Sunday, December 31, 2017

The God of Healing

Michael H. Brown's book The God of Healing
Michael H. Brown's book, The God of Healing

One of the benefits of the Christmas season is an opportunity to catch up on some reading. This year I decided to read Michael H. Brown's book, The God of Healing.

For those who have been following my blog, you may remember Michael H. Brown (director of the Catholic news website from my posts on his four informative talks that he gave during the Marian Day Retreat back in May of this year. Those talks not only spawned four blog posts on each respective talk and the rereading and blogging of his book, Prayer of the Warrior, but it also prompted me to acquire four other books he authored: one of which I blogged about in September, Where The Cross Stands: The Last Chance to Reclaim America; two remain on the reading and blog-draft lists; and the other is the focus of today's post.

The God of Healing, is a worthy addition to anyone's reading list that seeks to better understand an increasingly important subject matter in today's world where people are suffering from a multitude of chronic ailments, injuries, and life-threatening diseases.

Yet even in today's Information Age, many are not aware that healing is available to those who put their trust in God; who pray in a spirit of obedience, abandonment, and gratitude, as if the healing had already occurred, much in the same manner as Jesus did when raising Lazarus from the dead. (John 11:42)

Healing happens to those who not only believe that God can heal, but that He actually will heal when asked.

Part of the healing process entails our cooperation: a sincere turning to God in perfect contrition and true repentance; forgiving those who we need to forgive; letting go of hatred, resentment, and bitterness; and seeking to live a virtuous life. We should pray for these gifts and the graces to live them fully, each and every day of our lives.

We also need to spiritually cleanse our homes and lives from demonic influence. Our homes should be blessed by a priest, especially when moving into a new home. The frequent use of sacramentals (holy or exorcised water, salt, and oil) is also important in fighting the spirits of darkness (demonic) that may attempt to silently influence us.

Receiving the Sacrament of Reconciliation or confession is very important to "come clean" with God. Add to this: regularly attendance at Mass (more than once a week, daily if possible); appealing to Our Lady's intercession through the recitation the Rosary (the most powerful prayer next to Mass) and the intercession of the saints; adoration in front of the Blessed Sacrament; fasting (especially on bread and water) which is a powerful spiritual weapon (Mark 9:29) that expels evil and cleanses the body; meditation on the Bible, especially the scriptural passages that deal with healing (half the passages in the first eight chapters of Mark deal with healing); and calling upon our guardian angels and St. Raphael to heal, guide, and protect us.

God can heal anybody of anything! God's healing is not a matter of if, but when: when we act, God acts. The God of Healing is essentially a guide book of what we need to do to put that healing process into motion. 

We must do so with a strong and unwavering faith, drawing from the lessons of Christ to the Apostles who inquired with Jesus after he cast out a demon, why they were unable to do likewise, to which he replied, "...Because of your little faith. For truly I tell 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; and nothing will be impossible for you." (Matthew 17:18-20)

For those who have been injured recently, diagnosed with a condition or disease and are terribly worried or perhaps bordering on despair, Brown offers some words of encouragement: "Don't accept an evil report." (16) God is above what any diagnosis and doctor will say about your health. Do not let the Evil One or his demons discourage, dishearten, and depress you! Never despair; there is always hope with God!

In chapter three, Invisible forces, Brown illustrates why we should never accept an "evil report" by citing from the example of St. Pio of Pietrelcina (Padre Pio) who in 1958, was afflicted by bronchial pneumonia. Despite the best efforts of doctors, his condition remained and as tests were conducted, Padre Pio was informed that he had cancer and only had a few months to live. Much to the shock of doctors, Padre Pio burst out laughing and informed them that they didn't know what they were talking about. 

Padre Pio refused the evil report! He refused the doctors' advice for chemotherapy. He prayed in front of a famous pilgrim statue from Fatima, and did so the entire time it remained in the monastery. Eventually the statue was taken away and Padre Pio pleaded with Our Lady, "Dear Mother, ever since you came to Italy, I have been immobilized by sickness. Now that you are leaving, aren't you going to say even a word to me?" At that moment, he felt a surge throughout his body; he leaped out of bed and shouted, "I'm healed." Two weeks later, Padre Pio resumed all his duties. (17)

We would do well to remember what Brown wrote in beginning of the first chapter, Our Creator wants us whole, "There's no doubt whatsoever that God can heal anybody of anything." He is the God of healing. (1)

Throughout the book, Brown refers to how the demonic and unclean spirits can—and many times are—the source of emotional, psychological, and physical problems, but it is in chapter seven, Spirits of Darkness, where he elaborates on this in greater detail.

In that chapter, Brown quoted Dr. Kenneth McAll's—a Christian psychiatrist who claimed to have witness dozens of spirits haunt various locations, causing accidents, disputes, and other negativity—recommendation that upon moving to a new home, "...[I]t is a good idea to have it blessed." (36)

Giotto di Bondone's fresco, The Expulsion of the Devils From Arezzo
McAll's recommendation brought to mind Giotto di Bondone's fresco, The Expulsion of the Devils From Arezzo, which serves as another reminder of how the demonic can influence the lives of those who remain vulnerable to their attacks.

Giotto's fresco depicts Br. Sylvester blessing the town of Arezzo, Italy and in the process expelling all the demons who, up until that time, were urging people on to a "mutual slaughter."

Although not the focus of today's blog post, including the story of what actually happened in Arezzo, may be of interest to those who want to further grasp the reality of the demonic. Here is the account from St. Bonaventure's Major Life of St. Francis (CH VI, NO.9.), The Expulsion of The Devils From Arezzo:
On one occasion St. Francis arrived at Arezzo when the whole town was being torn with faction fights and threatened with destruction. There he was given hospitality in a village near the town and he could see the devils rejoicing over it and urging the people on to mutual slaughter. He was anxious to put the malicious powers of evil to flight and so he sent brother Sylvester, who was a man of dove-like simplicity, telling him to approach the town like a herald. "Go up to the town gate," he said, "and in the name of almighty God command the devils in virtue of obedience to go away immediately." Sylvester was a genuinely obedient man and did what he was told. There and then the town was restored to peace and the townspeople set about reforming the laws governing their mutual rights peacefully. Once the malignant and presumptuous influence of the demons which encompassed the town like a besieging army had been counteracted, it needed only the wisdom of a beggar, that is, Francis' humility, to restore peace and save the day. By the heroic practice of humble obedience Francis had gained complete authority over the rebellious spirits, so that he could crush their frantic efforts and put an end to the violence they attempted.
Further in Spirits of Darkness, Brown refers to Fr. Jose Maniyangat from Jacksonville, Florida who firmly believes that the majority of physical illnesses are rooted in evil. 

Highlighting the hidden aspect of the demonic, Brown wrote, "In the vast majority of cases, spirits aren't recognized and remain hidden (causing 'incurable,' mysterious ailments). Lack of joy and peace—a feeling of despair—is a marker. So is malaise." (38) Brown quoted Fr. Jose on the clandestine aspect of a demonic presence within a home:
It is important to remember, that if the entities manifesting are of a diabolical nature, then they must be driven out in the Name of Jesus...They will always clandestinely affect the persons in the home in a negative manner, one way or the other, whether through sicknesses like heart attacks, headaches and stomach aches, relational problems and division within the family, emotional and psychological illnesses like impatience, anger, and depression, temptations like lust, pride, and sloth with regard to one's prayer life and Christian obligations; weakening of faith in God, as well as failures in businesses and other endeavours. (38)
With respect to souls of the departed that are still earthbound, they too may negatively affect us much in the same manner as demons. Elaborating on this Brown wrote, "Again: Jesus used the term 'unclean' when casting spirits of infirmity out of people. If we'd stop and realize how many 'psychological' illnesses are caused by spiritual influence, we would clear out half of our psychiatric wards." (39)

Further highlighting the clandestine demonic root of mental problems, Brown referred to a patient of Sigmund Freud's who was of the belief that the root cause of her condition was due to an "entity" within her. Brown went on to further note that Freud's assistant agreed with the patient. 

Sadly, there are many in the professional field of psychiatry and psychology that don't understand or believe that demonic influence is the root cause of many conditions or problems. We need not look any further than to the vocabulary used by such professionals, "They call obsession 'neurosis'; oppression 'schizophrenia'; and possession a 'split' personality or 'multiple-personality disorder' (the Lord said 'legion,' Luke 8:30)." (39)

Much if not all of what is going on in our lives can be cleared through confession, repentance, expiation, and forgiveness; all of which sets us on the path to healing.

To aid in the healing process, Brown referred to a few saints that we can pray to for their intercession: St. Lucy, St. Joseph, St. Pio of Pietrelcina, and St. Andre Bessette, the miracle man from Montreal, whose devotion to St. Joseph helped many in the healing process and restoration to normal health.

Brown cited one such case of a woman who was suffering from cancer of the eye, who was told by St. Andre Bessette to, "...[T]ake some oil from the oratory [St. Joseph's Oratory in Montreal] apply it to her eyes, and offer a daily prayer to Saint Joseph, using a medal of him." (40) The women complied with the instructions and even climbed the stairs to the crypt on her knees, spending the rest of the day in prayer. Within weeks the cancer disappeared and a year later, the woman's daughter wrote to St. Joseph's Oratory that her mother was in "excellent health." (40)

We can also cooperate with God's healing by remembering that our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, "Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you were bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body." (1Corinthians 6:19-20)

Part of glorifying God in our bodies translates into: eating the right foods, drinking plenty of water, getting the rest we need, and regular exercise.

Brown begins to address the importance of healthy living and expelling stress in our lives in chapter eight, The Power that closes the wounds. In that chapter, he emphasizes that harmony with God and His Creation can lead not only to a healthy life, but a long one. He cited the example of Esmeralda Stavra from Symi, Greece:
I read an account of a woman named Esmeralda Stavra in Symi who was 107 when she died on the island in Greece where they are very physically active, eat the right things, take time for neighbors, get sun, and don't know stress. Her house was at the top of the village steps and even when she was a hundred years old Esmeralda went up and down three or four times a day so she could sell the feta cheese and yogurt she made. She was never ill; never went to the doctor, for so much as a checkup (her children said). She was 'harmonious.' She was in tune with nature. She was connected to God. (44)
Further in the book at chapter eleven, Lean and Clean, Brown encourages the reader to "Invoke the Holy Spirit and do, eat, and drink what He guides you to do, eat, and drink." (57)

At chapter thirteen, Those who live longest, Brown refers to the Hunzas, residents of the Himalayas (northern Pakistan) who experience such longevity that they have been studied for decades. He described their healthy diet:
They are regularly over a hundred, and some are purportedly a decade or more beyond that. Their diet consists of fresh raw carrots, sprouted legumes, cabbage, whole-grain chapattis, unpasteurized  whole milk (yes, they ingest some dairy), a little meat once a week, and lots of pure water...
In the land of the Hunzas, apricots are staples as are cherries, mulberries, and walnuts. Organic vegetables are grown in soil prepared with natural compost. Their proteins come chiefly from beans, legumes, and chickpeas. When meat is taken, it's in small doses from animals ('free-range') that graze in a natural manner. Hunzas also drink that clean glacier water and eat fermented butter and cheese in small quantities. A main drink is apricot oil...(72)
It was Hippocrates who stated, "Let food be your medicine and medicine your food." (74) 

Hippocrates was the first to write about the benefits of garlic as a medicine for eliminating tumors. Brown noted how recent studies have shown that garlic "...[K]ills insects, parasites, bad bacteria, and fungi. It also eliminates various tumors, lowers blood sugar levels, lowers harmful fats in the blood, and prevents clogging of the arteries." (74) 

Further he remarked, "Perhaps this is why a community in southern Italy called Campodimele (halfway between Rome and Naples, and heavy on garlic) is called 'Village of Eternal Youth.' God's medicine is often found in a natural state." (75)

Citing another example Brown referred to those living in Okinawa, Japan, "There the mainstay is whole grains, leafy vegetables, sweet potatoes, and smaller amounts of fish, organic soy products, and pork" (75)

Brown went on to write, "The theme is that people who live long lives are drawing minerals, vitamins, and other nutrients right from the way God fashioned them. They also get sufficient rest..." (75)

God is in total control. Does that mean that everyone who prays will automatically be healed or receive a miracle. It is a matter for God to decide. 

If we don't receive a healing, it might be as Brown suggests because we have yet to pray from the deepest recesses of our hearts. It may be a matter of redemptive suffering; that is, the purification through suffering that a soul must undergo so as to become better suited for Heaven.

Sometimes healing is immediate, but most occur over a period of time. As Brown notes, "Just as natural remedies may take a while, even a long one, to have their effect, so too do spiritual cures. Often, what is profound takes time. It is progressive. There may be unseen matters to resolve." (35)

In the last chapter, Your destiny is the best outcome," Brown states in the first sentence, "Final outcomes are in the Hands of God." (141) To reiterate from earlier in this post, we must never give up hope!

For those that may be tempted into despair, here are some encouraging words from Brown's last chapter:
You can't experience victory if you plan for defeat...Don't be the architect of your own failure. Don't draw up a 'blackprint' of your future. With Jesus and your angels (ask for extra ones) and the Blessed Mother and the Holy Spirit: all will turn out well in what ever way...Everyone goes through angst, which is a trial in life. We worry about how to pay for our health care. We have debts from a home or a car. We fall back in payments. There is tension at work...The right attitude will take you through any 'furnace,' through any oppression, to a higher place. The more things are difficult for you, the greater your chance of enhancing His glory...God puts you in situations so you come out higher (and whiter). When we persist, He takes away what has been holding us back...God puts us in situations that purge what keeps us from Him and our missions. Move forward, always forward. If you are focussed on what's behind you, you are headed backwards. Often, you have to lose something to gain something. When God takes something away, He gives more back. It is only separation from God that should concern us when the 'going gets tough'; for when the going gets tough, the tough—headed for wellness, healing through God—get on their knees. (143)
In the words of St. Pio of Pietrelcina, "Pray, hope, and don't worry."

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Pray to Our Lady of Guadalupe for the Unborn

Our Lady of Guadalupe's image on St. Juan Diego's tilma
The image of Our Lady of Guadalupe
on St. Juan Diego's tilma
Today's feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe is an especially important one for millions of Catholics in the Americas and around the world who pray to the Blessed Virgin Mary for the protection of human life, especially for developing human beings in the womb: the unborn children who are faced with the danger of abortion.

The pregnant aspect of Our Lady's image on Saint Juan Diego's tilma (cactus cloth) has made Our Lady of Guadalupe a symbol for the plight of the unborn. It is a constant reminder of God's mercy and Divine Intervention in the world, and Our Lady's continued work for the salvation of souls that includes exposing the deception of the Evil One and his demons.

It is for that very purpose that Our Lady has appeared in so many places throughout the centuries: to eradicate pagan worship, debauchery, New Age and occult practices, and all other types of evil, and in the process has been, and continues to be, our light to Christ, showing us the path to Jesus.

The image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, was revealed in 1531, when St. Juan Diego unfolded his tilma (full of flowers) in front the local bishop and as the flowers fell to the floor, the exquisitely detailed painting of Our Lady was seen by all present. 

Our Lady's image also draws our attention to its supernatural power and the fact that it caused the conversion of eight million Aztecs and other indigenous people in less than ten years, in the area that is known today as Mexico

Saint Juan Diego was himself converted to the Catholic faith some time between 1524-1525, and was baptized by a Franciscan priest, Fr. Peter da Gand, one of the first Franciscan missionaries.

Praying for conversions is an important aspect in the fight against abortion, euthanasia and assisted suicide, contraception, in vitro fertilization, the death penalty, and all other threats to the value and inviolability of human life. Our Lady of Guadalupe is the powerful intercessor that we have recourse to in the fight against the Culture of Death.

It is important to remember that the fight to protect the unborn is primarily a spiritual battle that must be fought with spiritual weapons, of which the Holy Mass and group recitation of the Rosary—the two most powerful forms of prayer—are essential weapons in the spiritual arsenal to fight the good fight.

In addition to the Mass, Rosary, and your own personal prayers, you may want to consider the following selected prayers taken from Michael Brown's Marian devotional book, Seven Days With Mary, in which he dedicates one of the seven days to Our Lady of Guadalupe:
Prayer of John Paul II
Virgin of Guadalupe, Mother of the Americas, grant to our homes the grace of loving and respecting life in its beginnings, with the same love which you conceived in your womb the life of the Son of God. Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of Fair Love, protect our families, so that they may always be united, and bless the upbringing of our children. We beg you grant us a great love for all the holy Sacraments, which are, as it were, the signs that your Son left us on earth. Thus, Most Holy Mother, with the peace of God in our conscience, with our hearts free from evil and hatred, we will be able to bring to all true joy and true peace, which come to us from your Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, Who with God the Father and the Holy Spirit, lives and reigns forever and ever. Amen. (47)
Morning Offering
Immaculate Heart of Mary, heart of my mother, Our Lady of Guadalupe, I unite to thy purity, thy sanctity, thy zeal, and thy love, all my thoughts, words, acts, and suffering this day, that there may be nothing in me that does not become through thee a pleasure to Jesus, a gain for souls, and an act of reparation for the offenses against thy heart. (49)
Closing Prayer
Remember, O most gracious Virgin of Guadalupe, that in your apparitions on Mount Tepeyac you promised to show pity and compassion to all who, loving and trusting you, seek your help and protection.
Accordingly, listen now to our supplications and grant us consolation and relief. We are full of hope that, relying on your help, nothing can trouble or affect us. As you have remained with us through your admirable image, so now obtain for us the graces we need. Amen. (51)  
So important is Our Lady of Guadalupe in the Americas that in 1945, Pope Pius XII decreed Our Lady of Guadalupe to be “Patroness of all the Americas,” and today in Mexico, it is a Holy Day of Obligation.

In more recent times during his pastoral visit to Mexico, Saint John Paul II, in his homily at the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mexico City on Saturday, January 23, 1999, entrusted the future of the continent and the Church to the Blessed Virgin Mary, imploring the Holy Virgin of Guadalupe to, "Save the nations and peoples of this continent. Teach everyone, political leaders and citizens, to live in true freedom and to act according to the requirements of justice and respect for human rights, so that peace may thus be established once and for all. (9)

Saint John Paul II, who was well known as a staunch defender of human life, stated during that homily, “...[T]he Church must proclaim the Gospel of life and speak out with prophetic force against the culture of death.” (8)

It was in 1995, only four years prior to that homily, that St. John Paul II released his encyclical on the Gospel of Life, Evangelium Vitae; an essential reading for anyone who wants to understand the Church's teaching on the value and inviolability of human life, and the many threats to it. For those who are somewhat new to the life of St. John Paul II, here is an excerpt from Evangelium Vitae that captures the richness of this encyclical and his commitment to the protection of the unborn:
"Your eyes beheld my unformed substance" (Ps 139:16): the unspeakable crime of abortion 
Among all the crimes which can be committed against life, procured abortion has characteristics making it particularly serious and deplorable. The Second Vatican Council defines abortion, together with infanticide, as an "unspeakable crime".
But today, in many people's consciences, the perception of its gravity has become progressively obscured. The acceptance of abortion in the popular mind, in behaviour and even in law itself, is a telling sign of an extremely dangerous crisis of the moral sense, which is becoming more and more incapable of distinguishing between good and evil, even when the fundamental right to life is at stake. Given such a grave situation, we need now more than ever to have the courage to look the truth in the eye and to call things by their proper name, without yielding to convenient compromises or to the temptation of self-deception. In this regard the reproach of the Prophet is extremely straightforward: "Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness" (Is 5:20). Especially in the case of abortion there is a widespread use of ambiguous terminology, such as "interruption of pregnancy", which tends to hide abortion's true nature and to attenuate its seriousness in public opinion. Perhaps this linguistic phenomenon is itself a symptom of an uneasiness of conscience. But no word has the power to change the reality of things: procured abortion is the deliberate and direct killing, by whatever means it is carried out, of a human being in the initial phase of his or her existence, extending from conception to birth. (58)
If we look to the human sacrifices of St. Juan Diego's time (1500s) and our modern times, we can easily draw a parallel between the demonic worship during the Aztec era with that of today's abortions: the mass murder of innocent human beings in the womb performed in hospitals, "health care centers," "women's care clinics," and so-called "family-planning facilities" such as Planned Parenthood.

The Aztecs offered human sacrifices as part of their worship to two chief Aztec gods (demons), Huitzilopochtli and Tezcatlipocawhich, of which the most popular was the brutal ritual performed on top of Aztec pyramids. The Our Lady of Guadalupe web site at details this:
Perhaps the most popular of the public rituals was taking the victims to the tops of the Aztec pyramids where they were laid on top of a flat stone. There, the priests cut open their chests and their hearts were ripped out. The bodies were then thrown down the steps of the pyramid.
After the bodies tumbled down the stairs, the priests removed the limbs, cooked and ate them. Specially hands and thighs were considered the best delicacies. The heads were placed in skull racks for public exhibition.
The atrocities committed in our modern times against human life, as during the Aztec era, are inspired and influenced by the demonic. Just as the Aztecs intentionally offered their human sacrifices to their gods (demons), so too are people today intentionally performing abortions as part of a blood sacrifice and offering to Satan.

Here in Canada, where abortion is available on demand, we are in great need of God's Divine Intervention and Our Lady of Guadalupe's intercession to eradicate abortion and all other threats to human life (euthanasia and assisted suicide, contraception, in vitro fertilization) from the landscape.

Sadly, Canada is a country whose political leaders have failed the nation by consistently rejecting God’s plan for humanity, and in the process ignored Canada’s Christian heritage, history, and identity. This failure dates back to Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau and the infamous 1969 Omnibus Bill that ushered in "therapeutic abortions" performed in hospitals, which eventually paved the way for Dr. Henry Morgantaler's 1988 constitutional challenge that resulted in abortion being made available on demand across the nation.

Our current Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau (supposedly a Catholic like his father Pierre Elliot Trudeau) has stated on more than one occasion that anyone seeking to join the Liberal Party of Canada must support abortion. This fact alone is a telling sign of the ongoing moral crisis in Canada that seems to be increasing with each new generation.

God's Holy Law clearly states in the Fifth Commandment, "You Shall Not Kill." The Catechism of the Catholic Church elaborates on this Commandment, "Human life is sacred because from its beginning it involves the creative action of God and it remains for ever in a special relationship with the Creator, who is its sole end. God alone is the Lord of life from its beginning until its end: no one can under any circumstance claim for himself the right directly to destroy an innocent human being." (2258)

None of this has meant anything to Canada's prime ministers since Pierre Elliot Trudeau; the result of which has seen a growing moral disorder in Canada and with it the establishment of a Culture of Death.

I respectfully urge my fellow Canadians to pray to Our Lady of Guadalupe for the protection of the unborn, and for God's Divine Intervention, that the moral disorder that has taken root over the past five decades may be eradicated from the land and that Canada be restored to a Culture of Life.

Our Lady of Guadalupe, pray for us!