Do They Even Realize What They’ve Done?

Do They Even Realize What They’ve Done?

In the wake of our recent election has it dawned on the Catholics who voted for Barak Obama what they have done, and, what they may have unleashed?

President-elect Obama promised the Planned Parenthood Organization that he would, as president, sign into law the Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA). This was public knowledge and not hidden from any prospective voters. Catholics had to have heard it in the news and online or in emails from those fighting against it.

Catholic voters for Obama seemed to have been voting their pocketbooks and not what was right according to the teachings of the Church. I guess, when it comes to finances, the killing of innocent American citizens doesn’t matter as much as those involved in war or street crime or some other form of violence.

In case there are some who do not know what is going to happen should Obama sign this into law, let me list what it entails.
FOCA will nullify more than 550 federal and state laws such as:

1. The Partial Birth Abortion Act of 2003.
2. The Hyde Amendment restricting taxpayer funding for abortions.
3. Restrictions on abortions at military hospitals.
4. Restrictions on insurance coverage for abortions for government emplyees.
5. Informed consent laws.
6. Parental consent laws.
7. Health and safety regulations for abortion clinics.
8. Requirements that only licensed physicians commit abortions.
9. Bans on abortions after viability:

don’t be fooled by the exception first laid down in the companion case to Roe, Doe v Bolton. Doe said that third trimester abortions could not be performed except to protect the “health” of the mother. It then went on to use the World Health Organization’s definition of “health” to include …all factors , including emotional, psychological, economic, and estological circumstances…. This is, and was, abortion on demand up to the day of birth.

10. Limits on public funding for “elective” abortions (as in, “Gosh, I have a vacation planned”, or “Stretch marks will cause me stress”).
11. Legal protection for Catholics and other religiously affiliated hospitals, who while providing health care to millions of the poor and uninsured, refuse to allow abortions within their facilities, nor refer for abortions.

FOCA would also increase abortions as much as 125,000 per year on top of those already committed as a Consequence of Roe v. Wade… “49,551,703” total abortions since 1973 in the United States alone
There’s even more fallout. It will include complete outlawing of anti-abortion protests or the provision of alternatives to abortion. States rights will be a thing of the past. Don’t think your State will be exempt. FOCA will take precedent over all state laws. Other issues such as opposition to homosexuality, will be brought along under the same usurpation of states rights.

Our Christian homeschoolers and churches will also be in the crosshairs because teaching or preaching against abortion will be considered a “HATE CRIME”. Can you believe that? Teaching what is right will become a crime? What could be a greater hate crime than the murder of innocent children? Our rights as Roman Catholics and American citizens are going to flushed down the toilet. It sickens me to the core!

Many Catholics voted for Obama because they wanted our military personnel to come home from Iraq, as we all do. Consider the number of casualties suffered by our armed soldiers to the number of abortions. Our sons and daughters will be home from Iraq when the time is right. Those aborted babies will never come home. Those who join the military are aware of the risks. Unborn children, conceived under any circumstance, are innocent and unaware that they are an inconvenience to anyone. They are God’s children, His creation, and deserve to live as much as you or I.

FOCA is the liberal left’s all out declaration of war against God and His Catholic Church! Get on your knees, Catholics, and pray this heinous Act does not get signed into law. The Church Militant must rise and fight for what is truly right! If you voted for Obama, go to confession and truly repent and then pray like you’ve never prayed before!

And for the love of God, stop trying to come off like you’re so much smarter than Catholics who knew better than to vote for the democrats new messiah!

Helping Hand
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Jerome Lejeune, apostle of life

Jerome Lejeune, apostle of life

The following article is the most recent from the Benedictine Monks of Sainte Joseph de Clairval in France. In light of the constant battle for the right to life, I felt this particular piece would be very helpful as a weapon against those who seek to destroy precious little lives even before they can take their first breath, even if they are perfectly formed or with some defect.
from the September 12, 2007 Newsletter

Jerome Lejeune was born in Etampes in 1926, into a family that would be ruined by the war of 1939-1945. At the age of 13, he discovered two authors, Pascal and Balzac, who would mark him for life. Captivated by Dr. Bénassis, the hero of Balzac’s novel The Country Doctor, he too wanted to become a country doctor, dedicated to the care of the lowly and the poor. After the war, he threw himself passionately into the study of medicine. Soon a second motivation spurred his work; he met a young Danish woman, Birthe, and fell passionately in love with her. On June 15, 1951, he successfully defended his doctorate thesis. That same day, his future was decided in a direction completely different from what he had planned—one of his teachers, Professor Raymond Turpin, suggested they collaborate on a major work on “mongolism,” a condition that affects one out of every six hundred fifty children. Jerome accepted, and his path was set. On May 1, 1952, in Odense, Denmark, he married Birthe Bringsted, now Catholic, with whom he would have five children. Family life was his priority, especially during vacations. During his stays abroad, he wrote to his wife daily.

In 1954, be became a committee member of the French Genetics Society, and a researcher at the National Center for Scientific Research. Since the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the effect of nuclear radiation on human reproduction was the topic of the day. Turpin directed his team toward this field, and, in 1957, Jerome was named an “expert on the effects of atomic radiation on human genetics” by the United Nations. From then on, he participated in international conferences, where he was noted for his frank language in the face of certain delegations’ desire to control the proceedings.

Three children were already the joy of his home when his father’s health began to fail. Jerome was faced with the fact that it was lung cancer. The agony of his beloved father made him realize how “unbearable it is to see loved ones suffer.” From then on, his view deepened— in each patient’s face he recognized Christ Himself.

Making use of new photographic techniques, Jerome discovered in tissue from a young “Mongoloid,” the presence of an extra chromosome on the 21st pair (human beings have 23 pairs or 46 chromosomes). This was the cause of “mongolism,” a condition that would from then on be called “Trisomy 21″ or “Down’s Syndrome.” The Académie de Médcine was informed of the discovery in March 1959. In November 1962, Jerome was awarded the Kennedy Prize. In October 1965, he was given the first chair of fundamental genetics at the University of Paris. Everything looked hopeful: his discovery and the publicity it received in the scientific world, he thought, would encourage research, and appropriate treatments would be developed to cure the afflicted and give hope to their parents. The families of the sick, drawn by Jerome’s international fame and his warmth, came to him in ever greater numbers. He treated thousands of young patients, who came to him from all over the world, or with whom he corresponded. He helped the parents to understand and accept this trial with a Christian perspective—these Down’s Syndrome children, created in God’s image, were promised an eternal future in which none of their disabilities remained. He assured them that their children, despite a serious mental handicap would overflow with love and affection.

Chromosomal racism

But Jerome noticed, especially in the American medical establishment, a tendency to recommend abortion to prevent affected babies from being born. He saw with horror the risks his discovery had brought for those with Down’s Syndrome. To fight this form of racism, he saw recourse to experimental reality as a critical weapon. It demonstrated, in effect, to impartial minds, that one could not view as strangers to the human race those who, biologically, belong to the same species: the embryo is a person.

August 1967: Professor Lejeune was invited to the seventh world assembly of the Israeli Medical Association, in Tel Aviv. The group alternated between work and excursions; the first being to the Sea of Galilee. “I entered a small chapel done in poor taste,” Jerome would relate. “I prostrated myself and kissed the imaginary footsteps of the One Who was there.” At the moment, he experienced a strange feeling: “A son finding a very dearly beloved Father, a Father finally known, a revered Master, a very holy Heart discovered, I felt all this and much more…” Everything melted on this blaze of love: the world, honor, success, fear of the opinions of others. There was nothing but the Lord, and the need to respond to His loving kindness.

When Jerome rejoined the others, a force took hold of him. What was its purpose? An incident would put him on the path. On arriving at Cana, the guide asked if anyone knew the reason for the international fame of the city. Jerome took the microphone and naively recounted the story from the Gospels of the wedding and the miracle of the water turning into wine. Silence. Then the guide: “That’s not it at all! Cana is important because the Helena Rubinstein cosmetics laboratories are here.” Everyone burst out laughing. Jerome kept silent: he felt powerless to avenge the insult Christ had just received right before his eyes. And then to Nazareth. Leaving the bus, everyone headed toward the Basilica of the Annunciation. But some spoke in loud voices, others indulged in obscene jokes about the Angel’s visit and Mary’s virginity. Jerome felt he was being provoked. What should he do? He entered and, slowly, made the sign of the cross and kneeled out of reverence for the mystery of the Incarnation that had taken place here. Curiously, his humble and courageous attitude silenced the mockers. After this public profession of faith, no one provoked Professor Lejeune again, but he was excluded from the group.

“I’ve lost my ‘Nobel’ “

In August 1969, the American Society of Human Genetics granted Jerome the William Allen Memorial Award, the highest distinction that can be granted to a geneticist. On his arrival in San Francisco, where he was to receive the award, Jerome clearly saw that the abortion of Down’s Syndrome children was expected to be authorized. The pretext was that it was cruel and inhumane to allow these poor creatures to come into the world, doomed to an inferior life, and posing an unbearable burden on their families. Jerome trembled. “By my discovery,” he said to himself, “I’ve made this shameful calculation possible!” After receiving the prize, he was to give a talk to his colleagues. Would he have the courage to speak the truth? A famous phrase from Saint Augustine came to him: “two cities have been formed by two loves: the earthly by the love of self, even to the contempt of God; the heavenly by the love of God, even to the contempt of self.” What did his stature in the scientific world matter: As you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to Me (Matthew 25:40). He would speak! The physical nature of man, he explained, is completely contained in the chromosomal message, from the first moment of conception. This message makes the new being a person, not a monkey, not a bear; a man whose complete physical potentiality is already contained in the information given to his first cells. Nothing more will be added to these potentialities, which will serve his intellectual and spiritual life—everything is there. He concluded plainly: the temptation to kill by abortion these small people afflicted with disease is contrary to moral law; and genetics confirm this conclusion. This moral law is not arbitrary. Not a single clap; but hostile or annoyed silence from these men, the elite of his profession. Jerome had collided head-on with them. He wrote his wife: “Today, I lost my Nobel Prize in medicine”; but he was at peace. He confided in his private diary: “Chromosomal racism is brandished like a flag of freedom. …That this negation of medicine, of all the biological brotherhood that links mankind, is the sole practical application of the knowledge of Trisomy 21 more than breaks my heart. …Protecting the abandoned—what a reactionary, retrograde, fundamentalist, inhuman idea!”

Media battle

With the medical world coming up short could the political world be convinced? In June 1970, a member of the French Parliament, Peyrer, drafted a bill that would allow the prenatal detection and abortion of children with Down’s Syndrome. When parliament went back into session, the media set the debate in motion. Jerome was invited to be the guest on a biweekly television current events show with a large viewership. His appearance generated a huge volume of mail, including deeply moving letters from people who had been severely handicapped from birth, testifying that their life had not been the nightmare that others claimed, as well as letters from parents of children with Down’s Syndrome, who spoke of their son’s or daughter’s panic at realizing that some thought that people like them should be killed. In reality, the campaign to allow the killing of children with Down’s Syndrome was a way of introducing the right to abortion. People worked to discredit Lejeune. After trying to contradict him in numerous conferences, on March 5, 1971, at a large public meeting in Paris, the opponents, armed with iron bars, began attacking women, elderly people, and even the severely handicapped. The police were needed to put the attackers to flight. As for Jerome, he received some tomatoes in his face.

At the time all Europe was discussing the issue of abortion. Great Britain followed the lead of the United States, which had legalized screening for Down’s Syndrome and its “treatment” by abortion. The media battle in France extended to the abortion of all unwanted children: “A baby does not legally become a person until it is born”, “a woman has the right to do what she wants with her body”… Specious arguments, to which many Catholics were susceptible, sometimes even to the point pf spreading them.

During a trip to Virginia in October 1972, Jerome was shown a protocol to be used during physiological or biochemical experiments on five-month-old fetuses “removed” by Caesarean section for this purpose. He wrote to his wife: “The texts says to treat them like any tissue or organ sample, but specifies that one must kill them after a short period of time… I simply said that no text could regulate crime.” How had his very qualified colleagues come to this? They had been molded, under the pretext of scientific rigor, to a point of view in which God had no place. “Good” is not that which conforms to the law of God, but that which is efficient; “bad” is that which interferes with material progress. For them, the fetus is no longer a person; a creature of God destined to see Him and love Him for all eternity. It can then become the target of any attack, as long as a majority agrees.

The weakest link

1973: The United States had just recognized the “Constitutional” right to abortion in general. During a talk on the subject at Royaumont Abbey in Ile-de-France on March 18, a woman in authority made this statement: “We want to destroy Judeo-Christian civilization. To do so, we must destroy the family … by attacking its weakest link, the unborn child. We are for abortion!” On June 7, a bill decriminalizing abortion was filed in the French National Assembly. Jerome noted that false statistics and extreme cases, which he too was very sensitive to, were being used to get abortion legalized. Alleged surveys claimed that half of the medical profession was in favor; but, at the same time, thanks to the initiative of Madame Lejeune, the signatures of more than 18,000 French doctors (a majority of the medical profession) were collected and published, stating their opposition to abortion, thus showing the fraudulence of the media campaign. Soon the doctors were joined by nurses, then judges, law professors, lawyers, and more than 11,000 mayors and local elected officials. The bill was derailed. In this battle, in which the stakes were fidelity to the Ten Commandments and the saving of human lives, much of the clergy were silent. Madame Lejeune’s parish priest wrote to her: “The Church cannot appear to be a pressure group. I think this is why the bishops’ conference is silent right now.” Jerome was grieved by this. One year later, on December 15, 1874, the “Veil Law” allowing abortion, was passed by the National Assembly, for a period of five years.

On May 13, 1981, Jerome and his wife were in Rome. The Holy Father wished to receive them in a private audience. After the discussion, the Pope spontaneously invited them to stay for lunch. The same evening, in their way back to Paris, they learned about the attack on John Paul II, a few hours after they had left him. Jerome’s health was shaken by this news. That autumn, concerned by the international situation, the Pope decided to send each leader of a nation possessing nuclear weapons a delegation of members of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, carrying a report on the dangers of nuclear war. For the USSR, he appointed Lejeune and two others. The meeting took place on December 15, 1981. “We scientists,” Jerome said plainly, “know that for the first time, the survival of humanity depends on all nations’ acceptance of moral laws that transcend all systems and all speculation.” There was no whisper of this diplomatic mission in the press. The administrative harassment that, starting with the passage of the Veil Law, had begun to strangle Jerome, particularly in the form of repeated tax inspections, became more severe. His research grants were withdrawn; he was forced to close his laboratory. American and English laboratories, indignant at this conduct, granted him no-cost private loans. This impartial solidarity allowed him to rebuild a team of researchers moved by the same motivations.

In spite of the derision

In August 1988, Professor Lejeune was urged to testify in Maryville, Tennessee, in a spectacular trial, in which the survival of thousands of frozen embryos hung in the balance. In spite of exhaustion, Jerome wanted to lend support to those who, wherever in the world, suffered persecution for their respect for life. Above all, he wanted to help his Catholic colleagues follow the Church’s teaching, despite the world’s derision. In August 1989, the King of Belgium, Baudouin I, in a difficult situation with respect to his parliament, which was about to legalize abortion asked for his counsel. At the end of the conversation, the king suggested to him: “Professor, would it bother you if we prayed together for a moment?” We know the exemplary stance the king later took in this affair, to the point of renouncing his throne rather than offend God.
In 1991, Jerome embarked on “reflections on professional ethics in medicine,” in seven points:

  1. Christians be not afraid! It is you who possess the truth; not that you invented it, but you are the vehicle for it. To all doctors you must repeat: you must conquer the illness, not attack the patient.
  2. Man is made in the image of God. For this reason alone he must be respected.
  3. “Abortion and infanticide are unspeakable crimes” (Vatican II, Gaudium et Spes, 51).
  4. Objective morality exists; it is clear, and it is universal, because it is Catholic.
  5. The child is n ot disposable and marriage is indissoluble.
  6. You shall honor your father and mother: Uniparental reproduction by means of cloning or homosexuality is not possible.
  7. The human genome, the genetic capital of our race, is not disposable.

Note this courageous phrase: “In so-called pluralistic societies, they shove it down our throats: ‘You Christians don’t have the right to impose your morality on others!’ Well! I tell you, not only do you have the right to try to incorporate your morality in the law, but it’s your democratic duty!

Dying in action

On August 5, 1993, The Holy Father approved the creation of the Pontifical Academy for Medicine, dedicated to protecting life. Professor Lejeune would be its president. There was in fact between him and the Pope a meeting of the minds. In their eyes, abortion was the primary threat to peace. If doctors begin to kill, why would governments hesitate to do so? Jerome was stunned by this nomination. He gave himself several days to think about it, because he felt a great fatigue. Around All Saints’ Day, he was examined by his friend Professor Lucien Israel who, with a drawn face, showed him the x-rays of his lungs: they indicated an already advanced cancer. Jerome accepted the situation with courage and submission to the Divine Will. He has to break the news to Birthe and his children: “You shouldn’t worry until Easter—I will live at least till then”, suddenly he added, “And at Easter, only wonderful things can happen!” The chemotherapy sessions started at the beginning of December—they were very taxing, as he expected them to be. Nevertheless, he continued to receive phone calls, to comfort the families of patients. Having informed the Holy Father of his state of health and turning down the presidency of the Pontifical Academy for Life—as he had the presidency of France’s Academy of Moral and Political Sciences, which had just been offered to him—he was told that the Holy Father refused to appoint another president. Jerome smiled, “I will die in action.” To the end, he endeavored to write the Academy’s bylaws. He felt his weakness, but his spirit of faith showed him the fruitfulness of the setbacks themselves. He never complained; his suffering, united with love to Christ’s passion, could put the world back on its true axis!

Wednesday of Holy Week, March 30, 1994, as he lay in a delirium, in the grips of a fever of over 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit), he was placed in hospice care. The next day, at dawn, he regained consciousness. On Good Friday, he confided to a priest who was giving him last rites: “I have never betrayed my faith.” This is all that counts before God… He told his children who were asking him about what he wished to bequeath to his little patients: “I don’t have much, you know… So, I have given them my life. And my life is all that I had.” Then, moved to tears, he murmured, “O my God! I was supposed to have cured them, and I am leaving without having found… What will happen to them?” Then, radiant with joy he spoke to his loved ones: “My children, if I can leave you a message, this is the most important of all: we are in the hands of God. I have experienced this a number of times.” The next day, Holy Saturday, passed quietly: Jerome was calm. However, at the end of the afternoon, his respiratory problems returned, worse than before. Suddenly authoritative, he ordered his wife and other loved ones to go home. He did not want them present at his agony. Sunday morning around seven o’clock, he said with difficulty to a colleague he barely knew, who had been holding his hand for much of the night: “You see…I’ve done well…” and he breathed his last. Outside, the first ringing of the church bells could he heard—it was the day of the Resurrection, the day of the Life that does not end. For “Christ is eternal life” (1 John 5:20)!

The next day, Pope John Paul II wrote these words about Jerome Lejeune: “We find ourselves today faced with the death of a great Christian of the twentieth century, a man for whom the defense of life had become an apostolate. It is clear that, in the situation of the world today, this form of apostolate among the laity is particularly necessary….

Dom Antoine Marie, osb

Helping Hand

This article is made possible with the permission of the Benedictine Monks of Sainte Joseph de Clairval in France

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Father Simeon Lourdel, the apostle of Uganda

Father Simeon Lourdel, the apostle of Uganda

 

from the January 2007 Newsletter, Benedictine Monks of Clairval

Dear friends,

Magis mori quam peccare – to die rather than to sin.” This Christian maxim which inspired the martyrs of Uganda – canonized by the Church in 1964 – to witness with their own blood, has been inserted in the prayer for their feast. These Christians had been prepared for the supreme testimony to their faith by Father Lourdel, the apostle of Uganda.

Simeon Lourdel was born in Dury, in Pas-de-Calais, France, on December 20, 1853. His father was a farmer; his mother, gentle yet energetic, was graced with great faith. The couple would have five sons. Vigorous and exuberant, Simeon was not enthusiastic about his studies at the minor seminary. Resistant to discipline, he chose the company of the most rebellious students and preferred working in the fields to summer homework. He fervently read stories about faraway missions, and was attracted to the example of missionaries, but the administrators of the minor seminary doubted his vocation. When Simeon arrived two months later for the start of the 1870-1871 school year, having been helping his father with the harvest, he was unceremoniously sent home. Returning home in tears, the child exclaimed, “I want to be a priest! … They told me I didn’t have a vocation, well-I’ll prove them wrong.” He began to apply himself seriously to his studies and, in October 1872, entered the major seminary in Arras. During his time as a student of philosophy, he began to think of joining the new Society of African Missionaries, just founded by Archbishop Lavigerie of Algiers. At the start of February 1874, he was admitted to its novitiate, in Maison-Carrée, near Algiers.

It was no picnic

On February 2, 1875, driven by a desire for martyrdom, Simeon became a member of the African Missionaries (the “White Fathers”), and was ordained to the priesthood on April 2, 1877. In 1878, Archbishop Lavigerie organized a caravan to take ten missionaries, including Father Lourdel, to central Africa. They left at the end of April. Some explorers, such as Livingston or Stanley, had proven that the hardships of the journey could be survived. This was no picnic-torrential rains or blazing sun, lack of drinkable water, fevers and other diseases, attacks on the caravan, desertions among the porters, forced marches through scorching deserts or swampy marshes, encounters with caravans of chained slaves including women and many children. …At the end of December 1878, the missionaries arrived at the southern tip of the immense Lake Victoria, which they prepared to cross to reach Uganda.

Green hills, cool valleys, and luxuriant vegetation make Uganda a very beautiful country. Its inhabitants, the Baganda, live in huts made of branches. Their crafts are varied-ironwork, pottery, textiles, baskets, mats, and musical instruments. The country was governed by a king with absolute power. He had a great number of pages recruited from among his officers’ children. Polygamy, slavery, and vices were common. Nevertheless, the people were notable for their dignified and polite manner. Respectful of authority and brave, the Baganda were faithful subjects and fearless warriors. The god of the Baganda, Katonda, was worshipped amid other gods whom the sorcerers claimed to represent. The Baganda believed that man did not die entirely at death, but that a spirit was freed from his body. When Islam was introduced into the country in 1852 by merchant caravans, it had undermined the pagan religion in the minds of the elite. In 1875, the English explorer Stanley arrived followed by two years later by Anglican missionaries who were as brave as they were selfless. One of them, Mr. Mackay, settled in Roubaga, the capital, in 1879. The traditional religion maintained an important role in society, but the essential factor for social cohesion was the king, the Kabaka. The best among the king’s subjects were not sure that human sacrifices, arbitrary executions, and polygamy were just; from these points of view, they were open to Christianity.

When the White Fathers arrived, the king of the Baganda was a man named Mutesa. Elegant, proud, and powerful, he was authoritarian and hot-tempered. Intelligent and cunning, he quickly understood that the arriving Europeans (English, Belgians, French, and Germans) would begin to compete among themselves-he would be able to play off their rivalries and negotiate with the highest bidder. In February 1879, the arrival of Father Lourdel and the Brother who accompanied him as advanced scouts caused great commotion in Mutesa’s court. However, the king ended up giving them a warm welcome. He gave them lodging close to the capital and put them under close surveillance. Hearing the Brother who accompanied Father Lourdel call him “Mon Pere,” (“My Father”), the Baganda took this for his name, and from then on called him Mapéra. The White Fathers concerned themselves with material development as well as evangelization. Many Baganda came to them for various reasons, but at first, none offered a serious hope for conversion. On the other hand, the prime minister observed with great displeasure the influence exercised by the Fathers, who applied themselves to buying back as many children as possible from the Arab slave traders, receiving them in an orphanage and teaching them the true faith.

 

The demands of the Gospel

Father Lourdel was to leave a profound mark on Uganda. He spoke with the people in a pleasant manner and, armed with his doctor’s bag, gave first aid with a success that ensured him a solid reputation. People were astonished by his courteous manners-one did not expect such cordiality from a man considered superior. One day, King Mutesa announced his desire to become Catholic. Father Lourdel replied that first he would have to renounce polygamy, which the king did not want to do. Archbishop Lavigerie would write, I believe that it would have been necessary to make a distinction with him, and tell him that he could not become Catholic and receive baptism without first renouncing polygamy, but that he could believe in Our Lord, adore Him, pray to Him, and implore His help in mastering his passions, until they were overcome.” It is true, however, that the prelate was never present to observe the king’s unforgettable about-faces.

In 1881, Arab slave traders, whose trade was hampered by the missionaries’ presence, persuaded Mutesa to declare Islam the national religion, but Father Lourdel managed to foil this plan. Many Baganda had opted for Catholicism after having tried Islam or Protestantism, and often the later after the former. They had observed the Fathers at length and carefully listened to their doctrine, and then had decided freely. They made excellent catechists, and Christianity would have spread much more quickly if the leaders had not prevented their servants from learning the religion, and if the missionaries had been able to move more freely within the country. Other Baganda came to the Fathers with sometimes mixed motives, but, with the help of grace, their convictions deepened. Following Archbishop Lavigerie’s directives, the missionaries only baptized those who had persevered for at least four years in the catechumenate.

The slave traders and the rulers, furious at Mapéra’s growing influence, vowed a mortal hatred to the Fathers. For his part, Father Lourdel saw polygamy, practiced by the rich and depriving poor villagers of wives, as a cause of the rampant homosexuality. The king himself gave himself over to homosexuality and pedophilia. Mapéra taught his catechumens that to give in to the king’s desires in this way was condemned by God. Taking a firm position against the king’s lusts exposed them to his anger and to death, but these young Christians did not hesitate to refuse to give themselves to the king. They soon formed a group of serious youth, truly committed to putting their daily conduct in line with the teaching they had received, while at the same time serving the king devotedly.

“Mapéra was your friend…”

But at the end of 1882, the king’s hesitation in the matter of religion and his fear of the European powers, for whom the White Fathers were considered emissaries, gave rise to a real danger for the Fathers. They decided to leave the mission for a while; on November 20, they set sail for the south of Lake Victoria, leaving behind twenty baptized and more than four hundred forty catechumens. In their absence, the Christians organized themselves under the leadership of the catechists, who were mostly between the ages of 20 and 30. On October 10, 1884, Mutesa died, surrounded by Muslims, the Koran on his chest. His son Mwanga was chosen to succeed him. Friendly, curious, and likable, he had often visited the Fathers and had demonstrated a great deal of trust in and affection for Father Lourdel. Before leaving, the priest had told him, “As soon as you are king, we will see each other again.” Joseph Mukasa, who had become Mwanga’s nurse after having been devoted to Mutesa, told the king one day, “My lord the king, Mapéra was your friend.”—“That’s true,” replied the king.—Don’t you want him to come back? The medicines he gave your father were good.”—“That too is true—write him to come back.”

In mid-July 1885, the Fathers returned. They saw that the Church had grown-the numbers of Christians had more than doubled. Father Lourdel wrote, “Mwanga is well disposed toward us; he will leave us, I believe, complete freedom to teach. But for himself, he will have trouble practicing. …He has renounced all the local superstitions. He has the misfortune to smoke hemp, which will leave him dill-witted in a few years. Many of our neophytes have a great influence over him and do him much good with their advice.” However, Mwanga was prone to sudden about-faces. Like his father, he showed a tendency toward homosexuality. In the declaration, Persona humana the Church teaches, “According to the objective moral order, homosexual relations are acts which lack an essential and indispensable finality. In Sacred Scripture they are condemned as a serious depravity and even presented as the sad consequence of rejecting God (Romans 1:24-27; 1Cor. 6:10; Tim 1:10). This judgment of Scripture does not of course permit us to conclude that all those who suffer from this anomaly are personally responsible for it, but it does attest to the fact that homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered and can in no case be approved of” (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, December 29, 1975, no. 8). A fervent Christian, Joseph Mukasa, whose ambition was to live according to Christ’s teachings, tried to turn the king away from lust, drugs, and idolatry. He did not hesitate to remove from the palace the young pages under his care when the king solicited them for homosexual acts. “When the king solicits you for something bad, refuse him!” he told them. This attitude irritated Mwanga, but Joseph exhorted him: “My Lord the king, I beg you, don’t do this anymore! God hates impurity…” Saint Paul, in fact, condemned lust as a vice particularly unworthy of a Christian, and which excludes one from the kingdom of Heaven: Do not be deceived; neither the immoral nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals … will inherit the kingdom of God (1Cor. 6:9-10).

Ending the plague of AIDS

The virtue of chastity is necessary for behavior that is righteous before God; it is also the best method of fighting the AIDS epidemic. “Do not be deceived by the empty words of those who ridicule chastity or your capacity for self-control,” said Pope John Paul II to the youth of Uganda, in Kampala, on February 6, 1993. “The strength of your future married love depends on the strength of your present commitment to learning true love, a chastity which includes refraining from all sexual relations outside of marriage. The sexual restraint of chastity is the only safe and virtuous way to put an end to the tragic plague of AIDS which has claimed so many young victims.” This teaching of the Pope is corroborated by a study conducted in Uganda on AIDS prevention. “At the end of the 1980’s, infection with the AIDS virus (HIV) was a terrible problem in Uganda. But in 2003 the prevalence of infection with HIV was estimated at 6% of the world population. This number is still too high but nothing compared to that of 1990 — 30%, a sad world record – or of the rates in other African countries today… How was this success achieved, and can it be replicated elsewhere? … In short, the years 1989-1995 saw a dramatic change of sexual habits in Uganda. … Exposing AIDS for what it is, a fatal disease in 99% of cases, transmitted through sexual intercourse, was enough to bring about a change in the population’s behavior. It must be added that the prevention strategy chosen relied on abstinence and fidelity rather than the promotion of free screening tests and condom use. … The president of Uganda, Yowen Museveni, was interviewed at the conference in Bangkok (International AIDS Conference, July 2004) to talk about his country’s success in fighting HIV. He did not hesitate to declare that ‘AIDS is primarily a moral, social, and economic problem. I consider condoms to be an improvisation, not a solution. … Human relationships must be based on love and trust,’ adding that abstinence was more effective than condoms for fighting HIV. For her part, his wife deplored that ‘distributing condoms to young people amounts to giving them permission to do whatever they want; and this leads to certain death’ “(Albert Barrios, “Le Sida, l’Ethique, et l’Experience,” in the magazine Liberté politique, no. 27, November 2004).

“Praise” of Christians

On November 15, 1885, Mwanga’s anger at Joseph Mukasa culminated in his condemnation to death. Joseph was beheaded. Seeing that a violent persecution was coming, the catechumens hurried to the Mission to receive Baptism. Charles Lwanga, who was in charge of the large hut where the king held his formal receptions, was a strong athlete, gentle, always ready to serve, and loved by all. His integrity and accuracy had earned him the king’s esteem and trust. His influence over the pages was comparable to Joseph Mukasa’s. But in the first months of 1886, a series of unfortunate events (fires, etc,) had exasperated Mwanga. The slave traders disparaged the Christians; “They do not give themselves over to the pleasures of the flesh. They do not worship gods. They do not pillage. If you order them to kill someone, they will not do it, yet do not fear being killed themselves. When all your subjects have adopted this way of life, what kind of king will you be?” Mwanga flew into a rage: “I will have them all massacred!” On the morning of May 26, the king called together the executioners and the most powerful leaders. Charles Lwanga immediately gathered together the pages who were still only catechumens and gave them Baptism. The, with all the Christians, they appeared before the king, who called on them to renounce their faith. When they refused, they were condemned to be burned alive. A number of Christians were martyred during the march to the stake in Namugongo.

The main execution took place on June 3, the feast of the Ascension. The Christians were filled with joy; “One would think they were going to their wedding!” exclaimed the stupefied executioners. Each Christian was wrapped in reed and put on the stake, to which the executioners set fire. Spontaneously, the martyrs recited the Our Father. The executioners listened, taken aback. When the martyrs came to the words Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us, the executioners were seized with terror, and screamed with all their might. “It is not we who are killing you! It is our gods who are killing you because you call them demons!” A special fate was reserved for Charles Lwanga. After having witnessed the other Christian’s martyrdom, he was led to a stake set up for him. While the fire devoured his body, the executioner shouted to him, “Go ahead, have God come and pull you from the fire!” He replied, “What you call fire is nothing but cold water. As for you, take care that the God you are insulting does not plunge you one day in the true fire that does not go out.” At the moment of his death, he cried out in a loud voice, “O my God!” On June 22, 1934, Pope Pius XI declared Charles Lwanga “patron of African youth.” About a hundred Christians received the grace of martyrdom between 1885 and 1887. In 1964, Pope Paul VI canonized twenty-two Catholics for whom there is accurate documentation.

Why this fury?

Father Lourdel thought four main reasons enraged the king against Christians: (1) the fear that the missionaries, after having taught the people, would take over the country; (2) the observation that his slaves knew more about it than he did; (3) his pages’ refusal, after having been taught religion, to go along with his vices; and (4) the fear that many of the leaders of the country shared of seeing worship of the true God take the place of worship of pagan deities. But the bloody persecutions, rather than slowing down the conversions, increased them. In the months that followed, the king’s rage subsided, but he remained suspicious of the Whites.
Profoundly marked by these events, Father Lourdel confided in his brother, a Carthusian monk, about his prayer life and spiritual trials: “Sometimes I wonder if my faith is failing … In mission, one realizes that faith is really a gift from God, for oneself as much as for the souls of the converted. … I have the misfortune of not being a man of prayer. Obtain the grace for me of being able to meditate.”

Between September 1888 and February 1890, King Mwanga was dethroned twice, but each time he managed to return to power. The Fathers were also exiled twice. When they returned the second time, they witnessed a veritable rush on the catechumenate. The missionaries had to test the candidates’ sincerity, because it had come to be considered fashionable to be on the side of the Christians. At the beginning of May 1890, Father Lourdel fell seriously ill. An inadequate diet, persistent fevers, and all the setbacks he had encountered in his apostolate had destroyed his healthy constitution. On May 11, he asked God’s forgiveness for not having served Him better, despite the fact that his entire missionary life had been made up of opposition, exhaustion, danger, and sufferings of all kinds endured to make Christ known and loved. The next day, he breathed his last.

At the time, the mission in Uganda numbered close to 2,200 baptized and about ten thousand fervent catechumens. Soon the seminaries, novitiates, and schools for catechists, that father Lourdel had prayed for, began to spring up. In 1911, Catholics made up 30% of the population and Anglicans 1%. Christianity had become the main religion, its customs and practices the customs of the Baganda. As for King Mwanga, he was exiled to the Seychelles Islands, where he died in obscurity in 1903, after having finally been baptized by the Anglicans.

“We are called to pray assiduously for the missions and to cooperate with every means in the Church’s activity all over the world to build up the Kingdom of God, ‘an eternal and universal kingdom: a kingdom of truth and life, a kingdom of holiness and grace, a kingdom of justice, love and peace (Preface for the Feast of Christ the King). We are called to bear witness first of all with our life to our total adhesion to Christ and to His Gospel. Yes, we must never be ashamed of the Gospel and never be afraid to proclaiming that we are Christians, hiding our faith” (John Paul II, message of May 19, 2002, for World Mission Sunday). Let us ask Father Lourdel to obtain for us the grace to witness joyfully to our faith.

Dom Antoine Marie, osb

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December 2006 – Letter from Padre Graziotti

December 2006 – Letter from Padre Graziotti

The following letter was written by Padre Luigi Duilio Graziotti, co-founder of the Missionaries of Faith in Bergamo, Italy. In the letter Padre makes reference to Mother Providence. Mother is the foundress of the Missionaries of Faith, who left this world on 16 June 2002. Padre and the Sisters are working every day to gather all the documents and teachings of Mother Providence in order to bring her cause for sainthood to light. Padre Graziotti writes simply, but with great love from the heart. Please read on . . .

Dear Friends,

We have reached the end of this year. Surely we have had both joys and sorrows, and in every circumstance we have been faithful to God. We have accepted everything with love, as if it originated from His hand. Therefore we are more saints today than one year ago. Our desire to serve and love God is strengthened. This way, as a good steward, we can count our blessings with great joy.

Jesus, however, recommends that we continue to progress in the good, in loving Him gladly and with all of our strength, as it is written in the Bible: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with all thy strength” (Deuteronomy 6:5). There is a proverb that says: “He who stops is lost.” The ancient Romans said: “Not prògredi, règredi est: If he doesn’t progress, he goes back.” In the Gospel then it is written: “To love gladly God, with the whole mind, and with all the strengths,… is of more value than all the holocausts and the sacrifices” (Mc 12:33). God needs our affection, not for himself, but for our own good. In fact, he who loves the Lord always draws great fruit from it, first of all for his own soul, and then also for the physical and material life.

In addition to loving God, we also have to trust in Him, because it is a means of showing Him how much we indeed love Him. The Psalms recommend to us submitting all our problems to God, because He will think about resolving them in the best way. The Psalmist writes in fact: “Cast thy cares upon the Lord, and he shall sustain thee; he shall not suffer the just to waver for ever.” (Psalm 54:23). And elsewhere it is written: “For behold God is my helper; and the Lord is the protector of my soul.” (Psalm 53:6). God doesn’t abandon those people who confide in Him. In the Gospel then, Jesus reassures us saying: “Confìdite: Ego vici mundum: . . . confidence, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). Let’s ask, however, for an increase of our faith, as the Apostles asked one day, to which Jesus answered: “If you had faith like to a grain of mustard seed, you might say to this mulberry tree, Be thou rooted up, and be thou transplanted into the sea; and it would obey you.” (Luke 17:5). It is really true: at times we lack faith. In fact we would like to resolve everything with our strengths, and according to our way of thinking. God instead thinks otherwise, and he wants our total trust, our abandonment to His will. It is true, that our sacrifices may be great, especially to totally surrender oneself to Him, but it is also true, that it is more meritorious, and the solution of our problems would become easier.

So many times our little trust in the power of God, is an obstacle to His intervention. We have to believe instead that He all-knowing, and He has thought about our problems even before us, as it is written in the Gospel: “…for your Father knoweth what is needful for you, before you ask him” (Matthew 6:8). Why do we waver then after having prayed so much and we don’t receive for what we have asked? If we don’t receive what we ask for, it is always for our lack of confidence in God, in His knowing what is best for us. Jesus could repeat to us also what He said to Peter: “…O thou of little faith, why didst thou doubt?” (Matthew 14:31).

When there is instead absolute abandonment, He himself takes care of all our cares. Read here a proof of this fact which really happened: “For a long time a family prayed for the recovery of their own child. Finally the parents realized since they didn’t receive such a grace, they decided to submit him completely to the will of God, and they began to recite the prayer that Jesus prayed to His Father in the Garden of the Olives: ‘Nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.‘ (Matthew 26:39). In a few days the child recovered completely.”

Often times when reading in the Gospels about the miracles He worked, Jesus repeated these words: “Your faith has saved you.” God can do all things: to Him nothing is impossible, but He works only when He finds in us good dispositions and complete trust in His power. Courage therefore! Let’s renew our trust in the goodness and power of God today, above all when we have some painful problems to resolve.

I bless you all, I greet you from my heart, and I assure you of my prayers.

Your affectionate,
P. Luigi Duilio Graziotti

 

 

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November 2006 – Letter from Padre Graziotti

November 2006 – Letter from Padre Graziotti

Dear Friends,
Remembering our dear Dead is necessary, considering that this is the month devoted to them. They have preceded us in eternity, and their memory has to spur us to live well our life on this earth, because one day it will also be our turn to stand before God, to be judged according to our works.

Let’s remember them often, not only with our thoughts, affection and flowers, but especially in our prayers, so that they can receive the grace to achieve the eternal beatitude.

The family ties with our deceased, must be for them a spiritual utility, nevertheless there is another reality that we must not forget, and to which we belong: it is our holy Mother Church.

Through Baptism we have been inserted in it, and for many years we have received so many spiritual benefits: the Holy Mass, Holy Communion, Confession, Confirmation and other benefits that allow us to live in the Grace of God and to reach holiness. For such a motive, now, more than in the past, we have to be helpful and supportive of this good Mother of ours.

Unfortunately we are going toward dark and painful times, toward a sure persecution against the Church. They don’t frighten us these words, but they help us to realize that this time, defined by Jesus to Mother Providence “Time of the times”, demands from us a deep Christian life, a total fidelity to the Laws of God and the Church. We need to frequent the Holy Sacraments more and increase our efforts in the way of living the virtues. We must above all be strongly deep-rooted in the attachment to God and the Church. In fact, the day will come in which we will be asked to testify if we are Christian. Well, if we won’t be strong and definite, we will collapse in the heresy and in the apostasy for fear of being stricken to death.

A lot of prophecies point out that the future times, not very distant, will be characterized by a great persecution against the Catholic Church. In such a situation, those who will have had a deep faith and love in the Lord, will be strong, and won’t surrender in face of the threats and to the wickedness of the enemies; and then those who will have been weak and poor, instead, of love for God, will surrender and will betray his affiliation to Christianity.

One of the prophecies that concerns the persecution against the Church, have been operated after the year 1100 by St. Malachia, Bishop of Ireland. Here are his words that refer to the next Pope: “In persecutione extrema Romanae Ecclesiae, sedebit Petrus Romanus, here pascet oves in multis tribulationibus, quibus transactis, civitas septis collis diruetur, et Judex tremendus iudicabit populum sum.” Which means: “In the last persecution against the Catholic Church, the Eminent Roman Pontiff will sit on the Chair of Peter, and will govern the Christian believers during a lot of tribulations, and after them the City of the seven hills will be destroyed, and God Judge will judge His people.” They will finish when the Pope will be conducted to the martyrdom. Also St. John Bosco, in his prophetic revelations, speaks of a Pope that is brought away by the executioners passing above the dead bodies of his Collaborators. After such tests however, the Church will restored to life through a greater love to the Eucharist and the Madonna. And then it will begin a long period of peace and greater holiness in Christians.

God will allow such persecution because he doesn’t know anymore what to do him with those Christians that is false, that mix together religion and ashamed fashions, of that Christians that don’t pray anymore, that go to Mass only sometimes or perhaps never, that don’t frequent the Holy Sacraments anymore; of those Christians that think only about fun, self-satisfaction, relaxation, money, wealth, and the pleasures of the flesh. Many divorce only because of squabbles, many cohabit, sustain abortion, steal, tangle, they don’t complete well their duty in the office, make revenges, wickedness, curse, betray the marriage with so much facility, they don’t want to know of lie’s sacrifices, they love the comfortable and free life. The Lord wants to sweep away all these false Christians, that don’t know the Commandments of God, or even they don’t even know how much they are. Christian poor men, that will run into a total decay and abandonment of the faith, with the certainty to end in hell!

Dear friends, let’s pray, pray a lot, let’s be near the Lord, let’s frequent more often the Holy Sacraments, and then, when the persecution comes, we will be well prepared to face the martyrdom if God will allow it.

I bless you all, I greet you from the heart, and I assure my prayers.

Your affectionate,
Padre Luigi Duilio Graziotti

 

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Bishop Alfred Allen Curtis

The following article from Saint Joseph Abbey is the most recent published in their newsletter. I found it so in tune with the present day with the many converts to the Church. I hope, you the reader, will direct new converts and those contemplating conversion to the Roman Catholic Church to read this article; so that, they truly realize the importance of the Holy Eucharist and how it distinguishes Catholics from other ‘faiths’.

Dear friends of Saint Joseph Abbey:
In a famous poem written before his conversion to the Catholic faith, John Henry Newman spoke to God in these words: “Lead, Kindly Light, amid the encircling gloom, Lead Thou me on! The night is dark, and I am far from home – Lead Thou me on! Keep Thou my feet; I do not ask to see the distant scene – one step is enough for me. I was not ever thus, nor pray’d that Thou shouldst lead me on. I loved to choose and see my path; but now, Lead Thou me on!” Souls of good will born outside the true Church must sometimes accept great sacrifices to follow the voice of their conscience and arrive at the full truth. Such was the case of Bishop Alfred Allen Curtis.

Born in Maryland on July 4, 1831, Alfred received Baptism soon after his birth from the hands of a Methodist minister, even though his parents were Episcopalian, an American Protestant denomination based on Anglicanism. As a young boy, de devoted himself assiduously to his studies and learned entire Shakespeare plays by heart. He also succeeded in mastering Latin and Greek. His passion for study did not keep him from fervent attendance at religious services. Although he had an ardent and somewhat impulsive nature, he was also very affectionate and was always the first to ask for forgiveness.

When Alfred was 17, his father died, leaving his wife responsibility for six children. The eldest brother left to make his fortune in the Far West; Alfred put his talents to good use to support his mother and sisters. For four years, he worked as an assistant schoolteacher, but he then received the inspiration to devote himself to the service of souls. He then passed an exam before a jury of Episcopalian pastors, and was ordained a deacon, then a priest, in this denomination. Desiring to devote himself to the ministry without impediment, he renounced marriage.

In 1862, Alfred was named rector of Mount Calvary Episcopal Church in Baltimore, which he was to serve tirelessly for nine years. Filled with zeal for souls, he assiduously gave himself to prayer, fasting, and studying Sacred Scripture. To learn Hebrew, he went to a rabbi, and thus acquired a deeper knowledge of the Word of God. He also took keen interest in the Fathers of the Church and steeped himself in their doctrine, which in his eyes expressed the faith of the Church. This Protestant pastor, who felt close to Catholicism, wore the cassock, recited the Roman Breviary, and prayed to the Virgin Mary. He went so far as to question the truth of his own faith. One day, two visitors came to his church, asking if it was a Catholic church, and if he was a priest. He boldly replied “yes,” but conscience stricken, he went to find them and explained, “I though myself a priest, but I am not, and you will find the Catholic church three squares from here.” He apparently doubted the validity of his priestly ordination, which in reality is lacking in Episcopalianism. However, Episcopalian priest, like their Anglican brethren, think they are true priests and able to consecrate the Eucharist. Pastor Curtis in fact cherished a very great devotion to this sacrament. Formed in the school of the Fathers of the Church, he took Christ’s words literally: “This is my Body… This is my Blood…“ For him, Jesus, the Master and Guide Whom he felt called to preach and defend is truly presenting the consecrated species.

Where is Christ’s Church?

Following in the footsteps of many of his co-religionists, he considered himself a part of the great Christian Tradition composed of the Church of Rome, the Orthodox Church, and the Anglican Church. In our time, similar theories are current among many Christians. Some maintain that together the Churches and ecclesial communities, despite their differences in doctrine, form the single Church of Christ. To enlighten the faithful, the Holy See has specified: “Catholics are bound to profess that through the gift of God’s mercy they belong to that Church which Christ founded and which is governed by the successors of Peter and the other Apostles, who are the depositories of the original Apostolic tradition, living and intact, which is the permanent heritage of doctrine and holiness of that same Church. The followers of Christ are therefore not permitted to imagine that Christ’s Church is nothing more than a collection (divided, but still possessing a certain unity) of Churches and ecclesial communities. Nor are they free to hold that Christ’s Church nowhere really exists today and that it is to be considered only as an end which a Churches and ecclesial communities must strive to reach.” (Declaration Mysterium Ecclesia, June 24, 1973)

In 1871, an event took place that marked a decisive turn in Pastor Curtis’ life. His superior, the Episcopalian bishop of Maryland, published a pastoral letter on the Holy Eucharist, in which he stated that if Christ is present in this sacrament, it is not in order to be adored, but only to become food for our souls. He was therefore forbidding his flock from worshipping this sacrament as the Person of Christ. Curtis, shocked, reacted strongly and resigned from his pastoral duties. His November 8, 1871 letter to his bishop contains this beautiful profession of faith:

“If it is not the truth that the very Human and Divine Christ Himself first offered, for the living and the dead in the Holy Eucharist, and there put according to His whole Living Person into my very hands, to be then and there adored and endowed with all I am, and all I possess perpetually—there is no truth for me, at least no truth I greatly care to know… All my teaching grows out of, and depends upon the fact, that the Lord is actually one with and present in the Eucharist, under the form of Bread and Wine as He was of old present in the stable, one with and under the form of Babyhood…”

A few days later, he further explained his thoughts:

I cannot at all see how Christ can be received as Christ without adoration. To say that He is present but not to be adored is to me only a certain way of saying that He is not veritably present at all.”

To adore the One we receive

This conviction of Pastor Curtis was fully in line with the faith of the Catholic Church. However, in the period following the Second Vatican Council, there was a tendency to neglect Eucharistic adoration. To revive our faith in the Blessed Sacrament, John Paul II published the encyclical Ecclisia de Eucharistia in 2004, inaugurating a year consecrated in a special way to this sacrament. At the conclusion of this year, Pope Benedict XVI made the following reflection: “It is moving for me to see how everywhere in the Church the joy of Eucharistic adoration is reawakening and being fruitful. In the period of liturgical reform, Mass and adoration outside it were often seen as in opposition to one another: it Ws thought that the Eucharistic Bread had not been given to us to be contemplated, but to be eaten, as a widespread objection claimed at the same time. The experience of the prayer of the Church has already shown how nonsensical this antithesis was. Augustine had formerly said: ‘No one should eat this flesh without first adoring it;…we should sin were we not to adore it’. Indeed, we do not merely receive something in the Eucharist. It is the encounter and unification of persons; the Person, however, who comes to meet us and desires to unite Himself to us, is the Son of God. Such unification can only be brought about by means of adoration. Receiving the Eucharist, means adoring the One whom we receive. Precisely in this way and only in this way do we become one with Him” (Address to the Roman Curia, December 22, 2005).

Like so many others who, in order to be faithful to the voice of their conscience, have renounced a privileged and prestigious position, Pastor Curtis threw himself into the unknown. Giving up his parish and a comfortable salary, he had no idea what would become of him. “I felt as though I were about to leap into a great chasm, knowing not where I would land,” he confided to a friend. God, in His mercy, allows this type of experience in order to purify the souls of His friends, to test their love, and to lead them to greater perfection. He never abandons those who are faithful to Him. Little by little, the light grew in Pastor Curtis’ mind. He became nearly certain that the only path would be to enter the Roman Church. Out of consideration for the denomination in which he had been pastor, he did not want to take this decisive step in his own country. In early March 1872, he left for England and went to Oxford, where he visited several leading Anglicans there to assure himself that he was not deluded. Their responses did not satisfy him. He then requested an audience with Father Newman, whose own conversion had taken place nearly thirty years before. The future Cardinal listened to him with kindness, spoke of his own path, and then gave him two books, saying, “Read these if you like, but pray and pray; nothing will help you more than humble prayer; and come to see me whenever you will, I am at your disposal.”

The security of the Truth

To a person for whom he had long been a spiritual director, Curtis wrote these lines which reveal the anguish in his soul in the face of the decision he had to make: “It is a miserable thing to remain in doubt as to the things of the greatest and most lasting moment. Nevertheless one must be content with the uncertainty till he reaches full assurance by fair means.” However, thanks to the help of prayer and grace, he eventually reached this certainty: “If the Roman Catholic Church is not truth, then there is no God,” he wrote to a friend. In another letter, dated April 20, 1872, he relates, “I was received (into the Church) last Thursday… I first made a confession to one of the Fathers in his room, then I went into the chapel and was there (conditionally) baptized, kneeling before the altar, then versicles, collects and the Miserere were said; after which I made my profession in the creed of Pope Pius IV… On Friday I made my Communion… Yes, this secure feeling that you have found the reality… It is a hard battle to put to death totally self-will, but when you have conquered, and you are really and finally submitted and are quite sure that nothing can ever make you undo your submission, there comes so great a calm and to full a joy, such certainty, such blessed incredible faith, that you don’t know your own self.”

O the end of his days, Curtis would suffer from his family’s inability to understand his conversion. Of his family, only a brother would join him in the true Church of Christ. Later, deeply moved by the death of his parents who had not entered the Church, he allowed himself to be consoled by a priest who assured him of his mother’s total sincerity. Cardinal Newman, who had also experienced this sort of trial, wrote, “One cannot force others to think as one would like, even those who are the closest and dearest to us.”

Curtis, after having been received into the Church, wondered about his future. His thirst to give himself totally to God made him want to enter the Carthusian order, but Newman, with a premonition of the good this man could accomplish, encouraged him to return to his country and put himself in the service of the archbishop of Baltimore. So Curtis went there and entered the seminary to complete his studies for the priesthood. Older than most of the seminarians, he was nevertheless admired by all for his gentleness, humility, zeal for communal discipline, and mortification. On December 19, 1874, he received priestly ordination.

It is no longer I but Christ

Named secretary to the archbishop, Father Curtis dedicated a great deal of time to ministering to souls, especially in the sacrament of Penance. A great spirit of faith as well as exceptional natural gifts drew many to his confessional. Always accessible, he made himself all things to all people and drew his inspiration from the ideal lived by Saint Paul: It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me (Gal. 2:20). His homilies, true spiritual gems, attracted crowds. He was greatly valued as a spiritual director. Mapping out a rule of life for the father of a family, he scheduled a time each day to examine his children’s books; this task seemed to him to be a sacred duty for parents and educators. Lastly, Father Curtis was a friend to the sick and the aged, whom he often visited, despite his many duties. His paternal heart likewise has a soft spot for children. “I know not,” he once said, “what the world would do if it were not for the old people and the little children.” This delicate attention to all demonstrated a great charity born from a deep union with Christ in the Eucharist. “Union with Christ is also union with all those to whom He gives Himself,” write Pope Benedict XVI. “I cannot possess Christ just for myself; I can belong to Him only in union with all those who have become, or who will become, His own. Communion draws me out of myself towards Him, and thus also towards unity with all Christians. We become one body, completely joined in a single existence; God incarnate draws us all to Himself” (Encyclical Deus caritas est, December 25, 2005, no.14).

In 1883, Father Curtis had the privilege of accompanying his archbishop to Rome, and in 1886, he was named bishop of Wilmington, Delaware, a suffragan diocese of Baltimore. His characteristic humility made him try to avoid this role: “I care not how many I have over me, provided I have no one under me.” But his efforts to escape this burden failed, and he received Episcopal consecration on November 14, 1886. As a bishop, he stayed close to his people and his priests. He did not fear fatigue and gave himself freely to the souls entrusted to his care. Filled with zeal for orphans and prisoners, he held poverty in high regard, and did not fear being considered poor. His responsibility seemed to him to be that of the servant in the Gospels to whom the Master, in leaving for a distant land, had entrusted the care of his possessions. He himself exhorted the faithful to remain vigilant at all times, for the Lord leaves us in the dark about the day of His return: “Our Lord mercifully conceals from us the time of His coming, for if people knew that they had several years to live, they might spend most of the time in earthly enjoyments and prepare for death only when it is near; thus they would lose the reward that might have been theirs had they always kept themselves in readiness for His coming at any hour.

The supreme test of holiness

On July 23, 1896, it was made public that Bishop Curtis had resigned from his position. Shortly before, he had told the Visitation nuns in Wilmington: “To me it is the supreme test of sanctity… to be simply nothing for God, and to be sweetly content to be nothing, and to be recognized as nothing, to be treated as nothing by others, to be set aside as useless… and to rejoice that others are something, and that you are nothing… “This desire for humility demonstrates a love for Christ comparable to that of Saint Benedict, who wrote in his Rule: “The sixth degree of humility is that a monk be content with the poorest and worst of everything, and that in every occupation assigned him he consider himself a bad and worthless workman, saying with the Prophet, I was stupid and ignorant, I was like a beast toward Thee. Nevertheless I am continually with Thee” (ch. 7). The news of this resignation was a trial for the clergy and faithful of Wilmington. A local newspaper commented on the event in these words: “This desire of the humble-minded Delaware ecclesiastic could only have its parallel in a general who would ask to be reduced to the ranks, on the ground that there he could better serve his country.”

Deeply loved by his entire diocese, Bishop Curtis continued to provide Masses, homilies, and various services to the poor, even after his successor was consecrated. He also remained confessor for the Visitation nuns. The last ten years of his life were spent in Baltimore in the residence of Cardinal Gibbons, who named him Vicar General. Long hours of his days and nights were spent in front of the Blessed Sacrament. “It is pleasant to spend time with Him, to lie close to His breast like the Beloved Disciple and to feel the infinite love present in His heart,” wrote Pope John Paul II. “If in our time Christians must be distinguished above all by the ‘art of prayer,’ how can we not feel a renewed need to spend time in spiritual converse, in silent adoration, in heartfelt love before Christ present in the Most Holy Sacrament? How often, dear brother and sisters, have I experienced this, and drawn from it strength, consolation and support! This practice, repeatedly praised and recommended by the Magisterium, is supported by the example of many saints. Particularly outstanding in this regard was Saint Alphonsus Liguori, who wrote: “Of all devotions, that of adoring Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament is the greatest after the sacraments, the one dearest to God and the one most helpful to us.” (Encyclical Ecclesia de Eucharistia, no. 25).

In keeping with his desire to work up to the end in the Lord’s vineyard, Bishop Curtis assisted the Cardinal in giving Confirmation. During one such ceremony, he spoke to the confirmands in these words: “The Holy Ghost comes to be the truest and best of Friends, an unfailing one… All other friends, however true, would simply be such only in name, in comparison with the Divine Friend who comes to you today… Think of this, and cherish with jealous care a love and friendship absolutely essential for the salvation of your soul. This Divine Friend will never depart from you, unless by sin you chase Him away. May God grant that such a misfortune may never happen to any of you, but that having had the happiness to become the temples of the Holy Spirit of God, you may cherish and preserve the help of the Divine Friend, by fidelity and perseverance in God’s grace.”

These yet unknown saints

In 1908, Bishop Curtis developed stomach cancer. No longer able to eat, he was soon at the point of death. On July 3, the first Friday of the month, he celebrated his last Mass with the fervor one can imagine of a man who had said several years earlier: “We ought to be able to say after each Mass, ‘This is the best Mass I have ever said. I have offered more to God, more for souls this day than I have ever done before; more love and more zeal for the conversion of souls. I have sacrificed to Him more of my own will.’ “ On Sunday, July 11, after much suffering, the servant of God fell asleep in the Lord, “like a child who finds the longed for rest on the bosom of its mother,” according to the testimony of one witness.

We can hope that Alfred Allen Curtis is numbered among those yet unknown saints of whom he himself spoke so eloquently in a homily for the feast of All Saints’ Day: “Let us honor all Saints. The canonized Saints, who are few compared with the former, have been capable of practicing heroic virtue, virtue which is beyond our attainment. But we will consider the vast army of unknown Saints who have no history, who lived the same common life that we do, who did common things uncommonly well, who toiled, waited, suffered; who believed, hoped, loved and repented, those we can imitate.”

In imitation of this great convert and this truly apostolic man, let us receive from the Lord Jesus Himself the gift of His Person and His work of salvation in the Holy Eucharist, in which He shows us a love that knows no bounds. “The Eucharist is a priceless treasure: by not only celebrating it but also by praying before it outside of Mass we are enabled to make contact with the very wellspring of grace” (John Paul II, ibid. ).

Dom Antoine, osb

 

 

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