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.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Hungary's New NGO Law: Greater Transparency Requirements For Foreign-Funded NGOs

A photo of Hungary's parliament
Hungarian parliament. Photo: About Hungary Blog/Prominent US and European think tanks taken in by the “NGO crackdown” ruse

On June 13, 2017, Hungary's parliament passed a new law requiring greater transparency of foreign-funded non-governmental organizations (NGOs). The new legislation corrected a loophole in Hungarian law that previously allowed such civic organizations to operate without disclosing where and from whom their funds came from. 

Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and the Fidesz party he leads, have been determined to close this loophole in order to prevent NGOs from being used as Trojan horses to influence Hungary's domestic politics. The announcement to close the loophole was made in February and by April 2, the draft legislation was made available. 

The announcement sparked open and public debate, including criticism from Brussels, left-leaning mainstream media news web sites, several prominent European and American think tanks, and even Canada's Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland; criticism that has been for the most part, untruthful and factually incorrect.

With this new law in place all NGOs that qualify as being funded from abroad, must not only report it within fifteen days of receiving foreign funds, but state it as such on their web sites and publications. Failure to comply with these requirements will result in the notification by a prosecutor to do so within thirty days, as well as the possibility of a fine and suspension.

I applaud Prime Minister Viktor Orbán for this new law; it is simply a matter of common sense that when NGOs are funded by foreign interests—especially those that engage in political activity that have neither the democratic mandate do so; nor, do they provide any accountability to the citizenry—they should be transparent about that, as Hungarians have the right to know!

The failed "NGO Crackdown" ruse

In mid-March, opposition to the proposed new NGO legislation came in the form of an open letter representing several prominent US and European think tanks. It was entitled, No to NGO crackdown in Hungary, and "fittingly" published at the domain,

In essence, what the letter attempted to do was paint a false picture of the new law's transparency requirements, primarily through the use of selected historical references, bombastic language, and false claims about the Hungarian government.

Case in point, the letter states that the Hungarian government's intention is to root out NGOs that receive funding from George Soros. Although Prime Minister Orbán and the Hungarian government are well aware of the fact that Soros is in the "NGO business" and has an agenda for Hungary, the new law is aimed at all foreign-funded civic organizations.

The letter also stated that NGOs are an organic part of society and that their role does not depend on whether the government of the moment agrees with them. The letter lacks any specificity with respect to any civic organization, but instead refers to NGOs, foundations, and think tanks as a general grouping.

The signatories also neglected to mention those civic organizations that receive foreign-funding and engage in political activity; civic organizations whose financial support, direction, and agendas comes from well known globalists and billionaires, such as George Soros.

The arrogance and audacity of the signatories comes shining through when they suggest that Hungary should be proud of the "rich landscape of organizations of civil society," and how they ought to be careful not to "undo the extraordinary progress" that Hungary has seen since the fall of communism. Orbán and the Hungarian people don't need anyone to tell them about the struggles of living within a communist system, the fight for freedom and independence, and what a country needs to do to consistently and successfully move forward. The Hungarian people have admirably demonstrated this for centuries: during the early 1700s (Rákóczi’s War of Independence), the 1848 War of Independence, the Hungarian uprising of 1956and in recent years, under the leadership of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán who first took office in 2010.

Hungary has gone on the offensive and responded to all the criticism with the truth and the facts, and in the process, spotlighted what Hungarian government spokesman, Zoltan Kovács referred to as a, "NGO crackdown ruse." In a blog post dated March 21, 2017, Kovács—follow him on Twitter and his blog posts atAbout Hungary Blogfor daily updates on Hungary—wrote a thorough response to the letter, Prominent US and European think tanks taken in by the “NGO crackdown” ruse.

Kovács included many valid points that is sure to resonate with those that value the truth, factual information, and common-sense, as well as those who have come to appreciate the consistent progress that Hungary has made in the past seven years.

In addition to stressing how Hungary's draft legislation was about greater transparency, and the result of a normal concern of any government who identifies foreign-funded NGOs involved in political activities that could be construed as attempts to undermine the government and democracy as a whole, what most stands out about his blog post was how he debunked the notion that Hungary's transparency requirement is a "NGO crackdown."

Kovács first highlighted the signatories' specific wording: "NGO crackdown." It sounds serious, but the fact is, that is not what happened in Hungary. He elaborated with the following statement:
The NGO legislation that’s currently under consideration calls for greater transparency, particularly transparency of groups operating with international funding, as Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Péter Szijjártó pointed out in his statement. Civic groups remain an essential part of every democratic society, but when they’re carrying out activities funded by a foreign interest, they should be transparent about that.
This is also the firm position of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán who Kovács quoted, " 'Hungarian citizens must be given the right to know about all public actors, who they are and who pays them. We have the right to know,' said Prime Minister Orbán. 'So we want transparency.' "

Hungary is not alone in its concerns about foreign interests meddling in its domestic politics. As Kovács noted, in March a group of US senators wrote a letter to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, asking him to investigate claims that American tax-payer money is being used to back left-wing, globalist-billionaire George Soros's overseas agenda for sovereign nations: specifically the attempts to affect certain political outcomes.

Kovács pointed out that there have been numerous examples of foreign meddling in Hungary. He cited the example of a Hungarian parliamentary opposition figure who received assistance from the Washington-based Center for American Progress, which as Kovács wrote is, "...[A] group founded by John Pedesta and itself a Soros grantee."

Further to this, Kovács highlighted how the European edition of POLITICO described Soro's agenda as an "anti-Orbán agenda," due to Hungary's response to the migrant crisis with its tight border security.

Hungary's entire border security measures, including the 3,000 border-hunters, has successfully halted the Balkan migrant route, putting further pressure on other migrant options, most notably the Italian-North African route. It has drawn further attention to how it is all connected to Soros's agenda for Europe; an agenda that you can read about in detail from Kovács's recent blog postWondering what PM Orbán meant with that reference to the Soros plan? Here it is

Kovács also mentioned that some of the most vocal critics against Hungary's border security measures and policies come from NGOs funded by George Soros.

The concluding point that completes the debunking of the "NGO crackdown ruse" is the simple fact that Hungary's new legislation, in comparison to the American equivalent—Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA)—is no where near as strict. To illustrate this point, Kovács quoted FARA, and then made it crystal clear that the signatories clearly were not in possession of the facts and probably just signed the letter without knowing the truth about Hungary's new legislation:
The United State [sic] has a federal law called the Foreign Agents Registration Act, or FARA. It says that people and organizations that are acting 'at the order, request, or under the direction or control' of a foreign government or organizations or persons outside the country must report their relationship with the foreign power. The report must disclose the related activities and finances. FARA is strict.
The new NGO regulations under consideration in Hungary are less strict than those of FARA.
If I were one of those asked to sign the letter and to lend my name to the cause, I would have wanted to know all of the above. I suspect that many did not know. They just signed it without checking.
They got taken in by the “NGO crackdown” ruse.

Putting the opposition to the new NGO law into perspective

In Hungary there are over 62,000 civic organizations in a country whose population is less than ten-million; the overwhelming majority of NGOs in Hungary have no objections to the new law.

Like in any other country, NGOs play an important role in Hungary's democracy, but a distinction must be made between grassroots and internationally funded NGOs. The former is typically made up of volunteers seeking to better their neighbourhood, town/city, province or state, and country as a whole, while the latter is quite a different situation. Foreign-funded NGOs are in essence a Trojan horse made up of personnel that refer to themselves as "civilians," but in fact, are actually are activists, and usually paid activists, whose goal is to propagate international interests, by directly interfering in the domestic politics of Hungary.

It is not surprising that civic organizations such as the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union, Helsinki Committee, and Amnesty International are so opposed to this new NGO law; all of whom have openly declared their intention to disobey it. It only begs the question, what are they hiding?

Objections from international NGOs have been based on the claim that Hungarian civil law discriminates and cannot be compared to the NGO legislation in other democracies. Nothing could be further from the truth.

As Zoltan Kovács pointed out in his blog post, Why do these NGOs resist transparency, such claims by the international NGOs do not connect to reality: German, Israeli and some aspects of American law (FARA) on foreign-funded NGOs are stricter than their Hungarian counterpart. He went on to further point out that in Austria, NGOs engaging in lobbying activity, such as Amnesty International and Greenpeace, have to register as lobbyists.

Further in the blog post, Kovács asks the reader, "What do these protesting organizations have in common?" In addition to being pro-migrant NGOs, who are adamantly opposed to Hungary's border security measures, they also have a shared agenda to bring about a moral disorder in Hungary; namely, the legalization of drug use and through the ideology of gender mainstreaming.

What I found particularly noteworthy was the candid manner in which Kovács spotlighted what these NGOs are all about, "Let’s be honest, the organizations raising their voices against the new NGO Act are not grassroots initiatives. They are vehicles to advance the agenda of foreign political interests. These organizations don’t stand on their own. They depend for their livelihood on funding from Soros sources."

Further to this, Kovács also pointed out that the objections of the NGOs have not been based on facts, but rather, an ideological opposition with no legal basis. Here is what he stated:
'The NGO Act is being criticized exclusively by the same organizations – with funding from George Soros – that are opposing the government in relation to migration,' said Deputy Justice Minister Pál Völner recently. Völner also pointed out that no correspondence has been received from the complaining organizations explaining any concrete legal problems that they claim exist in the new legislation, reinforcing the impression that theirs is an ideological opposition not based on real, legal issues.
It was interesting to read that all this opposition came about after the heir to the Open Society empire, Alexander Soros, met with representatives of NGOs.

A legitimate aim of ensuring transparency of civic organizations

I agree with most of the findings of the Venice Commission, who at the request of Hungary, reviewed the draft legislation, provided an opinion, and approved it as pursuing a, "...[P]rima facie legitimate aim and can be considered 'necessary in a democratic society in the interest of national security and public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others."

I particularly liked the commission's additional mention of another important point regarding transparency: how it may contribute to the fight against money laundering and the financing of terrorism.

The thrust of the commission's findings can be read in Kovács's blog post, Case Closed: Venice Commission says Hungary’s draft NGO law pursues ‘legitimate aim of ensuring transparency’.

In that post Kovács includes a few key points worth mentioning. The first is how he accurately illustrated—through a comparison of legislation with other countries—that Hungary's legislation is straightforward and clearly in line with the Venice Commission's finding of it being a legitimate aim. Here is what he wrote about this first point:
The Hungarian draft law, unlike the one in the United States, proposed relatively lighter reporting requirements and, contrary to the Israeli and Russian laws, avoids labeling foreign-funded NGOs as “agents”. Unlike a proposal in the European Parliament, it does not consider taking away public funding from these NGOs. Hungary’s draft law says that NGOs that receive funding from outside of Europe that exceeds a certain level must publicly declare that they receive funding from abroad in their materials and the registry. That’s pretty straightforward and clearly in line with what the Venice Commission says is a “legitimate aim”.
Of the commission's findings, there was one in particular that I did not agree with; that is, the point that Hungary's NGO law could have a "stigmatizing effect on those NGOs receiving foreign funding." Hungary had disagreed with the commission on this point. As Kovács noted, the NGO legislation, "...[D]oes not apply the term foreign 'agents' to these groups and the Commission’s concern would seem to be a contradiction to the opinion’s fundamental finding that 'it is legitimate, in order to secure transparency, to publicly disclose the identity of the [NGOs’] main sponsors.' "

Lastly, Kovács drew further attention to the fact all those who, "sounded off alarm bells," have done so without just cause, because the Venice Commision's opinion invalidates any claim that Hungary was carrying out a "NGO crackdown." To reiterate how legitimate Hungary's NGO law is, Kovács further referred to the the commission's opinion:
...the Commission said, the draft law pursues a legitimate aim of improving transparency of NGOs. What’s more, it is legitimate for a state to monitor the main sponsors of NGOs and legitimate to publicly disclose the identity of the main sponsors. It’s also not only legitimate but 'necessary in a democratic society' to require transparency of NGOs receiving funding from abroad in order to prevent them from being misused for foreign political goals.
Hungary's new NGO law is but one, in a long list of positive developments under the leadership of Viktor Orbán; a leadership that has proven itself over and over for seven straight years.

Zoltan Kovacs's blog post on North American criticism of the new NGO law. Photo: About Hungary Blog/Guess who else is concerned about foreign funding of NGOs

With respect to Canada's Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland's tweet on the day the new Hungarian NGO law took effect—calling it a “disappointing outcome”—it reflects badly on Canada. I totally disagree with her tweet.

If Freeland truly "values transparency & civil society as key facets of healthy democratic societies,” then she should retract her comment and apologize to Hungary.

What Freeland and many others fail to realize is that Hungary has got it right: the Hungarian model is working and it shows!

"Case closed."

Monday, July 31, 2017

Viktor Orbán’s Speech on the Anniversary of the 1848 Revolution

Prime Minister Viktor Orbán's in front of the National Museum giving his anniversary speech of the 1848 Revolution
Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, in front of the National Museum, delivering his anniversary speech of the 1848 Revolution.
Photo: About Hungary Blog/In the spirit of 1848, says PM Orbán, we have a chance to transform Europe

On March 15, 2017, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán delivered what I consider to be one of the most relevant and significant speeches for both Hungary and Europe, on a national day when Hungarians commemorate the 1848 Revolution; a revolution that became a war of independence from the Austrian Empire, ruled by the Habsburg dynasty.

Orbán's speech is just one in a long list of impressive speeches, given by a man whose leadership and patriotism is beyond reproach; a man who is, in my view, a modern day hero in the making.

Perhaps what best illustrates Orbán's unwavering patriotism and strong leadership abilities has been the exemplary manner in which he has fulfilled the primary responsibility of any prime minister; that is, to ensure the safety and security of the citizenry.

One need only look to the border security measures that Orbán has put in place since the summer of 2015; measures that have ensured that Hungary's borders are protected from hordes of so-called "refugees," (economic migrants) who not only pose a threat to the economic, political, and social stability of Hungarian society, but to the very core of Hungary's Christian identity, heritage, and culture.

Orbán accomplished this in a most identifiable way by the construction of two military fences at its borders, that together with a group of security forces—3000 border-hunters, modern-day border-fort garrisons, officers and the police, and members of the defence forces—has in effect, shut down the Balkan migrant route, of which Hungary was an extension.

To get an even greater sense of just how seriously Orbán takes his responsibility for providing safety and security, consider reading my blog post, Hungary's New Border-Hunters: A Response to the Ongoing Migrant Crisis.

Orbán's Speech

In keeping with a long-held tradition Orbán delivered his speech at the front steps of the National Museum, where in 1848, a mass demonstration—an event that is considered to be one of the central events that set the revolution in motion—against the Habsburg dynasty assembled during which the "Twelve Points" were read: a list of demands to the Habsburg governor co-authored by Sándor Petöfi and his Nemzeti Dal, a revolutionary poem.

Orbán began his speech by welcoming Polish visitors, who regularly attend this most important national day for Hungary; one that Poles intimately understand and support.

Using the analogy of taking a photograph, Orbán characterized the national celebration—a Hungarian national holiday—as synonymous to the taking a family photograph of the Hungarian people, who have stood the test of time in many battles, wars and uprisings, and through the sacrifice of many courageous compatriots, exist today allowing Hungarians, along with those courageous people from the past to be "photographed" together. It is a photograph that, in part, pays tribute to and honours those brave souls!

Referring to Hungary's history, Orbán mentioned how in the past, those who won battles against Hungary, eventually lost the war, "The Tartars are gone without a trace, the enormous Ottoman Empire wasted away, the Habsburg Empire evaporated, and the Soviet colossus simply perished." These are facts that Orbán referred to as irrefutable proof that, "...[W]e were, we are and we will be."

Perhaps one of the most salient points of the speech was with respect to 
Orbán's highlighting the importance of 1848, as a common thread that continues to run through Hungarian history and life, becoming both a touchstone and a moral compass for the Hungarian people. It is a point that can only be fully understood in 
Orbán's own words:

The importance of 1848 not only lies in the fact that it happened, but also in the fact that it has been happening ever since – and not only in our annual celebrations: 1848 has become our inner touchstone, and our moral compass. The touchstone and compass of ’48 indicate to this day the measure of every person in terms of their homeland: who is loyal, who is a patriot, who is committed, and who is brave. They show us what greatness is. But they also show us what pettiness is, what falsehood is, and what it is to kill dreams; what it is to build our country, and what it is to destroy it. The touchstone of 1848 defines our personal positions within the nation, and 1848 equally defines our position among nations. And we have reason to be proud of our position, which we deserve. In 1848–49, the Hungarian community contributed more people to fight under the flags of freedom than did all the other countries of Europe combined.
Orbán also referred to the 1848 revolution as a link between Rákóczi’s War of Independence (June 15, 1703 – May 1, 1711) and the October of 1956, which as he put it, "...[D]elineates the backbone of a great freedom-fighting nation and defines its historical bloodline..."

Continuing in the tradition of nation building, Orbán spoke of the important and fundamental duties and responsibilities that his current generation must take on and fulfill for the sake of the future generations: the duty to pass on to the younger generations a country with a spiritual and moral inheritance that will allow for the emergence of courageous individuals to fight for freedom; the task of safeguarding the country to retain the nation for them; to provide them with guidance on what they must do; and to ensure the continuity of the nation that includes the embracing of a variety of professions and fields of work.

Orbán spoke of the rebellion currently going on in Europe; a rebellion by nations against the "...[H]ypocritical alliance of Brussels bureaucrats, the global liberal media and international capital, with its insatiable appetite."  

Today in Europe, the "winds of '48 are blowing once more," as Orbán pointed out, but it is a rebellion whose energy can be released within constitutional boundaries and reforms brought about in a peaceful manner. In order for this to happen Orbán identified a few fundamental problems that must be resolved, "...[M]asks of hypocrisy in Brussels must be removed, and we need straight talking and open debate on the future. The machinations hidden behind fine principles must come to an end."

The Hungarian people are well positioned to spearhead the necessary changes; a people whose history and character has illustrated the important role Hungarians can play in the implementation of these changes.
Orbán highlighted this important role by describing the spirit of the Hungarian people, paraphrasing Széchenyi, one of Hungary's most respected statesman:
Széchenyi urged us on by saying that when the whole of Europe disintegrates, Hungary – rising from its ashes – will, to the glory of humanity, stand guard over order, peace and freedom: just as when it once defended Christianity. When within us there is more patriotism than envy, and more civic virtue than desire for glory, I sincerely believe that the Hungarian nation will come to something – and something great.
Reinforcing the need for peaceful reforms, Orbán referred to the essence of the Twelve Points, "Let there be peace, freedom and accord."

Recognizing that there are some in society who do not want peace but division, Orbán emphasized that his focus is on nation building!

That nation-building effort was further emphasized when Orbán paraphrased Lajos Kossuth, "...[W]e are a nation, and we have the right and the strength to pursue our own goals, and not to be the tools of foreign ambitions." It is a statement that goes to the heart of Hungary's current struggles in the European Union and with those foreign interests trying to destabilize Orbán's government, so as to impose their own agenda, of which George Soros is at the top of that list.

Addressing Hungary's current problems with Brussels, Orbán continued to encourage his fellow citizens with several statements that made it abundantly clear to Brussels, that Hungary's history, people and future will not be manipulated or compromised by foreign interests and interference. Hungary is determined to manifest its own destiny because that destiny matters to Hungarians:
Perhaps neither the past nor the future of the Hungarian nation matters to Brussels and international capital – but they matter to us. Perhaps the security of the European people does not matter to Brussels and international capital – but it matters to us. Perhaps whether or not we remain Hungarian does not matter to Brussels and international capital – but it matters to us. We know what János Arany expressed thus in verse: “If the storm of times blows us away, God will be never more have Hungarians.” This is also true today, and this is what is at stake in today’s European rebellion. In defence of our independence and national sovereignty, we must bravely fight the battles that lie ahead of us. We must stop Brussels: we must protect our borders; we must prevent the resettlement of migrants; we must make the networks that receive their funding from abroad transparent; we must keep the right to regulate taxes, wages and household utility charges here at home. And in this, Dear Friends, we can only rely on ourselves. Therefore we must continue to keep the responsibility of governance within the nation.
Most noteworthy was Orbán's effort to strengthen the bonds of amongst Hungarians by emphasizing an extremely important aspect of nationhood; that is, "A nation is not only a shared language, culture and past, but also the sum of every moment in which the trials of history weld our hearts together." 

Elaborating further, Orbán mentioned how Hungary's rebellion against the slavery of debt has welded together the hearts of the Hungarian people; and so has Hungary's struggle for economic independence and the repelling of the "mass population movement."

Hungarians today stand on their own feet, "eat their own bread," and do not serve the interests of foreign powers. Today, Hungarians are a unity people with strengthened families.

Progress has been made in the form of breaking through barriers of class, background, age, religion and political belief, all of which adds to the growing list of positive achievements in Hungarian society. All this, as Orbán reminded the audience, was accomplished under the pressure from the "alliance of hypocrites."

Orbán concluded his speech with a warning, that all Hungarians should be cognizant of the fact that unity needs to be maintained with hard work, and on a daily basis. He also pointed out the need for Hungarians to protect their achievements, "There is no achievement which will defend itself."

Further to this he stated that, it is up to Hungarians to defend unity and achievements, and to advance both in an effort to make society functional. 

Orbán ended his speech with a very optimistic statement that is telling of the continued success—the details of which can be read at my blog post from 
Orbán's State of the Nation addressthat Hungary has enjoyed since 2010, "The Hungarian nation is strengthening and rising, and, through its talent and hard work, will rightly receive recognition among the community of European nations. The name of Hungary will again be a fine one, worthy of its great fame in days gone by. Long live Hungarian freedom, long live our homeland."

God bless Hungary.