Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Why Go To Mary?

Marian devotion takes on a higher profile in May (May crownings, Marian additional prayers, etc.), which means Catholics are often asked to explain their love for Mary. So let’s be ready to answer perhaps the most common form of this question: Why go to Mary instead of going straight to Jesus?

I want to propose three reasons. But even before that, we must amend the question. It’s generally phrased as “why go to Mary,” but as Catholics we don’t merely go to Mary. With go through Mary (or with Mary) to Jesus. And we certainly never go to Mary instead of Jesus! Even if our prayers only explicitly address Our Lady, they always implicitly address Our Lord, who is the source of Mary’s power and holiness. That clarified, now we can discuss why we go through Mary.

“Therefore be imitators of God” (Eph 5:1a)

We’re called to imitate God, and so we go through Mary because He did. God gave us Jesus through Mary…He chose her to be the mediator of the One Mediator. And therefore we ought to love and acknowledge both the mediator and the Mediator. In other words, just as God thought it right to give us Jesus through Mary, so we ought to go back to Jesus through Mary. Mary always leads to Jesus (just ask Elizabeth and John, cf. Lk 1:39-45).

Mama’s Boy?

Jesus chose Mary to be His mother, created her without original sin, and lived with her for thirty of His thirty-three years, so you can bet He loved His mother! And again, since we’re called to imitate Jesus, we must love His mother too. To love Mary is Christ-like.

Sometimes people get nervous about loving Mary, as though if they love her there will be less love for Jesus. But not only is that not how love works, it’s also not something we have to be concerned about. Since Jesus loves Mary infinitely, and we’re called to love Mary like Jesus, we can never love Mary enough or too much. We can never love her more than Jesus did, so we don’t have to hold back love out of fear of offending Him. What good son wouldn’t want those he loves to love his mother?

Heavenly Aid

Scripture urges us to pray for others (1 Tim 2:1). Why? Because we’re all part of the human family and, frankly, because we all need the help and grace prayers bring! We know that “the prayer of a righteous man has great power in its effects” (Jas 5:6), so we should especially want good, holy people interceding for us. Now if Scripture specifically commands we pray for each other, and the holier the person praying the more powerful the grace, why would we want to dismiss the intercession of the holiest creature ever? I need all the help I can get, so there’s no way I’m not invoking the prayer of such a righteous woman!

Furthermore, there has never been a human heart more conformed to Jesus’ than Mary’s, so who better to help us conform our hearts to His? Mary is the most perfect disciple of Christ in human history, and as such, she desperately desires to help us become better disciples of her beloved Son! Her life has always been about loving God and bringing others to Him, and that hasn’t changed now that she’s in Heaven. So let her lead you closer to Jesus in this month of May and beyond!

Monday, May 11, 2015

A Pro-Life Year of Mercy

by Father John McCloskey

Recently, Pope Francis announced an upcoming Year of Mercy that will begin on December 8, 2015, the 50th anniversary of the end of the Second Vatican Council (and of course the feast day of the Immaculate Conception, which holds special significance for us in the U.S., who enjoy the patronage of the Immaculate Conception) and conclude on November 20, 2016, the Feast of Christ the King.
What is mercy? One dictionary defines it in the following way: "kind or forgiving treatment of someone who could be treated harshly; kindness or help given to people who are in a very bad or desperate situation."
The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us:
Christ has willed that in her prayer and life and action his whole Church should be the sign and instrument of the forgiveness and reconciliation that he acquired for us at the price of his blood. But he entrusted the exercise of the power of absolution to the apostolic ministry which he charged with the "ministry of reconciliation." The apostle is sent out "on behalf of Christ" with "God making his appeal" through him and pleading: "Be reconciled to God." The greater the sin standing between us and reconciliation with God, the greater God's mercy in extending to us the offer of reconciliation.
It seems to me, then, that deliberately taking innocent life by deliberate abortion of the child in the womb is one of the greatest sins possible. The guilt may lie with the father, the boyfriend, the woman who allows it, and most particularly the doctor who performs it; nonetheless, God's mercy never fails, if asked for.
Therefore, what is needed during this time of grace and mercy is a crusade to outlaw all elective abortions by all legal means and of course ongoing efforts to help people perceive doctors who perform abortions as who they really are: killers who deserve punishment. At the same time we should never stop praying for abortionists to undergo a change of heart, because no category of sinner is excluded from God's mercy. And they will receive that mercy if they ask for it. Recall Dr. Bernard Nathanson, the notorious abortionist who was responsible for thousands of unborn deaths and even aborted his own child. After he became convinced of his wrongdoing and, by the mercy of God, repented of it, he spent the rest of his life attempting to convince others of the evil of abortion through books, presentations, and his film The Silent Scream. God is merciful, and great sinners, being in most obvious need of that mercy, are sometimes more willing to recognize and take hold of that mercy than someone who considers himself or herself in good spiritual health.
However, it seems to me that the greatest effort to extend Christ's mercy should be directed toward helping those millions of women in our country who are suffering in their hearts knowing they have been instrumental in destroying life that they brought into existence. We must pray for them, console them, and bring them to repentance. If they are Catholic, we should encourage them to seek mercy and healing in the confessional, where they can begin their recovery as women who have come to know that God loves and forgives them even of the most grievous of crimes, as he forgave the Good Thief on Calvary. We also should not forget the men who share the guilt of abortion if they collaborated with and/or even forced the mother into aborting their child.
Don't forget that by the time this year of mercy concludes in November 2016, a new United States president will have been elected. We as Catholics should do everything possible to help elect a truly pro-life (with no exceptions) president who will not be afraid to go further than merely paying lip service to the cause of the unborn. Any president who could put an end to legalized abortion would surely go down as the greatest in our history. And perhaps our example could then spread throughout the world, reviving the realization that all conceived children should be safeguarded because, after all, children are the hope of the future.
We thank Pope Francis for this year and we also thank him for giving us such a great example of what it means to be pro-life in every way, not only extending mercy to those who are already alive and developing in the womb, but also recognizing and proclaiming that, while marriage has several purposes, including the holiness of the spouses, God has established it as the best means for couples to bring children into the world. And those couples who cooperate with God's purposes will strive to raise children who will give glory to God and by fulfilling his loving purposes on earth and then enjoying an eternity in heaven. True mercy is to give them the same chance of doing so that you yourself have received!
First appeared on The Truth and Charity Forum in March, 2015.

Friday, May 8, 2015

A rocket scientist puts our Faith to the test

"Science and religion
are incompatible,"
they tell us.

"You Christians
are unwilling to bend
your will to the truth,"
they say.

In these pages,
prolific inventor and
rocket scientist, Dr. Rocco
Martino, exposes the fallacy
and danger of such claims.

He shows that despite
all the scientific discoveries
of our age, religious truth has
never been — and never will be —
proven to be in error.

Faith, Dr. Martino explains,
is an indispensable element
in any search for truth, even
for scientists using the
scientific method.

In clear, easy-to-
understand language, he
shows that truth cannot
be discovered without a balanced
application of faith and reason.

He then shows
how we must use
reason as a tool to accept
or reject truth claims . . .

. . . and why faith coupled
with revelation must be
the final determinant
for acceptance.

When we approach
scientific discoveries with
the mind of faith, we inevitably
come to a much deeper understanding
of who we are and how we
came to be.

Indeed, science
heightens our ability to
prove the existence of God and,
ultimately, it strengthens our faith.

Read these pages,
and you'll enter into
the mind of a rocket scientist
well-versed in theology
and philosophy . . .

. . . journeying with him
as he looks for God,
and then at God.

Rocket Ships and God:
A Rocket Scientist puts faith to the test

by Dr. Rocco Martino
— 113 pages

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Not only does God exist, he's showing it through miraculous healings that occur even in our day!

In these pages, you'll learn of countless miraculous healings that are giving pause to hardened skeptics and bringing joy to the hearts of believers.

The healing documented in this book are not hasty judgments made by gullible, overwrought believers; they're instantaneous, complete, and permanent cures for which scientific medicine has no explanation — cures that also meet the Vatican's stringent seven-part test of authenticity.

Among these stories are:
  • The Philadelphia school teacher who had an inoperable malignant tumor. She was so feeble she could scarcely walk, but was healed instantaneously while praying at the tomb of Saint John Neumann.
  • The young child who was visited in the night by Saint Padre Pio, and woke the next morning healed of congenital heart problems.
  • Joseph Jette was twenty-two years old when the scaffolding he was climbing collapsed and left him crippled for life with a fractured spinal column, Br. Andre Bessette tells him to put down his crutches and walk. He obeyed, and was instantly cured.
  • Jim sustained massive brain injury after his motorcycle smashed into a car and sent him flying thirty feet into the air. "I was working on a dead man," the surgeon said. Having lost a daughter years before, Jim's parents prayed to Elizabeth Seton, who had five children of her own. Jim not only fully recovered from that crash 35 years ago, but still lives today.
God doesn't need humans to work miracles for Him, but as veteran Catholic author Patricia Treece shows, it certainly seems His good pleasure to perform great miracles by means of human prayer and human hands.

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Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Prayer for the Dead

God our Father,
Your power brings us to birth,
Your providence guides our lives,
and by Your command we return to dust.

Lord, those who die still live in Your presence,
their lives change but do not end.
I pray in hope for my family,
relatives and friends,
and for all the dead known to You alone.

In company with Christ,
Who died and now lives,
may they rejoice in Your kingdom,
where all our tears are wiped away.
Unite us together again in one family,
to sing Your praise forever and ever.


Tuesday, May 5, 2015

How a Catholic man defied the Nazi regime

Meet the Catholic
Philosopher who Fought
Adolph Hitler

Before Hitler and the Nazis
came to power, they already
had a powerful enemy: the Catholic
philosopher Dietrich von Hildebrand.

Thirteen years before Hitler
became Der Fuhrer, von Hildrebrand
saw in Hitler the spirit of the Antichrist.

Against the rising rhetoric of nationalism and anti-semitism,
Hildebrand could not remain silent, as so many did, and he refused to compromise with evil:

"For I am first a Catholic,
then a Catholic,
and yet again a Catholic,
and so on and so on."

The man whom Pope Pius XII called "a twentieth century doctor of the Church," left everything behind, his friends, family, and career, to do spiritual and intellectual battle with the Antichrist.

Most people thought
Hildebrand was a fool.

They thought he couldn't
win, that Hitler's rise
to power was inevitable.

But that didn't
matter to Hildebrand:

"I explained that God calls
 us to fight the Antichrist
regardless of whether we triumph,
which ultimately is up to God."

This book is the story of that fight.
Written in his own words, for his wife,
Alice von Hildebrand, and only now,
for the first time, published in English.

It is the story of how a
Catholic philosopher became
"the architect of the intellectual
resistance" to Nazism . . .

 and how Dr. von Hildebrand became
Hitler's "public enemy number one."

In this book you'll find:
  • A heroic model of Catholic resistance for our own day
  • Lessons on the importance of Catholic philosophy in politics
  • How it was that so many Catholics compromised with the Nazis
  • A thrilling account of Hildebrand's escape from Vienna
  • Renewed courage to resist the Antichrist

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI wrote:
"When the intellectual history of the Catholic Church in the twentieth century is written, the name of Dietrich von Hildebrand will be most prominent among the figures of our time."

Here is that history
in Dietrich von Hildebrand's
own hand.

My Battle Against Hitler
by John Henry Crosby and Dietrich von Hildebrand
$28.00 - 352 pages

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Historian Diane Moczar pulls back the curtain on one of the most important acts in the drama of Muslim aggression against the West: the 500-year-long siege of Europe by the Ottoman Turks.

Tracing the rise of the Turkish people from wandering Asian tribe to mighty pan-continental empire, Islam at the Gates chronicles the heroes and villains, the battles and atrocities, the tragic errors and timely miracles, that marked the Ottomans' incursions from Europe's borders to the very heart of Christendom; and then, by the grace of God, their eventual repulsion and final defeat.

In these pages you'll encounter:
  • The bold sultans, timid emperors, and vile traitors who aided the Turkish advance - and the popes who tirelessly preached Crusade against it
  • Brave saints who rallied Christian forces against the invaders - including the hardy warrior-monk who died in battle at the age of sixty-one
  • The island fortress whose rag-tag defenders continually thwarted superior numbers of Ottoman attackers - defying even the great sultan Suleiman
  • The suffering of millions of Christian families in occupied lands - their children kidnapped and forced into Muslim armies and harems
  • Folk heroes from the hills of Hungary and Albania who rose up against their Ottoman overlords - and whose guerilla tactics inspired their people
  • The tragic fall of Constantinople, seat of Eastern Christianity - its people slaughtered, its treasures plundered, its sacred places befouled
  • Europe's pivotal, improbable pair of victories at Lepanto and Vienna, and the defeat of the last great Turkish offensive on September 11, 1697
Solid history and dramatic narrative make Islam at the Gates a moving look at Europe's long struggle against the Turks. But the author's shrewd Catholic outlook also makes it an edifying one. Had these events unfolded just a little differently, Christian civilization might have been conquered by the sword of Allah. If we fail to learn the lessons of history, Dr. Moczar warns, the West may yet fall.
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Monday, May 4, 2015

Mercy, and How to Get It

by Father John McCloskey

Easter Sunday is a week behind us, but we have a long time yet to enjoy the Easter season after our penitential Lent. Rejoice! And on the second Sunday of Easter we will be celebrating Divine Mercy Sunday, added to the Church calendar by the great St. John Paul himself, Polish compatriot of St. Faustina, to whom Our Lord entrusted the message of Divine Mercy.

In God's Providence, it is no accident that St. John Paul died on the eve of that great feast. By early adulthood, he had already suffered greatly from the deaths of his parents and his older brother, and also from the Nazis, whose invasion of Poland in 1939 provoked World War II and whose eventual defeat and withdrawal from Poland only made room for the nation's subsequent decades-long Communist domination as a Russian satellite.

How happy St. John Paul must be in Heaven to see that his second successor as supreme pontiff, Pope Francis, has chosen to designate a Year of Mercy. Yesterday, during vespers, the pope officially announced that the Year of Mercy is to begin on December 8, 2015, the 50th anniversary of the end the Second Vatican Council (and the feast of the Immaculate Conception).

Between now and December, we should think about how we can live this year so as to better learn both to receive mercy and to give it to others. And certainly we all need it. Has the world ever been in worse shape? There are reasons you'd think not. Just look at the breakdown of marriage throughout the world and the attempt to change the definition of marriage to include something that in nature is impossible: same-sex marriage.

As if this were not enough, the world is plagued by pornography and the ongoing loss of religious freedom, not only in far-away Muslim countries (where the rise of merciless Islam is destroying traditional cultures and thousands of innocent families, Christian and Muslim) but increasingly in Europe and the United States also (look at the response to Indiana's religious freedom law).

And of course there is the ongoing legal slaughter of innocent babies in the womb, a horror that, repeated year after year, decade after decade, can dull our natural reactions or at least incline many to hopeless acceptance of the status quo.

What can be done? Of course prayer is essential, and also each one of us as citizens should do our best where we live to bring Christian mercy to those who need it most.

We should start with ourselves, however, seeking God's mercy for own sins on a regular basis in the sacrament of Confession. Then, by our actions and example we should pass on this mercy, given to us by Jesus himself in one of his sacraments at the cost of his own suffering and death. We should speak to our friends, relatives, and neighbors about the joy that comes of knowing our sins are forgiven in this truly holy sacrament.

Unfortunately, this joy has been lost to the sons and daughters of the Protestant Reformation. Talk to them about the greatness of knowing one is forgiven and also of that other great sacrament of mercy, the Eucharist, in which Jesus Christ intimately shares with us his Body and Blood in the holy Mass.

The world must be reconciled to God through the sacraments. We know neither the day nor the hour when we will be called to be judged by Christ the King and receive our place in the next life, whether that place is Hell (please, not!) or Heaven, where God wants us to be. Part of our judgment will have to do with how and to what extent we have made a gift of self to family and friends in our efforts to share our faith with others.

I believe that in the last two centuries the world has been more wicked than it has been since the coming of the Christian faith.

As we know, the Holy Father himself will be coming to the United States in September to attend the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia, visit Washington, and address the world at the United Nations in New York City. What he says and does will likely give us much to reflect upon as we approach the beginning of the Year of Mercy. Therefore let us use the Sacrament of Reconciliation, which is the sacrament of mercy, and the Eucharist, and make use of the graces we receive not only to amend our own lives, but to show our love and forgiveness to all.

If we use these only real means, and share them generously with others, our joy will grow and become evident to those around us. They will ask us why we are so happy and we will be able to reply, "Because of my love of Jesus Christ and his holy Church!" May God help us to be merciful to all around us and also to ourselves.

First appeared on The Christian Review in March, 2015.

Friday, May 1, 2015

New Groundbreaking Tool in Catholic Evangelization

From the Desk of Charlie McKinney, President

Dear Friend of Sophia Institute Press,

I will email you later this week, as usual, with our special sale of the week, but I didn't want to delay in letting you know about the newest video in our Sophia SketchPad series.
This video on Confession uses some of the most innovative tools to explain the Biblical roots and importance of penance and the Sacrament of Confession.


The video is free, but for only $9.99 teachers can transform this video into an incredible learning experience in the classroom with our viewing guide, classroom-ready lesson plans, and teaching strategies for engaging students with this sacrament.

This is the second video in our Sophia SketchPad series. The first video, which explained the Eucharist, garnered an incredible 67,000 views since its release late last year!

Sophia SketchPad is part of an initiative we launched in 2013 entitledSophia Institute for Teachers.

Through this project, we are providing Catholic educators with the tools and training they need to catechize their students and prepare them to live out the Catholic Faith.

In less than two years, we have partnered with nearly a dozen dioceses to host 50 teacher training workshops nationwide for 3,500 Catholic school teachers.

This effort is funded 100% through charitable donations. If you are interested in helping us catechize teachers and their students, please consider making a donation here.

You can visit Sophia SketchPad at this page. Please spread word of this video among your friends and family so we can help people see the depth, beauty, and richness of our Catholic Faith.

Yours in Christ,

Charlie McKinney

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