Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Halloween: A Pagan Custom

Carved out pumpkins into "Jack O' Lanterns" a Halloween custom

Here in Canada in a couple days time, much of the focus on October 31, will be on Halloween, a pagan custom dating back to many centuries. I thought it fitting to publish on this topic and spread awareness of the truth about its anti-Christian character. Today's post not only provides a short summary of the history and origins of Halloween, but shifts the attention to the proper focus for this time of year, the feasts of All Saints and the Commemoration of the Faithful Departed or All Souls Day.

It is interesting to note that here in my local community, one that is predominantly Roman Catholic, there appears to be very little knowledge and understanding of the origins of this pagan custom, and the potentially dangerous spiritual ramifications; that is, the demonic influence—that is unseen and undetected by most people—that may result from any participation in Halloween.

For several days now, part of Woodbridge has been immersed in the preparation for Halloween. Parents have purchased costumes for their young children and subsequently adjusted their calendars to allow for chaperoning during "trick or treating." Displays in grocery stores have a clear Halloween theme to them, not to mention the recently arrived Halloween treats and other items. I even caught a poster at a stop light, advertising a Halloween party. Then there is the bombardment of Halloween movies on the television, that have been available for viewing well in advance of October 31. This is but a partial list of many other things that are well underway, all done to usher in this pagan custom.

Having witnessed all this for three decades now, I can't help but wonder, how seriously do parents take Halloween. Do they know the truth about it. It is my impression that a significant amount (an overwhelming majority) of residents do not know the truth about Halloween; a sad reality that is undoubtedly mirrored in many other Catholic communities in Canada and throughout the world.

I think that to some extent the general lack of concern stems from the fact that so many people are involved and participate in Halloween, that in the eyes of many (who have never questioned it), it is considered to be totally acceptable.

It has been my experience that too many Catholics and Christians alike, have become desensitized to the dangers of Halloween, and when confronted by the truth, they tend to personalize the issue. In my conversations with such individuals, many have stated that "Halloween is fun for kids," or referred to their own childhood experiences, all which does not negate the truth about Halloween.

My post of today seeks to remedy the need for a greater awareness and understanding about the truth of Halloween.

A Brief History of the Origins of Halloween

Where does Halloween come from and what is it based on. Halloween is based on the Celtic customs of the ancient peoples who inhabited England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland and Brittany (north western France). Prior to these regions converting to Catholicism, the people that inhabited them practiced a pagan belief system controlled by a priest class known as Druids. Druids are most famous for the Stonehenge monument, located in Wiltshire, England.  

The Celtic new year was November 1, and according to their pagan beliefs, it was a time to consider the mystery of human death. It is believed that the lord of death, Samhain, on the last night of the year would allow the souls of the dead to return to their homes. The souls that died in sin, imprisoned in the bodies of animals, could be released through gifts to Samhain, including human sacrifices.

In addition, they believed that evil spirits, demons, ghosts, witches were free to roam during the last night of the year and they could be appeased with a feast and by dressing up to appear to be one of them. When the Romans conquered Gaul (France) and much of the United Kingdom, the bloody elements of Druidic practices were banned. 

The Proper Christian Focus

During the first three centuries of Christianity, the Church faced a great deal of persecutions which forced the Church to operate underground. It was not long before a need developed to commemorate the many number of martyrs. To have set aside a dedicated feast day for each martyr was not possible under the Roman emperors' persecution. In response to all this, the Church established a common feast for all martyrs. Pope Gregory III (731-741) on November 1 commemorated a feast for All Saints at St. Peter's Basilica. Pope Gregory VI (827-844) extended this feast to the entire Church.

Over the centuries, the conversion of Celtic peoples did not completely remove some of their pre-Christian feasts, bonfires, and dressing up in costumes and other pagan practices. These were brought to North America with the massive Irish immigration in the twentieth century. 

Over the last few decades, the decline of the Catholic faith has made it easier for people to accept and adopt these pre-Christian traditions. No doubt, this is partly due to a lack of knowledge and if you factor in the major promotional efforts at this time every year, it is not difficult to see how Halloween has become apart of Canadian mainstream culture.

Should we not be concerned about such customs, especially when we know the truth about their origins and the meaning of their practices. Do we want to promote and encourage our children to dress up like evil spirits, witches, ghosts and other occult figures. What message are we giving to our children. Do we not to some extent, encourage a process of desensitization to the occult and by so doing, increase the risks that as older people, they may be more susceptible to and get involved in real life dangerous occult activity.

The truth about Halloween is this: it is a pagan custom that is not compatible with the Catholic faith. Pagan worship is a worship of false gods or demons. Catholic worship is a worship of the true God, whose sacrifice on the cross at Calvary proved His total and complete love for us. In the Catechism of the Catholic Church, it states regarding the worship of false Gods under the section "YOU SHALL HAVE NO OTHER GODS BEFORE ME, The first commandment forbids honouring gods other than the one Lord who has revealed himself to his people..." (2109)  

In my view, anyone acting in good conscience and having knowledge of the origins of Halloween, should not participate in this custom. At this time of the liturgical year, the Catholic faith places emphasis on the liturgical calendar's solemnity of the Feast of All Saints on November 1, and the Commemoration of all the Faithful Departed or All Souls, on November 2.

Feasts of All Saints and All Souls

The end of October in the liturgical calendar of the Catholic Church, marks a month long effort by conscientious Catholics to better their relationship with the Blessed Virgin Mary and improve upon the Rosary Devotion. It is also a time to prepare for the feasts of All Saints (November 1) and All Souls (November 2).

To illustrate the importance of the proper focus for this time of the year, I would like to share excerpts of two meditations from Divine Intimacy, Meditations on The Interior Life For Every Day of The Liturgical Year. This classic book of Carmelite Spirituality includes a dedicated meditation; one for All Saints and one for All Souls. This wonderful treasure of spirituality does not contain any meditation on or make any reference to Halloween. I reiterate the point, Halloween is not a Catholic custom and as such, is not apart of the liturgical calendar. Below are excerpts from Divine Intimacy that will give you a glimpse of how valuable this book is and the importance of the proper focus:

  • Feast of All Saints, Meditation 384: Holy Mother Church, always solicitous and anxious for our salvation, exults today with exceeding joy as she contemplates the glory of her children who, having reached their heavenly fatherland, are safe for all eternity, forever delivered from the snares of the evil one, and now numbered everlastingly among the elect, the people of God...Who are these glorious saints? Men who have lived upon earth as we have, who have known our miseries, our difficulties, our struggles...We want to become saints, but in the easiest way possible, without effort, without fatigue or violence to ourselves...[W]hen faced with acts of virtue which exact greater self renunciation, or the acceptance of difficulty and repugnant things...we refuse, thinking it unnecessary to go to such lengths. Yet our progress in holiness depends precisely upon these acts which we hesitate to make; without them we shall always lead a mediocre life, we shall always remain on the same level, if indeed we do not lose ground. Let us beg the saints whom we honor today to help us overcome our laziness, our lassitude, our cowardice...God offers us the grace which He gave to the saints; but alas! what is lacking is our correspondence with it. (1166)
  • Commemoration of All The Faithful Departed (All Souls), Meditation 385: Holy Church, our good Mother, after having exalted with fitting praise all her children who now rejoice in heaven, strives also to help all those who still suffer in purgatory, and to this end intercedes with all her power before Christ, her Lord and Spouse, in order that as speedily as possible they may join the society of the elect in heaven...Yesterday we contemplated the glory of the Church triumphant and implored her intercession. Today we consider the expiratory pains of the Church suffering and solicit for those souls the divine assistance: 'Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord'... (1167)

The sad reality is that Halloween will not cease because of this blog post. If you have accepted the truth about Halloween and would like to do something about it, I encourage you to share this post with others.

Lastly, I would like to respectfully recommend that when children arrive at your door, that you give them a Rosary in place of any treat. This is a simple and charitable way of telling your neighours that Halloween is inappropriate.

May God bless all those who come to your door on October 31.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

The Dangers of Harry Potter: The Occult Controversy

A photomontage of Fr. Gabriele Amorth, Pope Benedict XVI, and Harry Potter
Fr. Gabriele Amorth, Pope Benedict XVI, and Harry Potter

Although much of the spotlight and hype has been far removed from the Harry Potter book and movie series, a recent occurrence during my visit to a local Catholic parish had prompted me to revisit the occult controversy surrounding it, and subsequently publish today's post on the dangers of Harry Potter.

In addition, J.K. Rowling, the author of Harry Potter, has sought opportunities to parlay the book and movie series into new projects. You might already be familiar with some of them, the various Harry Potter theme parks throughout the world, the video games and more.

Rowling's most recent effort has been her screenwriting debut in a Harry Potter spinoff for a new film entitled, Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them. The film's movie title was inspired by a textbook of the same name, given to pupils at the Hogwarts School, a school for learning witchcraft in Harry Potter.

Let me first explain what happened at a parish, here in my local community of Woodbridge, Ontario. It was during a recent visit to St. Peter's Roman Catholic Church that I was in conversation with two women in the parish office. We had briefly talked about the topic of children's readings and Harry Potter, and I had mentioned how some parents were pleased with the Harry Potter series because they found their children were reading books, as opposed to playing video games and other things. Before I had the opportunity to expand on this, one of women replied, "Oh, all my children were raised with Harry Potter, they have read all the books, seen all the movies." Her enthusiastic tone and disposition indicated to me, that she was not aware of the occult controversy surrounding Harry Potter. I did not reply to her comment, but kept quiet pondering what if anything, I should say or do about it.

In thinking and praying about it, it became clear to me that the best thing I could do was to share this experience on my blog. By doing so, not only can I fully reply to her comment, but help others who have confronted similar scenarios. At the very minimum, today's post seeks to spread awareness on the truth about Harry Potter.

The fundamental danger of Harry Potter is that it propagates and glorifies the occult. This is due to the fact that contained within the story lines are high levels of occult material. Add to this the target audience, primarily children and teenagers, and the danger becomes even more alarming.

The truth is that the Harry Potter stories, both print and film versions, seduce and corrupt souls that have just begun to develop. Children and teenagers due to their age and inexperience, lack the knowledge and understanding to determine what is evil and what is good. As such, when the youth read the books and see the movies, they do not reject them for their occult content, but on the contrary, they find the story lines exciting and entertaining. The added danger to this is that children and teenagers become desensitized to the occult, and indifferent to suggestions that such things are evil and wrong.

Whether you are new to Harry Potter controversy or you have little knowledge of the occult, I hope the following resources will clarify and strengthen your understanding of the dangers of Harry Potter. For your immediate reference, I have prepared a list of what the remainder of my post includes:
  1. Warnings from Father Gabriele Amorth, Rome's former Chief Exorcist and co-founder of the International Association of Exorcists
  2. Warnings from Bishop Julian Porteous, Auxiliary Bishop of Sydney, Australia 
  3. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI's Opposition to Harry Potter
  4. Quote from the Letter of St. Paul to the Galatians 
  5. References to the Catechism of the Catholic Church
  6. J.K. Rowling's admission of Harry Potter's occult content
  7. Father Lazare de la Mere de Dieu's insights
  8. Michael D. O'Brien's extensive writings on the dangers of Harry Potter
  9. LifeSiteNews.com's dedicated location, Harry Potter - A Whirlwind of Controversy
Warnings From Father Gabriele Amorth

Father Gabriele Amorth's first major public warning came in early December 2001, and was reported in LifeSiteNews article, Rome's Chief Exorcist Warns Parents Against Harry Potter. The article states, "Behind Harry Potter hides the signature of the king of the darkness, the devil...that J.K. Rowling’s books contain innumerable positive references to magic, the satanic art. He noted that the books attempt to make a false distinction between black and white magic, when in fact, the distinction does not exist, because magic is always a turn to the devil."

In 2006, Father Gabriele repeated his warnings on Harry Potter. LifeSiteNews once again reported the major warning in the article, Vatican's Chief Exorcist Repeats Condemnation of Harry Potter Novels. In the article, Father Gabriele is quoted as saying, "You start off with Harry Potter, who comes across as a likeable wizard, but you end up with the Devil. There is no doubt that the signature of the Prince of Darkness is clearly within these books. By reading Harry Potter a young child will be drawn into magic and from there it is a simple step to Satanism and the Devil." The warnings are clear, magic should always be avoided as it is evil and can lead to greater evils.

Warnings From Bishop Julian Porteous

In 2010, Father Jeremy Davies, co-founder of the International Association of Exorcists, led a discreet forum on the ancient rite of exorcism in Sydney, Australia at the Mary MacKillop Place in North Sydney. At the forum was Bishop Julian Porteous, Exorcist and Auxiliary Bishop of Sydney. The forum was in response to the increased need for exorcists in Australia.

The need for increased amount of exorcisms has been a result of, as Bishop Porteous points out, an increased involvement with a variety of New Age and occult practices.  In an article from The Australian, Deliver Us From Evil, Bishop Porteous states:
What starts off seeming innocuous and not creating any difficulties at some stage turns dark. They start to experience quite frightening personal phenomena and it is at this stage that they turn for help. Bishop Porteous sees a link between the growing demand for exorcisms and the spiritual adventurism of young Australians. He says the growth of non-Christian alternative relaxation techniques such as yoga and reiki, as well as forms of divination such as tarot cards, fortune-telling and seances, pose temptations that could invite demonic trouble. He also points his finger at popular culture, saying the Harry Potter books and films, and the vampire-themed Twilight series, have revived curiosity with the supernatural. “While Twilight and Harry Potter are not in themselves demonic, they can lead to a fascination in this world and young people can be drawn and become more attracted to these things.
Clearly, the message from Bishop Porteous is to completely stay away from these deceptive instruments of evil. Why any one would willing even consider doing the opposite would have to be, in some cases, simply a matter of being uninformed and unaware of the dangers.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI's Opposition to Harry Potter

In 2003, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, then Cardinal Ratzinger, entered into the debate and provided clarity on the Roman Catholic Church's position on Harry Potter, with his support for German writer, Gabriele Kuby.

Gabriele Kuby had raised objections about Harry Potter. The thrust of her objections was that Harry Potter corrupts the hearts of the young, preventing them from developing a properly ordered sense of good and evil; thus, harming their relationship with God while that relationship is still in its infancy.

Kuby was interviewed by Zenit, during which she quoted Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI's support for her efforts, "It is good that you shed light and inform us on the Harry Potter matter, for these are subtle seductions that are barely noticeable and precisely because of that deeply affect (children) and corrupt the Christian faith in souls even before it (the Faith) could properly grow.” This quote and Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI's opposition to Harry Potter can be read at LifeSIteNews article, Pope Benedict Opposes Harry Potter Novels.

Saint Paul's Letter to the Galatians

In Saint Paul's Letter to the Galatians, he states, "Now the works of the flesh are obvious: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these. I am warning you, as I warned you before: those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God." (Gal 5:19-21) The key word is this passage is "sorcery," as it is rampant throughout the Harry Potter story line, with the casting of spells, creation of potions etc.

Catechism of The Catholic Church

In the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Part Three: Life in Christ, under Section Two The Ten Commandments: III "You Shall Have No Other Gods Before Me," no. 2117 states: 
All practices of magic or sorcery, by which one attempts to tame occult powers, so as to place them at one's service and have a supernatural power over others - even if this were for the sake of restoring their health - are gravely contrary to the virtue of religion. These practices are even more to be condemned when accompanied by the intention of harming someone, or when they have recourse to the intervention of demons. Wearing charms is also reprehensible. Spiritism often implies divination or magical practices; the Church for her part warns the faithful against it. Recourse to so-called traditional cures does not justify either the invocation of evil powers or the exploitation of another's credulity.
At the same location, in Section IV "You Shall Not Make For Yourself a  Graven Image" . . ."no. 2138 states, "Superstition is a departure from the worship that we give to the true God. It is manifested in idolatry, as well as in various forms of divination and magic."

The above references are unambiguous, and clearly expose how far the Harry Potter story lines take the reader from the true worship that should be only given to God. No matter how well J.K Rowling packages a departure of worship from God, and simultaneously makes the worship of demons seem exciting in the adventurous tales of a young boy's life, the truth is, that under no circumstances should God be replaced with the worship of demons. For an adult reader, it does not take much to understand this. For children and teenagers, one can only wonder if there is any understanding of this truth. 

J.K. Rowling's Admission of Harry Potter's Occult Content

Back in 1999 in an interview on American radio, the Diane Rehm Show, J.K. Rowling the author of Harry Potter, had admitted and revealed that not only had she studied witchcraft and mythology in order to write the books more accurately, but one third of the Harry Potter content is actual occultism. One individual, Pastor David L. Brown, Ph.D. wrote an article entitled, The Problem With Harry Potter, in which he details the occult elements in the story line. To illustrate how extensive the occult content is, below is a listing of just some of the occult elements:
  • Charms and Casting Spells: Accio (the summoning charm), Alohomora (a spell to unlock doors), Adava Kedavra (the killing curse), Mobiliarbus (magic spell to move objects) and several more.
  • Divination (Fortune Telling): arithmancy (divination through numbers), rememberballs (marble sized balls used by the holder to tell if anything has been forgotten), parseltongue (snake language) and the mirror of erised (divination mirror).
  • Sorcery: thujone (dangerous drug), mandrake (narcotic with magical powers), monkshood (deadly poison), wormwood (used for sleeping potion), elixer of life (potion to make a witch/wizard live forever), unicorn & blood drinking, Nicholas Flamel (an actual occult figure from France) and more.

Father Lazare de la Mere de Dieu, FJ Insights

Although Fr. Lazare's critique of Harry Potter was directed at the first book, his insights puts the entire book and movie series into perspective. In LifeSiteNews article, Harrycane: a sign of the times under the subheading, "Is Harry a Christian?" one of the key points that Fr. Lazare makes is with respect to the omission of God in Harry Potter. Catholic teaching tells us that we should never return evil for evil, but good for evil. Harry Potter and his friends throughout the story line return evil for evil. The fact that Harry Potter breaks rules and lies is no example of how children should behave. The underlying theme of Harry Potter is "the end justifies the means." This is not the message we want our children to learn.

Christians need to have their children raised with Christian values, which begins with an understanding in the existence of God, a fact never mentioned by Rowling. As Lazare states in his conclusion, "...For Christians, Jesus Christ is "the way, the truth and the life," and no matter what life situations they find themselves in or how difficult the journey, how they cope with it all will be determined by the presence of Jesus in their lives, and His faithful mercy."

The Writings of Michael D. O'Brien

Michael D. O'Brien is a Canadian author and artist, who seeks to contribute to the restoration of Christian culture in Canada. O'Brien has written extensively on the Harry Potter controversy beginning with his article, Harry Potter and the Paganization of Children's Culture. The article contains a wealth of information exposing the truth about Harry Potter's occult content as O'Brien states, "...[T]he series presents the world of witchcraft and sorcery in a positive light." He goes on to further expose the first four books. Here's a short list of just some of the occult content he has commented on:
  • the reader is introduced into the world of sorcery
  • the main character, Harry, enters Hogwarts, a school for witchcraft and wizardry, where student witches/wizards are taught to cast hexes and spells, and there are different classes for divination, potions, spells, herbology and other occult knowledge
  • there is a false notion throughout that "the end justifies the means"
  • there is no reference to a system or moral absolutes against which actions can be measured
  • he quotes and refers to Fr. Gabriele Amorth, who has stated that sorcery is the growing cause of diabolic possession, and other forms of bondage to evil
O'Brien has also written a book, A Landscape With Dragons: The Battle For Your Children's Mind. O'Brien's analysis of the degeneration of books, films and videos for the youth is described as "incisive and detailed." O"Brien's most recent book is, Harry Potter and the Paganization of Culture, which includes: an analysis of each Harry Potter book; parental strategies for a healthy family culture; information on Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI's opposition to Harry Potter; insights into the war of disinformation and opinion; other occult material such as Twilight of The West, and the Golden Compass. O'Brien presents a list of questions, and seeks to answer those questions, addressing the concern as to why the dangers of the Harry Potter have not been taken seriously:
  • Have people developed a misinformed opinion based on first impressions?
  • Is it due to a lack of knowledge of the occult and demonic activity?
  • Is there a presumption on the part of some, that children's books are automatically innocent in their content?
  • Is there incomplete knowledge of the Catholic faith, and as such, a lack of ability to identify sinful material?
Further in Harry Potter and the Paganization of Culture, O'Brien expands on the use of symbolism and how J.K. Rowling has negatively influenced readers. O'Brien explains, "...Then there is the moral 'values' narrative, which lies beneath the surface, and is still visible but not so easily discerned---the constant dramatization of the end justifying the means. Beneath this layer is the narrative of symbolism, astonishingly rich in details, and equally impressive in the way it references the world of occult ideas and rituals in its many manifestations." (35) Some other important points that O'Brien notes:
  • With hundreds of millions of readers of these occult books, the Harry Potter series is playing a significant role in a massive shift of consciousness, a lowering of our spiritual guard.
  • No where in the series is there any reference to a system of moral absolutes against which actions can be measured.
  • The argument that any type of reading is good, so long as children are reading is a flawed argument because it does not address the issue of the suitability of the reading material. Children should only be exposed to proper literary sources ensuring that the reading is moral and proper for their well being. 

In chapter eightWhere Is It All Going? O'Brien provides some key reflections and insights that are worth noting:
  • O'Brien identifies the problem of a reduced of Christian life amongst the population. Due to the fact that so many Christians have not been living a Christian life, they have failed to become a contradiction to what Blessed Pope John Paul II referred to as the "Culture of Death," and what Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI referred to as, "the dictatorship of moral relativism." What has developed is a secular culture. For many who have any amount of faith, it is a faith that is compartmentalized. The consequences of this is that with each succeeding generation, God fades from the consciousness of our minds as the power of the mammon driven culture increases.
  • O'Brien highlights the effects of such a reduced Christian culture by pointing to the fact that three generations ago, Harry Potter and other occult content would have never been acceptable or tolerated. For so many Christians who have either abandoned their faith or are ignorant of it, they have failed to discern the immoral content in the media, be it television, the internet, films and books.
  • O'Brien also notes that there may be the incorrect presumption that occult material in the mainstream culture will end with Harry Potter. Based on the pattern that has developed in the last fifty years, it is very easy to put forth a compelling argument that there will be a host of new occult content to dazzle and deceive future generations.
Do we want children to be exposed to the pursuit of power, and esoteric knowledge as presented in the occult world of Harry Potter? No, we do not! As O'Brien states, "...In reality, magic is an attempt to bypass the limitations of human nature and the authority of God, in order to obtain power over material creation and the will of others through manipulation of the supernatural. Magic is about taking control. It is a fundamental rejection of the divine order in creation..." If you are a parent, and your children have been exposed to the Harry Potter book and film series, make no mistake, no matter how enjoyable your children how found them to be, the many dangers of Harry Potter are very real. 

One such danger is the very real possibility of exposure to Harry Potter may lead to the desensitization of occultism. For some children, who as they get older, it may lead to other aspects of the occult. As O'Brien states in his article, Harry Potter and The Paganization of Children's Culture, "...If magic is presented as a good, or morally neutral, is there not an increased likelihood that when a young person encounters opportunities to explore the world of real magic he or she will be less able to resist its attractions?" At the end of his book, Harry Potter and The Paganization of Culture, O'Brien has included his, Spiritual Strategies in The Pagan Tsunami. It is the answer to the problem of occult literature and how to protect the family from such evil. The article is available for reading at O'Brien's web site by clicking the above link.

LifeSiteNews.com - Harry Potter Whirlwind of Controversy

For a comprehensive listing of articles and other sources on the Harry Potter controversy, please visit LifeSiteNew's dedicate Harry Potter page, Harry Potter Whirlwind of Controversy.

To conclude, thank you for your patience in reading this exceptionally long post. Knowing how hard pressed some may be to find the time and energy to research the occult controversy surrounding Harry Potter, I intentionally included all the above resources in an effort to make this post a "one stop location" for parents in particular and all concerned individuals.

May God send you the grace to be strengthened and empowered by the information from this post.  

Friday, October 18, 2013

The Expulsion of The Devils From Arezzo: The Spiritual Battle

Giotto di Bondone's fresco of the "Expulsion of the Devils From Arezzo."
 Giotto di Bondone's Fresco - The Expulsion of The Devils From Arezzo
If you haven't recognized it by now, the image associated with this post is the famous Franciscan fresco from Giotto di Bondone, depicting the Franciscan Friar Brother Sylvester expelling demons from Arezzo. I had intentionally included this image because it draws attention to the spiritual battle we are in engaged in on this earthly pilgrimage.

The aforementioned fresco is also the cover image for Father Gabriele Amorth's book, An Exorcist Tells His Story, which I will be referring to regarding the spiritual battle. Father Gabriele Amorth was Rome's former Chief Exorcist and the co-founder together with Fr. Jeremy Davies, exorcist for London's Westminster Archdiocese, of The International Association of Exorcists.

First, let me provide you with the story behind the fresco, which comes 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.
The above anecdote describing the spiritual troubles of Arezzo, Italy is what Father Gabriele Amorth refers to in his aforementioned book, as the "ordinary activity" of the devil and the other fallen angels; that is, temptation. The extraordinary activities of Satan are: external physical pain, demonic possession, diabolic oppression, diabolic obsession, diabolic infestation, and diabolic subjugation or dependence.

The spiritual battle is real and should be taken seriously because our souls are at stake and let us not forget the primary reason for living this life on earth: the salvation of our souls! As Father Gabriele notes in his chapter on The Power of Satan, he quotes Pope John Paul II who referred to this spiritual battle in May 1987, during the late pontiff's visit to the Sanctuary of Saint Michael when he stated:
The battle against the devil, which is the principal task of Saint Michael the archangel, is still being fought today, because the devil is still alive and active in the world.  The evil that surrounds us today, the disorders that plague our society, man's inconsistency and brokenness, are not only the results of original sin, but also the result of Satan's pervasive and dark action. (31)
For most of us, the spiritual battle is simply a matter of the ordinary activity of temptation, but for some it is much more than this. This is partly due to their vulnerability, both in terms of not living a Catholic life, and/or a high level of skepticism regarding the power and existence of Satan and the option that some take of having recourse to him.

Recourse to evil spirits is a reality and some do take such an option, sometimes unknowingly. Examples of open and direct recourse to evil are in the forms of black masses, sorcerers, curses, casting of spells and other elements of witchcraft. Examples of disguised, hidden and very subtle recourses to evil are in the form of: ouija boards, seances, astrology, tarot card reading, yoga, reiki, tai-chi and a host of New Age elements that has greatly contributed to and become part of today's mainstream "Culture of Death." 

If you are one of those skeptical individuals, allow me to cite an example that will be sure to dispel your skepticism. In 1949, a young American boy from Maryland—upon the prompting of a visiting Aunt who was involved in the occult—played the ouija board in his parents' basement. What resulted was the boy's demonic possession. The actual case was detailed in a book written by Thomas B. Allen entitled, Possessed. It is a fascinating read and I highly recommend it for anyone who wants to understand the truth about ouija boards and the ramifications of inviting evil into your life. It was this particular case of possession that became the basis for the 1973 movie, The Exorcist. 

As to why people select the option of recourse to evil spirits, Father Gabriel's points out in his book that evil is sought after as a result of: envy; jealousy; maliciousness; a desire to obtain a job; marry a certain desired individual; break up a relationship or marriage; cause a business to fail; and many other reasons. The results of such evil invocation: the disturbance of people's mental and physical health; job status; family unity; overall stability; and many other issues that Amorth cites from his vast thirty years of experience in the field.  

Identifying and understanding evil is not all that Fr. Gabriel discusses in his book. Amorth provides a Prayers of Deliverance section at the back of his book, which includes the following prayers: Kyrie Eleison, Anima Christi, Prayer Against Every Evil, Prayer For Inner Healing and Prayer For Deliverance, all of which can be recited by the laity. 

In addition, Amorth also provides encouraging and helpful notes so that the reader, not only does not fall into a state of despair or fear, but clearly understands the reality and limitations of evil. As Amorth states in the chapter entitled, The Curse:
 ...[C]urses are often unsuccessful for many reasons, for instance, because God does not allow the evil, or the intended victim is a person of deep prayer and union with God...It would be a most grave error to live in fear of falling victim to a hex. The Bible never tells us to fear the devil; instead we are told to resist him in the certainty that he will flee from us (James 4:7) and to remain watchful against his attacks, by remaining firm in our faith. (1 Pet 5:9) We have been given the grace of Christ, who defeated Satan with his Cross; we have the intercession of Mary, who has been an enemy of Satan since the beginning of humanity; we have the help of the angels and the saints. Most of all, at baptism we have been sealed with the Holy Trinity.  If we live in communion with God, it is Satan and all of hell who tremble at our presence--unless we ourselves open the door to him.(135) 
Amorth's message is clear, it is important to live a faithful life. Some of you may be asking, "What exactly does this mean?" Living a faithful life is fundamentally, a sacramental life. That is, the frequent reception of the Eucharist and the Sacrament of Reconciliation or confession.

The faithful life also includes: deep prayer; daily recitation of the Rosary; adoration in front of the Blessed Sacrament; reading of the Bible; the Catechism of the Catholic Church; the lives of saints; and devotional readings and prayers.

Putting faith into action is a big part of living a faithful life: works of charity; awareness efforts such as Life Chain; defending the sacredness of human life and working to promote the dignity of the human person; fighting against injustice and immorality; acting as proper stewards of God's creation; and living in communion with others as sincere gifts of self.

When we live a true Catholic life, we are close to and connected with God and this is of fundamental importance when it comes to protecting yourself against evil. Left to our own devices, we are no match for the fallen angels. Originally created as superior beings by God, they possess knowledge, understanding, capabilities and power that is much greater than what we are comprised of as human beings.

The devil and his legions of demons direct their efforts at interfering, disturbing and destroying God's plan for humanity, including bringing to hell as many souls as possible. The good news is that we have available to us, Our Saviour and Redeemer Jesus Christ, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and all the angels and saints to come to our aid at all times.  

Thank God for St. Francis of Assisi, the brothers God gave him and the artistic gifts He bestowed upon Giotto. The fresco associated with this post is a wonderful reminder for us all on our faith journey to not forget the spiritual battle we are in. Let us remember the words of St. Peter, "...Discipline yourselves; keep alert. Like a roaring lion your adversary the devil prowls around, looking for someone to devour. Resist him, steadfast in your faith, for you know that your brothers and sisters throughout the world are undergoing the same kinds of suffering..." (I Peter 5:8-9)

Sunday, October 13, 2013

The Rosary: A Marathon of Grace

As a continuation on the theme of October being the "Month of The Rosary," today's post is my encouragement to all who have made this month, the beginning of a new or renewed effort to pray the Rosary. Whether you are entirely new to the Rosary, have infrequently prayed it or consistently recited the daily required mysteries, if you are striving for the complete daily recitation of the entire Rosary, this post will assist you in your effort.

No matter where you are in your prayer life and faith journey, prayer takes effort. The Rosary certainly is no exception, especially when endeavouring to pray the entire Rosary each day. Very much like a marathon, the daily recitation of the entire Rosary can not be something you embark on without proper training. Like an athlete who begins to train for a marathon by running only a few kilometres, and building upon that to eventually to run the entire distance and cross the finish line, so too must you take on a similar goal with the Rosary by building up your capacity to "pray the distance" and cross the spiritual finish line.

Saint Louis De Montfort in his book, The Secret of The Rosary, provides guidance for the faithful so that each day, at the end of the day, when laying your head down to sleep, you will have completely recited the entire the Rosary. Saint Louis De Montfort states in the Forty-Fith Rose - With Reverence:
...I advise you to divide up your Rosary into three parts and say each group of mysteries (five decades) at a different time of day. This is much better than saying the whole fifteen decades all at once. If you cannot find the time to say a third part of the Rosary all at one time, say it gradually, a decade here and there. I am sure you can manage this; so that, in spite of your work and all the calls upon your time, you will have said the whole Rosary before going to bed...
The division of the Rosary into three parts, is now to be divided into four parts due to the fact that back then in the 17th century during Montfort's time, the Luminous Mysteries were not apart of the Rosary recitation. The Luminous Mysteries were given to us by Mary, through her most faithful servant, Pope John Paul II, who in 2002 revealed them to the Church in his Apostolic Letter, Rosarium Virginis Mariae (21). Separating the mysteries into four parts throughout the day, requires the faithful devotee to allocate approximately 25-30 minutes four times a day, to pray each one of the four sets of mysteries: Joyful, Luminous, Sorrowful and Glorious mysteries.

Taking the effort one step further with St. Louis De Montfort's aforementioned recommendation, the Rosary can be broken down into individual decades so that if you are pressed to set aside 25-30 minutes for prayer, then reciting the Rosary a decade at a time, becomes part of the daily pursuit for complete recitation. If you are new to the Rosary, each of the four sets of mysteries is comprised of five individual prayer decades. For example, the Joyful Mysteries: the first Joyful Mystery is the Annunciation to Mary, the second Joyful mystery is the Visitation of Mary, the third Joyful Mystery is the Nativity, the fourth Joyful Mystery is the Presentation of the Lord and the fifth Joyful Mystery is the Finding of the Lord in the Temple. The prayers of each decade are as follows:  Our Father, 10 Hail Mary's, Glory Be and O My Jesus. The approximate time to complete an individual decade in about five minutes. So if you can strive to find five minutes of your time, here and there, by the end of the day, you will have completed the entire Rosary.

In today's busy world our calendars can easily be filled with a variety of projects, social activities, home renovations, gardening, family events, sports activities and a host of "things to do." To seriously commit to the Rosary devotion requires a diligent and determined effort each and everyday. This entails a "rethink" as to what we are willing to change in order to free up time for increased prayer. For some, freeing up time in their day may mean a reduction of television, for others reducing that daily gym session to only 2-3 times a week, less internet time etc. Some may be willing to take it a step further, by the realization that we are mentally free to think and pray while performing certain physical activities. Such opportunities may present themselves for example, while vacuuming, gardening, walking for an hour after dinner etc. You probably have thought about many things while performing chores, work, exercising etc., why not think and pray about Jesus and Mary with a partial recitation of the Rosary. 

How much time and training will you need to cross the "spiritual finish line?" That will depend on God's grace and your sincere effort. God and the Blessed Virgin Mary will not be outdone in generosity. If you are generous in your efforts, a generous amount of graces will come to you through Mary's, God's dispenser of grace. As St. Bernardine has stated, "All the gifts, graces, virtues of the Holy Spirit are distributed by the hands of Mary, to whom she wills, when she wills, as she wills and in the measure she wills." Pray to Our Lady of The Rosary for all the graces you need to "pray the distance" and cross the spiritual finish line.

Rest assured that all who visit my blog are in my daily Rosary. In a very special way, I pray for those who are striving for a daily recitation of the entire Rosary, endeavouring to complete the marathon of grace. 

Monday, October 7, 2013

LIfe Chain Fall 2013: A Follow Up

Me at Life Chain Fall'2013
Today's post is a follow up to my previous post entitled, Life Chain - Faith Put Into Action. On Sunday, October 6, I attended the Life Chain effort, here in my local community of Woodbridge, Ontario. I would like to share with you some of my observations, thoughts and the overall experience during this silent public witness against the evil of abortion.

As you can see from the photo caption, that is me, holding a laminated poster of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Protectress of the Unborn. Pope John Paul II in 1999, at the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupeentrusted 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. There are some who still do not know of Our Lady of Guadalupe's special role and connection to the pro-life movement, so to "spot light" it, I decided to hold Her image during the entire time at Life Chain.

This year's Life Chain effort was attended by a small number of pro-life enthusiasts, included Franciscan Friars, Fr. Peter Furguiele, OFM and Fr. Michael Corcione, OFM from St. Peter's Parish. In addition to St. Peter's Parish, there were pro-lifers in attendance from Immaculate Conception Parish (Woodbridge) and St. David's Parish (Maple). Together, we all put forth a concerted effort to get the message out, that the killing of a developing human being in the womb, is morally wrong. Abortion is morally wrong because human life is sacred. As Pope John Paul II points out in Evangelium Vitae (Gospel of Life), "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...(53) In addition, the killing of a human being is a direct disobedience against God's commandment of "Thou Shall Not Kill," which can be found in Old Testament at Exodus 20:13. Jesus reinforces this commandment in the New Testatment at Matthew 19:18, where 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." Although we were a relatively small group, this did not deter us by any means. During our Life Chain witness, we recited the Sorrowful and Glorious mysteries of the Rosary for all the unborn children, for women who are in need of post abortion healing and families who have had to suffer this grave evil in their lives.

Fr. Peter Furguiele, OFM and other pro-lifers.
Our enthusiasm to publicly witness against the evil of abortion was matched by many people who made an effort to show their support. Some chose to simply honk their horns. Others rolled down their windows and expressed words of encouragement, approval and gratitude for our public witness. There is one individual who really stood out. A young man on a racing motorcycle, who travelling south on Islington arrived at the red lights at Hwy. 7. Having come to a full stop, he immediately turned his head left to the group of six people at the north east corner, the group I was with. I could tell he was reading all of our signs and viewing the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe. It was only a few seconds later that he motioned with his thumbs, "two thumbs up." The young man even went one step further and took off his protective helmet in an effort to further connect with us, granting us his approval and encouragement once again. Eventually, the traffic lights had changed to green and he rode off, but his positive reinforcement of our public witness remained. I looked to all in our group and it was obvious, we all felt up lifted and encouraged by this young man's effort to connect with us.

In my view, there is a great deal of moral support within the Woodbridge community against the evil of abortion. Unfortunately, that moral support has not translated into a great deal of action with efforts such as Life Chain. Life Chain is faith put into action and represents a key opportunity to defend the unborn children from murder.  A faith without action is a dead faith (James 2:14-18). If we in the Woodbridge community intend to contribute to the building up of a "culture of life," then we must take action. It is not enough for us to only read and pray, we also have to do something about it. Life Chain is but one of the many ways to affect a positive change in our community.  

Witnessing in front of the Woodbridge Memorial Arena
If you did not participate in this year's Life Chain and/or are not active in the pro-life movement, consider this effort in the future.  It requires very little of your time and energy. Your future participation may make a big difference, especially with the youth who are particularly vulnerable to secularization and the acceptance of immorality so rampant in today's main stream "culture of death." Hopefully your future witness will be all that is necessary to sway some one from having an abortion. At the very minimum, you will draw attention to this national issue and perhaps even spawn some good discussions and readings. 

Some of the Life Chain Fall'2013 Participants
To all those who attended this year's Life Chain, bravo for your determination to make the evil of abortion known. Your abortion awareness efforts are indicative of a lively faith put into action at a time in society when it is so needed. Lastly, a heartfelt "thank you" to all who showed their support for our public witness. May God continue to bless all of us with His abundant grace and mercy.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

An Introduction to the Rosary

A painting of Our Lady giving the Rosary to St. Dominic
St. Dominic receiving the Rosary from the Blessed Virgin Mary

With October being the "Month of The Rosary," I thought it fitting to publish an introduction to the Rosary.  

The Rosary is a heavenly gift given to us by the Blessed Virgin Mary to her faithful servant St. Dominic in 1214, who was instructed by Our Lady to recite the Rosary daily for the conversion of the Albigensian heretics in southern France. Through St. Dominic's preaching and propagation, it was introduced to the Church as a new daily form of prayer for all Catholics to recite. 

Saint Dominic understood the negative influence of the Albigensian heretics, and responded to it by withdrawing into the forest near Toulouse to pray unceasingly for three days and nights; weeping and inflicting harsh penances upon himself to appease God's anger. The penances were so extreme that St. Dominic fell into a coma. It was at this point that the Blessed Mother appeared to him with three angels. Our Blessed Mother informed St. Dominic that the best weapon in this type of spiritual warfare, the weapon that the Holy Trinity wanted him to use to reform the world, was Mary's Psalter. Our Lady instructed St. Dominic, "If you want to reach these hardened souls and win them over to God, preach my Psalter." At this point St. Dominic arose, comforted and burning with zeal for the conversion of sinners, headed straight for the cathedral to preach on the Holy Rosary. Saint Dominic did so in such a fervent and compelling manner, that almost everyone at Toulouse renounced their false beliefs and embraced the Rosary. In a very short time, a great improvement was seen in the area as people began leading Christian lives and gave up their former bad habits.

St. Louis De Montfort, another of Our Blessed Mother's servants chosen in the seventeenth century to propagate the Rosary, wrote the book, The Secret of The Rosary. It is a "must read" book for anyone who is serious about the Rosary and its recitation.

Saint Louis De Montfort expressed the importance and relevance of the Rosary in our lives, for our earthly pilgrimage, and eternal salvation. The Secret of The Rosary contains everything that can be said about the Rosary especially the necessary instruction for its application and use. The Secret of The Rosary will not only bring to the reader a better understanding of the Rosary as a form of contemplative prayer, but also serve as a helpful aid in the spiritual life.

The Rosary was for St. Louis De Montfort, not only a method of prayer, but an effective tool and weapon in his apostolic work. Saint Louis De Montfort preached the Rosary in and out of season, established it in every parish where he gave a mission and judged the fruits of the mission by the subsequent perseverance of its recitation. Saint Louis De Montfort knew there was no limit to the power of the Rosary and he attributed to it, much of his success with the conversion of sinners, as he is quoted saying, "Let me place my Rosary around a sinner's neck...and he will not escape me."

You might be wondering: what exactly is the Rosary; what prayers does it include; how do I pray it; and why should I pray it.

The Rosary is a set of prayers whereby you meditate on the life and passion of Christ, and on the life of Our Lady, and reflect upon the many virtues and Gospel lessons contained within. The prayers that make up the Rosary are: The Apostles' Creed; Our Father; Hail Mary; Glory Be; O My Jesus; and the Hail Holy Queen. The Rosary is one of the contemplative forms of prayer of the Catholic Church. Pope John Paul II in his Apostolic Letter Rosarium Virginis Mariae wrote:
The Rosary, precisely because it starts with Mary's own experience, is an exquisitely contemplative prayer. Without this contemplative dimension, it would lose its meaning, as Pope Paul VI clearly pointed out: “Without contemplation, the Rosary is a body without a soul, and its recitation runs the risk of becoming a mechanical repetition of formulas, in violation of the admonition of Christ: 'In praying do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think they will be heard for their many words' (Mt 6:7). By its nature the recitation of the Rosary calls for a quiet rhythm and a lingering pace, helping the individual to meditate on the mysteries of the Lord's life as seen through the eyes of her who was closest to the Lord. In this way the unfathomable riches of these mysteries are disclosed." (12)
The Rosary can be recited any where at any time. You do not have to be in a church to pray it, although praying it in a church is certainly ideal. Recitation of the Rosary can be done while commuting to work, during a walk in the park, and even while performing physical tasks. As long as you are properly disposed, can focus on the prayers, and meditate on the mysteries, it is time well spent.

The Rosary is divided into four sets of mysteries: Joyful, Luminous, Sorrowful and Glorious mysteries. Each set takes approximately thirty minutes to recite. Each day of the week has assigned to it one of the mysteries, referred to as the "daily required recitation." This is the very minimum; you should strive to recite all four sets each day. Here are the mysteries that are assigned to each day of the week:

  • Joyful Mysteries, assigned for Mondays and Saturdays throughout the year; also on Sundays during Advent and the Christmas seasons.
  • Luminous Mysteries, every Thursday during all seasons throughout the year
  • Sorrowful, on Tuesday and Fridays throughout the year and also on Sundays during Lent
  • Glorious Mysteries, Wednesdays throughout the year; also on Sundays between Christmas and Lent and Sundays between Easter and Advent.

The Rosary Center's How To Pray The Rosary page offers instructions in many languages. At this page you will find an image of the Rosary, with easy to follow instructions and links to all the prayers to be recited. 

In addition, you may be interested in Tan Book's How To Say The Rosary pamphlet.

You may also want to consider the Rosary Center's First Saturday Devotions booklet. It not only details the devotion and the Fatima apparitions, but it provides for a more in-depth Rosary recitation experience that includes: scriptural passages; images of the historical moments of Christ's and Mary's life; the spiritual focus; a reflection for each mystery; and intercessory prayers to Our Lady.

As to why you should pray the Rosary, the most important one being it was requested by Our Lady to St. Dominic. This request was further made by Our Lady at Fatima, who chose to introduce herself to the three children as, "Our Lady of The Rosary." 

In the Secret of the Rosary's Twenty Seventh Rose - BenefitsSt. Louis De Montfort wrote about why we should embrace this devotion and listed seven benefits

  1. It gradually brings us a perfect knowledge of Jesus Christ
  2. It purifies our souls from sin
  3. It gives us victory over all our enemies
  4. It makes the practice of virtue easy
  5. It sets us on fire with the love of our Lord
  6. It enriches us with graces and merits
  7. It supplies us with what is needed to pay all our debts to God and to our fellowmen, and finally, it obtains all kinds of graces from God. 

A final note. Completing the daily recitation of the entire Rosary may seem difficult at first, but with a little bit of persistence and discipline, it can be accomplished. Much in the same manner as an athlete who trains for a marathon and builds up his/her endurance and the capacity to run the entire distance, so too will devotees build up their prayer endurance and eventually cross the "spiritual finish line," completing the marathon of grace.