nothing unless it has been given him from heaven.
Justified by faith, let us be at peace with God: for justice and peace have embraced one another. Through our Lord Jesus Christ: for Truth has arisen from the earth. Through whom we have access to that grace in which we stand, and our boast is in our hope of God’s glory. He does not say: “of our glory,” but of God’s glory: for justice has not come out of us but has looked down from heaven. Therefore he who glories, let him glory, not in himself, but in the Lord.

For this reason, when our Lord was born of the Virgin, the message of the angelic voices was: Glory to God in the highest, and peace to men of good will.
For how could there be peace on earth unless Truth has arisen from the earth, that is, unless Christ were born of our flesh? And he is our peace who made the two into one: that we might be men of good will, sweetly linked by the bond of unity.

Let us then rejoice in this grace, so that our glorying may bear witness to our good conscience by which we glory, not in ourselves, but in the Lord. That is why Scripture says: He is my glory, the one who lifts up my head. For what greater grace could God have made to dawn on us than to make his only Son become the son of man, so that a son of man might in his turn become son of God?

Ask if this were merited; ask for its reason, for its justification, and see whether you will find any other answer but sheer grace.

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Bouguereau, Song of the Angels

From the Liturgy of the Hours, Christmas Day, Office of Readings

A sermon of Pope St Leo the Great

Christian, remember your dignity

Dearly beloved, today our Saviour is born; let us rejoice. Sadness should have no place on the birthday of life. The fear of death has been swallowed up; life brings us joy with the promise of eternal happiness.

No one is shut out from this joy; all share the same reason for rejoicing. Our Lord, victor over sin and death, finding no man free from sin, came to free us all. Let the saint rejoice as he sees the palm of victory at hand. Let the sinner be glad as he receives the offer of forgiveness. Let the pagan take courage as he is summoned to life.

In the fullness of time, chosen in the unfathomable depths of God’s wisdom, the Son of God took for himself our common humanity in order to reconcile it with its creator. He came to overthrow the devil, the origin of death, in that very nature by which he had overthrown mankind.

And so at the birth of our Lord the angels sing in joy: Glory to God in the highest, and they proclaim peace to men of good will as they see the heavenly Jerusalem being built from all the nations of the world. When the angels on high are so exultant at this marvellous work of God’s goodness, what joy should it not bring to the lowly hearts of men?

Beloved, let us give thanks to God the Father, through his Son, in the Holy Spirit, because in his great love for us he took pity on us, and when we were dead in our sins he brought us to life with Christ, so that in him we might be a new creation. Let us throw off our old nature and all its ways and, as we have come to birth in Christ, let us renounce the works of the flesh.

Christian, remember your dignity, and now that you share in God’s own nature, do not return by sin to your former base condition. Bear in mind who is your head and of whose body you are a member. Do not forget that you have been rescued from the power of darkness and brought into the light of God’s kingdom.

Through the sacrament of baptism you have become a temple of the Holy Spirit. Do not drive away so great a guest by evil conduct and become again a slave to the devil, for your liberty was bought by the blood of Christ.

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From today’s Liturgy of the Hours, Office of Readings

St. Ambrose: The Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary

The angel Gabriel had announced the news of something that was as yet hidden and so, to buttress the Virgin Mary’s faith by means of a real example, he told her also that an old and sterile woman had conceived, showing that everything that God willed was possible to God.

When Mary heard this she did not disbelieve the prophecy, she was not uncertain of the message, she did not doubt the example: but happy because of the promise that had been given, eager to fulfil her duty as a cousin, hurried by her joy, she went up into the hill country.

Where could she hurry to except to the hills, filled with God as she was? The grace of the Holy Spirit does not admit of delays. And Mary’s arrival and the presence of her Son quickly show their effects: As soon as Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting her child leapt in her womb and she was filled with the Holy Spirit.

See the careful distinction in the choice of words. Elizabeth was the first to hear the voice but her son John was the first to feel the effects of grace. She heard as one hears in the natural course of things; he leapt because of the mystery that was there. She sensed the coming of Mary, he the coming of the Lord — the woman knew the woman, the child knew the child. The women speak of grace while inside them grace works on their babies. And by a double miracle the women prophesy under the inspiration of their unborn children.

The infant leapt and the mother was filled with the Spirit. The mother was not filled before her son: her son was filled with the Holy Spirit and in turn filled his mother. John leapt and so did Mary’s spirit. John leapt and filled Elizabeth with the Spirit; but we know that Mary was not filled but her spirit rejoiced. For the Incomprehensible was working incomprehensibly within his mother. Elizabeth had been filled with the Spirit after she conceived, but Mary before, at the moment the angel had come. “Blessed are you,” said Elizabeth, “who believed”.

You too, my people, are blessed, you who have heard and who believe. Every soul that believes — that soul both conceives and gives birth to the Word of God and recognises his works.

Let the soul of Mary be in each one of you, to proclaim the greatness of the Lord. Let the spirit of Mary be in each one of you, to rejoice in God. According to the flesh only one woman can be the mother of Christ but in the world of faith Christ is the fruit of all of us. For every soul can receive the Word of God if only it is pure and preserves itself in chastity and modesty.

The soul that has been able to reach this state proclaims the greatness of the Lord just as Mary did and rejoices in God its saviour just like her.

The Lord’s greatness is proclaimed, as you have read elsewhere, where it says Join me in magnifying the Lord. This does not mean that anything can be added to the Lord’s greatness by human words, but that he is magnified in us. Christ is the image of God and so any good or religious act that a soul performs magnifies that image of God in that soul, the God in whose likeness the soul itself was made. And thus the soul itself has some share in his greatness and is ennobled.

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From today’s Liturgy of the Hours, Office of Readings

A Sermon of Saint Bernard

You have heard, O Virgin, that you will conceive and bear a son; you have heard that it will not be by man but by the Holy Spirit. The angel awaits an answer; it is time for him to return to God who sent him. We too are waiting, O Lady, for your word of compassion; the sentence of condemnation weighs heavily upon us.

The price of our salvation is offered to you. We shall be set free at once if you consent. In the eternal Word of God we all came to be, and behold, we die. In your brief response we are to be remade in order to be recalled to life.

Tearful Adam with his sorrowing family begs this of you, O loving Virgin, in their exile from Paradise. Abraham begs it, David begs it. All the other holy patriarchs, your ancestors, ask it of you, as they dwell in the country of the shadow of death. This is what the whole earth waits for, prostrate at your feet. It is right in doing so, for on your word depends comfort for the wretched, ransom for the captive, freedom for the condemned, indeed, salvation for all the sons of Adam, the whole of your race.

Answer quickly, O Virgin. Reply in haste to the angel, or rather through the angel to the Lord. Answer with a word, receive the Word of God. Speak your own word, conceive the divine Word. Breathe a passing word, embrace the eternal Word.

Why do you delay, why are you afraid? Believe, give praise, and receive. Let humility be bold, let modesty be confident. This is no time for virginal simplicity to forget prudence. In this matter alone, O prudent Virgin, do not fear to be presumptuous. Though modest silence is pleasing, dutiful speech is now more necessary. Open your heart to faith, O blessed Virgin, your lips to praise, your womb to the Creator. See, the desired of all nations is at your door, knocking to enter. If he should pass by because of your delay, in sorrow you would begin to seek him afresh, the One whom your soul loves. Arise, hasten, open. Arise in faith, hasten in devotion, open in praise and thanksgiving. Behold the handmaid of the Lord, she says, be it done to me according to your word.

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Advent Meditation

“And when we give each other Christmas gifts in His name, let us remember that He has given us the sun and the moon and the stars, and the earth with its forests and mountains and oceans–and all that lives and move upon them. He has given us all green things and everything that blossoms and bears fruit and all that we quarrel about and all that we have misused–and to save us from our foolishness, from all our sins, He came down to earth and gave us Himself.”
— Sigrid Undset

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Advent encouragement for pro-lifers from today’s Liturgy of the Hours, Office of Readings

A letter to Diognetus

God showed his love through his Son

No man has ever seen God or known him, but God has revealed himself to us through faith, by which alone it is possible to see him. God, the Lord and maker of all things, who created the world and set it in order, not only loved man but was also patient with him. So he has always been, and is, and will be: kind, good, free from anger, truthful; indeed, he and he alone is good.

He devised a plan, a great and wonderful plan, and shared it only with his Son. As long as he preserved this secrecy and kept his own wise counsel he seemed to be neglecting us, to have no concern for us. But when through his beloved Son he revealed and made public what he had prepared from the very beginning, he gave us all at once gifts such as we could never have dreamt of, even sight and knowledge of himself.

When God had made all his plans in consultation with his Son, he waited until a later time, allowing us to follow our own whim, to be swept along by unruly passions, to be led astray by pleasure and desire. Not that he was pleased by our sins: he only tolerated them. Not that he approved of that time of sin: he was planning this era of holiness. When we had been shown to be undeserving of life, his goodness was to make us worthy of it. When we had made it clear that we could not enter God’s kingdom by our own power, we were to be enabled to do so by the power of God.

When our wickedness had reached its culmination, it became clear that retribution was at hand in the shape of suffering and death. The time came then for God to make known his kindness and power (how immeasurable is God’s generosity and love!). He did not show hatred for us or reject us or take vengeance; instead, he was patient with us, bore with us, and in compassion took our sins upon himself; he gave his own Son as the price of our redemption, the holy one to redeem the wicked, the sinless one to redeem sinners, the just one to redeem the unjust, the incorruptible one to redeem the corruptible, the immortal one to redeem mortals. For what else could have covered our sins but his sinlessness? Where else could we, wicked and sinful as we were, have found the means of holiness except in the Son of God alone?

How wonderful a transformation, how mysterious a design, how inconceivable a blessing! The wickedness of the many is covered up in the holy One, and the holiness of One sanctifies many sinners.

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Second Theme of Advent

Today marks the beginning of the Second Theme of Advent in the Catholic Liturgical Calendar. The daily liturgical readings up until today have focussed on Jesus’ second coming and our judgment. Beginning today, the readings focus on the prophecies and events leading to His first coming, a child born of the Virgin Mary. They culminate in the Nativity readings on Christmas Eve.

This beautiful Christmas Day Prayer from Priests for Life:

A Christmas Day Prayer

Praise to You, Lord God!

You have become one of us — You have become a human being, while still retaining all your power and holiness as God!

You, O Lord, made the journey of the unborn child. By being an embryo, a fetus, and a newborn, you joined all unborn and newborn children to you!

From the beginning of history, O Lord, You were the Creator of every human life. Now, with Christmas, You join Yourself in an unthinkable way with the life You created.

Let this Christmas, O God, fill all of us with awe and wonder at how close human life is to You. Cleanse the world of all that tarnishes and rejects this gift. Purify our hearts of all that fears this gift.

Let our Christmas joy be the joy of welcoming every human life! Amen!

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