Friday, October 31, 2014

Was the last 'witch' of Boston actually an Irish Catholic martyr?

The last person hanged for witchcraft in Boston could be considered a Catholic martyr.

In the 1650s, Ann Glover and her family, along with some 50,000 other native Irish people, were enslaved by Englishman Oliver Cromwell during the occupation of Ireland and shipped to the island of Barbados, where they were sold as indentured servants.

What is known of her history is sporadic at best, though she was definitely Irish and definitely Catholic. According to an article in the Boston Globe, even Ann's real name remains a mystery, as indentured servants were often forced to take the names of their masters.

While in Barbados, Ann's husband was reportedly killed for refusing to renounce his Catholic faith. By 1680, Ann and her daughter had moved to Boston where Ann worked as a “goodwife” (a housekeeper and nanny) for the John Goodwin family.

Father Robert O'Grady, director of the Boston Catholic Directory for the Archdiocese of Boston, said that after working for the Goodwins for a few years, Ann Glover became sick, and the illness spread to four of the five Goodwin children.

“She was, unsurprisingly, not well-educated, and in working with the family, apparently she got sick at some point and the kids for whom she was primarily responsible caught whatever it was,” Fr. O'Grady told CNA.

A doctor allegedly concluded that “nothing but a hellish Witchcraft could be the origin of these maladies,” and one of the daughters confirmed the claim, saying she fell ill after an argument with Ann.  

The infamous Reverend Cotton Mather, a Harvard graduate and one of the main perpetrators of witch trial hysteria at the time, insisted Ann Glover was a witch and brought her to what would be the last witch trial in Boston in 1688.

In the courtroom, Ann refused to speak English and instead answered questions in her native Irish Gaelic. In order to prove she was not a witch, Mather asked Ann to recite the Our Father, which she did, in a mix of Irish Gaelic and Latin because of her lack of education.

“Cotton Mather would have recognized some of it, because of course that would have been part of your studies in those days, you studied classical languages when you were preparing to be a minister, especially Latin and Greek,” Father O'Grady said.

“But because it was kind of mixed in with Irish Gaelic, it was then considered proof that she was possessed because she was mangling the Latin.”

Allegedly, Boston merchant Robert Calef, who knew Ann when she was alive, said she “was a despised, crazy, poor old woman, an Irish Catholic who was tried for afflicting the Goodwin children. Her behavior at her trial was like that of one distracted. They did her cruel. The proof against her was wholly deficient. The jury brought her guilty. She was hung. She died a Catholic."

Mather convicted Ann of being an “idolatrous Roman Catholick” and a witch, and she hung on Boston Common on November 16, 1688. Today, just a 15 minute walk away, the parish of Our Lady of Victories holds a plaque commemorating her martyrdom, which reads:

“Not far from here on 16 November 1688, Goodwife Ann Glover an elderly Irish widow, was hanged as a witch because she had refused to renounce her Catholic faith. Having been deported from her native Ireland to the Barbados with her husband, who died there because of his own loyalty to the Catholic faith, she came to Boston where she was living for at least six years before she was unjustly condemned to death. This memorial is erected to commemorate “Goody” Glover as the first Catholic martyr in Massachusetts.”

The plaque was placed at the Church on the tercentennial anniversary of her death in 1988 by the Order of Alhambra, a Catholic fraternity whose mission includes commemorating Catholic historical persons, places and events. The Boston City Council also declared November 16 as “Goody Glover Day”, in order to condemn the injustice brought against her.  

Ann Glover has not yet been officially declared a martyr by a pope, nor has her cause for canonization been opened to date, partly because her story has faded into obscurity over time, Fr. O’Grady said.

“Part of the dilemma here (too) is that when she was hanged, Catholics were a tiny, minuscule, minority in Boston, so picking up her ‘cause’ was not easy or ‘on top of the list,’” he said.

Ann Glover's trial also set the tone for the infamous Salem Witch Trials in 1692, during which 19 men and women were hanged for witchcraft, and in which Reverend Cotton Mather and his anti-Catholic prejudices played a major role.

The Seven Deadly Sins and Their Remedies

1 Peter 5 on October 22, 2014:
The disorder introduced into our human nature by Adam’s fall from grace reveals itself especially through seven dominant vices known in the Catholic tradition as the capital sins. These are: pride, avarice, lust, anger, gluttony, envy, and sloth. We call them “capital” sins (from the Latin caput, “head”) because they are the sources or fountainheads of all the sins people commit, whether sins of commission or sins of omission. We call them “deadly” because they cause spiritual death; Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen liked to call them the “seven pallbearers of the soul.”
Spiritual growth is impossible unless we try to dig up the roots of our sins with the help of God’s illuminating and sanctifying grace.


The first of the seven deadly sins is pride, defined as inordinate self-esteem or self-importance. Pride is the prolific source of countless sins, including presumption, hypocrisy, disobedience to lawful superiors, hardheartedness to subordinates, acrimony, and boastfulness. Some of the ways in which sinful pride manifests itself are: exaggerating one’s own talents, attributing to oneself qualities one lacks, magnifying other people’s defects, putting other people down, ingratitude, and failing to attribute one’s gifts and talents to God.
We know from Sacred Scripture that pride is the bottleneck of all graces (Jas 4:6); that it is self-ruinous (Lk 14:11); that God hates it (Prov 8:13) and punishes it (Prov 16:5); and that it deprives one’s good works of merit in God’s sight because it makes one perform them with a wrong intention (cf. Mt 6:1-2).
Humility, or poverty of spirit, is the opposite of pride. Just as pride is the foundational sin, so humility is the foundational virtue and thus ranks first among the Beatitudes (Mt 5:3). The virtue of humility makes us indifferent to worldly power, prestige and riches, so that we might keep our focus on God, who alone is our supreme joy.
“Learn of me,” Jesus tells us, “because I am meek and humble of heart” (Mt 11:29). Imagine our divine Savior in His Passion, undergoing the cruelest torments yet uttering no complaint and showing no resentment (cf. 1 Pt 2:23). Then pray: From the sin of pride deliver me, O Lord.


Avarice, also known as covetousness or greed, is defined as the immoderate desire of earthly goods, especially those that belong to others. Of the Ten Commandments, two regulate not only our external actions but even our internal desires. These are the ninth and tenth commandments, both of which forbid avarice (“You shall not covet…”).
Saint Paul calls avarice the “root of all evils” (1 Tim 6:10). Robbery, theft, fraud, parsimony, and callousness toward the poor all stem from avarice. But there are more subtle forms of avarice that may blind us to the sinfulness of our actions. Some people imagine that just because they found some money or personal belongings, the items belong to them (“Finders keepers!”). Unscrupulous contractors put in time not required for the job at hand, or use inferior materials at a higher price. Gambling, playing the stock market, and purchasing goods on credit are not in themselves sinful, but they become sins if a person risks loss so great that he cannot pay his debts and support his dependents. Advertisers convince us that we must have the latest fashions or models, when we could just as well continue to use our serviceable appliances, clothing, cars, smartphones, etc.
Saint Francis de Sales says that everyone claims to abhor avarice. We wax eloquent when we explain how we must have the necessary things to get along in the world. But we never think we have enough, so we always find ourselves wanting more. How often do we include avarice in our examination of conscience or bring it up in confession?
We can enjoy the goods of this world, but we must be on guard not to become unduly attached to them and thus fall into idolatry (cf. Eph 5:5). God alone is our supreme happiness. Of all people, Christians should not be overly concerned with earthly goods, for our heavenly Father has care of us (cf. Mt 6:31-32). Does this mean we should neglect our duties and occupations? Certainly not. It means that, while attending to our affairs, we must not neglect the affairs of the soul. “Seek first [God's] Kingdom and His righteousness,” Our Lord promises, “and all these things shall be yours as well” (Mt 6:33).
Mercy is the virtue that opposes avarice. Peter Kreeft writes in Back to Virtue that avarice is “the centrifugal reach to grab and keep the world’s goods for oneself,” whereas mercy is “the centripetal reach to give, to share the world’s goods with others.” Mercy is the antidote to the greed that poisons the soul.
“Learn of me,” Jesus tells us, “because I am meek and humble of heart” (Mt 11:29). Imagine our Savior, whose Passion depicts a progressive impoverishment. He is abandoned by most of His disciples, then stripped of all honor and finally of life itself. Then pray: From the sin of avarice deliver me, O Lord.


Of the seven deadly sins, envy is the only one that gives us no pleasure at all, not even fleeting satisfaction. Envy is defined as sadness over another’s happiness, blessings or achievements, such that we should want to see the other person deprived of those goods, and we are happy when he has actually lost them. Like all sins, envy proceeds from the foundational sin of pride, which cannot tolerate a superior or a rival. It takes many different forms, including annoyance at hearing another person praised, depreciating the good reputation of others by speaking ill of them, and desiring to eclipse others even by questionable methods.
Envy poisons our whole being. Because Cain was envious of his brother Abel, he “was very angry, and his countenance fell” (Gen 4:5). Because the sons of Jacob envied their brother Joseph, “they hated him, and could not speak peaceably to him” (Gen 37:4). Because Saul was envious of David, he “eyed David from that day on” (1 Sam 18:9). “Jealousy and anger shorten life, and anxiety brings on old age too soon” (Sir 30:24).
Saint Paul places envy among the works of the flesh and declares that “those who do such things shall not inherit the Kingdom of God” (Gal 5:19-21). He bids us “conduct ourselves becomingly as in the day, not in … quarreling and jealousy” (Rom 13:13). In private matters, envy produces angry words (1 Cor 1:11) and harmful deeds (Jas 3:16). In public matters, it breeds war, symbolized in the Apocalypse by the rider on the red horse who was given power “to take peace from the earth, so that men should slay one another, and he was given a great sword” (Rev 6:4; the sword stands for war). Among Christians, discord born of envy can lead to the sin of schism, or separation from the universal Church, which is what the Apostle feared would happen in the Christian community at Corinth (1 Cor 11:18-19). And envy can make priests and vowed religious resent their celibacy when they see happily married people.
Generosity is the opposite of envy. Whereas envy brings only sorrow and pain, generosity is the seedbed of joy. This should come as no surprise, since we are created in the divine image. We are truly happy insofar as we are conformed to God the Holy Trinity, whose very essence is self-giving love and receptivity. Saint Anselm of Canterbury teaches that our ultimate joy in heaven will be increased by the absence of envy: “If anyone else whom you love as much as yourself possessed the same blessedness, your joy would be doubled because you would rejoice as much for him as for yourself.”
“Learn of me,” Jesus tells us, “because I am meek and humble of heart” (Mt 11:29). Imagine our divine Savior before Pontius Pilate, delivered up out of envy by the chief priests (Mk 15:9-10). Then pray: From the sin of envy deliver me, O Lord.


Fourth on the list of the seven deadly sins is anger, or “wrath” in Old English. What most people mean by “anger” is often not a sin, but simply an emotional response to a perceived injustice, wrongdoing, or annoyance. Such was Our Lord’s anger at the money-changers in the Temple (Mk 11:15-19).
Just as it is wrong to be angry without cause, so it is wrong not to be angry when there is cause. Peter Kreeft illustrates the point in Back to Virtue: “To be angry at the lawyer who got the drug pusher free on a technicality is not sinful, especially when your son is lying in a coffin after an overdose from that pusher.” A more common example of anger that is not sinful but righteous is that of a parent at the misconduct of a child, provided the parent’s response is not excessive. The parent still loves the child but is angry at the child’s bad behavior.
Alas, Original Sin has invaded every corner of our soul. Consequently, anger is often a violent, inordinate desire accompanied by hatred or vengefulness. If anger is unreasonable and therefore too strong for the occasion or the person at whom we are angry, it can be a mortal sin. Whereas righteous anger wills what is good (justice and correction), sinful anger wills evil (“Damn you!”). As a capital sin, anger easily gives rise to many grave sins, including murder: “For the stirring of milk brings forth curds, and the stirring of anger brings forth blood” (Prov 30:33). “Pitch and resin make fires flare up, and insistent quarrels provoke bloodshed” (Sir 28:11). God warned Cain when Cain grew angry because God favored Abel and not him; but instead of heeding God’s advice, Cain nourished his resentment and finally murdered Abel (Gen 4:6-8).
The Epistle of Saint James cautions: “Everyone should be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath, for the wrath of a man does not accomplish the righteousness of God” (Jas 1:19). And Saint Paul exhorts: “Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun set on your anger, and do not leave room for the devil” (Eph 4:26).
Meekness is the virtue that helps us to control anger. “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land” (Mt 5:5). The essence of meekness is not weakness, but the combination of strength and gentleness, the ability to use force when necessary and the gentleness to forego it.
“Learn of me,” Jesus tells us, “because I am meek and humble of heart” (Mt 11:29). Imagine our divine Savior, the Suffering Servant whose mercy Isaiah prophecies: “A bruised reed he shall not break, and a smoldering wick he shall not quench” (Isa 42:3). Precisely because Christ loved sinners, He rebuked them (often scathingly!), but was always ready to suffer harm rather than inflict it. Then pray: From the sin of anger deliver me, O Lord.


Since the sexual revolution of the 1960s, Western culture has said that sex has no intrinsic relation to procreation, or even to love and intimacy. Not surprisingly, then, these intervening years have brought permissive abortion, no-fault divorce, legalized prostitution, the mainstreaming of pornography, and the redefinition of marriage to include same-sex couples. Behind this devaluation of sex is the deadly sin of lust, which the Catechism of the Catholic Churchdefines as “disordered desire for or inordinate enjoyment of sexual pleasure” (no. 2351).
The Catholic Church has always taught that sexual pleasure is morally permissible only to married people and only when they use it in the way the Creator intends. Regrettably, Christian morality in general and Catholic sexual morality in particular are often seen as arbitrary rules imposed by the Church to keep people from enjoying life’s pleasures. Pope Saint John Paul II’s “Theology of the Body,” based largely on the Book of Genesis, casts traditional sexual morality in a fresh light. George Weigel provides a fine overview of the pope’s approach in The Truth of Catholicism. In sum, the only sex worthy of men and women made in God’s image is sex that expresses complete and irrevocable self-giving, not a use (or abuse) of another for fleeting gratification. The self-giving that defines real love implies openness to the gift of new human life, just as God’s love “burst the boundaries of God’s inner life and poured itself forth in creation.” It is immoral to divorce sex from commitment (as in fornication and adultery) or from procreation (as in contraceptive and homosexual acts).
Sodom’s destruction was divine punishment for sexual vice (Gen 19:24-25). Our bodies are temples of the living God (2 Cor 6:16), and we should control them “in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like heathen” (1 Thes 4:3-5). Impurity should not even be mentioned among Christians, never mind practiced (Eph 5:3-4). Lust enslaves the will, destroys love of prayer, weakens faith, hardens the heart, and fills the conscience with dissatisfaction.
The opposite of lust is chastity, a species of that blessed “purity of heart” (Mt 5:8) and one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit (Gal 5:22-23). Sexual feelings, fantasies and desires will ebb and flow as naturally as the appetite for food and drink; these are perfectly natural and human. The chaste person subordinates these to God’s will. Chastity is a life’s task requiring reliance on prayer and, for Christians, the grace of the sacraments. It demands common sense, too. When Jesus said the desire for adultery is itself adultery (Mt 5:28), He was following the Jewish tradition of “building a wall around the Torah (Law),” that is, forbidding a less serious offense so as to avoid a more grievous one.
“Learn of me,” Jesus tells us, “because I am meek and humble of heart” (Mt 11:29). Imagine our divine Savior, who loved selflessly even to the point of surrendering His life for sinners (cf. Phil 2:8). Then pray: From the sin of lust deliver me, O Lord.


Eating and drinking are necessary for our self-preservation. To facilitate these two functions, God has attached a certain pleasure to them. The pursuit of this pleasure as an end in itself, however, is the deadly sin of gluttony. Most people identify gluttony with eating or drinking excessively. They are correct, but gluttony takes other forms too: fussiness about the quality or presentation of one’s food; eating too hastily, too hoggishly, too sumptuously, or too often. Father Benedict Ashley, O.P., in Living the Truth in Love, explains that “individual acts of gluttony are not ordinarily seriously harmful and therefore are venial, but habits that seriously harm health (at least in the short range), if not corrected, are mortal.” Of course, in assessing the gravity of any human act, we must remember that subjective factors such as chemical dependency or neurotic compulsion can lessen the degree of guilt.
As one of the seven deadly sins, gluttony paves the way for more grievous offenses. Drunkenness caused Noah’s disgrace (Gen 9:20-27), Lot’s incest (Gen 19:30-38), and the decadence both of the pagan Persians (Est 1:6-10) and of the Jewish priests and prophets (Isa 28:7-8). Esau sold his birthright for a bowl of pottage, a kind of bean stew (Gen 25:29-34). Gluttony was the cause of liturgical abuses within the Christian community at Corinth (1 Cor 11:21). Saint Paul calls gluttons idolaters “whose god is their belly” (Phil 3:19).
Because man is a unity of soul and body, the Church has always insisted that the body must be disciplined as well as the soul. “Scripture’s cure for gluttony is not dieting but fasting,” writes Peter Kreeft in Back to Virtue. “Fasting, in addition to reducing weight, reduces gluttony and, best of all, is a form of prayer. It is recommended to us on the very highest authority, that of our Lord himself.” Saints Augustine, Jerome, and John Cassian are but three of the many Church Fathers and spiritual writers who extolled periodic fasting. Latin-rite Catholics are obliged to fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, and for one hour prior to receiving Holy Communion. Yet even when not fasting, we should remember Saint Josemaría Escrivá’s advice in The Way: “The body must be given a little less than it needs; otherwise, it will turn traitor.” How much more progress we could make in the spiritual life if only we accompanied our prayers with sacrifice! “The day you leave the table without having made some small mortification,” the saint warns us, “you will have eaten like a pagan.” (Talk about food for thought!)
“Learn of me,” Jesus tells us, “because I am meek and humble of heart” (Mt 11:29). Imagine our divine Savior, forty days and forty nights in the desert, faint with hunger from fasting. When tempted by Satan to turn stones into bread, He rejoins, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Mt 4:3-4). Then pray: From the sin of gluttony deliver me, O Lord.


The last of the seven deadly sins is sloth, which Saint Thomas Aquinas defines as disgust for virtue, a languor of the soul which deprives it of the power to do good. “Pride may be the root of all evil,” observes R. R. Reno, “but in our day, the trunk, branches, and leaves of evil are characterized by a belief that moral responsibility, spiritual effort, and religious discipline are empty burdens, ineffective and archaic demands that cannot lead us forward, inaccessible ideals that, even if we believe in them, are beyond our capacity.” This is sloth.
Medieval writers often speak of sloth as a waning of confidence in the importance and power of prayer. Saint Bernard of Clairvaux speaks of a sterility and dryness of his soul that makes the sweet honey of psalm-chanting seem tasteless. Dante, on the fourth ledge of Purgatory, describes the slothful as suffering from a “slow love” that cannot uplift, leaving the soul stagnant under the heavy burden of sin. The ancient monastic spiritual writers, recalling Psalm 91:6, nicknamed sloth the “noonday devil” who tempts monks to sadness and despair. In the heat of midday, as the monk tires and begins to wonder whether his commitment to prayer and solitude was a mistake, the demon whispers, “Did God really intend for human beings to reach for the heavens? Does God really care whether you pray or not?”
To us moderns, the whispering voice says, “God is everywhere. Couldn’t you just as well worship on the golf course as in a church?” Or, “God accepts you just as you are. Why change?” In our sloth, we avoid any spiritual discipline, Christian or otherwise. Missing Mass on Sundays and holy days of obligation, laxity in prayer, disregard for the Church’s laws of fast and abstinence, a tendency to follow the lines of least resistance — these are all manifestations of sloth.
An indolent soul is barren in good works (Prov 24:30-34) and easily falls prey to the devil, “for idleness teaches much evil” (Sir 33:27). As motionless water soon becomes stagnant, so the Christian who lives idly will soon become corrupt. Remember Our Lord’s emphatic warning about the slothful servant and foolish virgins (Mt 25:1-30), and His promise to spew the lukewarm out of His mouth (Rev 3:16).
Hungering for righteousness, or likeness to God, is the beatitude that remedies sloth (Mt 5:6). God alone satisfies the deepest desires of the human heart. Sensuality, technology, money, and power are just a few of the false gods that leave us ultimately empty. Seek the true God and you will find Him (Mt 7:7-8), and in finding Him you will have the joy that overcomes sloth.
“Learn of me,” Jesus tells us, “because I am meek and humble of heart” (Mt 11:29). Imagine our divine Savior on His way to Calvary. Three times He falls under the weight of the heavy load; yet instead of giving up, He gets up with renewed resolve to fulfill His mission. Then pray: From the sin of sloth deliver me, O Lord.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The great mercy of Mary

*Taken from The Glories of Mary by St. Alphonsus de Liguori.
In the year 1604, in a city in Belgium, there were two young students who gave themselves up to a life of debauchery instead of following their studies.
One night they were at the house of an evil woman; but one of the two, who was named Richard, stayed only a short time and then returned home. While he was preparing to retire, he remembered that he had not yet said the few Hail Marys that were his daily practice.
He was very tired and half inclined to omit them; nevertheless, he forced himself through the routine, saying the words half asleep and with no particular devotion.  Then he lay down and fell asleep.
Suddenly he was wakened by a violent knocking at the door. The door was closed, but the figure of a young man, hideously deformed, passed through it and stood before him.
"Who are you?" Richard cried. "You do not know me?" asked the other. "Ah yes, now I do," said Richard; "but how changed, with all the appearance of a devil!"
"Alas, unhappy creature that I am," said his companion, "I am damned! When I was leaving that house of sin, a devil came and strangled me. My body lies in the street; my soul is in Hell.
"And know this — the same fate awaited you, except that the Blessed Virgin spared you for that little act of homage of the Hail Marys. If you are not a fool, profit by this warning which the Mother of God has sent." He then opened his mantle, showing the flames and serpents by which he was tormented, and disappeared.
Breaking into a flood of sobs and tears, Richard went down on his knees to give thanks to Mary his protectress. Then as he pondered how to change his life he heard the bell of the Franciscan monastery ringing for matins. "It is there," he said, "that God calls me to do penance."
He went immediately to the monastery and begged the Fathers to admit him. Since they knew his wicked life, they were hardly willing to do so. But sobbing bitterly, he told them all that had happened. And when two Fathers had been sent to the street and had found the strangled body, which was charred and blackened, they admitted him.
From that time on he led an exemplary life and at length went to preach the Gospel in India, and thence to Japan. There he had the happiness of giving his life for Jesus Christ, being burnt alive for the faith at Nagasaki on September 10, 1622.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Pope Paul VI Beatified On October 19th

CNA October 17, 2014:

He had the unenviable task of being Pope during a most “tumultuous” era for the Church, but  Paul VI stood “deeply rooted in Christ” through it all, a theology professor has said.

“Pope Paul VI suffered greatly from the growing apostasy of the world from Christian values and from the distortions of the teaching of Vatican II,” said theology professor Dr. Alan Schreck of the Franciscan University of Steubenville. “Through it all, he remained deeply rooted in Christ and the Holy Spirit.”

Giovanni Battista Montini – soon to be Blessed Paul VI -- will be beatified Oct. 19, at the conclusion of the Synod on the Family.

His cause for beatification moved forward after a miracle was attributed to his intercession by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints and approved by Pope Francis in May.

Benedict XVI had affirmed his “heroic virtue” in 2012, officially recognizing him as “Venerable.”

As Pope, Paul VI lived “heroic virtue” because though he “suffered” much turmoil and dissent in the Church, he directed major church reforms and supported renewal of faith amongst the laity and religious, was a prophet about the errors of the age, and was even a well-traveled “pilgrim pope.”

The reforms of Paul VI included reforms of the Roman curia and the College of Cardinals, as well as support for renewal movements within the Church.

“He was an able administrator who reformed the Roman Curia, as Vatican II had directed,” Schreck said. Paul VI also “internationalized the College of Cardinals” by “markedly increasing the membership in the college from the global South and East.”

Amid the cultural wreckage of the age, he saw “the need for a deep and profound prayer life for every member of the Church,” Schreck said, and supported “spiritual renewal movements.”

Paul VI also was a forerunner of St. John Paul II’s stand against Communism.

“He sought religious freedom concessions from Iron Curtain countries, paving the way for the downfall of communism in Eastern Europe,” Schreck said.

Perhaps Paul VI is most well known for his encyclical Humanae vitae in which he upheld the Church’s discipline of priestly celibacy and its teaching against the use of artificial contraception. The stand was widely “controversial” then and now, yet Paul VI has been vindicated by time as a prophet of the destructive effects of contraception.

“Though this teaching sparked dissent among some Catholics, today Paul VI’s specific warnings of the negative effects of the widespread use of artificial contraception – such as increased sexual promiscuity and the decline of respect for human life – have certainly come to pass,” Schreck affirmed.

Yet as St. John Paul II was known as the well-traveled pope, Paul VI was also a “pilgrim pope,” Schreck said, citing his travels to Australia, South America, Asia, and the United States. And he promoted ministry through the end of his papacy with his “brilliant apostolic letter ‘On Evangelization in the Modern World,’” as well as his calling a synod on catechesis.

Through his faith, he guided the Church “in this most challenging period in which Western culture began to be dislodged from her Christian moorings,” Schreck concluded.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Pro-Family Catholics Reject Pro-Gay Synod Mid-Way Report, Calling It 'a Betrayal’

Voice of the Family October 13, 2014:
An international coalition of pro-family groups has rejected the mid-way report of the Extraordinary Synod on the Family, calling it “a betrayal”.
Voice of the Family responded to the report (relatio post disceptationem), published this morning and presented by Cardinal Péter Erdő (See “Synod on Family: Midterm report presented, 2015 Synod announced“, Vatican Radio, 13 October) The report has been welcomed ecstatically by liberal Catholic commentators.
John Smeaton, co-founder of Voice of the Family, said:
“Those who are controlling the Synod have betrayed Catholic parents worldwide. We believe that the Synod’s mid-way report is one of the worst official documents drafted in Church history.
“Thankfully the report is a preliminary report for discussion, rather than a definitive proposal. It is essential that the voices of those lay faithful who sincerely live out Catholic teaching are also taken into account. Catholic families are clinging to Christ’s teaching on marriage and chastity by their finger-tips.”
Patrick Buckley, Voice of the Family’s Irish representative, said:
“The Synod’s mid-way report represents an attack on marriage and the family. For example, the report in effect gives a tacit approval of adulterous relationships, thereby contradicting the Sixth Commandment and the words of Our Lord Jesus Christ on the indissolubility of marriage.
“The report undermines the Church’s definitive teaching against contraception, by using the coded language of ‘underlin[ing] the need to respect the dignity of the person in the moral evaluation of the methods of birth control”. This language is the code of those who wish to reduce the Church’s doctrines to a mere guide, thus leaving couples free to choose contraception in so-called ‘conscience’.
“The report accepts wrongly that there is a value in the homosexual orientation. This contradicts the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith’s 1986 Letter on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons:
“Although the particular inclination of the homosexual person is not a sin, it is a more or less strong tendency ordered toward an intrinsic moral evil; and thus the inclination itself must be seen as an objective disorder.”
Maria Madise, Voice of the Family’s coordinator, said:
“What will Catholics parents now have to tell their children about contraception, cohabiting with partners or living homosexual lifestyles? Will those parents now have to tell their children that the Vatican teaches that there are positive and constructive aspects to these mortal sins? This approach destroys grace in souls.
“It would be a false mercy to give Holy Communion to people who do not repent of their mortal sins against Christ’s teachings on sexual purity. Real mercy consists of offering people a clean conscience via the Sacrament of Confession and thus union with God.
“Many of those who claim to speak in the name of the universal Church have failed to teach the faithful. This failure has created unprecedented difficulties for families. No responsibility is taken for this failure in this disastrous mid-way report.”
“The Synod’s mid-way report will increase the incidence of faithful Catholics being labelled as ‘pharisees’, simply for upholding Catholic teaching on sexual purity.”
John Smeaton concluded:
“We urge Catholics not to be complacent or give in to a false sense of obedience, in the face of attacks on the fundamental principles of the natural law. Catholics are morally obliged to oppose the course being taken within the Synod.”
Here is the part of the Synod Mid-Way Report titled: Welcoming Homosexual Persons.
     50.        Homosexuals have gifts and qualities to offer to the Christian community: are we capable of welcoming these people, guaranteeing to them a fraternal space in our communities? Often they wish to encounter a Church that offers them a welcoming home. Are our communities capable of providing that, accepting and valuing their sexual orientation, without compromising Catholic doctrine on the family and matrimony?
     51.        The question of homosexuality leads to a serious reflection on how to elaborate realistic paths of affective growth and human and evangelical maturity integrating the sexual dimension: it appears therefore as an important educative challenge. The Church furthermore affirms that unions between people of the same sex cannot be considered on the same footing as matrimony between man and woman. Nor is it acceptable that pressure be brought to bear on pastors or that international bodies make financial aid dependent on the introduction of regulations inspired by gender ideology.
     52.        Without denying the moral problems connected to homosexual unions it has to be noted that there are cases in which mutual aid to the point of sacrifice constitutes a precious support in the life of the partners. Furthermore, the Church pays special attention to the children who live with couples of the same sex, emphasizing that the needs and rights of the little ones must always be given priority.

Synod's Mid-Term Report "Lacks a Solid Foundation in the Sacred Scriptures and the Magisterium"

Catholic World Report October 14, 2014:
Yesterday's presentation of the mid-term report (Relatio post disceptationem) of the Extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the Family was met with a remarkable level of interest among both Catholic and non-Catholic media outlets. The Vatican Radio site, in its introduction to the document, stated in part:
In the mid-term report the Synod Fathers speak of how it's the task of the Church to recognize those seeds of the Word that have spread beyond its visible and sacramental boundaries.  They appeal to the "law of graduality," as a reflection of the way God reached out to humanity and led His people forward step by step.
Reaction to the report ranged from positive declarations of "a shift in tone toward gays and divorce" (New York Times) to more pessimistic assessments. Mary Jo Anderson, reporting for Catholic World Report from Rome, remarked, "The Extraordinary Synod on the Family is at its midpoint and certain degrees of separation are clear: There is a divorce over divorce, remarriage, and Communion."
Cardinal Raymond Burke, prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura and a contributor with four other cardinals (and four additional scholars) to the new book, Remaining in the Truth of Christ: Marriage and Communion in the Catholic Church (Ignatius Press), has expressed concern over several aspects of the Synod, including the push for changes in the handling of Communion for divorced and remarried Catholics and the way that information about the Synod is being, in his words, "manipulated."

Cardinal Burke responded late yesterday to questions from Carl E. Olson, editor of Catholic World Report, about his concerns, his view of the mid-term report, and why he thinks a statement from Pope Francis is "long overdue."
CWR: In what way is information about what is happening in the Synod being either manipulated or only partially reported and made public?
Cardinal Burke: The interventions of the individual Synod Fathers are not made available to the public, as has been the case in the past. All of the information regarding the Synod is controlled by the General Secretariat of the Synod which clearly has favored from the beginning the positions expressed in the Relatio post disceptationem of yesterday morning.

While the individual interventions of the Synod Fathers are not published, yesterday’s Relatio, which is merely a discussion document, was published immediately and, I am told, even broadcast live. You do not have to be a rocket scientist to see the approach at work, which is certainly not of the Church.

CWR: How is that reflected in the Synod's midterm document, released yesterday, which is being criticised by many for its appeal to a so-called "law of graduality”?

Cardinal Burke: While the document in question (Relatio post disceptationem) purports to report only the discussion which took place among the Synod Fathers, it, in fact, advances positions which many Synod Fathers do not accept and, I would say, as faithful shepherds of the flock cannot accept. Clearly, the response to the document in the discussion which immediately followed its presentation manifested that a great number of the Synod Fathers found it objectionable.

The document lacks a solid foundation in the Sacred Scriptures and the Magisterium. In a matter on which the Church has a very rich and clear teaching, it gives the impression of inventing a totally new, what one Synod Father called “revolutionary,”teaching on marriage and the family. It invokes repeatedly and in a confused manner principles which are not defined, for example, the law of graduality.

CWR: How important is it, do you think, that Pope Francis make a statement soon in order to address the growing sense—among many in the media and in the pews—that the Church is on the cusp of changing her teaching on various essential points regarding marriage, “remarriage,” reception of Communion, and even the place of “unions” among homosexuals?

Cardinal Burke: In my judgment, such a statement is long overdue. The debate on these questions has been going forward now for almost nine months, especially in the secular media but also through the speeches and interviews of Cardinal Walter Kasper and others who support his position.

The faithful and their good shepherds are looking to the Vicar of Christ for the confirmation of the Catholic faith and practice regarding marriage which is the first cell of the life of the Church.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Masculinity and the Liturgy

From 1 Peter 5 October 8, 2014:
Today, I want to broach a controversial topic, knowing full well that I may cause a ruckus. I want to talk about masculinity and the liturgy.
I will start with a few caveats. First, I do not believe the liturgy should ever be a controversial issue. It shouldn’t be a matter of politics, factions, personal preference, or cultural fads. But sadly, many have made the liturgy their personal plaything, making these conversations all but impossible to avoid.
Second, all of the following opinions are just that—opinions. I am an uneducated layman. I am not a theologian or a liturgical scholar. If you want an in depth treatment of the liturgy, read Pope Benedict’s “Spirit of the Liturgy.” That said, I am a man, and I want to share my personal observations on why I believe the liturgy is now less masculine.
Finally, in the interest of full disclosure, I attend the Latin Mass. I am not a sedevacantist, nor do I believe the Novus Ordo Mass is somehow invalid, making those who attend it from choice or necessity inferior Catholics. I love Pope Francis, I love our priests, and I love the Catholic Church. All right, onto the issues.

My Experience

I want to begin by sharing a few of my experiences as a convert. On the final stages of my road to Rome, I spent a good deal of time with high church Anglo-Catholics, regularly attending liturgies at a seminary and church near my home. These Anglicans took the liturgy seriously, and their services were conducted reverently and beautifully.
In fact, their services looked so Catholic that experiencing them led me to study further exactly why Anglicans weren’t Catholic anymore. The rest of the story is beyond the scope of this post, but the point is, I came into Catholicism with an experience of very reverent and dignified liturgy, kneeling to receive communion, and an atmosphere of sacredness.
Eventually, after months of studying Catholic teaching, I worked up the courage to attend a Catholic Mass. I had no idea what a Mass looked like, but at the very least, I expected it to be more beautiful and reverent than the Anglican liturgy. After all, the Catholics had the body, blood, soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ, while Anglicans did not have the real thing.
One Sunday, my wife and I slipped in the door of a beautiful, Spanish style parish near our home. What followed was eye opening, and frankly, a bit disappointing. The music was tacky at best—a piano and guitar playing shallow ditties. The altar was stripped and bare. Where there was once an incredible high altar (there was a painting of it in the back of the Church), there was now a bizarre piece of glass with swirling colors. The priest’s vestments looked like a pinstriped sheet. Even the language of the Mass was far from sacral—it was almost on a kindergarten level. When it came time for the parishioners to receive communion, a number of laymen came forward to distribute it, and it was received standing and in the hand.
All of this was in stark contrast to the sacredness I had experienced in the conservative Anglican churches I had attended. In this instance, the Anglicans literally out catholiced the Catholics.
This was hard for me to digest. Intellectually, I knew how powerful the Mass was from my studies of Catholic doctrine. Yet, when I encountered it first hand, it was far from a transcendent experience. Rather, it was trite and banal. A few months after we were confirmed, my wife and I were attending a Latin Mass.

Where are the Men?

An Irish Catholic friend has told me that his grandfather, who was a coal miner, would rise well before dawn to attend 5:00 am Mass with his fellow miners. These men took the faith seriously and they loved the Mass. They also weren’t unique. Parishes used to be packed with men who saw the Mass as something masculine, inspiring, and something worth sacrificing time for.
A few decades later, most parish Masses are dominated by women. The lectors are women, the cantors are women, the extraordinary ministers are predominantly women, and the altar servers are often girls. Other than the priest, there are hardly any men involved in the liturgy.
This is not to denigrate women. The most glorious creature God ever made is a woman. I also do not mean to say there are no men involved in parish life, because this is not the case. I am referring specifically to the liturgy.
Why is this? I am not a liturgical scholar, and I can’t propose to provide a precise diagnosis. Many others, including Pope Benedict, have done a fine job of that. Instead, I will share seven reasons I think men no longer love the Mass.

1. Lack of Order

In the Extraordinary Form, there are few surprises in the liturgy. While there are occasional seasonal changes, it follows a set pattern that can be learned easily. The actions of the priest and acolytes are regimented and orderly, and the Mass looks essentially identical no matter where you go. In short, the Extraordinary Form is rigid, disciplined, and almost militaristic in its precision.
In contrast, the Novus Ordo Mass is much more fluid. The priest can choose a number of different Eucharistic prayers, the penitential rite at the beginning of Mass can be chosen at the discretion of the priest, welcoming remarks and announcements are commonplace during the opening and closing prayers. Extraordinary ministers are not required, but they are almost always there, even if there are only 10 people at a daily mass.
The Novus Ordo can be beautiful and transcendent, or it can be incredibly poor. The point is, you just don’t know what to expect. The difference between the two forms of the Mass is really the difference between objectivity and subjectivity.

2. No Longer Exclusively for Men

Radical feminism has ensured that there are almost no roles left that are exclusively for men. Whereas men and women used to have distinct and exclusive roles, the lines have now been blurred.
Sadly, this blurring has crept into the liturgy.
Being an altar boy used to be a high privilege. It was even considered a potential first step on the path to the priesthood. Even if a boy didn’t become a priest, he would have a unique opportunity to see the dignity and masculinity of the priesthood firsthand.
Now, girls can be altar servers, and boys aren’t as interested. It’s like adding girls to the football team—it saps the masculinity right out of it. While it may be hard for women to understand, exclusively male roles are a healthy thing for boys. Quite literally, boys need to be boys, and they need to learn from masculine men.
In addition to altar girls, the distinctive role of the priest—who is, of course a man—has been diluted by the introduction of laypeople into the liturgy. The very fact that a woman can now distribute communion or read the Epistle immediately makes the liturgy less masculine.
You could argue that the priesthood is still exclusively for men, and that’s true. But if you start distributing the priestly duties to laypeople, it doesn’t really matter if women can’t be priests. They can still do the priest’s job.

3. Sentimental Music

The music at most parishes is abysmal. It is more suitable for a Greenpeace rally than the church of God. It is sickly sweet and sentimental fluff that no man in his right mind would want to sing. The lyrics are all about our feelings, and they use vague ambiguities to describe our relationship with God. Of course, a growing number or parishes are working to change that, but the majority are still stuck in the doldrums.
I don’t mention music just to nitpick. Music has everything to do with the atmosphere of the Mass. The Gloria set to a tune that sounds like the theme song of the kids show My Little Pony is going to trivialize the source and summit of the Catholic life.
On the contrary, beautiful, dignified, ancient, and masculine music like Gregorian chant (the music Vatican II actually called for) sets a solemn tone that inspires the lifting of the mind and heart to God.

4. The Priest Faces the People

Frankly, most people don’t think the priest facing the people is a big deal. Even if it is, it doesn’t have much to do with masculinity, right? Wrong. It has a lot to do with it.
When the priest faces the same direction as the people (ad orientem), he is very clearly leading them before the throne of God. He is the representative of the people of God before an awesome and objective reality. He stands in the gap, offering sacrifices for us and for our sins—something we cannot do on our own. He is the captain, leading us toward heaven.
Furthermore, the entire congregation is oriented toward someone: Jesus Christ present in the tabernacle. Again, it is very clear who the real audience of the mass is (hint: it isn’t us). When the priest faces the people (versus populum), however, it turns the whole Mass inward, toward us, and toward our subjective feelings and experience of God. It turns an objective and transcendent reality into a self-referential act.
The priest, rather than courageously and humbly standing before God, becomes a performer for our observation. Our sense of participation is wholly dependent on whether or not we can see what is going on. The Mass is no longer a march toward heaven, it is solely about us and our feeling of community and belonging.
Turning the chief player in the Mass, the representative of Jesus Christ, toward the people is like having a battalion commander march into battle backwards. It makes no sense. It reorients the action toward an object it was never intended for.

5. The Sense of Ancientness is Lost

Men love tradition. While women find their sense of community through shared conversation, men find it through shared action. Men would much rather have a shared battle cry (Hooah!) than have a conversation over a cup of tea. That is why men love fraternal orders and the camaraderie of the military.
The Extraordinary Form is all about ancient actions. I have a missal at home that contains pages from ancient manuscripts of the Mass. In 900 a.d., the ordinary of the Mass was almost identical to what it is now. When you become a priest of the old rite, you are literally entering a centuries old club with its own secret signs and actions. The role of the people, too, is largely unchanged.
There is a sense of participation with the Church through the ages that men need (and I would argue women need as well). As men, we need to know that the we are making the same genuflections that the great soldier-saint, St. Ignatius of Loyola, made. We want to be drawn upward into a reality larger and older than ourselves, like being drawn into a secret society.
While there is debate about whether or not it is an inherent problem with the Novus Ordo, the fact is, it does not have this sense of ancientness about it. Rather, change is the name of the game. Even the words Novus Ordo mean “new” order.
If you study the texts of the Mass, you realize just how much has changed in the prayers. But even if the prayers were unchanged, the atmosphere of most parish Masses is something new and innovative. Again, you never know quite what to expect. There is no sense of ancient or shared action. Some people hold hands during the Our Father, others don’t. Some shake hands and socialize during the sign of peace, others don’t.
Men don’t like this unpredictability. We crave order, and the more ancient the venerable traditions that shape our actions are, the better.

6. No More Latin

Like it or not, Latin is the language of the Church. It isn’t something to be scorned, and it isn’t the domain of a few extreme traditionalists. It is essential to who we are as Catholics.
And guess what, Latin sounds incredibly masculine when you hear it. It is strong and concrete in its cadences. “Credo in unum Deum.” “Omnipotens Deus.” “Adveniat Regnum Tuum.” Abolishing Latin from the Mass was never the object of Vatican II. Read the documents. The Mass that Vatican II called for was a “Latin” Mass.
Besides that, it provides the ancientness I mentioned previously. It keeps the Mass from being constantly revised and retranslated to keep up with the changing fads of the vernacular.
While it may seem strange and foreign at first, I think most men are drawn to the power of the Latin language. In a way, we want Mass to feel foreign, like we are stepping into something special rather than commonplace. There is a healthy feeling of disorientation upon stepping into a sacred place, and Latin enhances that.

7. Sacrifice is Downplayed

The Mass is the sacrifice of Calvary, but sadly, that reality has been hidden from most Masses. Some parishes don’t even have a crucifix near the altar. Instead, the concept of a “community meal” has taken precedence.
This weakens the Mass, the central reality of which is always the sacrifice of Christ, and seeing His once-for-all sacrifice re-presented inspires us to make sacrifices of our own. Men love the concept of sacrifice. We desperately want to be called to it. We don’t want a community meal. We can get that at the local pub.
Removing, or at least downplaying, the sacrificial element has driven men away from the Mass.

Why it Matters

You may be reading this and thinking that I am just ranting away and criticizing everything about the Ordinary Form of the Mass and those who attend it. This simply isn’t true. I love the Mass, and that is why I want it to be the best it can be, an action worthy of its Divine audience.
I took the time to write this post because I believe that transcendent liturgy isn’t an option. It is everything, and as the health of the liturgy goes, so goes the health of the Church.
The Mass is literally the incarnation of the faith. Lex orandi, lex credendi. It is where the faith meets reality in our lives, and where we encounter firsthand the creed. And because of this, there is no more urgent need in the Church than a dramatic return to sacredness in the liturgy. The reason that 50% of Catholics don’t believe in the Real Presence is because the Mass they attend doesn’t tell them about the Real Presence—not just through words, but through reverent and sacred actions.
Specifically relating to men, we can try programs, clubs, books, prayer, etc., but if the liturgy is weak and trite, we won’t love this beautiful reality. We will muddle through it and be half-heartedly engaged at best. Of course, men should go to Mass anyway, but the point is, it won’t inspire us to holiness or great feats of sacrifice.
If we return to sacred and reverent liturgy, I guarantee we will see a new dynamism in the Church: increased conversions, more vocations, and men again taking the lead in matters of faith.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

The Catholic Theology of Guardian Angels

The following was written by John Paul Wohlscheid.  This story was written for the bulletin of St. Mary's Church, Lowell, Michigan.
Everyone is familiar with the imagery of a kindly angel watching over a child. While the most people recognize the picture of the guardian angel, few actually know what the Catholic Church says about guardian angels. My goal is to acquaint you with the theology behind guardian angels, based on the writings of St. Thomas Aquinas, Abbot Anscar Vonier, and others.
It is commonly thought that angels were created for us. This idea is correct, but it would be better to say that “man was created for the angels”. This means that the guidance and protection that the guardian angels give us during our lives has one ultimate goal: to ensure that one day we will be worthy of being their companions in Heaven.  
In order to accomplish this goal each human has a guardian angel assigned to him by God. According to Tradition, guardian angels are not assigned to more than one person. Since the job of a guardian angel ends once the soul under his care has passed into eternal life, this one-angel-to-one-person ratio only applies to those of us who are on earth.  According to St. Thomas, even the Anti-Christ, the Man of Sin, will have a guardian angel.
However, just because God assigns a guardian angel to us does not necessarily mean that the angel does not perform other tasks. Distance does not exist for angels because they are spirits. Our earthly bodies anchor us to this place because of their physical nature, but angels do not have this problem. When a guardian angel is acting on the human soul, he is present. When he has stopped acting, he has departed. St. Thomas Aquinas points out that the angel has complete knowledge of the soul in his charge, even when he is not present.
In order to perform their duty to the best of their ability, guardian angels are granted entire and intimate knowledge of the soul under his care. No other angel has access to this knowledge. Not even demons, who try to lead souls to Hell, have knowledge as intimate as our guardian angels.
With this intimate knowledge, guardians angels have the ability to guide us. They can lead us to new trains of thought and new ideas when we are deep in thought. Angels introduce new thoughts to us so subtly, that they appear to be our own. They can help us make prudent decisions. St. Thomas remarks that if all virtue was given to a soul by God, the virtue of prudence would make external assistance necessary. Angels can also help correct our lower appetites, such as impure desires, when they go against the Divine good. The will, which should rule over these appetites, easily falls prey to them. However, angels are given the ability to satisfy and overcome these lower appetites.
While guardian angels can influence and guide us towards Heaven, the amount of help we receive depends on us. St. Thomas states that the power of a guardian angel to work on the interior life of man is dependent on how that man is spiritually disposed. An angel cannot change a person’s will or affect his intellect. These are things only God can do because He created both the will and the intellect. Guardian angels are limited in their influence by the moral state of the man in their care.
Like everything that God gives us, guardian angels are only beneficial if we would make use of them. Vonier states “Like all Divine gifts, it may be hidden forever in a napkin, and it may be made to produce a hundredfold.” A muscle that is neglected will atrophy, but exercise will strengthen it and make it strong. So too can calling upon the untapped guidance and wisdom of our guardian angels leads us to eternal life with them.