If there has been one constant in the last few years it has been the media/left rushing to quote Pope Francis on the subject of migration, on wealth and, out of context, on our duties to our fellow man who happens to be gay.

We have had liberal stalwarts from Nancy Pelosi to Bernie Sanders chime in on listening to the Pope on issues like this.

This week however the Pope had something to say about Abortion:

Abortion is the “white glove” equivalent of the Nazi eugenics programme, Pope Francis has said.

In off-the-cuff remarks to members of an Italian family association reported by the Associated Press, the Pope said he regretted that some couples decided not to have children or opted for pre-natal tests to discover if their unborn child had any physical defects.

“The first proposal in such a case is, ‘Do we get rid of it?’” Francis said. “The murder of children. To have an easy life, they get rid of an innocent.”

The Pope said that in his youth he had been shocked by stories about children in the past being “thrown from the mountain” if they were born with disabilities.

“Today we do the same thing,” he said, according to AP.

“Last century, the whole world was scandalised by what the Nazis did to purify the race. Today, we do the same thing but with white gloves,” Francis said.

And had this to say about marriage and family:

The pope also rejected the concept of nontraditional families not based on heterosexual marriage.

“Today—it hurts to say it—one speaks of ‘diversified’ families: different types of family …but the human family as the image of God, man and woman, is only one. Only one,” the pope said.

Oddly enough thought the Holy Father said these things several days ago and yet I’ve not hear Nancy Pelosi, Bernie Sanders and/or the good folks at CNN & MSNBC to come out and proclaim the necessity to embrace the Holy Father’s teachings on this important moral issues?

One must conclude that as far as the media/left is concerned Francis is not quotable when he states unchanging Catholic doctrine in public in clear, straightforward and un-spinable language.

#unexpectedly

No word if DePaul or Marquette or any other “Catholic” University will be banning him as a potential speaker for exclusionary language.

Whatever is worth doing at all, is worth doing well.
– Philip Stanhope, 4th Earl of Chesterfield

I hate the term “working mom” because it implies that moms who are not employed do not “work.” My wife is a stay-at-home mom and she works plenty hard. More importantly, she works hard at things that matter. And the fact that she is not spending 40+ hours of her week focusing on not being a mom means that she is able to do things for our family that a “working mom” simply can’t. There simply aren’t enough hours in the day.

On Mothers Day, I salute all mothers who put their families first, especially my wife. When our son was born, she left the business world to be a full-time mom and wife. Our two children (and I) have benefited in countless ways from this decision, which she and I made together even before we were married. She has always been there, from playing with my son when he was an infant to being there when my daughter comes home from high school and needs advice or just someone to talk to.

Our parish bulletin contained a page of quotes about Motherhood today. One that particularly stood out is:

“Motherhood is not a hobby, it is a calling.
It is not something to do if you can squeeze the time in.
It is what God gave you time for.”

This perfectly sums up my wife’s calling to be a mother. Today let us reflect on the fact that many of the ills facing our society today could be solved if more women felt the same calling.

One of the problems with people are the expectations we set for ourselves in things, including prayer.

Many times we will offer prayers and find ourselves disappointed because what we pray for doesn’t come at once.

One must remember not to pray as if you are casting a magic spell because that’s not what it is, nor should we assume that the specific item that we are praying for is God’s will.

Regardless of our feelings, our desires God will use our prayers in the way that most suits his purpose and as Jesus taught us to pray “Thine will be done.” not “my will be done.”

So if after today’s final day of prayer you find that the world is still not the world you want it to be don’t lose heart or faith, persevere both in pray and action and take comfort that when you pray the our father / the Lord’s Prayer and declare: “Thine will be done”, that request will be granted.

As Christians that should be enough.

Monday Pope Francis gave a homily at daily masses whose main points should be taken to heart by every Christian in general and Catholic in particular:

Beware, the Pope warned, of the devil’s seduction.

“The devil is a seducer,” Francis reminded, saying, he “knows what words to tell us” and this is dangerous as “we like to be seduced.”

“He has this ability; this ability to seduce. This is why it is so difficult to understand that he is a loser, because he presents himself with great power, promises you many things, brings you gifts – beautiful, well wrapped – -‘Oh, how nice!’ – but you do not know what’s inside – ‘But, the card outside is beautiful.’ The package seduces us without letting us see what’s inside. He can present his proposals to our vanity, to our curiosity.”

His light, Francis said, is dazzling, but it vanishes.

More importantly he advises not having a dialog with him

Do not converse with the devil

Finally, we must be careful not to dialogue with the devil as Eve did. Jesus does not dialogue in the desert, but rather responds with the Word of God. He hunts the demons, sometimes he asks for his name but does not make a dialogue with them.

And gives first rate advice on what to do when confronted by this enemy:

in the end, go to the mother, like children. When the children are afraid, they go to the mother: ‘Mom, mom … I’m scared!’ When they have dreams … they go to their mothers.

“Go to the Madonna; she guards us. And the Fathers of the Church, especially the Russian mystics, say: in the time of spiritual turmoil, take refuge under the mantle of the great Mother of God. Go to the Mother. May she help us in this fight against the defeated, against the chained dog to win it.”

Pope Francis concluded, urging us always to seek refuge in the Mother of God.

And offers this prayer

As I said when I announced my three days of fasting and prayer for the Church while this pope has been a mediocre one at best one of the best things about him has been his constant reminders that the Devil is real, cunning and needs to be resisted.

Today is the first of Three Days of fasting and Prayer for the church, the Pope and ourselves that I wrote about here.

If we want to banish the demons that plague the church and ourselves this is the way to do it, after all this is exactly what Christ suggested :

Then the disciples approached Jesus in private and said, “Why could we not drive it out?” He said to them, “Because of your little faith. Amen, I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you. But this kind does not come out except by prayer and fasting“.

That’s good enough for me.

By an odd coincidence I have had a rough few days in terms of health, finances and personal situations but it’s at those times that we should most turn to God rather than seek solace in the world whose prince is not on our side as CS Lewis says in Screwtape:

“Do not be deceived, Wormwood. Our cause is never more in danger than when a human, no longer desiring, but still intending, to do our Enemy’s will, looks round upon a universe from which every trace of Him seems to have vanished, and asks why he has been forsaken, and still obeys.” 

Many Christians look at the world today and wonder where God is.   The truth is that while the dominant culture has forsaken God and pushes that abandonment on us as the solution to our problems, it remains a lie.  The solution to our problems IS God and our abandonment of him is the cause.

May we turn to prayer and fasting today and follow the example of Christ, who while suffering and asking God why he was forsaken still obeyed.

Saint Dymphna was an Irish princess born in the seventh century to a pagan king and a Christian mother. She is the Patron Saint of people who are suffering from mental illness and/or emotional stress, nervous disorders, epileptics, victims of incest, runaways, and mental health professionals.

I first learned of her from my grandmother, who suffered from depression and who gave me a pocket sized prayer booklet for Saint Dymphna from the Franciscian Mission Associates in New York which features the image below on its cover. I still have that booklet, well over twenty years after it was given to me. Saint Dymphna is very dear to me, and her feast day is coming up on May 15th.

Saint Dymphna Patron of Mental & Spiritual Afflictions

Dymphna’s Christian mother was very beautiful, and her husband, King Damon of Oriel, loved her very much. Saint Dymphna was raised Christian; she was secretly baptized by her mother and educated by their priest, Father Gerebernus. Young Dymphna loved Jesus Christ and promised herself to Him with a vow of chastity as she began to approach womanhood. Via the National Shrine of Saint Dymphna, here is what happened soon after:

It was not long, however, until an unexpected cloud overshadowed the happy childhood of the beautiful girl. She lost her good mother by death. Many were the secret tears she shed over this bereavement, but at the same time she found great comfort in the Divine Faith which, though she was still of a tender age, already had taken deep root.

Dymphna’s father, too, greatly mourned his deceased wife and for a long time continued prostrate with grief. At length he was persuaded by his counselors to seek solace in a second marriage. So he commissioned certain ones of his court to seek out for him a lady who would be like his first spouse in beauty and character. After visiting many countries in vain, the messengers returned saying that they could find none so charming and amiable as his own lovely daughter, Dymphna. Giving ear to their base suggestion, the king conceived the evil design of marrying Dymphna. With persuasive and flattering words he manifested his purpose to her. Dymphna, as may be expected, was greatly horrified at the suggestion, and asked for a period of forty days to consider the proposal. She immediately betook herself to Father Gerebran, who advised her to flee from her native country, and since the danger was imminent, he urged her to make no delay.

With all speed, therefore, she set out for the continent, accompanied by Father Gerebran, the court jester and his wife. After a favorable passage, they arrived on the coast near the present city of Antwerp. Having stopped for a short rest, they resumed their journey and came to a little village named Gheel. Here they were hospitably received and began to make plans for establishing their future abode at this place.

The king, in the meantime, having discovered Dymphna’s flight, was fearfully angry, and immediately set out with his followers in search of the fugitives. After some time, they were traced to Belgium and their place of refuge was located. At first, Dymphna’s father tried to persuade her to return with him, but Father Gerebran sternly rebuked him for his wicked intentions, whereupon he gave orders that Father Gerebran should be put to death. Without delay, his wicked retainers laid violent hands upon the priest and struck him on the neck with a sword. With one blow of the steel, the head was severed from the shoulders and another glorious martyr went to join the illustrious heroes of Christ’s kingdom.

Further attempts on the part of Dymphna’s father to induce her to return with him proved fruitless. With undaunted courage she spurned his enticing promises and scorned his cruel threats. Infuriated by her resistance, the father drew a dagger from his belt and he himself struck off the head of his child. Recommending her soul to the mercy of God, the holy virgin fell prostrate at the feet of her insanely raving father. Thus the glorious crown of martyrdom was accorded to St. Dymphna in the fifteenth year of her age, on the fifteenth day of May, between 620 and 640. The day of her death has been assigned as her feastday.

The records of Dymphna’s life and death say that the bodies of the two martyred saints lay on the ground for quite some time after their death, until the inhabitants of Gheel removed them to a cave, which was the customary manner of interment in that part of the world at the time of the martyrdoms. But after several years had elapsed, the villagers, recalling their holy deaths, decided to give the bodies a more suitable burial. When the workmen removed the heap of black earth at the cave’s entrance, great was their astonishment to find two most beautiful tombs, whiter than snow, which were carved from stone, as if by angel hands. When the coffin of St. Dymphna was opened there was found lying on her breast a red tile bearing the inscription:

“Here lies the holy virgin and martyr, Dymphna.”

The remains of the saint were placed in a small church. Later necessity obliged the erection of the magnificent “Church of St. Dymphna,” which now stands on the site where the bodies were first buried. St. Dymphna’s relics repose there in a beautiful golden reliquary.

Miracles and cures began to occur in continually increasing numbers. Gradually St. Dymphna’s fame as patroness of victims of nervous diseases and mental disorders was spread from country to country. More and more mentally afflicted persons were brought to the shrine by relatives and friends, many coming in pilgrimages from far-distant places. Novenas wer made, and St. Dymphna’s relic was applied to the patients. The remarkable cures reported caused confidence in the saint to grow daily. At first the patients were lodged in a small annex built onto the church. Then gradually it came about that the patients were place in the homes of the families living in Gheel. From this beginning Gheel developed into a town world-famed for its care of the insane and mentally afflicted. An institution, called the “Infirmary of St. Elizabeth,” which was conducted by the Sisters of St. Augustine was later built for the hospital care of the patients. Most of the latter, after some time spent in the institution, are placed in one or other of the families of Gheel, where they lead a comparatively normal life.

In the town of Geel, Belgium, where Saints Dymphna and Gerebernus were martyred, local people still continue to provide care for those who travel there seeking relief from mental illness centuries later. Via NCR Online:

In the mid-14th century, Geel erected a church in Dymphna’s honor; it was built on the spot where she was buried. Around this time, rumors spread about disturbed individuals who were cured upon visiting Geel. As these accounts circulated, people began bringing disturbed family members, hoping for their own miracle. And many embattled souls made it to Geel on their own.

A building contiguous to St. Dymphna Church was built to accommodate the troubled pilgrims. Soon enough, the capacity of this structure was exceeded. Church authorities appealed to the citizens of Geel, who responded in a way that would eventually designate Geel as “the charitable city”: They welcomed mentally ill strangers into their homes.

The Geel community showed remarkable compassion, particularly for an era when most any sort of psychological aberration was viewed as being due to demonic influence or possession. Ronald J. Comer’s Abnormal Psychology mentions the typical techniques of the time for dealing with the psychologically aberrant. Exorcisms, of course, were performed. “Holy water” or “bitter drinks” might be administered. If these remedies failed to produce results, the ensuing therapy could consist of flogging, scalding, stretching of limbs, or starvation. It was hoped that these extreme measures might expunge the iniquity.

In contrast to these measures was the Geel way, in which the mentally ill, who were called “boarders” instead of “patients,” became a valued part of the community. Many of the boarders helped with agricultural labor. They were allowed to go about the village, and some even became regulars at local taverns. Some boarders stayed in Geel for only a few months; others stayed for the rest of their lives.

The boarder population peaked in the year 1938, when the number reached 3,736. About 1,600 remained by the late 1970s. Geel now has some 500 boarders and a total population of about 35,000.

Via Medelita, here is more information about how the mentally ill are cared for in Gheel currently:

These days, boarders are considered wards of the local psychiatric hospital, and they have a treatment team that checks in on them and drops off medications when needed. However, there is no care plan or greater goal given to the families that take them in. They are only told to be as normal as possible. Families are unaware of the patient’s diagnosis, only knowing what the patient chooses to tell them, and often times, families are not trained in any way other than what they’ve learned from relatives, other townspeople, or past experiences. Despite the lack of a treatment plan, boarders are given the security and stability of being accepted by a whole community, as well as family and doctors, which some say has a healing effect. People living in Geel simply do not look at mental illness in the same way that most societies do, and mental illness is regarded with zero stigma attached.

Compassionate care for the mentally ill seems to work out well for the afflicted and the people of Geel who welcome them and help them. Divine intervention seems a plausible explanation for this.

Below is a prayer to Saint Dymphna, via Our Catholic Prayers:

Good Saint Dymphna, great wonder-worker in every affliction of mind and body, I humbly implore your powerful intercession with Jesus through Mary, the Health of the Sick, in my present need. (Mention it.) Saint Dymphna, martyr of purity, patroness of those who suffer with nervous and mental afflictions, beloved child of Jesus and Mary, pray to Them for me and obtain my request.

(Pray one Our Father, one Hail Mary and one Glory Be.)

Saint Dymphna, Virgin and Martyr, pray for us.

You can also do a Novena to her, which is a series of prayers lasting nine days. Via Pray More Novenas:

St. Dymphna Novena Prayers

Day 1 – St. Dymphna Novena

For Faith

O God, Source of our salvation, in the midst of a pagan people, Thou didst enlighten St. Dymphna by the light of the true faith, which she professed under the guidance of her holy confessor, Gerebran, with such constance that she suffered martyrdom. Through the intercession of these two saints, we beg Thee to strengthen the faith which Thou hast given us, so that by wisely subjecting our souls to Thy Supreme Authority, and by faithfully conforming our lives according to our faith, we may honor Thee with our whole heart and soul until the hour of our death. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Pray the Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory Be five times

Day 2 – St. Dymphna Novena

For Hope

Almighty and infinitely good God, Thou hast promised eternal salvation to those who obey Thy commandments and make zealous use of Thy graces. Through the intercession of St. Dymphna, who fled from the danger of sin by leaving the palace of her father, and who, eager to gain eternal salvation, fled to Belgium to live in poverty, we beg Thee to grant that we also, who are striving for eternal happiness, may overcome all obstacles in the way of virtue and may attain eternal salvation. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Pray the Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory Be five times

Day 3 – St. Dymphna Novena

For Charity

God of love, Thou art the most perfect Being, and Creator of all that is good and beautiful. Through the intercession of St. Dymphna, who in her youth loved Thee above all creatures and for Thy sake loved her neighbor as herself, as the image and likeness of Thee, as the price of the Blood of Jesus and as co-heir of heaven, be pleased to help us by Thy powerful grace, that we may faithfully fulfill the two great commandments of charity not only in word, but in action and in truth. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Pray the Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory Be five times

Day 4 – St. Dymphna Novena

For Piety

God, Our Creator and Supreme Master, St. Dymphna served Thee with great zeal even in her childhood, by hearing Thy word with delight, by assisting at Holy Mass with fervent reverence, and by receiving Holy Communion from the hand of St. Gerebran with tender devotion. Through her intercession we beg Thee to grant us the same virtue of piety so that, having honored Thee during this life as our Creator, we may possess Thee hereafter as our final reward. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Pray the Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory Be five times

Day 5 – St. Dymphna Novena

For Prudence

O God, ruler of the universe, Thou didst allow St. Dymphna to discover a helpful means of avoiding the evil intentions of her father. Through the merits of Thy holy servant, be pleased to grant that we may become, according to the words of Jesus, simple as doves and wise as serpents, so that through prudent advice and sound judgment we may recognize what we must do to achieve the great work of our salvation. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Pray the Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory Be five times

Day 6 – St. Dymphna Novena

For Justice

O God, source of eternal justice, Thou didst inspire St. Dymphna to flee from her country and her father in order to render to Thee that which was Thine. Through her intercession we beg Thee to make us seek after justice so that we may perform our duties toward Thee as we ought. Though Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Pray the Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory Be five times

Day 7 – St. Dymphna Novena

For Fortitude

O God, rewarder of those who remain firm in their good resolutions, Thou gavest St. Dymphna such a love of virtue that she had the courage to suffer privation, persecution, and even martyrdom. Through her prayers we beg Thee to grant us fortitude that we may courageously and perseveringly overcome ourselves and finally conquer the enemy of our salvation. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Pray the Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory Be five times

Day 8 – St. Dymphna Novena

For Temperance

O God, You made St. Dymphna resplendent in the virtue of temperance so that she mastered sensual inclinations and used temporal goods prudently. With temperance she combined the beautiful virtues of modesty, docility and humility. Let us not forget that humility is called the foundation of all virtue because it banishes from the soul pride, the obstacle to grace. Through the intercession of St. Dymphna, we beg Thee to guide and direct us, so that being preserved from evil and nervous disorders, we may obey till death the commandments and counsels Thou hast given us. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Pray the Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory Be five times

Day 9 – St. Dymphna Novena

For Chastity

O God, lover of innocent souls, Thou gavest St. Dymphna the virtue of angelic purity which made her reserved in all her actions, modest in her dress, attentive in her conversation, upright in her character, so that she even shed her blood to preserve this precious virtue. Through the intercession of St. Dymphna, we beg thee to bestow upon us the virtue of chastity that we may enjoy peace of conscience in this life and pure eternal joys of heaven hereafter. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Pray the Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory Be five times

Please remember those suffering from mental illnesses in your prayers and try to have compassion for them in your hearts.

*******

MJ Stevenson, AKA Zilla, is best known on the web as Zilla at MareZilla.com. She lives in a woodland shack near a creek, in one of those rural parts of New York State that nobody knows or cares about, with her family and a large pack of guardian companion animals. 

A reporter takes a picture of a protester in front of Planned Parenthood in Fitchburg 4-29-18

On Saturday in Fitchburg I attended one of the Defund Planned Parenthood protests that took place around the country as the speaker.

While nationally the effort ran afoul of GOP senators John McCain, Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski In Massachusetts the effort is a tad different as it is necessary to amend the Massachusetts Constitution to do so here. So there is a need to obtain signature to get a ballot question started.

She spoke to a reporter from the Telegram earlier

Gardner resident Shelley Austin said that Massachusetts is one of only 15 states that use tax dollars to pay for abortions, which she said are a covered procedure through MassHealth.

She said that the Massachusetts Alliance to Stop Taxpayer Funded Abortion is trying to put the issue of taxpayer-funded abortion before Massachusetts voters. They are working to collect the 65,000 signatures required to get a question on the ballot.

I spoke to Shelly after the rally.

The reporter for the Telegram and Gazette spoke to several of us before the event including me.

Fitchburg resident Pete Ingemi, a longtime member of St. Bernard’s Church, said fighting taxpayer-funded abortion is the first and most logical step to ending abortions.

“What is abortion? It is the abandonment of hope,” he said. “And the argument is always that it isn’t a real life, but it is a life, and it’s a life of value. You never know what great things that human being was going to make happen.”

and stayed for most of the rosary but not for either Shelly talk or my speech

In Fitchburg, a similar, but smaller prayer protest was held on Main Street near the Planned Parenthood office. A small group, some holding rosary beads, shared their commitment to stopping abortion.

Situated under the shade of a tree, the group got plenty of support in the form of thumbed-up hands sticking out of passing cars, beeping horns and the occasional affirmative shout. There were also passers-by who strongly disagreed — though just one or two — and organizer Joyce Aucoin said this is nothing new.

The detail left out here was man who repeatedly approached Joyce as she spoke, loudly loudly asking her for condoms, he left when it was clear she was not going to let him provoke her.

As for my speech I pointed out that Planned Parenthood was built on the same lies that justified slavery from the days of ancient Egypt, to Roman times, to the Barbary Pirates to the slave trade. The idea that those enslaved were either of lesser values or not actual human beings. It is no coincidence that like most other places it operates, Planned Parenthood moved into Fitchburg as the “Hispanic” population increased.

Furthermore I pointed out that the easiest way to reveal the lie is to ask any counter-protester supporting “choice” if it is OK to abort a child in the womb because it was gay. Suddenly the woman’s choice argument isn’t good enough and the person always has to think, why? Because in their mind that person might be of their group which suddenly confers a value on that life that they didn’t before.

But the easiest way to show how carefully the lie has to be taught was illustrated by a model of a 20 week old baby in the womb.

Put that model in front of any child and ask what it is, and the answer will be “a baby”. To produce a different answer, you have to be carefully taught.

Will it make a difference? It will be tough to win this fight in Massachusetts, particularly when a lot of the GOP leadership has been carefully taught to run away from this issue, but as the man who actually wrote the Constitution of Massachusetts once said, facts are stubborn things.

To say he would be appalled at how partisans have rewritten and reinterpreted his words in their image while still claiming it was his work and not theirs, is an understatement.

At St. Francis Catholic Church in Xi’an, China, the congregation flowed out into the courtyard for Sunday Mass. Churchgoers include many young parents with children.

The service lasted more than 90 minutes, including a sermon that ebbed and flowed for nearly 20 minutes. Each section of the church has one of the Ten Commandments written in both Mandarin and English for people to ponder during Mass.

The scene was much the same the following week at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Beijing, where the Communist Party allows only state-approved places of worship and the Vatican has withheld diplomatic ties since 1949 when the party came to power.

DaTech3.jpgSimply put, the Catholic Church has endured subjugation and hardship under an atheistic government. It is difficult to imagine how Catholics have survived the vagaries of Communism, imprisonment, economic retribution, and political intolerance. But the church has served as a beacon of resistance for decades.

The status of the Catholic Church may soon change. But it is unclear whether a compromise between the Chinese government and the Vatican will make things better.

The Chinese government and the church have been engaged in discussions to make relations better. In an usual move, the government-controlled press recently published a photograph of Pope Francis meeting Chinese pilgrims in Rome.

Catholics can only legally practice their religion in mainland China in state-sanctioned churches, which are not overseen by the Vatican. Under the current system, bishops are appointed by Beijing rather than the Pope.

The Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association was established in 1957 to ensure state-sanctioned churches toe the Communist Party line, with the state-controlled Bishop Conference of the Catholic Church in China selecting and appointing its clerics.
Most appointments have quietly received recognition from the Vatican over the years, but the Holy See has intervened and excommunicated seven who it deemed to be “illicitly ordained.”

The appointment of bishops has been one of the main sources of contention between the two sides, with Beijing saying it must have a full say in the decisions made by the state-controlled Chinese Catholic Church.

Other issues remain, including whether about 30 “underground” Catholic bishops already approved by the Vatican, but not sanctioned by Beijing, will be formally recognized by the Chinese authorities.

In an interview with The South China Morning Post, Tou Chou-seng, an academic at Fu Jen Catholic University in Taiwan and the island’s former ambassador to the Vatican, said Beijing and the Holy See hoped a compromise over bishop appointments would ultimately lead to a normalization in their relationship. But there was still a long way to go.

“Resolving conflicts over bishop ordination is the first step, but it doesn’t put things right once and for all,” Tou said.“Historically it’s always been a long walk from reaching a bishop ordination agreement to ties being formalized,” he said.

Other Communist countries have tried to establish relations with the Vatican. Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev visited the Holy See in 1989 vowing to build full diplomatic ties, but it took a decade for that to happen.

Vietnamese Premier Nguyen Tan Dung saw former Pope Benedict XVI in 2007, expressing Hanoi’s wish to build full ties with the Vatican, but they have yet to be established.

He added that increased numbers of underground Catholic churches in China would be more, but a critical indication of the success of any deal was whether it would lead to greater religious freedom.

“If they are continuously treated unfairly after going public, the Holy See would certainly feel apologetic to the underground church,” Tou said.

Whatever happens, it is heartening to see just how strong the Catholic Church is in China despite the numerous difficulties the faithful have faced over the years.

I have said on more than one occasion that I think Pope Francis is a mixed bag.  He talks a lot about mercy and the reality of the Devil which is very good but tends to act like a local pastor ignoring that he is the head of the entire church which is very bad.  I think he, like most Popes, has been mediocre.

Since we had a canonized saint as Pope (John Paul II) for over a quarter of a century it’s natural that Francis would pale in comparison but there are real reasons to critique the way this Pope has handled things from China and the underground church to the Dubia which has still remained unanswered after over 550 days.  It is entirely proper to critique these failures, nevertheless he is still the Pope the head of the church until God wills that he is not.

There is always the danger that such a critique progresses to the point of considering the Holy Father our enemy ( which ironically would require us per the non-optional doctrine of the church, to love him and to pray for him) and causes us to embrace that first of the deadly sins, pride which Christ warned us of.

Two people went up to the temple area to pray; one was a Pharisee and the other was a tax collector. The Pharisee took up his position and spoke this prayer to himself, ‘O God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of humanity – greedy, dishonest, adulterous – or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week, and I pay tithes on my whole income.’

But the tax collector stood off at a distance and would not even raise his eyes to heaven but beat his breast and prayed, ‘O God, be merciful to me a sinner.’

I tell you, the latter went home justified, not the former; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Luke 18:10-14

And we can we can be sure that if our zeal takes us there our foe the Devil will be at our shoulder trying to tempt us in just that direction.

So what are we to do if we want to do something yet want to avoid crossing the line that our true enemy wants us to?  Fortunately as Catholics there is simple answer.

Prayer and Fasting.

I propose a three-day period of Prayer for the Pope, the Church and ourselves, where we implore God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit to bless, the entire Universal Church on earth.

For these three days I propose the following prayers:

Starting the day with an Our Father in the morning asking God the father to provide for the basic needs of the Church.

At midday A Divine Mercy Chaplet in the Afternoon to implore God mercy for the church through the sacrifice of God the Son.

Ending the Day with the Come Holy Spirit asking the God the Holy Spirit to envelop the entire church with the Spirit of discipleship.

For these three days I further propose a fast of varying degrees depending on one’s circumstances.

Abstaining from meat (full disclosure I already abstain on Wednesdays)

An Ash Wednesday like fast

A complete fast.

One could choose any of these or to progress from one to the next each day.

I further propose to begin this on May 8th the Feast of Apparition of St. Michael the defender of the church and end May 10th a feast day for Martyrs (Saints Gordian and Epimachus) High Churchmen ( St. Comgall, Abbot St. Cataldus Bishop, St. Antoninus, Archbishop) and ordinary people (St. Isidore) thus representing both the heavenly nature of such a prayer and the earthly span of the church from high to low.

If we want to banish the demons that plague the church and ourselves this is the way to do it, after all this is exactly what Christ suggested :

Then the disciples approached Jesus in private and said, “Why could we not drive it out?” He said to them, “Because of your little faith. Amen, I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you. But this kind does not come out except by prayer and fasting“.

That’s good enough for me.

Early this week R. Lee Emery the marine turned actor first known for Full Metal Jacket but more famous for his show Mail Call died at the age of 74

A few days ago Barbara Bush, wife of one president, mother of another not to mention the mother of a governor and matriarch of a grand political family after a long and useful life died at the age of 92.

Yesterday we learned that one of the legends of wrestling and one of the working class heroes of my pre-teen years Bruno Samartino died at the age of 82.

Finally we also heard that Harry Anderson actor and magician, who millions knew as the eccentric but honorable Judge Harry Stone from the very long running series Night Court died at the age of 62.

These people are very different in terms of where they come from although all in the end had fame and were performers (don’t think for one moment Mrs. Bush did not have to perform).  Some had lasting fame, others less known, some had a niche, and others would be recognized anywhere they showed their faces but all of them taught a lesson this week and this is it.

Everybody dies!

It does not matter how rich you are, how famous you are, how funny you are, how strong or fit you are or how determined you are.  It doesn’t matter if your friends are the most powerful and wealthy people in the world or if  you have access to the best doctors and the best medical treatment, either experimental or conventional  that the world can offer you.

In the end YOU ARE GOING TO DIE!

Today society denies reality all the time, our society has pretended that marriage is something other than what it is, that we can spontaneously change our sex/gender (which meant the same thing for more than 2000 years), that criminality is never the fault of those who commit it, that Islam is a religion of peace and that if we only use the right invented pronouns, smoke the right weed, and bring down western civilization as we know it, we will create paradise here on earth, but no amount of denial will change the fact that every single person who reads this post (and every person who doesn’t for that matter) is doomed to die along with the author of that post.

Act accordingly.

In closing I strongly suggest, implore and plead with you dear reader to take that reality into account, not in terms of life insurance or estate planning (although both are sensible things) but in terms of your soul and the mercy of God.

I am a very ordinary Catholic in a theological sense,  but in one respect my Catholicism is very strange in that it’s not faith based, but reality based.

I maintain that the doctrines of the Catholic Church are truth.

God’s exists.
Jesus Christ, born of the Virgin Mary was his son.
Christ suffered, died and rose from the dead to pay the debt for the sins of man.
Either Hell or Heaven (after a comparatively brief stop in purgatory for purification) awaits us for the rest of eternity.
The Choice of Heaven or Hell rests on our decision to accept the Mercy of Christ and act accordingly.

I submit these are not matters of faith and opinion but facts to be dealt with.

Now you might say my maintaining that these are facts make it so and you are right.  No amount of my stating these facts makes them true, however by the same token no amount of denial of them or insisting they are all fantasy make them false.

100 years from now we will either not exist or both know that I am telling the truth, the only question is will that knowledge be a source of eternal joy or pain.