Monday, June 20, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Destruction of Freedom in the Name of Freedom

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My Concluding Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, May 30, 2016

The Brown Scapular Devotion

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

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

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

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

The Scapular Promise

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

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

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

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

The Sabbatine Privilege 

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Brown Scapular is a Sign of Mary

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

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

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

Enrolment in the Brown Scapular Confraternity

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

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

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

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

The Morning Offering

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

The Popes and the Brown Scapular

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

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

The Rosary and the Brown Scapular are Inseparable

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

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

Our Lady of Mount Carmel, pray for us.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

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

An image of the front entrance to Comunità Cenacolo, Medjugorje
Cenacle Community (Comunità Cenacolo) in Medjugorje, Herzegovina

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hvaljen Isus i Marija (Praised be Jesus and Mary)

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Our Lady of Good Counsel

Original image of Our Lady of Good Counsel from Genazzano, Italy
Original image of Our Lady of Good Counsel
from Genazzano, Italy
Today is the feast day of Our Lady of Good Counsel, a Marian devotion that I discovered several years ago from the reading of Michael H. Brown's book, Seven Days With Mary. It is an especially important devotion for those who are struggling with sexual sins, and the temptations that accompany them. What ever our struggles may be with confusion, debauchery, and uncleanliness, the Blessed Virgin Mary is available to us to dispel our darkness, and bring us back to Jesus, protecting and guiding us at every step of the way.

Our Lady of Good Counsel is a much needed devotion for Canada, because like many other countries in the world, Canada has fallen prey to the global sexual revolution. We have experienced the negative ramifications for several decades, most notably in the deterioration of the primary cell of society, the family, including the discarding of traditional family values; not to mention the increased spiritual battle for those individuals seeking to lead a chaste and virtuous life. 

As to the many other negative ramifications, we need not expend any great amount of time or energy to identify them: pornovision on cable tv; pornography readily available on the internet; the sexualization of culture within all advertising mediums; immodest attire; an increased level of promiscuity; marital infidelity; the indoctrination of children in the education system with sexual immorality; "same sex marriage" since 2005, a younger generation that fails to recognize and acknowledge the importance and truth that sexual intercourse is a conjugal act performed only within the sanctity of marriage; the lack of understanding of the meaning of the human person, and the challenge of human sexuality, as revealed in the work of St. Pope John Paul II's, Love and Responsibility, and his other great body of work on the human body, Theology of the Body; and the list goes on and is growing.

There are many evils in society, but there is a remedy; that remedy is to be found in Mary. We need to continually seek the comfort of Our Lady's mantle, through prayer, in a world that is becoming increasingly evil.

A brief introduction to Seven Days With Mary

Seven Days With Mary is a seven day personal retreat with Mary. The graces that flow from these devotions can barely be described with words; it truly is a time of Divine Intimacy, something that can only be fully understood when experienced. There are a total of seven Marian devotions: Our Lady of Saragossa, Our Lady of Montserrat, Our Lady of Good Counsel, Our Lady of Guadalupe, Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal, Our Lady of Lourdes, and Our Lady of Prompt Succor, all of which are officially recognized and sanctioned by the Church. Each devotion comes complete with a concise historical account, followed by meditations, prayers, and concludes with the recitation of the Rosary.

Brown recommends that you pray this devotion for seven consecutive days to receive the maximum benefit. As to which particular devotion you begin and end with, it does not matter, so long as you practice one devotion per day. Think for a moment of what it must be like to be immersed in deep prayer with Our Lady for a few hours each day for seven consecutive days. I can assure you from my own personal experience, it is a grace filled week that will end with your heart felt gratitude and praise to God and Our Lady for the gift of these devotions.

It would be remiss of me not to mention that part of the reason why Seven Days With Mary is available to us, is due to Brown sharing his gift of faith with the world, something that personally resonates very well with me. Brown went on a pilgrimage to each of the seven Marian locations, and subsequently wrote about his experiences. Having read about Brown's conversion story—consider reading Prayer of the Warriorapproximately twenty years ago, it is quite easy to recognize his love for God and Our Lady, which Seven Days With Mary spotlights in a beautiful way.

Mary's mission in the Church and in the world

Mary was chosen as God's vessel to give birth to, raise and protect Jesus Christ, Our Saviour and Redeemer, whose life, death and resurrection defeated of the "kingdom of darkness." 

Mary continues to be His chosen vessel, the great antidote to paganism, by taking back territory from the Evil One and his demons, and restoring it for Jesus. This is a fundamental aspect of Mary's role in our lives, to bring us back to God, to help us on our earthly pilgrimage, to remind us of what Jesus taught us, to reveal to the world that God is real and He does exist. Mary is "the" messenger from God.

Part of how Mary accomplished her mission is through her many apparitions in the history of the Catholic Church, something that continues to this day—Medjugorje in particular—fulfilling her role in the strengthening of the Mystical Body of Christ. So numerous are Mary's apparitions that not even the Church knows exactly how many times she has appeared, and the associated miracles connected with each apparition.

Our Lady has founded hundreds of churches, and has deeply affected major historical figures, men who, as Brown states in the Preface, "...[S]haped the very boundaries of our world—like Charlemagne." (iv)  

Given to Mary is a reservoir of graces granted by Jesus, that she dispenses with exquisite generosity. They are available for the asking, especially through the sincere and devout recitation of the Rosary, the most powerful prayer next to the Holy Mass. A standard include in our Rosary intentions should be our imploring of Mary to shower upon us, with great abundance, the many graces we need in all that we pray for.

Seeking Our Lady in time trouble and need, is exactly what Seven Days of Mary is all about; that is, invoking her intercession, seeking her aid, and meditating on her role in our lives, as we try to find our way through the current darkness.

The historical account and miracles at Genazzano, Italy

Genazzano is thirty miles southeast of Rome, and is the location where the devotion to Our Lady of Good Counsel began. During the reign of Sixtus III in the fifth century, a church was built and named Madre nostra del Buon Consiglio or Our Lady of Good Counsel; a name derived from the writings of St. Augustine.

The location of Genazzano is of great significance. Like so many other places where Our Lady had acted to recover territory, that had been lost to demons, and restore it back for Jesus, so to did Our Lady move to deliver Genazanno from what had become a place of orgies and ceremonies dedicated to a pagan goddess. Mary, the most pure and beautiful Mother of God, pushed aside Venus, the goddess of lust and sin.

The church at Genazzano served Christians for a thousand years, but eventually it fell into ruins. In close proximity were splendid edifices dedicated to St. John and St. Nicholas. The deteriorated state of the church greatly concerned a very pious woman named Petruccia de Geneo, whose husband had been caretaker of the Augustinians in the town. He died in 1436, and with the money he left Petruccia, she set about to provide basic necessities of the church, and vowed to rebuild it to its former glory.

Petruccia's ambitions were for the most part, mocked by the townspeople, and the task of rebuilding proved to be much more difficult than she had originally anticipated. WIth only a few rough and unfinished walls constructed, the money ran out. This did not deter Petruccia because as she insisted, the Blessed Virgin Mary assured her that against all logic, the church would be rebuilt. Her response to the continued mockery from the townsfolk, "My children, don't take such notice of this apparent misfortune, for I assure you that before I die the Most Blessed Virgin Mary and the holy father St. Augustine will complete the church." (25)

On April 25, 1467, the feast day then of Our Lady of Good Counsel, was well attended by the townsfolk and even more so during that year, with the feast falling on a Saturday. The exceptionally large crowd typically gathered at the public square, the Piazza of Saint Mary, having clean fun where once there had been baths and decadence of pagan idols.

At approximately 4:00pm, the crowd was astonished to hear what sounded like a celestial harmony. Borrowing from the Church historian, Monsignor Dillon, Brown describes it as, "...[H]igh in the clouds, the music of angels, as if a portal or opening to paradise had been flung open." (26) The vision of what the townsfolk saw was described as a beautiful white cloud that sent forth vivid rays of light. It lowered, and to the amazement of everyone present, it rested upon the unfinished walls of the church's chapel, dedicated to Saint Biagio.

Suddenly the bells of the high campanile (Italian bell tower) began to peal. This further astonished the crowd because the campanile was in their sights, and there was no human effort involved. What then followed was the pealing of every church bell in town, in unison, creating a festive sound throughout. Captivated by the events, the townsfolk were filled with such a holy feeling, that they filled the enclosure and pressed around where the cloud remained.

Eventually the rays of light vanished and the cloud gently cleared away, exposing a most beautiful object, an image of the Blessed Virgin Mary holding Jesus in her arms (the exact image is published with this post). It was another miraculous image that materialized from nowhere. Mary exuded a spiritual beauty, one of tremendous caring. Brown states that, "If at Saragossa she was the consolation of evangelists, and if at Montserrat she emphasized her influence on Church leaders like Ignatius, at Genazzano she showed herself as mother to every single person and she did so on a level that was tremendously individual." (27) 

Brown further describes the image, dedicating an entire page to it. Here is just part of that description: 
The image of Good Counsel as well as subsequent reproductions demonstrate a warmth that touches the most profound depths of our spirits. They indicate that in our greatest difficulties we can flee with great confidence into the warmth of Mary... (28) 
Mary's eyes are Heaven's eyes. They are maternal eyes. And her beauty is her warmth. As she looks down toward the Infant she holds, so too does she look down to all the people of earth, caring for them, concerned for them, knowing the many struggles...The sensitivity and yet the strength in the Genazzano image mesmerized all who set eyes upon it. Jesus has his right arm around his mother's neck and the left hand on her neckline hem. He is clinging to her in the most touching way... (29)
To this day, the colours and details on the painting remain inexplicably fresh.

What is most miraculous about the painting is that it has no means of support. It is a fresco done on a thin layer of plaster or porcelain; there is no way such an image could be transported without breaking into pieces. A miraculous image it is, with nothing to support it in the front, back or on top; it remains perfectly balanced, and does so to this day.

That small run down church was soon transformed both physically and spiritually, to become one of the most holy places in Italy and the world. Many who were depressed and distressed, flocked to the chapel of Saint Biagio. At first it was neighbouring towns, but then others from distant communities came as well.

Mary's intercession at Genazzano was one of many in the Middle Ages. She had been invoked to ward off plagues, and often a miracle was attached to a painting, fresco or statue. It was Heaven's anointing of such holy images and figures to sweep away the reoccurring threat of paganism.

After the miracle at Genazzano, the run down church was promptly rebuilt, just as Petruccia had prophesied. In the four months after the arrival of the miraculous painting, one hundred and seventy one miraculous healings were recorded, which eventually led to the official Church recognition of Our Lady of Good Counsel.

There were many other miracles attributed to Our Lady of Good Counsel's intercession: many blind received their sight; others cured of hearing loss, epileptic affliction, and delivered from demonic possession; and the ceasing of a pestilence that afflicted Italy during the seventeenth century, in which Pope Urban VIII made a personal pilgrimage to Genazzano to seek Our Lady's intercession.

Of all the miracles attributed to Our Lady of Good Counsel, the most interesting for me was Brown's own conversion. In the early 1980s when he was living in the fast-lane in New York City, he experienced a conversion through a local church on East 90th Street named after Good Counsel. Brown later learned that all those years he was away from the faith, his grandmother had been invoking Our Lady of Good Counsel for his conversion. 

A prayer to Our Lady of Good Counsel

Our Lady of Good Counsel is a much needed devotion today. So many people are lost, living in a dark world of fleeting and false sexual pleasures. No matter what our struggles may be, no matter how long we have struggled, available to us is Our Lady of Good Counsel.

Invoke the intercession of Our Lady of Good Counsel in times of temptation, when near occasions of sin, and as part of a devotion to lead a life that not only abstains from sexual sins, but one that is lived chastely; that is, of purity in mind and heart.

Here is a prayer to Our Lady of Good Counsel included in Seven Days With Mary:
O Mary of Good Counsel, inflame our hearts of all who are devoted to you, so that all of them have shelter in you, O great Mother of God. O most worthy Lady, let everyone choose you as teacher and wise counselor of their souls, since you are, as St. Augustine says, the counsel of the Apostles and counsel of all peoples. Amen. (34)

Our Lady of Good Counsel, pray for us.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

The Dangers of Tai Chi

A man performing tai-chi at sunrise on the beach
Tai-chi at sunrise
Today's post on the dangers of tai chi is based on a book, Yoga, Tai Chi and Reiki: A Guide For Christians, written by Brother Max Sculley, DSL, a De La Salle brother based in Brisbane, Australia. I first discovered this book in late'2013 as part of my effort to become better informed about the New Age and occult practices that have infiltrated into the mainstream of Canadian society, and in particular within my local community.

Prior to the discovery of this book, the thought of embarking on readings about yoga, tai chi and reiki, as well as other New Age and occult practices—material that was totally unfamiliar to me—seemed like a daunting task. The last thing I wanted was to be burdened with what I initially thought would be, volumes of reading on Hinduism, Buddhism and other Eastern beliefs. But along came Brother Max's book, which proved to be exactly what I had hoped for; a well written and thoroughly researched book that was easy to understand and follow. To top it all off, this book is only one hundred and eighty pages.

The Foreword and Preface are sure to impress the reader with a solid introduction to the truth about these New Age practices, that includes stern warnings from Brother Max, and then Auxiliary Bishop Julian Porteous of Sydney, Australia (Archbishop of Hobart, Tasmania), on the dangers associated with these practices. Also included are Br. Max's insights from his research and experience in Australia, and a case study of the worst case scenario that can result from these practices: demonic possession. The main content is segmented into Parts A-D that deal with yoga, tai chi, reiki, and the Age of Aquarius respectively. The Endnotes is sure to satisfy any reader's desire for further reading, followed by a much needed Glossary that provides the reader with a quick reference to the many new, unfamiliar, and bizarre terms that are rampant when reading about the New Age.

My desire to discover the truth about yoga, tai chi, and reiki complimented the thrust behind why Br. Max wrote his book; that is, to spread and increase awareness about these practices among Catholics and Christians alike. As he stated in the Preface, with his involvement in Christian adult education for twenty-five years, he became increasingly concerned that many Christians (priests, religious, and laity) were becoming practitioners of "energy practices," such as yoga, tai chi and reiki. To make matters worse, these New Age practices were performed in Catholic institutions. 

Drawing attention to another sad reality, Br. Max spotlighted how the release of Jesus Christ the Bearer of the Water of Life, A Christian reflection on the "New Age," in 2003, evoked little response from local Church leaders, which for some Catholics, such silence was interpreted as assent. In light of this, and due to the popularity of these three "energy systems," Br. Max decided to write a comprehensive critique of yoga, tai chi and reiki. It serves as a timely warning against these popular mainstream practices that claim to provide wellness, health and relaxation, but in fact are inextricably linked to Eastern philosophies that are incompatible with Christianity.

As for what Br. Max has written about yoga and reiki, you may want to read my two previous posts, Yoga, Tai Chi and Reiki: A Guide For Christians, and The Deception and Dangers of Reiki - A Counterfeit to Christian Healing

In Part B of his book, Br. Max has dedicated three separate chapters on tai chi: Just an Innocent Pastime, Taoist Philosophy, and To Chi or not to Chi. The remainder of this post includes selected information from these chapters, that in my view, was of particular importance: altered states of consciousness; warnings from Archbishop Julian Porteous of Hobart, Tasmania, on the dangers of these practiceswhat exactly is tai chi, where it came from and what it is based on; how some Christians have welcomed tai chi; the problem with tai chi; meditation in movement; how tai chi has entered and gained acceptance in predominantly Christian countries; some of the key points to consider in Br. Max's answer to, should Christians practice tai chi; and my concluding thoughts.

Altered States of Consciousness

A common thread running through these three "energy systems" are techniques that produce altered states of consciousness (ASC), which as Br. Max explains in the Prefaceare abnormal mental states created by a variety of techniques, which are "...[G]enerally characterized by a significant reduction of logical thought and passivity of will. (8) At the advanced level of ASC, practitioners can achieve occult powers and even supposed divinization. There are four main dangers that can result from ASCs: mental illness, demonic influence, spirit possession, and occult bondage.

Altered states of consciousness do not include mental states such as day-dreaming, sleeping and dreaming which are part of the natural cylce of human life. Nor should it be applied to genuine Christian or biblical mystical experiences such as visions, ecstasies or prophetic revelations, which occur not due to human techniques, but spontaneously and unbidden by the direct action of the Holy Spirit. As Br. Max notes, genuine mystical experiences result in, "...[A] world view and a morality in accord with biblical and Christian tradition; they generally help to build up the People of God in their faith, and recipients of such revelations glorify, not themselves or demonic spirits, but the one true God." (8)

At the heart of each belief system is the worship of an impersonal god, so vastly different from the personal God of Christianity, whose outstanding characteristic is loving mercy as revealed by the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, Our Saviour and Redeemer.

The Foreword by Archbishop Julian Porteous of Hobart, Tasmania

Archbishop Julian Porteous affirms the clarity with which Br. Max alerts and informs readers to the dangers of yoga, tai chi and reiki, adding his own warning that engaging in these techniques will lead practitioners into a world that is inimical to the Christian faith.

What readers come to quickly understand is that these techniques not only rely on physical movements, but engage practitioners to enter into an altered state of consciousness. Archbishop Porteous warns readers that the engagement of the mind, which practitioners are led to believe is necessary to achieve any real benefit, is where the real danger lies. Although these practices are advertised as relaxation, fitness, and general health, what they really represent, is a Trojan horse for dangerous spiritual infiltration. As practitioners seek to know more about these techniques, they can unwittingly be exposed to demonic powers. Here is what Archbishop Porteous had to say about the danger of such demonic exposure:
They have ventured into a mysterious world lacking the sound guidance that Christianity offers. When one encounters preternatural powers the question does need to be posed: what is the origin and nature of these powers? If they are not from God revealed by Jesus Christ, then where do they come from? Venturing further into this exotic world can lead a person to embracing a belief in and a personal subjection to powers that do not come from the true God. Indeed, a person who follows these religious philosophies to their full extent can find themselves worshiping a false God. (2)
As to the deception by advocates of these practices, Archbishop Porteous warns readers that when they declare these practices to be non-religious, they do so only in an attempt to reassure "newbies" that they are not being duped into another religion. The truth of the matter is that yoga, tai chi and reiki, have a strong theological basis that is contrary to, and incompatible with Christianity. In fact each of these practices has a spiritual origin (demonic) which draw practitioners into their "religious" philosophies. As Archbishop Porteous points out, "They all offer an alternative understanding [a typical characteristic of New Age] of the make-up of the human person and they invite people to discover their view of the divine reality." (3)

What I found particularly helpful was the archbishop's inclusion of two Vatican documents, the Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on Some Aspects of Christian Meditationissued on October 15, 1989, on the Feast of Saint Teresa of Jesus by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, headed by then, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI), and Jesus Christ the Bearer of the Water of Life, A Christian reflection on the "New Age," issued in 2003 as a joint effort by the Pontifical Council For Culture and the Pontifical Council For Interreligious Dialogue. Both documents serve as key readings to further one's understanding and knowledge base of the New Age, and what constitutes authentic and genuine Christian meditation.

In the first document, the methods of meditation used by Eastern religions were compared with Catholic tradition of meditation. It warns of the dangers associated with embracing Eastern forms of meditation which may threaten the integrity of Christian prayer.

The second document contrasts New Age religiosity with Christian faith. It reveals the difference between the Christian faith in a personal God revealed through Jesus Christ with the impersonal energies proposed by various New Age spiritualities. Archbishop Porteous asks the question, "Is God a being with whom we have a relationship or something to be used or a force to be harnessed?" (4)

The archbishop goes on to say that Brother Max, "...[A]ddresses these questions by revealing clearly that what underpins these techniques is quite foreign to Christianity and damaging to the faith and possibly the life of the practitioner." (4) Here is how he concluded the Foreword:
This book is timely...With the widespread use of these practices and with many Catholics attracted to their use this book provides a very valuable service in warning of the dangers associated with embracing the underlying philosophies to these practices. (4)
For the Christian the spiritual life is an engagement with the Holy Spirit. This Spirit offers the pure water of saving grace. The Catholic tradition is rich in experience and teaching in the ways of the spiritual life. We have the example of the great mystics and a library of spiritual writings that offer wisdom, insight and sure guidance for anyone wishing to enter more deeply into the divine life offered through faith in Jesus Christ, who is the "bearer of the water of life." (5)
So what exactly is tai chi?

Tai chi is commonly marketed as a means to: reduce stress; improve physical and emotional health; self defence in the form of a martial art; and fostering spiritual development. It comprises of: gentle, balanced relaxation exercises; slow, rhythmic, abdominal breathing; and forms of meditation that includes focussing on one's breathing, visualizing one's movements, and visualizing the chi (the "natural energy" of the universe that permeates all things including the human body) within the body feeling the chi move. Chi is stored just below the navel, and it can give incredible strength in combat, and can be used to heal oneself and others.

When one thinks of tai chi, the image that probably comes to mind is similar to the photo published with this post, referred to as the "physically active" practice, but there is also the "physical passive" practice, known as "chi kung" (Qigong). In chi kung, one takes up a yoga-like posture, remaining completely still, while all the time breathing in a controlled and retarded way. Where the tai chi is "meditation in movement" (explained later in this post), chi kung is "meditation in stillness." With chi kung, the methods of meditation are similar to that of raja yoga and zen meditation, and whose purpose is the same as tai chi; that is, to empty the mind and achieve an altered stated of consciousness. The ultimate achievement in tai chi and chi kung is to become divine.

According to Chinese medical theory, chi is transmitted throughout the body along a series of energy channels called "meridians." Apparently, there are fourteen such channels, where the chi radiates to every cell in the body. The most significant of these channels is just below the navel, and is commonly referred to as the "tan tien," which literally translates into "field of breath," or "sea of chi."

If any of this appears to be harmless, quite the opposite is true. Brother Max warns of the danger, "Proficiency in the ability to control the flow of chi provides the adept with a range of psychic gifts, the most prominent being superhuman powers of strength and ability to heal oneself and others." (75) It begs the question, where or from whom do these gifts come from. If it is not from God, then any achieved power, strength and ability to heal, is of demonic origin.

Some Christians have welcomed tai chi

Tai chi's entry into the mainstream culture has not limited itself to the secular world. Lured by claims that tai chi stimulates physical and mental well-being, many Christians have embraced tai chi, including religious Brothers and Sisters. The notion that tai chi movements assist with circulation and muscular toning, while in a state of relaxation, is the appeal presented in many clubs, gyms, and retirement homes.

Brother Max includes a few examples from his own personal encounters with Christians who practice tai chi, citing one in particular, a Catholic retreat centre in New South Wales (NSW). This retreat centre had a created a flyer, explaining tai chi while at the same time, promoting a local tai chi academy. He states that perhaps the interest in tai chi at Catholic spirituality centres might account for why so many religious Sisters have embraced it with great enthusiasm. He also reveals how many get duped into practicing tai chi; they become enthusiastic about it once they realize it is not a religion but a philosophy.

Citing another example of tai chi's infiltration into the Catholic community in NSW, Br. Max writes of one Catholic diocese, whose staff practiced tai chi as part of a "staff spirituality day," with the full backing of the Catholic Education Office. When Br. Max expressed his concerns, raising his objection on religious grounds, he soon discovered the level of ignorance and indifference among so many Catholics with regard to the New Age; he was politely informed that tai chi is completely neutral, and based on philosophy, and has nothing to do with religion. If this is true, what then is the problem with tai chi.

Brother Max's thesis on the problem with tai chi?

Tai chi is in fact based on Taoist philosophy, and not the religion of Taoism, developed some five hundred years after the philosophy, but what many fail to realize is that the Taoist philosophy is itself a system of religious beliefs. Here is Br. Max's thesis:
  1. Tai chi, imported from China, is inextricably linked with a system of religious beliefs called Taoist philosophy.
  2. The key beliefs of Taoist philosophy clash head-on with the beliefs of Christianity.
  3. Altering one's state of consciousness, a practice common to tai chi and chi kung, is highly dangerous spiritually. It can easily open one up to demonic influences and may result in occult powers, a number of which are specifically condemned in the Bible.
Meditation in Movement

The movement in tai chi is slow and quiet, harmonious, free-flowing and continuous, but it also engages the mind, seeking to create a balance between the mind and the body. The mind is engaged even before any physical movements, by "mindful breathing" which focusses the mind on slow, rhythmic, abdominal breathing.

During the actual exercises, the mind leads the movement by imaging it. Brother Max cites the example of a practitioner moving in such a manner as if rowing a boat. The mind visualizes the body in action of rowing a boat, and watches the body doing so. In this way, the mind and the body are brought "into harmony." In Taoist philosophy, this process is referred to as "emptying the mind," and once achieved, it is at this point of emptiness that the unconscious mind becomes receptive to the cosmic chi.

All this is in sharp contrast to what is proper to Christianity. For Catholics and Christians alike, the approach of emptying oneself in no way implies a disconnect with the true God of Israel. The emptying of oneself that God requires is a renunciation of personal selfishness, and not the renunciation of those created things that God has given us, and has placed among us for our earthly pilgrimage. Pope Emeritus Benedict XI, then Cardinal Ratzinger, clearly makes point understood in his Letter to The Bishops of the Catholic Church on Some Aspects of Christian Meditation:
On this topic St. Augustine is an excellent teacher: if you want to find God, he says, abandon the exterior world and re-enter into yourself. However, he continues, do not remain in yourself, but go beyond yourself because you are not God: He is deeper and greater than you. "I look for his substance in my soul and I do not find it; I have however meditated on the search for God and, reaching out to him, through created things, I have sought to know 'the invisible perfections of God' (Rom 1:20)." "To remain in oneself": this is the real danger. The great Doctor of the Church recommends concentrating on oneself, but also transcending the self which is not God, but only a creature. God is "deeper than my inmost being and higher than my greatest height." In fact God is in us and with us, but he transcends us in his mystery. (19)
How tai chi has entered and gained acceptance in predominantly Christian countries

Brother Max answers this question, drawing from the Australian experience. He explains that originally, tai chi had to overcome two obstacles. The first was to gain acceptance for such a gentle, non-physical art in such a sporting nation. The second wast to gain acceptance in a country with a significant amount of Christians, many of whom would be inclined to look upon tai chi with suspicion, especially coming from pagan China.

These two obstacles did not discourage tai chi masters, who set out with determination and shrewdness to overcome them. An opportunity presented itself in the 1980s, when tai chi was marketed as a remedy to the increased levels of distress that many Australians were coping with.

Proponents of tai chi successfully marketed it to those with Christians who had a very limited, if any, understanding of Taoist philosophy. As Br. Max notes, "While presenting chi as intrinsic energy or life-force, not as a divine force, proponents and teachers often fail to mention the underlying philosophy that all created things are divine manifestations of chi and that the ultimate purpose of tai chi is to enable the practitioner to become divine." (81) Considering those who it was marketed to, such a deceptive presentation would fail to raise any concerns.

The fact remains that engaging in forms of meditation that induce altered states of consciousness is sufficient to create changes in one's belief system.

Is it appropriate for Christians practice tai chi?

Brother Max answers this question in chapter eight's, To Chi or Not To Chi. He first begins by asking the important question, "So is tai chi compatible with Christianity?" His reply, "My answer is a definite No." (99)

Christians who practice tai chi place themselves in serious spiritual danger. Those that know the truth about tai chi, clearly understand that its philosophy leads to the worship of a false god, resulting in the development of occult powers in the pursuit of becoming divine. Even if one attempted to distance oneself from the philosophy, the techniques involved with "meditation in movement" are so significant that they alter the practitioner's state of consciousness. An emptied mind coupled with a passive will exposes the practitioner to the danger of demonic influence, that in an advanced state of "enlightenment," could lead to demonic possession.

It is with this knowledge that Christians need to make a decision, either they are for Christ or against Him. Brother Max makes that decision crystal clear, citing Saint Paul Letter to the Corinthians, "You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons." (1 Corinthians 10:21)

I think this is an especially important reference to focus on because it really puts the practice of tai chi into perspective. What St. Paul wrote about in that scripture passage, idol worship, is disguised today in many forms, one of which is through the doorway of solutions to good health and a stress free life. Saint Paul's admonition to flea from the worship of idols is something that all Christians should pay heed to.

This is how Brother Max applied St. Paul's admonition to tai chi, prompting Christians to ask a very important question, "The tai chi-er who makes a total surrender of mind and heart to the cosmic chi is performing a personal act of worship to a non-existent idol which masks demonic powers, and in doing so, runs the serious danger of being in communion with demons. Should such a person be approaching the altar of the Lord?" (102)

Another aspect of tai chi that should alarm Christians to its dangers, is the potential for practitioners to obtain a variety of super-human powers that are demonic in their origin. Through the combination of mind altering techniques, and the worshipful surrender to false gods of chi, adepts have acquired super-human powers that defy rational explanation: feats of extraordinary physical and aggressive strength, seemingly miraculous healings, predicting the future, reading minds, astral projection, and communicating with the spirit world.

The practice of tai chi brings with it an altered state of consciousness that combined with idol worship induces communion with the demonic. It is at this communion with demons that supernatural powers are produced in the adept. Some may perceive such powers as identical to the Christian charismatic gifts of the Holy Spirit, but this is nothing but a attempt by Satan to counterfeit authentic Christian gifts, something that Satan is capable of doing. For anyone seeking to determine the source of any package of "gifts," one only look to the actual gifts and how they are used. As Br. Max states, if these gifts are used for channelling, then such gifts are contrary to biblical teaching and occultic. He goes on to further state that, "Suffice to say that if such extraordinary gifts are exercised by someone claiming either to be a god or on the path to divinity, then such gifts come not from the Spirit of God but from Satan." (104)

One final point that I will include from Br. Max's answer to whether or not Christians should practice tai chi, spotlights the false claim made by some Christians involved in tai chi, that they neither accept the Taoist philosophy nor perform any mind altering techniques. As Br. Max states, any tai chi master would deplore such a hollowed-out version of the art. According to such claims, a person would not be performing tai chi, but a graceful from of callisthenics. Brother Max goes on to explain that, if one performs these "graceful callisthenics," not part of a tai chi class or watching a tai chi video, then it would appear there is no spiritual danger. On the other hand, if one is participating as a member of a tai chi class, then one can be influenced unconsciously by the occult power emanating from the teacher or others in the class. (107)

My concluding thoughts

Since my initial post on Yoga, Tai Chi and Reiki: A Guide For Christians, in February'2014, I have had the opportunity to discuss the dangers of these New Age and occult practices with a few individuals. From these exchanges, there were a few that listened attentively, some politely rebuked me, while others simply did not take it seriously. 

It seems that most of those who I have communicated with, fall into the skeptic category. Why are they so skeptical. I can not say for certain, but I suspect there a few reasons:
  1. The message is simply discarded because of the messenger.
  2. Due to some actually being practitioners of these "energy systems," the claims that I have proposed, in their view, do not match the reality of their experiences.
  3. The mention of the spiritual battle, the demonic or Satan, is considered by some, the talk of fanatics.
  4. Most if not all, have neither experienced the dangers themselves; nor have they ever seen or know of anyone else who has; therefore, my claims are non-sense.
  5. They personalize the issue in other ways; some women derived a perceived "positive experience" with their girlfriends at yoga classes, and so the mention of ASCs and the demonic was completely preposterous.
Although Satan successfully convinces many that he does not exist, the reality is, he does exist. Those that don't believe in the devil, don't believe in the Gospel. 

Perhaps it would be most fitting to mention Giotto di Bondone's fresco, depicting the expulsion of the devils from Arezzo, by the Franciscan Friar Brother Sylvester. He was sent by St. Francis of Assisi to rid the town from these unseen enemies who had besieged Arezzo, causing discord and division amongst the townspeople. Saint Francis' instructions were simple and clear, "Go up to the town gate," he said, "and in the name of almighty God command the devils in virtue of obedience to go away immediately." (St. Bonaventure's Major Life of St. Francis, Chapter VI, No.9.) Brother Sylvester did what he was told. The devils were immediately expelled, and all arguments, resentment, anger and hatred ceased; peace was restored.

May we never be so foolish or prideful to think that demonic influence has nothing to do with the New Age and occult practices.

May we repeat the well known prayer, etched in the St. Benedict Medal, as our renewed fidelity to Christ, and our renouncement of Satan, "Crux sacra sit mihi lux! Nunquam draco sit mihi dux!" The English translation, "May the holy cross always be my light! May the dragon never be my guide!"