Strange happenings in the Baltic

The Feast of Saint Turibius of Mongrovejo

What is going on in the Baltic?  A story this week about the Russian ambassador to Denmark’s outburst over his host country’s participation in the NATO missile defense shield brought this to my attention.  Last August Denmark, being a NATO member, agreed to have radar for NATO’s new missile defense system installed on one of its frigates.  The Russian ambassador to that country Mikhail Vanin decided to make it known last week decided to make it known in one of the country’s largest newspapers that Russia was not happy with that decision.  He declared that Denmark did not seem to be “fully aware of the consequences” of that decision, and that Denmark was now “part of the threat to Russia.”  And just in case the Danes did not get his point he baldly stated that “Danish warships will now be targets for Russia’s nuclear weapons.”

And then there is this other story emanating from Sweden that has received precisely zero attention in the Western media.  The chief analyst for the Swedish security police Wilhelm Unge, addressing a news conference on the topic of increased Russian intelligence activity in his country, made the astonishing claim that “we see Russian intelligence operations in Sweden – we can’t interpret this in any other way – as preparation for military operations against Sweden.”  Huh?  Russian military operations against Sweden?  Is this 2015 or 1618?

Mr. Unge gave reasons for his assessment that included increased Russian military activity in the Baltic including exercises that seemed to be rehearsing bomb runs on Swedish cities, the mysterious submarine incident in November, and the alarming estimate that one third of Russian diplomats operating in Sweden were believed to be intelligence officers.

So what to make of this?  The world is changing.  We all know that.  Russia feels worried and threatened.  And Russia is a big power.  The Russian leadership and a decent sized segment of the Russian populace seem to believe beyond a shadow of a doubt that the Maidan demonstrations that started in Kiev in November, 2013 that led to the ouster of former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych one year ago were an attempt to rip Ukraine out of Russia’s orbit and make Kiev, the birthplace of the Russian state and people a millennium ago, a full fledged member and advance base for the anti-Russian North Atlantic alliance.  Whether you share that opinion or not the Russians seem to believe this wholeheartedly and that would seem to put all options on the table for them.

If Russia were ever able to put its troops on Swedish and/or Finnish territory (one would seem to go with the other), however that would come about, the world as we have known it would be over.  Russia would own the Baltic and its bombers would be in short range of most major European capitals.  Neither Sweden nor Finland are members of NATO so in theory, and if the political circumstances were agreeable, Russia could launch military action against either of them without triggering the mutual self defense clause.  I suspect that Russia would only ever do something like this if it were desperate and felt that an attempt to overthrow the world order was its only way out.  But on the other hand Europe is so weak militarily that it is now relies on the American nuclear deterrent as its sole defense against a Russian onslaught, if Russian ever determined to make that move.  Pray.  Pray the Rosary.  Write a letter to Pope Francis and beg him to join with the bishops of the world to consecrate Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

And pray the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary on Monday for the See of Constantinople, the Sorrowful Mysteries on Tuesday for the See of Antioch, the Glorious Mysteries on Wednesday for the See of Jerusalem, the Luminous Mysteries on Thursday for the See of Alexandria, and the Sorrowful Mysteries on Friday for the See of Carthage; for their liberty and their salvation and the restoration of their ancient position as pillars of the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church in communion with the See of Peter in Rome; for the conversion of the Jewish people and the conversion of the Muslim peoples.  And join the Rosary Confraternity.

A blanket of silence

The Feast of Saint Joseph: Patron of the Universal Church

A blanket of silence fell over the Catholic media on March 17, the Feast of Saint Patrick.  Usually the Saint Patrick’s Day parade in New York, with the reigning Cardinal Archbishop of that diocese serving as grand marshal, gets a fair bit of coverage or at least a mention.  Not so this year.  Not a word on EWTN.  Nothing on New Advent.  Not a word on Father Z, even his usual Litany of Saint Patrick to counteract the hedonism of most celebrations of the holiday was missing.  Nothing.  Nada.  The silence was deafening.

Why should this be so?  Could it be that the Archbishop of New York Timothy Cardinal Dolan was marching at the front of a parade that included open homosexuals marching under their own banner celebrating their active homosexuality right past Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, a cathedral built in honor of a man who in another age drove the practice of homosexual sex out of pagan Ireland?

Only at Church Militant TV did they cover this and they did a bang up job.  And you can see, if you click the link, what happened to Michael Voris when he tried to ask Cardinal Dolan a question about his choice to be grand marshal of this parade.  But this is the Church hierarchy that we have in this country in these times.

Pray for Cardinal Dolan.  Pray for all of our prelates.  We need them.  We need them to be drawn back from the open embrace they give to the world.  We need them to believe, and we need them to act as a successor to the apostles should act.  We cannot do what we need to do without them.  Ask Saint Joseph, their Protector and ours, to intercede on their behalf and ours.  That our Lord might forgive us our sin of pride which so dominates this era of human history and may liberate us from out of the snare of the hunters.

And pray the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary on Monday for the See of Constantinople, the Sorrowful Mysteries on Tuesday for the See of Antioch, the Glorious Mysteries on Wednesday for the See of Jerusalem, the Luminous Mysteries on Thursday for the See of Alexandria, and the Sorrowful Mysteries on Friday for the See of Carthage; for their liberty and their salvation and the restoration of their ancient position as pillars of the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church in communion with the See of Peter in Rome; for the conversion of the Jewish people and the conversion of the Muslim peoples.  And join the Rosary Confraternity.

 

 

The Islamic State threatens to conquer Rome

February 16, 2015

The Islamic State today released a video that purports to show the beheading of twenty one Egyptian Coptic Christians who had been kidnapped during December and January around the Libyan city of Sirte which is around 250 miles east southeast of Tripoli on the Mediterranean coast.  An armed group who has sworn allegiance to the Islamic State, in a strange echo of what took place in Mosul last June, seized control of government buildings in Sirte on Saturday. The executioners of the hostages vowed that the Islamic State will “conquer Rome, by Allah’s permission, the promise of our Prophet.”    The Egyptian government launched retaliatory airstrikes on the eastern Libyan city of Derna, a stronghold of Islamic State militants, on the Mediterranean coast about halfway between the Egyptian border and Benghazi.

So will the Islamic State launch an attack on Rome from its new base on the south shore of the Mediterranean?

I doubt that we will see armies flying the black flag marching up the Via della Conciliazione anytime soon.  The groups loyal to IS are one of a hodgepodge of armed militias fighting in the internecine warfare that makes up life in post Qaddafi Libya.  And they are far from the center of the Islamic State’s base of operations in the landlocked area surrounding the Syria Iraq border.  If these armed Libyan IS affiliates ever do manage to carve out some territory on the Libyan coast, hold it, and somehow maintain regular communication with IS central in Raqaa and Mosul they may use it to transport terrorist operatives to Italy and southern Europe or follow that tried and true ancient Muslim practice of launching assaults on Mediterranean shipping, but we are a long ways from that at the present moment.

However we should all note that the world is changing.  The current geopolitical chessboard that puts several obstacles in the path of the Islamic State is growing shakier by the day and the seemingly calm period that we have all lived through since the collapse of the USSR in 1991 is now likely over.  The divisions between Russia and NATO over Ukraine and Russia’s proper place in the world are daily hardening and growing deeper.  While the cease fire agreed to in Minsk may hold for a time it is already looking shaky and will certainly not bring a long term solution to this problem.  Catholics should prepare themselves for the fact that conditions are being created for something this generation has deemed unthinkable, a general war in Europe, to take place.  We shall see.

If that does come to pass, and even if the continent were to avoid the nuclear annihilation that would always be a looming prospect in such a conflict, Europe (and North America) will be changed forever.  Maybe the NATO alliance will fracture and since this seems to be Vladimir Putin’s ultimate goal (add to that the abysmal qualities of the current leadership in NATO countries) we should not dismiss the possibility.  If this happened then southern Europe would be more open to Muslim harassment and attack than it has for several centuries.  And if the whole of Europe were weakened by some conflict with Russia then it would be exceedingly vulnerable to such threats.  Again we shall see.

The Muslims have always had the dream of conquering Rome.  They conquered the ancient Catholic Sees of Antioch, Jerusalem, Alexandria, and Carthage in the first great wave of Islamic conquest in the seventh century.  They took Constantinople during the great explosion of Turkish power in the fifteenth and immediately after tried to move into Italy at Otranto but Rome was saved by the death of Sultan Mehmet II.  They have always wanted Rome but have never been able to lay a finger on it save for one raid in the dark ninth century where Arab marauders actually managed to accost the city and break into old Saint Peter’s basilica (then outside the city walls) before being driven off and never (yet) returning.

So now at least some Muslims are remembering who they are and what their religion is about.  What should Catholics do?  WE SHOULD REMEMBER THAT WE ARE CATHOLIC AND WHAT IT MEANS TO BE A CATHOLIC.  We should learn the teachings of the Church and live them.  Participate in the Sacramental life of the Church.  Go to Confession.  Live your life in a state of grace.  If one is able he should learn Latin and pray the Divine Office in Latin.  Pope Benedict XVI reinstituted the Breviarium Romanum as an optional form for the prayer of the Church when he brought back the Tridentine Mass in his Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum.  Use it. Those Latin words of the Psalter were translated by Saint Jerome before the end of the Roman Empire, when the Mediterranean was still a unified Catholic sea.  Learn them.  Pray them.  Those words are older than Islam.

And pray the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary on Monday for the See of Constantinople, the Sorrowful Mysteries on Tuesday for the See of Antioch, the Glorious Mysteries on Wednesday for the See of Jerusalem, the Luminous Mysteries on Thursday for the See of Alexandria, and the Sorrowful Mysteries on Friday for the See of Carthage; for their liberty and their salvation and the restoration of their ancient position as a pillar of the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church in communion with the See of Peter in Rome; for the conversion of the Jewish people and the conversion of the Muslim peoples.  And join the Rosary Confraternity!

A prayer for our time

February 9, 2015

The longer form of the St. Michael prayer, written by Pope Leo XIII:

O glorious prince of the heavenly host, Saint Michael the Archangel, defend us in the battle and in the fearful warfare that we are waging against the principalities and powers, against the rulers of this world of darkness, against the evil spirits.  Come thou to the assistance of men, whom Almighty God created immortal, making them in His own image and likeness and redeeming them at a great price from the tyranny of Satan.  Fight this day the battle of the Lord with the legions of holy Angels, even as of old thou didst fight against Lucifer, the leader of the proud spirits and all his rebel angels, who were powerless to stand against thee, neither was their place found any more in heaven.  And that apostate angel, transformed into an angel of darkness who still creeps about the earth to encompass our ruin, was cast headlong into the abyss together with his followers.  But behold, that first enemy of mankind, and a murderer from the beginning, has regained his confidence.  Changing himself into an angel of light, he goes about with the whole multitude of the wicked spirits to invade the earth and blot out the Name of God and of his Christ, to plunder, to slay and to consign to eternal damnation the souls that have been destined for a crown of everlasting life.  This wicked serpent, like an unclean torrent, pours into men of depraved minds and corrupt hearts the poison of his malice, the spirit of lying, impiety and blasphemy, and the deadly breath of impurity and every form of vice and iniquity.  These crafty enemies of mankind have filled to overflowing with gall and wormwood the Church, which is the Bride of the Lamb without spot; they have laid hands upon her most sacred treasures.  Make haste, therefore, O invincible Prince, to help the people of God against the inroads of the lost spirits and grant us the victory.

A magnificent oration!  Rich in Sacred Scripture and clear in meaning.  A prayer for our days if there ever was one.

And for those of you troubled by the reference to the enemy of mankind ‘changing himself into an angel of light,’ don’t be troubled.  This is the phenomenon present in every age, but particularly present in our own age, of the ‘shining darkness.’  Think how many ideas or impressions you have had in your own life that if you would only follow them then you would find peace and contentment.  But there is always that other voice in your head telling you to hold back and wait a while.  Consider the possibilities before you take the leap.  And after further reflection (God forbid don’t follow these false lights) and experience you see that these following these supposedly good things will lead to nothing but disaster.  The men out there know of what I speak.  That woman over there sure is beautiful.  And really she does look fine, so why not just let your mind wander and wonder a bit, it is only natural after all.  But we all know to what perils that leads now, do we not?

Now magnify this to the level of human history and the myth of human ‘progress.’  How many horrible ideas that have killed millions of people and possibly destroyed millions more souls at first seemed alright.  In fact they were good and precious and why not?  Why shouldn’t we all be prosperous and rich and if my neighbor won’t let me be rich and prosperous and ‘happy,’ then I will just take all of his stuff and his very life if that stands in the way.  You see how this works.  We have so many examples of it on a mass level since the Masonic coup d’etat in France of 14 July 1789, and humanity just won’t learn.  The only answer to this continuing downward spiral of humanity is the Catholic Church, her Sacraments and her Teaching.

Pray the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary on Monday for the See of Constantinople, the Sorrowful Mysteries on Tuesday for the See of Antioch, the Glorious Mysteries on Wednesday for the See of Jerusalem, the Luminous Mysteries on Thursday for the See of Alexandria, and the Sorrowful Mysteries on Friday for the See of Carthage; for their liberty and their salvation and the restoration of their ancient position as pillars of the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church in communion with the See of Peter in Rome; for the conversion of the Jewish people and the conversion of the Muslim peoples.  And join the Rosary Confraternity.

The Congregation for Divine Worship’s contact info

December 5, 2014

The Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments’ mailing address can be difficult to find on the English language internet. This is the body in the Roman Curia to which all liturgical abuses that occur within the context of the Roman Rite, after due notification to the local Ordinary, should be reported,   Pope Francis just appointed a new prefect of this body, His Eminence Robert Cardinal Sarah, from Guinea who is a fluent English speaker.  If you have reported a significant liturgical abuse to your local Bishop and received no response then contact the Congregation at the following address:

His Eminence Robert Cardinal Sarah

Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments

Palazzo delle Congregazioni

Piazza Pio XII, 10

00120 CITTA DEL VATICANO

VATICAN CITY

Pray the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary on Monday for the See of Constantinople, the Sorrowful Mysteries on Tuesday for the See of Antioch, the Glorious Mysteries on Wednesday for the See of Jerusalem, the Luminous Mysteries on Wednesday for the See of Alexandria, and the Sorrowful Mysteries on Friday for the See of Carthage, for their liberty and their salvation and the restoration of their ancient position as pillars of the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church in communion with the See of Peter in Rome; for the conversion of the Jewish people and the conversion of the Muslim peoples.  And join the Rosary Confraternity!

The two great saints of Antioch

The Feast of Saint Luke the Evangelist

The 17th and 18th of October combine to celebrate the greatness of the gifts that the See of Antioch, Saint Ignatius and Saint Luke, gave to the Church.  Antakya is now a dusty and forgotten town in the region of Hatay near the Turkish Syrian border, but in the first century of the Incarnation it was a crossroads of the world and the third city of the Roman Empire after Rome herself and Alexandria.  She was the first great city outside of Palestine to receive the Gospel and she returned much fruit: the Evangelist who gave us the most well written of the Gospels and one of the great early martyrs, who himself knew the Apostles and left us a series of letters written on his way to martyrdom in Rome that give us a vivid portrait of the life Church’s life in the generation that followed the death of that first generation who had seen the deeds and heard the words of Christ themselves.

Saint Ignatius of Antioch was martyred in Rome under the Emperor Trajan likely in the first decade of the second century of the Incarnation.  He is thought to have been born around the middle of the first century and ancient tradition tells us that he was brought from Antioch to Rome on the orders of the Emperor Trajan himself to be martyred in the Colosseum sometime in the first years of the second century.  His seven letters written to the churches of Ephesus, of Magnesia, of Tralles, of Rome, of Philadelphia, of Smyrna, and to his friend Polycarp give a great understanding of the life of the Church during those years immediately following the end of the apostolic age.

In his letter to the Church of Smyrna chapter 8 Ignatius gives us the first written record of the phrase “Catholic Church,” saying “wherever the Catholic Church is there is Jesus Christ.”  He echoes here both the words of Jesus Christ in Mt. 18:20 that he undoubtedly heard from the apostles and St. Paul’s theology of the Church as Mystical Body of Christ.  And the familiarity with which he uses the words “Catholic Church” indicates that his audience already at the beginning of the second century was quite familiar with the concept.  In this chapter he also gives voice for the first time in the written record of the idea of a Catholic living in a particular diocese being loyal to the bishop of that diocese thus providing concrete early support for a concept that has governed the life of the Church ever since.

In chapter 7 of that same letter to the Smyrnaeans Ignatius calls the Eucharist the “flesh of our Savior Jesus Christ.”  This is the same theme as that which had only been written down a few years before in Saint John’s Gospel, chapter 6 by our modern rendering.  And it is also unsurprising since both Ignatius and his friend Polycarp were reputed in later generations to have been hearers of the Apostle John.  So yes the idea of the Real Presence of the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament also goes back to the beginning.  It really is remarkable to read Saint Ignatius’ collection of letters to see how many of the beliefs that are central to the life of the Church today were equally central in the generation that followed the apostles.  The collection can be found here.


What can we say about Saint Luke?  He is universally regarded by the ancient sources of the third Gospel which bears his name; he is additionally the author of the Acts of the Apostles, the only volume that gives us a history of the early Church from the Ascension of our Lord stretching to the years just before the martyrdom of Saints Peter and Paul in Rome; and he is mentioned in several of Saint Paul’s epistles.

Saint Luke begins his Gospel with the acknowledgement that others had written accounts of the life and doings of our Lord before him, but that he felt the need to go over all of the facts from the beginning and render his own to the mysterious figure Theophilus.  He speaks of hearing the story of Jesus Christ from “eyewitnesses and ministers of the word” who had preceded him.  The first of these must have been Saint Paul.  He acknowledges himself as a frequent companion to Saint Paul in the Acts of the Apostles, including in the famous ‘we’ sections which are the only first person narrative accounts in all of Sacred Scripture including the journey of Paul from Jerusalem to Rome, the place of his eventual martyrdom.  Saint Paul offers vary little biographical information concerning our Lord in his epistles but if you ever wonder what the story he told to his hearers about the life of Christ was it would be wise to consult Saint Luke’s Gospel.

But there were other eyewitnesses too.  Saint Luke was not of Jewish origin, but born a pagan: the ancient sources are virtually unanimous that he was born a pagan in the city of Antioch.  In fact his Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles are the only books of Sacred Scripture written by someone who was not a blood descendant of Abraham.  And it also seems that he spoke with the Mother of God herself, the Blessed Virgin Mary.  He is the only Evangelist who gives us an account of the Annunciation, of the birth of John the Baptist, of the shepherds in the field at Bethlehem, and of the old priest Simeon and his prophecy to the Immaculate Virgin Mother of God at the presentation of our Lord in the Temple.  He gives us the great hymns of the Magnificat, the Benedictus (the Canticle of Zechariah), and the Nunc Dimmitis the canticle of old Simeon when he laid eyes on our Lord.  All of these hymns are still used in the Divine Office of the Western Church more than nineteen centuries after Saint Luke’s Gospel was written.

And I would like to stress once more Saint Luke’s relationship with Saint Paul.  It has been said by more than a few scholars that all of Christian theology since has merely been a footnote to Saint Paul.  There is much to recommend this point of view.  And if you want to understand the story that was the source for Paul’s dazzling theology it would be wise to meditate on the Gospel that the great saint and Evangelist of the now decrepit See of Antioch once gave us, and to meditate on the relationship between the concepts illustrated in Paul’s epistles and the stories told in the Gospel of Saint Luke.  And pray for the resurrection of Antioch.

Pray the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary on Monday for the See of Constantinople, the Sorrowful Mysteries on Tuesday for the See of Antioch, the Glorious Mysteries on Wednesday for the See of Jerusalem, the Luminous Mysteries on Thursday for the See of Alexandria, and the Sorrowful Mysteries on Friday for the See of Carthage; for their liberty and their salvation and the restoration of their ancient position as pillars of the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church in communion with the See of Peter in Rome; for the conversion of the Jewish people and the conversion of the Muslim peoples.  And join the Rosary Confraternity!

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A good man has passed on from this world

The Feast of Saint Francis of Assisi

Maybe it is not my place to judge whether a man has done good or ill in this world, but for my part Father Benedict Groeschel was a good man.  He died last night.  He was a personality on EWTN for a long time until a car accident a decade ago impaired his abilities.  He had an uncanny ability to distill the great depth and profound Truth of the Catholic Faith into simple and understandable statements that could be understood even by a simple layman like myself.  And what’s more he inspired me to take it upon myself to learn more and to grow deeper in the Faith.

Here is my favorite video clip of Father Groeschel: he spends almost thirty minutes going over the subject of contemplative prayer, but really he is talking about life itself and indeed the final goal of the Christian life:

 

Requiem aeternam dona ei Domine, et lux perpetua luceat ei.  Requiescscat in pace domnus Benedictus.