Thursday, October 19, 2017

Poland's Rosary at the Borders National Prayer Event and the Importance of Group Recitation of the Rosary

Poles in the forest on route to the Polish-Czech border to pray.
Faithful Catholics in Poland walking in the forest near the city of Szklarska Poreba, Poland along the Polish-Czech border during the Rosary at the Borders on October 7, 2017. Photo: Martin Divisek/European Press Photo Agency via New York Times.

It comes as no surprise to read the news coming out of Poland of the Rosary at the Borders national prayer event that took place on October 7, the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary; a feast in which Catholics commemorate and give thanks to Our Lady for Her intercession in the great victory of Christian forces over the Ottoman naval fleet at the Battle of Lepanto in 1571.

The day began with the celebration of the Mass in honour of Our Lady of the Rosary after which the faithful made their way to the borders to recite all four sets of Mysteries between 2:00pm to 4:00pm: the Joyful, Luminous, Sorrowful, and Glorious Mysteries.

This national prayer effort was organized by a lay Catholic organization, Solo Dios Basta Foundation, founded in June 2015, by a group of secular evangelists, retreat organizers, and filmmakers, whose Mission page includes an impressive list of goals, not the least of which is for the "Promotion of Christian culture, activities for the New Evangelization and support for the comprehensive development of Polish society, especially support for cultural, educational and therapeutic activities."

Rosary at the Borders, was sanctioned by Church leaders in Poland, and included 320 parishes from twenty-two dioceses participating at approximately 4,000 locations along Poland’s border with Germany, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Ukraine, Belarus, Lithuania, Russia and the Baltic Sea.

It was a national prayer effort endorsed by Poland's Prime Minister Beata Szydlo—who is the only Prime Minister in Europe whose son is a priest, ordained in May of this year—in a tweet, "I greet all the participants." 

This Rosary event was by no means limited to the land as there were participants in fishing boats at sea, as well as on kayaks and sailboats forming a Rosary-chain on Polish rivers.

One of Solo Dios Basta's (God Alone is Enough) founders, Maciej Bodasiński, stated that many people also prayed over the radio, in parish churches, in homes, at the airport, in hospitals, in the streets, and at roadside crosses and chapels.

In addition, there were many Catholics from all around the world reciting the Rosary, united with the people of Poland: Akita, Japan, New Zealand, the village of Stamsund in the Lofoten Island above the Arctic Circle, China, Cambodia, Germany, Great Britain, Norway, Denmark, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Ukraine, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and in the USA.

Polish soldiers stationed in Afghanistan also prayed the Rosary in solidarity with their fellow countrymen back in Poland.

Many of us here in Canada were also united to this national prayer effort!

Mountain view of participants at the Rosary at the Borders prayer event
Mountain view of the Rosary at the Borders event on October 7, 2017. Photo: Solo Dios Basta Foundation

Poles have always had a strong awareness and understanding of their Christian culture and identity; a fact that I first discovered when reading, Witness To Hopea book written by George Weigel, on the life of a young Polish man, Karol Wojtyła, who later become Fr. Karol Wojtyła and whose vocational path led him to become as he is more widely known, Saint Pope John Paul II.

It was during that reading in 2003—to which I dedicated the majority of my summer weekends—that I became quite impressed with the Catholic Church in Poland specifically with respect to how the young Karol Wojtyła, together with millions of other Poles, kept their Christian culture and identity alive during the Nazi occupation—a time when Poland's political borders were temporarily removed from the map of Europe—and during the many decades that followed under the Communist regime that lasted for half a century.

Today we see that same Polish spirit, keenly aware of the importance of the Rosary for the protection of Poland and Europe, for the conversion of sinners and unbelievers, and peace in the world.

It is with that same spirit that the Poles have responded to a similar threat as in the sixteenth century: the threat of Islam overrunning Europe. Unlike the military threat of the 1500s, today's Muslim threat comes in the form of aggressive migration to Europe from Africa, the Middle East, and from even farther away locations like Afghanistan, Pakistan, and other countries in that region.

Poles have always understood that the threat of Islam is primarily a spiritual battle that is to be primarily fought and sustained with spiritual weapons; namely, the Holy Mass and the daily recitation of the entire Rosary!

It is an understanding that has translated into other forms of action. Poland, together with Hungary, have lead the Visegrad Four (Hungary, Poland, Czech Republic and Slovakia) in rejecting all Muslim migration to their respective countries: the Soros scheme that Brussels has embraced to change Europe's demographics and Christian culture through a massive influx of Muslim migrants, who are overwhelmingly men in their prime.

So threatened is Christianity today in Europe, that Krakow Archbishop Marek Jedraszewski stated during Mass, “Let’s pray for other nations of Europe and the world to understand that we need to return to the Christian roots of European culture if we want Europe to remain Europe."

We see the same concerns in the Czech Republic elections, in which migration fears dominate the election.

In the recent Austrian election, the people voted Sebastian Kurz, from the Austrian People's Party (ÖVP), into power who is expected to be the next chancellor and form a coalition with Heinz-Christian Strache of the Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ); both of whom are conservative and share beliefs in common with Poland and Hungary, including the rejection of Muslim migrants.

Rosary chain at the border. Photo: LifeSiteNews/‘There was spiritual unity:’ Catholics reflect on Poland rosary crusade

Many Catholics could learn from Poland of the importance of group recitation of the Rosary, which although may be inferred by the large amount of participants through "strength in numbers"—estimated to have been approximately 1.5 million Catholics—is probably something that is not fully understood.

The specifics of that full understanding are available to us from Saint Louis De Montfort's book, The Secret of the Rosary, to which he dedicated an entire chapter, Forty-Sixth Rose: Group Recitation

Saint Louis De Montfort begins the chapter by emphasizing the fundamental importance of group recitation of the Rosary: that it gives the greatest glory to God; that it does the most for our souls; and it is the prayer that the devil fears the most.

Further reinforcing its efficaciousness, St. Louis De Montfort referred to scriptural passage of Matthew 18:20, when he stated, "Our Blessed Lord expressly recommended common prayer to His apostles and disciples and promised that whenever two or three were gathered together in His name He would be there in the midst of them." (96)

Adding a note of encouragement he stated, "What a wonderful thing to have Jesus Christ in our midst! And the only thing we have to do to get Him to come is to say the Rosary in a group." (96)

As an aside, it is worth mentioning the footnote attached to that encouragement, "St. Louis' message fits in beautifully with that of the great 'Family Rosary Crusade' of today." (96) In its current form, The Secret of the Rosary, was published in 1954, which explains the reference to the Family Rosary Crusade: an international Rosary prayer effort, founded by Fr. Patrick Peyton in and around that time, that was well known throughout the world, as was the most famous slogan that developed from it, "The family that prays together, stays together." 

Other important points that St. Louis De Montfort lists for our consideration when praying the Rosary within a group setting are:

  • Our minds are far more alert during public prayer than private individual recitation
  • With prayer in common, the prayer of each individual belongs to everyone and; thus, it makes for a greater prayer in that, if one person is not praying well, someone else in the same gathering who prays better may make up for the deficiency. Those who are strong uphold the weak; those who are fervent inspire the lukewarm.
  • When an individual recites the Rosary privately, that individual only gains the merit of one Rosary, but when recited within a group setting, every individual gains the merit of the group's recitation.
  • Public prayer is far more powerful than private prayer in appeasing God's anger and drawing His mercy upon the Church. This has always been advocated in times of public tragedy and suffering.

Poles praying the Rosary outside of a parish
Praying the Rosary outside of a parish. Photo: LifeSiteNews/There was spiritual unity:’ Catholics reflect on Poland rosary crusade

Saint Louis De Montfort also makes a special appeal to members of the the Confraternity of the Most Holy Rosaryof which I am a member—that no matter where they reside, they should strive to gather together in a parish Church, chapel or someone's home to recite the Rosary in two choirs.

Saint Louis De Montfort elaborated further on the importance of gathering in large numbers to recite the Rosary:
Finally, when people say the Rosary together it is far more formidable to the devil than one said privately, because in this public prayer it is an army that is attacking him. He can often overcome the prayer of an individual, but if this prayer is joined to that of other Christians, the devil has much more trouble in getting the best of it. It is very easy to break a single stick, but if you join it to others to make a bundle it cannot be broken. 'In union there is strength.' Soldiers join together in an army to overcome their enemies; wicked people often get together for parties of debauchery and dancing, and evil spirits join forces in order to make us lose our souls. So why, then, should not Christians join forces to have Jesus Christ present with them when they pray, to appease Almighty God's anger, to draw down His grace and mercy upon us, and to frustrate and overcome the devil and his angels more forcefully? (98)
To illustrate the Rosary's efficaciousness, St. Louis De Montfort cited from his own ministry of the transforming effects upon small towns and villages where he preached missions; places where debauchery, blasphemy, quarrels and feuds ended and became places where hymns and the chant of the Our Father and Hail Mary were heard.

Like in the time of St. Louis De Montfort, there are those today who are enemies of the Rosary and may even try to hinder its establishment and growth—some of whom have even criticized the recent Rosary at the Borders event—to which we can apply the saint's encouragement to the faithful, "...[D]o not give up." (99)

Saint Louis De Montfort dedicated an entire chapter to enemies of the Rosary, Ninth Rose: Enemies, in which he referred to such people as, "freethinkers," who have "absorbed the poison of hell" and are "inspired by the devil." (29)

The Catholic Church in Poland has admirably demonstrated that they will never give up. May Catholics throughout the world be inspired by such faith and devotion.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Praying The Entire Rosary Each Day a Decade at a Time

A photo of St. Louis De Montfort's book, "The Secret of the Rosary."
Saint Louis De Montfort's book, The Secret of the Rosary, Tan Book's pamphlet on How to Pray the Rosary, and Rosary beads from Medjugorje blessed by Jesus at St. James Church and Our Lady during one of Our Lady's apparitions

If you have been following my blog for any serious length of time, you have probably come across my Rosary label and the several posts dedicated to it. With October being the "Month of the Rosary," I thought it fitting to publish today's post adding to that list, drawing encouragement and inspiration from Saint Louis De Montfort's book, The Secret of The Rosary.

The Secret of the Rosary, is an especially important read for anyone who is serious about understanding the Rosary and its proper recitation. The book is comprised of four main sections: a Preface, that instills in the reader the power of the Rosary and how effective it was in St. Louis De Montfort's life and ministry (1673-1716); a Dedication to priests, sinners, devout souls, and little children; and the two main sections of Part 1: What is the Rosary; and Part II: How to Recite it

Saint Louis De Montfort includes many intriguing and informative chapters or "Roses" that will greatly aid and guide the reader to a more devout recitation of the Rosary: a brief history of the origin of the Rosary and how it was given to the Church by Our Lady in 1214, to Saint Dominic; the Confraternity of the Most Holy Rosary that arose from this devotion; the miracles of the Rosary; how it is a means of perfection and a wealth of sanctification; the numerous benefits; its power as a weapon against the Evil One and his demons; and how to pray the Rosary with attention, reverence, and devotion.

For those who are just discovering the Rosary or have been struggling to pray all four Mysteries—the Joyful, Sorrowful, Luminous and Glorious Mysteries—it can seem somewhat daunting to include two hours of prayers a day dedicated to the Rosary alone, to what is already a very busy schedule. It is a daily challenge that we all face, but there is a way to achieve this: praying the Rosary a decade at a time.

The effort to pray the Rosary a decade at a time is explained in chapter, Forty-Fifth Rose: With Reverence, which St. Louis De Montfort dedicated to employing an effective method for the reverent and complete recitation of the Rosary each and every day.

Saint Louis De Montfort first begins by recommending that the Rosary be recited reverently and as much as possible, on our knees with hands joined, clasping the Rosary. Exceptions can be made for those who are: bedridden; travelling; or if infirmity prevents people from kneeling, they can recite it seated or standing.

As to the effective method to successfully complete the entire Rosary each day, St. Louis De Montfort advises the reader to segment the recitation into "three" different times of the day—to which we can add a fourth for the additional Luminous Mysteries introduced to the Church through Saint Pope John Paul II in 2002—each dedicated to one set of the Mysteries.

Further to this Saint Louis De Montfort further suggests that if we cannot find the time to pray a "quarter" of the Rosary all at one time, then we should recite a decade, "here and there," so that as he put it, "...[I]n spite of your work and all the calls upon your time, you will have said the whole Rosary before going to bed." (95)

As to how to accomplish this in today's busy world with our hectic schedules imposing upon our time and energy, it really is a matter of rethinking our daily calendar.

If due consideration is given to Rosary, it won't take long to discover that there are several opportune times throughout the day to pray a decade or two, "here and there."

The consideration to pray the entire Rosary can start from the effort of an earlier morning rise for dedicated prayer time, which could be extended to the commute to and from work. 

There may even be opportunities at work—depending on what you do for a living—to add a few decades. Those who make such an effort, can expect a reward from Our Lady as St. Louis De Montfort notes:
Of course, since the soul has its limitations and can only do so much, when we are concentrating on manual work we cannot give our undivided attention to things of the spirit, such as prayer. But when we cannot do otherwise this kind of prayer is not without value in Our Lady's eye's and she rewards our good will more than our external actions. (95)
If you start to take advantage of those five-to-ten minutes throughout the day, you will discover even more time and eventually come to realize that the recitation of the entire Rosary was never an additional two hours to your day, but in lieu of many things that were not really necessary in the first place.

The added benefit of praying the Rosary a decade at a time, is that, it not only begins to develop consistent prayer habits, but it also helps to develop your prayer endurance. The analogy of training for a marathon comes to mind.

Much in the same manner as preparing for a marathon, the daily recitation of the entire Rosary cannot be something you embark on without proper training. As one trains for a marathon by building up one's endurance by running a few kilometres, and increasing that distance over time, so too does praying the Rosary a decade at time, build up your "prayer endurance." Eventually, you will be able to pray many decades completing the Joyful, Luminous, Sorrowful, and Glorious Mysteries so that by the end of your day, before you lay your head down to sleep at night, you will have crossed the "spiritual finish line," and completed the "Marathon of Grace."

The Rosary is such an important prayer, the second most powerful next to the Holy Mass. Its faithful recitation will result in many graces and blessings bestowed upon those who pray it and promote it, as stated in the second and twelfth promises respectively of Fifteen Promises given by Our Lady to Christians who recite the Rosary, "2. I promise my special protection and the greatest graces to all those who shall recite the Rosary," and "12. All those who propagate the Holy Rosary shall be aided by me in their necessities."

There have been many other saints throughout the history of the Catholic Church who have demonstrated a great love for and devotion to Our Lady through the Rosary: the Dominican Father Alan de la Roche, who was given the task by Our Lady of reviving the Confraternity of the Most Holy Rosary, which he began in 1460; the well-known Jesuit, Brother Alphonsus Rodriguez who was known to pray the Rosary with such fervor; we know from the chronicles of Saint Francis of a Franciscan friar who prayed the Rosary so fervently each day, before dinner; Saint Francis de Sales (Bishop and Doctor of the Church) who refused to let exhaustion be an excuse from the complete recitation of the Rosary; Saint Teresa of Calcutta (Mother Teresa); Father Patrick Peyton; and Saint Pio of Pietrelcina (Padre Pio) who prayed thirty-six Rosaries a day.

We also know of Pope Leo XIII, the "Rosary Pope," who wrote many documents promoting the Rosary and encouraging its recitation; in particular the encyclical, Supremi Apostolatus Officio, to which I dedicated a blog post,The Rosary: An Effective Weapon Against the Evils of Society.

In more recent times, we have Saint Pope John Paul II's Apostolic Letter, Rosarium Virginis Mariae, a document that was issued in 2002, not only to promote the recitation of the Rosary and to facilitate a better understanding of its purpose and daily inclusion in our lives, but to also introduce a new, fourth set of mysteries, the Luminous Mysteries.

So significant was this new addition that Saint Pope John Paul II declared October 2002 to October 2003, "The Year of The Rosary," which I also blogged about with my postSaint Pope John Paul II's Apostolic Letter Rosarium Virginis Mariae.

In addition to the many saints, Our Lady has also encouraged us to pray the Rosary at her apparitions in Fatima and Medjugorje.

There are other resources on the importance and significance of the Rosary and yet with all this—and access to it via the internet for several years—so many Catholics still do not pray the Rosary, and those that do, many do not pray all four Mysteries.

The world would be a much better place if Catholics prayed at least one decade of the Rosary each day; even that would make a difference!

One can only imagine the peace and many blessings bestowed upon the world—not to mention the halting of chastisements upon mankind for participating and promoting evil—if all four sets of Mysteries were prayed, fervently and devoutly, each day.

May many Catholics be inspired to do just that.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Where The Cross Stands: The Last Chance to Reclaim America

Michael H. Brown's book, Where The Cross Stands
Michael H. Brown's book, Where The Cross Stands
If you found the title of this blog post somewhat intriguing, it borrows from a book entitled, Where The Cross Stands, written by Michael H. Brown from

I recently finished reading this book, one that had been on my reading list since May of this year when I attended the Marian Day Retreat here in Toronto, where Brown gave four talks, one of which was dedicated to Reclaiming North America's Christianity.

It seemed fitting to publish today's post on the feast of the Triumph (Exaltation) of the Cross to honour Jesus and in part to honour Our Blessed Mother, whose recent birthday of September 8, was also the day that the huge cross at Saint Augustine, Florida was dedicated in 1965—displayed on the front cover of the book—the location of the first documented Mass (September 8, 1565) in the United States and the first permanent American settlement, Nombre de Dios (Name of God); the official spot where Catholicism entered America.

These facts are among hundreds that Brown includes in his book, which is partly a lesson in US history that begins at America's Catholic origins and continues throughout the centuries that followed where he illustrates how there has been a cultural shift into darkness—in large part due to New Age and occult practices, Hollywood, the turbulent sixties, and other aspects of the Spiritual War waged against America by the demonic—that together with the waning of faith and a nation's descent into moral disorder, has resulted in today's state of affairs: a society that can be aptly described as a "Culture of Death."

As to the further significance of the cross at St. Augustine and its location, Brown suggests that, "Some day in the future—perhaps the not so distant future—this Cross and this area will play a role in the spiritual and temporal survival and revival of America." (1)

In Where The Cross Stands, Brown's latest book, he explains in detail why that revival is so necessary.

America's Catholic Origins and Growth as a Nation

Brown began his timeline of America's Catholic origins with Christopher Columbus and the discovery of America in 1492, who as Brown notes, "...[C]onsidered the evangelization of the New World his primary goal." (13)

So important is Columbus's discovery of America that Brown not only dedicates an entire chapter to it, but provides details in the preceding chapter of how historical events—the finding of Pope Gregory's statue of Our Lady at a location in Spain referred to in the local dialect as, "Guadalupe" or hidden channel—in Spain aided in the eventual discovery of the New World.

It is well known that Columbus was a very devout Catholic, who had a deep devotion to Our Lady. So devout was Columbus that his ship was named, Santa Maria, and on board his ship were fellow Catholics who recited the Hail Mary, and upon arrival in America (New World) they sang the Salve Regina in thanksgiving.

Columbus's arrival in the New World paved the way for other Spanish explorers—Columbus was Italian by birth, but sailed with Spanish ships—to discover other parts of what is now the United States; namely, Florida, which Brown dedicates four chapters to as part of an elaboration of America's Catholic origins.

Florida was originally discovered by Ponce de León in 1513—who had on board his ships, Augustinian, Dominican, and Franciscan clerics—around Easter, and is the reason why he named the land, "La Florida," in recognition of the Paschal flowers and the landscape rich in vegetation. 

Others soon followed such as Don Tristán de Luna y Arellano (who had Dominican priests with him) and Hernando De Soto, who had named the bay he entered, "Espiritu Santu" or "Bay of the Holy Spirit," which was eventually changed to Tampa Bay.

Many of the newly discovered parts of America were originally given Christian names, but eventually changed to something secular: the "Bay of St. Mary" is now the Chesapeake Bay; "Lake of the Blessed Sacrament" is now Lake George; and the mighty "River of the Immaculate Conception" is now the Mississippi.

Another explorer, Menéndez, also arrived on the scene whose central and only goal was to establish a Christian nation. His fleet consisted of nineteen ships and on board were: four Catholic priests, 1500 soldiers, sailers, millers, sheepshearers, hunters, and farmers. One of the priests, Father Francisco López de Mendoza Grajales, is depicted in the cover photo of Brown's book: the statue of a man with his arms raised up.

By including these and other facts, Brown makes it crystal clear—a point that he reiterated more than once—that Catholics were the first to settle the United States and establish Christianity. The new-found-land was being sanctified by Catholics decades before Jamestown and eighty years before the Puritans at Plymouth Rock. It is an important point which Brown highlights by asking, "How many modern classrooms would dare to teach this?" (29)

Brown provides many other historical references that illustrate how America continued to develop as a Christian nation: Christianity was reflected in constitutions, laws, and practices; and God was acknowledged, praised and worshipped. Here are some interesting facts worth mentioning.

  • In 1776, all European Americans (except for 2500 Jews) identified themselves as Christian. Benjamin Franklin, Ethan Allen, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and Thomas Paine, if not overly devout, were greatly influenced by their Christianity." (53)
  • In 1777, the Continental Congress spent $300,000 for bibles to be distributed throughout the thirteen colonies (56)
  • Christianity formed the very concept of freedom; university law lectures were quoting Saint Thomas Aquinas. (55)
  • In 1782, the United States Congress declared, "The Congress of the United States recommends and approves the Holy Bible for use in all schools." (56)
  • The concept of "separation of Church and state" was not meant to prevent religion from influencing government, but the opposite: from government trying to control religion. As Brown stated, "When there were arguments that involved religion, it was usually about how government could best serve the Christian faith." (53)
  • In 1789, George Washington, in his famous Thanksgiving Day Proclamation stated, " '[I]t was the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor,' and recommended '[T]he people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, Who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be...' "(55) 
  • The first communities in the Northeast were Bible-based commonwealths. (56)
  • Maryland was a haven for Catholics fleeing persecution by the English government. (56)
  • All but two of the 108 universities were Christian, including Yale and Harvard. (56)
  • George Washington on his inauguration day not only kissed the Bible openly after being sworn in office, but gathered Congress and his first Cabinet at the Chapel of St. Paul and consecrated the United States under the protection of the Almighty. (57)

America's Cultural Shift Into Darkness

Brown dedicates several chapters to America's cultural shift into darkness that begins with chapter fifteen, where he highlights the Spiritual War of the "Bell Witch" case in Tennessee: the demonic infestation of the homestead of John, Jesse, and Drewry Bell; all three of whom fought for Andrew Jackson in the Battle of New Orleans.

Expanding upon the demonic influence, he referred to Mormonism, feminism, American Freemasonry and Spiritualism and how it began in Upstate New York; how the era came to be known as the Age of the Medium.

In chapter eighteen, Brown included a short segment of one of America's darkest occultists, Alex Crowley—referred to as "the Beast" by his own mother—who was the inspiration behind the Church of Satan, established in 1966. Devotees included John Whiteside Parsons, a known rocket scientists and close friend of L. Ron Hubbard, the man who started Scientology in 1954, the New Age belief system that is followed by Hollywood actor, Tom Cruise.

At chapter nineteen, Brown introduces the reader to Margaret Sanger, who as he put it, "...[W]as to champion the most dangerous and dark trend of the coming era...the right to abortion." (103)

It was at the same chapter that Brown revealed the truth about the name "Hollywood," and how it refers to "holly" (not holy) wood; a wood that was considered sacred to ancient wizards, used in magic wands with its beginnings traced to pagan rituals in Nordic times. Brown had also mention and elaborated on this during his talk in Toronto: The Current Prophet Pulse.

Chapter twenty spotlights "Godless technology"; that is, the failure of mankind to work with God in the creation of products. Many of today's products do not dissolve back into nature and; thus, are not apart of God's plan because they "hurt" His creation. This in stark contrast to all that God has created which was made to dissolve back into nature.

Brown further elaborated on "Godless technology" by paraphrasing the Venezuelan mystic, Maria Esperanza, "[W]ith God, ingenuity would exceed the imagination while solving problems and disrupting nothing. Instead, our scientists were going their own way without even believing in Him. For years, Esperanza had warned that such misuse of technology—Godless technology, especially human cloning—would be a disaster." (112)

Chapter twenty-one focussed on the warning coming from LaSalette regarding a world that only thinks about amusements. Some of those "amusements" that Brown cited were from the last century, in particular with respect to rock and roll music. 

Further in this same chapter, Brown went on to point out that much of modern rock and roll found its wellspring in a blues singer named Robert Johnson; the significance of which is in the legend of the singer's apparent pact (a classic Faustian pact) with the Devil near the Dockery Plantation in Mississippi. Here is how Brown partly described the midnight meeting in the Deep South, "...[H]e was met by a 'man' who took his guitar, tuned it, and in exchange for his soul, granted him the gift of blues." (115)

Regardless of the veracity of this story, other rock stars such as, Mick Jagger (Rolling Stones), Robert Plant (Led Zeppelin), John Fogerty (Creedence Clearwater Revival) and Eric Clapton, admitted to having gone to that same spot, with success following in their respective careers.

The list of musical artists that have been involved or taken interest in New Age and occult practices might surprise some: John Lennon (The Beatles) had a personal tarot-card reader; Aleister Crowley is among those on the cover of the Beatles' Sergeant Pepper album; the Rolling Stones entitled one of their albums, Their Satanic Majesties Request; Keith Richards (Rolling Stones) has stated that the band received inspiration for their songs at seances.

It gets a little darker with people like Jim Morrison of The Doors, who claimed that the spirit of an Indian boy entered him. Jimmy Hendrix believed he was possessed by a demon. Phoebe Snow claims to have talked to "aliens" via the ouija board.

Brown also includes a segment on how promiscuity was being normalized through such developments as the publishing of pornographic magazines like Playboy, which started in the early 50s, with others that would follow in the decades to come.

It was Playboy magazine that helped to popularize Marilyn Monroe, who was already posing nude for calendars, and whose "career" promoted and injected "free sex" and multiple marriages into mainstream society.

What Brown makes abundantly clear is that American society has changed substantially, not only from its Christian origins, but also from the past century when society was much more family orientated and decent.

So evident is this change today, that Brown asks the question, "Where did you go Ward and June Cleaver?" (283)

Our Lady's Prophetic Warnings and Messages

With America's descent into darkness came the prophetic warnings (chastisements) and messages from Our Lady and the lessons to be learned from them; that is, if enough people pray (the Rosary in particular) and fast—which can stop wars and suspend the laws of nature—America can stave off the chastisements, prevent the unravelling of society, and recover from the damage already done.

To date, many have heeded Our Lady's requests which Brown suspects is the reason why so many chastisements have not come to pass. As he states in chapter forty-two, "In fact, all the judgements can be averted. The whole purpose of God's warning is to turn the wicked to repentance and obedience. There are enough righteous ones in Sodom-America to make the difference, but these must not remain passive." (262)

Our Lady stated to Sister Mildred Mary Neuzil in the 50s, "What happens to the world depends on those who live in it...There must be much more good than evil prevailing in order to prevent the holocaust that is so near approaching." (305)

A common thread that runs throughout Our Lady's warnings and messages is to pray the Rosary. Brown notes the importance, drawing from the Marian apparitions in Medjugorje, where he highlighted Our Lady's warning about Satan's attempts to conquer mankind and how through prayer and fasting, we can be victorious.

Brown went on to ask, "Could America be reclaimed?" The answer comes from Our Lady, "Advance against Satan by means of prayer. Put on the armour for battle and with the Rosary in your hand defeat him!" (263)

If there was ever a time in history to begin a devotion to Our Lady of Prompt Succor, now is certainly that time. So important is this devotion that Brown dedicated an entire chapter to it; a devotion that has proven to be quite effective in American history.

We could all learn from the faithful Ursuline Sisters of New Orleans, who have on numerous occasions implored the intercession of Our Lady of Prompt Succor. Most noteworthy is when Our Lady saved the people of New Orleans in an extraordinary way on two separate occasions: the first was the extinguishing of a raging fire that threatened to destroy the Ursuline Convent in 1812; and the second was the surprising military victory of General Andrew Jackson in 1815, against a larger, better equipped invading British force.

This in addition to the countless times Our Lady has come to the aid of individuals in Louisiana, which as the National Shrine notes on its History of the Devotion page, is so numerous that "We will never know them all."

Brown highlighted the importance of this devotion when he stated, "Such events show us that nothing is beyond the reach of prayer, no problem, no disaster." (66)

As for the future, Brown considers the time frame between 2020 to 2040, as a critical period, which he also mentioned during his Toronto talk; a time frame that also includes mercy!

We can better understand mercy through the Divine Mercy Devotion, in which we not only seek God's mercy, but fulfill the main requirement of the devotion; that is, we too must be merciful with others, always and everywhere.

It was interesting how, at the end of his book, Brown reiterated the potential, future significance of St. Augustine, Florida. He shared his thoughts from an outing, while kayaking past the Cross, that St. Augustine must become America's refuge; a place of pilgrimage. Perhaps others will be encouraged by the original settlers to, as Brown suggests, "...[M]arch across our land and plant crosses again where once they stood..." (318) He goes on to further encourage his fellow Americans, "Come back, America! Pray goodness back." (318)

God bless America.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Saint Stephen's Day in Hungary: A Celebration of Christian Heritage, History, and Identity

A photo of fireworks celebrating St. Stephen's Day in Budapest near the parliament buildings.
Saint Stephen fireworks celebrations at Hungary's parliament building in Budapest, on August 20.
Photo: About Hungary Blog/St. Stephen’s Day in Hungary: What makes it special and what to look for this year

On August 20, Hungarians celebrate Saint Stephen's Day; a national holiday that commemorates the founding of the state by its first monarch King Saint Stephen, the Christianization of the Magyars, and the history of a nation that has endured for more than one thousand years.

It was a day filled with a variety of festivities, traditions, and celebrations—observed by Hungarian communities throughout the Carpathian Basin—that put Hungary's Christian history, heritage, and identity on full display: the celebration of the Mass at St. Stephen's Basilica, followed by a procession with a relic venerated in Hungary as St. Stephen's holy right hand; a flag-raising ceremony; the swearing-in of new military officers; an address by President János Áder; a nationwide cake competition; the blessing of bread under the statue of St. Stephen at the Buda castle, followed by a procession; the Festival of Arts in the Buda Castle District; "Nostaglic Rides" on vintage trams and buses that only make their debut once a year; the fireworks at the Danube river (captured in the above photo) that are second to none; the Streets of Hungarian Tastes which this year also featured foods from the other Visegrad Four (V4) nations, Poland, Czech Republic and Slovakia; air and water parades; and several family programs and concerts. 

Saint Stephen or Szent István Király, whose reign lasted from 1000-1038, was canonized on August 20, 1083, by Pope Gregory VII for bringing Christianity to Hungary and was later deemed the patron saint of Hungary.

In 1771, Queen Maria Theresa declared August 20, as a national state and Church holiday. 

Throughout Hungary's history, there were gaps when this day was not celebrated; the most recent during the communist era of the last century (1945-1990) when attempts were made to remove Hungary's Christian heritage, history, and identity from the hearts and minds of the people.

The Hungarian people have not forgotten who they are and through their faith, perseverance, determination, and hard work, the Christian character of St. Stephen's Day has been restored for several years now.

The fact that Hungary celebrates this day on a national level and publishes information about it at the official Hungarian blog and government web site speaks volumes about a people who publicly acknowledge, give thanks, and praise God for the many blessings and gifts bestowed upon Hungary. 

As one who follows Hungary's official blog, it came as no surprise to see a post published by Zoltán Kovács, St. Stephen’s Day in Hungary: What makes it special and what to look for this year.

I have been reading about Hungary for approximately three years and became so impressed with the people and its leadership under Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and the Fidesz party he leads, that I eventually decided to start blogging about Hungary. Given Hungary's predominantly Christian culture and the many responsible policy developments with regard to its political, economic, and social life—the details of which can read from Orbán's State of the Nation address—it was only a matter of time before I added "Hungary" and "Viktor Orbán" as blog labels to my blog.

So impressed have I been with Hungary and Prime Minister Viktor Orbán that my first blog post entitled, Viktor Orbán: A True Leader of and for the People of Hungary and Hungary's Constitution The Fundamental Law of Hungarywas dedicated to spotlighting Hungary's constitution—which is explicitly Christian—as well as Orbán's leadership qualities; in particular with respect to the proper and efficient response to the Middle East migrant crisis and his speech on March 15, 2016, the annual day that Hungarians commemorate the 1848 Revolution.

After reading Kovacs's blog post, I navigated to the Hungarian government's web site to view the details of Saint Stephen's Day, which the government has dedicated an entire page to entitled, Augusztus Huszadika or August 20. I encourage all who are further interested to view this page, especially the photo gallery.

The more I read about this national celebration, the more impressed I became with the people of Hungary: the spirit of the celebrations; the joy of the festivities; the upholding of traditions; the devotion to God at Mass and processions; the participation by millions of people of all ages; and the respect given to God and to neighbour which Zoltán Kovács captured in his aforementioned blog post, "Here on August 20th, everyone is Hungarian, a day to celebrate, remember, and give thanks." 

God bless Hungary and all Hungarian communities throughout the world.

Monday, August 28, 2017

My Daily Bread: A Treasure Trove of the Spiritual Life

My Daily Bread reading, reflection, and prayer: A Right Intention in All Things
Book One, The Way of Purification, Part One, Chapter 3, Conversion: A Right Intention in All Things

Living a Spiritual LIfe is not something that is so readily understood. Some may consider going to Mass once a week on Sunday and the recitation of a few prayers as sufficient to live such a life, but there is much more to it than that. Consider the following questions: 

  • Have you ever made a resolution to improve your Spiritual Life at Confession, during Mass, at a retreat, during a pilgrimage or some other moment of grace and failed to follow through on it?
  • Have you been struggling to give Christ an honest, daily effort in following Him?
  • Do you seem to lack a genuine compunction of heart?
  • Are you going through spiritual tepidity?
  • Do you seek a closer friendship with God?
  • Are you finding it difficult to conquer bad habits?
  • Would you like to have a true devotion to Jesus?
  • Are certain sins exceptionally difficult to overcome?
  • Would you like to live a Spiritual Life, but do not know what that entails?
  • Do you lack the knowledge and understanding about the spiritual combat, life's daily warfare?

If you have answered "yes" to one or more of these questions, then you may want to seriously consider purchasing a copy of My Daily Bread.

For conscientious Catholics striving to follow Christ with a greater love and fidelity, this book is a treasure trove to draw from; a summary of the Spiritual Life made simple and easy to follow with daily readings, reflections and prayer. 

The book was authored by Rev. Anthony J. Paone, S.J. and was first published in 1954. It is considered a Christian classic that to date has sold over 1 million copies.

So many people have had the opportunity to purchase this book due to the efforts of the Confraternity of the Precious Blood in Brooklyn, New York—originally founded in 1890, and dedicated to supporting the historic Monastery of the Precious Blood in Brooklyn, and the religious sisters who call it home—who are well known for publishing many other pocket devotionals including: My Daily Life, My Imitation of Christ, and My Meditation on the Gospel.

One of the many benefits of making My Daily Bread your prayer companion is the noticeable, lived-experience of a deep interior life. As it states in the Foreword, "This book must be read, not only with the head, but with the heart. We must think and pray. This daily exercise will transform belief into realization, theory into practice."

In addition to better understanding your faults, imperfections, and sins, this book invites each individual to lead a virtuous life and to grow in God's grace; explained like no other book that I have ever read, reflected upon, and prayed about.

My Daily Bread is divided into three books that treat respectively the three ways of the Spiritual Life: Purification, Imitation, and Union. Each book is further divided into various parts that begin with a brief introduction, setting the tone for the many chapters that follow. It is during the chapter readings that each individual is invited to, "listen, think and answer Him."

Whether you are newly converted to the Catholic faith, a daily communicant or somewhere in between, My Daily Bread, is perhaps "the" book to acquire to truly understand and live the Spiritual Life.

The Way of Purification

The Way of Purification is the first stage of the Spiritual Life; a life long task and a daily goal.

Purification is a process whereby we reform what has been deformed in us by sin. It consists of five parts: Conversion, After ConversionTemptation, Conquering Bad Habits, and Self-Conquest Through Mortification.

The daily effort entails that each individual strive to rid oneself of all serious sin and any predominant venial faults that may lead to mortal sin. By doing so a foundation is laid for the development of virtues, which will be practiced in a more positive manner rather than in opposition to present faults.

To get a sense of the "treasure trove" contained within this book, below is an excerpt from Part One, Conversion, Chapter Three, A Right Intention in All Things:
[Christ] MY CHILD, In all things I want you to have a right intention. This means I want you to have a supernatural purpose in whatever you think, do, or say...
A right intention, however, may have different degrees of perfection. Thus, when you do something simply to please Me, your intention is higher than if you think of your own advantage. Still, whatever be the degree of your right intention, it always seeks to fulfill My Will, and it always brings you a greater good than any intention which seeks only your earthly welfare.
Regardless of feelings, moods, prejudices, or preferences, strive to maintain a right intention at all times...
Do not let life's daily events disturb nor affect you too much. Seek to know My Will and to accept it in all things. With this pure intention, you will have a deep interior peace. This is my gift to those who let Me govern their lives...(6)

The Way of Imitation

This second stage invites the reader to a greater following of Christ and consists of four parts: Following Jesus in Daily LIfe; Virtues Leading Directly to God; Man's Relation With His Neighbour and With Himself; and The Spiritual Combat.

Previously in the first stage, the advancement of virtue occurred by resisting one's faults that the virtues were opposed to. In the second stage, one is lead to rise to a higher degree of union with God by imitating the example which Jesus gave us.

This second level is referred to as the "illuminative way, the way of enlightenment." One is drawn closer to God and comes to understand God more clearly, and appreciate Him more fully.

As in notes in Book Two, "Jesus said, 'I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life...Learn of Me...' Christ's follower must now take his eyes away from himself for longer periods, so that he may concentrate more and more upon his King and Model." (222)

The development of virtue is now aimed at demonstrating a greater love and fidelity to Christ. Here is an excerpt from Part One, Following Jesus in Daily LIfe, Chapter 2, The Divine Teacher:
[Christ] MY CHILD, My grace is richer, deeper, grander, and more glorious than any other possession or achievement on earth. It shows you what is better and more profitable for your eternal success. It strengthens you against all earthly attractions and makes you the true master of your own life...
I speak to different persons in different ways, according to their background, abilities, and efforts. I do not always use words when I speak within your soul. Often My message is received and understood in an instant. In your reading, reflecting, and prayer, I often speak to you. I help you to understand more clearly what you read in books or hear in sermons. The grandest sermon would be just so many words if I did not bless it with My grace. It is I who enable the listeners to understand it, desire it, and live it. (226)

The Way of Union

The third stage consists of three parts: Striving for Closer Union; Union Through the Holy Eucharist; Union Throughout the Day.

At this stage, the follower of Christ is now purified of all serious faults and most of the lesser defects, and after having proven to be unselfish and loyal, there is a longing for a more intimate union with God. 

The follower of Christ strives to give oneself completely to God, which He in due time, generously rewards by raising the soul to the highest spiritual level: The Way of Union.

As it states in Book Three, "The man in this stage of spiritual perfection finds his thoughts turning more frequently and more easily to God. He is constantly aware of God's nearness. His predominant desire in all his activities, is to give more of himself to God, by whatever form of self-sacrifice his daily obligations will permit." (365)

It is during this stage that one experiences a supernatural friendship with God and among all of life's trials and difficulties, Christ's generous followers experience peace and joy, a foretaste of Heaven.

The following is an excerpt from Part One, Striving for Closer Union, Chapter 3, Intimacy with God:
[Christ] MY CHILD, learn to converse with Me as a child talks with its mother. Let there be no barriers between you and Me. Why should you find it easier to talk to human beings than to Me? I know you better than anyone else.
Nowhere will you find the understanding, sympathy, and appreciation which I have. Nobody else is as interested in you as I am. I love you infinitely more than anyone else does.
You are never alone. I am always with you, ready to share your burdens and solve your problems. I walk with you at every step. No human being is capable of giving you the perfect friendship which I offer you. (371) 

The Ideal Standard, Jesus Christ

What the contents of My Daily Bread point to is the ideal standard, Jesus Christ. It is the only standard with which we should measure how we are living our lives and how to better live it; the one standard alone that will stand the test on judgement day.

Jesus gave us His example and teachings to follow; all that remains is for each individual to decide for Christ and follow His example. It doesn't matter how successful you are, because Jesus does not look at this, but rather, He looks at how much effort you put forth: did you give Jesus your honest daily effort to follow Him?

My Daily Bread, details how to do just that, encouraging each follower to, as it notes at the How to Use This Book page, "dream of becoming a better person." (VI)

Who amongst us does not want to become a better person? We can become that better person if we spend time listening to His precious words of wisdom, peace, and joy.

Jesus speaks to us far more often than we listen; He is much closer to us than we realize. We would go far in self-perfection if we, "...[P]laced ourselves at His feet for a few minutes each day, and heard Him tell us how to improve our daily lives." (VI)

Those who sincerely endeavour to remain at His feet each day will experience a time of divine intimacy. As in notes in the book, "Often, between the lines, He will give you a message which is meant for you alone. This will be the grace of that chapter." (VI)

It is through God's grace that we will be shown how to live a better life each day, and be given the strength and the resolve to do so. If we use these graces well, God will grant us even greater ones. Daily we will become more like Christ and less like our old self.

May many strive to follow the ideal standard and live the Spiritual Life.