Still 100% Catholic, and 100% Christian.

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Pope Francis Delivers A Remarkable Speech

Address by His Holiness Pope Francis to the European Parliament plenary session in Strasbourg on Novemeber 25, 2014

BREAKING! In an unbelievable speech to the European Union parliament, Pope Francis channelled the pontificates of Pope Benedict XVI and Saint John Paul II, obliterating the "dictatorship of relativism" that has brought Europe to social emptiness and political despair. He called upon Europe to re-embrace its Christian history and culture, citing that far from being a threat to secular institutions, Christianity offers values and morals that enrich them. He called for a fusion of solidarity with SUBSIDIARITY, that respects the cultural diversity of Europe and the local governance of peoples. He decried abortion, and the throwaway culture, which leaves the unborn, aged and infirm to die alone. He assailed rampant materialism, corporatism and consumerism, that has left half of the world to starvation while the other half throws away uneaten food. He called for greater stewardship of the ecology and new innovations to better conserve the world's energy. He compared and contrasted the individual with hyper-individualism, wherein man should be free to do what is right, not free to do "whatever he wants." He focused on the nuclear family as the building block of civilisation and called upon governments to protect and promote the family. Most of all, he called upon Europe to return to God and its Christian roots. In what is quite possibly the most significant speech of the 21st cetury (so far) the pope outlined principles that, if embraced, could guide Europe into a new renaissance of greatness, but if rejected, will leave Europe in social ruin, and the European Union on the ash heap of history. This was truly a HISTORIC speech, and it received several applause concluding with a standing ovation. PLEASE WATCH & SHARE!!!!

Monday, 24 November 2014

Reclaiming Christmas

The Adoration of the Shepherds
Painted by Gerard van Honthorst on December 25, 1622

It's the end of November, and that means the seasons of Advent and Christmas are about to begin. There is much talk this time of year, much lamentation really, about the commercialisation of Christmas. Actually, many department stores and super-centres have had their Christmas merchandise on the shelves since the day after Halloween. By now, however, the Christmas music is playing on the radio stations, and the Santas are appearing in the shopping malls. The season of joy has officially begun, and so have the traffic jams, shopping mayhem, twinkling house lights, and inflatable yard decorations.

I sometimes wonder what Jesus thinks about all this. I've given it a lot of thought, and actually, I think he loves it. Yes, that's right, I think he actually likes all the fuss. I think he likes it just as much as he enjoyed his triumphal entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. Now that was a mess! Think about it. Jerusalem had swelled to many times its normal population in preparation for the Passover observance. Thousands of people suddenly rushed out of the city to greet a single man riding on the back of a donkey. Simultaneously they all throw their cloaks on the ground for his colt to trample. Then realising that wasn't enough, they turned to the trees, and began ripping off palm branches to lay along the path. Shouting at the top of their lungs as they he enters the city, Jesus is overjoyed at the moment of his visitation. Within a matter of days this joy will be transformed into the worst sorrow, but for that one day, those few moments, Jesus is hailed as the King of Israel. He is getting the glory that is right and proper to him. He is allowing the people to show their appreciation. I think Jesus looks down from heaven at the Christmas celebration much in the same way. Oh sure, there are plenty of people who have forgotten what it's all about. Some probably never knew to begin with. You can't tell me, however, that everyone understood what they were doing on Palm Sunday. I would say a lot of those people were just following the crowd, and joining in the parade, even though they may not have understood the full significance of the event. This didn't change anything. The King was getting his due, and at that moment, nothing less would have been proper.

I look at Christmas much the same way. There are plenty of people who have forgotten "the reason for the season" and some probably never knew to begin with, but regardless, the King is getting his due. People are celebrating his birth. They're partying, even if they don't know why.

The season we are now entering is Advent, and actually, Advent is supposed to be a more solemn occasion of preparation for the merriment that isn't supposed to begin until December 25th. It's kind of hard to be solemn when the people who just rang your doorbell are now singing "Deck the Halls!" but that's what this season has become, and trying to fight it is only going to leave us frustrated. We can lament the commercialisation, and secularisation, of Christmas all we want, but that isn't going to get it back for us. Why curse the darkness, when we can create a light. I believe we can take back Christmas, and I think we can have fun doing it. The following are just suggestions, but after reading them, I think you'll see what I'm getting at. Instead of fighting against the culture on this issue, let's use it's momentum to roll it into a place it never intended to go. We can't blame retailers for wanting to clear a profit before the end of the year, so fighting that is going to be a losing battle. It's time we take the "bull by the horns," so to speak, and steer the culture back in a Christian direction, using it's own power and mass to get the job done. It only takes a little modification on our part to make it happen, and like I said, we can have some fun too. Even if the culture doesn't ever change, at least we will enrich our own celebration of Christmas.
  1. Call your local radio station that's playing that Christmas music, and politely let them know that Christmas is a twelve day celebration, starting on December 25th, and you would appreciate it if they would keep that music playing until January 6th. Now granted, one or two requests probably won't make a change, but if they keep getting them, year after year, by multiple callers, it may eventually have an effect.
  2. Load up your iPod, iPhone or MP3 player with religious Christmas music and save it for the real Christmas season which begins on December 25th. On December 26th, when all the radio Christmas music stops, yours keeps going, but with a noticeably more religious tone.
  3. Save a little money and don't buy as many Christmas presents for the kids this year.  Now this may sound like a real downer, but hold on, because I'm not done yet.  Read on, you're going to like this. Instead of having a bonanza for the kids on Christmas morning, just get those "hard to get" toys and games leading up to Christmas. These can be given on Christmas morning. But the real fun begins on December 26th.
  4. You've probably noticed that a lot of things go on sale on December 26th due to the "end of the year." Now it's time to take that money you saved in Advent to do a little sales shopping for some Epiphany gifts. That's right, instead of having a gift-giving blowout on Christmas morning, we're going to spread it out a little. Some gifts are given on Christmas morning, and some are given on Epiphany. In the process we might save a little money too, and help those poor retailers trying to get as far "into the black" as possible before the new year. Now stop and think about what this change in our habits will create. It will, in time, shift the emphasis away from a one-day blowout (totally materialistic) to a twelve-day period, giving people more time to reflect on the reason why we are doing all this. This will peak the curiosity of Protestants, as well as non-religious people. You can be sure that in time, the retailers will catch on too with "Epiphany sales!" When that happens, the decorations will stay up a little longer even though the Santas will be gone for the year. Why? Because the secular world associates Santa Clause with Christmas (even though the feast of Saint Nicholas is on December 6). Epiphany has no secular association. It leaves things wide-open for a resurgence of a religious focus on Jesus Christ again.
  5. Tell your extended family that you will be celebrating the full twelve-days of Christmas this year, and every year, from now on. Let them know that while the same amount of gifts will be exchanged, some will be given on Christmas, while others will be given on Epiphany, and they should specify on their packages what gifts should be opened when.
  6. Celebrating the full twelve days of Christmas gives family more time to work out visiting arrangements too. Trying to cram everybody into a small house on Christmas Eve might not be practical for some folks. Celebrating the full twelve days allots time for family to visit in the middle of this time, or at the end of this time. It creates for greater flexibility and a less hectic holiday.
  7. Get religious! I mean go to mass regularly during this time. Get acquainted with all the feast days that fall into this twelve-day period. Protestants will quickly discover that the period between Christmas and Epiphany is quite empty in their churches. So you're much more likely to get new visitors to mass during this time, if you put a strong religious emphasis on the twelve-day observance.
  8. Put a religious spin on New Years celebrations. Everybody likes to party during this time, and that's all well and good. So try to emphasis this as a birthday party for Christ. It may sound a little corny to some, but it all makes sense when you explain the celebration of the full twelve days of Christmas.
  9. Keep the decorations up! This should go without saying. Don't you dare take down that tree until at least after Epiphany. Some people keep it up through the whole Christmas season into the middle of January. By all means, keep those Christmas lights shining outside too. If you're worried about the electric bill, just don't light them up until later in Advent. If you want to really mess with your neighbours (in a good way), just light a few purple lights outside during Advent, and then on Christmas Eve, turn on all the rest! Then leave them on through Epiphany. That ought to through them a for a loop, and it might generate some questions. That's a good opportunity to witness by telling them about the twelve days of Christmas, thus putting the emphasis back on Jesus Christ.
  10. Last but not least, come up with a way to have fun celebrating Epiphany. Obviously, you're going to give the rest of the gifts then, but it needs to be more than that. I have some friends who move the wise men on their nativity set around the house for their small children, gradually bringing them closer to the baby Jesus on Epiphany. Perhaps some kind of outdoor decoration could be done this way too. There is plenty of room for the development of new traditions, and the rekindling of old ones.
Now granted, nothing we do is going to radically change the culture overnight. There is not going to be some major shift in the way the culture celebrates Christmas. However, we as Catholics can reclaim our holiday for ourselves, and in doing so, we can make it our own again. In time, as more Catholics catch on to this, it will gradually be known as a "Catholic thing," and that's okay. Because once it's known as a "Catholic thing," there are going to be retailers and advertisers who will eventually want to cater to us. Once that happens, there will be a shift. It may not be a major shift, but a noticeable one nonetheless. So consider this as a suggestion. I think it will help. As for me, I've got some Advent observances to keep, followed by a whole twelve-days of Christmas to plan for. That means a little break from blogging. So until next year, Merry Christmas and a Happy Epiphany!


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Highly recommended by priests and catechists, "Catholicism for Protestants" is a Biblical explanation of Roman Catholic Christianity as told by Shane Schaetzel -- an Evangelical convert to the Catholic Church through Anglicanism.  The book is concise and formatted in an easy-to-read Question & Answer catechism style.  It addresses many of the common questions Protestants have about Catholicism. It is ideal for Protestants seeking more knowledge about the Catholic Church, and for Catholics seeking a quick refresher course on fundamental Catholic teaching. It's an excellent book for Catholics and Protestants alike!


Sunday, 16 November 2014

Mother of the Americas

Storming of the Teocalli by Cortez and His Troops
by Emanuel Gottlieb Leutze (1816-1868)

The year is 1521 AD. The capital city of the Aztec empire falls to Spanish imperial forces, who have just conquered the Mesoamerican culture of the New World. This marks the end of the most advanced civilisation ever produced by the Amerindian (Native American) peoples. From this time forward, all Amerindian would fall under submission to European power. Conquered and humiliated, the Aztec people become second-class citizens in Spanish America. European settlers have no problem perpetuating this status quo. Millions of Aztec people are now living as strangers on their own continental soil. They've lost their sovereignty, power, homeland and in some cases even their freedom. Pride is all they have left, and daily this is subjected to the status quo of second-class citizenship. Orders from the king of Spain, and the pope himself, would eventually bring an end to these abuses. However, the Aztec people have every reason to hate the Spaniards, and everything they brought with them to the Americas -- including their religion. But less than 20 years later, virtually all of them simultaneously accept Jesus Christ and convert to Catholic Christianity by their own free will. The Spanish are left speechless, astonished by what just happened.


Why would an entire civilisation of people, who had been Pagans for thousands of years, and had every right to hate everything the Spanish settlers represented, suddenly and inexplicably embrace the Spaniards' religion as their own?

Saint Juan Diego
by Miguel Cabrera (1695–1768)
The answer is in a supernatural and miraculous visitation from heaven. In 1531 a "Lady from Heaven" appeared to a poor Christian Aztec named Juan Diego at Tepeyac, a hill northwest of Mexico City; she identified herself as the "Mother of the True God," instructed him to have the local bishop build a temple on the site, and as a sign she left an image of herself imprinted miraculously on his cloak (or 'tilma'). The tilma is a poor quality cactus-cloth, which should have deteriorated in 20 years but shows no sign of decay after 470 years, to the present day, and still defies all scientific explanations of its origin.

The image appeared instantly and miraculously in front of many witnesses, some of them local dignitaries. The Lady instructed Juan to gather some roses from the site where she made her appearance to him. Since roses were out of season (it was December), this was to be a sign to the local bishop that the 'Lady from Heaven' had truly appeared to Juan Diego, and his story was true. He gathered the roses into his tilma and carried them to the local bishop who was meeting with some Spanish dignitaries at the time. As he dropped his garment to release the roses, the image of the Lady from Heaven miraculously and spontaneously appeared on the tilma. The bishop and his guests immediately fell to their knees in astonishment.

The Lady's only request was that a temple be erected on the hill where the apparition took place. The reason she gave for this was as follows: "I am the ever virgin Holy Mary, Mother of the True God for whom we live, of the Creator of all things, Lord of heaven and the earth. I wish that a temple be erected here quickly, so I may therein exhibit and give all my love, compassion, help, and protection, because I am your merciful mother, to you, and to all the inhabitants on this land and all the rest who love me, invoke and confide in me; listen there to their lamentations, and remedy all their miseries, afflictions and sorrows." As the bishop agreed to grant the request, he sent Juan home to his uncle who had been sick with a terminal disease. During the course of the Marian apparitions to Juan, she had promised him that his uncle would be healed, but he had not seen him for a long time. So when he returned to his village, the bishop sent escorts to go with him and record everything they saw. When they got there, they found Juan's uncle well and joyously celebrating his healing. It was then Juan learnt that on the very day the Lady promised Juan that his uncle would be healed, his uncle saw a vision of the Lady exactly as Juan had described to the bishop some time earlier. The two (Juan and his uncle) had not communicated during this whole time. Yet, their description of the Lady was exactly identical. The Lady told Juan's uncle that when he would go to see the bishop, to reveal to him what he had seen and to explain the miraculous manner in which he was healed, that she would properly be named the blessed Image, the ever-virgin Holy Mary of Guadalupe.

Now why should the Virgin Mary, appearing to an Indian in 16th century Mexico, and speaking to him in his native language of Nahuatl, call herself “Guadalupe”, a Spanish name?

It is believed that the Lady used the Aztec Nahuatl word of coatlaxopeuh which is pronounced "Gwad-a-lup-eh." Coa meaning serpent, tla being the noun ending which can be interpreted as "the", while xopeuh means to crush or stamp out. So the Lady may have called herself "the one who crushes the serpent." We must remember that the Aztecs worshipped the serpent-god Quetzalcoatl, and annually offered at least 20,000 men, women and children in human sacrifice to their Pagan gods. In 1487, in a 4-day long ceremony for the dedication of a new temple in Tenochtitlan, some 80,000 captives were killed in human sacrifice. Certainly in this case, the Lady 'crushed' the serpent, because within a few years after her apparition to Juan Diego, nine million of these natives were converted to Christianity.

Modern infra-red studies of the image reveal unexplainable phenomena: The image was not painted, and the colour did not penetrate the fibres as would paint. Weaving with such irregular fibres also produced a rough surface which would have distorted any simple surface painting, yet the image one sees is clear and undistorted.

Original image of Our Lady of Guadalupe
photo by Joaquín Martínez Rosado
Most remarkable about this image is the recent scientific research done on the Lady’s eyes. Magnified studies reveal the startling image of reflections, as if they were frozen onto the image the moment it appeared to the bishop and his guests nearly five-hundred years ago. One of the first doctors to study the eyes was Dr. Javier Torroella Bueno, MDS, a prestigious ophthalmologist. In what is the first report on the eyes of the image issued by a physician, he certifies the presence of the triple reflection (Samson-Purkinje effect) characteristic of all live human eyes and states that the resulting images are located exactly where they are supposed to be according to such effect, and also that the distortion of the images agree with the curvature of the cornea. In both eyes, the largest and most obvious reflection is of a "bearded man," probably the bishop's translator who interpreted the exchange between the Spanish speaking bishop and the native speaking Juan Diego.

A new and fascinating kind of analysis of the eyes started in 1979, when Dr. Jose Aste Tonsmann, Ph D, graduated from Cornell University, while working in IBM scanned at very high resolutions a very good photograph, taken from the original, of the face on the tilma. After filtering and processing the digitised images of the eyes to eliminate "noise" and enhance them, he made some astonishing discoveries: According to Dr. Tonsmann, from left to right we can see the Indian, Bishop Zumarraga, the translator, and Juan Diego showing the tilma.

The image of the Lady of Guadalupe has great symbolism. The Lady's image is surrounded by luminous light, standing on the moon, and the stars on her mantle reflect the description found in the Book of Revelation: "A great sign appeared in the sky, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars" (Revelation 12:1).

These are also symbols of divine victory over the pagan religion of the time. Sun rays were symbolic of the Aztec god Huitzilopochtle. Therefore, the Lady, standing before the rays, shows that she proclaims the true God who is greater than Huitzilopochtle and who eclipses his power.

She stands also on the moon. The moon represented night and darkness, and was associated with the god Tezcatlipoca. Here again, the Lady’s standing on the moon indicates divine triumph over evil.
Moreover, in Christian iconography, the crescent moon under the Lady’s feet also symbolises perpetual virginity and is connected with the Catholic dogma of the Immaculate Conception and the Blessed Assumption.

The stars on her mantle indicate that she comes from Heaven, her dress is also modelled after that of an Aztec queen. Interestingly, some research attests that the stars on the mantle appear exactly as they would have in the sky before dawn on the Morning of December 12, 1531, when the vision appeared.

The face of the Lady, with its complexion, dark hair, and dark eyes, reflects the physiognomy of a Amerindian. Her eyes are also cast downward, showing humility and compassion. In Aztec iconography, a god looked straight ahead with wide open eyes; the picture here then shows that the Lady does not claim to be God, but only His messenger and loving mother. The Lady is supported by an angel, another symbol of royalty among Amerindian cultures.

Her clothing also has special significance. The rose colour of the Lady's dress has two interpretations, either as a symbol of the dawn of a new era, or as sign of martyrdom for the faith. A red dress is also interpreted as a symbol of virginity in eastern Christian iconography. The gold brooch under her neck represents sanctity. Finally the bow around her waist is another sign of virginity. However this bow has several other meanings in Amerindian culture: this bow was the nahui ollin, the flower of the sun, which was a symbol of plenitude, fecundity and new life. The high placement of the bow and the apparent swelling of the abdomen of the Lady have led many to conclude that she is pregnant in this image.

This image became a symbol of unity between European and Amerindian cultures in Central America. Both peoples could easily identify with it. As a result, virtually the entire Aztec empire (some nine million people in total), all of them Pagan, accepted Christ and converted to Catholic Christianity within a space of just a few years.

Today she remains the patron not only of Mexico, but of all the Americas, including Canada and the United States. She is the symbol of racial unity between the children of European settlers and American natives. She speaks to us only of the Lordship of her divine Son -- Jesus Christ -- and of his victory over the powers of hell. Through this image, the message is clear. The old ways of Pagan devotion to the false gods, must give way to true worship of the one true God. In this truth, all the American peoples (regardless of race and culture) will find unity and peace.

In today's modern world, she is also honoured by Catholics on both American continents as the patron of our hemisphere and the protector of all children -- especially the unborn. In particular, this image of our Blessed Mother has been closely associated with the Pro-Life movement, because of the modern similarity of surgical and chemical abortion to the human sacrifice of ancient Aztec society. The Aztecs sacrificed human beings to their gods, particularly the serpent god Quetzalcoatl, in the hope of gaining favour and prosperity. While modern Americans no longer worship Aztec idols, many do still sacrifice their unborn children to the "gods" of prosperity and convenience. Instead of counting children as a blessing from the Lord, regardless of the circumstances in which they were conceived, modern American culture views them as a burden and an obstacle to material happiness. This attitude can only be spawned by Satan -- the Biblical serpent depicted in Genesis 3 and Revelation 12. The pregnant image of Our Lady reminds us of the blessings of the unborn and identifies the sin of abortion for what it really is -- human sacrifice. The image of Our Lady is the Mother of all the Americas, and she is calling us to remember her unborn Son -- Jesus Christ -- as we work to defend the unborn here in the New World.


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Highly recommended by priests and catechists, "Catholicism for Protestants" is a Biblical explanation of Roman Catholic Christianity as told by Shane Schaetzel -- an Evangelical convert to the Catholic Church through Anglicanism.  The book is concise and formatted in an easy-to-read Question & Answer catechism style.  It addresses many of the common questions Protestants have about Catholicism. It is ideal for Protestants seeking more knowledge about the Catholic Church, and for Catholics seeking a quick refresher course on fundamental Catholic teaching. It's an excellent book for Catholics and Protestants alike!