Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The Inconvenient Truth About The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge



I have watched with great fascination how ordinary and famous people alike took the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge by posting a video of them being doused with ice cold water and tagging someone to do the same. The goal of course is to raise money for the ALS Foundation to help find a cure for ALS (a.k.a. Lou Gehrig's disease). There is really nothing wrong with that, but if you are planning to join the ice bucket bandwagon please consider reading this blog post first. There is more to this than meets the eye.


The Ice Bucket Challenge and Lou Gehrig's Disease Research


The Ice Bucket Challenge aims to raise awareness for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) or Lou Gehrig’s disease. According to the website of the ALS Association (ALSA), here is how it works:

The challenge involves people getting doused with buckets of ice water on video, posting that video to social media, then nominating others to do the same, all in an effort to raise ALS awareness. People can either accept the challenge or make a donation to an ALS Charity of their choice, or do both.

Posed in this manner, there is nothing morally problematic about the nature of the challenge. Accepting the challenge does not require any donations, but helps promote the primary goal of raising ALS awareness. Those declining the challenge are encouraged to “make a donation to an ALS charity of their choice,” but there is no legal or moral obligation to do so, nor is there any requirement that a donation go to ALSA. Naturally, those who accept the challenge are also free to make a donation to an ALS charity. Some, such as the schools of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, are choosing to accept the challenge while also making donations to other organizations that promote awareness and support for persons with ALS.

Since the challenge started trending in late July 2014, it has successfully raised awareness about the disease on a dramatic scale, accomplishing its main purpose with great creativity and fun. It has also generated more than 40 million dollars in donations to promote research into causes of ALS and the development of new treatments.

Given its size and the significant amount of research, awareness, and support work with which it is involved, ALSA has been the primary recipient of many if not most donations resulting from the challenge. ALSA has also helped to promote the challenge on its website and through social media in accordance with its good aims as a charitable organization.

The public attention and funds being directed toward ALSA as a result of the Ice Bucket Challenge raise an important, but not widely known moral concern: ALSA also advocates for human embryonic stem cell research, including through funding for specific research projects. As indicated in the Advocacy Archive section of their website, they were active in encouraging expanded funding for embryonic stem cell research as soon as President Obama took office: “Earlier this month, the Coalition for the Advancement of Medical Research, of which The ALS Association is an active member, sent a letter to President Obama urging him to quickly lift the restrictions on embryonic stem cell research.” Another advocacy group for patients with ALS, called Project ALS, is similarly on record encouraging human embryonic stem cell research.

In its Instruction Dignitas Personae, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith speaks clearly to the moral problems with the use of embryonic stem cells, even for noble and therapeutically effective ends:

The obtaining of stem cells from a living human embryo ... invariably causes the death of the embryo and is consequently gravely illicit: “research, in such cases, irrespective of efficacious therapeutic results, is not truly at the service of humanity. In fact, this research advances through the suppression of human lives that are equal in dignity to the lives of other human individuals and to the lives of the researchers themselves. History itself has condemned such a science in the past and will condemn it in the future, not only because it lacks the light of God but also because it lacks humanity” (n. 32, quoting Pope Benedict XVI).

ALSA acknowledges that there are relevant ethical concerns surrounding the use of embryonic stem cells: "The discovery that human embryonic stem cells can be isolated and propagated in the lab with the potential of developing into all tissues of the body is a major medical breakthrough. But it has raised ethical concerns." When asked about the ALSA position on human embryonic stem cell research, Carrie Munk, a spokeswoman for the Association, noted in an e-mail to Religion News Service that the organization primarily funds adult stem cell research: “Currently, The Association is funding one study using embryonic stem cells (ESC), and the stem cell line was established many years ago under ethical guidelines set by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS); this research is funded by one specific donor, who is committed to this area of research,” she said. “The project is in its final phase and will come to an end very soon.” Nonetheless, the organization does not clearly rule out the prospect of funding for ESC research.

Potential donors seeking to support laudable causes, such as research for cures to serious diseases, face the challenge of exercising due diligence, so that their funds are properly utilized and not misdirected or otherwise targeted by an advocacy organization to support immoral projects.

When foundations have a generally sound list of activities but promote an intrinsically immoral activity as well (such as abortion, human embryonic stem cell research, or contraception), donors must consider the serious matter of the fungibility of donated funds. Whenever we participate in fundraising for such organizations, even if they assure us that specified funds will only be used for activities with an ethical profile, it can end up being little more than a shell game. In this sense, there is a real danger that our fundraising activities may not only engender scandal, but may even contribute to the perpetuation of grave evils like abortion and human embryonic stem cell research. The duty to affirm the dignity of human life, and associated questions of scandal resulting from a lack of clarity, can become more significant—with a corresponding need for caution about where the funding is going—when Catholic authorities or institutions such as dioceses and schools are involved.

Donors who are concerned about the misuse of funds by groups such as ALSA, Project ALS, or others should consider notifying those organizations of their reasons for choosing not to donate, encouraging them to cease advocacy and funding for ESC research, raising awareness about the immoral destruction of human life through embryonic stem cell research, and donating to alternative ALS research and advocacy groups that do not support or promote human embryonic stem cell research. Several examples of such groups can be mentioned:

The Cell Therapy Foundation specifically promotes adult stem cell research. On their website, it is possible to donate in a directed way to specific research, including ALS:

http://www.celltherapyfoundation.org/Donate-Now/Funding-Specific-Research

Compassionate Care ALS offers much-needed care and treatment for people living with ALS (instead of focusing on scientific research and the development of therapies): http://www.ccals.org/home.php.

Massachusetts Citizens for Life reported in a recent newsletter that the ALS Therapy Development Institute (http://www.als.net/), when asked on the phone about this issue, said they do not support research with embryonic stem cells “because they think induced pluripotent adult stem cells are the best avenue to a cure.” The newsletter also noted that “they do not have a principled objection to using embryonic stem cells but said they understand the gravity of the issue and would be very public if they change their position so donors and potential donors would be aware.”


Source:

The Ethicists of The National Catholic Bioethics Center
The Ice Bucket Challenge and Lou Gehrig's Disease Research
August 22, 2014
© 2014 by the National Catholic Bioethics Center

[P.S. Feel free to forward this info as long as you include the source I posted above. Thanks.]

Monday, August 25, 2014

Come Follow Me



We just concluded our annual Courage retreat centering on the theme 'Come Follow Me'. I arrived late in the retreat and had actually no idea what the theme was and oh what a surprise! The week prior to our retreat I saw the 'Come Follow Me' signage twice and it kind of struck me as odd. So when I found out that the theme for this year's retreat was 'Come Follow Me', I took it as a sign to really reflect on the ways that I am not heeding His call to follow Him. If there's one thing I learned from the retreat, it is that no matter what our state in life is - married, religious, or single - the universal call is the call to love.

On this blog post, I am going to feature someone who has said his big yes to the Lord's call in an extraordinary way and that's no other than our wonderful retreat master Fr. James McTavish, FMVD.


It is not difficult to look for the address of James McTavish in the quiet, middle class Varsity Hills subdivision in Quezon City (Metro Manila). When asked for directions, bystanders will immediately point to a gated compound where the 'kano' lives. But that is not entirely accurate.

McTavish is a 42-year-old Scot with the laid back demeanor of a bachelor in his 20s. The Cambridge-educated doctor greets his visitor in carefully woven Filipino before shifting to genteel-sounding English articulated with a distinct rhetoric accent.

McTavish, however, did not originally plan to become a priest.

"I studied in Cambridge in England and became a surgeon. That was the only thing in life that I wanted to be. That was my vocation. That was my calling. And even when I was younger, the only thing I wanted to be was a surgeon," he said.

"After I qualified, I wanted to do a surgery...and as part of my training I did six months of plastic surgery," McTavish added.

Things took a different turn, however, when he was invited to work in Sydney, Australia in 1998. He explained that working in Sydney gave him time for some quiet reflection.

"I had the chance to have some time out - I was far away from my family, I was far away from my friends. And in that moment, I did something which I haven't done in a few years - I went back to church."

McTavish said the experience of regaining the habit to listen to Mass gave him peace "in the middle of some uncertainties about the future." During this period, he was invited to a prayer meeting by some sisters of the Fraternidad Misionera Verbum Dei, a religious order under the ambit of the Roman Catholic Church.

"What the sisters started to teach me was how to pray with the Word of God, and then I started to find out that the Church teaches that, when we pray, we speak to God. But when we read the Word of God, God is speaking to us," he said.

He then started to feel that there were certain changes in his disposition as a doctor.

"I became more patient with my patients," he quipped.

"I noticed that I became more sensitive...to the Word of God in my life. And in the middle of these changes, I was enjoying more and more. I started to go running. I had so much energy and I wasn't wasting it in crazy nights out with my friends. And I found myself more focused with more energy for doing the right things and avoiding the things I should." he added.

At 29, he experienced his first retreat. It was during this retreat that he decided to become a missionary for Verbum Dei.


Leap of Faith

Being called to priestly life is all about trust in God, according to McTavish.

"When you say 'yes' to the Lord...to enter religious life, you're taking a little bit of a leap in the dark. And I didn't know that I'd come to beautiful Philippines. I didn't know I'll be in Quezon City. I didn't know I'd become a priest. I didn't know I'd be teaching moral theology in Ateneo de Manila University or UST [University of Santo Tomas]," the priest said.

He spent about two years for his formation course with Verbum Dei in Cebu and spent some years studying in Cagayan de Oro. Subsequently, he studied in Rome for four years leading to his ordination as a priest.

McTavish said that spending his time with the Verbum Dei community helped fortify his resolve to become a priest.

"I found that the Lord gathered people from different walks of life and of course it gave me more peace when I met others who have been called also. That's the beauty of community," he said.


Spreading the Word

Verbum Dei (Latin for Word of God) is a religious order founded by Spanish priest Fr. Jaime Bonet in Majorca, Spain in 1963. The community was granted Pontifical approval by Pope John Paul II as an Institution of Consecrated Life in 2000. Currently, Verbum Dei is present in about 33 countries spread throughout the five continents.

According to McTavish, "The mission [of Verbum Dei] is, first, to form apostles. This word really means people who are mature in their faith. The second mission is spreading the Word of God."

"Our advocacy is to make Jesus more known through prayer with the Word of God," he added.

Currently, McTavish teaches moral theology and bioethics at the Loyola School of Theology in Ateneo de Manila University and UST. He is also the author of the book Choose Life, which is a book that delves on moral, spiritual, and scientific issues about life and the dignity of human life. You can grab a copy of the book at any St. Paul's Bookstore nearest you for only P350.


[Source: Courage Retreat Manual]


"If thou wilt be perfect, go sell what thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven, and come follow me." - Matt 19:21

Friday, August 15, 2014

On the Assumption of Mary



Today, August 15, we celebrate the glorious feast of the Assumption of Mary.


“Open the portals! The Queen is approaching. Lift up, O eternal gates!”

The endless parade of the blessed crowded about the wide-open gates of heaven. There was tense expectancy, such as one finds along a line of march as a parade approaches. A roadway of clouds billowed the pathway from an uncorrupted grave to an incorruptible throne.

At last, borne by angels, the lovely Lady arrives. It is the first Assumpton Day, the Assumption of Mary. The heavenly throng gasps with admiration. The celestial singers burst into song. The angels hurry to and fro to catch a glimpse of her and to tell their companions of her beauty.

Jesus waits at the open entrance, throws His arms about His Mother, leads her triumphantly and happily to the very throne of the heavenly Father, who leans forward and places solemnly and smilingly upon her beauteous head the crown, as the Holy Spirit, heavenly Spouse of the Virgin Mother casts warmth and light upon the welcome newcomer.

Sweet scene of Mary’s bliss! Who can measure her happiness? Who can count the throbs of joy in her heart: joy that now her lonesome life on earth without Jesus is over; joy that now she has Him, never again to lose Him; joy that now she can enjoy His company without the interruptions of earth or sense; joy that now she can help everyone on earth who is devoted to her Son; joy that all the honor and all the praise and all the glory is given to her because of her Son; joy that the very crown she is wearing as the Queen of heaven and earth, is given to her because she is the Mother of Jesus.

Our Lady assumed into Heaven! Entering body and soul into the presence of the Most Blessed and Eternal Trinity! The Assumption of Mary! Her sufferings, great beyond all measure, are nothing now as she finds her reward in the greatness of the Infinite God. What eternal joy in His possession; what peace in being eternally possessed by Him – surely the richest reward for the obedient Handmaid of the Lord.

Our reward is likewise the possession of the same Triune God – our way to Him is likewise along the same royal way as tread so humbly and submissively the feet of our obedient Queen. Her last recorded words in Sacred Scripture, her counsel to the servants at the wedding feast, applies to us with equal and unfailing force: “Do whatever He tells you!” Our obedience to Christ is our way to joy and peace.

Mary’s death was caused by love that consumed her heart; her death was not meant for punishment nor expiation, hence there was no violence nor was it painful, since she was preserved from the dominion given to death by sin. According to an opinion accepted since the Middle Ages, Mary’s death resembled Christ’s, because she accepted it voluntarily out of humble and loving obedience; so, she died of love in the strict sense of the word. Death came to her in the form of the weakening of the body caused by the supernatural might of Dying Love. Her natural vitality was exhausted by love-longing, by the strength of an ecstasy of love and her great love moved God to cease keeping her alive. Mary’s death was a holocaust of love where the sacrifice offered long before at the foot of the Cross in poignant and spiritual anguish was at last completed.

This feast, the Assumption of Mary, was instituted, according to Saint Bernard, in the very time of the apostles.

Ave Maria!

(Reposted from Pro-Life Philippines FB page.
Source: Feasts of Our Lady by Msgr. Arthur Tonne, and The Woman of Orbit)

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Why A Gay Porn Star Became Catholic And Staying in the Church


No matter how dark or sinful one's past is, there is always hope and redemption in Jesus Christ. This is amazing grace.

by Joseph Sciambra


Although I had been raised marginally Catholic, I never really considered myself a believer. As a child, I was rather innocent and understood nothing. By the time I was in my teens, my parents forced me to be Confirmed. I stood in front of the Bishop, got the blessing and anointing, but didn’t believe for a single second. When I went into the gay world, I thought of my residual Catholicism as something that needed to be overcome. And, like most of my compatriots, who were also former Catholics, because our matriculation in the Faith had been mediocre to downright heretical, it was not that tough to accomplish. That sloughing off of all that I had never really known or understood left me open to all sorts evil influences that seemed to temporarily fill my innate lonely sense of emptiness.

After that, although I never realized it until the end, my entire life became increasingly desperate. While I falsely thought that I was just exploring my new found freedoms and sexuality, I was actually in a perpetual state of restlessness: always exhaustingly alert and questing for the next big opportunity: from an endless parade of guys to gay porn - it never materialized. Wanting something to hold onto, I turned to the occult - and was again left cold and empty. I was deaf, yet God was calling me. Only, because I had become filled with evil and hate, I misinterpreted this beckoning as a plea to further degrade myself. In an instinctive way, I was punishing myself, because I knew that everything was out of control and because I was powerless before my seemingly uncontrollable passions.

When I suddenly realized that my endless experimentation was leading me to a premature death, I knew that I had to quickly make a decision to change or stay where I was and die. At those final minutes, the Lord Jesus Christ made things very clear to this stubborn and willful little speck of dust: He held out His hands, one restrained the demons that had been chasing me for years, the other was palm out and bursting with His precious blood. I didn’t know why, but I reached out for the wounded hand. Instantaneously, the demons were gone. For the next few days, I laid in bed: asking God over and over gain to forgive me. Every gross and disgusting thing I had ever done kept replaying in my head; the bed became like the floor of hell. I had to unburden myself, but I didn’t know where to go.

Unconsciously, I turned to The Bible. Flipping feverishly through the pages; the whole book could have been written in some space alien language; I understood not a single word. Mysteriously, leaping off the onion skin paper was the beautiful scene of St. Mary Magdalene being forgiven and released from the constant torture of seven devils. I needed Jesus; where was He? How could I find Him? Then, two incidents in The New Testament struck me: the Roman Centurion going to Christ, begging Him cure his servant; “Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldst enter under my roof but only say the word, and my servant shall be healed.” and the other Centurion, Cornelius, who told St. Peter: “Four days ago, unto this hour, I was praying in my house, at the ninth hour, and behold a man stood before me in white apparel, and said: Cornelius, thy prayer is heard, and thy alms are had in remembrance in the sight of God.” This all brought back the most vivid memories that I had of Jesus, the VHS tapes of 1950s Biblical epics that my father bought and showed us as kids: especially my favorite, “The Robe,” about a Roman soldier who is the self-declared king of orgies, later crucifies Christ, then begs forgiveness from the man who denied Him three times. I longed to go to Peter.

Then, I could have gone anywhere. For, after a second-rate education in the Faith, and since being away formally for over a decade, my ties to Roman Catholicism were weak at best. But, I remembered the Sacrament of Confession; I probably hadn’t been since being forced to go back in the 8th grade, right before our graduation. Growing up, I had always thought of it as a thoroughly stupid practice: kneeling before some man behind a screen and telling him my sins. I didn’t believe in sin. As far as I was concerned: porn, masturbation, pre-marital sex, homosexuality, and even drug use were far from wrong - they had merely been deemed wicked by angry eunuchs who wanted to keep the rest of us from having any fun. Well, all these years later, I realized: I was so wrong. Even though I was emotionally and physically sick, I wanted to crawl back to that little box and confess. I needed my AA moment: to stand up before God and say out loud what I had done and that I was sorry.

Somehow, I tracked down a priest I had met in my late teens, who struck me as particularly pious, and I dropped my sins on him like a ton of rotting garbage. I hated carrying it around and just wanted God to have it. Here, take it, take it - I thought to myself. It felt amazing. The priest was rather unphased and coolly certain - sort of like that image of Jesus I saw on my deathbed. He said, I needed to go back to Mass. Idiotically, I was somewhat surprised. Oh yeah, Mass - I forgot about that, I mused. While the seeming magic of Confession drew me back, the Mass still felt useless and mundane. I hated going to Mass as a boy: whether being marched there by our teachers, or dragged out of bed and pushed out the door on Sunday by my parents - going to church was drag. Blessedly, the same kind priest who heard my Confession invited me to the Latin Mass. Latin, that was the language the nerdy kids studied in high school, I thought. With nothing to loose, I showed up. Now, everything was different from my memories of youth. There was silence, reverence, and humility. I kneeled and could not get back up. I bowed and just stayed there. Jesus was back. He was there. His hands in front of me. His body became the Eucharist; and His blood in the chalice. I quivered and thought I was in front of His throne. When it was time to receive the Lord, I didn’t want to walk to the altar, but would have preferred groveling up the aisle on my stomach. I looked at everyone else proceeding towards the priest; I didn’t want to go. Inexplicably, I rose, and took the host on my tongue.

What had just happened? I thought for sure I would die - as the Lord could only strike someone like me down. But, He didn’t. I lived. I lived. I was alive. Jesus saved me. And, He wanted me. For the first time in my life: I believed in Him. The insolent and gullible little boy who threw it all away got a second chance. I no longer felt alone anymore.

I will never leave the Catholic Church. For, to do so, I would be returning to the same empty existence of despair and desolation that almost cost me the eternity of my soul. Because, only death persistently awaits in my old life; and I choose to live.

(Source:  www.josephsciambra.com)


About Joseph Sciambra:

Joseph Sciambra was born in 1969, in Northern California, not far from San Francisco. He grew up in a stable and loving home while attending Catholic parochial schools from kindergarten through twelfth grade. Early on, the dark shadow of pornography would cloud his entire childhood and teenage years. Throughout the 1990s, Joseph lived around the homosexual culture of the Castro District, offering him rare insight into the daily lives and struggles of many gay men. Later, he became an amateur porn actor and escort. In 1999, following a near death experience, Joseph returned to the Love of Our Lord Jesus Christ and the Catholic Church. Since then he has written extensively concerning the real-life issues of pornography, homosexuality, and the occult. He received his BA from the University of California at Berkeley in Art History and his MA from Sonoma State University.


Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool. - Isaiah 1:18

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Desire of the Everlasting Hills - A Courage Documentary



This hour-long Courage documentary chronicles the lives of three same-sex attracted courageous souls - Dan, Paul, and Rilene. It narrates their journey toward self-understanding, faith, and redemption. I was amazed by the depth of their personal sharings and how through grace their lives have been transformed by Christ and are now serving as inspirations out there to men and women struggling with SSA. Desire of the Everlasting Hills is a very powerful, inspirational, must-see film.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Mercy and Confession: 10 Tips on How to Confess Well


In our Courage community, we are blessed to have the opportunity to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation once a month followed by Mass. We call this monthly gathering our 'Sacrament Sunday'. We are all sinners and we need the mercy of God, which He abundantly pours on us through sincere repentance and confession of our sins. Remember that it is here where our miseries meet the infinite mercy of God so please go to Confession frequently.


by Fr. Ed Broom, OMV

In the context of an Ignatian retreat it is always beneficial to prepare oneself to make an excellent Confession. To make a good confession demands prior preparation! The better the prior preparation, the more abundant the graces and the more overflowing the river of peace in your soul! Following are ten short helps to make the best confession in your life!


1. IMPROVEMENT/UPGRADING THE RECEPTION. As Catholics two of the most important actions we can accomplish are to go to Confession and to receive Holy Communion. In these Sacraments we have a direct contact with Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. This being the case, we should make a concerted effort to improve our encounters with Jesus in these Sacraments. In other words we should never take these Sacraments for granted. Also be keenly aware of the concept of dispositive grace. The abundance of graces are received in direct proportion to the disposition of the recipient. On the walls in the sacristies of the Missionaries of Charity is written: “Say this Mass as if it were your first Mass, last Mass and only Mass.” We can apply the same principle: “Confess as if it were your first, last and only time.”

2. PRAYERS BEFORE. All is grace! A source of abundant grace is the Communion of saints. Why not pray to the holy Confessors to help you to make a good confession. The following are a few: The Cure of Ars (Saint John Marie Vianney), St. John Bosco, St. Leonard of Port Maurice, Saint Leopold Mandic, Saint Padre Pio, Saint Francis Regis, Saint Alphonsus Liguori, Saint Anthony Claret, and Saint Ignatius of Loyola. “Get a little help from your friends (the saints)….”Pray to them to help you to confess well—that each confession you make is better than your prior confession!

3. PREPARE THE NIGHT BEFORE. Have a good examination of conscience booklet. Find a quiet and contemplative place to examine your conscience. Utilize the crucifix and Divine Mercy image to elicit sorrow and trust. Written! Write down the sins so that you will not forget them once in the confessional! Also, pray for your confessor— to his guardian angel—before you enter the confessional!

4. SELF-KNOWLEDGE. One of the classical steps to make a good confession is contrition but also firm purpose of amendment. This entails rewinding the film of your life and seeing the various falls into sin. But also to capture what were the preceding causes that led to the sin. Maybe it is a person that jeopardizes your spiritual life. Who knows maybe it is a recurring situation at work or family? Maybe it is your physical state of weariness? Still more, maybe it is some improper use of the electronics media and lack of prudence? You will notice often a pattern that is established that leads to the slippery path and collapse. For this reason the faithful observance of one’s DAILY EXAMEN can prove a valuable tool to know oneself and even supply for the necessary knowledge to avoid the near occasion of sin.

5. BIBLICAL PASSAGES TO PREPARE. The Church highly recommends the use of Sacred Scripture as a means to prepare us for a better reception of the Sacraments. Two excellent passages I would recommend: Lk. 15 and Psalm 51. Lk. 15 presents the Parables of God’s Mercy, and the greatest is the Parable of the Prodigal Son. By praying Psalm 51 you have one of the best “Act of Contritions” ever composed, by none other than King David after having committed adultery with Bathsheba and killing an innocent man. Praying with the Word of God adds extra power to one’s prayer!

6. FREQUENT CONFESSION. The saints highly recommend frequent confession as a most efficacious means of growing in sanctifying grace. Confession either restores sanctifying grace or it augments it. Of course this presupposes a thorough preparation!

7. SACRAMENTAL GRACE. Each sacrament communicates grace. However every sacrament communicates a specific grace pertinent to that specific sacrament. For example, the specific sacramental grace communicated in the Eucharist or Holy Communion is that of NOURISHMENT. It is the Bread of life for the journey on the way to eternal life. The Sacramental grace of Confession is different. It is HEALING! Jesus came to feed us with His Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity. Furthermore, He came as Divine Physician. Time and time again in the Gospels we see Jesus healing. The blind, deaf, deaf-mute, lepers, paralytics, even the dead, were healed and brought back to life by Jesus. Even now within the context of the Church, the Mystical Body of Christ, Jesus heals us. The Sacraments of healing are the Sacraments of Confession and the Anointing of the Sick.

8. QUALITIES OF A GOOD CONFESSION. In the Diary of Saint Faustina the most important qualities of a good confession are highlighted in # 113: 1) complete sincerity and openness; 2) humility; 3) obedience. Adhering to these qualities one cannot go wrong! Reminder! We want to strive to make better Communions and Confessions until the end of our lives!

9. AVOID DISCOURAGEMENT. Even though one might fall frequently, never give in to discouragement. Some bad habits have possibly clung to us for decades. Many have a “Micro-wave” spirituality—namely instant holiness! It does not work that way! Change is often tedious, laborious and painful. The key is to keep praying, working, fighting as a true soldier of Christ to be liberated from the shackles of sin. Of course a key message from the Diary is that the worse thing possible is to fail to trust in God’s infinite mercy! As St. Paul reminds us, “Where sin abounds God’s mercy abounds all the more.”

10. MARY AND MERCY. Never forget to invite Mary to be present in your remote preparation for Confession, your immediate preparation for Confession. Even ask Mary to enter with you into the Confessional so that you make the best confession in your life. Blessed Pope John Paul II called the Marian sanctuaries—Lourdes, Fatima, Guadalupe—“Spiritual clinics”. How true! Lines of penitents await to meet the merciful Jesus in the confessional in these Marian Sanctuaries. Among the many beautiful titles of Mary are the following: “Mother of Mercy, Mother of Good Counsel, Health of the sick.” Behind many powerful conversions is of course the grace of God but also the maternal intercession of Mary!


“When you approach the confessional, know this, that I Myself am waiting there for you.  I am only hidden by the priest, but I Myself act in your soul.  Here the misery of the soul meets the God of mercy.  Tell souls that from this fount of mercy souls draw graces solely with the vessel of trust.  If their trust is great, there is no limit to My generosity." 

(Our Lord Jesus to St. Faustina, Diary 1602)


-----------------------------
About Fr. Ed Broom, OMV

Fr. Ed Broom is an Oblate of the Virgin Mary. He blogs regularly at Fr. Broom's Blog.

(Credits:  The Catholic Church FB page, Bro. E)

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Pagyakap sa Buhay: Breaking Free From the Spirit of Death


Forwarded invitation


"Pag-yakap sa Buhay" is a full-day healing conference on breaking free from shame, self-hatred and other manifestations of the spirit of death.

Shame and self-hatred comprise a polluted seedbed of destructive thoughts. The journey to freedom from these twin enemies begin in experiencing Jesus who promised us a full and abundant life (John 10:10).

This conference is for people who are wrestling with despair, hopelessness, hurt, anxiety, fears, grief and life-altering conditions such as sickness and disability. But most of all, it is for all of us who are seeking a meaningful and purposeful life.

Date:  August 23, 2014, Saturday, 8:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.

Venue:  Meralco Multi-Purpose Hall, Meralco Compound (Gate 2), Ortigas Center, Pasig City

Cost:  Php 950.00 (Metro Manila), Php 750.00 (Provincial). Lunch and Dinner included.

-oOo-


Keynote Speaker:  Jonathan Hunter

A sought-after speaker and prolific author, Jonathan Hunter is the Founder and Director of Embracing Life Ministries. He has spoken throughout the U.S. and around the world about the liberating and transforming power of the Cross to free humanity from the spirit of death and its effects. He has appeared in numerous features both in print and broadcast media and has been a guest lecturer in universities, seminaries and churches.

Jonathan has brought his experience of living with AIDS and his ministry to those living with life-altering conditions in compiling a healing resource for the various programs of Embracing Life Ministries.

-oOo-

To Register:

1. Via Bank Deposit

Account Name: "Agos ng Buhay (Living Waters Phils) Inc."
BPI Current Account: 3201-036568
BDO Savings Account: 430207239

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Thursday, July 3, 2014

Why I Chose Love: Journey of a Catholic with Same Sex Attraction



This is the personal reflection of Jake Stanwood (not his real name) about his journey with SSA as a Catholic. I love the way he narrated his story - realistic yet full of hope. This is also in response to those people who think they're left with no choice but to "act out" their desires. I truly believe that this is the path that leads to true happiness - the path of true love. 


“We love you no matter what sexual orientation you choose to live out.” These are the words of a father to me, his 15 year old son, 10 years ago. Um… Awkward? Up until that point my dad had never talked to me about sex, and the topic was never mentioned again. I remember every little detail about the conversation: The sweaty palms, cold freezing office space, and the awkwardness created by the long wooden desk separating us from talking like normal people. How did I respond? I said nothing. Absolutely nothing. I stared at him with a blank face and ran back into my room crying and thinking about how the heck I ever got into this mess.

“Great….even my parents think I’m gay” “That person at school thinks I’m gay too, maybe it’s because of the way I talk.” “Wait…maybe I should change the way I talk? That will make me look manlier.” “Crap, that person is totally staring at me and thinks I’m gay.” These are just a few of the crazy thoughts that constantly ruminated in my head. Talk about feeling paranoid. It always felt as if I was split in between two worlds. One side was telling me, “Just come out of the closet, hook up with someone, embrace the fact you’re gay!” The other side, (far less appealing) said, “If anyone ever finds out, you’re dead!! Don’t ever talk about this to anyone.”

Praise God, He created a Church that has given me a third option, that doesn’t seem like it’s going to drown me in lust or turn me into a stoic that’s being internally destroyed by his desires. I have chosen the path to Chastity. I have chosen the path toward authentic love and sexual self-control.

Is this easy? NO.

The sexual temptations have always been there for me, and I suppose will always be. I am not afraid to admit that until the day I die I will probably always be attracted to men. However, I don’t think this aspect of my cross has been the greatest struggle. The greatest struggle has been my interior life. Experiencing same sex attraction (SSA) and being Catholic is hard (well, being Catholic is hard). It is a unique/heavy cross to carry, and a very painful one. It comes with its share of anxiety, heartache, tears, and boogers. Us folks, who have SSA, we struggle with a lot. Among those things are body image, father wounds, bouts of depression, feeling less masculine, and a lot of us aren’t good at sports (which makes it harder for us to bond with other men). Growing up I always felt different and uncomfortable around other men, as if I was unworthy to even be called a man. However, I think it’s especially difficult to carry out this chaste lifestyle in the midst of today’s hyper sexual culture.

The culture today has become increasingly pro-gay. Just take a look at shows like Glee, Modern Family, or anything Lady Gaga… this stuff didn’t build up overnight. While this DOMA thing was taking place my Facebook newsfeed exploded with red equal sings. The younger generation has become largely accepting of the gay community. I’m glad that people are starting to become less homophobic and are speaking against gay bullying. However, this doesn’t mean that I’m for gay marriage or I think people should pursue same sex relationships.

It just doesn’t fit human sexuality or natural law. Just because I have an inclination to do something doesn’t mean that I should follow it. When we pursue sexuality outside of the way God designed for it to be we can find ourselves in messy situations. Hence the high promiscuity, infidelity, and STD rates associated with the gay community. But of course the media will never portray it this way, living a gay lifestyle is portrayed as glamorous and fulfilling. I am not saying that every gay person is living a promiscuous life and is carrying an STD on them. I have many friends who identify as gay who are hard workers and are doing awesome things with their lives. However, I will not deny that amongst the “gay scene” multiple partners and infidelity rates are pretty high. Homosexuality has to be identified more with behavior, than with identity. That’s how the gay movement has progressed so much they’ve turned it into its own culture. The minute we reduce ourselves to our sexual orientation, we lose sight of who we really are.

I’ve chosen to never engage in a sexual relationship with another guy and remain celibate, despite the fact there are times I feel the ache of this desire. This may seem like a total fail in the eyes of the world, but am I really missing out on much? Chastity gives me so much more. It gives me the ability to live out healthy and loving relationships with both men and women. It is giving me the opportunity to bring healing to areas of my masculinity that have been gravely wounded. It respects me for who I am, allows me to appreciate beauty, and recognize the dignity in every person. This has involved a lot of wrestling with God. Many people think wresting with God is a bad thing. FALSE. You can only wrestle with someone who is close to you, so in a way wrestling with these attractions has drawn me closer to God. It is a cross, but with every cross the Lord is always right beside us.

Yes, I realize that I will not always get what I want. I can’t tell you about the hundreds of days I felt I just wanted someone to hold and be intimate with. Sometimes I look at happy couples and wonder if I am missing out! But, I understand that fulfillment goes much deeper than wanting someone around. I find fulfillment by being in relationship with the God who created me to be fulfilled by Him, and in community.

The truth is, I love being Catholic.

The Church loves me. It desires what is best for me, and sometimes this kind of love hurts, because it doesn’t always feel good. However in the long run it guides me to a much more fulfilling life and a more adventurous one. No, the Church is NOT a bigoted institution that hates gays. Quite the opposite. I have never met as many loving and understanding people as I have in the Catholic Church. I am incredibly fortunate! I have many friends in the Church that know about my struggle and are there to support and encourage me along the way. I have a choir of saints and angels who are constantly interceding for me, a mother in heaven that deeply loves me, and a God who bears his very self in the Eucharist each and everyday. If you ask me… I’ve hit the jackpot.

________________________________

Jake Stanwood (pseudonym) is a writer and speaker who has shared the message of chastity with thousands of people. He graduated from college in 2012 and since then has devoted himself to serving the Church through mission work. This blog originally appeared on “Think Catholic”.

(Additional credits to: chastityproject.com)

Thursday, June 26, 2014

St. Josemaria Escriva on Purity


Some food for thought on purity from St. Josemaria Escriva, founder of Opus Dei, whose feast day we celebrate today.

(H/T to Bro. E)

"It has always made me very sorry to hear some teachers (so many alas!) going on and on about the dangers of impurity. The result, as I have been able to verify in quite a few souls, is the opposite of what was intended, for it's a sticky subject, stickier than tar, and it deforms people's consciences with all kinds of fears and complexes, so that they come to imagine that the obstacles in the way of attaining purity of soul are almost insurmountable. This is not our way. Our approach to holy purity must be healthy and positive, and expressed in modest and clear language.

To discuss purity is really to talk about Love. I have just pointed out to you that I find it helpful in this regard to have recourse to the most holy Humanity of Our Lord, that indescribable marvel where God humbles himself to the point of becoming man, and in doing so does not feel degraded for having taken on flesh like ours, with all its limitations and weaknesses, sin alone excepted. He does all this because he loves us to distraction! He does not in fact lower himself when he empties himself. On the contrary, he raises us up and deifies us in body and soul. The virtue of chastity is simply to say Yes to his Love, with an affection that is clear, ardent and properly ordered.

We must proclaim this loud and clear to the whole world, by our words and by the witness of our lives: 'Let us not poison our hearts as if we were miserable beasts governed by our lower instincts!' A Christian writer once expressed it thus: 'Consider that man's heart is no small thing, for it can embrace so much. Do not measure its greatness by its physical dimensions, but by the power of its thought, whereby it is able to attain the knowledge of so many truths. In the heart it is possible to prepare the way of the Lord, to lay out a straight path where the Word and the Wisdom of God may pass. With your honorable conduct and your irreproachable deeds, prepare the Lord's way, smooth out his path so that the Word of God may act in you without hindrance and give you the knowledge of his mysteries and of his coming.'

Holy Scripture reveals to us that the great work of our sanctification, which is accomplished in a marvelous hidden manner by the Paraclete, takes place in both the soul and the body. 'Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ?' cries the Apostle, 'Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a harlot? ... Or do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who dwells in you, whom you have received from God, and that you are no longer your own? For you have been bought at a great price. Glorify God and bear him in your bodies.'"


St. Josemaria Escriva
"For They Shall See God"
Friends of God, 178

Sunday, June 22, 2014

On Holy Eucharist - The Body and Blood of Christ



Today we celebrate the Feast of the Corpus Christi, a splendid feast that reminds us of the Real Presence of Our Lord Jesus in the Holy Eucharist.

The Eucharist according to the Catechism is the source and summit of our Christian life. The Eucharist is the visible and tangible presence of Christ in His One, Holy, Apostolic and Catholic Church. What a great gift this is that we so often take for granted. In our modern and secular age, how many still believe in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist? Probably not many and that's sad. If anybody wishes to know how far he has advanced in the spiritual life, he just needs to become aware of how much importance and devotion he has towards the Holy Eucharist. An important realization I had lately is that the crisis of faith in the Church, the crisis of morality in our society, the crisis threatening the family can only be mitigated if we as a people of God will have a genuine renewal of faith in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Holy Eucharist.

Not too long ago I had the opportunity and privilege to attend a Latin Mass and to experience for myself for the very first time what the celebration of the Mass looked like in the not so distant past. I must say it left a deep impression on me especially on the way the Latin Mass goers receive Holy Communion - kneeling in front of a communion rail and on the tongue with a deep reverence for Our Lord. I cannot help but compare it to the way we approach Holy Communion during Mass nowadays.

On this solemn feast of Christ's Body and Blood, I just want to encourage my fellow Catholic Christians to accord to this sacrament the highest form of reverence and respect we can muster for isn't it Jesus Christ Himself, our Supreme Eucharistic Lord, whom we receive every time we go to Communion?

Eucharistic Miracle of Lanciano

The Eucharistic Miracle of Lanciano is officially recognized by the Catholic Church as a true Eucharistic Miracle that took place in 8th century A.D. in the Church of St. Legontian in Lanciano, Italy as a direct response to a Basilian monk's doubt about the Real Presence in the Holy Eucharist. The relics were scientifically investigated and found to be real flesh and real blood that are still remarkably preserved more than twelve centuries later.



State of Grace

Every time I see the number of people line up to receive Holy Communion and the number of people who line up in the Confessional I cringe. How many of us sufficiently examine ourselves whether we are in a state of grace or in a state of mortal sin? We are all sinners of course and we often say at Mass that we are not worthy to receive Jesus, but still St. Paul in his letter to the Corinthians admonishes us on the importance of examining oneself first in order to receive communion worthily.

Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily will have to answer for the body and blood of the Lord. A person should examine himself, and so eat the bread and drink the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body, eats and drinks judgment on himself. (1 Cor. 11:27-29)

One who is conscious of grave sin ought to have recourse to the Sacrament of Reconciliation first prior to receiving Jesus in Holy Communion. If I know I am conscious of some grave sin, I just make a spiritual communion with Jesus by praying the Anima Christi until such time I am able to go to Confession and receive Him worthily again. Why is this such a big deal? Well, if you're in a state of mortal sin, your soul is comparable to a stinking septic tank filled with poops. What a great insult to our Lord to make Him dwell in such a horrible state of our soul?

Eucharistic Fast

Canon 919 of the Code of Canon Law states, "One who is to receive the Most Holy Eucharist is to abstain from any food or drink, with the exception of water and medicine, for at least the period of one hour before Holy Communion." This practice dates back to the traditions of the early Christians. There are a few exceptions to this rule, however, especially those with regards to the sick and elderly.

Why fast? The fast before receiving Holy Communion creates a physical hunger for the Lord, which should augment our interior disposition to unite ourselves with Him spiritually. In the Old Testament, Moses fasted for 40 days before He received the Ten Commandments. Likewise, Christ Himself fasted for 40 days as a preparation for His public ministry.

Proper Disposition & Modesty

Every time we go to Mass, we should strive to develop the right disposition, appreciation and gratitude of Who it is we are going to receive or we run the risk of attending Mass for the sake of fulfilling our Sunday obligation and just going through the motions.

Do we show outward reverence when receiving Holy Communion? Are we fully aware that what we are receiving is the Lord Himself? Do we spend some quiet time in prayer after Communion to thank God for this immense gift of Himself? Have we fallen to the trap of receiving Holy Communion out of habit?

With regards to modesty inside the Church, I cannot emphasize this enough. In the olden days, Christians attended church wearing their Sunday best, an expression that pertains to the practice of wearing one's best and finest clothing in church on Sundays. This may not sound practical nowadays but at least make an effort to be as presentable and modest in the eyes of God and others. You don't want to be an occasion of sin for your neighbors do you?

Missing Mass on Sundays

One of the seven precepts of the Church is to attend Mass on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligations. Canon 1247 of the Code of Canon Law states, "On Sundays and other holy days of obligation the faithful are bound to participate in the Mass. They are also to abstain from those labors and business concerns which impede the worship to be rendered to God, the joy which is proper to the Lord's Day, or the proper relaxation of mind and body."

I practically grew up and received full Catholic education from elementary school to college, having been a product of a local parochial school and a prestigious Catholic university in Manila, but would you believe that nobody ever taught me that skipping Mass on Sundays without sufficient reason is a serious sin? This teaching was never ingrained firmly in my consciousness until only by the time I took my faith seriously by the grace of God. That should give you a glimpse of the sad state of our Catholic educational institutions nowadays. 

Communion in the Hands versus Communion on the Tongue

Although both ways are allowed by the Church, I have a personal predilection towards receiving communion on the tongue even before I attended the Latin Mass. For me it is more reverent and less subject to profanation like small particles falling off to the ground and hence being trampled underfoot, the host not being consumed right away, etc.

Blessed Mother Teresa was once asked by Fr. George Rutler, "What do you think is the worst problem in the world today?" she replied without hesitation: "Wherever I go in the whole world, the thing that makes me the saddest is watching people receive Communion in the hand." I can personally attest to this fact as I have had the privilege of attending Masses with the Missionary of Charity Sisters. They don't have qualms about touching Christ in the guise of the poor and the sick entrusted to their care but they choose, however, not to touch Him in His Real Presence in Holy Communion.

St. Thomas Aquinas has something to say on this matter:

"Out of reverence towards this sacrament, nothing touches it, but what is consecrated; hence the corporal and the chalice are consecrated, and likewise the priest's hand, for touching this sacrament. Hence it is not lawful for anyone else to touch it except from necessity, for instance, if it were to fall upon the ground, or else in some other case of urgency" (Summa Theologica, III, Q. 82, Art. 3).

On this subject matter, I want you to watch a short informative video by Michael Voris, a Catholic apologist.  You'll be surprised to know how the practice of communion in the hand came about and why communion on the tongue has always been the norm in the Universal Church.



On this feast of Corpus Christi, let us strive to live out a Eucharistic way of life with the sole aim of giving glory and honor to God. I firmly believe that these practices will help strengthen our faith in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Holy Eucharist.


Holy Communion and the Saints

"With all the strength of my soul I urge you young people to approach the Communion table as often as you can. Feed on this bread of angels whence you will draw all the energy you need to fight inner battles. Because true happiness, dear friends, does not consist in the pleasures of the world or in earthly things, but in peace of conscience, which we have only if we are pure in heart and mind." - Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati


Every morning during meditation, I prepare myself for the whole day's struggle. Holy Communion assures me that I will win the victory; and so it is. I fear the day when I do not receive Holy Communion. This bread of the Strong gives me all the strength I need to carry on my mission and the courage to do whatever the Lord asks of me. The courage and strength that are in me are not of me, but of Him who lives in me - it is the Eucharist. - St. Faustina Kowalska


"If someone knows from experience that daily Communion increases fervor without lessening reverence, then let him go every day. But if someone finds that reverence is lessened and devotion not much increased, then let him sometimes abstain, so as to draw near afterwards with better dispositions." - St. Thomas Aquinas


"All the good works in the world are not equal to the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass because they are the works of men; but the Mass is the work of God. Martyrdom is nothing in comparison for it is but the sacrifice of man to God; but the Mass is the sacrifice of God for man." - St. John Vianney, Cure d'Ars


"When you have received Him, stir up your heart to do Him homage; speak to Him about your spiritual life, gazing upon Him in your soul where He is present for your happiness; welcome Him as warmly as possible, and behave outwardly in such a way that your actions may give proof to all of His Presence." - St. Francis de Sales


"If angels could be jealous of men, they would be so for one reason: Holy Communion." - St. Maximilian Kolbe


So Jesus said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. - John 6:53