New Insights on the Gospels

March for Life 2012

Evil triumphs when good men do nothing - Edmund Burke

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Fra Angelico - Linaiuoli Tabernacle: Peter Preaching with Mark

As today is the feast of St Mark let us enjoy this painting by Fra Angelico. The details of the image is Fra Angelico. Linaiuoli Tabernacle: Peter Preaching with Mark. Predella. 1433. Tempera on panel. 39 x 56 cm. Museo di San Marco, Florence, Italy.

St. Mark - 25th April 2009

Today we celebrate the feast of the evangelist of St. Mark. Let us read what Dr. Plinio has to say about this great saint. 

Biographical selection: 

The Evangelist St. Mark was from the tribe of Levi. He was baptized by St. Peter and instructed by him in the Christian Faith. He followed Peter to Rome and would preach the Gospel in this city with him. The faithful asked St. Mark to write the life of Our Lord according to the accounts of St. Peter. So Mark wrote the narrative based on what he had heard from Peter. The latter, after examining Mark’s work, testified that it was perfectly exact and approved it to be read by all the faithful. 

Later St. Peter sent St. Mark to Alexandria, where he was the first to preach the Word of God. According to Simon, an old Jew who witnessed the labors of Mark in that city, an enormous multitude converted there as a consequence of the apostolate of St. Mark. 

St. Peter Damian wrote that God gave St. Mark a special grace by which all the people he converted in Alexandria took up monastic customs. He inspired them to this by his miracles and the example of his virtues. After his death, his relics were sent back to Italy, so the land where he wrote his Gospel had the honor of preserving his body. 

St. Peter consecrated him Bishop of Alexandria. In this city the zeal of St. Mark attracted the hatred of the priests of the false gods. On Easter in the year 68 AD, they seized him while he said Mass, and tied a rope around his neck. Then they dragged him through the city like an animal to slaughter. His body was lacerated by the rough rocky surface and his blood stained the roads.

In the prison where they threw him, he was consoled by an Angel. Then Our Lord deigned to visit him and told him: “Peace be with you, o Mark, My Disciple and My Evangelist. Fear nothing because I am near you.” 

The next day the pagan priests again placed a rope around his neck and dragged him through the streets of the city. This time his strength gave out and he died, saying: “Into Thy hands I commend my spirit.” 

The air became turbulent, and lighting and thunder broke through the sky. His assailants, who had planned to burn his body, all fled. Thus Mark’s disciples were able to collect and piously bury his remains. 

Comments of Prof. Plinio: 

You know that Alexandria was one of the largest cities of Antiquity. It was a city famous for its culture, wealth, and political importance, as well as for the pomp and luxury of its inhabitants. At that time Paganism was different from modern Paganism, which is noted for its vulgarity, banality, and equalitarianism. Paganism then was set in fabulous richness and luxury. It used to make a similar show of an elaborated culture. This pagan display of splendor brought great importance to many of the cities of that time and made them shine before the world. 

These important cities were also the most difficult to convert. St. Mark, however, was able to convert many people of Alexandria. Soon after he arrived, many people changed their lives and took up monastic habits. You can easily imagine the sharp contrast this dignified, serious, chaste and austere life made with the dissolute and exorbitant way of life of the local social elites. 

The life of those elites was quite censurable. It seems useful to give you an idea of how it was. The Romans had conquered all the countries around the Mediterranean Sea, which they called mare nostrum [our sea]. For this reason those countries had the tendency to adopt Roman customs. 

For example, the elites used to have evening banquets and parties in palaces with garden courtyards. With the agreeable evening air of the sea, the doors of the palaces would be open. Such parties frequently lasted all night, ending at dawn with the family members and guests spread throughout the gardens, drunk and unconscious, lying here and there alone or entwined with others in dishonorable postures to be picked up by the servants and taken to their own beds. 

At those bacchanals, they used to eat and drink until they were satiated. They would recline in a kind of chaise longue called a triclinium that could accommodate two or three persons. The ambience was what I imagine would be the boîte [night club] of our days. There were performances of music, poetry, songs, sometimes even gladiators for the amusement and enjoyment of the guests. Throughout the party all were eating and drinking. 

When someone had gorged himself on food and drink and could take no more, there were places like our restrooms where slaves would tickle their throats with a feather so they could vomit everything. Then they would clean themselves with water and perfumes, dry their hands in the long hair of women slaves who were there for that purpose, and return to the banquet rooms to eat and drink again. 

The moral ambience of the lower levels of society was also repugnant. The slaves were very numerous, since almost every free man of the elites or middle classes had more than one slave. But they were not treated as human beings. They were considered the objects of their owners. The slave had no rights to marry or have a family, no rights of parents over children. A child belonged to the owner of his parents like a fruit belongs to the proprietor of the tree. The owner used to take what he wanted from the family of the slaves. He could even kill the slave, which was not considered a crime. 

This was the bestial and decadent world of Paganism. The world of the Alexandria when St. Mark came to preach in it.

You have to imagine this opulent city of Alexandria when St. Mark first arrives with his great dignity. He is there for the first time walking through its streets, let’s suppose, at 4 p.m. with the sun still shining. A Jew, with his beard, his stately bearing, his sanctity, his spirit of recollection, he approaches a first group of people, finds them open to him, and begins to preach. Some of the wayfarers laugh of him, others are indifferent, but one here, another there, come to joint the small group that is already listening to him. In a short time he has a circle of people around him. He finishes, bids farewell to his audience, and goes to a modest inn. 

People start to talk about the things they heard, about Our Lord Jesus Christ, His cross, the need to follow a way of austerity, chastity, and sanctity. Grace accompanies the words of St. Mark, and those people for the first time contemplate a completely different life. Here is a wife who was abandoned by her husband, there is a young man whose eyes begin to open to the gross immorality of this society, further along is a drunk who stops to see what was going on. 

The words of St. Mark open a new perspective of eternal live. He speaks about a spirit that is not material, he speaks of the resurrection of the body, of Heaven and eternal happiness, and also of Hell and Purgatory. He explains that there is a God who is Goodness, Justice and Wisdom Itself to whom we should pray and ask for help. He speaks about Our Lady and the Sacraments, the Holy Eucharist, Confession and the great privilege it is to have our sins forgiven. To a man accustomed to the orgies of Alexandria, these topics cause contradictory reactions. One feels an irresistible attraction, and another a complete repulsion. 

This illustrates how the action of grace over the words of St. Mark could have converted many people. It also makes us understand how his words and his presence constituted a problem for the entire city of Alexandria. He gained so many followers that from that time onward the Catholic Faith was established in the city. But he also generated an immense hatred against him, and these people decided to kill him. 

It is clear that he came to divide, to separate. He created an unsustainable situation for those who did not want to follow him. The result was that they began to plot to kill him. This explains, until the end of time, what happens to all those who follow the model of Our Lord Jesus Christ. 

There is a similarity between the great mission of St. Mark and our more modest mission, we who fight against the modern world. In many ways, the present day world is much worse than the Alexandria of that time. Today’s immorality, I could sustain, is much worse than it was at that time. But I would focus on another point: the indifference of the modern world. In that time St. Mark was able to convert multitudes, in modern times you can consider the apathy of the world in face of the miracles of Lourdes, the great miracle of the sun at Fatima. The normal modern man doesn’t care about them and doesn’t change.

Another point, St. Mark suffered martyrdom and his body was received with veneration by the Italian people who dedicated a city to him: he became the patron of Venice. Today, the Monophysitist Coptic sect is trying to have the body of St. Mark returned to Alexandria. In 1968 Paul VI already gave the precious relic of the head of St. Mark to that sect. The reaction among the Catholic public was very weak, almost complete indifference. 
From this we can see that, worse than the times of St. Mark, today we have doctrinal corruption that has penetrated the Holy Church. She should be the sun of sanctity, and today she is infiltrated by enemies who disfigure her. The Progressivism that controls the Catholic Church today is an expression of the modern world. It is worse than the world of St. Mark. 

Just as St. Mark had the obligation to fight against the corrupt world of his time, we have the duty to fight against the enemies who brought this corruption inside the Church. And because we are convinced that we are incomparably less than St. Mark, we should ask him to help us to conquer ourselves, to overcome our own miseries, so that we might be able to defend the Church against her enemies. 

- Dr. Plinio Corea

Friday, April 24, 2009

St. Fidelis of Sigmaringen - 24th April 2009

FIDELIS was born at Sigmaringen in 1577, of noble parents. In his youth he frequently approached the sacraments, visited the sick and the poor, and spent moreover many hours before the altar. For a time he followed the legal profession, and was remarkable for his advocacy of the poor and his respectful language towards his opponents. Finding it difficult to become both a rich lawyer and a good Christian, Fidelis entered the Capuchin. Order, and embraced a life of austerity and prayer. Hair shirts, iron-pointed girdles, and disciplines were penances too light for his fervor; and being filled with a desire of martyrdom, he rejoiced at being sent to Switzerland by the newly-founded Congregation of Propaganda, and braved every peril to rescue souls from the diabolical heresy of Calvin. When preaching at Sevis he was fired at by a Calvinist, but the fear of death could not deter him from proclaiming divine truth. After his sermon he was waylaid by a body of Protestants headed by a minister, who attacked him and tried to force him to embrace their so-called. reform. But he said, "I came to refute your errors, not to embrace them; I will never renounce Catholic doctrine, which is the truth of all ages, and I fear not death." On this they fell upon him with their poignards, and the first martyr of Propaganda went to receive his palm.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Montreal Cardinal: "I am against abortion, but I can understand that in certain cases, there is almost no other choice than to practice it."

This is a snippet from LifeSite News

"In the interview Cardinal Turcotte, as quoted by Le Devoir, compared abortion to killing in self-defense, effectively equating the unborn child with a violent aggressor. "Personally, I am against murder," he said, "but can understand that sometimes, when someone is being attacked, they need to kill someone in self-defense. I am against abortion, but I can understand that in certain cases, there is almost no other choice than to practice it."

No respected Cardinal there are no cases in which abortion can be practiced, not even if the life of the mother is at risk. If you dobt this respected Cardinal, please refer to Saint Gianna Molla  

A few days before the child was due, although trusting as always in Providence, she was ready to give her life in order to save that of her child: “If you must decided between me and the child, do not hesitate: choose the child - I insist on it. Save him”. On the morning of April 21, 1962, Gianna Emanuela was born. Despite all efforts and treatments to save both of them, on the morning of April 28, amid unspeakable pain and after repeated exclamations of “Jesus, I love you. Jesus, I love you», the mother died. She was 39 years old. Her funeral was an occasion of profound grief, faith and prayer. The Servant of God lies in the cemetery of Mesero (4 km from Magenta).

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

What church father are you

I Don't normally put up such things on my blog. However this is an oppurtunity to learn about a church father so here goes...

You’re St. Melito of Sardis!

You have a great love of history and liturgy. You’re attached to the traditions of the ancients, yet you recognize that the old world — great as it was — is passing away. You are loyal to the customs of your family, though you do not hesitate to call family members to account for their sins.

Find out which Church Father you are at The Way of the Fathers!

St. Adalbert of Prague - 22nd April 2009

Today is the feast of St. Adalbert of Prague. Let us understand what Dr. Plino has to teach us about this Saint.

Adalbert was born in 956 into an illustrious family of Bohemia. In childhood he was taken by a fatal illness and his parents made a vow to the Holy Virgin to offer him to the priesthood if he would be cured. Their prayers were answered, and the boy recovered his health. They sent their son to Magdeburg to the saintly Archbishop of Magdeburg, who oversaw his education in religion and science.

In 973 he received holy orders from the Bishop of Prague. Later, this Bishop died a bad death, screaming in despair on his deathbed that he would be condemned for his negligence to his duties and ardent pursuit of honors, wealth and pleasures. A witness to this sad end, Adalbert never forgot it, taking it as a lesson for the rest of his life. The next year he was chosen as Bishop of Prague.

He entered Prague barefoot and was joyfully received by the people. The Diocese was in a deplorable situation. Some of its inhabitants were still idolaters, and many Catholics were well entrenched in shameful vices. In vain St. Adalbert tried to correct them and to bring them to religion and piety. When his efforts proved fruitless, he obtained papal permission to leave the Episcopate and enter a monastery in Rome. After five years, Pope John XV sent him back to Prague with the provision that he could again leave the Episcopate if the people did not correspond.

A second time he was received joyfully, and the people promised to correct themselves and leave their heathen practices. These hasty promises were soon forgotten, however, and the Saint determined to abandon them forever and return to his monastery. On his way back to Rome, he met with a great success in Hungary, where he converted many to Catholicism. With this, the Pope ordered him to not come to Rome, but to return to Prague. At this news, the elites of Prague became enraged and killed many relatives of the Saint, stole his belongings, and burned the family castles.

Adalbert went to Boleslaus, his friend, son of the Duke of Poland. In this country he again converted many idolaters. On a missionary trip to Prussia he converted some of the inhabitants of Danzig. It was there that he met his death when a group of pagans attacked him. When he received the first blow, he thanked God for giving him the opportunity to suffer for Him. Then the pagan priest leading the idolaters pierced his body with a two-headed lance, saying: “Be joyous, then, since you want nothing more than to suffer with your Christ.” It was April 23, 997.

Comments of Prof. Plinio: This life is so dense in teachings that we could analyze it point by point. Let us take only some of them.

First, we can consider the situation in the Middle Ages. It is erroneous to imagine that in that time the Church was crowned with glory sleeping in a bed of flowers for 1000 years. The fact is that during those 1000 years the life of the Church was a hard fight. The reality is that the Church won that fight because many generous souls, called by God to make the sacrifice of their lives, said “yes.” In other times the Church has to face the same fight, but instead of saying “yes,” persons called by God say “no,” or “perhaps” – which is the more detestable way to say “no.” So, the Church is badly served and as a consequence, civilization slides downhill. This applies to the facts we just heard regarding the Middle Ages.

Second, Prague was an important city of that time. It was situated in an area newly evangelized by the Church, still lacking a Catholic civilization. Great attention was being paid to it, just as today people pay special attention to new areas that are just starting to develop and be civilized. In Prague there was a Bishop who had the responsibility to further the Reign of Our Lord and Our Lady in that region. His mission was to confirm the Catholics in their faith and to convert those who were not Catholics. But he was bad and died in despair.

Third, even in this death we can see some medieval characteristics that almost no longer exist. Today almost no one dies in dramas of despair. Sinners like this Bishop and even worse die listening to music and such, completely indifferent to their responsibilities. They do so cynically, calmly, saying good bye to everyone and pretending they have nothing to fear. There is no longer shame felt for the sins committed and the evil done. It is a complete indifference, and a general insensibility. The worse thing is that this moral insensibility reflects the person’s loss of the sense of good and evil, the sense of what comes from God and what comes from the Devil.

Such insensibility was much rarer in the Middle Ages. Certainly the Church had to fight against all kind of enemies, as we heard in this selection. But it rarely happened that a man would have the kind of indifferent death we see today. Persons could die blaspheming, or in despair; others would convert in extremis [at the last moment]. But almost no one died in the cynicism and indifference so common today.

Fourth, so we see that the Bishop of Prague died with signs of horror, with signs of his condemnation. One good result was the healthy shock this caused in the life of a future saint. Remembering this sight, St. Adalbert decided to humbly enter Prague barefoot when he was chosen to be the successor of that man. Doing this, he was showing that he was a penitent Bishop, and not a dissolute Bishop. It was his way of saying that he would not follow in the steps of his predecessor, that he would lead the Diocese in a way completely different from his predecessor. It was a strong statement that showed his disapproval not only of the bad Bishop, but also of the bad faction of Catholics of that city.

Fifth, a curious fact that contradicts later events is that twice the people received him very well. Nonetheless, that people was incorrigible. They resisted the efforts of the Saint during his whole lifetime. They became, in effect, his great cross. He preached to this people, and they didn’t convert. Afterwards, he preached to the Hungarians and the Prussians and they converted, but his own people did not. They remained bad to the end.

Nothing is automatic in the life of the Church. Some persons think that if a city or an area has a saint, it will automatically convert. It doesn’t work this way. While it is true that often a saint is enough to convert a region, at other times a bad people can resist the action of the greatest saints, just as the Jews resisted the action of Our Lord Jesus Christ, who was the Man-God Himself.

Sixth, the result of this rejection of St. Adalbert by Bohemia – it is interesting to see the consequences of the rejection of a saint – is that it continued to be a bad region for a long time. With John Hus, Bohemia took an early lead in the Protestant revolution, and after it, Bohemia was one of the strongholds of Protestantism.

Although Bohemia was subject to the House of Austria, it always constituted a problem. Later it became a socialist republic. Furthermore, this people did not rise up with any particular reaction against Communism when it took over Czechoslovakia. That is to say, that rejection of old, that bad character from its past, generated a bad people until our days. There were, of course, exceptions. There were many good people there, many saints. But a bad current always continued.

We should imitate St. Adalbert in bringing the truth and the traditional Catholic position to our countries. If we do so in the right way, fearlessly and humbly, as St. Adalbert did, we invite our countries to adhere to the right path.

We should pray to St. Adalbert and especially to Our Lady to help convert our countries and our American continent. We should ask that we are generous enough to answer “yes,” and never “perhaps” to the invitation God makes to us to help Him.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

St. Anslem - 21 April 2009

St. Anselm was born in 1033 near Aosta, in those days a Burgundian town on the frontier with Lombardy. Little is known of his early life. He left home at twenty-three, and after three years of apparently aimless travelling through Burgundy and France, he came to Normandy in 1059. Once he was in Normandy, Anselm's interest was captured by the Benedictine abbey at Bec, whose famous school was under the direction of Lanfranc, the abbey's prior.

Lanfranc was a scholar and teacher of wide reputation, and under his leadership the school at Bec had become an important center of learning, especially in dialectic. In 1060 Anselm entered the abbey as a novice. His intellectual and spiritual gifts brought him rapid advancement, and when Lanfranc was appointed abbot of Caen in 1063, Anselm was elected to succeed him as prior. He was elected abbot in 1078 upon the death of Herluin, the founder and first abbot of Bec.

Under Anselm's leadership the reputation of Bec as an intellectual center grew, and Anselm managed to write a good deal of philosophy and theology in addition to his teaching, administrative duties, and extensive correspondence as an adviser and counsellor to rulers and nobles all over Europe and beyond. His works while at Bec include the Monologion (1075-76), the Proslogion (1077-78), and his four philosophical dialogues: De grammatico (1059-60), De veritate, and De libertate arbitrii, and De casu diaboli (1080-86).

In 1093 Anselm was enthroned as Archbishop of Canterbury. The previous Archbishop, Anselm's old master Lanfranc, had died four years earlier, but the King, William Rufus, had left the see vacant in order to plunder the archiepiscopal revenues. Anselm was understandably reluctant to undertake the primacy of the Church of England under a ruler as ruthless and venal as William, and his tenure as Archbishop proved to be as turbulent and vexatious as he must have feared. William was intent on maintaining royal authority over ecclesiastical affairs and would not be dictated to by Archbishop or Pope or anyone else.

So, for example, when Anselm went to Rome in 1097 without the King's permission, William would not allow him to return. When William was killed in 1100, his successor, Henry I, invited Anselm to return to his see. But Henry was as intent as William had been on maintaining royal jurisdiction over the Church, and Anselm found himself in exile again from 1103 to 1107. Despite these distractions and troubles, Anselm continued to write. His works as Archbishop of Canterbury include the Epistola de Incarnatione Verbi (1094), Cur Deus Homo (1095-98), De conceptu virginali (1099), De processione Spiritus Sancti (1102), the Epistola de sacrificio azymi et fermentati (1106-7), De sacramentis ecclesiae (1106-7), and De concordia (1107-8). Anselm died on 21 April 1109. He was canonized in 1494 and named a Doctor of the Church in 1720.

Monday, April 20, 2009

St. Conrad of Parzham - 20th April 2009

St. Conrad was not a founder of an order, a priest or a doctor yet his love of God and his devotion to Mary made him a hero of Christ. St. Conrad excelled in the virtue of Charity, showing itself in love of God and neighbour, devotion to the Holy Eucharist and a childlike confidence in Mary, the Mother of God.

St Conrad received a good training in Catholicism from his parents whom he helped on the farm. We are told that he spent many hours in prayer while going about his work, so it may not be surprising that this holy youth sought entry to the Capuchins after attending a mission in his town. He entered as a humble lay brother. In his notes we find written, "The Cross is my book". Because Christ had given all to us, Conrad decided to give all he could possibly give for Christ and souls. He held the office of Porter at Altoetting for over forty years. As the monastery was a place of pilgrimage, it was besieged by thousand calls a day. To young and old alike, to polite and impolite, the saint was kind and gentle. By living in union with God he was able to let Christ act through him. In answering questions and discussing God he led many souls to the Divine Redeem. Conrad ate little, slept less and worked hard, but always in communion with Christ, the God of his heart. He had a great longing for the Eucharist and served Mass with great devotion. The Mass was the greatest joy of Conrad's long and hard life. Whatever extra time he had from his work, the Saint spent before the Blessed Sacrament.

To the strong devotion to the Eucharist and the Crucified Lord, Conrad added a special devotion to Mary. She was his Queen and Advocate in all his trials and above all his guide to Christ. He prayed before the statue of Our Lady of Sorrows and the Crucifix in the Porter's Office and was always ready to spread devotion to Mary by the distribution of Rosary Beads. Finally crippled, Conrad served his last Mass on April 18th, 1894; three days later, while the children who he had taught the Rosary, recited it outside his window, Conrad died. His heroic virtues and the miracles he performed won for him the distinction to be ranked among the Blessed by Pope Pius XI in the year 1930. Four years later, the same Pope approving additional miracles which had been performed, solemnly inscribed his name in the list of Saints. The feast of St. Conrad is celebrated on April 21st.