Pondering China – Rise of the Dragon

the gates of hell

The gates of hell by Auguste Rodin

“And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” Matthew 16:18-20

Recently I read an article about how the Vatican was asking the Catholic Chinese Bishops to step down so some state appointed Chinese Catholic Bishops could take their place.  I took this to prayer and asked God about it.  I often hesitate to say what I feel God say to me in prayer because sometimes he speaks a word and phrases and it is often subject to my own interpretation of what’s being said.  If there is one thing I know, it is that I do not know the mind of God and that his plans are greater than anything I can imagine.  So keeping that in mind, I ask you all to pray over what I am about to say because more than anything that is actually what I feel God telling me… TO PRAY.

When I asked about the deal with China, the response I heard in my head was, “you cannot drive out Satan with Beelzebub.”

Upon further reflection I remembered that God had told me the church was the center of everything.  It isn’t governments, though in our worldly view they often seem more powerful.  But we must remember the words of Jesus to Pilate;

“You have no power over me if it had not been given to you from above.” John 19:11

The church is the authority on earth of the Kingdom of God.   The Sacraments are what put us in, and keep us renewed in Covenant with God.  This means that the decisions that the church makes are of utmost importance.  Once we are in covenant through Baptism, we are indelibly marked with sacramental grace, the covenant cannot be broken.  But it can be violated.  Violation of covenant actually invites curses upon you.  We see this time and again throughout the bible.  It is our free will asking to be handed over to demons.

And now, priests, this commandment is for you: If you do not listen, And if you do not take to heart giving honor to my name, says the LORD of hosts, I will send a curse upon you and your blessing I will curse. In fact, I have already cursed it, because you do not take it to heart. Malachi 2:1-2

So back to China.  It appears Russia, as predicted in Fatima,  did help spread the error of her ways by helping communism in China, which took hold there after World War II.  The Catholic Church in the past always fought communism, even as other governments had gotten in bed with them.  In China there have essentially been two Churches, one Catholic that is underground and loyal to Rome and one that is approved by the Chinese Government.  The Government had their own Bishops.  These state appointed Bishops were not validly ordained from my understanding.  I believe it was Pope Pius XII who wrote Ad Apostolorum Principis, which ex-communicated them.**(see update below)  If this is incorrect, I am sure someone out there can correct me, and I welcome that because I actually would like nothing more than to be wrong about this.  If the Vatican backs non validly ordained Bishops to shepherd the people, they are actually participating in a violation of covenant.  This is because there is no Apostolic succession and therefore, further violating covenant, any act of Consecration of the Eucharist would also be in violation of covenant.  The Eucharist and Confession are where we receive the sanctifying grace to keep us in the will of God and perfect us.  It is how we are perfected.  If the Vatican backs this illegitimacy of Sacraments, they are in grave violation of covenant that brings us sanctifying grace.  What happens when the church herself violates covenant?  All hell breaks lose.

“Then another sign appeared in the sky; it was a huge red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and on its heads were seven diadems. Its tail swept away a third of the stars in the sky and hurled them down to the earth. Then the dragon stood before the woman about to give birth, to devour her child when she gave birth.” Revelation 12:3-4

So what are we to do?  Well first of all, as I stated earlier, PRAY!!!  God has shown me that prayer changes things.

But remember, also, the gates of hell shall not prevail.  Remember that the church is the BODY of Christ, and Jesus Himself is the HEAD.  Jesus said he established an everlasting covenant.  This means that, though there can be violation, it cannot be broken.  God will fight for us. 

We are adopted sons and daughters of God through Christ’s sanctifying grace.  The church is both institution and people.  We the people of the church must be living sanctuaries.  We must hold the truth of the new covenant of Jesus Christ written in our hearts.  The devil can reek havoc on the institution but he cannot break the bonds of Christ with his faithful.  He cannot come near the light of Christ in our hearts, if he does he will be destroyed.

If the church institution herself violates the covenant and invites curses upon the institution,  it is through Mary and the Eucharist that the battered church will rise again and be rebuilt.

“When the dragon saw that it had been thrown down to the earth, it pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child.  But the woman was given the two wings of the great eagle, so that she could fly to her place in the desert, where, far from the serpent, she was taken care of for a year, two years, and a half-year. The serpent, however, spewed a torrent of water out of his mouth after the woman to sweep her away with the current. But the earth helped the woman and opened its mouth and swallowed the flood that the dragon spewed out of its mouth.” Revelation 12:13-17

The devil may try to wage war against us, even doing so through the rise of a communist nation, and through the scandal of the church.  But we are to keep our eyes on Christ, remain close to the Sacraments, and to remember that Christ has won the Victory already.  This is not a call to anxiety, or even to shoot poison arrows at any particular person in the Vatican we disagree with, this is a call to prayer.  As Saint Padre Pio said, “pray, hope, don’t worry.”

Pray for the Pope.

Pray for the Vatican.

Pray for our Priests and Bishops.

Pray for the peace that surpasses all understanding.


**Here is an article by George Weigel about the situation.

**Here is what Cardinal Zen had to say.

**Here is an article from EWTN library describing the complicated situation in China.


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Judas kisses Jesus

Judas kisses Jesus

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 2 Corinthians 12:9


There are many scandals in the church today.  What are we to make of it?  This is a homily given by my cousin Father Joel Rogers, from the Fathers of Mercy.  Listen to him.

Why Scandal?, by Father Joel Rogers.

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Guardians of Divine Life


“No, the end for which God has instituted the priesthood has been to appoint on earth public persons to watch over the honor of his divine majesty, and to procure the salvation of souls.” –  Saint Alphonsus Maria de Liguori

By: Susan Skinner and Ashley Blackburn

I was listening to a podcast of Venerable Fulton Sheen on womanhood and he said something that struck me.  He said, “women are the guardians of human life.”  In that moment, God whispered to me, “and men are the guardians of Divine Life.

I pondered this for a while, not exactly sure what God was saying to me.  I remembered a little while ago, He had spoken to me about the two ways life is brought to us.  One way is through woman, in the form of children; and the other through the male Priesthood, in the form of the Eucharist.

Women are the guardians of human life, and men are the guardians of Divine Life.  I went back in my prayer to ponder the fall of man.  Adam was created by God from the dust of the earth and Genesis 2:15 tells us;

And the LORD God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it.

If Adam is to “keep” the garden, this requires guarding it to keep it from deteriorating. So in a sense, he guards the natural world, but it is more than this.  This is also spiritual task for Adam.  Adam himself reveals God spiritually in the world.  He is the keeper of the garden, the guardian, so to speak, of the creation of God.  He is given the task of naming the animals.  Why is this task so important? Because their name reveals who they came from.  The naming of something connects the object with the source from which it came. I went to a retreat where the speaker told us how God revealed Himself to Moses as, “I AM”.  And the speaker went on to say that when we all introduce ourselves, we actually put God first, as the source from which we came, “I am Susan.”  This speaks that I came from God.  Adam was in charge of this naming.  He connected the spiritual world with the physical world through the names.  Adam became the guardian of the Divine on earth as the one who named all things.  What a shame that in today’s day and age, “I am” has been replaced by “I feel.”  We are no longer grounded in the truth from which we came.

I went back to what Venerable Fulton Sheen stated, that woman is the guardian of humanity.  He called her the “custodian of life.”    This is because in our very bodies, we are designed to give life.  Our bodies nourish and protect our children.  Even those of us who do not bear children, by our compassionate natures we are spiritual mothers to all of humanity. When we embrace womanhood, as it was designed, society is actually better.

But the devil tempts both men and women.  When Eve was tempted by the serpent, she was tempted in her human desires and she gave in.  But it wasn’t just her who fell. Adam was with her.  He took it and ate it too.  He did not guard God’s creation.  He did not keep the garden as he had been commanded to do.

And so we became corrupted.  Our purpose defiled.  And sin entered the world.  But God was not content to leave us apart from him.  He sent His Son Jesus to restore our purpose.  Jesus was the Word made flesh, once again, showing us the importance of words, of naming.  And what did Jesus do?  He re-instituted men as the Guardian of the Divine.
Christ in his fully human and fully divine nature was able to do this within himself. God in all his divinity came to this earth through the instrument of Christ’s human body. He did this 2000 years ago, but then continues to do this today through the church (body of Christ) in the Eucharist. He instituted the Priesthood to share in this role as guardians of the sacraments in which the divine grace flows out upon the faithful. Likewise he lifted up the man’s role in marriage and fatherhood by giving us insight into our Heavenly Father; the perfect example of a loving and good father, who creates, teaches, guards and protects his beloved children.

It is not by mistake that Jesus refers to God as Father. While we sit and watch this this role of fatherhood being attacked by our culture, whether it be through insults, divorce, extreme feminism, pornography, etc we watch also the divine life being attacked in the family. Jesus is no longer a living presence in the family as fathers are no longer guarding the divine life in their own domestic churches. It goes even further than that. Studies have shown that if the Father of a family goes to church and is spiritually practicing, his children will be way more likely to go to church as well than if only the mother goes to church.  The Father is the guardian of the Divine in his family. His role is important to the family because it was instituted by Christ. Jesus’ insight about his Father is all the evidence we need. Paul talks about the body of Christ and how if one part is hurting or lacking, the entire body suffers. This role of the father in the family cannot be replaced or replicated and when it is lacking the entire family suffers.

In the church herself we also see the marriage analogy.  The church is the bride of Christ, and He is the bridegroom.  We are faithful children.  We are sanctified with Sacramental grace through the Sacraments of the Church.  Our Priests are guardians of these Sacraments.  Priests have a duty to create, protect, teach, and guard the life of the church. They participate in the creative action of God through the sacraments, bringing divine life to the earth through their ordination. They teach us through their preaching of the gospel. Protect it through their prayers and guard it through their union with the Magisterium.

What we are seeing today is the Church being attacked from both the inside and the outside.  The secular world mocks the Priests, and inside of the church some of the Priests themselves, the ordained guardians of the church are getting lost in their pursuits. They have forgotten their role, which was instituted by Christ, to be guardians of the Divine. The priests bring us the divine life, through the sacraments, and they guard it so that it remains untainted by this world. When they stop guarding the church, and give into worldly desires or the changing winds of the culture, then the Divine, Jesus in the sacraments, is no longer protected by them and confusion and corruption ensue. The devil would love nothing more than to make Priests stop bringing us the Sacraments.  

Venerable Fulton Sheen stated that the level of society would be at the level of the woman. He said this because women tend to be more civilized and if they deteriorate, the men will only rise to the level the woman sets for him.  I am not one who would readily disagree with someone who I think will soon be a great Saint, but I would add a caveat to what he said. That when men no longer seek communion with the Divine, when men no longer guard the Divine in their hearts, then his assertion is correct.  But if men seek the Divine and guard it in their hearts, society will not only be great, but it will flourish.  But alas, when men don’t guard the divine, everything deteriorates.  We see women today submitting to the culture of sex and relinquishing their duty as guardians of humanity by participating in abortion.  They have bought into the culture of sex through their participation in pornography, contraception, stripping, revealing clothing, physical body enhancements, plastic surgery, prostitution and escorting. With this men have risen to the level of sex abusers, sex addicts, addicted to porn, molesters, etc. Both men and women have become objects to be used where the divine can scarcely be seen.

If we could learn only one thing, it’s that everything should flow from the Sacramental life.  When men guard the divine and women, guard humanity, we actually are living in the Divine will.  We must pray for our Priests who bring us Divine Life each week.  We must pray for men to be strong in faith.  Knocking down our men is how the devil gets a stronghold on society.  Knocking down our Priests is the devils ultimate goal, because he wants nothing more than to keep us from a Sacramental Life from where sanctifying grace flows.  



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Who do you need to forgive?


All bitterness, fury, anger, shouting, and reviling must be removed from you, along with all malice. And be kind to one another, compassionate, forgiving one another as God has forgiven you in Christ. Ephesians 4:31-32

A meditation on the Wounds of Christ by: Ashley Blackburn
Wound of Betrayal

O Jesus, you were sorely betrayed by one of your own apostles, Judas.  How this must have hurt your heart to the very core.  When I am betrayed or hurt by someone that I love and trust, it is hard for me to bear.  I am usually led to lash out, fight back, or get even.  But you did none of this, Jesus.  In order to show us the way, you choose to love.  This radical love is what you call us to today.  Jesus, help me when I experience betrayal.  Soften my heart so that I may show love and forgiveness to those who offend me.  


Spend time in silent prayer meditating


Wound of False Accusation

O Jesus, you were falsely accused with erroneous claims made against you. The irony is that you, the fulfillment of the Truth, were made out to be a deceiver.  Jesus, when I am falsely accused, it is hard for me to keep my peace.  Anger and fear usually well up within me and it is with these that I take action and fight to prove my innocence.  But Jesus you showed us another way; the way of love.  You were content knowing that with God all things will be brought into the light of the Truth.  Your accusers did not have the Truth, but it was not in the will of the Father for you to reveal that Truth to them at that time, for the fulfillment of the Truth was expressed in your crucifixion and resurrection.  Jesus, help me to overcome my emotions in order to follow your way of peace in times of trouble.  


Spend time in silent prayer meditating


Wound of Abandonment

O Jesus, you experienced abandonment from most of your followers, with the exception of your mother Mary, Mary Magdalene, and John the beloved disciple.  These three remained with you through your passion and death, while everyone else abandoned you and denied that they were once your followers.  Large crowds would gather to listen to you as you taught.  These same people would reach out to you to be healed and come to you in order for you to cast out demons.  Where were they all now?  Jesus, when I am abandoned or forgotten, I usually am led to feelings of sadness, unworthiness and even anger. But in your abandonment, you sowed peace and forgiveness; you chose to love even those who had hurt you so much.  This radical love is what you call us to today. Jesus, help me when I experience abandonment.  Soften my heart so that I may show love and forgiveness to those who have abandoned me.  


Spend time in silent prayer meditating


Wound of Scourging

O Jesus, the wounds of your scourging covered the entirety of your body; there were too many to count.  Blood poured from each of these wounds, covering your entire flesh.  It would have been hard to bear the sight of you, but the soldiers continued in their efforts to punish you despite your innocence.  Jesus, when I suffer from a physical injury or ailment, the pain is all I can think of. It captures my mind and my heart and I can do nothing except dwell on my suffering. Yet none of my pain compares to what you endured at the scourging. And despite your suffering, you chose to love. Although you could have stopped any or all of your passion and death, you chose to endure it, because it was the will of the Father.  This obedience to the Father is what you call us to today.  Jesus, help me when I experience physical pain and suffering.  Soften my heart so that I may show love despite my pain.  And teach me to offer up my pain as a prayer for others in need.


Spend time in silent prayer meditating


Wound of Insult & the Crown of Thorns

O Jesus, after being brutally scourged, you were then insulted, spit upon and publicly humiliated. They dressed you up in a purple tunic to mock your “kingship” and put a crown of thorns on your head. The thorns pressed deep into your head penetrating the skull.  Blood flowed down your face dripping over your eyes and nose, dripping over your lips and into you mouth.  All the while, the insults penetrated deep into your heart.  It was almost too much to bear, but you remained faithful to the Will of the Father, trusting that His plan would be brought to fulfillment.  This radical trust is what you call us to today.  Despite insults and humiliation, despite mental anguish and seeming failures, you are there for me as a constant source of love and healing.  May I always confidently turn to you, trusting in your providence.


Spend time in silent prayer meditating


Wound of the Right Shoulder

O Jesus, after enduring so much already, they then placed the heavy wooden cross upon your right shoulder and made you carry it with your frail, beaten, bloodied body up to Calvary.  They had no mercy.  Your passion was not yet complete. The pain and suffering was to continue, even though it seemed as if your human body could have taken no more.  But you took that next step, you chose to continue on in the midst of the horrendous circumstances. Jesus, how many times have I reached my limit and I chose to quit, to surrender to pity and defeat?  In the midst of your passion, you took that next step, under the weight of the heavy cross, trusting in the promise of the Father.  This wound of the right shoulder, where you bore the heavy cross, was the most painful.  In my own life, in the crosses that I am being asked to bear, may I always remember and unite mine to yours. Even after reaching what seemed to be your limit, you carried your heavy cross to calvary, for with God all things are possible.  He gives strength and an abundance of grace to those who trust beyond reason, clinging to their faith in their suffering.


Spend time in silent prayer meditating


Wound of the Hands


O Jesus, your hands were used for so much healing and so many miracles during your ministry.  Now they are being bound to the wood of the cross. The executioners stretched your arms apart, but in doing so they opened your heart to the world.  As we gaze at the crucifix today, we see you with arms outstretched, your loving arms just waiting to wrap themselves around us, comforting us in our suffering as you endured your own.  Despite the pain and suffering you were experiencing during the crucifixion, you offered only love and mercy. Jesus, may your love break us free of the sin that nails us down, so that by freeing our hands, may we use them for the building up of your Kingdom.


Spend time in silent prayer meditating


Wound of the Feet

O Jesus, your feet were rough, worn, and well traveled.  These same feet carried you from one town to the next in order to proclaim the Good News.  Now they are nailing your feet to the cross.  Binding them in hopes that you would no longer be able to continue your ministry.  But little did they know that after the resurrection, you were going to penetrate the hearts of all mankind. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, your ministry did not end, but only multiplied. Jesus, there are many times in my life where I feel bound, unable to make a change in my life or a difference in the world.  But we know that not even the crucifixion could stop your mission of salvation. Through our own acceptance and participation in the gifts of the Holy Spirit, we too are set free from the bondage of sin and death. Thank you Jesus for sending the Holy Spirit to be united with us in such an intimate way. May I always desire to do your will, despite the obstacles that may be in my way.


Spend time in silent prayer meditating


Wound of the Side & the Heart

Your crucifixion was complete.  It was only a matter of time before you breathed your last.  The onlookers continued to insult you, even in your most vulnerable state.  The words you spoke on the cross are a powerful witness to us “Father forgive them for they know not what they do”.  How hard it is to forgive those who have offended me, and especially those who I know will continue to offend me or those who have no guilt for what they have done. But you showed us a great example on the cross. Your radical forgiveness was not just for you to do once, but for us to imitate in our own lives.  It is only through your grace that we are able to forgive and it is forgiveness that heals our Hardness of Heart.  


Then you breathed your last breath and the soldier took his spear and dug it into your side.  Water and your most Precious Blood flowed out from this wound.  Jesus, when we come to you and standing at the foot of your cross, place all our worries, fears, concerns, sufferings, and loved ones at your feet, it is in that moment of surrender that we are washed clean with the lifegiving water and saved by your sacrificial love that is poured out for us through the precious blood.  Jesus, come to my aid in my pain and suffering, for I am unable to endure it alone.


Spend time in silent prayer meditating


Triumphant Wound

After the resurrection, your wounds did not disappear, for Thomas looked upon the wounds in your hands and put his hand into your side. These wounds will forever be a part of the story of our salvation.  They remain as a sign of your triumphant win over sin and death. How often do I long for my past hurts to disappear?  The pain of them seems to be too much to carry with me.  But in union with your resurrection, we too are able to conquer sin and death.  We are able to gain victory over our past hurts and offenses.  For it is through the resurrection that your wounds were renewed.  They now allow the light of salvation to shine through them, pouring out graces upon all of humanity.

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The path of Reparation

The endurance of darkness is preparation for great light. -Saint John of the Cross

A few weeks back I went to the mall for the first time in a long while, as the mall has never really been my thing. I was struck by the starkness of sin that has so overtaken the secular world, so much so, that I would venture to say most people don’t even recognize it. As I sat in the middle of our monuments to sex, beauty, materialism and status and I looked at the souls around me, God whispered, “these are my people, they can be converted, pray for them.” I came home and I did just that, I prayed for them.

Within a couple of days I also saw poison arrows of legalism being shot at people over the internet, as if to say, God’s Love cannot venture beyond a box of rules and He will stop loving you if you don’t fit neatly inside this box. God whispered, “these are my people, they can be converted, pray for them.” And I did just that, I prayed for them.

My heart felt overwhelmed and sad. God whispered, “the road is narrow.

I pondered this statement about the narrow road as I have many times before. It seems to me people are falling off to the left and to the right. There appears to me to be three paths. The one to the right lives principally by rules and laws but shows no compassion or love of neighbor. They are fixated on being “right” at all costs instead of being loving. The path to the left has no rules or laws and claims to love but has fallen prey to a false mercy that has no truth and is morally relative. Both of these paths lead to perdition.

The narrow road in the middle is the path of Christ and it leads to resurrection but not before laying on the cross. It holds fast not to political ideologies or cultural headwinds of perceived correctness, it holds fast to truth in love.

This path, this third way, is the path of reparation. This is the path of true love. This path is where a soul stops thinking of only himself or herself. They stop thinking of being right at all costs or feeling good at all costs. This soul recognizes that true love doesn’t depend on feelings. This soul thinks of the other and the well-being of the other. This soul wants heaven for others regardless of the cost to themselves in this world.

For me personally the journey to this recognition has been long. You cannot take this journey without first receiving the healing that God wants to give you. This requires letting go of hurts and getting to the root causes of your own personal sin, especially the repetitive ones. If you scrupulously follow rules and look down on others, you are attached to the sin of Pride and are like the Pharisees. If you accept whatever feels good, this being especially prevalent sexually today, you fall prey to many sins like lust and power, and you may find yourself like Herodias asking for the head of John the Baptist. This is why self examination and confession are so key in living a life of virtue.

The soul that self examines, repents and confesses can rest securely in God’s love for them, knowing that even in each failure they have, the God of the Universe still intimately loves them. They keep the lines of communication open with God and they repent and confess when necessary. God lifts them up to live a Sacramental Life. A Eucharistic Life of thanksgiving and sacrifice.

I had a conversation with God the other day about all the sin that is so starkly displayed in the world today and how overwhelming it is. He whispered only one word to me, “Reparation.” I have to be honest here and tell you that this is a word that I used to strongly dislike. When I used to read about Saints that performed mortification I thought they were crazy. And again, if you aren’t resting securely in God’s love for you and you’re performing mortification to follow a rule, I actually think it could be damaging, that’s why healing is so key on your journey with God. But over time, these Saints have become less and less crazy to me and have become, well, how should I say it? More Saintly. This is because I finally recognized what Reparation was. It is the acceptance of undeserved suffering and offering it for another. Isn’t that what Christ did? Isn’t that how we can be like him? Won’t this help us receive him?

I find that you don’t have to go looking for suffering to offer up, though you certainly can. But one way or the other suffering finds you. It is here in these everyday sufferings that we can change the world. Instead of thinking only of ourselves and complaining we can offer it up and unite it to the cross. We can suffer well, in thanksgiving.

This is something I have very much struggled with. But I had a moment with God this week. I wasn’t even sure what was happening to me. You see I am pretty sure I have the flu. And I was laying on my couch with awful tightness in my chest, coughing, fever, body aches and weakness. And the strangest thing happened. I experienced being grateful for it. It’s like God was showing me all these times in my past when I suffered tremendously and the suffering changed my trajectory and led me to where I am today. Without the suffering I would not have the family I have today, I would have chosen differently. And it was as if I could definitively see HIS PLAN IS BETTER. Then I thought if He used my suffering to make my own life better, how much could he use it to make others lives better. Every cough, every ache offered for another. If He can use it to help stop one person from falling into an abyss then the suffering is worth it. Like a man on a cross taking away the sins of others.

I have always understood we should be grateful in all things, but I usually complain anyway, and lament my situation. Today I want to rest in the gratitude and pray that in the future to come I consistently recognize this no matter how I feel.

So in these times when I see people inside the church lead people astray with false love not bound to truth or with overzealous legalism, or I see people outside the church attacking her, remember the narrow road. It is a road of true love that follows rules as a response to love and offers reparation. Use your suffering to pray for other souls who need it. That’s what Christ did and in doing so you will have Him in you.

I believe the devil knows his time is short and because of this he is manifesting more and more. Sin has become more transparent. Things will get worse before they get better. So offer up your sufferings because it helps build God’s Kingdom. And know things will get better because Christ has already won the Victory.

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Unclean Spirits, Repentance and True Conversion


“He called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. He ordered them to take nothing for their journey except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money in their belts; but to wear sandals and not to put on two tunics.  He said to them, “Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave the place.  If any place will not welcome you and they refuse to hear you, as you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them.”  So they went out and proclaimed that all should repent.  They cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.” – Mark 6:7-13

By: Ashley Blackburn and Susan Skinner

When Jesus sent the 12 apostles out two by two, he did two things; He gave them authority over the unclean spirits and he commissioned them to “preach repentance.”  Jesus goes on to tell the apostles that when they were not welcomed by a household that they were to shake the dust from their sandals and then move on to another household.  But if they were welcomed they were to stay there.

This gospel is reflecting on something Jesus did for these specific men, but as we know the bible is the Living Word of God, and so we are to ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to us what this story means for us today.  I believe that Jesus is speaking here about conversion.  Not only is he commissioning us to stand up for the gospel and be unafraid to speak the light of truth in the darkness of the world, but he is also giving us insight as to the movement of the Holy Spirit in the conviction of souls.

First of all, in order to preach repentance, we must know the truth that was revealed to us in the event of Jesus Christ.  Truth is in Jesus and it is for us.  We can be secure in it when we follow the teachings of the Scriptures and the Magisterium.  The Apostles knew truth because they knew Jesus, this includes Saint Paul to whom Jesus revealed himself. They were armored with, “the belt of truth around [their] waist and… the breastplate of righteousness” (Ephesians 6:14).  We too must armor ourselves in this way in order to resist the danger of giving into the sin of others and creating a morally relative world where the devil thrives.  WE MUST PRAY prayers of protection.  We must, through prayer and the power of Christ, drive out unclean spirits of those who are willing to listen, who want a better life.  We particularly have this authority over family members.  As a mother, I can pray over my children and my husband.  This doesn’t mean we are exorcists, as that is reserved for Priests alone,  it simply means we are asking God to deliver our loved ones from any evil that could be influencing them.   We can never underestimate the power of prayer, and we should not forget this.  All action we take must flow forth, first and foremost, from prayer to assure we are doing God’s will.  The most efficacious prayer of all is the Mass, and we also have adoration, the Rosary, and many other devotions.  

When we are seeking the will of God and are open to allowing the truth to penetrate our hearts and change our person, we will walk closely with the Holy Spirit; drawing strength and courage from the breath of life.  This union with the Spirit is not one that we gain in one moment and then possess for the rest of our lives, but is a continual dance between heaven and earth.  The Holy Spirit in all reality cannot be contained.  What we must strive to do is to remain open to receiving this Spirit through consistent prayer and the Sacraments. When we are drawing from this wellspring of the Spirit, we will then be able to go out to the world and share this gift that we have received with others. The Holy Spirit inspires us to bring the good news to the world through our intercessory prayers for others, through our words, and through our actions.  

It is only then, after preparing our hearts for this commissioning from Jesus and armoring ourselves with the truth, that we are ready to head out into the world to preach repentance for the conversion of hearts. When we walk among the people, we must always walk in truth with charity and mercy.  Before sending out the Apostles, Jesus prepared them for the two responses that they would get; people would either welcome them or reject them.  In our efforts too, we must be aware of these same two responses. We will no doubt come across those who are not ready to hear the truth.  Oftentimes these men and women have a deeply rooted sin or un-forgiveness that is deafening them from hearing the Word of God revealed to them.  Jesus tells the Apostles to shake the dust from their sandals and move on because he knows that the Spirit cannot enter someone who is unwilling or unable to receive it. In the gospels we hear of Jesus forgiving sins, healing, and driving out demons in people who were coming to him for help; those who were open to his gifts of healing, forgiveness and deliverance.  Jesus only acted in those who believed in his message and who were ready to receive the spirit. Many people followed Jesus during his ministry and many people were healed.  The Pharisees also followed Jesus, listening to his proclamation of the Kingdom, his call to repentance, and watching him perform many miracles along the way.  But due to their hardness of heart, the Pharisees remained unchanged and unforgiven. Jesus, who is all merciful and loving, would have no doubt healed them if only they would have repented and asked for his healing. It is souls such as these, who we will also come across, who are living with a hardened heart, who will reject or be unable to hear the message of truth being proclaimed to them.  

But our mission doesn’t end there.  We are called to reach out to people and meet them where they are, but we are not called to leave them there or help them to rationalize why they are in their particular situation.  We must pray for the Holy Spirit to continually work in people’s lives.  When we venture into situations where extreme sin abounds, we must know that where there is grave sin, there is actually evil there.  As Pope Paul VI said in General Audience in 1972 about evil; “evil is not merely an absence of something, but an active force, a living, spiritual being that is perverted and perverts others.”  This is precisely why Jesus commanded the Apostles to drive out unclean spirits.  It is Satan who is our enemy, the person we are ministering to is not.  When we understand this, we are able to look at others through the eyes of compassion and know how to pray for them.  

We must be specific in our prayers. Asking the Holy Spirit to convict their hearts and lead them back to Jesus and the truth through the full recognition and sorrow for their sins. The only way in which repentance can take place is within souls who are open to the movement of the Holy Spirit in their lives, for if we reject the Holy Spirit (typically out of fear of what it will “cost” us), we reject conversion.  It seems silly to think that a soul would reject the Holy Spirit, but when we take a closer look at what accepting the Spirit actually means for our lives, we will quickly see how fear and doubt can quickly set in.  When the Spirit shines a light on our soul, illuminating the uncleanliness that has been living in the darkest crevices of our soul, we can experience feelings of shame, hurt, fear, anxiety, distrust and more.  If we let these feelings overtake us, we will get stuck there and do anything we can to hide our sin again in the darkness. But when we are capable and ready to take that next step toward conversion, that commitment to “sin no more” (John 5:14; 1 Corinthians 15:34), we will remain on the journey that Christ is calling us to.

It can be very hard to take that next step toward conversion.  Often times the sins being revealed to us through the illumination of the Holy Spirit, whether it is being done privately in prayer or through conversation with someone who is proclaiming the truth, are the ones that require a radical change in our lives.  This change would not only affect our own lives, but many times it would also affect others as well.  The Spirit is calling us to only take that next step on the journey, but with the promise that we will be guided along the way.  We must turn to God and ask for his Grace to carry us through.  The ultimate goal is to eventually live differently, but in the moment of conviction, it would do us well to stop before we react, to ponder things in our heart, much like our Blessed Mother did, and to lift up our cares and concerns to the Lord, letting him guide us in his gentleness and kindness.

In the moment, the soul is oftentimes faced with a very tough decision. Will I continue to live as I was living with this new understanding of the truth that has been either spoken in my heart or spoken by another? Or will I bravely and boldly allow the Spirit to reside in my soul, to continue to illuminate my darkness, and for Jesus to come in and heal me in this place?  When we choose the former – to slide back into business as usual – we are actually rejecting the Holy Spirit.  We are telling the Spirit that it is not welcome in our soul, preferring to place our sin back in the darkness where it can be hidden away.  Then, as if on cue, we instantly move toward the justification of our sin.  We tell God and everyone else why this sin is ok for us based upon our unique circumstances.  This is actually blaspheming the Holy Spirit.  For when we are rejecting what the Spirit has revealed to us, we are in essence saying that the Holy Spirit was wrong.  If we go to our death with this conviction that the Holy Spirit is wrong, we separate ourselves eternally from God, and this is the unforgivable sin.

But God does not want to let us go to our death rejecting the Spirit.  If we are open, this is never the end of the story, for God does not leave us in this.  Through the mercy of God the Father and through the sacrificial love of the Son Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit will again and again try to penetrate our soul.  The Blessed Trinity will never give up on us and will continue to work toward our conversion.  This is the promise of our Heavenly Father.  The Father who loves us, who sees us as who we were when he created us, and who will have the potential to become.  We must never forget that we are all beloved sons and daughters of a GOOD Father.

Conversely, when we choose to repent and change our ways, we no doubt will face a tough road ahead, full of persecution and other hardships.  But with all persecution and suffering, an equal amount of Grace is given.  St. Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 12:9 “but he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.’ So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.” St. Paul is a witness for us on conversion.  After viciously attacking the Church for years, the light of Christ illuminated his soul and he was convicted of his sins (persecuting the Church).  Paul chose conversion.  He chose to listen to the Spirit and to follow the will of God, even if that meant it was going to lead him to places he would never have imagined.  Paul teaches us that we can endure all things, because the Grace of God accompanies us when we choose to follow the will of God, despite all odds.

If you are struggling with family member who is steeped in sin, make sure you yourself are armed with truth, that you have confessed your own sins to a Priest. Remember that you are there to listen and to proclaim the truth.  Leave the convicting to the Holy Spirit!  It was St. Bernadette who was quoted to have said, “My job is to inform, not to convince.”  Browbeating a loved one that you are “right” and they are “sinners” will not work.  Be grounded in the truth, speak it with love and gentleness, and leave the conviction to the Paraclete.  Then you can pray, “Holy Spirit, convict them so strongly that you interrupt their day and bring them to their knees so that they repent right now.”  Then expect the Holy Spirit to act, because that’s what He does.  Lives can be changed, and hope abounds because God has already won the Victory.  

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Right to Life – Respect Life

Sarah (2)

“The Spirit of God has made me, And the breath of the Almighty gives me life.” Job 33:4

As we approach the 45th Anniversary of Roe v. Wade, I thought it appropriate to post a piece my friend, Mathilde Mellon wrote.  Mathilde runs a non-profit called Mulier Care.  She is on the front lines helping abortion minded women choose life by caring for them and their child.

By: Mathilde Mellon

We were in the car on the way back from a client’s house.  My son was eight years old.   We had been in the client’s house for about an hour having tea and I had helped assemble a crib and teach the young girl to swaddle her child.

He was very quiet.  We drove for a ways, as we were quite a distance from our house.  Finally, he asked: “How does an 11 year old girl get pregnant when she is not married?”  And so it began.  This is how it is on the front lines of the pro-life movement.

How did we get here, and what do we do if we are not on the front lines?

We, as parents, teachers, Catechists, pastors, and responsible Catholics, have a responsibility to begin the conversation about the sanctity of life and the dignity of women at the very moment we speak to young people about morality and sexuality.  The decline in the morality of our young people and of the use of contraception, of pornography and ultimately of abortion is precisely due to the breakdown of the family and of the lack of clear communication about sanctity of life. What role do we play?

Respect for life begins at home.  The first life we need to respect is the life of Christ. How do we do that?  We go to Mass.  Not attending Mass draws us further away from Christ and weakens our relationship with God.  It communicates to our children that the celebration of the Eucharist in unimportant and no longer needs to be the center of our lives.  Not attending Mass cheapens the sacrifice God made for us, and demonstrates a lack of respect for the life of Christ.  Pope Francis recently reminded Christians that we go to Mass on Sunday to meet the resurrected Lord – or better still – “to let ourselves be welcomed by Him, to hear His word, eat at His table, and by his grace fulfill our mission as members of the Mystical Body of the Church.”     As part of the Mystical Body of Christ, we are bound by love to respect life.  Respect life.  Respect Christ on earth.

We should respect our own lives.  Overindulging in alcohol, food, unhealthy living and those habits which are contrary to Christian values demonstrates a lack of respect for our own bodies and for our lives in general.  The example we set for our children is one they will imitate for the rest of their lives.  The respect we give ourselves should mimic the love that Christ has for us.  If our children do not see us reflect the love of Christ in our actions toward ourselves, they will not learn the love that Christ has for them.  Respect life.  Respect our own life.

We need to respect the family unit.  We draw away from this family as we give more time to distraction.  When we allow technology, social media, outside influences and other distractions to draw us away from the family, we break up the life of the family.  Is it any surprise that our families suffer from high rates of adultery and divorce?  Saint John Paul II outlines in his Evangelium Vitae: “The family has a special role to play throughout the life of its members, from birth to death.  It is truly the ‘sanctuary of life: the place in which life – the gift of God – can be properly welcomed and protected against the many attacks to which it is exposed, and can develop accordance with what constitutes authentic human growth.’  Consequently the role of the family in building a culture of life is decisive and irreplaceable.”  Respect life.  Respect the family unit.

We need to respect our clergy.  We have become a judgmental flock.  Sometimes we are critical of our Pontiff and of our good shepherds.  Instead of praying for our priests, we pick apart their shortcomings and focus on their actions instead of their ability to bring Christ’s love to us.  We should encourage, support, and love our spiritual leaders.  They have given their lives for the Church and are working to save our souls.  They are human and deserve our respect. As Paul wrote, “Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may run swiftly and be glorified, just as it is with you, and that we may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men; for not all have faith.” (2 Thes 3:1-2) Respect life.  Respect our Church leaders.

We must respect each other.   Our Catechism says: “Respect for the human person proceeds by way of respect for the principle that ‘everyone should look upon his neighbor (without any exception) as ‘another self,’ above all bearing in mind his life and the means necessary for living it with dignity. No legislation could by itself do away with the fears, prejudices, and attitudes of pride and selfishness which obstruct the establishment of truly fraternal societies. Such behavior will cease only through the charity that finds in every man a ‘neighbor,’ a brother.”  We are all part of the Mystical Body of Christ with Jesus as the head.  Should we cut off a member of this Body?  Should we treat one part of this Body with disrespect?  Respect life.  Respect the lives of others.

We must not be silent on the issues of life.  We must be vocal in our homes, in our schools and in our churches. Again, Saint John Paul II tells us that the “Service of the Gospel of life is thus an immense and complex task…no single person or group has a monopoly on the defense and promotion of life.”

We are all called to bear witness to the meaning of genuine love, to the gift of self and the acceptance of others, to parenthood or to the family, to every interpersonal relationship and to the community of the Mystical Body of Christ.  We are asked to recognize the dignity of the personhood and the dignity of human life, and to labor to that defense and to the proclamation of the gospel of life.  As Saint John Paul II so poignantly states in Mulieris Dignitatem, as part of the Church, we “assume a common responsibility for the destiny of humanity.” Respect life.  Proclaim the respect for life.

If you would like to make a donation to Mulier Care you can visit their website at http://www.muliercare.org/

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