Offer up the good stuff, too

Recently I was talking to a friend of ours, a member of Opus Dei, and asked her to pray for a sick relative of mine.  She said, “I’m going to a party this weekend, I’ll offer it up for her – you can offer up the good stuff, too.”

That’s a beautiful response and it’s so Catholic!  The world has a gloomy stereotype of Catholicism: sour old nuns flogging themselves; poor, miserable people trying to placate an angry God. They would have you believe that rigid abnegation and utilitarianism is something that belongs to Catholics.  It is so very un-Catholic! The truth is that only in Catholicism can you find a true, right, holy joy in all of creation, a delightful gratitude for all that God made, for indeed it is very good.

The Church loves life.  She loves this amazing world God created out of love for us. She understands the human spirit, the human heart, that the soul needs Lent and Advent, but it also needs the joy of Easter and Christmas, too.  Or, as Theresa of Avila put it, “There’s a time for penance and a time for partridge.”

So as you live out your daily routine, don’t forget that you can offer up your trials and pains and sufferings, but you can also offer up your joys and your ice cream cones, too.  Jesus wants it all!  He cares about every detail of your life, more than your mind can fathom. Our happiness, the joy we take in life’s pleasures, can be efficacious, too, when we offer it God with a grateful heart.

The Big Lie

Hitler’s PR man, Joseph Goebbels, once said:

“If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.  The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.”

Chilling isn’t it!

Truth, the mortal enemy of the lie! Mr Goebbels got it right. He understood absolutely, albeit from the most horrible of perspectives, that truth, scours, strips away, exposes and of course, ultimately kills, the big ugly lie, in what ever form it presents itself.

The Lie, from its first appearance in the garden, slithering down through the centuries, spreading it’s deadly venom, is met by God’s Antidote, the Very Author of  Truth, which crushes it dead.

I know, that’s a bit melodramatic, but you get my point!

And we all know that great deceiver from of old is still alive and well, roaming about, and latching on to any one who will listen to his deception. And he’s done a fairly good job of it, too.

Truth these days, it seems, is a rare commodity.  It’s a hard thing to come by in the media, in hollywood, in politics. Even within the Church are those who pretend to have Her best interests at heart, while injuring Her with their lies about Her teaching.

We, following in Jesus’ footsteps, can in a smaller way, be the antidote, the leaven, the salt, but we only succeed to the extent that we live in the truth, in Him.

And it doesn’t mean that speaking the truth is a protection from suffering.  Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Sophie Scholl, Edith Stein, to name a few, were ones who followed their Master into the very jaws of death.  It still happens today to Christians all over the world.

We, like them, must be courageous with the courage that comes from God, speaking the truth in season and out.  If we are faithful to living in truth now, we can be certain that one day we will meet Truth Himself face to face and hear Him say, “Well done, good and faithful servant, enter into your Master’s joy.”

The Battle of the Cross: Lepanto

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“You have come to fight the battle of the Cross – to conquer or to die.  But whether you die or conquer, do your duty this day, and you will secure a glorious immortality.”  — Don John of Austria to his men before the Battle of Lepanto

Don John calling through the blast and the eclipse

Crying with the trumpet, with the trumpet of his lips,

Trumpet that sayeth ha!

Domino gloria!

Don John of Austria

Is shouting to the ships!

If you read a lot of Catholic blogs this is probably not the first time today you’ve seen lines from GK Chesterton’s poem Lepanto, his greatest work, which tells the story of that historic battle fought Sunday, October 7, 1571.  If, by chance, you’ve never read the entire poem, you must do so, but to get the full benefit you really need to do it out loud.  The pounding meter, like the hooves of a galloping war horse, lifts you out of ‘today’, and onto the gore-drenched decks of the Christian fleet.  If it’s still too early in the day for blood and smoke and cannons, then you might want to wait until later.

Though it happened almost 450 years ago, the Battle of Lepanto is still relevant today.  It forever altered the course of history, changing the future of Europe, and thus the future of our own nation.  Our challenges today are not that different from those of the Christians who fought so valiantly in that decisive battle.

At that time the advancing Ottoman Empire was preparing to sack Rome.  Pope Pius V had been urging Europe to unite and face this threat, but received little help.  Understanding that, above all, this was a spiritual battle, a “clash of creeds” with very high stakes, the Pope urged the faithful to fast and pray, stressing the importance of the Rosary, for the success of The Holy League (formed by Spain, Venice and the Papal States), whom he was sending forth to meet the Turkish fleet at sea.

Every man on board the Christian vessels had been given a Rosary; their prayers, united with those of the faithful across Europe, stormed heaven, beseeching God for victory. Against all odds, and thanks in no small part to a miraculous change of winds, the smaller Christian fleet defeated the much larger Turkish fleet in one of the greatest naval battles ever to take place.  Hundreds of miles away in the Vatican, at Don John’s hour of victory, Pope Pius V was granted a vision of the Holy League’s success.  He later declared a feast in honor of the victory, and in thanksgiving for Our Lady’s intercession, which we know today as the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary.

The battle we must wage today, against the culture of death, is no less important; the future of countless generations hangs on its outcome.  This battle gives us an incredible opportunity to foster unity.  The very real threats to religious liberty have prompted many non-Catholics to say “we are all Catholic now”, pointing out that all Christians must now stand or fall together.

 Like the Holy League so many centuries ago, it may seem as though we face insurmountable odds. We have already seen the light of the west dimmed in Europe, which has fallen to secularism. Prayer is still our greatest weapon; prayer and personal holiness, and actions animated by our prayer life: these are the weapons that will win the battle.  We already know Who wins the war.

 If you want your own copy of Lepanto, I highly recommend the edition published by Ignatius Press, from which I have taken some of my quotes.  It includes fantastic explanatory notes and commentary, plus essays on the  historical background, the battle itself, its aftermath (which, believe it or not, we still feel today), essays by GKC, and more.

33 Days of Prayer for Religious Freedom

Please join us during our 33 Days of Prayer for Religious Freedom.

Beginning on October 4th, the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi, and ending November 6th, Election Day, we will be praying especially for our Nation.

Pope Benedict XVI recently spoke of Religious Liberty as the “Most Cherished of American Freedoms.”  Sadly, this freedom is truly under attack; therefore as Catholics we must pray and act to protect this fundamental right.

Every Christian therefore knows well that he must do all he can, but that the final result depends on God: this awareness sustains him in his daily effort, especially in difficult situations.

Pope Benedict XVI

This is a time not only to discern what it means to vote Catholic, but an opportunity to reflect on what it means to be Catholic!

Together may we use these days before the National Elections to:

Pray, Fast, Read, Study, Learn, and Educate!

St. Ignatius of Loyola wrote in this regard: “Act as though everything depended on you, but in the knowledge that really everything depends on God.”