Daily Lenten Meditation

The Cross of Christ Teaches Us. . . How to Pray 


In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard for his godly fear. HEBREWS 5:7 


And in praying do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. MATTHEW 6:7–8 

While visiting the Holy Spirit Trappist monastery in Conyers, Georgia, I wandered into the abbey church one afternoon to spend a few moments in prayer. A young woman with two small children was already there. Although she prayed inaudibly as her two small children circled about her, I could tell by her raised hands and her tears that she was pleading and reasoning with God. I have no idea what the woman was praying about, only that she was praying the way Moses is described in the Letter to the Hebrews, “. . .seeing him who is invisible.”

As the Israelites battled the Amalekites (see Exodus 17), Moses lifted his hands in prayer, holding his wooden staff over his head as the battle raged in the valley below. So long as Moses’ hands remained in the air, the Israelites were victorious; as Moses’ arms grew tired and began to fall to his sides, the battle turned to the enemy’s advantage. When they realized what was happening, Aaron and Hur stood on either side of Moses, holding his hands aloft, until the battle was won.

To the early church fathers, the prayer of Moses in the battle with the Amalekites foreshadowed the victory Christ won on the cross. Like Aaron and Hur, we have an opportunity to stand with Christ, interceding for the salvation of souls. Of course, Moses, Aaron, and Hur had an advantage that we do not: They could see the effects of Moses’ intercession on the battle raging below. How our prayer life would change if God gave us the ability to see the effect our intercessions—or lack thereof—have on the battle that is being waged daily for souls.

The letter to the Hebrews draws a strong connection between the cross and prayer. Because every moment of our earthly existence is threatened by death, and we know neither the day nor the hour when that existence will come to an end, we, too, need to cry out to the God who can save us. Like Moses, we need the help of our fellow Christians to hold up our arms when they grow tired. We, too, need the help of the Holy Spirit to make up for what is lacking in our prayer.

The Power of the Cross by Michael Dubruiel is a book well-suited to daily reading during Lent. The book is available here in pdf version. Daily excerpts will be reprinted in this space during Lent.

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How to Get the Most Out of the Eucharist – part 9

From How to Get the Most Out of the Eucharist by Michael Dubruiel

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From chapter 2 – Serve. Part 5

“DO YOU KNOW WHAT I HAVE DONE FOR YOU?”

When Jesus had finished washing the feet of his disciples, he rose and resumed his place at the table and asked them a simple question: “Do you know what I have done for you?”

There are several ways to take this question which Jesus posed to us, his followers; let me suggest two.

What Jesus Has Saved Us From

The first possible meaning relates to what Jesus has done for us by his sacrificial act on the cross:Do we know what Jesus has saved us from?

You may know enough to say,“Jesus has redeemed us from the bondage of original sin,” but unless you know what the lived consequences of this sin are, you cannot fully appreciate what Jesus has saved you from.The Catechism of the Catholic Church spells out the nature and effects of original sin in paragraphs 397–412. Here I briefly summarize this teaching and contrast it with how Jesus has reversed the “curse” of original sin. First, in the sin:

  • Man “let his trust in his Creator die in his heart and,abusing his freedom, disobeyed God’s command” (CCC 397).

— Jesus trusted in God completely, even to death on the Cross, praying in the Garden of Gethsemane, “not my will, but thine, be done” (Luke 22:42).

  • Man “preferred himself to God,” thereby turning his back on the Creator (CCC 398).

— Jesus, though he was the form of God, did not deem equality with God; rather, Jesus lowered himself, taking the role of a servant (see Philippians 2:6–7).

As a result of original sin:

  • People are “afraid of the God of whom they have con-ceived a distorted image” (CCC 399).

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— At the Conception of Jesus, his Mother was told: “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God” (Luke 1:30). — Jesus told his followers, “I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has power to cast into hell; yes, I tell you, fear him! Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten by God. Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows” (Luke 12:5–7).

  • The original “harmony in which they [Adam and Eve] found themselves … is now destroyed” (CCC 400). — Jesus set the example of reversing this disharmony, so that St. Paul would pray, “May the God of steadfastness and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus” (Romans 15:5).
  • “The control of the soul’s spiritual faculties over the body is shattered” (CCC 400).

— Jesus’s death and our incorporation into it at baptism restore the right order, as St. Paul wrote to the Romans, “Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal bodies, to make you obey their passions. Do not yield your members to sin as instruments of wickedness, but yield yourselves to God as men who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments of righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under the law but under grace” (Romans 6:12–14).

  • “The union of man and woman becomes subject to tensions, their relations henceforth marked by lust and domination” (CCC 400).

— Jesus  said, “Have you not read that he who made them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh?’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder” (Matthew 19:4–6).

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— St. Paul instructed the followers of Christ that “the wife does not rule over her own body, but the husband does; likewise the husband does not rule over his own body, but the wife does” (1 Corinthians 7:4) and in an often misquoted passage he told the Christian husband to love his wife “as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Ephesians 5:25).

  • “Harmony with creation is broken: visible creation has become alien and hostile to man” (CCC 400).

— Jesus commanded nature and nature obeyed, both in healing the sick and calming the storm. He told his disciples, “In my name … they will pick up serpents, and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover” (Mark 16:17–18).

  • “Death makes its entrance into human history” (CCC 400). — Jesus raised the dead and was raised from the dead, and promised eternal life to anyone who believed in him, proclaiming himself to be “the bread which came down from heaven, not such as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread will live forever” (John 6:58).

Knowing what Jesus has done for us will give us a greater appreciation of the Bread of Life that we receive when we approach his altar at every Eucharistic celebration. It is literally a matter of our life or our death!

LIVING THE UCHARIST

Is your Christian life dominated by the fallen worldview?  Do you strive with the help of the Holy Spirit and the nourishment of the Eucharist to live the new life of the kingdom that Jesus offers?

Daily Advent Meditation

Friday of the Second Week of Advent

When I hear the Gospel reading for today, I’m stopped in my tracks by the phrase “the kingdom of heaven has been subjected to violence and the violent are taking it by storm” and necessarily I’ve had to spend some time canvassing the great minds of the church to figure out just exactly what Jesus meant by this.

Well, it turns out that the Greek word that is translated “violence” above is probably best rendered “forceful” but that doesn’t change the overall passage that much, yet it does give us some indication of what is meant by violence. The early Fathers of the Church felt that the passage was best understood by thinking about who was entering the kingdom of heaven–sinners, namely people who did not belong there. They were intruders, outsiders who had been let in through the violence of the cross.

Taking this a step further, if our sins are really what nailed Jesus to a cross then we see that the violence we have done to the Son of God in some way have been our ticket to the kingdom of heaven.

It is only those however, who are desperate to enter that get in. One imagines the crowds that surrounded Jesus and John the Baptist (a modern example might be Pope John Paul and the crowds that surround his visits). Only a desperate person would get close enough to touch Our Lord.

So it is today. Are we desperate in our desire to enter the kingdom of heaven or is it somewhere way down the list of things to do today?

More from Michael Dubruiel:

Michael Dubruiel wrote a book to help people deepen their experience of the Mass.  He titled it, How to Get the Most Out of the Eucharist.  You can read about it here. 

How to Get the Most Out of the Eucharist gives you nine concrete steps to help you join your own sacrifice to the sacrifice of Christ as you:

  • Serve: Obey the command that Jesus gave to his disciples at the first Eucharist.
  • Adore: Put aside anything that seems to rival God in importance.
  • Confess: Believe in God’s power to make up for your weaknesses.
  • Respond” Answer in gesture, word, and song in unity with the Body of Christ.
  • Incline: Listen with your whole being to the Word of God.
  • Fast: Bring your appetites and desires to the Eucharist.
  • Invite: Open yourself to an encounter with Jesus.
  • Commune: Accept the gift of Christ in the Eucharist.
  • Evangelize :Take him and share the Lord with others.

Filled with true examples, solid prayer-helps, and sound advice, How to Get the Most Out of the Eucharist shows you how to properly balance the Mass as a holy banquet with the Mass as a holy sacrifice. With its references to Scripture, quotations from the writings and prayers of the saints, and practical aids for overcoming distractions one can encounter at Mass, this book guides readers to embrace the Mass as if they were attending the Last Supper itself.

Queenship of Mary – August 22

vvToday is another Marian feast – the Queenship of Mary.  It’s also one of the mysteries of the Rosary, and so it’s appropriate to talk about the Rosary as we contemplate the feast. Michael Dubruiel conceived and put together the small hardbound book, Praying the Rosary.  Click on the cover for more information.

July 11- Feast of St. Benedict

This is a continuation of the 73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God based on the Rule of St. Benedict by Michael Dubruiel. The previous posts are below and in the archives to the right. This is the 28th step:

(28) To speak the truth with heart and tongue.

St. Benedict’s counsel here is geared toward a conversion of feelings, so that the truth I speak with my mouth, I also feel in my heart. Of course, such truth will be spoken with conviction.

Many of us know instinctively what is true, we just don’t feel like paying any attention to it. Conversion of “feelings” is an important part of opening oneself to God.

If you don’t feel like converting to the truth, it is because some untruth has grabbed your heart. Opening your heat to God’s love will have a surprising result–you will literally feel the truth.

Too often we look toward those who should model religious faith but instead wear their faith for all to see. Jesus condemns the Pharisees and hypocrites of his day because they keep the tax collectors and prostitutes from coming to the Kingdom of God by their example. In other words they make religious belief in God seem unattractive.

Our eyes should always be focused on Christ. We shouldn’t look to anyone else.

The people who encountered Him were drawn to Him. So will we be.

Then speaking the truth will be a matter of allowing the tongue to proclaim what the heart feels.

73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God 11a

This is a continuation of the 73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God by Michael Dubruiel. The previous are posted below among the other posts and last week’s archives. Here is the eleventh Step part one:

(11) To chastise the body (cf 1 Cor 9:27).

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I work out in a gym about five times a week usually on my way home for work. There are a few regulars who are always there, both when I arrive and still there when I leave. They push their bodies to the absolute limit and their bodies show the results. Most people envy them but few are willing to put their bodies through the rigors required for such results.

I begin with this example for obvious reasons. When it comes to spirituality most people react negatively to the thought of monks beating themselves with flagelants or wearing hair shirts and I think rightly so, but as often happens when we reject a faulty interpretation, we seldom replace it with a correct one.

About a year ago I was giving a tour of a Benedictine Monastery, where I had attended college almost twenty years ago, to some visitors. Being a curious soul I know the place inside and out. Among the visitors was an author that I had worked with and her friend, along with another Benedictine Nun, all who were attending a conference at a nearby convent.

73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God 10 b

This is a continuation of the 73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God by Michael Dubruiel. The previous are posted below among the other posts and last week’s archives. Here is the tenth Step part two:

(10) To deny one’s self in order to follow Christ (cf Mt 16:24; Lk 9:23).




None of us has to battle such odds. We are not God, but as the fruit of original sin we have all inherited the notion that we are supposed to be God. So most of us spend our lives not exercising the talents and gifts that God has blessed us with because we fear that we will fail to use them perfectly.

I wonder how many there are who have been graced with the gift of healing the sick but who never reach out to the sick because they fear the embarrassment that might come their way? Or how many talented leaders stand idly by while those not gifted lead?

Denying oneself means letting go of the fears that we do not possess abilities of god proportions and stepping out in faith knowing that God will provide what is lacking to our talents as we exercise them for the good of humanity.

Perhaps the most commonly told parable by Jesus about the Kingdom of God is that of the King or landowner who passes out talents before taking a trip. Those who invest in their talents are praised upon the Master’s return whereas the one who buries his talents is condemned.

Why did the servant bury his talents? Because he was afraid.

Why does Jesus tell the parable? So his followers will not fall into the same predicament. Yet how many Christians will hear the words, deny yourself and immediately interpret the Lord’s words as though he were advocating burying one’s talents? Unbelievable!

Deny the fear of making a mistake, taking a risk of what might happen if you follow Our Lord to Jerusalem. The disciples told Jesus that if they went to Jerusalem he certainly would be killed, did he not fear for his life? Thomas often cast as the doubter but in fact probably the supreme believer says, “let us go to die with him!”

When we let go of the fear of what others think about us when it comes to using the talents and abilities that God has given us then we will truly build the Kingdom of God. Denying that part of ourselves that would bury our talents our of fear is true humility.

73 Steps to Communion With God: 6a

This is a continuation of the 73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God by Michael Dubruiel. The previous are posted below among the other posts and last week’s archives. Here is the Sixth Step, part one:

6. Not to covet (cf Rom 13:9).



St. Benedict attaches a scripture passage to this maxim which in many ways points to where he has obtained the previous four. In Romans 13:9 the Apostle wrote, “The commandments, “Do not commit adultery,” “Do not murder,” “Do not steal,” “Do not covet,” and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: “Love your neighbor as yourself, (Romans 13:9, NIV).”

The simple rendering not to covet is intriguing. We probably are used to the formulation that we should not covet our neighbor’s goods or our neighbor’s wife, but here there is just the simple injunction not to covet. There is nothing more difficult in the culture that we live in than to rid ourselves of desire.

Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha (enlightened one), based an entire religion on ridding ourselves of what he discovered was the source of all ill. In his four noble truths he stated, that all life is suffering, the cause of suffering is desire, the way to rid the world of suffering is to extinguish desire, that experience is Nirvana.

I remember teaching basically the same truth to teen boys in high school, and receiving a predictable response—“if you rid yourself of desire you wouldn’t move—you would just lie on the couch.” They, mirroring the culture that we live in, saw desire or coveting as a good thing. It is the very fuel that propels one to have great goals and to achieve great success.

But is it?

Thursday Third Week of Advent

Thursday of the Third Week of Advent

O Wisdom, O holy Word of God, you govern all creation with your strong yet tender care. Come and show your people the way to salvation.

Today we have the tale of two sons. Both are commanded by the Father to go and work in the vineyard. The first says he won’t, the other says he will. But guess what, the one who refuses relents and does what the Father asked him to do. Yet the one who originally said he would go, in fact doesn’t. Jesus asks the chief priests and the elders of the people to tell him which of the two sons did the will of the Father…of course the answer is the one who vocally refused but relented and did it.

Jesus uses the story to illustrate why harlots and tax collectors who repented at the preaching of John the Baptist are headed to the pearly gates, while the “religious” likely are headed in the other direction.

I don’t think it is a matter of us standing back and separating the repentant harlots and the ireligious religious but rather a good moment to hold up the mirror and ask ourselves are we do the will of the Father?

When I tell my son (who is all of 20 months old) already he rattles off a resounding “no.” I’m not even sure he knows what “no” means but he hears it enough throughout the day as he opens drawers, climbs up bookcases, writes on walls to know that it must be our favorite word. I also think he likes it because it is easy to say. He struggles with “yes” so that if often sounds like “yesh.”

When it comes to God sadly most of us are still like a 20 month old. We see God as interfering with our play time. If only we could learn that what God wants for us is what is best for us. Perhaps the harlots, tax collectors know that from there straying better than the religous who only dally in sin.

Whatever the case ultimately we all must respond to God, our Father not with the “no” that can seem so fashionable at times but with the difficult to say “yes.”

More from Michael Dubruiel:

Michael Dubruiel wrote a book to help people deepen their experience of the Mass.  He titled it, How to Get the Most Out of the Eucharist.  You can read about it here. 

How to Get the Most Out of the Eucharist gives you nine concrete steps to help you join your own sacrifice to the sacrifice of Christ as you:

  • Serve: Obey the command that Jesus gave to his disciples at the first Eucharist.
  • Adore: Put aside anything that seems to rival God in importance.
  • Confess: Believe in God’s power to make up for your weaknesses.
  • Respond” Answer in gesture, word, and song in unity with the Body of Christ.
  • Incline: Listen with your whole being to the Word of God.
  • Fast: Bring your appetites and desires to the Eucharist.
  • Invite: Open yourself to an encounter with Jesus.
  • Commune: Accept the gift of Christ in the Eucharist.
  • Evangelize :Take him and share the Lord with others.

Filled with true examples, solid prayer-helps, and sound advice, How to Get the Most Out of the Eucharist shows you how to properly balance the Mass as a holy banquet with the Mass as a holy sacrifice. With its references to Scripture, quotations from the writings and prayers of the saints, and practical aids for overcoming distractions one can encounter at Mass, this book guides readers to embrace the Mass as if they were attending the Last Supper itself.

73 Steps to Communion with God 60

This is a continuation of the 73 Steps to Communion with God by Michael DubruielThe previous steps appear throughout the Archives, available to the left. This is the 60th step:

(60) To hate one’s own will:

Someone who seeks to be in communion with God has to learn to subject themselves entirely to God’s will. Jesus who was the Son of God still prayed in His humanity that “not his will be done but the Father’s.” We all have “our way” of looking at life and “our way” of doing things and the Scriptures are quite clear that “our way is not God’s way.”

We all suffer because we believe that happiness lies in fulfilling our will. But if we have the gift to reflect on our past, we quickly come to the realization that much of what we “will” does not bring us happiness and in fact is quite fleeting and arbitrary–changing with the wind.

To fight “our will” does not mean going off into another direction but rather facing reality. Our “will” often pulls us away from what most needs our attention. We often will to be somewhere other than where we are, to be doing something other than what needs to be done and to be with someone other than the one we are with at the present moment. These are exactly the moments when we are to “hate” our own will and seek to do the will of God.

God had placed us where we are right at this very moment. He has also placed us in a situation that demands our attention at this moment. The person who is before us has been placed there by God. Being attentive to all that God has placed in our midst will bring a contentment that we will never find if we are constantly seeking to flee from the cross.

Daily Lent Reflection

The Cross of Christ Restores. . . Our Freedom


 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the return you get is sanctification and its end, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. ROMANS 6:22–23


“If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”. . . “Truly, I say to you, every one who commits sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not continue in the house for ever; the son continues for ever. So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.” JOHN 8:31,34–36 

We live in a time when “truth” is often thought of, even among Christians, as something subjective and up for grabs. This has greatly weakened the ability of the Church to bring the gospel of Christ to the world. Any appeal to the Church as the guardian of truth is met with a litany of accusations against those who have preached one thing and lived another. The fact that members of the Church remain enslaved by sin, despite the liberating claims of the gospel, can be explained by our inability to “continue in the word” of Jesus. Jesus told his disciples that if they persisted in their faith, they would know the truth and it would set them free. Freedom would be theirs only  if they picked up their crosses and stepped out in obedience, following Christ even to death.

More than a few people are immersed in lives ruled by addiction—the most evident slavery to sin. Many wish to disassociate sin and addiction, arguing that those who suffer from addictions are not culpable of their acts. However, the effects of sin may be seen both in the life of the addicted person and in the people around him or her. In addition, behavior scientists are demonstrating that those with substance addictions to drugs and alcohol often engage in other activities that can be just as destructive. Some studies show a release of certain chemicals in the brain that mimic the high of drugs and alcohol and lead people to engage in other addictive behaviors to reach this “high.” All of this is proclaimed in the teaching of the New Testament, of course, and even the therapy devised to rescue someone from such behavior is biblically based. The Scriptures teach that sin is both destructive and enslaving. The destructive element is not apparent to the human eye—in the opening pages of Genesis, the forbidden fruit was “a delight to the eyes.” Unfortunately, by the time the person recognizes his addiction, he is already caught in its deadly grip. Sin is by nature enslaving, and we cannot free ourselves from it. We can be freed from future bondage only through a “higher power.” Jesus offers us this free gift, but we must continue in his Word in order to experience true freedom.

 Just Do It

Father Val Peter, executive director of Boys and Girls Town in Nebraska, wrote a book called Rekindling the Fires: An Introduction to Behavioral Spirituality. This spirituality is based not on feeling but on truth, a sort of “just do it” approach that encourages others to act on the truth of the gospel in faith, continuing over a period of time the “forced” activity becomes more natural. In many ways Father Val’s book is a modern version of living the virtues in order to become a virtuous person. Every parent grieves when they see a child make the same mistakes they once did; what most parents do not realize is that we are still bound by those “blinders.” The details change with age, but if we are not serving God, we are still slaves to some other master that in the end will bring us down to the depths of hell To the person obsessed with anything that is not God, being freed from that “master” seems impossible. Even taking the first steps toward Christ and away from the “master imposter” is painful, indeed a crucifixion. It is impossible to imagine any other way of living. Yet if we allow the words of Jesus to soak into our minds, bringing us to true repentance, we will wonder how we ever could have been so misled. As the late Orthodox theologian Father Alexander Schmemann once observed, there is a joy in following Jesus that transcends the suffering that is entailed by taking up one’s cross: “In the world you will have tribulation,” Jesus warns us (Jn 16:33). Anyone who would in the smallest degree follow the path of Christ, love him and give himself to him, has this tribulation, recognizes this suffering. The cross is suffering. But through love and self-sacrifice this same tribulation is transformed into joy. It is experienced as being crucified with Christ, as accepting his cross and hence taking part in his victory. “Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (Jn 16:33). The cross is joy, “and no one will take your joy from you” (Jn 16:22).

In medieval art, the cross of Christ is portrayed as the tree of life, both as a vine (referring to John 15) and as the source of the Eucharist. Angels are depicted as offering the bread and wine, the fruit of the cross, to those who stand at the foot of it. This image points to the alternative to enslavement that Christ offers us: to be fed by him at the foot of the cross, receiving from him what the others falsely promise. The false gospels lure us with promises of joy and fulfillment—yet in the end they ensnare us, delivering only misery and despair. Sometimes one has to follow these false masters down a long road to discover that truth. By contrast, the path on which Christ leads us appears arduous and dreary, one to be avoided. In reality, it is the path that leads to true joy, for it delivers everything that our hearts desire most. “Enter by the narrow gate,” our Lord urges us. “For the gate is wide and the way is easy, that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life, and those who find it are few” (Matthew 7:13–14). Two roads, two gates. Which are you traveling?

The Power of the Cross by Michael Dubruiel  is a book well-suited to daily reading during Lent. The book is available here in pdf version. Daily excerpts will be reprinted in this space during Lent.

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How to get the Most out of the Eucharist

Michael Dubruiel wrote a book to help people deepen their experience of the Mass.  He titled it, How to Get the Most Out of the Eucharist.  You can read about it here. 

How to Get the Most Out of the Eucharist gives you nine concrete steps to help you join your own sacrifice to the sacrifice of Christ as you:

  • Serve: Obey the command that Jesus gave to his disciples at the first Eucharist.
  • Adore: Put aside anything that seems to rival God in importance.
  • Confess: Believe in God’s power to make up for your weaknesses.
  • Respond” Answer in gesture, word, and song in unity with the Body of Christ.
  • Incline: Listen with your whole being to the Word of God.
  • Fast: Bring your appetites and desires to the Eucharist.
  • Invite: Open yourself to an encounter with Jesus.
  • Commune: Accept the gift of Christ in the Eucharist.
  • Evangelize :Take him and share the Lord with others.

Filled with true examples, solid prayer-helps, and sound advice, How to Get the Most Out of the Eucharist shows you how to properly balance the Mass as a holy banquet with the Mass as a holy sacrifice. With its references to Scripture, quotations from the writings and prayers of the saints, and practical aids for overcoming distractions one can encounter at Mass, this book guides readers to embrace the Mass as if they were attending the Last Supper itself.

Just Look

From the Archdiocese of New York by Cardinal Egan:

The picture on this page is an untouched photograph of a being that has been within its mother for 20 weeks. Please do me the favor of looking at it carefully.

Have you any doubt that it is a human being?

If you do not have any such doubt, have you any doubt that it is an innocent human being?

If you have no doubt about this either, have you any doubt that the authorities in a civilized society are duty-bound to protect this innocent human being if anyone were to wish to kill it?

If your answer to this last query is negative, that is, if you have no doubt that the authorities in a civilized society would be duty-bound to protect this innocent human being if someone were to wish to kill it, I would suggest—even insist—that there is not a lot more to be said about the issue of abortion in our society. It is wrong, and it cannot—must not—be tolerated.

But you might protest that all of this is too easy. Why, you might inquire, have I not delved into the opinion of philosophers and theologians about the matter? And even worse: Why have I not raised the usual questions about what a “human being” is, what a “person” is, what it means to be “living,” and such? People who write books and articles about abortion always concern themselves with these kinds of things. Even the justices of the Supreme Court who gave us “Roe v. Wade” address them. Why do I neglect philosophers and theologians? Why do I not get into defining “human being,” defining “person,” defining “living,” and the rest? Because, I respond, I am sound of mind and endowed with a fine set of eyes, into which I do not believe it is well to cast sand. I looked at the photograph, and I have no doubt about what I saw and what are the duties of a civilized society if what I saw is in danger of being killed by someone who wishes to kill it or, if you prefer, someone who “chooses” to kill it. In brief: I looked, and I know what I saw.

But what about the being that has been in its mother for only 15 weeks or only 10? Have you photographs of that too? Yes, I do. However, I hardly think it necessary to show them. For if we agree that the being in the photograph printed on this page is an innocent human being, you have no choice but to admit that it may not be legitimately killed even before 20 weeks unless you can indicate with scientific proof the point in the development of the being before which it was other than an innocent human being and, therefore, available to be legitimately killed. Nor have Aristotle, Aquinas or even the most brilliant embryologists of our era or any other era been able to do so. If there is a time when something less than a human being in a mother morphs into a human being, it is not a time that anyone has ever been able to identify, though many have made guesses. However, guesses are of no help. A man with a shotgun who decides to shoot a being that he believes may be a human being is properly hauled before a judge. And hopefully, the judge in question knows what a “human being” is and what the implications of someone’s wishing to kill it are. The word “incarceration” comes to mind.

However, we must not stop here. The matter becomes even clearer and simpler if you obtain from the National Geographic Society two extraordinary DVDs. One is entitled “In the Womb” and illustrates in color and in motion the development of one innocent human being within its mother. The other is entitled “In the Womb—Multiples” and in color and motion shows the development of two innocent human beings—twin boys—within their mother. If you have ever allowed yourself to wonder, for example, what “living” means, these two DVDs will be a great help. The one innocent human being squirms about, waves its arms, sucks its thumb, smiles broadly and even yawns; and the two innocent human beings do all of that and more: They fight each other. One gives his brother a kick, and the other responds with a sock to the jaw. If you can convince yourself that these beings are something other than living and innocent human beings, something, for example, such as “mere clusters of tissues,” you have a problem far more basic than merely not appreciating the wrongness of abortion. And that problem is—forgive me—self-deceit in a most extreme form.

Adolf Hitler convinced himself and his subjects that Jews and homosexuals were other than human beings. Joseph Stalin did the same as regards Cossacks and Russian aristocrats. And this despite the fact that Hitler and his subjects had seen both Jews and homosexuals with their own eyes, and Stalin and his subjects had seen both Cossacks and Russian aristocrats with theirs. Happily, there are few today who would hesitate to condemn in the roundest terms the self-deceit of Hitler, Stalin or even their subjects to the extent that the subjects could have done something to end the madness and protect living, innocent human beings.

It is high time to stop pretending that we do not know what this nation of ours is allowing—and approving—with the killing each year of more than 1,600,000 innocent human beings within their mothers. We know full well that to kill what is clearly seen to be an innocent human being or what cannot be proved to be other than an innocent human being is as wrong as wrong gets. Nor can we honorably cover our shame (1) by appealing to the thoughts of Aristotle or Aquinas on the subject, inasmuch as we are all well aware that their understanding of matters embryological was hopelessly mistaken, (2) by suggesting that “killing” and “choosing to kill” are somehow distinct ethically, morally or criminally, (3) by feigning ignorance of the meaning of “human being,” “person,” “living,” and such, (4) by maintaining that among the acts covered by the right to privacy is the act of killing an innocent human being, and (5) by claiming that the being within the mother is “part” of the mother, so as to sustain the oft-repeated slogan that a mother may kill or authorize the killing of the being within her “because she is free to do as she wishes with her own body.”

One please God, when the stranglehold on public opinion in the United States has been released by the extremists for whom abortion is the center of their political and moral life, our nation will, in my judgment, look back on what we have been doing to innocent human beings within their mothers as a crime no less heinous than what was approved by the Supreme Court in the “Dred Scott Case” in the 19th century, and no less heinous than what was perpetrated by Hitler and Stalin in the 20th. There is nothing at all complicated about the utter wrongness of abortion, and making it all seem complicated mitigates that wrongness not at all. On the contrary, it intensifies it.

Do me a favor. Look at the photograph again. Look and decide with honesty and decency what the Lord expects of you and me as the horror of “legalized” abortion continues to erode the honor of our nation. Look, and do not absolve yourself if you refuse to act.

On the Right to Privacy

Dr. Janet Smith is interviewed by Zenit, reflecting material in a new book, Right to Privacy:

Most Americans, even Catholics, probably take it for granted that the U.S. Constitution protects their right to privacy. But they may be surprised to find out that no such right is in the Constitution.

Furthermore, the advent of the right to privacy in American constitutional law built a foundation for the culture of death to thrive in this country, according to philosopher Janet E. Smith.

To diagnose the problem further, Smith has written Right to Privacy (Bioethics & Culture) (Ignatius). In the book, Smith discusses how Pope John Paul II’s encyclical “Evangelium Vitae” properly identifies the philosophical views that led to the invention of the right to privacy as we know it, as well as how it was used to advance the culture of death.

She shared with ZENIT how the so-called right to privacy has vitiated any sense that there is an objective truth that must govern human behavior.

Smith holds the Father Michael J. McGivney Chair of Life Ethics at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit, and is professor of Moral Theology at the Seminary; she is Visiting Scholar at St. Paul Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota, for the fall of 2008.

She is also co-author with Christopher Kaczor of “Life Choices, Medical Issues; Questions and Answers for Catholics (Servant, 2007), and author of the CD series “Sexual Common Sense” (www.mycatholicfaith.org).

Q: What is the so-called right to privacy you describe in the book? On what is it based?

Smith: The “right to privacy,” when originally formulated, referred to the right to have such things as one’s journal or conversations kept private.

But during the 1960s the courts invented a whole new meaning for the right to privacy. They were attempting to find some basis on which they could overturn laws against the sale, distribution and use of contraception.

For nearly a century many states and the federal government had laws against contraception. Planned Parenthood assiduously challenged those laws, but they were repeatedly affirmed by legislatures and courts.

In 1965, in Griswold v. Connecticut, the Supreme Court found constitutional protection for the sale, distribution and use of contraceptives — by married couples. As is well known, there is no right to privacy in the constitution nor were the justices clear on which amendment implied a right to privacy that would guarantee access to contraception.

Two short years later, the court expanded that right to the use of contraceptives by the unmarried. In 1973, the court found that the right to privacy extended to the right to have an abortion. There, too, laws of all 50 states were overturned by the votes of a few justices.

The right to privacy has become a very elastic right; it has been used to legalize contraception, abortion, assisted suicide and homosexual acts.

Virtually no one can give a coherent explanation of what this right is and what it legitimately protects. It has become a wild card that permits the courts to advance a very liberal — not to say libertine agenda — often overriding the decisions of state legislatures and courts.

Q: You use the right to privacy to substantiate a claim of “Evangelium Vitae.” Can you please explain what light Pope John Paul II’s encyclical sheds on how the right to privacy has advanced the culture of death?

Smith: “Evangelium Vitae” identifies the deeper philosophical assumptions that underline the enshrinement of the right to privacy.

It points to a whole set of “isms”: subjectivism, relativism, materialism and hedonism, for example. It explains how the modern world operates with a distorted view of freedom.

“Evangelium Vitae” states that we have become a culture that no longer believes in objective truth. That we are a culture that thinks the subjective views, even preferences and whims of individuals should be the norms that guide their lives. This leads to relativism and ultimately to the violation of the rights of the weak by the strong.

My book argues that various court decisions have verified that claim. I trace the use of the right to privacy in various court cases to demonstrate how the right to privacy eliminates any sense that there is an objective truth that must govern human behavior.

The famous “right to liberty clause” in Planned Parenthood vs. Casey clearly is driven by subjectivism. It states; “At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and the mystery of human life.”

This claim was made in the context of trying to avoid the question of establishing when human life begins. On its face, it is very appealing to Americans – but to speak of a “right to define existence” vitiates any responsibility we have to “discover reality” and live in accord with it.

The courts are gradually undercutting their ability to uphold any laws, for if life begins whenever anyone says it does and means whatever anyone says it does, how can the court deny people the “right” to kill their infants, newborns or toddlers?

Clearly in those instances, we still think we have some objective criteria for denying parents the “right” to kill their children but the logic of the court is veering in the direction of pure legal positivism — there is no transcendent source of rights besides what the law posits.

That leaves governments free to bestow or remove any rights they so please. It destroys the concept of universal, fundamental human rights.

Q: What benefit does “rights language” bring to political discourse? If it is so flawed, why has the Church adopted it?

Smith: In “Evangelium Vitae,” John Paul II applauds rights language for its universality; he notes that we now have many statements of universal human rights.

To have traction, those statements must assume a universal human nature and objective moral norms; otherwise, how can any nation or international body insist that other nations respect certain freedoms as fundamental human rights?

Rights language is flawed if it is invoked without any clear concept of what is the source of rights. Is God the source of rights? Nature? Government? What are the limits to our rights? In fact, what are our rights?

How can we speak of a right to abortion since abortion takes a human life? “Evangelium Vitae” speaks of a culture that has so lost sight of objective truth that it now honors as rights what were once — and rightly — thought to be crimes: abortion, assisted suicide and pornography, for instance.

Q: One of your criticisms of the right to privacy, and some of the other rights it spawned, is that it is not found anywhere in the U.S. Constitution. But I certainly have the right to choose my own wardrobe, eat breakfast, read the newspaper, and engage in other activities that are not in the Constitution. That being the case, why don’t persons have a right to something as obvious as privacy?

Smith: No one is denying that there are actions that are rightly private and bear no intervention by the state. The state certainly shouldn’t be telling us what to eat for breakfast or what newspaper to read.

(It would be marvelous if people had a greater sense of privacy for that would likely lead to more modesty in dress and less exhibitionism of the details of celebrities’ lives and all sorts of inappropriate sharing of the personal data on the Internet.)

But if actions seriously impact upon the rights of others and sometimes our own well-being, the right to privacy cannot rightly be invoked to protect those actions. We have a culture that is fairly schizophrenic on these matters.

In cars, we must wear seatbelts and on motorcycles we must wear helmets and our homes must meet all sorts of safety codes; there are drugs that we cannot use because various agencies deem them unsafe.

But we are allowed to kill the unborn and in some states to request drugs that will kill us. There is no coherence in these laws.Q: In your book you state that you are not going to discuss whether there should be laws against contraception, abortion, assisted suicide and homosexuality. Why don’t you take a position on that?

Smith: I am certainly not a libertarian, but I do subscribe to the position that it is best to have as few laws as possible.

The goal of life on a natural plane is to become as virtuous as possible; the goal of life on a supernatural plane is to become as holy as possible. Virtue and holiness can only be gained through free and not coerced choices. Indeed, a virtuous populace needs fewer laws, for their virtue will keep them from harming others.

Nonetheless, law is certainly necessary both to protect innocent people from harm by the evil people and to help lead everyone to virtue. Certainly actions that do great harm to others must be illegal or the state is not doing its job.

It is not the job of the state to eliminate all vice, though it may want to discourage vice by means of various public programs, such as those that alert the public to the dangers of some types of behavior.

It was beyond the scope of my book to discuss what ways the state might best work against the various evils currently protected by an erroneous understanding of the right to privacy.

The purpose of my book is to show that “Evangelium Vitae” properly identifies the philosophical views that led to the invention of the right to privacy as we know it, as well as its use in advancing a culture of death.

Eduardo Verástegui Rips Obama

Actor aims his comments at fellow Hispanics, warning them that the push for continued legalized abortion is an attempt to wipe them out. From the Catholic News Agency:

The movie star Eduardo Verástegui has recorded a special video message to encourage Hispanic voters in the U.S. to put an end to abortion and to expose the radical abortion position of presidential candidate Barack Obama.

Verástegui, who is perhaps best known in the U.S. for his pro-life film “Bella,” presents his challenge to Latino voters by calling attention to the fact that most abortion clinics are located in Hispanic neighborhoods and that the Spanish media is saturated with pro-abortion advertising.

“Abortion is not only a lucrative industry; it is also used by people who are racist as a means to eliminate our people, since they consider us to be a threat to democracy in this country,” Verástegui asserts. 

After noting that more than 3,000 babies are aborted each day in the U.S. and that 650 of those babies are Hispanic, the actor states that abortion is legal “because there are not enough men and women who raise their voice against abortion.”

“We need to put an end to abortion and political candidates play a very important role in this matter,” he continued, pointing out that Obama supports abortions performed during the last trimester of pregnancy,  inhuman partial birth abortion,” and that Obama “wants to finance abortions with the tax dollars you and I pay.”

As a lawmaker, Obama “voted on several occasions against a law to protect babies who survived an abortion and were born alive,” Verástegui states. 

“Obama is committed to removing all the pro-life laws that in many states currently offer protection to unborn babies and their mothers. Mr. Obama does not agree that the parents of a 13 year-old girl who is pregnant should be notified before she has an abortion,” the actor underscored.

“Obama is more interested in maintaining the legality of abortion that in the well-being of the babies, children and families of this country.  Let us unite and do something to defend life at every stage, from conception to natural death,” he says.

Verástegui’s message about Obama is punctuated by clips from the video “The Hard Truth,” which shows graphic images from real abortions. The Mexican actor explains that just as teachers in schools show videos of the Holocaust to expose the truth about the atrocities committed by the Nazis, he too is including the video to show the horror of abortion.

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