Friday, September 27, 2013

October is The Month of The Rosary

The Battle of Lepanto
As October is rapidly approaching, it seems only fitting to post this friendly reminder to my fellow Catholics, that October is The Month of the Rosary. In so doing, I hope that Catholic visitors to my blog will be encouraged to a daily recitation of the Rosary. If you are somewhat new to the Rosary, I hope this post will be part of your discovery of this most beautiful gift given to us by the Blessed Virgin Mary to her faithful servant, St. Dominic in the thirteenth century. 

October is dedicated as the "Month of The Rosary" primarily due to the liturgical feast day of October 7, Our Lady of The Rosary. It is a feast designated by the Church to honour of Our Blessed Mother's intercession at the Battle of Lepanto, which saw Christians forces defeat the Ottoman Turks on October 7, 1571. This victorious day became the feast day of Our Lady of Victory, which later changed to Our Lady of the Rosary. To gain a true appreciation of this feast day, one should have some knowledge of the historical facts of the Battle of Lepanto. Below is a concise summary of the events that led to the victory over the Turks.

The Turkish Ottomans had aspirations for domination of Western Europe. By the latter half of the sixteenth century that Muslim aggression revealed itself with the Ottoman sultan proclaiming jihad or "struggle," a call to "Holy War." Pope Pius V understood the importance and significance of resisting aggressive Turkish expansion. The real battle was a spiritual one, with Christianity in the West (western Europe) at stake. The Ottoman Empire, the seat of Islamic power, looked to control the entire Mediterranean and bring all of Europe within the dar al-Islam or "House of Submission."

To combat this imminent Islamic threat, a "Holy League" force was formed, comprised of Catholic Knights of Papal States, Malta, Italy, Germany, Spain, England, Scotland, Scandinavia, Catholics and freebooters (lawless adventurers), gentlemen adventurers and convicts used to row the galleys. France not officially present as a force, had contributed Knights to the Holy League. Part of the Italian contingent, were the Venetians whose thirst for commerce was abruptly interrupted by the realization that holding on to their business enterprises would necessitate war against Turkish aggression. The Turkish aspiration for Europe was thrust into action in 1565 with an attack in the eastern Mediterranean on the island of Malta. The island was valiantly defended by Christian forces and after four months, the gallant Knights repelled the Turkish invasion, inflicting heavy losses upon the Ottoman forces. Malta was then reinforced with fresh troops from Spain.

With Malta proving to be more difficult than anticipated, the Turks changed their target to Cyprus. The two key points in Cyprus were Nicosia and Famagusta. At Nicosia, the Cyprian force who were out numbered 7 to 1 and after seven weeks of fighting the Cyprian force was reduced to 500 men. The Christian forces surrendered with the expectation that the civilians would be spared and the Christian troops to be enslaved. Instead, the Muslim invaders butchered every Christian they could find, regardless of gender, rank, age including children, 20,000 in total. At Famagusta, the Christian defenders fought for ten months, keeping the Turks at bay. Eventually the Christians, under the Venetian commander Marco Antonio Bragadino agreed to a negotiated settlement. Just as at Nicosia, the Turks deceived the Christians slaughtering all the troops and their commanders, sparing only the civilians and reserving a special torture for Bragadino.

Map of The Battle of Lepanto
Eventually, it all led to the Battle of Lepanto, located at the Gulf of Patras in what was then, Turkish occupied Greece. The Turks had 328 ships with 77,000 fighting men, with 50,000 oarsmen, many of them Christian slaves. The Christian forces under Don Juan of Austria had 40,000 oarsmen and sailors with 28,000 soldiers, knights and gentlemen adventurers. In addition, there were Dominicans, Franciscans and Jesuits who accompanied the fleet with their prayers and support, ensuring that every Christian oarsman had the Rosary beads with them. On October 7, 1571 Don Juan's forces entered in the Gulf of Patras and the battle began. Among the naval maneuvering, cannons blasting, arrows raining from the sky, exploding bombs, clashing of swords and the hand to hand fighting aboard decks, the Christians forces prevailed and defeated the Ottomans. It was a battle that was won with the aid of Christian slaves who revolted against their Muslim masters, causing havoc from within the Turkish lines.  

With the victory of Lepanto, the Ottoman Turks domination of the Mediterranean ended. Pope Pius V, who had commanded the faithful to pray the Rosary for victory was thoroughly convinced that this victory was granted by the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Each year on the same day, this victory was remembered and later became the feast of Our Lady of Victory, eventually changed to Our Lady of The Rosary. The victory at Lepanto, together with increased devotion to Our Lady of the Rosary, eventually let to the entire month of October being dedicated to Our Lady of the Rosary. Pope Leo XIII on August 30th, 1884 in his encyclical, Superiore Anno, on the Recitation of the Rosary declared:
We have therefore resolved that in this coming month of October, in which the sacred devotions to Our Virgin Lady of the Rosary are solemnised throughout the Catholic world, all the devotions shall again be observed which were commanded by Us this time last year. We therefore decree and make order that from the 1st of October to the 2nd of November following in all the parish churches [curialibus templis], in all public churches dedicated to the Mother of God, or in such as are appointed by the Ordinary, five decades at least of the Rosary be recited, together with the Litany. If in the morning, the Holy Sacrifice will take place during these prayers; if in the evening, the Blessed Sacrament will be exposed for the adoration of the faithful; after which those present will receive the customary Benediction. We desire that, wherever it be lawful, the local confraternity of the Rosary should make a solemn procession through the streets as a public manifestation of religious devotion. (4)
In more recent times, examples of this devotion can be taken from St. Pius (Pio) of Pietrelcina, who used to recite the Rosary everyday, several times a day. Pope Paul VI contributed to the increased devotion of the Rosary with his Apostolic Exhortation, Marialis Cultus. Pope John Paul II, whose marian spirituality permeated his life, stated that the Rosary was his favourite prayer. Such enthusiasm and devotion to our Blessed Mother was revealed throughout his pontificate and captured in a major document, his encyclical Rosarium Virginis Mariae:
The Rosary of the Virgin Mary is a prayer of great significance, destined to bring forth a harvest of holiness. It blends easily into the spiritual journey of the Christian is also necessary to recall that the spiritual life is not limited solely to participation in the liturgy. Christians, while they are called to prayer in common, must also go to their own rooms and pray to their Father in secret (Mt 6:6); indeed, according to the teaching of the Apostle, they must pray without ceasing (1Thes 5:17). The Rosary, in its own particular way, is part of this varied panorama of ‘ceaseless’ prayer... (1, 13)
The Battle of Lepanto is a wonderful encouragement for the faithful to pray the Rosary daily. As a further encouragement, our Blessed Mother gave us her Fifteen Promises to Christians who recite the Rosary:
  1. Whoever shall faithfully serve me by the recitation of the Rosary shall receive signal graces.
  2. I promise my special protection and the greatest graces to all those who shall recite the Rosary.
  3. The Rosary shall be a powerful armour against Hell; it will destroy vice, decrease sin and defeat heresies.
  4. It will cause virtue and good works to flourish; it will obtain for souls the abundant mercy of God; it will withdraw the hearts of men from the love of the world and its vanities and will lift them to the desire of eternal things. Oh, that souls would sanctify themselves by this means!
  5. The soul which recommends itself to me by the recitation of the Rosary shall not perish.
  6. Whoever shall recite the Rosary devoutly, applying himself to the consideration of its sacred Mysteries, shall never be conquered by misfortune. God will not chastise him in His justice; he shall not perish by an unprovided death; if he be just, he shall remain in the grace of God and become worthy of eternal life.
  7. Whoever shall have a true devotion for the Rosary shall not die without the Sacraments of the Church.
  8. Those who are faithful to recite the Rosary shall have during their life and their death the light of God and the plentitude of His graces; at the moment of death they shall participate in the merits of the Saints in Paradise.
  9. I shall deliver from Purgatory those who have been devoted to the Rosary.
  10. The faith children of the Rosary shall merit a high degree of glory in Heaven.
  11. You shall obtain all you ask of me by the recitation of the Rosary.
  12. All those who propagate the Holy Rosary shall be aided by me in their necessities.
  13. I have obtained from my Divine Son that all the advocates of the Rosary shall have for intercessors the entire celestial court during their life and at the hour of death.
  14. All who recite the Rosary are my sons, and brothers of my only Son, Jesus Christ.
  15. Devotion to my Rosary is a great sign of predestination.
(Given to St. Dominic and Blessed Alan)

In the month of October, let us resolve to recite the Rosary faithfully with renewed fervour, each and every day. To do so is to meditate on the life and passion of Jesus, and on the life of Mary and her virtues, and learn from the many Gospel lessons contained within this most efficacious and powerful prayer. For those who have never prayed the Rosary, please visit the Rosary Center's "How To Pray The Rosary" page, where you will find the easy to follow instructions.  Please include me in your prayers.  Thank you.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Life Chain: Faith Put Into Action

Our Lady of Guadalupe
Join me at Life Chain this year on Sunday, October 6th at 2:00pm. 

For those of you who are new to Life Chain, it is a public witness against the killing of unborn children. Participants stand in silent prayer at designated Life Chain locations, holding a sign that reads, "Abortion Kills Children" or something very similar. The Life Chain location that I will be attending is at Hwy. 7 and Islington Ave. from 2:00pm to 3:00pm.

If you have never publicly witnessed before, you might be asking yourself, "Why should I stand on the corner of Hwy. 7 and Islington to show my support for the protection of unborn children?" There are a few reasons. First, the very fact that abortion exists here in Canada should concern all conscientious Catholics. There is a moral crisis in Canada when the murder of developing babies in the womb is permitted at law and available on demand. The truth of the matter is that the killing of a human being is unacceptable at any stage of one's life, including while developing in the womb. God's commandment, "Thou Shall Not Kill," is not negotiable or open to interpretation. It demands assent by everyone and should be reflected in Canada's constitution and laws. Unfortunately, this is not the case since Morgantaler's 1988 constitutional challenge. So it is up to us, those who know, understand and accept the truth, to promote and defend the value, inviolability and sacredness of human life. By attending the LIfe Chain effort, you are standing up for the truth and helping to defend the lives of innocent human beings.

Second, faith is put into action when one participates in community efforts such as Life Chain, which is what we are called to do as Catholics. To quote scripture from the second chapter of James, Faith Without Works is Dead:
What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you? If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, 'Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill', and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead. But someone will say, 'You have faith and I have works.' Show me your faith without works, and I by my works will show you my faith. (James 2:14-18)
Life Chain brings you together with other like minded Christians. It is but one effort that helps to build up and strengthen the Catholic parish community. Typically, you may see diocesan clergy, Franciscan Friars, Knights of Columbus, Secular Franciscans and other conscientious Catholics who strive to get the message out, that abortion is morally wrong and unacceptable. 

Third, by your witness you may positively affect someone, a passerby who until seeing you, may not have thought much about the abortion issue. Being that visible witness may be all that is needed to sway someone away from having an abortion. In today's secular society, we certainly need more and more witnesses raising awareness on the abortion issue.  

Fourth, when we promote and defend the right to life of innocent unborn children, our prayers and actions are united to Our Lady of Guadalupe, Protectress of the Unborn. Pope John Paul II in 1999 at the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, entrusted the cause of life to the loving protection of Our Lady of Guadalupe and placed under her motherly care the innocent lives of children, especially the unborn children. The abortion fight is a spiritual battle, one that demands we employ spiritual weapons. With Our Lady of Guadalupe as a powerful intercessor, we fight the good fight against this evil in our society.

If you do decide to join me, I recommend the following:
  1. Wear exterior clothing that is appropriate for your one hour witness. Check the weather reports especially for rain. If rain is forecasted, Life Chain still goes forward, it is not cancelled, so bring an umbrella or rainwear.
  2. Bring your Rosary! Typically, many pray the Rosary during this one hour witness, so you can join others in group recitation of the Rosary, which is an even more effective way to fight this spiritual battle. You can read more about group recitation of the Rosary from St. Louis De Montfort's, The Secret of The Rosary, Forty Sixth Rose - Group Recitation.
  3. Take photos of your family, friends and other participants and share them on your social networks. Get the word out, bring awareness to everyone you can. 
  4. Life Chain is a time of silent prayer and not a forum to debate the abortion issue with those who might try to engage you in a conversation. If a passerby does try to engage you, don't entertain the invitation to debate. Continue in prayer, undeterred with your witness.
  5. Hold the sign with attention, showing people you care about this issue.
  6. Arrive well before 2:00pm. It would be best to arrive between 1:30pm-1:45pm, to get situated, meet with others etc. Once 2:00pm hits, it is time to witness.
I hope to see you there! I will be holding a poster of Our Lady of Guadalupe, like the image I have included with this post. Please feel free to connect with me. It would be great to meet like minded Christians whose lively faith is helping to make Canada a better place!

Saturday, September 7, 2013

"Thou Shall Not Kill": Human Life is Sacred

As part of a continuation of postings on Pope John Paul II's encyclical, Evangelium Vitae I have dedicated this post to one of its major sections, chapter three's "Thou Shall Not Kill."  The aforementioned section goes to the core of why so many of the "culture of death" elements, such as abortion, euthanasia, "reduction" or discarding human embryos in fertility clinics and any and all threats to value and inviolability of life, are fundamentally and morally wrong.  

To begin, the fundamental reason why murder is completely and morally wrong derives directly from God's commandment given to Moses, "You Shall Not Murder (Exodus 20:13) It is a commandment that Jesus reminds the rich man, who asked Jesus as to how he may have eternal life? Jesus replied, "...You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal..." (Matthew 19:18)

Human life is sacred. Why is human life sacred you may ask?  Pope John Paul II answers this question in section 53 of Evangelium Vitae, by directly quoting the Catechism of the Catholic Church's Article 5 The Fifth Commandment, which I provide here in full, "Human life if 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) Further reading of Article 5 contains information on: respect for human life, respect for the dignity of persons, respect for the person and scientific research, respect for bodily integrity, peace, avoiding war, abortion, euthanasia, suicide and more.

Unfortunately here in Canada, many are deceived by the Evil One, in thinking that threats to human life are acceptable. As Pope John Paul II points out, only Satan delights in the death of the living, he who is "...[A] murderer from the beginning" is also a "liar and the father of lies." (53) With Satan's deception in place many are led down the road of sin and death disguised as roads that help and better life. One such example Satan's deception is the need for abortion in the case of rape. The deception begins first by discarding the right of the unborn's life. Once that is accomplished, it does not take much for the "Father of Lies" to reduce or eliminate the dignity of the human being by suggesting and inspiring for an abortion to take place. If we refer back to the sacredness of life and how God's creating hand is apart of all life, a life conceived even under such brutal circumstances, has a meaning and purpose for God. 

Many individuals in Canada including those in the professional sectors, have also been deceived. In Evangelium Vitae, Pope John Paul II notes how many in society contribute to the death of human beings. Take the example of abortion. We typically tend to place the blame for an abortion on the mother, but what about the father. Is the father not to blame as well, when he puts direct pressure on the woman to have an abortion or when he indirectly encourages such a decision by lack of moral and financial support. (58) Then there is the doctors and nurses, whose training, education and experience are supposed to be placed at the service of life, not at the service of death. (58) How could a medical professional with any degree of integrity, possibly assist in the death of an innocent human being in the womb. What about legislators, who have failed to protect the innocent unborn at law. Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper is just such an example, whose failure as early at 2008 to address the abortion issue in Canada, will have negative ramifications for many years to come.

Society's response to a crisis pregnancy should be one which co-operates with God's plan for humanity by providing financially, emotionally, spiritually, psychologically and physically assistance. In so doing, we do our part to ensure the entry of another beautiful life on earth is lovingly received. Some have made this their mission, such as the Sisters of Life, a Catholic women's religious Order, whose organization assists with crisis pregnancies, helping those women understand that they can do this, they are not alone! This year, I created a pro-life flyer on the Sisters of Life, as part of a Secular Franciscan effort.  Please take the time to view and print it out as part of your effort to assist in a crisis pregnancy.

It is my hope that this posting has raised your awareness level and recognition of the value and inviolability of human life, that you will take an active role to spread your awareness and in so doing, perhaps even help save a life!