Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán Declares 2018 to be the Year of the Families

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán at the Budapest Family Summit
Prime Minister Viktor Orban giving his speech during the Budapest Family Summit. Photo: About Hungary Blog/PM Orbán at World Congress of Families XI summit: 2018 will be the year for families

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán declared 2018, to be the "Year of the Families"; a declaration made on May 25, during his opening speech at the Budapest Family Summit.

It is a declaration that not only spotlights a nation's strength relies on its people—and fundamental to that is the family, the primary cell of society—but also seeks to address the declining birth rate experienced by many countries in Europe (including Hungary) with real and immediate solutions that will help families have more children.

The World Congress of Families (WCF) and the International Organization for the Family (IOF) chose Hungary for the second time to host this summit—whose theme was “Building Family-Friendly Nations: Making Families Great Again”—because Hungary, as the WCF Managing Director Larry Jacobs put it, "...[H]as demonstrated its strategic leadership as an advocate for the natural family in Europe." Here is what the WCF also published about why they chose Hungary:
Hungary’s leadership in defense of family, life, and Christianity is well known in Europe. The adoption of key provisions in the Hungarian Constitution in 2011 defining marriage between a man and a woman and protecting human life from conception to natural death have made the Orban government the hero of pro-family and pro-life leaders from all over the world. Hungary’s leadership is fully committed to family friendly governance and has recently launched a new national motto, 'Hungary, the Family Friendly Country.'
In Hungary's constitution, The Fundamental Law of Hungary, there are four provisions that specifically point to the truth and accuracy of Jacobs' statements. The first is contained within the National Avowal, which states, "We hold that the family and the nation constitute the principal framework of our coexistence, and that our fundamental cohesive values are fidelity, faith and love." (2)

The second is located at FOUNDATION Article L, "(1) Hungary shall protect the institution of marriage as the union of a man and a woman established by voluntary decision, and the family as the basis of the survival of the nation. Family ties shall be based on marriage and/or the relationship between parents and children."

The third is under FREEDOM AND RESPONSIBILITY Article II, "Human dignity shall be inviolable. Every human being shall have the right to life and human dignity; the life of the foetus shall be protected from the moment of conception."

The fourth is at FREEDOM AND RESPONSIBILITY Article XV, "(5) By means of separate measures, Hungary shall protect families, children, women, the elderly and persons living with disabilities."

Hungary's constitution is impressive; reading it is time well spent. For those interested in knowing more about it, consider my post of December 2016, Viktor Orbán: A True Leader of and for the People of Hungary and Hungary's Constitution The Fundamental Law of Hungary.

It comes as no surprise that Hungary was chosen to host this summit; part of the goal of this summit, as stated on the WCF website, was to "...[S]trengthen our existing international network and help launch a new global profamily alliance of countries dedicated to defending marriage, the family and the sanctity of human life.”

Since Orbán and the party he leads, the Fidesz Party, was elected in 2010, the government has spent 9.7 billion EUR in support of families. Debt relief, child support, family housing incentives, support for household modernization are just some of the latest measures put into place to help families.

It is part of a demographic battle that Orbán is fighting—an approach that seeks to strengthen families from within Hungary rather than rely on the false solution of immigration—knowing full well that strong families will create a strong, competitive, and prosperous Hungary for current and future generations.

The family is at the center of Orbán's vision of the future! It is Orbán's firm belief that protecting families, no matter what the costs, is essential.

Orbán certainly articulated that very belief during his speech at the Budapest Family Summit (World Congress of Families XI)a speech worth reading to not only better understand the importance of the family, but to capture the strength and intelligence of Orbán's leadership.

A safe society is a fundamental component of any government's plan to protect families, which Orbán highlighted in the first part of his speech, when referring to Brussels' so-called "refugee" resettlement scheme and the migrant crisis that it created.

Hungary's border fences along the Hungarian-Serbian border
Hungary's southern border fences along the Hungarian-Serbian border. Photo: About Hungary Blog/Hungary’s southern border fence has been protecting the frontier of Europe for two years

Orbán responded to that threat with the building of two border fences along the border with Serbia, as well as establishing border-hunters (specially trained border guards), who form part of a security force: modern-day border-fort garrisons, police officers, and the defence forces.

Not only has Orbán brought the Balkan-migrant route—of which Hungary is an extension—to a complete halt, but he has enabled Hungarians to live in a peaceful and safe society; and in the process, has inspired confidence in young people to have families, secure in the knowledge that throughout Hungary will echo the "Happy cries of children rather than sirens from police cars and ambulances."

Today, Hungary is one of the safest countries in Europe!

The danger for Hungary and Europe is not over as Orbán pointed out, "It is only a matter of time and political expedience before millions of people who are ready to set out are once again channelled in our direction." (1) The coalition of human rights activists and people smugglers continue to work to send waves of migrants—mostly men in their prime—in the direction of Europe.

Recent developments prove Orbán to be absolutely correct as has been reported by Government Spokesman Zoltán Kovács in his latest blog post, European Parliament speeds up realization of the Soros plan.

In that post, Kovács spotlights the proposal made by the European Parliament's Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) for a limitless resettlement quota scheme, that coupled with what he described as a "Hungary-bashing report," points to a pro-immigration agenda that will attempt to strong-arm any member that refuses to cooperate.

Youth and traditional dancing at the Budapest Family Summit
Hungarian youth and traditional dancing at the Budapest Family Summit. Photo: Daily News Hungary/INTERNATIONAL FAMILY SUMMIT – ORBÁN: GOVERNMENT TO INCREASE FAMILY TAX BENEFITS

One of the most salient points in the speech that Orbán so candidly spoke of, is the declining birth rate among European countries, including Hungary. He went on to state that, "...The time for straight talking has come. Europe, our common homeland, is losing out in the population competition between great civilisations. Fewer and fewer marriages are producing fewer and fewer children, and the population is therefore ageing and declining." (2)

There are two views on how to solve this problem. The first sees immigration as the answer, while the other view taken by Central Europe (including Hungary) is that they must solve the demographic problem by relying on their own resources; a truth that Orbán stated must be acknowledged through a spiritual renewal.

To put the declining birth rate in Hungary into perspective, Orbán cited from national statistics on Hungary's population in 1980, when the population was at 10,709,000 people; by 2017, that figure dropped to 9,799,000. It is a dramatic drop in population—a loss of almost 1 million people—which as Orbán pointed out, "...[I]s more than all the casualties we sustained in World War II." (2) 

So important is the need to address the declining birth rate that Orbán refers to the restoration of natural reproduction not only as a national cause, but "the national cause."

Orbán's goal is to raise the birth rate to 2.1% by 2030, which will require responsible family policies that must be pursued for decades, over the course of several governments. Orbán considers this to be the first precondition for the population turnaround.

The second precondition is a powerful financial engine, "A competitive model that is full of energy." Elaborating further on this Orbán stated that any major political, social and intellectual turnaround always requires financial resources:
As far as we Hungarians are concerned, I can tell you that here economic growth is in a range between three and five per cent. This is the magical GDP growth. Government debt is declining and unemployment is coming to an end. Because our economic policy has been successful, the next target of our general and economic policy is to promote the number of children being born. It is to this that we’ve adjusted our fiscal system, it is to this that we’ve adjusted our housing support system; and our work-based economic system – with which we shall soon reach full employment – also serves this purpose. (3)
The third precondition for a successful demographic turnaround is for Europe to be in "good shape"; that is, each country's economic plan has to include support for the family. So important is this that Orbán stated, "If as a unit of community the family does not occupy first place in the hearts of young people, however, economic strength and excellent national economy figures are in vain: we cannot achieve anything." (3) Hungary spends 4.6% of GDP on family support.

Orbán acknowledged the simple truth that it is essential to pursue a policy that removes obstacles from the path of young people if more children are to be born. It was in the spirit of this truth, that he declared 2018, as the "Year of the Families." 

Accompanying that declaration is an action plan that will help to ensure young people are financially supported and encouraged to have more children. There is no better way to understand that action plan than to read it from Orbán's own words:
We’ve decided to further raise the rates of family tax allowances, and to place families with two children at the centre of this, as they represent the largest section in Hungary. And I’ve learnt that where there is room for two, there is also room for three – or even four. Braver families may even find room for five. For young women with two children and student loans, the Government will cancel fifty per cent of their debt, and for those with three or more children one hundred per cent of the student loan debt will be cancelled. For graduates we shall extend the term of maternity leave by a year, and for university students it is extended until the child reaches the age of two. Hungarians 3/4 understand the meaning of this family policy measure. “My home is my castle”: this is how the Hungarians think, and this is another reason why it is difficult to adopt a good policy here. We have decided that families with mortgages can have one million forints written off their debt if they have three children, and one million forints will be written off for each further child, with the state bearing the burden. Finally, we shall embark on infant day care developments on an unprecedented scale. We are going to build infant day care centres everywhere families live, and we shall renovate existing infant day care centres wherever necessary. We are also opening up our family support system – although cautiously – to fellow Hungarians who live outside the borders As a result, from next year they may also be eligible for maternity support after the birth of children, and baby bonds will be available across the entire Carpathian Basin. (4)
If that wasn't impressive enough, Orbán also announced the establishment of a research institute that will serve to better Hungary's spiritual and intellectual competitiveness, and good policy planning. The institute will become an international think tank that will, as Orbán put it, "...[P]rovide sufficient knowledge and intellectual munition to help and support families, laying the philosophical foundations for our family policy, and enabling accurate understanding of the situation in Europe and the world." (4)

Using the analogy of a ship sailing into the wind Orbán pointed out that obstacles do exist, but no matter what those obstacles are, with perseverance, courage and the backing of like-minded allies, together Hungary and Europe, just like a ship that knows what port it is aiming for, will reach its destination.

The brave, responsible, and intelligent leadership of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has proven itself for seven straight years, and there is every reason to believe that Hungary's progress and growth will continue for many years to come: the Hungarian model is working and it shows!

Such is the kind of leadership that other countries should be seeking if they are serious about: a major demographic turnaround; protecting and strengthening the family; securing their borders; and guarding against all threats to their Christian identity, heritage, and culture.

God bless Prime Minister Viktor Orbán for continuing to demonstrate the kind of leadership that is so desperately needed in many countries in Europe, in Canada, and throughout the world.

May 2018, be a great year for the families!

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Poland's Rosary at the Borders National Prayer Event and the Importance of Group Recitation of the Rosary

Poles in the forest on route to the Polish-Czech border to pray.
Faithful Catholics in Poland walking in the forest near the city of Szklarska Poreba, Poland along the Polish-Czech border during the Rosary at the Borders on October 7, 2017. Photo: Martin Divisek/European Press Photo Agency via New York Times.

It comes as no surprise to read the news coming out of Poland of the Rosary at the Borders national prayer event that took place on October 7, the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary; a feast in which Catholics commemorate and give thanks to Our Lady for Her intercession in the great victory of Christian forces over the Ottoman naval fleet at the Battle of Lepanto in 1571.

The day began with the celebration of the Mass in honour of Our Lady of the Rosary after which the faithful made their way to the borders to recite all four sets of Mysteries between 2:00pm to 4:00pm: the Joyful, Luminous, Sorrowful, and Glorious Mysteries.

This national prayer effort was organized by a lay Catholic organization, Solo Dios Basta Foundation, founded in June 2015, by a group of secular evangelists, retreat organizers, and filmmakers, whose Mission page includes an impressive list of goals, not the least of which is for the "Promotion of Christian culture, activities for the New Evangelization and support for the comprehensive development of Polish society, especially support for cultural, educational and therapeutic activities."

Rosary at the Borders, was sanctioned by Church leaders in Poland, and included 320 parishes from twenty-two dioceses participating at approximately 4,000 locations along Poland’s border with Germany, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Ukraine, Belarus, Lithuania, Russia and the Baltic Sea.

It was a national prayer effort endorsed by Poland's Prime Minister Beata Szydlo—who is the only Prime Minister in Europe whose son is a priest, ordained in May of this year—in a tweet, "I greet all the participants." 

This Rosary event was by no means limited to the land as there were participants in fishing boats at sea, as well as on kayaks and sailboats forming a Rosary-chain on Polish rivers.

One of Solo Dios Basta's (God Alone is Enough) founders, Maciej Bodasiński, stated that many people also prayed over the radio, in parish churches, in homes, at the airport, in hospitals, in the streets, and at roadside crosses and chapels.

In addition, there were many Catholics from all around the world reciting the Rosary, united with the people of Poland: Akita, Japan, New Zealand, the village of Stamsund in the Lofoten Island above the Arctic Circle, China, Cambodia, Germany, Great Britain, Norway, Denmark, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Ukraine, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and in the USA.

Polish soldiers stationed in Afghanistan also prayed the Rosary in solidarity with their fellow countrymen back in Poland.

Many of us here in Canada were also united to this national prayer effort!

Mountain view of participants at the Rosary at the Borders prayer event
Mountain view of the Rosary at the Borders event on October 7, 2017. Photo: Solo Dios Basta Foundation

Poles have always had a strong awareness and understanding of their Christian culture and identity; a fact that I first discovered when reading, Witness To Hopea book written by George Weigel, on the life of a young Polish man, Karol Wojtyła, who later become Fr. Karol Wojtyła and whose vocational path led him to become as he is more widely known, Saint John Paul II.

It was during that reading in 2003—to which I dedicated the majority of my summer weekends—that I became quite impressed with the Catholic Church in Poland specifically with respect to how the young Karol Wojtyła, together with millions of other Poles, kept their Christian culture and identity alive during the Nazi occupation—a time when Poland's political borders were temporarily removed from the map of Europe—and during the many decades that followed under the Communist regime that lasted for half a century.

Today we see that same Polish spirit, keenly aware of the importance of the Rosary for the protection of Poland and Europe, for the conversion of sinners and unbelievers, and peace in the world.

It is with that same spirit that the Poles have responded to a similar threat as in the sixteenth century: the threat of Islam overrunning Europe. Unlike the military threat of the 1500s, today's Muslim threat comes in the form of aggressive migration to Europe from Africa, the Middle East, and from even farther away locations like Afghanistan, Pakistan, and other countries in that region.

Poles have always understood that the threat of Islam is primarily a spiritual battle that is to be primarily fought and sustained with spiritual weapons; namely, the Holy Mass and the daily recitation of the entire Rosary!

It is an understanding that has translated into other forms of action. Poland, together with Hungary, have lead the Visegrad Four (Hungary, Poland, Czech Republic and Slovakia) in rejecting all Muslim migration to their respective countries: the Soros scheme that Brussels has embraced to change Europe's demographics and Christian culture through a massive influx of Muslim migrants, who are overwhelmingly men in their prime.

So threatened is Christianity today in Europe, that Krakow Archbishop Marek Jedraszewski stated during Mass, “Let’s pray for other nations of Europe and the world to understand that we need to return to the Christian roots of European culture if we want Europe to remain Europe."

We see the same concerns in the Czech Republic elections, in which migration fears dominate the election.

In the recent Austrian election, the people voted Sebastian Kurz, from the Austrian People's Party (ÖVP), into power who is expected to be the next chancellor and form a coalition with Heinz-Christian Strache of the Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ); both of whom are conservative and share beliefs in common with Poland and Hungary, including the rejection of Muslim migrants.

Rosary chain at the border. Photo: LifeSiteNews/‘There was spiritual unity:’ Catholics reflect on Poland rosary crusade

Many Catholics could learn from Poland of the importance of group recitation of the Rosary, which although may be inferred by the large amount of participants through "strength in numbers"—estimated to have been approximately 1.5 million Catholics—is probably something that is not fully understood.

The specifics of that full understanding are available to us from Saint Louis De Montfort's book, The Secret of the Rosary, to which he dedicated an entire chapter, Forty-Sixth Rose: Group Recitation

Saint Louis De Montfort begins the chapter by emphasizing the fundamental importance of group recitation of the Rosary: that it gives the greatest glory to God; that it does the most for our souls; and it is the prayer that the devil fears the most.

Further reinforcing its efficaciousness, St. Louis De Montfort referred to scriptural passage of Matthew 18:20, when he stated, "Our Blessed Lord expressly recommended common prayer to His apostles and disciples and promised that whenever two or three were gathered together in His name He would be there in the midst of them." (96)

Adding a note of encouragement he stated, "What a wonderful thing to have Jesus Christ in our midst! And the only thing we have to do to get Him to come is to say the Rosary in a group." (96)

As an aside, it is worth mentioning the footnote attached to that encouragement, "St. Louis' message fits in beautifully with that of the great 'Family Rosary Crusade' of today." (96) In its current form, The Secret of the Rosary, was published in 1954, which explains the reference to the Family Rosary Crusade: an international Rosary prayer effort, founded by Fr. Patrick Peyton in and around that time, that was well known throughout the world, as was the most famous slogan that developed from it, "The family that prays together, stays together." 

Other important points that St. Louis De Montfort lists for our consideration when praying the Rosary within a group setting are:

  • Our minds are far more alert during public prayer than private individual recitation
  • With prayer in common, the prayer of each individual belongs to everyone and; thus, it makes for a greater prayer in that, if one person is not praying well, someone else in the same gathering who prays better may make up for the deficiency. Those who are strong uphold the weak; those who are fervent inspire the lukewarm.
  • When an individual recites the Rosary privately, that individual only gains the merit of one Rosary, but when recited within a group setting, every individual gains the merit of the group's recitation.
  • Public prayer is far more powerful than private prayer in appeasing God's anger and drawing His mercy upon the Church. This has always been advocated in times of public tragedy and suffering.

Poles praying the Rosary outside of a parish
Praying the Rosary outside of a parish. Photo: LifeSiteNews/There was spiritual unity:’ Catholics reflect on Poland rosary crusade

Saint Louis De Montfort also makes a special appeal to members of the the Confraternity of the Most Holy Rosaryof which I am a member—that no matter where they reside, they should strive to gather together in a parish Church, chapel or someone's home to recite the Rosary in two choirs.

Saint Louis De Montfort elaborated further on the importance of gathering in large numbers to recite the Rosary:
Finally, when people say the Rosary together it is far more formidable to the devil than one said privately, because in this public prayer it is an army that is attacking him. He can often overcome the prayer of an individual, but if this prayer is joined to that of other Christians, the devil has much more trouble in getting the best of it. It is very easy to break a single stick, but if you join it to others to make a bundle it cannot be broken. 'In union there is strength.' Soldiers join together in an army to overcome their enemies; wicked people often get together for parties of debauchery and dancing, and evil spirits join forces in order to make us lose our souls. So why, then, should not Christians join forces to have Jesus Christ present with them when they pray, to appease Almighty God's anger, to draw down His grace and mercy upon us, and to frustrate and overcome the devil and his angels more forcefully? (98)
To illustrate the Rosary's efficaciousness, St. Louis De Montfort cited from his own ministry of the transforming effects upon small towns and villages where he preached missions; places where debauchery, blasphemy, quarrels and feuds ended and became places where hymns and the chant of the Our Father and Hail Mary were heard.

Like in the time of St. Louis De Montfort, there are those today who are enemies of the Rosary and may even try to hinder its establishment and growth—some of whom have even criticized the recent Rosary at the Borders event—to which we can apply the saint's encouragement to the faithful, "...[D]o not give up." (99)

Saint Louis De Montfort dedicated an entire chapter to enemies of the Rosary, Ninth Rose: Enemies, in which he referred to such people as, "freethinkers," who have "absorbed the poison of hell" and are "inspired by the devil." (29)

The Catholic Church in Poland has admirably demonstrated that they will never give up. May Catholics throughout the world be inspired by such faith and devotion.