Sunday, January 25, 2015

Patrick And Nancy Latta in Guatemala, Central America

If you have been following my blog for quite some time or searched through my "Medjugorje" label, you might remember a blog post entitled, The Triumph Medjugorje Movie - A Follow Up where I wrote about the screening of The Triumph movie at AMC Theaters in Toronto, followed by an afternoon retreat that included a talk given by Patrick and Nancy Latta, two Canadians who moved to Medjugorje, Bosnia-Herzegovina to work for Our Lady. Travelling to different parts of the world providing their testimonials and spreading awareness of the Marian apparitions in Medjugorje is part what their work entails. With today's post I write about their recent speaking engagements in Guatemala, Central America.

Nancy, Father Michael and Patrick at the Apostolic
Nunciature, Guatemala City
My connection to Patrick and Nancy's visit to Guatemala is quite a coincidence. They were invited to speak and help spread the importance of Our Lady's apparitions and messages in Medjugorje by Franciscan Friar and missionary, Father Michael Della Penna, OFM from the Immaculate Conception Province, USA. He currently works as the director of Valley Of The Angels Orphanage, located just twenty five minutes from Guatemala City. The orphanage takes care of the educational, physical and spiritual needs of approximately two hundred children.

Part of my connection to all this also stems from the fact that I happen to be friends with Father Michael, a friendship that was established a little over fifteen years ago. His ministry brought him to Canada where he was located at one of my local parishes and later on at a Franciscan Retreat Center in Caledon, about forty five minutes drive from me. During that time he became my confessor and spiritual director.

Ironically, my connection to and interaction with Fr. Michael did not diminish or end when his ministry took him to Guatemala. Rather it actually increased as I was chosen to get involved and help establish an internet presence for the orphanage. As part of a collaborative effort between Fr. Michael and myself for the orphanage's web site, I went to Guatemala in August'2011. It entailed shooting many photographs, taking notes, talking to people, meeting the children, discussions with Fr. Michael and simply absorbing the peace filled atmosphere of God's presence at the orphanage. The "valley" which is how it is sometimes referred to, is truly a wonderful place to be at. The incredibly beautiful landscape is just one of the signs of God's blessings upon the orphanage. You can view this at the orphanage's Gallery page. 

As for Fr. Michael, his transition as a Franciscan missionary to Latin America has been seamless. Being aware of some of the issues and struggles during the transition time, it is amazing how God has accomplished so many great things through him and the local team he has assembled at the "valley." You can read about the progress over the past few years by viewing the Annual Reports at the orphanage's News page.

One of the more recent positive developments has been the establishment of pilgrimages to Medjugorje. The first pilgrimage, Holy Week Medjugorje is to begin on March 28, 2015. Part of the effort to make the Marian apparitions and messages in Medjugorje better known and understood, included Patrick and Nancy's presence at the orphanage and other select locations throughout Guatemala. The photo below is the church at the orphanage where Patrick and Nancy spoke to the children.
The church at the Valley of the Angels Orphanage, Finca El Pulte, Guatemala, Central America

Patrick and Nancy arrived in Guatemala City on January 10th, and were greeted at the airport by Fr. Michael and a few friends. The following morning, their first full day in Guatemala, began with a Mass at the orphanage celebrated by Fr. Michael followed by a talk given by Nancy that included her handing out Rosaries to the children.

The next day proved to be a very busy one that began with an important morning meeting with the president of Guatemala, Otto Perez and the and vice president, Roxana Baldetti. They attended the first of the year open meeting that included the president's entire cabinet. It was a meeting in which Nancy affirmed the humility of the government appointed representatives by their willingness to listen to their testimonials and the importance of Our Lady in Medjugorje's role in their lives. Nancy had made reference to the daily newspaper which had a picture of the Virgin Mary on the cover and the president's picture on the second page announcing a year of nonviolence. Nancy was grateful for the opportunity to witness to the messages of Medjugorje and Patrick, as usual, did a tremendous job of sharing how one message changed his entire life. After the testimonials, Nancy gave out Rosaries to the president and each individual of the cabinet. After which Fr. Michael gave a blessing to all the delegates.

After leaving the president's palace, Fr. Michael, Patrick and Nancy went to the office of the Papal Nuncio, Nicolas Henry Denis Thevenin where they were graciously received. Their time there involved an exchange of stories and confessions. From the papal nuncio's office, they went to a radio station to be interviewed. The remainder of the day included lunch, a prayer service that included the launching of a rosary made from helium balloons and another talk at San Judas Church. After four days, Patrick and Nancy departed Guatemala and headed home to Medjugorje.

I remarked to Fr. Michael during a Skype session that I recalled vividly how wonderful it was to have experienced that day in Toronto with Patrick and Nancy, that their testimonials coupled with the afternoon prayer program, were spiritually more beneficial than all the retreats I have ever been to combined. He automatically understood the comparison and shared his enthusiasm for their witness. Here is what Father Michael had to say about his own experience in Guatemala:
The central message of course is about how Pat and Nancy's heart changed. It is about Pat believing the message of Mary and allowing grace to transform his and his families life. His story of living each of the messages of reading the Bible, going to mass and confession, praying the rosary and fasting is disarmingly simple and shocking in its results. He humorously relates how his failure as s parent produced children who were copies of him (his daughter divorced twice like him) his advice was to take some money and a new car, head to California and find a new one. After his conversion, he handed each of his four children a rosary and told them it would save their life. Miraculously 6 months later, his alcoholic son called to tell him he was sober. Pat himself was surprised and asked how - only to discover the sons response "when I saw you praying dad, I knew I had to change my life" His new advice to those who would date his daughter can be summed up with one question " where is your rosary" as he believes one of the greatest requests of a would be suitor needs to be a prayerful man as he explains otherwise you could end up with a guy like him. 
For me personally however, I was touched by Pats incredible love for the priesthood and how during his miracle he professes to have received the gift of absolution in confession. He purposely begins his witness by stating he is never seen the blessed virgin Mary and has never had a mystical experience but then goes on to exalt the greatest miracle on earth which are as he says, the priests because they have the power to absolve sinners. Quoting Saint Catherine he says that we are never to judge priests and that our job is to pray for them.

Patrick and Nancy's retreat house - Our Lady of The Sacred Heart Retreat House in Medjugorje

For several years now, Patrick and Nancy have established a successful retreat house for priests and religious. It is no ordinary retreat house. It literally is a medieval castle, whose perimeter is typically breached by groups of laity who make the castle an include in their pilgrimage itinerary. As one who has personally "breached the perimeter," upon arrival I was in awe of the beautiful architecture and landscape. During my own pilgrimage in the Summer'2014, I was able to reconnect with Patrick and Nancy on more than one ocassion. They are very busy in Medjugorje and although our reconnections were short lived, it was great to see them again. If you do plan to go on a pilgrimage to Medjugorje, I recommend you visit Our Lady of The Sacred Heart Retreat House, it will be time well spent. 

May Our Lady Queen of Peace clear the way to and guide you on your pilgrimage in Medjugorje.

Mir i Dobro (Croatian for Peace and All Good)

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Familiaris Consortio - Saint Pope John Paul II's Apostolic Exhortation On The Role Of The Christian Family In The Modern World

Saint Pope John Paul II during the early years of his pontificate, a protector of life and the family

With the Extraordinary Synod of The Family in October'2014, the upcoming World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia in September'2015 and the Synod of the Family in Rome in October'2015, it seemed only fitting that with today's post, I begin to write about a new blog label, the Family.

The family is in urgent need of support and protection from the increasing moral disorder in Canadian society, one that seems to have very little regard for its significance as the "first and vital cell of society." It has been directly attacked with abortion, contraception, pornography/pornovision, sterilization,"same sex marriage," gender ideology, euthanasia, immoral laws and graphic sexual education. It doesn't take much time or effort to discover how they have negatively impacted the family.

There are many examples one could cite that illustrate the negative impacts upon the family. Here are a few that come to mind. What has always been understood and accepted to be the traditional family unit, has become relative to other family arrangements, that no longer consider a man and a woman as the proper spouses. In 2005 Canada legally recognized "same sex marriages." It is not uncommon these days to meet couples who instead of entering into the sacrament of marriage prefer cohabitation, either as a trial period or permanent arrangement. Marital infidelity, according to a pastor from one of my local Catholic parishes, is quite an ongoing problem. With today's contraceptive mentality, many enter into the conjugal act with the intention of preventing God's creative action of bringing new life into the world. For some, instead of being joyous about the news of a pregnancy, consider such news a negative development and seek to kill the unborn baby in the womb with an abortion. Many parents are failing to be the "first educators" of their children. Instead of ensuring that their children receive a proper Christian formation, parents allow the values and influences of the world to determine and dominant their children's development.

The federal government has not done enough over the years to build up Canada's future by providing substantial financial incentives to encourage and support families to have children. Add to this its ushering in of a "culture of death" that became identifiable in 1969 with the introduction of "therapeutic abortions" in hospitals, followed by the infamous Dr. Henry Morgantaler's 1988 constitutional challenge that made abortion legal and available on demand. These and many other indicators are a telling sign of deep moral crisis in Canada.

Sadly, many people do not truly understand the role of the Christian family in the modern world nor have they ever had a proper lived experience of what is referred to as the "domestic church," a community of life and love, that educates and leads its members to their full human maturity and serves all along the road of life. If this is the first time you are reading about the family as the "domestic church," it is in reference to the family as a microcosm of the larger Church, the sacrament of God's love, a communion of faith and life. The future of the world and of the Church passes through the familyAs Saint Pope John Paul II has stated in his 1986 homily in Perth, Australia during his apostolic pilgrimage in Asia, "...As the family goes, so goes the nation, and so goes the whole world in which we live." (4)  

The question remains, how do we effectively support and protect the family? The first thing to understand about all this, is that it is primarily a spiritual battle, one that requires we root our efforts in prayer and fasting. The most powerful forms of prayer are the Eucharist (Mass) and the Rosary. Frequent Mass attendance, daily if possible and offering up the family with each Mass is an effective approach, coupled with a daily recitation of the Rosary. 

The importance of fasting can not be overstated when fighting the spiritual battle. In addressing the apostles who questioned Jesus as to why they could not cast out the demon, Jesus Himself mentioned the spiritual weapons of prayer and fasting as the most effective weapons against the forces of evil. He stated in particular the necessity of fasting that, "some demons cannot be driven out except in this way." (Mark 9:29) 

Our Lady in Medjugorje has reaffirmed this teaching from Jesus, by giving us Her "little stones," two of which are prayer and fastingOur Lady has stated in one of her messages that fasting can stop wars, "The best fast is on bread and water. Through fasting and prayer one can stop wars, one can suspend the natural laws of nature. Works of charity cannot replace fasting. Everyone except the sick, has to fast." (July 21, 1982) The analogy of the "little stones" is in reference to the battle of David and Goliath (1 Samuel 17) in which God gave little stones to David to hurl at and defeat Goliath. Our Lady has also given us Her "little stones" in our battle to hurl at our Goliath, Satan. It is Satan who strives to destroy God's plan for the family, society and all of humanity. 

The second thing we can do to effectively support and protect the family is to seek and live the truth about the family, which is proposed in the teachings of the Catholic Church. By doing so, we demonstrate by own example how to cooperate with God's plan for humanity, one that is lived in peace and forms part of a community of faithful believers of the Church and in the World.

So what does the Catholic faith teach about the family? In trying to answer this question, I did some research and I was immediately drawn to the writings of Saint Pope John Paul II, whose pontificate has produced a few key documents on the subject matter, one of which is Familiaris Consortio. It was issued on the Solemnity of Christ The King, November 22nd, 1981 and continues to remain relevant today, even more so with the increased attacks on the family since it was issued.

Familiaris Consortio was a thoroughly written document on the subject matter of the familyand invited readers, in particular the laity, to a new level of awareness and understanding on the Christian family and its role in the modern world. Maintaining a continuity with the magisterium of the Catholic Church, with many references to his predecessor Pope Paul VI's encyclical Humanae vitae and citing from the Second Vatican Council document, Gaudium et spes, one gains a real sense of the historical context with which the Church has addressed the importance of the family in society.

Familiaris Consortio offered help not only to those who were already aware of the value of marriage and the family and sought to live it faithfully, but also for those who were as Saint Pope John Paul II had put it, "... uncertain and anxious and searching for the truth, and to those who are unjustly impeded from living freely their family lives. (1) The Church in issuing this document sought to support, illuminate and assist everyone who wondered about the destiny of marriage and the family.

Familaris Consortio is fifty eight pages printed and demands of the reader, a focussed and dedicated effort to get through what will no doubt be new reading material for many. The reading is not a complex or difficult by any means. For those new to reading on the family, this apostolic exhortation serves as an ideal introduction to the Church's teaching on the subject matter. Familaris Consortio is outlined as follows:
  1. Introduction
  2. Part One - Brights Spots And Shadows For The Family Today
  3. Part Two - The Plan Of God For Marriage And The Family
  4. Part Three - The Role Of The Christian Family
  5. Part Four - Pastoral Care Of The Family: Stages, Structures, Agents And Situations
Due to the volume of information contained in this document, I decided to focus on Part Three - The Role Of The Christian Family, under the subheading of Serving Life. Under the Serving Life section are two subsections: The Transmission of Life and Education. The remainder of this post focusses on these two subsections.

The Transmission of Life
Right from the beginning, Saint Pope John Paul II emphasized how both man and woman are called to cooperate with God in the transmission of life under the subheading, Cooperators in the Love of God the Creator. With man and woman formed in the image and likeness of God, they both are brought to God's perfection in the sharing in His love through the free and responsible cooperation in transmitting the gift of human life. In that cooperation, God has blessed both man and woman to be "fruitful and multiple, and fill the earth and subdue it." (28) He emphasized that the fundamental task of the family is to serve life.

In continuity with the Church's teaching on marriage and the transmission of human life, Saint Pope John Paul II included the reaffirmation made by the synod fathers from the 1980 synod in which they declared:
This Sacred Synod, gathered together with the Successor of Peter in the unity of faith, firmly holds what has been set forth in the Second Vatican Council (cf. Gaudium et spes, 50) and afterwards in the Encyclical Humanae vitae, particularly that love between husband and wife must be fully human, exclusive and open to new life. (29)
Under the subheading the Church's Stand for LifeSaint Pope John Paul II noted the urgency with which the promotion of the true good of men and women must be made, in light of the social and cultural context of that time. It is something that has become even more urgent today with the many societal problems that have accelerated since this document's issue in 1981.

Having Identified the core problem of the absence of God in people's hearts, Saint Pope John Paul II elaborated on how such a reality was evident in the attitudes of many people. What resulted then, which has increased considerably in today's society, was an anti-life attitude. It was illustrated by the skepticism with which people debated whether is was justifiable to bring new life into a cruel world. Add to this the consumer mentality which only sought to acquire an increasing amount of material goods. Others also embraced a contraceptive mentality, which was a complete refusal to cooperate in the transmission of life.

At that time, like today, partly fuelling of the anti-life mentality were the panic based notions by environmentalists who claimed that further population increases were a dangerous demographic reality that would result in reduced quality of life. To this, Saint Pope John Paul II again reaffirmed Church teaching when he declared:
But the Church firmly believes that human life, even if weak and suffering, is always a splendid gift of God's goodness. Against the pessimism and selfishness which cast a shadow over the world, the Church stands for life: in each human life she sees the splendor of that "Yes," that "Amen," who is Christ Himself.(84) To the "No" which assails and afflicts the world, she replies with this living "Yes," thus defending the human person and the world from all who plot against and harm life. (30)
Saint Pope John Paul II also made it clear that the Church condemns and considers to be a grave offence against human dignity, all the activities of governments or public authorities which in any way negatively affect the freedom couples' decision about children. Included is any violence by such authorities with respect to contraception, sterilization and abortion. 

At the subheading, Integral Vision of the Human Person and of His or Her Vocation, Saint Pope John Paul II further emphasized the importance of a couple's cooperation in transmission of life when he explained why it is morally wrong to consider contraception. Quoting Pope Paul VI who affirmed the two meanings of the conjugal act, both the unitive and procreative, he noted how his predecessor made it clear that every act should be considered intrinsically immoral that in any way renders procreation impossible.

Saint Pope John Paul II elaborated further when he stated that when couples have recourse to contraception, they separate the two meanings of the conjugal act and become "...arbiters of the divine plan and they manipulate and degrade human sexuality and with it themselves and their married partner by altering its value of total self giving." (32) The use of contraception does not permit for a time of total reciprocal self giving by husband and wife. He noted that this leads to, "not only a positive refusal to be open to life but also to a falsification of the inner truth of conjugal love, which is called upon in personal totality." (32)

When couples have recourse to periods of infertility, then couples respect the inseparable connection between the unitive and procreative meanings of human sexuality. In so doing, Saint Pope John Paul II noted that they act as "ministers of God's plan and they benefit from their sexuality according to the original dynamism of total self giving, without manipulation or alteration." (32) 

Further on, Saint Pope John Paul II spoke about the "absolute necessity for the virtue of chastity and for permanent education in it." (33) For married couples, understanding that family life also requires chaste living, that the dignity of the human being must not be diminished or ignored by impure thoughts, which when they occur reduces the other to a means of self gratification. As Saint Pope John Paul II noted, chastity does not reject human sexuality, but rather represents a spiritual path for defending love from the perils of selfishness and aggressiveness. It is only through chaste living that human sexuality can be fully realized.

One of the most relevant subsections that couples and families can learn from today, are the various paragraphs under the subheading, The Moral Progress of Married People. Saint Pope John Paul II noted that it is essential to have the correct understanding of the moral order, its values and norms, especially in light of difficulties that arise in recognizing, accepting and living these norms. Today, we have many examples of such difficulties as noted in the aforementioned "elements of the moral disorder," to which we could easily add: an embolden gay agenda and its propaganda, the indoctrination of sexual immorality in the education system, restrictions on the freedom of conscience, a lack of respect for morality and religious beliefs, anti-life policies, secularism, consumerism and moral relativism.

What is fundamental about the moral order is that it reveals and sets forth the plan of God the Creator. It is for this reason that it in no way can be considered harmful to man or something impersonal. On the contrary, as Pope John Paul II noted, the moral order, " responding to the deepest demands of the human being created by God, it places itself at the service of that person's full humanity with the delicate and binding love whereby God Himself inspires, sustains and guides every creature towards its happiness." (34) Married people are called to live God's wise and loving plan in a responsible manner and unceasingly progress in their moral lives.

One of the most essential roles of Christian families in the world is that of married couples as the first educators of their children. The task of education is one that is, as Saint Pope John Paul II noted, rooted in the primary vocation of married couples. In fulfilling their role, married couples help their children to effectively live their lives. They do this in part by creating an atmosphere so animated with love and reverence for God and others that, "...a well-rounded personal and social development will be fostered among the children..." (36) As a result, the family becomes the first school of social virtues which every society needs. Saint Pope John Paul II emphasized the important role of married couples when he stated: 
The right and duty of parents to give education is essential, since it is connected with the transmission of human life; it is original and primary with regard to the educational role of others, on account of the uniqueness of the loving relationship between parents and children; and it is irreplaceable and inalienable, and therefore incapable of being entirely delegated to others or usurped by others. (36)
Not to be forgotten or overlooked is that essential component, the most basic element of the educational role of parents, that is parental love. It finds its fulfillment in the task of education as it "...completes and perfects its service to life..." (36)

Under the subheading, Educating in the Essential Values of Human Life, Saint Pope John Paul II noted how important it is for all families to educate their children in the essential values of human life. He stated that, "Children must grow up with a correct attitude of freedom with regard to material goods, by adopting a simple and austere life style and being fully convinced that man is more precious for what he is than for what he has." (37)

Also spotlighted was the necessity for children to be enriched with a sense of true justice amongst a society filled with division, tension, individualism and selfishness. What this translates into is for children to be instilled with the sense of respect for personal dignity for each individual and a sense of true love, understood to be a sincere and disinterested service to others, especially the poorest and those most in need. In this way, the family fulfills it roles as a first and fundamental school of social living, a community of love.

The role of parents as educators has a direct connection with both civil and ecclesial communities. With respect to Christian communities, parents must be involved in a level of cooperation with various educational groups and pastors. At the same time, Christian communities must give special attention to both parents and the children with the aim of forming a perfect educating community.

Particularly important and spotlighted by Saint Pope John Paul II was the point made regarding the guarantee for the right of parents to choose an education in conformity with their religious faith. This entails the State and the Church provide families with all the possible aid to enable them to perform their educational role properly. The correct thinking for both parents and schools with respect to the education of children is: 
...those in society who are in charge of schools must never forget that the parents have been appointed by God Himself as the first and principal educators of their children and that their right is completely inalienable. But corresponding to their right, parents have a serious duty to commit themselves totally to a cordial and active relationship with the teachers and the school authorities. (40)
Fruitful married love expresses itself in many ways. One of which is the proper Christian education and formation of children. This is such an important aspect of the family's role in the modern world. It is a role whose value has become ever more important and necessary in today's secular and consumeristic world. It is one that can only begin by putting God first in every aspect of family life, allowing God to guide and protect the family.  

I hope that today's post has strengthened your resolve to support and 
protect the family, and encouraged you to read Familiaris Consortio. All conscientious Catholics need to become more involved with the many issues that are negatively impacting the family. The future of Canadian society and the world is dependent upon it.  

May God bless you and your family.   

Sunday, January 11, 2015

"Je Suis Charlie" - Showing My Support For And In Solidarity With The People Of France

BBC reporting and captured footage of the Unity March near the Charlie Hebdo offices

My first blog post of the year was certainly not what I had planned to write about, but due to the nature of the terrorist attacks in France this past week, which left seventeen people dead, I felt it was necessary to show my support for and express my solidarity with the people of France. I think it is a fair assumption to make that by now, much of the world has heard about the attacks and has a basic understanding of what had transpired during the three days of absolute shock and horror. If you are not familiar with the details, the British Broadcasting Corporation's (BBC) article, Charlie Hebdo attack: Three days of terror provides an excellent summary of events that unfolded on Wednesday, January 7th and ended on Friday, January 9th.

In response to the drama of the past few days, France prepared a very well organized Unity March that drew between one million to one and half million people. In attendance were people from all walks of life, international visitors and over 40 world leaders such as British Prime Minister, David Cameron, Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu. All marched in solidarity for freedom and to honour and respect those fifteen civilians who were killed in the attacks and for the two police officers who died in the line of duty. For everyone's safety, there were 5,500 police officers at the march, including marksmen at roof tops. 

Many countries from the international community held their own rallies in support for and in solidarity with France's Unity March. Here in Canada, marches were organized in Quebec City, Toronto, Halifax and Vancouver. In addition, there were similar marches in Toyko, Syndey, Beirut, Ramallah, Jerusalem, Berlin, London, Madrid, Buenos Aires, New York, Washington and Boston.

I spent the better part of the late morning and afternoon watching the Unity March on the BBC and it was quite an impressive and moving display of unity and fearlessness in the face of terrorism. One of the more moving moments was when police marksmen who were positioned at the top of buildings, would salute the crowds below drawing cheers and clapping. This happen several times and it was such a beautiful display of unity. The above photo shows two such police marksmen at the building directly to the reporter's right, at the middle of the building.

Place de la République, the square in Paris where thousands gathered for the Unity March

It was moving to see spontaneous songs erupting in an atmosphere of courtesy and consideration that manifested itself in group activities and individual gestures of peace. One group had several hundred white roses that were passed to everyone amongst themselves which were simultaneously thrown in the air together with cheers. Another example was the giving of a white rose to a French Jewish man from a French Muslim man, which was his personal gesture of peace. The overall loving and peaceful mood of the march was a much needed antidote to the hatred and violence that France experienced this past week.

What started out this past week as a tragic time marked by horror and sadness has ended with peace and unity. Many French people said that this week's events was France's 9/11. Regardless if this ends up being the case, it is my hope that today has marked the beginning of a healing process amongst the people of France. All of the seventeen dead individuals and their families are in my prayer intentions. I also include and would like to pay a special tribute to the slain police officers, who like all police officers must at times place themselves in harm's way, that unfortunately for some will result in death. I hope that France improves support for the police forces in the areas of tactical support, intelligence gathering, protective gear, education and training so that police officers are even better trained and prepared, as much as possible, to more effectively deal with such attacks in the future. 

The Charlie Hebdo Magazine made an error in judgement as to what was proper and ethical to publish. It is incumbent upon all people of good will to make every effort not to offend anyone for any reason. Demographic issues in France are no justification for insulting someone's faith, race or anything else that ignores and diminishes the dignity of the human being. I have never heard of Charlie Hebdo until this week and from my brief research it became clear that this magazine has a history of publishing risky material that offends many people of different backgrounds and religions. I discovered from a fellow blogger, Lea Z. Singh, that the Roman Catholic faith has also been mocked by this magazine. Apparently, in the past cartoons were published depicting nuns masturbating and the Pope wearing a condom. Clearly, this and similar type publications are sure to invoke very negative responses and in some cases, as this week proved to be, very violent ones.

The Charlie Hebdo attack and others that followed this week spotlights the incorrect and unethical use of freedom. Yes, freedom is a must include for a peaceful society, but with freedom comes responsibility. No one of good will can claim under the banner of freedom, that it is right to publish something that knowingly offends a religion, ethnic group, society and country. The legal availability to do so is not a justification. Understanding the importance of ethical guidelines and implementing them helps to ensure that society is peaceful. To do otherwise may result in the opposite which is what France has witnessed these past few days.

Even worse was the violent response against the Charlie Hebdo Magazine. Violence is not the answer and the murder of the Charlie Hebdo employees, those who happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time, the police officers and the deaths that were the result of this incident's spawning of two other terrorist attacks, are completely unacceptable. As much as I disapprove of the cartoon publications, I in no way condone the murderous actions of these aggressive Muslims who under the banner of Islam acted against the law of the land.

When disputes arise in a civilized society, there are peaceful means by which anyone can have recourse to express objections and seek change for the better, such as article publications, blogs, social networks, radio, internet and television broadcasts and legal challenges. Sadly, those responsible for these attacks have not sought out such peaceful means to communicate their objections, much to their detriment.

Night descended upon the march, but neither the cold nor the night discouraged participants

It is my hope and prayer that freedom will not only be respected and guaranteed, but used responsibly. Having stated that, in support for and in solidarity with the people of France I say, "Je suis Charlie."

God Bless France.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Medjugorje Alert - Beware Of The Polish Catholic Renegade Group The Knights Of Christ The King

Knights of Christ The King Group ascending up Cross Mountain (Križevac), June 24th, 2014.
Father Piotr Natanek is the individual in the middle carrying the cross.

If you are somewhat surprised by the title of this post and wondering what it might be all about, I am sure you are not alone. This too was my reaction when I first saw an article on Medjugorje Today's web site entitled, Renegade Group Is Loose On The Mountains. The concern surrounding this Polish Catholic group is with respect to its wrongful acceptance of "private revelations" of a suspended Polish Catholic priest, Father Piotr Natanek, who in his dissension, has spread wrongful opinions regarding the regality of Jesus. As a result Fr. Piotr has gained a Catholic cult following which the above photo depicts. 

My initial reaction to this matter had an added meaning not only because of my connection to Medjugorje, but due to the fact that I recognized the Polish group from my first climb up Križevac (Cross Mountain) this past summer. I was intrigued to read more about this matter so I decided to do some research. Today's post shares that information, in which I hope to not only inform those pilgrims that I journeyed with in the Summer'2014, but to also forewarn those individuals that are planning a pilgrimage to Medjugorje.

The suspension of Fr. Piotr was ordered by Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, the former special secretary to Saint Pope John Paul II. It was not a suspension ordered in haste, but was the result of having exhausted all communication efforts to reach Fr. Piotr and have him obey his superiors. Father Piotr is known for his controversial homilies and messages, which increasingly became a problem for the Catholic Church in Poland because his sermons were being published on the internet. One sermon, in which Fr. Piotr preached against the incursion of Satan in the lives of young Polish people, was published to the internet and within a few days and was seen by more than half a million people. After having examined the case by a theological commission, Cardinal Dziwisz decided to suspend the rebel priest for his disobedience.

Cardinal Dziwisz explained that Fr. Piotr received more than one admonition and in response should have demonstrated greater self control, and obeyed his superiors. Some of the communication efforts to try to reach Fr. Piotr included disciplinary directives and invitations to meet with his superiors in 2010, and canonical admonishments in 2007 and 2009. Father Piotr's actions were causing damage to the Catholic community around him. In a letter dated July 20, 2011 Cardinal Dziwisz's reveals the seriousness of this matter from the following segment:
...The basis of this decision is produced by the disobedience of p. Peter Natanek and his teachings that are contrary to the teachings of the Church regarding the views of the kingship of Jesus Christ. He is based on the teachings of private revelations and teaching abroad inspired the doctrines of the Church of seven eschatological. Father Peter Natanek distorted in this way not only the established doctrine of the efficacy of salvation in the Church, but also the devotion to the Mother of God, the angels and the saints mixed with magical notions of faith, leading to ridicule the religion of the Church. In his message, distributed by electronic media, undermines the authority of the bishops and priests, accusing them of disbelief and interact with the enemies of the Church. In response to criticism of his fellow pastors and priests try to create its own structures, discouraging his followers to be part of the communion of the universal Church and so exposes them to great spiritual and moral damages...(

More of the Knights Of Christ The King from that June 24th climb up Cross Mountain (Križevac)

The photos published with today's post are my own that I took during my first climb up Cross Mountain (Križevac). These photos were taken at the base of Križevac, during the few minutes I had to spare after descending down the mountain. Being in Medjugorje and just completing my first climb up Križevac, I was on a "spiritual high" as you can imagine. I did not expect to encounter a renegade group from Poland. Based on first impressions and what appeared to be a wonderful devotional procession up the the mountain, I was inspired to shoot some photographs. It is only because of today's post have I come to understand the purpose of that inspiration.

My pilgrimage and first climb up Križevac was not negatively affected in any way by this group's presence. In retrospect, I do not speculate as to the sincerity of their devotion to Jesus and the desire to express it in Medjugorje, but what I will state about this group is this, that as a matter of prudence they should severe all ties with Father Piotr, receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation and begin anew in their "sincere" desire to follow Christ. To maintain the course that they are on is spiritually dangerous for themselves and divisive for the Catholic Church.

If you do intend to make a pilgrimage to Medjugorje, I would like to respectfully recommend you remain cognizant of who this renegade group is, should they be present during your pilgrimage. Do not interact or make any contact with them. Carry on with the purpose of your pilgrimage.

May Our Lady Queen of Peace, guide and protect you on your pilgrimage. 

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Professional Obligations and Human Rights - An Anti-Life Policy From Ontario's College Of Physicians And Surgeons

The CPSO Draft Policy, Saint Pope John Paul II and The Catechism of The Catholic Church

If the title of this blog post intrigues you I hope you will consider reading further on because there is an urgent need to respond to the increasing moral disorder in Canada and help restore Canadian society to a "culture of life." The "increasing moral disorder" comes from the policy development efforts at the Ontario College of Physicians and Surgeons (CPSO). Currently under review is a draft policy, Professional Obligations and Human Rights, which fails to identify and protect the most fundamental aspect of human rights, the right to life. In addition, the college sets out certain guidelines and expectations that direct its members to act against their conscience should a "health care service" conflict with moral or religious beliefs. This is an attack on the freedom of conscience which is not only completely unacceptable, but spotlights the college's additional failure to recognize another basic human right, the right to refuse to take part in committing an injustice. With abortion and contraception legally available, many aspects of this draft policy are cause for great concern for Catholics and all people of good will. Today's post seeks to identify what is morally wrong with this draft policy from a Catholic perspective and encourage action to support and stand by our doctors.

What is at stake here is not only the lives of defenceless, innocent unborn children in the womb and the freedom of conscience for doctors, but the loss of future opportunities for young conscientious Catholics students and others of good will, to become doctors in Ontario. Any approval of this draft policy will certainly deter such students from pursuing a career as a physician or surgeon. After reading this draft, one gets the impression that the aim is to not only restrict those doctors who currently act upon their freedom of conscience, but to possibly even drive them out of the medical profession. Should all this come into effect, what choices would Catholic patients have, who want a doctor of good conscience that will make medical decisions in accord with the Catholic faith? This current draft policy discriminates against all those who are Catholic and pro-life. If approved, it becomes a foundation with which to implement disciplinary penalties and persecute doctors on a professional level who refuse comply with the policy.

I originally took an interest in the subject matter of today's post while on pilgrimage in Medjugorje, Bosnia-Herzegovina this past summer. Back in July'2014 as I was having my usual morning cappuccino and danish, I decided to visit to see what was going on in Canada. There was an article whose title intrigued me, Is the Ontario College of Physicians trying to clamp down on doctors' freedom of conscience. Upon reading it, I was astonished to discover that the CPSO had drafted and published a policy in 2008, that strongly discouraged freedom of conscience. That policy was given the title, Physicians and the Ontario Human Rights Code. The college's strong discouragements can be found under the subheadings of: Moral or Religious Beliefs, Ontario Human Rights Code: Current Law and College Expectations. The policy cover page states that it was to be reviewed in September 2013. As part of the review process, an "external consultation" was held in 2014, between June 4th and August 5th that welcomed the general public to provide feedback. This is in part why Lifesitenews had published the aforementioned article in June of this year, encouraging the public to get involved and provide input as to how the policy could be corrected and improved upon. Being on pilgrimage, my mind was focussed elsewhere and I was not going to delve into this issue, but I certainly took note of it for future reference. Today I have decided to take action and I hope you will be encouraged to do likewise.

What further drew my attention to this issue and has prompted me to take action is another article published earlier this month from Lifesitenews, an update to the CPSO's policy development entitled, BREAKING: Ontario College approves draft policy forcing doctors to provide abortions, contraceptives. Since the summer, the CPSO developed a revised draft policy to the existing one from 2008, and has given it a new title Professional Obligations and Human Rights. Currently the CPSO is holding another external consultation on this new draft policy, welcoming public input at their web site up until a deadline of February 20th, 2015.

If you have not been aware of the CPSO's policy development or have yet to respond to it, the current external consultation will now afford you an opportunity to do something about it. Any conscientious Catholic who values human life, who wants to help protect and save the unborn children from abortion, and the elderly and anyone else from euthanasia and who considers it essential that freedom of conscience be available for doctors, needs to get involved and provide their input to the CPSO's web site. This draft policy is a clarion call to Catholic communities and all people of good will, to speak out and stand by our doctors. What this requires is: prayer and fasting, a sincere desire to help, some reading and the collection your thoughts to be communicated by email, an online forum and/or survey. Providing your feedback is simply a matter of putting faith into action. To quote scripture, "What good is a faith that does nothing in practice. It is thoroughly lifeless." (James 2:17) The policy development efforts at the CPSO is part of the battle against the "culture of death" and it can conveniently be fought from within the comfort of your own home.

Reading the Professional Obligation and Human Rights draft policy document sets off alarm bells right from the beginning. For example, there is language adopted from the gay agenda and its propaganda such as on lines 4-6 which states, "The fiduciary nature of the physician-patient relationship requires that physicians act in their patients' best interests. In doing so, physicians must strive to create and foster an environment in which rights, autonomy, dignity and diversity of all patients, or those seeking to become patients, are respected. The inclusion of "diversity," is totally unnecessary given the preceding words on this list. 

Moving down to lines 24-26, where it states, "Properly managing conflicts, especially where the physician's values differ from those of their patients, or those seeking to become patients. The patient's best interests must remain paramount." The patient's "best interests" is ambiguous and can be interpreted to mean the inclusion of anti-life acts and practices such as abortion and contraception.

Further on at lines 37-41 is another example of the adoption of gay propaganda language. The policy states that, "The Code articulates the right of every Ontario resident to receive equitable treatment with respect to services, goods and facilities, without discrimination on the grounds of race, ancestry, place of origin, colour, ethnic origin, citizenship, creed, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, age, marital status, family status or disability." This might be the language of the Code, but "gender identity and expression" should have never been included in the draft policy. Such wording does not reflect the truth and reality of the human person. An individual's sex is not determined by desires, perceptions or feelings. A person is either male or female and for anyone to deny this reality and consider themselves contrary to what is biological true, is to give way to delusion and deception.

The current draft policy's inclusion of "diversity, gender identity and gender expression," are new inclusions that the 2008 policy, Physicians and the Ontario Human Rights Code, did not list. These new inclusions are elements of gender ideology, which have no place in the draft policy. For those who are new to "gender ideology," I would like to quote a pastoral letter from the Polish Bishop's Conference, issued in 2013 on the feast of the Holy Family:
This ideology promotes principles that are totally contrary to reality and an integral understanding of human nature. It maintains that biological sex is not socially significant and that cultural sex which humans can freely develop and determine irrespective of biological conditions is most important. According to this ideology, humans can freely determine whether they want to be men or women and freely choose their sexual orientation.
Poland has experienced the introduction of gender ideology in many spheres of society. As the pastoral letter from the Polish Bishop's notes, gender ideology has been "introduced into different structures of social life: education, health service, cultural and education centres and non-governmental organisations." Canada has experienced much of the same, which the current draft policy's inclusion of gender ideology elements is but one of many examples to draw from.

The college seems to set the ground work for removing freedom of conscience with its references to the Ontario Human Rights Code's definition of discrimination at lines 42-47. Immediately following this section are the college's "expectations" lines 48-55, regarding any decision relating to the provision of "health care services." A somewhat ambiguous expectation is on line 52, "Providing existing patients with healthcare or services." This is open to interpretation as to what "health care services" actually include. This of course can be problematic for Catholics, who in good conscience, can not directly or indirectly provide "health care services," that are in conflict with the teachings of the Catholic Church, such as abortion, euthanasia and contraception. Such anti-life acts or practices can never be equated with "health care services." To do so not only ignores the dignity of the human person, but also diminishes the truth and distorts the reality of these acts which are direct attacks against the fundamental right to life. 

Freedom of conscience is directly attacked with explicit language under three sections of this draft policy: Moral and Religious Beliefs (lines 112-136), Respecting Patient Dignity (lines 137-149) and Ensuring Access To Care (lines 150-165). Under the Moral and Religious Beliefs one gets the impression that for doctors to have recourse to moral and religious beliefs is not a certainty with which they can escape from any negative ramifications. 

The Respecting Patient Dignity section is somewhat contradictory. It states at lines 138-141 that where physicians are unwilling to provide certain "elements of care" due to their moral or religious beliefs, that such objections must be communicated to patients. Then at lines 145-148 it states that physicians must not try to convert patients or promote their own religious beliefs. Any explanation by a doctor regarding his or her objections to any "elements of care," based on moral or religious beliefs, would not only have to take into consideration communicating such objections in a sensitive manner, but also in a clear and complete manner. By doing so, according to the ambiguity of this section, such an explanation may be misconstrued as engaging in an attempt to convert patients.

What is more obvious of an attack on the freedom of conscience is at the third section, Ensuring Access To CareThe college expects doctors to "ensure access to care," in two main ways: informational and referral. The college requires doctors to provide information about all "clinical" options that are "available or appropriate to meet patients' clinical needs or concerns." Physicians are forbidden to withhold information pertaining to this when it conflicts with their moral or religious beliefs. In the case when physicians are unwilling to provide certain "elements of care," based on their moral and religious beliefs, they must refer patients to another "health care provider." For Catholic doctors to comply with such expectations is to become an accessory to a patient's sin when such "clinical needs or concerns" constitute anti-life acts or practices, such as abortion, euthanasia and contraception.

The root problem with the policy development at the CPSO is that it reflects an anti-life approach. What this draft policy specifically illustrates is the college's failure to explicitly state that no physician or surgeon should consider abortion, euthanasia, contraception and any other threat to the value and inviolability of human life, acceptable and apart of any definition of, reference to or inclusion in "elements of care" or "health care services." Such is a necessary and clear statement in the draft policy that not only recognizes the sacredness of human life, but also identifies and denounces all anti-life acts and practices. At the same time the draft policy should reinforce to the college's members that their education, training and experience should be placed at the service of life. What this translates into is the moral obligation of physicians and surgeons to respect and protect life from the moment of conception to natural death. (Catechism of The Catholic Church, 2261, 2270, 2271) Sadly the policy development at the college fails to seek, recognize and respect the truth about human life and the dignity of persons, first and foremost by failing to acknowledge the sacredness of human life. In the Catechism of The Catholic Church, under the 5th Commandment "Thou Shall Not Kill," it clearly states why life is sacred: 
Human life is sacred because from its beginning it involves the creative action of God and it remains for ever in a special relationship with the Creator, who is its sole end. God alone is the Lord of life from its beginning until its end: no one can under any circumstance claim for himself the right directly to destroy an innocent human being. (2258)
The sacredness of human life is also something that Saint Pope John Paul II wrote about in his pro-life document, the encyclical Evangelium Vitae (Gospel of Life). In reference to biblical story of Cain's killing of Abel he states: 
The sacredness of life gives rise to its inviolability, written from the beginning in man's heart, in his conscience. The question: "What have you done?" (Gen 4:10), which God addresses to Cain after he has killed his brother Abel, interprets the experience of every person: in the depths of his conscience, man is always reminded of the inviolability of life-his own life and that of others-as something which does not belong to him, because it is the property and gift of God the Creator and Father. (40)
It is rather paradoxical that the title given to this draft policy includes "Human Rights" when the policy itself does not defend the most fundamental aspect of human rights, the right to life. In addition this policy also fails to recognize another basic human right, the right of an individual to refuse to take part in an injustice. For Catholics this is a moral duty, which Saint Pope John Paul II noted in the aforementioned encyclical. (74)

Saint Pope John Paul II also made it clear that physicians, health care personnel and directors of hospitals, clinics and convalescent facilities be afforded the opportunity to refuse to take part in any aspect of anti-life acts be it consultation, preparation and execution of these acts. In support of freedom on conscience, he states that, "Those who have recourse to conscientious objection must be protected not only from legal penalties but also from any negative effects on the legal, disciplinary, financial and professional plane." (74)

One of the most important things to remember in the fight to restore Canada to a "culture of life" is the fact that the battle is primarily a spiritual one, and must be fought with effective spiritual weapons. IEvangelium Vitae, Saint Pope John Paul II included this important aspect of the battle by pointing out that no matter how well organized and funded the forces promoting the "culture of death" are, we can always rely on God's help, for nothing is impossible for God. He specifically mentioned the spiritual weapons of fasting and prayer as the most effective weapons against the forces of evil and made reference to Jesus addressing his apostles on the necessity of fasting that, "some demons cannot be driven out except in this way." (100) 

The best way to fast is on bread and water. It does not matter how much bread one eats or how much water one drinks, so long as it strictly remains only bread and water, for the entire day, 24 hours. This has been the recommendation of Our Lady in Medjugorje. For those new to fasting, I would like to share with you my post on fasting, Our Lady's Little Stone - Fasting on Bread and Water

As for prayer, the two most powerful prayers are the Holy Mass and the Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary respectively. Going to Mass often, daily if possible, coupled with a daily recitation of the the entire Rosary, that is, all four sets of mysteries, together with fasting, forms the foundation upon which each individual can take up the fight against the "culture of death" and help restore Ontario and Canada, to a "culture of life." Our Lady in Medjugorje has also recommend both prayers, which you can read about from two of my other posts: Our Lady's Little Stone - Eucharist and Our Lady's Little Stone - Pray With The Heart, The Rosary Everyday. I would like to encourage all who are willing to fight the good fight to take to heart the following plea Saint Pope John Paul II included in Evangelium Vitae:
Let us therefore discover anew the humility and the courage to pray and fast so that power from on high will break down the walls of lies and deceit: the walls which conceal from the sight of so many of our brothers and sisters the evil of practices and laws which are hostile to life. May this same power turn their hearts to resolutions and goals inspired by the civilization of life and love. (100)
Given the opportunity granted by the CPSO's current external consultation, it is up to all conscientious Catholics and all people of good will to respond courageously in the face of this increasing moral disorder and help restore Ontario and Canada to a "culture of life." 

May God guide your response.