“Just another guy with a blog.  No big whoop.”

September 30, 2010

Could your child use a $23,000 scholarship from Belmont Abbey College? If so, act now!

That's right. There's some serious "money on the table" right now for college-bound Catholic kids who apply early for the Belmont Abbey College "Hintemeyer Catholic Leadership Program." The scholarship amount is normally $17,000, but if you apply before October 20, 2010, under the college's "early decision" program, you may be eligible to receive an additional $3000 in scholarship money if selected for the program. So, click here to apply today and start the ball rolling. You don't want to miss out on this big of a possible financial break for your child's college expenses, now do you?

Belmont Abbey College is also offering an early decision for those who apply before October 20, 2010, for its Honors Fellowship. Those who are chosen for this program will be eligible for up to $23,000 in scholarship money!

On a personal note, my wife and I are thrilled to have our 20 year-old daughter, Madeline, as a student at Belmont Abbey College. (I am the director the Envoy Institute of Belmont Abbey College). Madeline is in her second year there, is a member of the Hintemeyer Program, and she absolutely loves the school's thoroughly Catholic, Christ-centered, and intellectually stimulating milieu.

I believe in the mission of Belmont Abbey College, and those who know me (or who follow me on Twitter or Facebook or who listen to my "Open Line" radio program, Thursdays from 3-5 p.m. ET) know how heartily and how often I promote it. And you know I wouldn't, if I didn't believe in it.

But you don't have to just take my word for it. Go to Belmont Abbey College's website right now and take a virtual tour of the beautiful campus, check out their academic programs, see their majestic Abbey basilica, the beautiful 24-hour Eucharistic chapel (truly the heart of the campus), and take a look at their massive competitive sports program.

Don't delay. Apply today for an "early decision" for your son or daughter for a $20,000 Hintemeyer Catholic Leadership scholarship or for a $23,000 Honors Fellowship at Belmont Abbey College.

That scholarship money is there on the table right now, waiting for those who act swiftly and apply before October 20, 2010. Don't be left out!

September 29, 2010

I'm sorry, but this "Homsechooler's Wish List" rubs me the wrong way

Deborah Markus, the woman who wrote this, may be a very nice lady, a fantastic writer,  and a joy to be around in person. I don't know, as I've never heard of her before I saw her "wish list" posted today on the New Advent super site. But speaking as a parent who has home schooled 11 children for 20 years now (actually, it is my lovely wife Nancy who has done all the work in that department, but since the Bible says that in marriage "the two become one," I guess I can qualify for  some double-billing on this), I found her wish list  list of demands tiresome and mildly irritating.

It appears that she was aiming to capture all the standard hangups, misconceptions, and prejudices that many non-homeschooling people have toward homeschooling (I get satire, I really do), but I'm afraid it comes off as simply querulous and captious, rather than clever and funny. Who knows? It's possible that she didn't intend it to be humorous, in which case she succeeded. The title, after all, is "A Bitter Homeschooler's Wish List."

But, come on. What's to be bitter about? Who cares if some people don't understand and ask lame questions? I don't. Over the last 30 years or so of raising children, I've heard plenty of awkward and even disparaging comments from people who don't understand why anyone would have more than two children, much less 11. But so what? True, their silly comments have at times astonished me and even made me laugh at the absurdity of what was being said, but they never angered me or made me bitter. The reason is that I just don't care if they don't like large families. I just don't care. And practically all the couples we know who have large families don't care either.

Similarly, Nancy and I and the many homeschooling couples we've known over the years aren't a bit bothered by (much less bitter about) the various deprecatory comments and attitudes which Mrs. Markus complains about in her list.

Maybe someone should write a "wish list" for the things homeschooling parents should and shouldn't do so as not to give the world the impression that homeschoolers are bunch of defensive, cranky, complainers. Most of us aren't.

September 28, 2010

Did Martin Luther believe in the Immaculate Conception of Mary?

Here's a recent tidbit from Taylor Marshall's blog that will likely raise a few eyebrows, pique a few sensitivities, and elicit a few comments around Christian blogdom, from both sides of the Tiber.

 Marshall says:

It seems that Martin Luther, that once Augustinian priest turned Revolutionary, upheld belief in the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception (even before it was declared a dogmatic doctrine in 1854 by Pope Pius IX). The doctrine of the Immaculate Conception holds that Mary was preserved from original sin at her conception and from all sin during her life — that she was conceived, lived, and died without any taint of sin.

The eminent Lutheran scholar Arthur Carl Piepkorn (1907-73) has also confirmed that Luther believed in the Immaculate Conception even as a Protestant. Here is Martin Luther in his own words:
"It is a sweet and pious belief that the infusion of Mary’s soul was effected without original sin; so that in the very infusion of her soul she was also purified from original sin and adorned with God’s gifts, receiving a pure soul infused by God; thus from the first moment she began to live she was free from all sin" 
- Martin Luther's Sermon "On the Day of the Conception of the Mother of God," 1527.
"She is full of grace, proclaimed to be entirely without sin—something exceedingly great. For God’s grace fills her with everything good and makes her devoid of all evil. 
- Martin Luther's Little Prayer Book, 1522.
Both quotations derive from Luther's writings after his break from Rome.
Far be it from me to approve of Luther. I only list these quotes to show how far Protestantism has come from it's quasi-Catholic origin. If only Lutherans would return to this single doctrine of their founder; how quickly our Lady would turn them into true Catholics! (continue reading . . .)

Discerning the Diabolical Spirit

The Diabolical Spirit
By Fr. Jordan Aumann, O.P. (RIP)

Normally diabolical influence on the individual Christian is restricted to simple temptation, although it is not likely that the majority of temptations proceed from the immediate and direct intervention of the devil. At other times, with God's permission, the devil may concentrate his power on an individual by means of diabolical obsession or diabolical possession.

Diabolical Obsession. Obsession occurs whenever the devil torments a person from without and in a manner that is so intense that there can be no doubt about his presence and his action. In simple temptation the diabolical action is not so evident; absolutely speaking, it could be due to other causes. But in true and authentic obsession, the presence and activity of Satan are so clear and unequivocal that neither the soul nor the director can have the least doubt of it. The soul is aware of its own vital activity and government of its faculties, but it is at the same time clearly aware of the external activity of Satan, who tries to exert violence on the individual.

Obsession can affect the interior faculties, especially the imagination, or the external senses in various manners and degrees. The attack on the imagination differs from ordinary temptation only by reason of its violence and duration. Although it is difficult to determine exactly where simple temptation ends and true obsession begins, we can say that when the disturbance of the soul is so profound and the tendency to evil is so violent that the only possible explanation lies in some external force (even when there is nothing evident externally), it is certainly a case of diabolical obsession. It can take many different forms.

Sometimes it is manifested as a fixed idea that absorbs all the energies of the soul; at other times the images and representations are so vivid that the subject feels that he or she is dealing with concrete reality. Again, it may refer to one's duties and obligations, toward which one feels an almost insuperable repugnance, or it may be manifested by a vehement desire for something one is obliged to avoid.

This seizure has repercussions in the emotional life because of the intimate relation between the emotions and the cognitive faculties. The soul, even in spite of itself, finds itself filled with obsessive images that arouse doubt, resentment, anger, antipathy, hatred, despair, or dangerous tenderness and an inclination to sensuality. The best remedy against such assaults is prayer, accompanied by true humility, self-disdain, confidence in God, the protection of Mary, the use of the sacramentals, and obedience to one's director, from whom none of these things should be hidden.

Bodily obsession is usually more spectacular, but in reality it is less dangerous than internal obsession, although the two normally occur together. External obsession can affect any of the external senses, and there are numerous examples of this in the lives of the saints. The eye is filled with diabolical apparitions. Sometimes they are very pleasant, as when Satan transforms himself into an angel of light to deceive the soul and fill it with sentiments of vanity, self complacence, etc. By these and similar effects the soul will recognize the presence of the enemy. At other times Satan may appear in horrible and frightening forms in order to terrify the servants of God and to withdraw them from the practice of virtue, as one can discover in the lives of numerous saints. Or the devil may present himself in a voluptuous, form in order to tempt souls to evil.

Other senses besides sight are also affected. The ear is tormented with frightful sounds and shouts, with blasphemy and obscenities, or with voluptuous songs and music to arouse sensuality. The sense of smell sometimes perceives the most pleasant odors or an unbearable stench. The sense of taste is affected in various ways. Sometimes the devil arouses feelings of gluttony by producing a sensation of the most delicious food or most exquisite liquors the individual has never actually tasted. But usually he arouses a most bitter taste in the food that is taken, or he mixes repulsive objects with the food so that it would be dangerous or impossible to swallow or to digest.

Finally, the sense of touch, which is diffused throughout the whole body, can be subjected in countless ways to the influence of the devil. Sometimes there are terrible blows upon the body; at other times there are sensations of voluptuous embraces or caresses; or God may permit that his servant be tested by extreme experiences of sensuality, without any consent on the part of the one who suffers these things. Obsession may be due to any one of the following causes:

1. The permission of God, who wishes thereby to test the virtue of a soul and to increase its merits. In this sense it is equivalent to a passive trial or a mystical night of the soul.

2. The envy and pride of the devil, who cannot bear the sight of a soul that is trying to sanctify itself and to glorify God to the best of its ability, thereby leading a great number of other souls to salvation or perfection.

3. The natural predisposition of the person obsessed, which gives the devil an occasion to attack the individual at his weakest point. This reason is of no value in regard to external obsession, which has; nothing to do with the temperament or natural predispositions of the obsessed, but it is valid for internal obsession, which finds a fertile soil in a melancholy temperament or in one inclined to scruples, anxiety, or sadness. Nevertheless, however violent the obsession, it never deprives the subject of liberty, and with the grace of God he or she can always overcome it and even derive benefit from it. It is only for this reason that God permits it.

One needs much discretion and perspicacity to distinguish true obsession from the various kinds of nervous illnesses and mental unbalances that are very similar to it. It would be foolish to deny the reality of diabolical action in the world, especially sine it is expressly mentioned in the sources of revelation and has been proved countless times by the experiences of many saints. In modem times there has been a tendency to exaggerate the purely natural causes of all phenomena, and perhaps the greatest victory of the devil is that he has succeeded in destroying the belief in his terrible power. On the other hand, many apparently diabolical phenomena are due to natural causes, and it is a fundamental principle advocated by the Church that one may not attribute to the preternatural order anything that can probably be explained by purely natural causes.
The director will proceed prudently by bearing in mind the following observations and guidelines:

1. Obsession usually occurs only in souls that are far advanced in virtue. As regards ordinary souls, the devil is content to persecute them with simple temptations. Therefore, the director should first investigate the type of soul with which he is dealing, and in this way he will be able to conjecture as to the diabolical or purely natural origin of the apparent obsession.

2. It is important to investigate carefully whether one is dealing with a soul that is normal, balanced, of sound judgment, and an enemy of any kind of exaggeration or sentimentality; or whether, on the contrary, one is dealing with a disquieted, unbalanced, weak spirit, with a history of hysteria, tormented by scruples, or depressed by reason of an inferiority complex. This rule is of exceptional importance, and very often it is the decisive rule for making a judgment. It will be very difficult to differentiate between the manifestations of diabolical influence and those that follow from a nervous disorder, but-it is possible to do so.

The director should not yield to the temptation of oversimplifying the matter by attributing everything to one cause or the other. He should give to the patient the moral counsels and rules that pertain to his office as a director of souls and then refer the individual to a trustworthy psychiatrist, who can treat the other manifestations that proceed from a mental disorder.

3. The authentic manifestations of true diabolical obsession will be sufficiently clear if they are revealed by visible signs such as the moving of an object by an invisible hand, the marks of bruises or wounds that proceed from an invisible attack. These effects cannot be attributed to any purely natural cause, and when the person who suffers them gives all the signs of equanimity, self-possession, sincerity, and true virtue, the director can be certain that he is dealing with a case of obsession. We have already said that the devil does not usually obsess the ordinary soul; nevertheless, God sometimes permits diabolical obsession in these souls or even in hardened sinners, as a salutary expiation for their sins or to give them a vivid idea of the horrors of hell and the necessity of abandoning sin to be freed from the slavery of the devil. But ordinarily only souls of advanced virtue suffer the obsessive attacks of the devil.

4. Once it has been proved that one is dealing with a case of diabolical obsession, the director should proceed with the greatest possible patience and tenderness. The tormented soul needs the assistance and advice of someone to whom it can give its complete confidence and one who will in turn speak to the soul in the name of God. The director's principal concern should be to encourage the soul and make it understand that the attacks of hell are futile so long as the soul places all its confidence in God and does not lose its interior serenity. He will remind the soul that God is with it and will help it conquer: "If God is for us, who can be against us?" (Rom. 8:31).

Also, at the side of the suffering soul is Mary, our tender Mother, as well as the guardian angel, whose power is greater than that of the devil. The director will advise the soul never to lose its tranquillity, to hold the devil in utter disdain, to fortify himself or herself with the sign of the cross and with other sacramentals, especially holy water, which has great efficacy against the attacks of the devil. Above all, he will warn the soul never to do anything that the devil suggests, even if it appears good and reasonable. He will demand a detailed account of everything that happens and will never permit the soul to conceal anything, however difficult and painful it may be to reveal it. Finally, he will try to make the soul understand that God can use the devil as an instrument for purifying the soul and that the best way of cooperating with the divine plan is to abandon oneself entirely to God's holy will, ready to accept anything that God may decree, and asking' the grace of never yielding to the violence of the temptations.

5. In more serious and persistent cases, the exorcisms prescribed in the Roman Ritual are used, or other formulas approved by the Church are put into effect. But the director will always do this in private and even without advising the penitent that he is going to exorcise him or her, especially if he fears that this knowledge would cause a great disturbance to the soul. For a solemn exorcism it is necessary to obtain express permission from the local ordinary and to follow the prescribed precautions.

Diabolical Possession. Diabolical possession is a phenomenon in which the devil invades the body of a living person and moves the faculties and organs as if he were manipulating a body of his own. The devil truly resides within the body of the unfortunate victim, and he operates in it and treats it as his own property. Those who suffer this despotic invasion are said to be possessed.

However it may be manifested, the presence of the devil is restricted exclusively to the body. The soul remains free, even if the exercise of conscious life is suspended. Only God has the privilege of penetrating into the essence of the soul. Nevertheless, the primary purpose of the violence of the devil is to disturb the soul and to draw it to sin. But the soul always remains master of itself, and if it is faithful to the grace of God, it will find an inviolable sanctuary in its free will.

Two periods can be distinguished in diabolical possession: the period of crisis and the period of calm. The periods of crisis are manifested by the violent onslaught of evil, and its very violence prevents it from being continual or even very prolonged. It is the moment in which the devil openly reveals himself by acts, words, convulsions, seizures of anger or impiety, obscenity, or blasphemy. In the majority of cases, the victims lose consciousness of what is happening to them during this seizure, as happens in the great crises of certain mental disorders.

When they regain consciousness they have no recollection of what they have said or done or, rather, of what the devil has said or done in them. Sometimes they perceive something of the diabolical spirit at the beginning of the seizure when he begins to use their faculties or organs. In certain cases the spirit of the possessed remains free and conscious during the crisis and witnesses with astonishment and horror the despotic usurpation of its body by the devil.

In the periods of calm there is nothing to manifest the presence of the devil in the body of the possessed. One would think that the devil had gone. Nevertheless, his presence is often manifested by some strange chronic illness that exceeds the categories of pathological disorders known to medical science and resists every form of therapeutic remedy. Moreover, diabolical possession is not always continuous, and the devil may leave for a time and then return later to continue his possession. The devil can come and go as he pleases, so long as he has God's permission to take possession of the person.

Lest we expose ourselves to derision, it is necessary to be extremely cautious and prudent in making pronouncements concerning diabolical possession. There are countless nervous disorders presenting external symptoms very similar to those of possession, and there are also some poor unbalanced souls or perverse spirits that have a remarkable facility for simulating the horrors of possession.

Fortunately, the Church has given us wise rules for discerning fraud and for making judgments that are certain. The first thing to be recognized is that authentic cases of possession are very rare, and it is much better to make a mistake on the side of incredulity than to be too anxious to admit diabolical possession. The extreme agitation of the victim, the blasphemies that are uttered, the horror manifested for holy things-none of these are of themselves sufficient proof. These symptoms give nothing more than a conjecture of the possibility of diabolical possession, but they are never infallible signs because they could proceed from malice or from some natural cause.

Remedies for Possession. The Roman Ritual, after recommending prudence and discretion before making a judgment, indicates certain signs that allow for a diagnosis to ascertain the authenticity of diabolical possession: speaking in a, strange and unknown language or understanding perfectly one who speaks in an unknown language; perceiving hidden or distant things; manifesting strength beyond one's age and condition. There are other similar symptoms, and the more numerous they are the greater proof they offer of a true diabolical possession.

Ordinarily, possession occurs only in sinners and precisely as a punishment for sin. There are exceptions, however, when diabolical possession is used by God as a means of purification.

Whatever will weaken the power of the devil over a person can be utilized as a remedy against diabolical possession, but the Roman Ritual specifies certain principal remedies:

Sacramental confession. Since the usual purpose of diabolical possession is punishment for sin, it is necessary above all to remove the cause of possession by a humble and sincere confession, It will have a special efficacy if it is a general confession of. one's whole life, because of the humiliation and renewal of soul it presupposes.

Holy Communion. The Roman Ritual recommends frequent Communion under the direction and advice of a priest. Holy Communion, however, should not be given to a possessed person except in moments of calm, and one must also take great care to avoid any danger of irreverence or profanation, as the Ritual prescribes.

Fasting and prayer. A certain type of devil cannot be cast out except through fasting and prayer (Matt. 17:20). Humble, and persevering prayer, accompanied by fasting and mortification,, obtains from heaven the grace of a cure. This particular remedy should, never be omitted, even when all the others are used.

The sacramentals. Objects blessed by the prayers of the ,Church have a special power against the devil. Holy water has particular efficacy, as has been verified on countless occasions.

The cross. The Ritual prescribes that the exorcist should have a crucifix in his hand or before his eyes. It has been verified many times that the devil will flee merely at the sight of a crucifix. The sign of the cross has always been used by Christians as a safeguard against the devil, and the Church makes special use of it in the rite of exorcism.

Relics of the saints. The Roman Ritual also recommends the use of relics in the rite of exorcism. The most precious and venerated of all relics, and those that inspire the greatest horror in the demons, are the particles of the true Cross because they remind the demons of the definitive victory that Christ won over them on Calvary.

The holy names of Jesus and Mary. The name of Jesus has a sovereign power to put the devil to flight. He himself promised in the Gospel: "They will use my name to expel demons" (Mark 16:17). The apostles used the Holy Name in this respect: " 'In the name of Jesus Christ I command you, come out of her!" Then and there the spirit left her" (Acts 16:18).

The name of Mary is also terrifying to the devils. The examples of its salutary efficacy are innumerable and fully justify the practice of Christian piety that sees in the invocation of the name of Mary a powerful remedy against the attacks of the devil.

In addition to these remedies, which any Christian can use against the power of the devil, the Church has instituted other official means whose use is reserved to her ministers. These are the various exorcisms.

In private any priest may use the rite of exorcism, but for solemn exorcism it is necessary to verify with certainty the reality of diabolical possession and then obtain the express permission of the bishop for the exorcism.

In addition, the exorcist should prepare himself carefully by means of sacramental confession, fasting, and prayer, and then perform the rite in a church or chapel (and only in exceptional circumstances in a private home), in the company of serious and pious witnesses (but only a few), and with sufficient assistants who will be able to control the patient in moments of crisis.

The interrogations should be made with authority, but they should be few in number, as is indicated in the Roman Ritual. The witnesses will observe silence and remain in prayer but should never interrogate the devil. The sessions should be repeated as often as is necessary until the devil is cast out.

Once this has taken place and the liberation of the patient is verified, the exorcist should petition God to command the devil never again to enter the body he has just left. The exorcist should give thanks to God and exhort the liberated patient to bless God and carefully to avoid sin lest he or she fall again under the domination of the devil.

A person may also come under the power of the devil by reason of the habitual practice of evil or the uncontrolled desire to experience extraordinary mystical phenomena or receive charismatic graces. In the first case a confessor may, unknown to the.penitent, apply an abbreviated form of exorcism when giving absolution to habitual sinners. In the second case it is necessary to exercise discernment of spirits when the person claims to have received some special grace or favor from God. (To be continued . . .)

September 27, 2010

Warning signs of a diabolical spirit and how to recognize them

Questions about discernment of spirits come up from time to time on my "Open Line" radio show (Thursdays from 3-5 p.m. ET).

This has prompted me to study more deeply the Church's spiritual theology and what God has revealed to us through Scripture and Tradition. The more I've learned, the more I see how much I need to learn. As a service to my listeners and blog readers (that's you!), I bring you some teaching on this subject by the late Dominican theologian, Fr. Jordan Aumann, O.P., an expert in spiritual theology.

N.B.: This post is part 1 in a longer series I will be posting here devoted to the discernment of spirits, etc. And now, let's hear from Father Aumann:

Signs of the Diabolical Spirit. We have already enumerated the signs of the divine spirit, but since the devil may disguise himself as a good spirit and even cause what appears to be authentic mystical phenomena, it is helpful to mention briefly the various signs of the diabolical spirit.

1. Spirit of falsity. The devil is the father of lies, but he cleverly conceals his deceit by half-truths and pseudo-mystical phenomena.

2. Morbid curiosity. This is characteristic of those who eagerly seek out the esoteric aspects of mystical phenomena or have a fascination for the occult or preternatural.

3. Confusion, anxiety, and deep depression.

4. Obstinacy. One of the surest signs of a diabolical spirit.

5. Constant indiscretion and a restless spirit. Those who constantly go to extremes, as in penitential exercises or apostolic activity; or neglect their primary obligations to do some personally chosen work.

6. Spirit of pride and vanity. Very anxious to publicize their gifts of grace and mystical experiences.

7. False humility. This is the disguise for their pride and self-love.

8. Despair, lack of confidence, and discouragement. A chronic characteristic that alternates with presumption, vain security, and un-' founded optimism.

9. Disobedience and hardness of heart.

10. Impatience in suffering and stubborn resentment.

11. Uncontrolled passions and strong inclination to sensuality, usually under the guise of mystical union.

12. Hypocrisy, simulation, and duplicity.

13. Excessive attachment to sensible consolations, particularly in their practice of prayer.

14. Lack of deep devotion to Jesus and Mary.

15. Scrupulous adherence to the letter of the law and fanatical zeal in promoting a cause. This characteristic readily opens the door to diabolical influence in reformers and demagogues.

Once the spiritual director is certain that a person is acting under the influence of a diabolical spirit, he should: (1) make the individual realize that he or she is a toy of the devil and must resist his influence; (2) encourage the individual to pray to God for the grace to overcome the devil; (3) advise the person to act quickly and with disdain for the devil as soon as the influence is perceived, performing the opposite from what is suggested or felt.

The Human Spirit
The signs of a purely human spirit have been described by Thomas à Kempis in Book 3, Chapter 54 of The Imitation of Christ. His words should be pondered carefully, for he explains the struggle between grace and the human spirit, wounded by sin and strongly inclined to self-love.

The human spirit is always inclined to its own satisfactions; it is a friend of pleasure and an enemy of suffering of any kind. It readily inclines to anything that is compatible with its own temperament, its personal tastes and caprices, or the satisfaction of self-love. It will not hear of humiliations, penance, renunciation, or mortification.

If any director or confessor goes against its inclinations, he is immediately branded as inept and incompetent. it seeks success, honors, applause, and pastimes. It is always a great promoter of anything that will arouse admiration or notoriety. In a word, the human spirit neither understands nor cares for anything except its own egoism.

It is sometimes difficult in practice to judge whether given manifestations proceed from the devil or from a purely human and egoistic spirit, but it is always relatively easy to distinguish between these two and the spirit of God. It will be possible in most cases, therefore, to determine that a given spirit could not possibly be from God and that it must be combatted, even if one is not sure whether it is in fact from the devil or the human, ego.

The following contrasts may serve as general rules for distinguishing between the diabolical and the human spirit. Natural impulses and inclinations are spontaneous; they can usually be traced to some natural cause or disposition; the stimulation of the senses acts upon, the interior powers, and they often persist in spite of prayer.

Diabolical impulse or suggestion, on the other hand, is usually violent and difficult to prevent; it arises unexpectedly or with the slightest provocation; a mental suggestion excites the senses and disappears as a rule with prayer. Self-denial and rectitude of intention are excellent remedies against the spirit of egoism.

In this respect the spiritual director and confessor will do well to keep in mind the general rule for discernment of spirits: if there is a possible natural or diabolical explanation for a given phenomenon, it cannot be presumed that it is supernatural in origin. The following are the principal doubtful reasons or situations:

1. To aspire to some other state in life after having made a prudent and deliberate selection for the existing state.

2. To be attracted to rare phenomena or to singular exercises not proper to one's state in life. When God desires such things he will give unmistakable proof of his will; the test is obedience and humility.

3. An inclination to practice extreme corporal penances. God has demanded them of some souls, but this practice is not in the workings of ordinary providence.

4. A desire for sensible consolations in the practice of prayer or the exercise of the virtues.

5. The "gift of tears" or the strong inclination to concentrate on the sorrowful and penitential aspects of religion.

6. Exclusive devotion to some particular mystery or pious exercise, which easily leads to a distortion of orthodox theology.

7. Extraordinary favors, such as revelations, visions, stigmata, when they occur in a person of little sanctity. The extraordinary graces do not necessarily presuppose sanctity or even the state of grace, but God does not ordinarily grant these gifts except to his servants and friends.

By way of conclusion, we again warn directors and confessors to proceed with great caution in making judgments in matters involving the discernment of spirits. It is easy to make a mistake. In cases of extraordinary phenomena, it should be noted that, as a rule, when these things proceed from God, the soul first experiences great fear and humility and then peace and consolation. If these things come from the devil they often begin with feelings of sensible consolation and satisfaction, but later they cause confusion, anxiety, and restlessness.

Lastly, apropos of the inclination some persons experience to change their state of life (and usually to go to a higher and stricter form of life), the director will bear in mind that it is quite possible that a grace is given by God but without God's wanting the person actually to change one's state in life.

For example, a priest who is actively engaged in the apostolate may experience a strong desire to spend more time in prayer and solitude. In trying to understand the reason for this strong inclination, he may erroneously judge that it is God's will that he enter the Carthusians or the Trappists. Such is not necessarily the case, however, for it may be that the only thing that God is asking of the priest is that he be less involved in the whirlpool of activity and that he dedicate more time each day to prayer and recollection.

We would state the following as a general rule for the solution of such cases: if an individual has prayerfully and seriously selected the state of life in which he or she is, then he or she must present a serious positive cause for changing this state of life. Otherwise, the will of God is the present state of life. Another practical test is to see whether the individual is performing the duties of the present state in life with all fidelity; if not, the person should not even think of changing to another state. (To be continued . . .)

September 24, 2010

Stephen Colbert Cropdusts Congress With a Fine Mist of Mockery

A bishop's warning about the promotion of unapproved "apparitions"

Allow me to draw your attention to a timely blog post from Diane at Te Deum Laudamus, highlighings a statement issued last year by His Excellency, Archbishop Peter Sartain, the newly appointed Archbishop of Seattle. (Note: This statement apparently was issued while he was still Bishop of Joliet.) It gives a good example of the proper caution and circumspection Catholics should have regarding the claims of alleged apparitions and alleged visionaries, such as those associated with Medjugorje.

Those who chase after "signs and wonders" and flock to hear alleged visionaries associated with unapproved apparitions speak in public — complete with apparitions on demand — should heed the words of this vigilant bishop. 

Diane writes: "In April of 2009, Bishop Peter Sartain, of Joliet, Illinois, . . . issued a memo to priests of the diocese which states, in part (emphases mine in bold; added emphasis in italics)."
“From time to time we are approached by parishioners who would like to invite speakers representing various alleged apparitions of the Blessed Virgin, private revelations or locutions, or others claiming to possess extraordinary spiritual gifts. My purpose in bringing this to your attention is to ask that you not issue such invitations. Whether the speakers would make presentations on well-known alleged apparitions, such as Medjugorje, or lesser known private revelations, we must be extremely cautious about inviting or promoting them. 
“As you know the Church takes great time and care before declaring that an apparition is worthy of belief, and even then it never says that a Catholic must accept the apparition as a matter of faith. We must avoid giving the impression that alleged apparitions about which the Church has not made a judgment are somehow already approved. 
“It is our responsibility to see that our parishioners are not led down the wrong path. That is not to say that those who ask us to promote these matters are doing so out of bad faith, but we must be extremely careful not to confuse our parishioners. 
“Our greatest spiritual treasures are the Word of God, the Sacraments, especially the Eucharist, and the teaching of the Church, and our focus should always be there. Needless to say, these comments do not refer to apparitions such as Fatima, Lourdes or Guadalupe which enjoy the approval of the Church.” 
[Diane comments . . .] "Bishop Sartain exemplifies the very behavior exhibited by bishops throughout the history of the Church by discouraging activity in his diocese which could lend credibility to the alleged apparitions, including those of Medugorje.  His actions are also very collegial in that his statement is also in harmony with the pastoral directives of his brother bishop.

It's hard for me to fathom why a bishop or archbishop would knowingly permit (or invite) "visionaries" of unapproved apparitions to speak and have "visions" on Church property.  People develop attachments to such phenomena, which they believe to be real (we are not talking about approved apparitions like Lourdes and Fatima).  It is hard enough for some to give up this attachment if the Church condemns it as not supernatural.  This may be even more true, if a bishop's actions (or permissiveness), gave the thing even more credibility than it should have had.  I'm sure there are cases where a bishop is unaware that such activity is happening in his diocese.  But, when high profile diocesan staffers are involved - such as a vocations director - or the archbishop himself shows up to greet the "seers", it seems unlikely that he would not know what is going on.  I think the more likley scenario is that he is not well informed about the phenomena as he thinks he is.  In any event, a simple phone call to the responsible diocesan bishop, or even the CDF, rather than to favorite mariologist would seem prudent, and collegial.  If he is disinclined to speak to his brother bishop about the events, then this too is a fruit which calls for deeper examination. (source)

Mark Steyn: Mollifying Muslims and Muslifying Mollies

WHILE I'VE BEEN TALKING about free speech in Copenhagen, several free speech issues arose in North America. I was asked about them both at the Sappho Award event and in various interviews, so here's a few thoughts for what they're worth:
Too many people in the free world have internalized Islam’s view of them. A couple of years ago, I visited Guantanamo and subsequently wrote that, if I had to summon up Gitmo in a single image, it would be the brand-new copy of the Koran in each cell: To reassure incoming prisoners that the filthy infidels haven't touched the sacred book with their unclean hands, the Korans are hung from the walls in pristine, sterilized surgical masks. It's one thing for Muslims to regard infidels as unclean, but it's hard to see why it's in the interests of us infidels to string along with it and thereby validate their bigotry. What does that degree of prostration before their prejudices tell them about us? It’s a problem that Muslims think we’re unclean. It’s a far worse problem that we go along with it.

Take this no-name pastor from an obscure church who was threatening to burn the Koran. He didn’t burn any buildings or women and children. He didn’t even burn a book. He hadn’t actually laid a finger on a Koran, and yet the mere suggestion that he might do so prompted the President of the United States to denounce him, and the Secretary of State, and the commander of US forces in Afghanistan, various G7 leaders, and golly, even Angelina Jolie. President Obama has never said a word about honor killings of Muslim women. Secretary Clinton has never said a word about female genital mutilation. General Petraeus has never said a word about the rampant buggery of pre-pubescent boys by Pushtun men in Kandahar. But let an obscure man in Florida so much as raise the possibility that he might disrespect a book – an inanimate object – and the most powerful figures in the western world feel they have to weigh in.

Aside from all that, this obscure church’s website has been shut down, its insurance policy has been canceled, its mortgage has been called in by its bankers. Why? As Diana West wrote, why was it necessary or even seemly to make this pastor a non-person? Another one of Obama's famous "teaching moments"? In this case teaching us that Islamic law now applies to all? Only a couple of weeks ago, the President, at his most condescendingly ineffectual, presumed to lecture his moronic subjects about the First Amendment rights of Imam Rauf. Where's the condescending lecture on Pastor Jones' First Amendment rights?

When someone destroys a bible, US government officials don’t line up to attack him. President Obama bowed lower than a fawning maitre d’ before the King of Saudi Arabia, a man whose regime destroys bibles as a matter of state policy, and a man whose depraved religious police forces schoolgirls fleeing from a burning building back into the flames to die because they’d committed the sin of trying to escape without wearing their head scarves. If you show a representation of Mohammed, European commissioners and foreign ministers line up to denounce you. If you show a representation of Jesus Christ immersed in your own urine, you get a government grant for producing a widely admired work of art. Likewise, if you write a play about Jesus having gay sex with Judas Iscariot.

So just to clarify the ground rules, if you insult Christ, the media report the issue as freedom of expression: A healthy society has to have bold, brave, transgressive artists willing to question and challenge our assumptions, etc. But, if it’s Mohammed, the issue is no longer freedom of expression but the need for "respect" and "sensitivity" toward Islam, and all those bold brave transgressive artists don’t have a thing to say about it. . . . (Source: www.MarkSteyn.com)

September 23, 2010

Gov. Christie Veto Shuts Down Abortion Clinics in NJ

This wonderful government de-funding gesture could not have been aimed at a more deserving group of abortionists. I particularly love the last forlorn line in this snippet from the article on LifeNews.com:
After the New Jersey state Senate defeated an attempt to override the decision of Gov. Chris Christie to cut off state taxpayer funding of Planned Parenthood abortion businesses, the first facility run by the national abortion giant is closing.

The Cherry Hill Courier Post newspaper says a Planned Parenthood facility located on Haddonfield Road and operated by Planned Parenthood of Southern New Jersey will close down.

PP-SNJ stands to lose as much as $160,000 in taxpayer funds because of Christie's decision and the upholding of his veto. With the closing of the Cherry Hill center, Planned Parenthood customers seeking abortions or other "services" must go to PP centers in Camden, Bellmawr, and Edgewater Park.

Parenthood of Southern New Jersey president Lynn Brown told the newspaper, "We are in think mode and creative mode and we are doing all that we can to try and salvage to see as many people as we need to see."

"We all know it's strictly ideological," Brown said of the funding cuts to the abortion business. "This is a very frustrating and perplexing time for us."
Ah, that is truly wonderful news, Ms. Brown! I'm one of many millions of Americans who are hoping and praying that this lack-of-funding situation gets much more frustrating and perplexing for the "abortion business."

Classic Catholic Truth Society Pamphlets, Free Online

About 12 years ago, I had the occasion to visit the office of the Catholic Truth Society in London during a speaking tour there. A number of their venerable apologetics tracts and booklets were on display in a bookcase, most of them having been written decades earlier (some, many decades earlier) during a time in England when vigorous Catholic apologetics outreach to Protestants, atheists, and other non-Catholics was quite common.

The CTS staffer I spoke to that day made sure to provide me with a stack of pamphlets before I left, and in the ensuing years since that visit, I have lost track of them. That is, until today, when I discovered a whole cache of them posted on a Catholic website — each of them scanned in and available for free as PDFs of the originals. I've downloaded them all and would like to encourage you to go and do likewise. As basic, Catholic explanations of doctrinal, moral, and social issues go, these CTS materials are accessible, interesting, fact-filled, and compelling. As the old Alka-Seltzer commercial used to say, "Try it, you'll like it."

September 20, 2010

Queen: "You're My Best Friend" bass lesson

If you play the bass guitar, or just
love the bass guitar (it's both, in my case), you'll probably enjoy this. If you don't, you may not. By the way, this So-Cal bassist, who goes by Zuma, really, really knows his way around the 70s & 80s pop scene. I learned how to play a lot of AM Top-4o songs sitting in my bedroom in the mid-70s, plonking away on my first bass till I had figured out the riffs. If only YouTube had existed then! I'd have taken lessons from Zuma (who probably wasn't even born then).

Is good.

The Strange Case of Mamie Cadden, Backstreet Abortionist

She was an Irish nurse/midwife who specialized in performing abortions in a country where killing unborn children is still illegal. She died in 1959, but the specter of her murderous legacy still haunts the pallid corridors of abortuaries everywhere.

Banned in Ireland

This is the commercial that the Irish Government feels you should not see, at least not if you are a citizen of the Republic of Ireland. What are they afraid of? That's right: the truth. They can't handle the truth. So, thankfully, YouTube and other internet outlets can be the conduits.

September 19, 2010

Blessed John Henry Newman on the English Martyrs

September 17, 2010

Bee Gees in a box, and other truly primo 70s weirdness

As goofy as this ad is, it gets
much better, much weirder than this. Trust me. Take the tour of the other 57 "what were they thinking?" ads. They'll make your head spin.

Me, I was a teenager when this stuff was au courant. I guess that says a lot.

A mother seeks advice on how to draw her grown sons back to the Catholic Church

Yesterday, on the EWTN "Open Line" radio broadcast, I received a question from a mother whose adult sons have left the Catholic Church and gone into "non-denominational" Protestantism. Concerned about maintaining a good relationship with them while telling them that they've made a big mistake in leaving the Faith, she asked what practical things she can do to help them come home. Take a listen.

September 16, 2010

When you care enough to send the best (but you still have your doubts)

September 15, 2010

My new favorite Pope Benedict XVI Quote

"It is important to recognize dissent for what it is, and not to mistake it for a mature contribution to a balanced and wide-ranging debate. It is the truth revealed through Scripture and Tradition and articulated by the Church’s Magisterium that sets us free. Cardinal Newman realized this, and he left us an outstanding example of faithfulness to revealed truth by following that 'kindly light' wherever it led him, even at considerable personal cost. Great writers and communicators of his stature and integrity are needed in the Church today, and it is my hope that devotion to him will inspire many to follow in his footsteps.”
Pope Benedict XVI’s address to the Bishops of England and Wales
Visit “ad limina apostolorum,” January, 2010

Amen and amen. That first sentence says it all.

And, Stateside, it seems to me that there are a couple of National Catholic publications in America that really need to wrap their minds around this truth, though I am not holding my breath in anticipation of that.

September 14, 2010

A reader asks, "What's the deal with Medjugorje?"

Hello Patrick,

Am I correct in believing that the apparitions at Medjugorie and the messages to the visionaries have never been officially approved/endorsed by the Church? Is approval in the works — likely to be given soon? Or is there a major problem with the whole Medjugorie phenomenon? Thank you for your answer.


MY RESPONSE (slightly altered):

Hi, David.

That's correct. The alleged apparitions at Medjugorje have not been approved by the universal Church, though they have been repeatedly disapproved by the local bishops of the diocese within which Medjugorje is situated.

A Vatican commission was established recently to further evaluate the phenomena there, but so far no definitive decision has been rendered, at least not publicly.

It's hard to predict how soon or far off a decision might be in coming. It seems to me that the best thing we can do in the meantime is to pray, especially the rosary, do penance, frequent the sacraments, and strive by God's grace to live good and virtuous Christian lives. These are, of course, the essence of Our Lady's messages in approved apparitions, such as Fatima and Lourdes.

In due time, the Lord will guide the Church to formally pronounce its decision on whether the alleged apparitions at Medjugorje are either authentic or false. In the meantime, let's be at peace about it and let Him reveal the truth about this according to the timing of His loving providence.

God bless you,

Patrick Madrid

P.S. www.medjugorje.net has lots of positive information on Medjugorje, and this other website contains fascinating information that is critical of it: http://en.louisbelanger.com.