Category: Featured Authors

Culture in Crisis

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“There is some dark chaos in the air.” These words by Rod Dreher, in the American Conservative blog on August 18, 2017, recently caught my eye. Dreher is the author of the much-talked about book, The Benedict Option. The blog post was a reflection on the polarized and deeply confused state of our politics, which for Dreher, is a reflection of the larger cultural crisis that has gripped the country. He began with a Twitter message from Dr. Robert George that expressed a feeling shared by many:

“Things are spinning out of control.”

He then quotes conservative writer Erick Erickson, who expressed a similar feeling and observation about our times:

“This (the political confusion) is not sustainable. Something is going to give. I do not know what, but something will give. The nation cannot sustain this constant state of chaos and crisis.”

Finally, Dreher expresses his own feeling that “there is some dark chaos in the air.”

The blog post reminded me of a strong prophetic sense or word I received in July of 2015, while on mission in Uganda. Our team, Lloyd and Nancy Greenhaw, Deacon Larry Oney, and I were leading a week-long conference for close to 350 priests and bishops, at the major seminary in the Archdiocese of Kampala. Toward the end of the week, during daily Mass, I began to have a very strong sense of the Lord’s presence. I felt simultaneously a deep abiding peace, a feeling of fullness, and a childlike joy filling my heart.

I went to communion and came back to my seat. When I sat down, the Lord began to speak to me, not in an audible voice, but in an unusually clear way, in my heart. I got out my journal and began to write, thinking I would write down a thought or two. I ended up writing for nearly ten minutes. As I wrote, it felt as though the Lord was right there, speaking to me, in a very direct and clear way, in a serious tone. It felt like the Captain of the Armies of Heaven was giving me instructions, personal direction for my life, correction, encouragement, and insight.

At one point, the Lord began to talk about the spiritual battle that is unfolding in the world. I want to share with you the simple, direct words I believe He was speaking to me, knowing that prophesy is imperfect and always needs to be tested. I wasn’t expecting to communicate this publicly, mainly because I wasn’t sure the Lord wanted me to. But given the crisis and chaos we’re experiencing—some of which is completely unprecedented—and with the encouragement of Ralph Martin, I pass it on for your discernment. Here’s what I wrote down in my journal that day:

“Peter, the spiritual battle is about to intensify, it will pick up pace.

Chaos, apostasy, rage, and confusion will increase.

My judgment is coming upon the world, it is my mercy.

What is coming will flatten and expose the emptiness
of all the idols that hold my people in bondage.

Warn, console, inspire, correct.

Proclaim my majesty and glory.

Have no anxiety about anything;
no one can change my purposes.

The mighty of the world are about to be brought down.”

There are a number of Bible passages that give some insight to what I believe is happening that have come back to me time and again since that day. The first is Jeremiah 2:19-21 (NRSV):

Your wickedness will punish you,
and your apostasies will convict you.
Know and see that it is evil and bitter
for you to forsake the Lord your God;
the fear of me is not in you,
says the Lord God of hosts.

We’re witnessing a profound apostasy in our time—a rapid turning away from God. In the words of Pope Benedict XVI,

“Humanity is pushing God from the human horizon.”

The sin of Romans 1, the constant temptation of the human race to “suppress the truth” about God, is at the root of our cultural chaos. The root sin is refusal to “honor him as God or give thanks to him” (Rm 1:21). It’s the sin of idolatry. I believe what Jeremiah prophesied to Israel and what St. Paul wrote to the Romans is the same pattern that we are seeing today. The turning away from God is as Jeremiah prophesied: “It is evil and bitter to forsake the Lord your God” (Jer 2:19). It is profoundly evil for the creature to reject, ignore, refuse to acknowledge, or to be indifferent to the Creator.

To turn away from God, to refuse to obey Him, is to put oneself under a curse. St. Francis of Assisi wrote a letter to the political leaders of his time, warning them of this very thing: “Do not forget the Lord on account of the cares and solicitudes of this world nor turn aside from His commandments, for all those who forget Him and decline from His commandments are cursed and they shall be forgotten by Him” (Letter to the Rulers of the People).

The curse is expressed in the empty futility of a darkened mind:

“They became futile in their thinking, and their senseless minds were darkened” (Rom 1:21).

The futility of mind is everywhere today: in the denial of human nature, the rejection of God’s design, and the denial of sin; in a world in which a boy is a girl, family is whatever you want it to be, and euthanasia is an act of love; and in the belief that human beings are nothing more than biochemical algorithms, and the bright ones among us can only find hope in a vision of the future in which man’s survival depends upon his becoming a cyborg, part man, part machine. In other words, post-human.

Modern man lacks wisdom, because he no longer fears God. Things are spinning out of control, and a dark chaos is in the air, because, as St. Paul put it so bluntly, “God handed them over to their undiscerning mind to do what is improper” (Rom 1:28, NABRE). In other words, the chaos is a sign of God’s judgment for the sin of idolatry.

God does this so that we will experience the futility of our ways and turn back to Him.
So how should we respond to all this?
» Pray, fast, do penance.
» Proclaim the Gospel.
» Have no anxiety about anything. (Phil 4:6)
» Be of good cheer. (Jn 16:33)
» Set your mind on things above, where Christ is.(Col 3:2)
» Do not be surprised by the fiery ordeal that may come upon you.(1 Pt 4:12)
» Be sober, be watchful, know that the same experience of suffering is required of your brotherhood throughout the world.(1 Pt 5:8-9)
» Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own insight. (Prv 3:5)
» Set your hope fully upon the grace that is coming to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.(1 Pt 1:13)
» Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances . . . do not quench the Spirit, do not despise prophesying, but test everything; hold fast to what is good. (1 Thes 5:17-21)
» Fear God and give him glory . . . worship him who made heaven and earth.(Rv 14:7)

This article originally appeared in Renewal Ministries’ November 2017 newsletter.

When Compromise is Not the Loving Choice

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This article originally appeared in the Archdiocese of Washington blog Community in Mission.

By Msgr. Charles Pope

St. Paul writes this in today’s reading from the Letter to the Romans:

I am not ashamed of the gospel. It is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes” (Rom 1:16).

“Gospel” here refers to the whole of the New Testament rather than merely the four Gospels. The gospel is the apostolic exhortation, the proclamation of the apostles of what Jesus taught and said and did for our salvation. This proclamation was recorded and collected in the letters of the apostles Paul, Peter, James, John, and Jude, and in what later came to be called the four Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. The gospel is the transformative word of the Lord proclaimed by the apostles in obedience to the command of the Lord,

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age (Matt 28:19-20).

Of these apostles (“sent ones”) Jesus says this:

Very truly I tell you, whoever receives the one I send receives me; and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me (Jn 13:20).

So the gospel is the authoritative and transformative proclamation of the Lord’s word through the apostles in totality. Of this full and received message St. Paul says he is not ashamed, though he has suffered for preaching it; others have suffered and even been killed for it!

Can we say the same? Are we unashamed of the gospel? Sadly, too many people are to some extent ashamed of the gospel. Even among practicing Catholics and clergy, there are too many who promote a compromised, watered-down message rather than boldly, joyfully, and confidently proclaiming the full gospel. Read More…

Parish Evangelization Efforts Bear Fruit

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This article originally appeared in The B.C. Catholic. Msgr. Greg Smith is a member of Renewal Ministries’ Canadian Board of Directors.

By AGNIESZKA KRAWCZYNSKI

One hundred people turned up for a weekly faith study at Christ the Redeemer Parish, a sign pastor Msgr. Gregory Smith believes shows local evangelization efforts are working.

“We have, for a long time, made the Alpha course a very important priority at our parish and we’ve had a number of successful Alphas every year: some bigger, some smaller,” Msgr. Smith told The B.C. Catholic.

“This year, we decided to go big or go home.” The parish sent invitations to every family in the parish boundaries, Catholic or not, to Mass on Christmas Day. At that Mass, and on several following occasions, the pastor talked about Alpha during his homily.

“As a result, we had the largest Alpha we ever had.” An estimated 160 people joined Alpha at the start, and after the first few weeks, three-quarters of them were coming back regularly.

“We’ve never had such a response,” said Msgr. Smith.

He decided to harness that energy. Once the weekly Alpha program had run its course, the parish offered Discovery, a six-week faith formation program by Catholic Christian Outreach. About 75 Alpha alumni signed up.

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The Fatima Children’s Wholehearted ‘Yes’

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Today, on the one-hundredth anniversary of the final Fatima apparition, I want to share with you about my recent time in Fatima, where I spoke to a capacity audience of 2,300 people. Thankfully, Anne was able to join me, as the organizers invited her and paid her way, which is quite rare. I think Mary wanted us both there and inspired them to do so. It was good to share this special grace together. The conference celebrated fifty years of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal and the one-hundredth anniversary of Mary’s messages there.

Like many of you, I have been familiar with the events and message of Fatima for many years. I was even there, many years ago. I wasn’t expecting anything special to happen during this visit, but something did. Once again, a surprise of the Holy Spirit! Before I share that story, let me recount what happened at Fatima a century ago, for the sake of those who haven’t heard or have forgotten.

In 1917, an angel appeared three different times to three small children—ages seven, nine, and ten—who lived in a small rural village. There was a brother and sister, Francisco and Jacinta, and their slightly older cousin, Lucia. The angel, which identified itself as the Angel of Portugal and the Angel of Peace, taught the children two prayers. The angel prayed with his forehead touching the ground and taught the children the profound reverence owed to God. They forever after often prayed like that themselves.

Mary then appeared to the children once a month for six consecutive months. She revealed to them three secrets, which they could only reveal at a later time. During her last appearance in October of 1917, she manifested the “miracle of the sun,” which was viewed by perhaps 70,000 people and reported on in Portugal’s secular newspapers. A very important part of what she communicated to them was the reality and horror of hell, where “many sinners go.” She very briefly gave them a vision of hell, where they saw the suffering of the lost souls and the horror of the demons. Mary told them that many souls go there, because there is no one to pray and offer sacrifices for them, and she asked the children to do so. She also asked them to pray the rosary every day for peace.

This vision and Mary’s words both deeply impacted their souls, and they fervently responded to her request. Little Jacinta would often ask her brother and cousin: “Have you sacrificed for the conversion of sinners today?” They would often give their lunches to poor children, go without drinking water for long periods of time, and do other sacrifices. Mary also asked the children to offer the suffering that would come their way, as well as their voluntary prayers and sacrifices, for reparation for the sins that are so offending God and Mary. She told them that the present war, World War I, would end soon, but unless there was repentance from sin, there would come a greater and worse war, and that war was a punishment for sin.

Mary said a sign would be given before the beginning of the next war, if there was not sufficient repentance. Indeed, that sign was given in 1938—one month before Hitler annexed Austria—and was seen throughout Europe as an aurora borealis. She also warned that if there wasn’t repentance, Russia would spread its errors throughout the world, whole nations would be annihilated, and the Church would suffer much.

Mary also told the children that she would take Jacinta and Francisco to heaven soon, but that Lucia would need to learn to read and write, as she needed to stay on earth longer, in order to witness to this message. Lucia died in 2005, at the age of 97, in a Carmelite monastery. Francisco died in 1919, not yet ten, of the flu epidemic that swept the world at that time, and Jacinta in 1920, at the age of ten. Mary told Jacinta that if she was willing, she would suffer much and die alone in a hospital, but Mary would be with her. In a brutal operation, the doctors removed two of her ribs. Jacinta was so weak, she couldn’t have general anesthesia, the local anesthesia was ineffective, and she died alone in a Lisbon hospital.

Jacinta and Francisco were officially proclaimed saints this year, by Pope Francis at Fatima, and the cause for Lucia has begun.

So what struck me so deeply? The children—their totally fervent, wholehearted focus on the salvation of souls, and how they focused their whole way of life and each and every day on prayer and sacrifice for the conversion of sinners. It would take me more space than we have to tell you all about this, but suffice it to say I was deeply inspired and challenged to do more myself. As I visited each of their graves in the Basilica of Fatima, as as I read Lucia’s Memoirs, I felt like I was being given new friends, new models, by the Lord, to help me in my own spiritual journey and our work for souls.

Pray, fast, and offer sacrifices for the conversion of sinners, for peace in the world, and for mercy. As Jesus said as He began preaching: Repent! For the kingdom of God is at hand.

……

These prayers were taught by the angel to the children:

“Most Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, I offer You the most precious Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ, present in all the tabernacles of the world, in reparation for the outrages, sacrileges and indifference with which He Himself is offended. And, through the infinite merits of His most Sacred Heart, and the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I beg of You the conversion of poor sinners.”

“My God, I believe, I adore, I hope and I love You! I ask pardon of You for those who do not believe, do not adore, do not hope and do not love You.”

These prayers were taught by Mary to the children:

“O my Jesus! Forgive us, save us from the fire of hell. Lead all souls to heaven, especially those who are most in need.”

“Oh my Jesus, I offer this for love of Thee, for the conversion of sinners, and in reparation for the sins committed against the Immaculate Heart of Mary.”

The children were moved by an interior impulse to pray this prayer:

“Most Holy Trinity, I adore Thee! My God, my God, I love Thee in the Most Blessed Sacrament.”

God Wants to Bring Us Home

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This post originally appeared as a daily devotional on the website Blessed is She.

Friday of the Twenty-sixth Week in Ordinary Time

Reading 1 Bar 1:15-22

During the Babylonian captivity, the exiles prayed:
“Justice is with the Lord, our God;
and we today are flushed with shame,
we men of Judah and citizens of Jerusalem,
that we, with our kings and rulers
and priests and prophets, and with our ancestors,
have sinned in the Lord’s sight and disobeyed him.
We have neither heeded the voice of the Lord, our God,
nor followed the precepts which the Lord set before us.
From the time the Lord led our ancestors out of the land of Egypt
until the present day,
we have been disobedient to the Lord, our God,
and only too ready to disregard his voice.
And the evils and the curse that the Lord enjoined upon Moses, his servant,
at the time he led our ancestors forth from the land of Egypt
to give us the land flowing with milk and honey,
cling to us even today.
For we did not heed the voice of the Lord, our God,
in all the words of the prophets whom he sent us,
but each one of us went off
after the devices of his own wicked heart,
served other gods,
and did evil in the sight of the Lord, our God.”

Responsorial Psalm Ps 79:1b-2, 3-5, 8, 9

  1. (9) For the glory of your name, O Lord, deliver us.
    O God, the nations have come into your inheritance;
    they have defiled your holy temple,
    they have laid Jerusalem in ruins.
    They have given the corpses of your servants
    as food to the birds of heaven,
    the flesh of your faithful ones to the beasts of the earth.
    R. For the glory of your name, O Lord, deliver us.
    They have poured out their blood like water
    round about Jerusalem,
    and there is no one to bury them.
    We have become the reproach of our neighbors,
    the scorn and derision of those around us.
    O LORD, how long? Will you be angry forever?
    Will your jealousy burn like fire?
    R. For the glory of your name, O Lord, deliver us.
    Remember not against us the iniquities of the past;
    may your compassion quickly come to us,
    for we are brought very low.
    R. For the glory of your name, O Lord, deliver us.
    Help us, O God our savior,
    because of the glory of your name;
    Deliver us and pardon our sins
    for your name’s sake.
    R. For the glory of your name, O Lord, deliver us.

Alleluia Ps 95:8

  1. Alleluia, alleluia.
    If today you hear his voice,
    harden not your hearts.
    R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel Lk 10:13-16

Jesus said to them,
“Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida!
For if the mighty deeds done in your midst
had been done in Tyre and Sidon,
they would long ago have repented,
sitting in sackcloth and ashes.
But it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon
at the judgment than for you.
And as for you, Capernaum, ‘Will you be exalted to heaven?
You will go down to the netherworld.’
Whoever listens to you listens to me.
Whoever rejects you rejects me.
And whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me.”

– – –
Lectionary for Mass for Use in the Dioceses of the United States, second typical edition, Copyright © 2001, 1998, 1997, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine; Psalm refrain © 1968, 1981, 1997, International Committee on English in the Liturgy, Inc. All rights reserved. Neither this work nor any part of it may be reproduced, distributed, performed or displayed in any medium, including electronic or digital, without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

In the past few months, depending on where we live, we have been warned and cautioned to prepare for life-threatening storms and impending destruction. And in some places, disaster has come without warning, shaking the very ground of people’s existence. Warnings are helpful. Yet often, unless they are direct, firm, and even stern, we can miss and fail to heed them.

Today’s Gospel passage is a difficult one to read, filled with the language of prophetic warning and judgment. It seems foreign and remote. Even as I read it, I find myself skimming; how do Jesus’ words apply to my daily life?I notice in me a very human tendency to avoid His harsher pronouncements and prefer His softer, more tender words. But I’m reminded of 2 Timothy 3:16: “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, training in righteousness.

So, like it or not, these ancient words are also intended for me. The unusually harsh words of judgment reflect God’s love for us, and His desire that none of us perish. So, what do we have in common with the three Galilean towns to which Jesus announces doom? (Luke 10:13-16)

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