Philip Kosloski – published on 05/06/21
Pray this traditional prayer to Our Lady of Fatima to receive extraordinary spiritual graces from God.
The Blessed Virgin Mary appeared in 1917 to three shepherd children near Fatima, Portugal. She spoke to them for several months, culminating in a miraculous vision seen by hundreds of witnesses.
Ever since then she has been invoked under the title of “Our Lady of Fatima,” as well as “Our Lady of the Rosary.”
She is known for her powerful intercession, especially for healing and strength to endure any trial.
Here is a traditional prayer to Our Lady of Fatima that many have prayed over the years for special graces from God.
Prayer to Our Lady of Fatima
O Most Holy Virgin Mary, Queen of the most holy Rosary, you were pleased to appear to the children of Fatima and reveal a glorious message. We implore you, inspire in our hearts a fervent love for the recitation of the Rosary. By meditating on the mysteries of the redemption that are recalled therein may we obtain the graces and virtues that we ask, through the merits of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Redeemer. Amen.
The Biden administration is reframing the burgeoning migrant crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border, claiming it results not from any White House actions, but rather climate change in Central America’s Northern Triangle — El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.
6 Ways to Get Parish Renewal Started
- by Marcel LeJeune
- The reality of most Catholic parishes – we are stuck in a culture of comfort, ease, status quo, and administration of the decline of our numbers – will not be easy to change. No program, event, new idea, tweaking of old ways, conference, gimmick, or online video series will change our parishes. We all know this. Rather, it takes an honest look at what really does work and what is failing us. We could have called this post – “The Parish We Are vs The Parish God Wants Us To Be!“6 Ways to Get Parish Renewal Started1 – We care more about “the way we have done things” than “the way we ought to do things”.**Our history, teachings, Saints, doctrines, etc will always matter and we should know them and use them. In fact, we can not be Catholic without these things. But let us not confuse the things that are essential to Catholic identity with the programs, events, classes, etc that make up the main part of activity in a modern parish. Clearly, these are not revealed by God. The Sacraments, the Scriptures, the doctrines, etc are not optional, but many of the ways we spend our time and money (outside of the essentials) are optional.
**We can’t forget about what is before us and where God wants to lead us. Each parish needs to ask:
- Are we really discerning what God wants of us, as a local parish?
- How are we reaching out to those who aren’t coming to church?
- Could we call our parish a disciple factory or is it more like a museum?
- What exactly do we exist, as a Church, for?
- How do we stop doing the things that are taking away from what we ought to be doing?We have the wrong goals. Getting folks to Mass, getting involved, increased collections, etc are not the right goals. Our goal should be to lead folks to Jesus, then everything else that happens afterward should flow from our discipleship (following) of Jesus. That would include all the rest.
–Try this instead – Visionary leadership. Know what the mission of Jesus is (to “make disciples of all nations“) and follow His lead. Let this mission be the guide for your parish. Orient all activities in a parish around this mission. Stop doing things that don’t play a part in fulfilling this mission. Then only start new things that will help you get better at it. Change is hard, but necessary, if we are going to go wherever Jesus leads us. 2 – We see the culture as an enemy, rather than an opportunity.**We look at our modern problems and seek out the “holy bubbles” where we (and our families/friends) can be safely kept from their influence. But, the problems found in our current generation aren’t the real issues, but are distractions. Why? Because Jesus had it much worse. He lived in a country that was ruled by an oppressive outsider regime (Rome). They had many restrictions on freedom, just as many sins, and it got so bad, they executed him for daring to speak out.The early Christians faced much harder issues than us too. They were rounded up and murdered, persecuted, and maligned. Still, they spread the Gospel. Today, Catholic apathy is a bigger problem than cultural issues and we need to honestly look at why that is. We don’t want to pay the cost of sainthood, we aren’t very good at relationships, we don’t like change, and we are too comfortable.
—Try this instead – Let God change how we act, think, and operate as a parish community. This starts with how we act, think, and operate as individuals. Think of the affect a small handful of faithful, joyful, dedicated, and apostolic leaders could have on a parish! Now imagine that group growing to include multitudes more people 5 or 10 years later. You could see real transformation, if you set them free to impact people’s lives.3 – We don’t embrace all of what it means to be Catholic.**In fact, there are many parishes who completely leave behind the missionary mandate of Jesus. This means that many times we define ourselves by the secondary issues – preferences in prayer, music, or devotions, what organizations we belong to, what kind of ethnic group we are part of, our politics, etc. The facts are clear, we just don’t get evangelization or discipleship. If we did, we wouldn’t have such massive decline in our parishes. Rather, we would be transforming our local communities. If the mission of the church is to “make disciples” and we aren’t doing that, then we aren’t embracing all of what it means to be Catholic!
–Try this instead – model evangelization and discipleship, by doing them yourself first. If you are a diocesan or parish staff member and don’t know where to start or how to accomplish this, we can help. Still, find someway to grow in your own discipleship and start to share your journey with Jesus with others. It isn’t meant to be kept to yourself!4 – We depend on clergy (and other professional staff) to be our primary caregivers. **This model wears out staff and ultimately bottlenecks pastoral care to be done by the “experts”. Think of how busy your parish priests and staff are. Think of how many have been burned out, because they are paid little, don’t have time to themselves, feel overburdened, etc. This is an unsustainable model, because it means that “ministry” to one another is kept for the privileged few that we go to for their expertise. This isn’t the way Jesus intended us to care for one another. Of course, there are things that only clergy can do (namely, the Sacraments and other rites reserved to them). But, we still rely too heavily on them even outside of these duties.–Try this instead – We need to a model where we care for one another through real relationships and an intentionally structured community. We all want to be connected to others and know we are truly valued and cared for. We have to do this for one another to be able to reach the masses. Leave it to the “experts” rather than the common people and we will only be able to reach a select few, rather than the crowds that need to know they are cared for too. Empowering the average Catholic to take on their own personal mission – by apprenticing under more mature Christians – is the model taught by Jesus.5 – We don’t have a clear path for parishioners to walk, but a hodge-podge of programming instead.**Does a newcomer to your parish know how to get involved and what each step on their pathway of discipleship would entail? Would the average parishioner be able to tell you what the plan for themselves (and others) is? If not, then why not? One big reason is we aim for attendance over discipleship. Disciples achieve all our smaller goals – attend church, give money, volunteer, and know they are valued – AND they can make other disciples. People who aren’t disciples, will (most likely) stop attending at some point.–Try this instead – create a clear pathway, based on the understanding of what it takes to make a disciple and grow a missionary disciple. Then base all activities, events, classes, and programs within this pathway. If something doesn’t correspond to the pathway, then stop doing it – it is a distraction. Of course, we need not change our teachings, liturgy, etc to be more welcoming, do evangelization more, or follow a clear path to discipleship. Rather, it should make us better at all those things.6 – We confuse method with mission. Methods are what we do – some we don’t have the power to change (e.g., prayers in Mass), but some we do – programs / events / classes / planning / etc. Mission tells us why we exist. It is the engine which drives the car. We don’t get anywhere without it. When we make our methods into sacred cows – we start to forget what our mission is and make the methods more valuable. Newspapers that won’t go digital (and have gone bankrupt) – are good examples of other organizations that have confused method for mission. So, what are we in the business of? Reporting news or making newspaper? Programs and events or making disciples?
–Try this instead – communicate your mission clearly and allow it to not get confused with methods. The sacred cow events, programs, and classes need to be integrated into the mission or cut. This kind of change is difficult and will take a long time. Thus, it needs to be bathed in discernment and prayer. It will also need leaders of courage and patience, because you will not get 100% buy-in, no leader who does the right thing will (even Jesus)! It is worth the price you have to pay, to see souls enter into heaven.What about you? Where are you challenged? Do you need help? If you are interested in learning more, don’t hesitate to reach out to us.
The Thomas More Society is petitioning for a rehearing of this decision which, if not overturned, will ‘criminalize a wide swath of protected speech and expression.’Wed May 5, 2021 – 2:42 pm EST
By Clare Marie Merkowsky
NEW YORK, May 5, 2021 (LifeSiteNews) — A court ruling in March criminalized the distribution of pro-life leaflets at abortion centers and restricted interactions between pro-life activists and patients or “escorts,” calling them a “physical obstruction.”
WND reported that a panel of New York judges has restricted pro-life advocacy in front of abortion clinics under the federal FACE act. Originally, the FACE act merely prohibited blocking abortion facility doorways. On March 10, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled to expand the act to include any “physical obstruction.”
According to the Thomas More Society, a law firm that handles pro-life cases, including pro-life activist David Daleiden’s case, this new expansion of the act forbids “approaching patients and attempting to hand them a leaflet” on the grounds that this might cause them to “deviate slightly from their path” and therefore be delayed by “one second.”
Furthermore, it is forbidden to inadvertently cause a patient to have to walk around a life-advocate as a result of the sidewalk leading to the entryway being cramped. Additionally, the act of “delivering a leaflet to the driver of a vehicle who has voluntarily stopped the car and rolled down the window to communicate with the life-advocate” is considered criminal.
Finally, a conversation with a patient or an ‘escort’ is considered “harassment” and a “use of force” if the patient even implicitly shows they do not “welcome the message.”
In response, the Thomas More Society started a petition to overturn the ruling. The decision “represents the broadest restriction of First Amendment expression ever imposed under the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act,” the petition states, “and threatens vast amounts of core First Amendment activity.”
“If allowed to stand,” the petition continues, “the panel opinion will criminalize a wide swath of protected speech and expression, including holding signs on public sidewalks, attempting to distribute leaflets, and engaging in consensual conversations with vehicle passengers.”
This recent ruling is a continuation of the attacks against pro-life groups in New York. In 2017, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman labeled peaceful pro-life advocacy as “harassment” and filed a lawsuit against Pastor Griepp and nine members of his congregation.
Schneiderman petitioned the government to restrict their advocacy under the FACE act. However, Thomas More Society Senior Counsel Stephen Crampton explained, “The FACE Act specifically exempts constitutionally protected advocacy from its prohibitions.” Therefore, Schneiderman’s request was denied.
US birth rate plummets to lowest recorded in past 42 years, study shows
A 4 percent drop was recorded in 2020 alone.Wed May 5, 2021 – 6:00 pm EST
By Clare Marie Merkowsky
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May 5, 2021 (LifeSiteNews) — According to a new report, the number of U.S. births dropped 4 percent in 2020 to the lowest level since 1979 and the general fertility rate reached a record low.
This week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics published statistics showing that births in the United States fell from 3,747,540 to 3,605,201 in 2020.
According to CBS News, health records across 27 states reveal that there was a 7 percent decline in the birth rate in December, nine months after the first lockdowns began. However, the recent drop is only part of the larger trend.
In the 1950s, U.S. women averaged having nearly four babies each in their lifetimes. Today, women average fewer than two babies each. In 2020, there was a record-low 55.8 births per 1,000 women from ages 15 to 44.
Experts in the 1960s and 70s warned against overpopulation and exhausting the world’s resources to an extent that human life would no longer be possible, according to a video published by CBS. Since contraception was legalized in 1960 and abortion was legalized in America in 1973, birth rates have dropped significantly.
During the COVID-19 lockdowns, while most business were forced to close, many abortion clinics were considered “essential” and remained open. Also, mail-order abortion pills have become increasingly available and resulted in countless stay-at-home abortions.
This trend is not only occurring in America but throughout the world. In January 2021, France saw a drop of 13 percent in births from the previous year. Similarly, the birth rate in France for December 2020 dropped 7 percent compared with the previous year. These were babies conceived in the first months of the COVID-19 lockdowns. —
Italy’s birth rate has fallen to the lowest in its history; the number of births were down by 5,000 and the number of deaths increased by 14,000. President Sergio Mattarella warned that the shrinking population affects the “very existence of our country.” Italy is planning to hold a conference to address this crisis during which Pope Francis will speak.
During the first six months of 2019, Spain registered tens of thousands more deaths than births, which in 2019 dropped 6.2 percent from the previous year.
In China, there is evidence to show that the government has been lying about the number of births. In 2020, China’s National Bureau of Statistics declared that 14.65 million babies were born during the past year. However, looking at the birth rates in each region, the numbers are between 10 percent and 20 percent lower than those reported by the government.
Edifa – published on 05/05/21
One of the leading figures of modern spirituality, Etty Hillesum discovered God during the Nazi occupation.
Killed in Auschwitz in 1943 at the age of 29, Etty Hillesum achieved striking spiritual growth in the last three years of her life. Her admirable example is here to inspire us to pursue our life of prayer.
Since the publication of her diary and letters in the 1980’s, Etty Hillesum never seizes to provoke our admiration and has become a shining example in out times. The Dominican monk Yves Beriault explains why and how this young Jewish woman from the Netherlands can teach us to pray.
How did Etty Hillesum, a young Jewish agnostic, discover God and this communion with Him, which is prayer?
Etty was an intelligent, cultured “modern” young woman. She felt an existential emptiness so profound, she was tempted to end it all, to escape this inner reality that was becoming unbearable all the more so, because the events independent of her were taking a terrible turn. She became aware of her inability to love as she would have liked, of the conflicts with her parents – especially her mother. She desired to be rid of selfishness, the lack of direction, that frightened and depressed her, but she didn’t know how. So, she decided to get help. And it was at the request of her therapist that she began to meditate for half an hour every morning. Julius Spier encouraged her to explore this inner life that preoccupied her, although at the time it was the source of her anxieties and fears.
Were these meditations beneficial to her?
Yes, the meditation led her to try things out, to experience them, to accept the life around her instead of analyzing and judging it. These moments became a sort of daily gymnastic, allowing her to heal. She called them her “time of peace.”
But this was not a prayer yet?
Not yet, but this acceptance of life would progressively turn into acceptance of God who is Life. In her own words, the goal of this exercise was “to let a little bit of God inside her.” Etty had doubted her ability to love, and there she would taste love that withdrew her from her shell and gradually opened her eyes on the suffering of the world. This transformation was a real conversion: Etty gradually abandoned herself to God working in her, to this new intimacy that in a way saved her from herself and from the deadly downward spiral.
Did prayer become indispensable for her?
It became vital. It was the revitalization, from which she constantly drew her strength: “It is as if something inside me is concentrated in a continual prayer, the praying inside me doesn’t stop, even when I am joking and laughing.” A prayer of the heart, intense and continual, made her eagerly seek God in the momentary respites from the tragedy that was playing out all around her. It was then that Etty would find the courage and the inner peace that allowed her to confront the upheavals, the likes of which Europe had never seen before.
In what aspects her prayer speaks to Christians?
Etty was a non-practicing Jew. She would never cite the name of Christ even if we can assume that she was animated by Him. Still, we can find in her prayer all the accents and the various “modes” of Christian prayer. What touches me the most is to see that the prayer rose from within her because she acknowledged her simplicity: she was aware of her own vulnerability, the insufficiency of her capacities. This is why she placed herself in the hands of God.
Did she pray at all times and everywhere?
Just about anywhere. She made a mention of this after she’d heard the talk of a group of Carmelite friars and nuns, including Edith Stein, a German Jew converted to Catholicism, arriving in Westerbork. Upon hearing of the religious wandering around barracks and reciting their rosaries, she wrote: “And isn’t it true that we can pray anywhere – in a barrack made of wooden planks as well as in a monastery made of stone, and more generally in any place on Earth, where it pleases God, in these troubled times, when his creatures are destroyed?”
Deep inside, it was as though Etty did not recite prayers, she became a prayer …
Exactly. We can say she prayed with her every breath! And despite the upheavals, joy became one of the essential components of this prayer: “I believe life is beautiful and I feel free. Inside me the heavens are expanding, vast like the firmament above me.” By the time Etty left the camp in Westerbork for Auschwitz, she became a mystic, drunk on God. A “hallelujah” continually rising from her lips was like a chorus chant. It was this keen awareness that God is with her and that she is with Him until her final sacrifice, no matter how terrifying the darkness she was entering into.
Interview by Luc Adrian
Children’s literature, says Cheri Blomquist, author of Before Austen Comes Aesop, “doesn’t exist just to give the young something to read until they are old enough for adult classics. It is worth reading for its own sake.”
A favorite college professor of mine often remarked, “Life is short, and books are long (and plentiful).” This was his playful way of lamenting that there are so many wonderful books “out there,” but not nearly enough time to read them all, or even make a substantial dent. One must prioritize. For many people, one way to prioritize is to identify those books that have stood the test of time, had the greatest impact, and become classics.
Many children, however, do not spend enough time with the literature written or adapted for them before diving into adult works. The “Great Books” for adults are embraced while completely glossing over the “Great Books” for children and young adults.
With that in mind, Cheri Blomquist wrote Before Austen Comes Aesop: The Children’s Great Books and How to Experience Them (Ignatius Press, 2021). Here Blomquist dives deeply into children’s and young adult literature, identifying those that have made the greatest impact throughout Western history, as well as taking a critical look at more recent (and sometimes controversial) titles. In addition to discussing such classics as The Chronicles of Narnia and To Kill a Mockingbird, Blomquist also turns her eye to the His Dark Materials trilogy, The Hunger Games, and more.
Blomquist recently spoke with Catholic World Report about her book, the Great Books, and how these works can benefit people of all ages.
CWR: How did the book come about?
Cheri Blomquist: Years ago, during a time when I was both teaching classes and homeschooling my children, I became concerned about the number of literature courses that taught major adult classics to students in their early teens—and not just two or three classics but many of them in a single year. These programs would have challenged even me as an adult with an English degree, yet these teens were expected to not only comprehend them but also to discuss and analyze them. Why, I wondered, were they being rushed through this difficult literature? And why such mature selections, when there were already so many good yet challenging ones written at their level, like Treasure Island and The Yearling?
Then one day I began reading a history of children’s literature written by Professor Seth Lerer and faced a new question. If there is a canon of so-called “Great Books,” which is filled with the works of Western civilization’s most important thinkers and storytellers, what were the “great books” in the world of children? With Lerer’s book as my foundation, I soon found myself on a quest that I eventually wanted to share with others.
CWR: Why the “Great Books”?
Blomquist: The Western canon known as the “Great Books” has also been referred to as the “Great Conversation.” Our civilization’s greatest literary lights absorbed the ideas of those who came before them and then built on them with their own contributions. To read and discuss the “Great Books” and what I have termed the “children’s great books” is to participate in this ongoing conversation. It is also, at least in part, to educate ourselves in the history, ideas, and culture of our own civilization with all its virtues and vices and all its successes and failures. This gives us a way to meaningfully consider what is most important to us, where we’ve been, and where we might be headed.
This doesn’t mean that other literature is not worth reading. Some of the books I value most are not classics at all and are actually contemporary. But the “Great Books” and the “children’s great books” immerse us in the center of the “Great Conversation” of the ages, a conversation in which we may someday have something to contribute.
CWR: Does it matter what kids read?
Blomquist: I have heard for many years the assertion among educators and librarians that what matters most in literary education is getting children to read real books. It doesn’t matter much what books they read. In fact, these experts continue, children should be left to make their own selections with minimal adult input. That perspective has always bothered me, because reading a formulaic kid’s series is not the same kind of experience as reading an artful tale like Heidi or The Phantom Tollbooth. One is mind candy, and the other is food for the mind, imagination, and heart.
I do understand what the proponents of this idea are getting at. Technology has captured so much of our kids’ attention since the 1970s that I think many of us feel we must do whatever is necessary just to keep kids reading at all. However, ideas and words have power, and what we receive into our minds does not float off into a void. I know from personal experience that it can affect us profoundly, often cumulatively and without our realizing it.
Winning the battle against social media and television may be important, but it is not more important than the intentional formation of our children’s minds and hearts. Children should often be allowed the delight of choosing their own books but, as with movies and music, not without some guidance.
CWR: Did you intend for your book to be utilized as a resource for teachers and homeschoolers?
Blomquist: The book did not start out as an educational resource; in fact, I didn’t even think of including part 2 until I was finished with the rough draft of the annotated book list. I simply wanted to inform classics-minded parents about the most important children’s literature according to literary history, so that they could better guide their children’s reading. But I had also long mulled over the idea of developing a secondary-level study guide based on Mortimer Adler’s college-level classic How to Read a Book. I realized that if I added such a guide to the book, it might be more useful to educators, especially homeschool parents and students who preferred independent study.
CWR: How can these juvenile classics prepare students for the more mature classics they will encounter later?
Blomquist: One of the important lessons that my research taught me was that children’s classics and adult classics are not as distinct from each other as we might think. In fact, they are often even related in ways we don’t realize. First, many of the classic tales we consider “children’s literature” were initially written or compiled for an adult audience—the Robin Hood legends and many fairy tales, for example. Even The Yearling, by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, is widely assumed to be a children’s novel, but it was actually published for adults and won a Pulitzer Prize in 1939.
Then there are some books that are still considered “adult,” such as The Iliad and To Kill a Mockingbird, yet have played a powerful role in the literary experience of young people. When children and teens spend time with the literary “greats,” they will almost certainly read a few adult books without even knowing it.
Second, some of the “children’s great books” had a major influence upon not only children and Western culture, but also on the authors of adult literature. We must remember that these authors were once children themselves, and many of them read some of the same literature that our children read today. Sometimes they even make connections to their childhood reading in their books through allusions or direct references. For example, Tolkien often alludes to Norse mythology in his epic The Lord of the Rings. A rich exposure to the books children have embraced throughout history, then, can help prepare readers for the adult classics they will read later.
CWR: What sort of benefits do these books have in and of themselves?
Blomquist: I am fortunate to have a mother who loves children’s literature. She reads adult literature, too, but even at 80, she still rereads her favorite children’s novels without embarrassment. Her perspective has always been that children’s literature is just as worthy of attention as adult literature is, and it’s often better. In other words, children’s literature doesn’t exist just to give the young something to read until they are old enough for adult classics. It is worth reading for its own sake.
As any children’s literature lover will tell you, the tales and poems we often consider beneath us can be just as influential, beautiful, and profound as any adult literature. That they are simpler does not make them any less artful or influential. Consider The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, by C.S. Lewis and Winnie-the-Pooh, by A.A. Milne. Although these books were both written specifically for children, both have been examined and discussed by scholars and literary buffs for decades. Winnie-the-Pooh has even inspired spin-off books for adults, like The Tao of Pooh. And both books have had a meaningful impact on Western culture.
CWR: Are these juvenile classics worthwhile for even adults to read?
Blomquist: Absolutely! I am not going to pretend that an adult is going to have the same kind of experience reading The Tale of Peter Rabbit or Ramona the Pest as he will reading Pride and Prejudice or David Copperfield. But the benefit of reading easy classics after we grow out of them is that we can enjoy them more fully. For example, we can laugh at Ramona Quimby’s antics with a different kind of appreciation than children can, and we can examine the craftsmanship of Beatrix Potter’s simple tales and exquisite artwork in a more nuanced way than children can.
Good children’s literature is no less art than good adult literature, and the liberating truth is that even though we grow into more complex vocabulary, themes, and storylines, we never grow out of great art!
CWR: What do you hope readers will get from the book?
Blomquist: I hope that Before Austen Comes Aesop will be a valuable resource to everyone who loves literature and wants to pass on the best of it to our precious children. This can include educators, homeschool parents, librarians, students, and even adults who missed out on a rich literary experience during their own childhoods. I also hope to help students and parents understand the basic principles of literature appreciation, so that they can experience it with as much depth as they wish through independent study.
But more than anything, I want to celebrate the rich treasure trove of literature that has delighted children and impacted Western culture throughout the centuries. The “children’s great books”—and the many other beloved classics that I include in the book—are important literature in their own right and deserve to be honored as such.
CWR: Is there anything else you would like to add?
Blomquist: Some of the books and tales in the “great books” list may understandably raise a few eyebrows, so a word of caution is important. By calling these books the “children’s great books,” I do not mean by “great” that every book is wonderful and not to be missed. On the contrary, the list contains some books that may be disturbing and offensive to many readers. I must emphasize here that the “children’s great books” are not recommendations. The list was compiled through research based on objective criteria. Although I had to make judgment calls at times, I did not follow my preferences. In fact, some books were difficult to include because I strongly disliked them, and other books were difficult not to include because I loved them.
The purpose of the “children’s great books” list is to provide information and insight, not my opinion or values-based guidance. I used the term “great” in the sense that the adult “Great Books” canon does. The word has more to do with these books’ unique contribution to “the Great Conversation.” It refers to their literary artistry and craftsmanship, their role in literary history, and their impact on young people and Western culture. Even the most offensive books on the list meet these criteria, which is why parents must take an active role in helping their children and teens select literature to read.
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About Paul Senz 82 ArticlesPaul Senz recently graduated from the University of Portland with his Master of Arts in Pastoral Ministry. He lives in Oregon with his family.
By Dom Cingoranelli on May 05, 2021 02:00 am
Anxiety continues to imprison many, even with the reopening of much of our country. I recently ran across an acquaintance from my parish in a local grocery store. He was masked up, standing in line for the pharmacy. I hadn’t seen him in a while. Before the virus and lockdowns, he’d frequently attended daily Mass at our parish. Since then, I recalled seeing him just a couple of times over the last few months. “How have you been doing–are you getting out much now? I haven’t seen you at Mass in a while,” I said. “No, I’m not going out much yet. I went to Mass a couple of times, but the number of people not wearing masks all the time disturbed me, so I quit going.” I could see the emotional strain in his eyes as he told me this.
Seeing this former, fairly regular Mass participant tied up in anxiety like this saddened me. What causes me more concern is the fact that he is not alone. Many more people appear also to be in the clutches of similar misgivings. At our parish, even with restrictions eased on most of the weekend Masses, we still don’t see attendance comparable to pre-lockdown conditions. This, in spite of continued encouragement of our priests to come on back and enjoy the fullness of our faith in the Eucharistic celebration.
The Eucharist: The Real Presence
Watching Mass on a monitor instead of actually being there, I believe our bishop recently wrote, just isn’t the same. It’s like looking at a picture of a loved one instead of spending time with them in person. How true! Yet a 2019 Pew survey report showed that most self-proclaimed Catholics believe that the Communion they receive is only a symbol. They do not believe in the real presence–the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Our Lord. Among those who attend Mass at least weekly, 37% don’t believe that the bread and wine are the body and blood of Jesus. I recall watching live-streamed Mass during the 2019 lockdown in tears, longing to be there and actually receive Jesus in the Eucharist. And it occurs to me that, if one really believed that Jesus was there, waiting for them in the Eucharist, streaming Mass options quickly would lose their appeal.
Anxiety About Illness
Beyond misunderstanding or disbelief in the real presence, there’s an issue of anxiety behind all of this. Many will say, “I am not fearful–I just believe what I’ve seen and read in the news, so I need to be really cautious.” Clearly if one has serious health complications, it’s wise to be cautious. However, the mainstream media has flooded the public with a continual stream of virus coverage. Some in the media even admit the excessive coverage is to help drive up their ratings. At the same time, information from sources contradicting the mainline narrative, which might reduce some anxiety, continue to be censored.
Nevertheless, taking in a steady diet of secular television and radio offerings, news or otherwise, certainly won’t provide anyone with a sense of peace and well-being. Constantly listening to accounts of alleged new infections, new deaths, and the like will make people anxious–some more than others.
Anxiety and Depression
But what about all that anxiety? St. Paul tells us,
Have no anxiety about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Phil 4:6-7)
Our Lord Himself asks us if, by worrying, we can add another hour to our life. (cf. Mt 6:27) “But,” some people may believe, “I really may be able to add more time to my life if I hunker down and stay isolated.” And what’s the cost of this isolation and the related anxiety? A JAMA Network study showed that depression symptoms in the US were “…more than three-fold higher during COVID-19 compared with before…” That’s clearly not from God.
Where Do We Place Our Trust?
“Once I receive the vaccine, then I’ll be ready to resume ‘normal’ functioning,” many may be thinking. Readers probably are aware that there are various and contradictory opinions about both the morality, and efficaciousness of vaccines. In fact, recent statistics reported by the CDC shows, based on voluntary reporting by states, that over 9,000 people have contracted COVID after receiving the vaccine. So there’s not a 100% certainty that even taking the vaccine will eliminate health risks instead of increasing them.
We’ve read or heard that the virus continues to mutate. With the ongoing mutation of the virus, there could be calls for yet more, ongoing vaccinations, masking, and social restrictions. Anxiety has a grip on many institutions. With or without vaccinations, some government agencies, businesses, schools, etc., may continue to require masking and other measures for the indefinite future. More and more schools and businesses require vaccination of students, employees, and staff. Where will it all stop?
I want to be clear here. Whether or not one should choose to take the vaccine is not the question. Rather, it is fundamentally a question of trust. Psalm 146 advises us, “…Do not put your trust in princes, in mortals, in whom there is no help. When their breath departs, they return to the earth; on that very day their plans perish…” (Ps 146:3-4) Whether we choose to take the jab or not, where do we place our trust ultimately?
We Are a Mist That Appears and Then Vanishes
We need to face the fact that our time here is but a brief flash when compared to eternity. No matter how long one can extend his or her life here, none of us is getting out of here alive. Period. Who do we trust? Do we trust God who loved us into existence? Can we understand that right now, when we’re in a state of grace, we’re experiencing some of the eternal beatitude we hope for at the end of this life on earth? Do we have any idea of how much more preferable eternal life with Our Lord is to the mixed bag of joys and sorrows of this life? If we’re attempting to live a life pleasing to God, anxiety most likely is coming from the enemy of our human nature.
Anxiety Comes from the Enemy
Anxiety, agitation, despondency, despair, depression–God doesn’t give these to us if we’re striving to live in a state of grace! These desolations come from the enemy. He wants us to turn in on ourselves, to take our eyes off of Jesus and the cross. The evil one wants us to be so self-absorbed that we can’t reach out to help others in need. He tries to get us to avoid doing what’s right and good. What’s the greatest good we can focus on? Union with Jesus. Physical union with Him through the Holy Eucharist is key to our spiritual well-being. The enemy knows this and will do all he can to keep us away from it and any other sacraments.
Jesus, I Trust in You: Pray Away Your Anxiety
Besides attending Mass and receiving the sacraments, praying for the grace to trust in God, for surrender to His will, can help us begin to gradually overcome anxiety about the challenges of life in what at times seems to be a “valley of tears.” Consider also prayer with Scripture, to get to know Our Lord ever more intimately. Get to know Him and trust Him more. As we open ourselves up in trust to Him, in that deeper relationship, He will begin to take away our anxiety. He wants to do that. He wants us to live in peace, even in the midst of worldly trials.
Some scripture passages that address anxiety, besides those mentioned above, include 2 Timothy 1:7, 1 Peter 5:7, Joshua 1:9, James 4:7, Philippians 4:13, Jeremiah 29:11, and Ephesians 2:10. Many find comfort praying with some of the Psalms. Consider spending time in prayer with Psalm 91, a copy of which actor Jimmy Stewart’s father is said to have given to him when Stewart flew bombing missions during World War II. Some find consolation in praying with Psalm 121. Of course, Psalm 23, The Divine Shepherd, resonates with many as well. Your spiritual director or regular confessor may suggest additional Psalms and other Scripture passages that can help you as well.
Please just recognize that God doesn’t want any of us to live in isolation or anxiety. We’re meant to live in joy, and in community, to share the love of God with our brothers and sisters in Christ. He will help us if we cooperate with Him. Start by spending 15 to 20 minutes a day, praying from the heart with Scripture. It will change your life and give you that peace that “passes all understanding.”
Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you (1 Peter 5:7).
By Ida Adams on May 05, 2021
What does God have to do to get your attention?
Do you recognize a wake-up call? Do you react, or do you ignore those calls? They might be whispered. They might be as loud and clear as a morning Reveille.
I had fallen asleep as I played the piano, the dissonant sound of multiple notes being struck simultaneously reverberated through my head as my nose struck Middle C. My forehead followed to complete the wake-up call. I jerked upright, but the overtones continued ringing, and believe me, there is no way one can ignore the overtones on a Yamaha C3 grand piano, lid half-open. Especially when said overtones are dissonant.
Now wide awake, I gingerly wiggled my nose from side to side. It did not hurt much—just a little. I carefully dabbed it with a Kleenex. No blood. The keyboard was unscathed.
Beware of Opioids for Pain
I recalled practicing a challenging part in a Debussy Arabesque. Vaguely I remembered going slower and slower and then, nothing. I had fallen asleep. In the middle of the day. With bright sunlight streaming through the window.
No more pain medication, I decided. I had had a total knee replacement a couple of weeks beforehand and was prescribed the usual cocktail of Oxycontin and Tylenol. The drugs barely took the edge of the considerable pain, but I would fall asleep at the oddest hours. As witnessed by two little dogs that did not care much for the sound of my interrupted practice session!
How Many Wake-up Calls Have I Had?
From nowhere, the thought came. How many wake-up calls have there been in my life that I ignored? And what were the consequences?
I was a boarding school brat and had never tasted alcohol when at the tender age of seventeen, I went off to university. A car accident where I survived an eighteen-foot fall over a cliff in a small mini-minor taught me nothing. I still would get into a car whether the driver had been drinking or not. This stupidity stayed with me well into adulthood.
All Grown Up and Smart
Or so I thought as I went to work. Saturday nights were for dancing and partying and staying out late. I am convinced that every denomination in existence had a church within a mile radius of where I lived. I would be woken by the sonorous sound of the bells from the Dutch Reformed Church. A massive white structure, one of the most famous landmarks in Cape Town, South Africa.
It is known as the “Groote Kerk.” (Afrikaans and Dutch for “Great Church”) and is South Africa’s oldest place of Christian Worship. I was raised in the DR tradition but still, the bells didn’t mean a thing as I pulled the pillow over my head.
Not to be outdone, the Catholic, Anglican, and Lutheran Churches would join in the merriment. Not appreciated by someone still suffering from the previous night’s excesses. A wake-up call I did not appreciate!
I would roll out of bed, head for the bathroom, aspirin, and water pull on my bikini and cover-up grab the sunscreen and my purse, and head for the beach.
Young, Headstrong, Invincible
Yet, I cannot explain what made me decide that I must go to a church service on New Year’s Eve. As a child, we would be on holiday at the seaside over New Year, and there would always be a service in the holiday hall that my parents would attend, me in tow. And afterward, the fun would continue.
I like the idea of starting the New Year by going to church. But in this exciting new life, far removed from those childhood days, it did not take long to realize it effectively ruined the party for the others. My comment, “guys, carry on, I’ll be back soon,” always met with questions of where I was going.
My reply to “church” was the proverbial bucket of cold water. On my return, the party would have fizzled out while I was ready to party.
The Shepherd’s Call
A different call. I’m sure there were many times when I was that one lone sheep that didn’t heed the call to follow, to come home to “get back on track.” He would come and find me. I would stay with the flock for a spell, but other pastures would beckon, and I’d be off. I was that wayward fluffy sheep portrayed in cartoon dreams as the one that could not clear the fence. The one that would ignominiously trip and do a faceplant. Oh yes, that was me. (Luke 15: 3-7 NIV)
I conveniently and easily ignored many small wake-up calls through the years. The “not to be ignored” wake-up call was way in the future. A marriage in tatters saw me crying and begging God to please do something, but He kept silent.
Joy and a Long-awaited Daughter
It is incredible how the birth of a child can change one’s outlook on life. An increased sense of responsibility. An awareness of the world and what I would be leaving behind for my child. I went back to church, volunteered to teach Sunday school, tried to be a model in what I did, and spoke. That little girl became my life, my reason for living. I wanted to give her the world.
I converted to Catholicism and threw myself into my new faith. It was like coming home. Mother Church put her arms around me, both my daughter and I were baptized, and I knew I’d arrived.
I thought I had survived the fiery furnace of divorce, deception, and heartbreak. I’d awakened to this new life of love, understanding, companionship, completed with a child.
I had it all but God decreed otherwise.
A Wake-up Call I Could Not Ignore
A knock on the door, one Thursday morning at 2.00 am on March 13, 2003. Two serious-faced plainclothes police detectives with the question –
“Are you Stephanie Adams’ mother?”
“Yes,” I said, peering over their shoulders. “Where’s my daughter?”
“She’s dead. May we come in.”
A wake-up call no parent wants.
I went back to work after three weeks. And over and over in my mind, as I negotiated the morning traffic, I would recite to myself –
My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9).
I had no recourse, no strength, no wise words. All I had was His grace.
It had been a wake-up call I could not ignore.