Monday, August 22, 2016

Medjugorje: The Pleasant and Not So Pleasant Experience

The view from Cross Mountain, Medjugorje
At the top of Cross Mountain, taking advantage of the solitude and serenity.

Recently, I arrived back from my pilgrimage to Medjugorje, Herzegovina (officially Bosnia and Herzegovina), and it was for the most part a very pleasant and beneficial experience, but there were a few aspects that were not so pleasant; nothing major or terribly disturbing, but it did remind me of some thoughts I had from previous pilgrimages to Medjugorje that I never wrote about.

When one thinks of a pilgrimage, it typically evokes thoughts of a focussed spiritual journey that people take for a variety of reasons: to draw closer to God and Our Lady in a time of dedicated prayer and solitude; looking for the answers to many of life's questions; finding the solution to a problem; seeking clarity on the discernment of a vocation; the healing of any spiritual, psychological or physical needs; and hope for the cure of an illness, condition or disease.

These and other reasons are why many go on pilgrimages. For the most part, a pilgrimage is quite a pleasant experience, but there are some unpleasant aspects that one has to deal with. This especially holds true if you spend any significant amount of time in Medjugorje.

To date, I have had the privilege of spending fifteen weeks in Medjugorje, spread out over three pilgrimages in three consecutive years; after a while, you begin to notice and take note of many things. This year's pilgrimage was certainly no exception.

I initially encountered some unpleasant aspects during the first week of my first pilgrimage in June'2014. As a pilgrim focussed on the journey, you tend to put the unpleasantness aside, and move forward with your purpose. This is what I, and practically everyone does on a pilgrimage. You should not let the unpleasantness get in the way. At the same time, there are a few things you can do to help avoid it. I hope that by sharing my recent pilgrimage experience, it will help others to do just that.

Medjugorje Mornings

Whether you are climbing and praying your way up Cross Mountain or Apparition Hill at sunrise, or ushering in the day with prayer at the Blue Crosses, or at your pension, Medjugorje in the morning is truly a mystical place. I have done all the above, and never have I experienced such peace anywhere else in the world.

The morning view from my pansion of St. James, Medjugorje
The morning view, from the balcony at my pension, of St. James, the valley, and the mountains beyond.

Each day began with a 5:00am rise, and after having cleaned up, I began my morning prayers which took approximately ninety minutes and included: personal morning prayers, a meditation and prayer from My Daily Bread, Liturgy of The Hours, St. Gertrude The Great's prayer for the holy souls in purgatory, sinners in the universal Church, and for my family, a prayer for the Confraternity of the Most Holy Rosary, and a prayer to Our Lady to Spend The Day Well

Breakfast was at 9:00am, which was a perfect time for both me and the owners of the pension I was staying at. Each day's breakfast was something different: scrambled or boiled eggs; ham and cheese; a variety of different cold-cuts; a traditional meat piebiscuits; fresh tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers; and anything that I would have preferred or requested. No matter what I had for breakfast, a cup of black Indian tea and my MacBookPro were mandatory includes each morning.

After having finished breakfast, and surfing the net, my daily excursion would begin. It was typically a choice between the three main prayer sites: Cross Mountain, Apparition Hill or the Blue CrossesAll three locations are excellent choices for the ideal Medjugorje experience; that is, an encounter with God and Our Lady. This is the essence of what Medjugorje is really all about; to experience the encounter as many times as possible.

Cross Mountain

The view of the cross at Cross Mountain after the last Stations of the Cross prayer plaque.
The view of the cross, at Cross Mountain, after the last Stations of the Cross prayer plaque.

Cross Mountain is the most difficult and highest of all three locations—the terrain is also the most rocky and dangerous requiring each pilgrim to be especially careful so as to avoid injury—and it is for this reason that I chose it. This coupled with the Stations of The Cross prayers, from St. Alphonsus Liguori, that I recited during each ascent, made for a much more penitential pilgrimage.

The walk from my pension to Cross Mountain afforded me the opportunity to mentally prepare, and become properly disposed for what really is a prayer with a little bit of climbing, not a climb with a little bit of prayer. I have actually dedicated an entire post on this, Medjugorje's Cross Mountain (Križevac) - A Time Of Prayer With A Little Bit of Climbing, Not A Climb With A Little Bit Of Prayer.

A view of the cafes and souvenir shops at the base of Cross Mountain
A view of what pilgrims see when approaching the base (where the steps are) of Cross Mountain: two cafe/souvenir
shops on the mountain itself (on the left), and one of many souvenir shops (on the right) directly across the street.

The one thing that I have never liked about arriving at Cross Mountain was the existence of all the souvenir shops and cafes, some of which are actually on the mountain itself. They are, for the most part, a source of unwelcome chatter, laughter, and singing. In my view, these businesses should not be allowed to operate so close to the base of this prayerful climb.

I recall vividly, from my first climb up Cross Mountain in late June'2014, how repulsed I felt at the presence of all these shops and cafes. Their existence is part of an unpleasant reality: the profiteering at Medjugorje's prayer sites.

The prayer sites are not the only location where profiteering goes on, but they are the most obvious. As one small example, if you have ever purchased a 1.5L of bottle of water at Cross Mountain, Apparition Hill, or the Blue Crosses, for more than €1.00, you have fallen victim to the profiteering.

At the base of Cross Mountain, where there is a sign, guidelines for pilgrims
The base of Cross Mountain, where there is a sign with guidelines for pilgrims to pay heed to. The top-left image indicates that
pilgrims are to be quiet or not cause a disturbance. This is common sense, but 
ignored by many. To the right is a cafe and
souvenir shop, one of two on the mountain itself, and sadly only a few feet away from the first station prayer plaque.

Ironically, there is a sign at the foot of Cross Mountain, with several images that provide pilgrims with some guidelines while at the mountain, and for the climb. The majority of pilgrims have a respectful attitude, and it is clear by the way they act: in a very quiet manner, properly disposed and prepared for a prayerful climb. Others demonstrated quite the opposite, some unintentionally due in part to the initial excitement and joy of a "first climb," and being apart of a group pilgrimage. 

However, there are some pilgrims—a very small minority—that know exactly what they are doing. Their discourteous attitude is demonstrated with loud chatter and laughter; some even go and sit in the cafes, and break out into group singing that typically includes several songs.

As a pilgrim, you try to remain focussed, but sometimes it gets so bad, that you just have to bring it to the attention of those who are either intentionally or unintentionally, violating some of the most basic guidelines. I for one did this on a handful of occasions, never in a fury, but always with a charitable spirit, in a kind, calm and considerate tone, that was well received by everyone.

The Third Station of the Cross, where between the plaque and the arrow sign, is the back path from the top of the
mountain that leads to the third station.

Sadly, some people are openly defiant, knowing full well that they are disturbing others, as was the case with this one young man who I had to be very candid and direct with. He was the leader of a group that had completed their climb, and were making their way down the mountain from the back path, talking loudly and constantly. As he approached the third station, where I was praying at, I immediately informed him, in a very firm tone, that he shouldn't be in such conversation with his group, that a more suitable location for it would be at a cafe or restaurant...this is Križevac (Cross Mountain)! From the utterance of my first word, he and his group fell silent, clearly understanding that such violations on Cross Mountain are not tolerated by everyone. Needless to say, they continued with their descent in complete silence.

This is one of the unpleasant realities that pilgrims confront during their ascent up Cross Mountain; having to deal with others who, after having completed their climb, descend in full blown "conversation mode." 

Another unpleasant reality of Cross Mountain, during both the ascent and descent, is the presence of beggars. I really don't know how many they are, but on a few occasions, I encountered two individuals that I recognized from previous pilgrimages. Regardless, I sincerely hope that the police and "security presence" in Medjugorje, will seek to remove such individuals from, and keep them off the mountain.

Having initially confronted all this unpleasantness during my first pilgrimage in June' 2014, I employed the same strategy that I initiated back then; climb Cross Mountain at the hottest time of the day, when the overwhelming majority of pilgrims have already finished their climbs, and are no where to be seen. It was a strategy that served me well, as each climb was an undisturbed time of Divine Intimacy with God and Our Lady. On a few occasions, I even had the pleasure of climbing with other individuals, who shared my appreciation for a quiet climb.

If you are wondering how I coped with the intense heat and sun, well the answer is actually quite simple. I made sure to have plenty of water with me, at least 1.5L (sometimes 3.0L), depending upon the day's temperature. Although exposure to the sun was pretty much a constant throughout climb—the most intense times were when I was in prayer at each station—I made sure to pace myself to avoid becoming fatigued: it was a slow climb. This was vital for me so as to not detract from my willingness and ability to concentrate and meditate at each station. Slowly, but surely, I climbed the mountain. 

I don't recommend this for anyone who is not young, healthy or fit enough. Unlike myself, you may also want to wear a baseball cap or hat. Offer it all up, uniting your willingness to suffer the intense heat and sun, with your Stations of the Cross prayers.

No matter what I had to deal with prior to, or during my ascent, nothing minimized or detracted from the prayerful climb, and especially the serenity I experienced at the very top of the mountain. After completing the Stations of the Cross, and my personal prayer to Jesus at the foot of the cross, I would sit and rest at this one particular spot, which is captured by the first photo published with this post. It was a time of solitude and serenity, that afforded me the opportunity for undisturbed and intimate conversation with God and Our Lady; every occasion was a time of Divine Intimacy.

Filii Restoran Pansion

One of the highlights of each day was going to Filii Restoran Pansion, an amazing family-owned restaurant and pension. I came to know the family, as I became a regular customer from day three of my five week pilgrimage right until the last day. Let me tell you, they serve the best food in Medjugorje, and do so at great prices; at least 40% cheaper than you would pay for at any one of the many restaurants on the main strip.

Cevapi (large) at Filii Restoran Pansion, just one of the amazing dishes they serve.

After climbing a mountain, or walking (I typically put in somewhere between five to seven kilometers a day, depending on where I went) for several hours in Medjugorje, you build up quite an appetite. I always looked forward to my meals at Filii. The most strenuous walks were on the days that I climbed Cross Mountain and walked to Filii. Although I could have easily taken a taxi, I chose to walk, adding to the penitential pilgrimage experience.

It was during these walks, which took approximately one hour depending on my energy level, that I was completed exposed to the sun. Walking to Filii's was well worth it, because no matter what I ordered, the meals replenished my energy levels, and left me completely satisfied.

My usual arrival at Filii was approximately between three and four in the afternoon, which afforded me plenty of time to eat, relax with a cup of black tea, and still have plenty of time to walk back to St. James to prepare for the Evening Prayer Program.

I highly recommend any pilgrim who is in Medjugorje as of the publishing of this post, or those who are on route, or planning to go, to definitely make Filii Restoran Pansion, a daily destination choice for your eating needs.

A view of Filii Restoran Pansion vegetable platter.
My order of the vegetable platter at the outside patio.

If you do decide to go to Filii, my advice would be to first go by taxi (taxi fares are 5 within Medjugorje, whether you are one person or with three other people) so as to familiarize yourself with the location, should you decide to walk it in the future. All the taxis know Filii—it is one of the best and liked restaurants in Medjugorje—so you will have no problems getting there.

Nothing beats eating amazing food at great prices, within a pleasant atmosphere, served by friendly staff, and prepared by a wonderful family. It is the perfect compliment to good conversation and time well spent with family, friends, or fellow pilgrims.

If you have been to Medjugorje and never went to Filii Restoran Pansion, you haven't experienced all that Medjugorje has to offer.

Evening Prayer Program
Argentinian pilgrims situating themselves well in advance of Mass, at St. James, Medjugorje.
Argentinian pilgrims in front of the back altar.

Each day, after Filii, I would walk to St. James (back altar) prior to the Evening Prayer Program, which began at 6:00pm with the Group Recitation of the Rosary. The Joyful and Sorrowful Mysteries are recited first, which is only interrupted, for a few minutes, to honour Our Lady's apparition at 6:40pm, after which the Rosary continues, followed the Litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary. After, Mass is celebrated, then the group recitation of the "Seven Our Fathers, Hail Mary's and Glory Be's," a blessing of religious objects, healing prayers, and depending on which night: Veneration of the Cross; exposition and Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament; and/or the Glorious Mysteries of the Rosary.

Although most days, I arrived at around 5:30pm, there were several days when I arrived earlier. This afforded me the opportunity to either: take a much needed nap; go to confession; or pray the Luminous Mysteries at Medjugorje's Luminous Mystery Mosaics; and purchase water or ice tea for the evening ahead. 

It was on one of those earlier arrivals that I was walking along at the very front of the altar, when a group of Argentinian pilgrims caught my attention. It was approximately 4:00pm, and they had situated themselves well in advance of the Evening Prayer Program, in the blistering sun. 

I was so impressed that I introduced myself and complimented them on their enthusiasm, and the sacrifice of having to suffer in the intense heat. I decided to ask if I could take a photo of them and they accepted. Those Argentinians are but one example of the pilgrimage spirit in Medjugorje.

After the completion of the Evening Prayer Program, I typically walked back to my pension, cleaned up from the day's activities, and went to bed.

Blue Crosses

The Blue Crosses are one of "the" prayer locations in Medjugorje, and a particularly special location for me; it is a very peaceful place for quiet prayer that I discovered during my first pilgrimage. Ever since that first pilgrimage, I have always experienced Divine Intimacy at the Blue Crosses. Taking only two minutes to climb from the street level, the Blue Crosses also happen to be one of the easiest locations to get to. 

This year, if I did not climb Cross Mountain, I spent a lot of time reciting the Rosary at the "Original Blue Cross," (see photo below), and sometimes at the newer one. Doing so also served as a much needed break from the fatigue of having climbed Cross Mountain for three or four consecutive days. Just as I did with Cross Mountain, I would target prayer at the Blue Crosses between noon to 4:00pm, for the exact same reasons.

A view of the original Blue Cross, Medjugorje
A view of the Original Blue Cross from the make-shift seating under the big tree.

The Blue Crosses, both at the street level, and the short climb to them, are flanked by pensions, cafes and souvenir shops; another section of the "profiteering subculture" in Medjugorje, the worst of which is at Apparition Hill (see photo below). To elaborate a little about Apparition Hill, between the street level and the base of Apparition Hill, pilgrims literally have to run a gauntlet of jewellery stores, cafes, souvenir shops, and a pizzeria on a well made cobble-stone road, that takes approximately two-to-five minutes to complete, depending on your age.

The entrance to the gauntlet of shops and cafes, that pilgrims are forced to walk through, before arriving
at the base of Apparition Hill.

Like at Cross Mountain and Apparition Hill, the cafes and shops (see image below) at the Blue Crosses generate chatter, laughter, and noise when a significant amount of pilgrims arrive. If you have ever been at this location, you know how acoustic it is; conversations from the cafes and souvenir shops can be clearly heard from fifty feet away!

In addition, this year I encountered the unpleasantness of group pilgrimage leaders providing orientations (some with very large groups) at this prayer site, right in front the statues of Mary, where many other pilgrims (myself included) were only a few feet away immersed in silent prayer.

On one occasion, I arrived at the Blue Crosses, hoping to have a great prayer session, only to be met by the loud voice emanating from a speakerphone. It was so loud, you could hear it from the street. Needless to say, I did not stick around, but instead opted for a Rosary walk, and a late afternoon meal at Filii's.

The second Blue Cross, where the visionary Mirjana Soldo has her public apparitions. Below are
some of the souvenir shops and cafes. 

It is my impression that many people have no idea that they are violating "shrine etiquette," where silence is golden at the prayer sites. For some, the unintentional disturbance they cause is the result of being in Medjugorje for the first time, where enthusiasm and excitement trumps prudence. Some just do not appear to have the presence of mind, that they are at an international Marian shrine.

I met such a group, some very nice young pilgrims from Los Angeles, who needed help. Being right behind them during the short climb to the Blue Crosses, and hearing that they spoke fluent English, I offered my assistance. After the introductions, they asked me for some direction, which spawned a short exchange about the prayer sites. I did all this, informing them in a kind and considerate tone, that we all need to keep our voices down, because at this location, they can carry quite a distance; that the Blue Crosses were only thirty feet away from us. They had no idea, and thanked me.

Concluding Thoughts

A pilgrimage to Medjugorje is an overwhelmingly positive and pleasant experience. It is a place of many graces and blessings, peace, reconciliation and hope; an opportunity to have a more profound encounter with God and Our Lady.

Should you decide to go on a pilgrimage to Medjugorje, whether it is your first time, or a return pilgrimage, it will: improve upon your prayer life; strengthen your faith; teach you about the spiritual battle; you will meet and connect with new and like-minded people; reconnect with previously established friendships; you will discover new things about yourself and your life; and develop a much more closer relationship with God and Our Lady.

As St. Pope John Paul II stated, "Medjugorje is the spiritual center of the world." 

The joy and peace that one continuously feels in Medjugorje, for the most part, makes it easy to ignore some of the unpleasant aspects. No matter what unpleasantness one experiences, the focus should always be on moving forward with the purpose of your pilgrimage. The unpleasantness can at times be quite challenging, and as a matter of making Medjugorje a better place for all pilgrims, may require an intervention.

What ever you do, do not let any unpleasantness detract from or diminish any aspect of your pilgrimage. Part of what you can do is take it to prayer, and offer it up. Be patient, kind, and demonstrate by your example what it means to be a pilgrim in Medjugorje.


Monday, June 20, 2016

The Global Sexual Revolution: Destruction of Freedom in the Name of Freedom

Gabriele Kuby's latest book, the Global Sexual Revolution
Gabriele Kuby's book, which can be
ordered at Angelico Press
If you are somewhat intrigued by the title of today's blog post, it borrows from a book of the same title, written by Gabriele Kubya German Catholic sociologist, international speaker and successful author of several books on spiritual and political issues.

Originally published in German in 2012, the English translation was made available in 2015. Being well acquainted with Kuby's work, and having read her articles on the Harry Potter occult controversy—which greatly aided my own occult awareness efforts—it wasn't long before I purchased my own copy.

I was pleased to discover that, just as Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI had publicly acknowledged and supported Kuby's effort on Harry Potter, he did likewise for this book. Kuby published his praise, giving it priority placement at the back cover of the book. In the Praise for The Global Sexual Revolution section, Kuby includes several other praises as part of an impressive list of individuals: Robert P. George, Princeton University; Austin Ruse, President, Center for Family and Human Rights (C-Fam), Michael D. O'Brien, Canadian author of Elijah in Jerusalem and The Island of the World; Patrick F. Fagan, Director, Marriage and Religion Research Institute (MARRI); and Cardinal Giovanni Lajolo, Cardinal Deacon, S. Maria Liberatrice a Monte Testiccio, Rome. Here is what Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI wrote about Kuby's "courageous work," and the global sexual revolution:
The core of the global sexual revolution is the deliberate confusion of sexual norms. It is the culmination of a metaphysical revolution as well—a shifting of the fundamental ground upon which we stand and build a culture, even a civilization. Instead of desire being subjected to natural, social, moral, and transcendent orders, the identity of man and woman is dissolved, and free rein given to the maximum fulfillment of polymorphous urges, with no ultimate purpose or meaning. Gabriele Kuby surveys gender ideology and LGBT demands, the devastating effects of pornography and sex-education, attacks on freedom of speech and religion, the corruption of language, and much more. From the movement's trailblazers to the post-Obergefell landscape, she documents in meticulous detail how the tentacles of a building totalitarian regime are slowly gripping the world in an insidious stranglehold. Here on full display are the re-education techniques of the new permanent revolution, which has migrated from politics and economics to sex. Kuby's courageous work is a call to action for all well-meaning people to redouble their efforts to preserve freedom of religion, freedom of speech, and in particular the freedom of parents to educate their children according to their own beliefs, so that the family may endure as the foundation upon which any healthy society is built.
If you have ever placed any thought as to what has happened in our time; that is, why society has changed so much, and so quickly, Kuby's book is sure to satisfy your thirst for answers. It doesn't take much reflection to identify the negative changes we have experienced in the past few decades: the deregulation of sexual norms; the legalization and imposition of "same-sex marriage;" the recognition (a manipulative use of language that includes replacing "sex" with "gender") by governments, organizations, and professional associations of a host of "genders," which is a complete disconnect with the reality of the human person's sex, either as male or female; the increased judicial activism that ignores these and other truths (the Supreme Court of Canada's Carter ruling is a prime example); the sexualization of children from kindergarten to the end of high school; the many different attacks on the family, the primary cell of society, as well as to the value and inviolability of human life such as abortion (including the new method of abortion, RU-486), contraception, euthanasia and assisted suicide; the availability of pornography and pornovision; the attacks against freedom of speech, conscience rights and religious liberty, is a list that is by no means meant to be exhaustive. 

We are contemporaries of a "cultural revolution!" Yes, there is a global culture war being waged—one that has been going on for quite some time—by an extremely small minority of people, funded and aided by billionaires and international corporations, who have forged alliances with several groups that today have become powerful lobbyists influencing the United Nations (UN), the European Union (EU), and governments. This has negatively impacted the family, population and economic growth, and has resulted in the distortion and dissolution of morality and ethics—especially amongst the youth—with regard to the human person and sexuality. In the Preface, Kuby identifies all this as the "global sexual revolution," and describes it as follows:

  • Destruction of the inherited value systems of all cultures and religions.
  • Support for the revolutionary agenda by the international political elites.
  • Totalitarian endeavours, as seen in the program set forth in the Yogyakarta Principles.
  • Concrete imposition of gender ideology on society to the point of politically motivated changes to the language.
  • The pornographic epidemic, from which children and youth can no longer be protected.
  • The homosexual movement as the activist engine that drives this revolution.

Kuby has organized her book into sixteen chapters, which ends with her conclusion that the global sexual revolution is leading us on a slippery slope to a new totalitarianism, a new world order. It won't take long for anyone who has read this book to come to the same conclusion. 

In her first chapter, The Destruction of Freedom in the Name of Freedom, Kuby provides the reader with a brief explanation of the global sexual revolution, the "astonishing process" that brought it about in society, and what has resulted today.

Kuby then goes on to provide the historical context of the revolution's beginnings, in chapter two's, Trailblazers of the Sexual Revolution from the French Revolution to Today. In this chapter, she lists many well known thinkers and other individuals who contributed philosophical and psychological ideas, cultural revolutionary expertise, and culture-altering works of effort including: Jean-Jacques Rousseau, August Comte, Henri de Saint-Simon, Charles Fourier, Friedrich Nietzsche, Sigmund Freud, C.G. Jung, John Watson, Wilhelm Reich, Alfred Kinsey, Jack Kerouac, just to name a few. 

In the same chapter, Kuby also dedicates a section to Margaret Sanger (founder of the American Birth Control League), who was instrumental in the eugenics movement; a movement that was dedicated to population control and elimination of "undesirable" elements of the population. Kuby also includes other key points to consider, such as the 1960s student rebellions that together with the media brought the message of "sexual liberation" to every living room and most bedrooms.

As for the remaining chapters, here is just some of what Kuby writes about: the feminist beginnings of gender ideology in chapter three; how the United Nations helped the global the sexual revolution is detailed in chapter four; chapter five's, Yogyakarta Principles, a manual for implementing gender ideology (free choice of gender, sexual orientation, and identity) which includes a 200-page handbook for political action, An Activist's Guide to the Yogyakarta Principles; chapter six, The European Union on the Gender Bandwagon; several Case Studies of the Gender Revolution found in chapter seven; the Political Rape of Language found in chapter eight; the problem of pornography detailed in chapter nine; the strategy and tactics of the homosexual movement in chapter ten; chapter eleven's explanation of homosexuality from a Christian perspective; chapter twelve's Sex Education from K through 12; chapter thirteen's Comprehensive Sex Education and the Catholic Church: What Is and What Should Be; the attacks on basic freedoms found in chapter fourteen's, Intolerance and Discrimination; the growing resistance to the revolution detailed in chapter fifteen; and chapter sixteen on how the global sexual revolution is leading us on a slippery slope to a new totalitarianism.

If you would like to get a sense of just how comprehensive this book is, consider reading the following document that introduces the reader to Gabriele Kuby, provides the Table of Contents, and a text sample of chapter sixteen's, The Slippery Slope to a New Totalitarianism

The Destruction of Freedom in the Name of Freedom

The first chapter, The Destruction of Freedom in the Name of Freedom, not only sets the tone for the dense amount of information contained in the chapters ahead, but introduces the reader to the fundamentals of the global sexual revolution. 

We are experiencing a new totalitarianism, disguised under the mantle of freedom, tolerance, justice, equality, anti-discrimination, and diversity; a totalitarianism that seeks to dismantle and destroy sexual norms, and every ethical standard of sexual behaviour. This is all being done in the name of an ideology that denies the reality that individuals exist either as a man or a woman, that this polarity forms their identity, and that it is required for the propagation of humanity. This ideology is called gender mainstreaming.

Under the first subheading, The Dismantling of Sexuality, Kuby states in the first sentence of the first paragraph—and repeats this important point at the beginning of two other paragraphs—that, "WE ARE in the middle of an astonishing process." (7) The process that Kuby refers to is the attempt to create a new human being, coupled with the dissolution of any system of norms. It is a process that destroys the conditions that brought forth European high culture; that is, a Christian culture that provided for a moral foundation, one that was passed from one generation to the next through the family.

For those of us who are old enough, this "astonishing process" is quite noticeable in today's society. What was once considered to be valid a few decades ago is no longer the case; namely, the fundamental standards of the family.

The importance of the family, as a primary cell of society, was recognized in 1948 by the United Nations with the, Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states,"The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State." (Art 16) This is in stark contrast to the UN of today, which attacks the family through the promotion of abortion and contraception, the recognition of "same-sex marriage," and the embracing of the LGBTQ agenda, including support for so-called "anti-discrimination" laws and policies. Kuby spotlights this difference with her comparison of the UN of 1948 and the UN of today:
People had just survived World War II, and put their hope in the new organization called the United Nations, which passed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. It was a bulwark against the unspeakable horror that sent millions upon millions of people to their death. They had been degraded, deprived of their rights, dispossessed, agonized, tortured and murdered by people who had been blinded by ideology and dehumanized by the corruption of power. Half a century later, this same United Nations is where the battle is being fought to raise the murder of children in the womb to a human right, and for nations of the world to give same-sex marriage relationships the legal status of marriage. (13)
Under the subheading, New Soft Totalitarianism, Kuby spotlights how the current conditions reveal that our freedom is becoming more constricted. The first to notice this are those whose values get in the way of strategies of the powerful—namely, Christians. Kuby provides a prime example, "There is no prohibition against religious worship, but in the name of anti-discrimination, religious freedom is being insidiously curtailed, and the social conditions for handing on the faith to the next generation are being undermined." (11)

Kuby goes on to explain that it is delusional to think that no ideology is enforced by the state because the "...[N]ew gender ideology is firmly established in politics and universities, and it works behind the scenes. Although ordinary people don't know the term yet, the whole society is being 'gendered.' Like every utopian ideology, this one intends to create a new human being that it designs in accord with its own wishes." (11)

Kuby states that there is no identifiable system of state rule that visibly strives toward world domination, but there are global networks that follow a united agenda.

Further to this she adds that, although there is a basic democratic order, there are also uncontrollable powers exerting their will over voters, and their elected representatives: the financial oligarchy and the media.

My Concluding Thoughts

In the Afterword, Kuby first thanks the reader for taking the time to read this book, and then asks, "If you now feel you understand our times more clearly and ask yourself, 'What can I do?,' then it has been worth the effort—both yours and mine. If the question is pressing enough, you will find the answer." My answer is today's blog post, which I can only assume is the first of many to be published about such a comprehensive book, and important subject matter.

If this blog post is the first you have ever heard of the global sexual revolution, gender ideology, and gender mainstreaming, you are not alone.

No doubt some of you—if not everyone—can relate to my own bewilderment stemming from the headlines over a decade ago, when it seemed that every nation (2005 in Canada) was legalizing "same-sex marriage." It was a disturbing development that prompted me to ask how and why is all this happening.

Gabriele Kuby certainly answered that question, and did so thoroughly, and with clarity. It was only after reading this book did I come to understand the truth of the matter; that is, all this was was part of something bigger. It is a cultural revolution that does not serve the needs of the population, and one that completely ignores the truth of the human person, and how he or she is to live—which Saint Pope John Paul II wrote about in, The Theology of the Body.

I hope that you found today's post an intriguing read, and are encouraged to purchase this book, which you can do on line at Angelico Press. To borrow from Patrick F. Fagan's praise, "All who read this book will join Pope Benedict in saying 'Thank God you speak and write.' It is the most comprehensive primer ever on the culture wars. Without it, one fights half blind; read it and be changed...Buy a dozen copies and form your own battalion of counter-revolutionaries."

Let all conscientious Catholics, Christians alike, and all people of good will join the "resistance" against the global sexual revolution. At stake is the future of the family, the true identity of the human person, the proper understanding of the challenge of human sexuality (St. Pope John Paul II's Love and Responsibility), our culture, and civilization as a whole.

Monday, May 30, 2016

The Brown Scapular Devotion

An image of Our Lady giving the Brown Scapular to St. Simon Stock
Our Lady giving the Brown Scapular to St. Simon Stock

With May being the "Month of Mary," I thought it fitting to close out the month with a post on the Brown Scapular Devotion; a devotion that in addition to the Rosary is considered to be one of the main Marian devotions in the Catholic Church. 

Much in the same manner as the establishment of the Rosary Devotion, when Our Lady appeared to Saint Dominic and presented the Rosary in 1214, the Blessed Virgin Mary did likewise with Saint Simon Stock (Prior General of the Carmelites (1247-1265) for the Brown Scapular Devotion, who She appeared to in 1251, in the town of Aylesford in England. Our Lady handed him a brown woollen scapular and said, “This shall be a privilege for you and all Carmelites, that anyone dying in this habit shall not suffer eternal fire.” This later became known as the "Scapular Promise." 

The growth in popularity of the Brown Scapular Devotion spread in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries from several popes who promulgated the "Sabatine Privilege," and approved the Confraternity of the Scapular for every diocese in the Church. In 1726, the Brown Scapular Devotion was extended to the entire universal Catholic Church, on July 16, the feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel.

The Scapular Promise

The Scapular Promise and Sabbatine Privilege have certain conditions that must be met by each devotee in order to receive the benefits; the most important being that the scapular be worn devoutly. The absence of a pious devotion would render wearing the scapular meaningless. So it is important to remember that there are external practices that accompany this devotion, but first and foremost, it is necessary to have a pious interior devotion to Our Lady; allowing Her to be our light to Christ, showing us the way to Jesus. To wear the scapular without a serious Christian commitment would be a presumption of God's mercy, and an insult to Our Blessed Mother, whose loving protection and aid we implore.

Part of a pious devotion entails prayer that should be recited with love. The prayer most associated with the Brown Scapular Devotion is the Rosary; so we must always remember to whom we are praying. Reciting the Rosary should always be done with the utmost respect and love due to the Mother of God, and Our Mother. Devotion and prayer to Our Lady is part of a relationship of love.

To receive the benefit of the Scapular Promise, wearers of the Brown Scapular must meet two conditions: the first, one must honour Mary by wearing the scapular until death, and the second, endeavour to lead a sincere Christian life.

For those who wear the Brown Scapular, it is a sign of confidence in the intercession of Mary, that She will obtain for the wearer, the grace of final perseverance or a happy death.

The Sabbatine Privilege 

As for the Sabbatine Privilege, those who faithfully practice this devotion can expect Mary's aid in purgatory; that is, on the first Saturday after death, they will be delivered from purgatory. Here is what Our Lady stated during her apparition to Pope John XXII, “I, the Mother of Grace, shall descend on the Saturday after their death and whomsoever I shall find in purgatory I shall free so that I may lead them to the holy mountain of life everlasting.”

To obtain the Sabbatine Privilege, devotees must fulfill three conditions: prayer, penance, and the practice of chastity according to one's state of life.

The prayer prescribed to gain the Sabbatine Privilege is the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin, which today is substituted by other prayers, such as the Liturgy of the Hours or more commonly, five decades of the Rosary. The commute to these "other prayers" is granted by a priest.

A further note on the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin. This prayer is a short version of the Liturgy of the Hours, and it was often the official community prayers of some Religious communities before changes were made as a result from Vatican II. Since then it has been updated with the reformed Liturgy of The Hours. Most Religious communities have adopted the Liturgy of the Hours as their community prayers. Although, the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin was popular during the time when the Brown Scapular was being promoted, it no longer is the case today.

The penance originally stipulated for the Sabbatine Privilege was not to eat meat on Wednesday and Saturday. If for some reason, this is not doable, a priest could commute this requirement to the recitation of five decades of the Rosary.

Chastity according to one's state of life refers to both conjugal chastity, and to those who are not married. 

The Brown Scapular is a Sign of Mary

A photo of the Brown Scapular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel
Brown Scapular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel
The Church has many signs relating to some event, tradition or person; one of these is the Brown Scapular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. It is a sign approved by the Church, and accepted by the Carmelite Order—and all those who practice this devotion—as an external sign of love for Mary, an expression of their trust in her motherly protection, and the desire to be like her in her commitment to Christ, and to others.

You might be wondering what exactly is a scapular. A scapular—a word that derives from the Latin scapulae meaning shoulders—is a garment worn by religious over the shoulders (scapula), that hangs down in front and to the back, usually the length of the habit. Originally worn to protect the habit from work performed, it eventually gained spiritual significance.

From this we have the smaller version of the Brown Scapular, two pieces (each piece approximately one square inch) that are connected by cords, and worn over the head. The scapular must be one hundred percent wool without plastic casing and should not be pinned or affixed to clothing. The face of one piece depicts the event of Our Lady's apparition to St. Simon Stock, giving him the scapular; and the other piece contains writing quoting Our Lady to St. Simon Stock, "Whoever dies clothed in this scapular shall not suffer eternal fire."

Enrolment in the Brown Scapular Confraternity

To be eligible for the Scapular Promise, one must be enrolled in the Brown Scapular Confraternity, also referred to as the Confraternity of Our Lady of Mount Carmel or Confraternity of the Scapular.

Enrolment can be done individually or within a group setting. For individual or private enrolments, there is the option of a simple form of investiture; a priest or deacon recites a Marian prayer, such as the Hail Mary, Memorare or Salve Regina, while placing the scapular over the head of the individual. This completes the investiture and the individual is officially enrolled in the Confraternity.

Enrolment within a group setting, a community celebration, is somewhat longer. Like the individual enrolment, it is also performed by a priest or deacon, who recites the Rite for the Blessing of and Enrolment in the Scapular, which includes: the opening rite, the Word of God, intercessions, prayer of blessing, enrolment in the scapular, and the closing rite. The enrolment must be done with a Brown Scapular, and not with the Scapular Medal. It is only after the enrolment that members, should they choose to do so, can replace the wool scapular with the medal.

Whether done individually or within a group setting, enrolment in the Confraternity is done once, so should you have a need to replace your scapular, there is no need to be enrolled again. 

The Morning Offering

O my God, in union with the Immaculate Heart of Mary (here kiss your Brown Scapular for a partial indulgence) I offer Thee the Precious Blood of Jesus from all the altars throughout the world, joining with it the offering of my every thought, word and action of this day. O my Jesus, I desire today to gain every indulgence and merit I can and I offer them, together with myself, to Mary Immaculate...that She may best apply them to the interests of Thy most Sacred Heart. Precious Blood of Jesus, Save us! Immaculate Heart of Mary, Pray for us! Sacred Heart of Jesus, Have mercy on us!

The Popes and the Brown Scapular

Like in centuries past, many popes from the last one hundred and fifty years, from Pope Leo XIII to St. Pope John Paul II, have promoted the Brown Scapular Devotion:

  • Pope Leo XIII (1878-1903) - In 1890 Pope Leo XIII granted confessors the opportunity to commute the condition of abstinence (not eating meat on Wednesday and Saturday) into other good works for gaining of the Sabbatine Privilege.
  • St. Pius X (1903-1914) - St. Pius X permitted for the Brown Scapular cloth to be replaced with a Scapular Medal, to further encourage dedication to Mary. The faithful who were invested in any scapular, except those that belong to the Third Orders, were permitted to make this substitution, with the simple requirement that the medal be carried on the person. The medal was not intended to be a new form of devotion, but as an aid to its continual practice.
  • Pope Pius XI (1922-1939) - In an apostolic letter Pope Pius XI stated, "...[A]lthough it is very true that the Blessed Virgin loves all who love her, nevertheless those who wish to have the Blessed Mother as a helper in [the hour of] death, must in life merit such signal favor by abstaining from sin and laboring in her honor." 
  • Pope Pius XII (1939-1958) - In an apostolic letter, Pope Pius XII stated the following: "We are not here concerned with a light or passing matter, but with the obtaining of eternal life itself which is the substance of the promise of the most Blessed Virgin which has been handed down to us. We are concerned, namely, with that which is of supreme importance to all and with the manner of achieving it safely. . . But not for this reason may they who wear the Scapular think that they can gain eternal salvation while remaining slothful and negligent of spirit, for the Apostle warns us: "In fear and trembling shall you work out your salvation." (Phil.2:12)
  • Pope Paul VI (1963-1978) - In speaking of Marian devotion and the Brown Scapular, Pope Paul VI stated, "Let the faithful hold in high esteem the practices and devotions to the Blessed Virgin approved by the teaching authority of the Church. It is Our conviction that the Rosary of Mary and the Scapular of Carmel are among these recommended practices. The Scapular is a practice of piety, which by its very simplicity is suited to everyone."
  • St. Pope John Paul II (1978-2005) - In his Letter to the Carmelites on the Occasion of the 750th Anniversary of the Scapular, St. Pope John Paul II wrote, "There are two truths which the sign of the Scapular brings out: on the one hand, there is the continuous protection of the Blessed Virgin, not only along the pathways of this life, but also at the moment of passing into the fullness of eternal glory; on the other hand, there is the awareness that devotion towards Our Lady cannot be limited to the occasional prayer in her honour, but must become a "habit", that is a permanent way of Christian living, made up of prayer and the interior life, frequent recourse to the Sacraments and the concrete exercise of the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. In this way the Scapular becomes a sign of "covenant" and of reciprocal communion between Mary and the faithful. It expresses in a concrete way the gift, which Jesus, while hanging on the cross, made of his Mother to John, and through him to us. It also gives expression to Jesus’ commitment of the beloved disciple and us to Her, who thus became our spiritual Mother."

The Rosary and the Brown Scapular are Inseparable

It is often written that the Rosary and the Brown Scapular are inseparable. As one who has been wearing the Brown Scapular since 2003, and began praying the Rosary a few years before that, I would like to offer my advice to those who are seriously considering wearing a Brown Scapular, and who are new to the Rosary.

If you have not done so already, the decision to wear a Brown Scapular should be accompanied by a sincere effort to understand the Rosary and how to pray it. You will most likely receive a commute from a priest to recite five decades of the Rosary, as part of fulfilling the conditions of the Brown Scapular Devotion. Below is a selected list of my blog posts on the Rosary that contain additional reading resources and web site links:

Our Lady of Mount Carmel, pray for us.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Comunità Cenacolo: A Solution to Some of Canada's Problems

A street view of the front entrance at Comunità Cenacolo, Medjugorje
Cenacle Community (Comunità Cenacolo) in Medjugorje, Herzegovina

If you have never heard of Comunità Cenacolo (Cenacle Community in Italian), it is a Catholic community whose outreach spans to many parts of the world, striving to respond to the needs and desperate cries of so many people (men and women), mostly young, whose lives are troubled due to: alcohol abuse, drug addiction, depression, disappointment, and those searching for joy and the true meaning of life. Those that enter the community do so as a matter of acknowledging that they have a problem, and need help to find the solution, to change their lives for the better, and begin life anew.

It is said that the worst death is the loss of all hope. At the Cenacle Community, hope is rekindled in each individual, strengthened by God's blessings and graces, and a community experience, where each individual quickly realizes, "I am not alone." Where once darkness and sadness filled the lives of these individuals, it is replaced by light and joy; the beginning of a new simple, family-orientated life centered on: work, prayer, faith in God, communication and interaction with each other, and those that visit Cenacolo (many pilgrim groups visit to hear testimonials), all of which is reinforced by the group recitation of the entire Rosary, imploring the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

An image of Sister Elvira Petrozzi, smiling with her hands held out.
Sister Elvira Petrozzi
Comunità Cenacolo was first established in Italy in 1983, by Italian Sister Elvira Petrozzi, a member of the Congregation of the Sisters of Charity, whose concern about the troubling conditions of so many youth in society, prompted her to petition her superiors for the freedom to pursue what she discerned to be, a new calling, the Cenacle Community. It took several years for Sister Elvira to be given the freedom to pursue the call, but once released, she set out, with two other fellow religious, Srs. Aurelia and Nives Grato, to establish the first community.

An abandoned old house in Saluzzo, Italy, a town in the province of Cuneo (Piedmont region), served as the humble beginnings of this community. On July 16, 1983, on the feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Comunità Cenacolo officially opened. It wasn't long before troubled young people began arriving at the door, and so began the work of what would later become an international ministry. Currently, there are fifty-six houses spread throughout the world: Italy, France, Croatia, Medjugorje (Herzegovina), Ireland, Brazil, Austria, Dominican Republic, and Mexico. There are also four community locations in the United States: three in St. Augustine, Florida (one being a house only for women) and one in Hanceville, Alabama.

I was first introduced to the Cenacolo Community during my pilgrimage to Medjugorje in late June'2014. It afforded me the opportunity to see, first hand, the many "fruits," that have been harvested in the "spiritual orchard" of Medjugorje; a place that Saint Pope John Paul II referred to as, "The spiritual center of the world."

During my visit to Cenacolo, I listened attentively to the testimonials of two young American men (see photo below) who revealed the details of their troubled lives to a group of pilgrims that I was apart of. It was fascinating to watch and listen to them; they truly were powerful witnesses of God's grace and work being accomplished through their lives at the community. At the time of their testimonials, it was abundantly clear that they were well adjusted to community living, and were well on their way to living a normal and virtuous life, closely connected to God and Our Lady, Queen of Peace.

Recalling that visit to Cenacolo, I can not help but think of the scripture passage from John, "I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing." (John 15:5)

Two American men Comunità Cenacolo, Medjugorje providing testimonials to pilgrimages
Two American men from Comunità Cenacolo in Medjugorje, giving their testimonials to pilgrims.
The photo to the right is Sister Elvira Petrozzi.

Since my visit, I had not thought too much about Cenacolo. Certainly the community came up in conversation with other Medjugorje pilgrims, but what prompted today's post was inspiration I received stemming from my attendance at the annual Marian Day of Prayer conference in Toronto on May 7. At that conference I was reunited with three other Medjugorje pilgrims, two of which were guest speakers at the conference: Diane and Ben Wasiniak, a mother and son team whose testimonials spoke of the effectiveness, success, and necessity of Cenacolo.

Ben and Diane were such powerful witnesses because of their personal experience with Cenacolo in Medjugorje. Ben entered Cenacolo on May 25, 2012, and left on June, 2, 2015. As he put it, it was "three years and breakfast," meaning, once he completed his time there, having made the successfully transition, the next day he had breakfast, and it was time to go. Cenacolo had served its purpose, he was a new man, changed for the better, prepared and strengthened to meet the challenges ahead, and close to God and Our Lady. On a personal note, I can tell you that Ben is an extremely personable and likeable young man; it was a pleasure to have met him in Medjugorje, and spent time with him in Toronto.

Cenacolo is not only a time of transition for its members, but also for many of the parents whose children are in the community. One can only imagine the impact upon parents—as well as to loved ones, other members of the family, and friends—when someone they care and love is besieged by serious trouble. Those of us who attended the Marian Day of Prayer conference, were given a glimpse of all that a mother goes through, with Diane's testimonial. As a devout Catholic, Diane prayed for her son, "kept the faith," and did all that she could for Ben while he went through his transition, part of which included meetings with other parents whose children were also in the community. Here is how Diane described those meetings:
Parents are asked to attend a meeting every first Saturday to get together to support each other and discuss the current topic. It is a spiritual exercise to discuss how we need to examine ourselves and make changes. There are different regions based on location that parents meet and some parents travel eight hours or more to attend. It is extremely important to be involved and parents are expected to attend. We have Mass, then breakfast then recite the Rosary and then have the meeting. It is a great support for parents.
An image of Ben and Diane Wasiniak giving their testimonials at the Marian conference.
Ben and Diane Wasiniak, giving their testimonials at the Marian conference

During Ben's testimonial, he pointed out that Canada does not have any Cenacolo communities, and that we all need to pray that Cenacolo comes to Canada. It was a point well made, and well received; one that seemed to remain with me in a significant way. As to the exact reason why, the answer became clear the next day on Sunday, as I spent some time in prayer, and reflected upon the conference. Amongst all that I had seen and heard, what stood out the most was Ben and Diane's testimonials about Cenacolo. In response to that inspiration I began to write the first draft of this post.

Ben is absolutely correct, Canada could certainly benefit from several Cenacolo communities. The effectiveness of Cenacolo makes it worthy of pursuing. I completely agree with Ben, we need need to pray for this, and if it is God's will, it will be.

If you are wondering what a day in the life is like in Cenacolo (Medjugorje), below is a summary that captures the core of each day's schedule:

  • The day begins at 6:15am, where the community gathers in the chapel to recite the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary, on their knees, in front of the Blessed Sacrament.
  • One individual is committed to reading the Gospel, and shares how it has affected his life in community. Each day, a different individual reads and shares the Gospel experience.
  • After the Gospel sharing, everyone eats breakfast together.
  • Community work begins after breakfast. Depending on the particular location, this could mean tending to animals, gardening, landscaping, construction, or an ongoing community project.
  • By 10:00am, the community enjoys a five-to-ten minute break with a snack, then it's back to work.
  • At lunch (Noon), everyone eats together, but first the community recites the Angelus, and a thanksgiving prayer for the food they are about to eat.
  • After the community has eaten, there is thirty-to-forty minutes of sharing with another member. Community members pair up for this sharing; one that is by choice and consensual. Pairing changes each day, due to the importance of sharing with someone different. This goes on until approximately 1:15pm.
  • After which the community walks together reciting the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary, with the special intention for Sister Elvira.
  • Work continues after the Rosary is recited.
  • At 4:00pm, there is another five-to-ten minute break, with another snack.
  • Work continues for a bit, then a decision is made with respect to some free time. It may mean a quick football (soccer) game, practicing singing, the playing of musical instruments or something else.
  • By 5:30pm, everyone is expected to be showered and ready for prayers in the chapel, where the Glorious Mysteries of the Rosary are recited.
  • The community eats dinner together, after which they recite another set of the Mysteries of the Rosary.
  • Bedtime is 9:00pm.

If it all seems somewhat regimented, it needs to be. It is important to develop a consistent daily routine, one that will help each individual to develop positive work and prayer habits, discover and learn new things about themselves, grow in virtue, and make that positive transition to a new life.

Although most aspects of community life are readily understood, there are times when what appears to be obvious, does in fact have an added meaning or purpose. Case in point, the example that Ben shared at the conference; the task assigned to him of picking individual blades of grass from gravel or rocky parts of the landscape. At first, Ben loathed the idea, but it soon proved to be a learning experience, a time of discovery about himself. 

Plucking individual blades of grass takes time and patience, and patience is something that Ben needed to develop. In addition, he also learned to be obedient. Ben was assigned to picking blades of grass on more than once occasion. It wasn't long before Ben welcomed the task, knowing that it had a personal meaning for his own journey. This example spotlights how Cenacolo is very much a community experience, but also an individual journey.

If you are wondering how Cenacolo deals with issues and problems, the community has the answer: the Responsible, who is the person in charge of the entire community. The Responsible, works closely with "work groups," to discuss any issues or problems, and they are typically dealt with quickly, so as to not allow what may be a small problem to develop into a bigger one.

Perhaps the most fundamental aspect of Cenacolo is that it operates solely and completely on Divine Providence, which manifests itself in many ways: volunteers, donations, assistance from local families and communities, help from consecrated religious, and other ways. Medjugorje is blessed to have two Cenacolo communities, one for men and one for women.

The Cenacle communities throughout the world are truly something special; God's love and mercy reaching out to those lost souls, who need to be found. Perhaps it would be most fitting to end my post by quoting from the Cenacle Community's web site, "We are the first to be amazed by what the Lord is working in front of our eyes, and to thank Him because He makes us daily witnesses to His Resurrection, in the strength of which we see every day life return in the smiles of people who had lost all hope."

Hvaljen Isus i Marija (Praised be Jesus and Mary)