Thursday, February 24, 2011

Don't Try This At Home

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

'This life of yours will pass quickly'

There is a great Catholic blog that I visit entitled 'Vultus Christi'.  I was on it today and it had this prayer that is so good that I had to pull it over here and post it as well.

It is not by privileges, special graces, or mystical experiences
that souls are perfected in love;
it is by a total adhesion to my Will,
and by a real death to all that is not my Will.

This life of yours will pass quickly.
In the end, you will take comfort in one thing only:
in the "Yes" that you will have said to my Love for you,
and in your adhesion to my Will as it will have unfolded
minute by minute, hour by hour, and day by day in your life.

Tell me, then, that what I will, you will.
Tell me that all that is outside of my will for you is so much rubbish.
Ask me to cleanse your life of the accumulated rubbish of so many years.
Ask me to make you clean of heart and poor in spirit.
Seek nothing apart from what my Heart desires you to have.
Ask only for what my Heart desires to give you.
Therein lies your peace.
Therein lies your joy.
Therein lies salvation and glory.

Your plans, your desires, and your anxieties
are but puffs of smoke blown away by the wind.
Only what I will endures.
Only what I will gives you happiness.
Seek then what I will, and trust me to give you what you seek.

Souls who chase after rainbows
pass by the treasures that I have laid beneath their feet,
leaving them behind to pursue a future that is not,
and that will not come to be.

This is an exhausting exercise for you
and for so many souls like you,
who, enchanted by an ideal,
fail to see my work, and the splendour of my Will for them,
revealed in the present.

Live, then, in the present moment.
Choose to be faithful to me
in the little things that I give you
and ask of you from minute to minute,
from hour to hour, and from day to day.
It is foolish to pin your hopes and to spend your energy
on an imaginary good,
when the real good that I offer you is here and now.

It is not forbidden you to dream dreams
or to imagine a future that you think will make you happy
-- I give you your imagination and I am not offended when you use it.
The imagined good becomes an evil, however,
when it saps you of your energy;
drains you of the vitality
that I would have you offer me in sacrifice
by being faithful to the reality that is here and now;
and when you use your imagination
to flee from obedience and submission to me
in the circumstances
and in the places where I have placed you at this time.

Plan for the future by living in the present.
Open your heart to my voice each day,
and cling to the smallest manifestations of my Will.
Renounce all that springs from your own desires and imaginings,
and say "Yes" to all that springs from my most loving and merciful Heart.
Therein lies your peace, your joy, and your salvation. 
From In Sinu Iesu, The Journal of A Priest

Monday, February 21, 2011

Heaven Is Real

After near-death experience, boy says "Heaven is Real"
Natalie Tysdal
9:54 AM MST, February 11, 2011

IMPERIAL, Neb. -- It sounds like a story dreamed up by a little boy, but to understand what Colton Burpo says you have to hear what he says happened to him.

It all started during a trip to Colorado.

Colton complained of a stomach ache, which led to a trip to the doctor and a diagnosis of the flu.  Afterward, the Burpo family went home to the small town of Imperial, Neb., where another doctor dismissed suggestions that Colton was suffering from appendicitis.

Just two days later, Todd and Sonja Burpo rushed their lifeless son to another medical center, where he was immediately taken into surgery.  Colton's surgeon estimates that the boy's appendix had ruptured five days before he was properly diagnosed.

Todd remembers thinking, "as parents we felt sick, what did we do wrong?"

While Colton was in surgery, Todd and Sonja prayed in separate rooms. They thought their son was dying and they blamed themselves.

Miraculously, after a difficult recovery and another surgery, Colton survived.  But his story is far from over.

There were things Colton did and things he said after the surgery that were out of the ordinary, but none of it made sense until a drive past the hospital four months after the surgery.

His Dad jokingly asked Colton if he wanted to go back to the hospital.

Colton's response?   "You know Dad, the angels sang to me while I was there," the boy said.

Todd remembers looking into the mirror and seeing his son's face being dead serious, with no smile or notion that he was joking in return.

Todd looked at his wife and asked, "Has he ever talked about angels with you before?"

Colton claims that while on the operating table he went to heaven and that he met his great-grandfather Pop. Colton says his grandfather didn't look like the man in the photo in his house, but instead looked like the man in the picture sent months later by his Grandmother, a young man without glasses.

But perhaps the most shocking part of Colton's story, the baby he never knew about.

One day while Colton was playing he walked up to his mom, and out of the blue asked, "Mom, I have two sisters, you had a baby die in your tummy didn't you?"

Sonja was shocked and overwhelmed by what her little boy had just said. When she asked him who told him, he said, "she did Mommy, she said she died in your tummy."

Todd and Sonja had never told their son about the miscarriage Sonja had before Colton was born. After all, it was more than a four-year-old would ever need to know.

Colton went on to tell his mom that she was a girl and, "she looked familiar and she started giving me hugs and she was glad to have someone in her family up there."

Over time his visions became more believable.  He described Jesus, and he even talked about Armageddon and how God told him his father would fight in the final battle.  Although Todd was a pastor, he says he never talked detail like this with his preschool aged son.

After years of stories and new details, Todd's friends and members of his church started asking him to write his stories down. They encouraged Todd to write a book, which wasn't something he wanted to do or had any idea how to do.

He remembers praying about it, and he said he would only do it if the opportunity fell right into his lap.  It wasn't long after his prayer that a publisher called him.

Now Colton's stories of Heaven are documented in a book titled "Heaven is for Real."

500,000 copies of the book have been printed and there are now talks of a movie.  Sonja says it's a lot for her small town family but they are seeing their story make a difference in many lives.

As for Colton, he is now 11 and he loves to sing, wrestle, and play the trumpet.  His Dad says his experience in heaven hasn't changed his son, but because Colton was so young when it happened it has defined his life.

When asked why he thinks his son and his family had this experience, Todd says, "I don't know why God picked us.  If we had a chance to vote when we saw our kid suffering about to die, we would have said no, we don't want this.  We are just normal people that God did a miracle for."

Copyright © 2011, KDVR-TV

Creepiest Looking Dictator

It's hard to tell which Middle East dictator is going to tumble next, but I think there's no doubt that Libyas' Gaddafi is the creepiest looking of them all.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Woman in fatal crash was updating Facebook

By Cynthia Dizikes
Tribune reporter
1:47 AM CST, February 15, 2011

The daughter of a Chicago man who was struck and killed by a vehicle last year filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the driver Monday alleging that she was updating her Facebook page with her cell phone when the incident occurred.

Raymond Veloz, 70, was driving in the city’s South Chicago neighborhood on Dec. 7, 2010, when he got in a minor accident with another vehicle, according to the lawsuit filed in Cook County Circuit Court by Veloz’s daughter Regina Cabrales.

Veloz stepped out of his vehicle to exchange information with the other driver. But shortly after, Araceli Beas, who was driving southbound on Ewing Avenue, drove her vehicle into Veloz, partially severing his right leg and causing him to bleed to death, Cabrales alleged.

The suit states that Beas’ Facebook page shows that she updated it by mobile phone at 7:54 a.m., the same time that Veloz made an emergency 911 phone call.

Veloz was taken to Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, where he was pronounced dead a short time later, police said at the time.

Police cited the driver of the third vehicle for failure to avoid striking a pedestrian. That driver and the driver with whom Veloz had the accident told officers at the time that their ability to see the road was temporarily impaired by the sun.

Cabrales alleges that Beas negligently operated her vehicle “without keeping a proper and sufficient outlook.”

Beas could not immediately be reached for comment.

Cabrales is asking for an unspecified amount of money.

Monday, February 14, 2011

This Egypt Thing

Friday, February 11, 2011

What Next for Egypt?

News is breaking now that Eqyptian President Mubarak is finally seeing the writing on the wall and is stepping down.  That's great, but what's next for Egypt?

A move towards authentic democracy? -- or does their peaceful revolution get hijacked by the Muslim Brotherhood, or some other Islamofascist sect and we see the new Egypt as another Pakistan? -- or worse, another Iran?

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

A Couple of Takes on 'The Relic'

One of the collateral problems of our society is its incessant bias against the Faith, such that one automatically presumes anything produced by the media, Hollywood, etc. is antagonistic and biased against the Faith (I think that thought was kind of circular, but you get the point ).

Anyway, to get to the point, I automatically assumed that the new movie, 'The Rite' about an exorcist would be -- all together now -- antagonistic and biased against the Faith.  To my surprise, it appears not to be the case.  Here is a review from a solid Catholic source, and an interview with the priest whose book, "The Rite", the movie is based on. 

Steven D. Greydanus
Decent Films Guide

The Rite
Score "B"
The Rite really wants to get it right.

In some ways, Mikael Håfström’s film reminds me less of recent exorcism films than of the sort of movie that Terence Fisher made for Hammer Films in the late 1950s and 1960s, movies like The Devil Rides Out and the 1958 Dracula. If Father Lucas, an unconventional veteran exorcist working in Rome, had been played by Hammer icon Christopher Lee instead of Anthony Hopkins, he would have been right at home.

On the other hand, Michael Kovak (newcomer Colin O’Donoghue), a doubting seminarian roped into a Vatican-sponsored training initiative for new exorcists, belongs to the postcritical milieu of The Exorcism of Emily Rose, Requiem and The Last Exorcism. Michael is among the more thoughtfully skeptical characters in this type of movie, proposing naturalistic explanations for possible supernatural phenomena when he can, and citing other unexplained phenomena when he can’t. Still, Michael seems to respect the priesthood more than some of his less troubled classmates; he rolls his eyes at the future clerics in the dorm room across the hall playing violent video games. “Honestly?” he mutters rhetorically, pushing his door closed.

This is not a world in which demons manifest openly or in which sacred objects like crosses or holy water are omnipotent over the forces of darkness. Exorcism in The Rite is a long, drawn-out process that can last for weeks, months or even longer. In that way, among others, The Rite is probably the most sober, realistic treatment of exorcism in Hollywood history. It’s also a pretty thoughtful depiction of doubt and faith — one of a tiny number of exorcism films, along with the original Exorcist and The Exorcism of Emily Rose, that offers a spiritual, even theological take on what most films in the genre treat as mere horror-movie trappings.

Fr. Lucas goes so far as to tweak the godfather of all exorcism movies. “What were you expecting?” he asks Michael after their first go-round with a troubled, very pregnant Italian girl (Marta Gastini). “Spinning heads and pea soup?”

A movie that goes there had better not fall back on the old clichés itself. The Rite is only partially up to its own challenge.

Catholic World Report
'Doorways for the Devil'

Father Gary Thomas, the exorcist for the Diocese of San Jose, reflects on a neglected ministry.

Interview by Brian O'Neel

Just prior to the November 2010 meeting of the United States bishops in Baltimore, Bishop Thomas J. Paprocki of Springfield, Illinois announced he would host a two-day conference on exorcism. More than 50 bishops and 60 priests registered to attend. Paprocki explained he wanted to bring attention to a badly needed ministry in the American Church.

Father Gary Thomas is the exorcist for the Diocese of San Jose, California, and the subject of the book The Rite: The Making of a Modern Exorcist, which inspired the new movie The Rite, starring Anthony Hopkins. Father Thomas spoke to CWR about exorcism, demons, and the power of the sacraments.

CWR: First of all, what is an exorcist? What does he do?

Father Gary Thomas: An exorcist is a Catholic priest or a bishop who is involved in using the name of Christ to break a relationship between a demon and a human being.

What does that involve?

Father Thomas: Well, an exorcist has to discern carefully the experiences of the person who claims a diabolical attachment and then determine whether or not anything satanic is present. So when people come and say, “I need an exorcism,” I don’t just start praying the rite.

How do exorcists see their position within the Church?

Father Thomas: It’s a very important ministry, a very dangerous ministry, and it’s a ministry that takes an incredible amount of time, energy, and personal sacrifice. We see ourselves in a healing ministry. That’s what this is.

How does one become an exorcist, and what training is involved?

Father Thomas: The bishop has to appoint you. It’s that simple. The Church needs to create a formation/training process in the USA. Right now, all we have is a yearly conference. The course I took was in Rome, and then I trained under an exorcist for three months. In the US, we have none of that.

Nationally, how many exorcisms are performed each year?

Father Thomas: No idea. I can tell you that in Italy there are about 500,000 exorcisms.

How many have you actually performed?

Father Thomas: In five years, I’ve probably met with 100 people. I’ve performed 40 exorcisms on about five of them. I see lots of people, and a lot of times, it’s mental health stuff. I have a psychologist, psychiatrist, a medical doctor, and two priests on my team. So we’re very deliberate about all this.

What is the difference between diabolic harm or oppression and diabolic possession?

Father Thomas: Possession refers to complete takeover of a body by a demon. Oppression and obsession are lesser degrees of diabolical involvement or intrusion. There’s another category I call diabolical harassment, where there’s not been any kind of demonic intrusion into someone’s body, but more of a harassing spirit.

Obsession would be where people would be very, very depressed, and feel very heavy and have a sense that there’s some evil around or within them. These people have very obsessive thoughts having to do with the demonic that they can’t be really freed from. That’s the stuff you have to tease out.

So I first ask questions and trace back events to when things started. We talk about life experiences and their background. A demon doesn’t just show up; he has to be invited in.

What about curses?

Father Thomas: When people say to me, “I’ve had a curse put on me,” I’ll ask, “What do you know about it?” “I don’t know anything.” “Do you know someone who knows how to do that?” “No.” “Has anyone ever come to you and threatened to put one on you?” “No.” Well, then I think the chances of a curse are really next to none.

I have had people tell me lots of things about the people who have put curses on them; they claim the person is a witch, this person did certain things to them, that person threatened to do certain things to them. That’s different. But if you have no way of knowing anything, I just don’t automatically assume that it is a curse.

How prevalent are the various forms of obsession and possession in Catholic families today?

Father Thomas: There really are no statistics. It’s like going to the sacrament of reconciliation. It’s a public ministry, but it’s celebrated privately. What I can tell you is that there are more and more Catholics involved in idolatrous and pagan practices. That’s really why there’s more demonic activity. There’s the absence of God in the lives of a lot of people.

A lot of parents today have no critical eye of faith with which to even recognize the dangers their children are in. A lot of this is going on with the Internet. There are lots and lots of demonic websites.

How does one protect himself and his family from satanic influences?

Father Thomas: If you have a strong faith life, a strong prayer life, and a strong sacramental life, then you have nothing to worry about.

Could you describe the exorcism process for us? When preparing for an exorcism, what do you bring, and how would you set up the room?

Father Thomas: The tools are very simple: holy water, stole, book of deliverance, a crucifix, the rite of exorcism, and that’s it. And we just use the reconciliation room, with three chairs and a lit candle. I try to be very discreet with anybody who comes in, and so does my staff.  Only staff who need to know are told anything. I always do the exorcisms with at least one other priest present.

Have you ever engaged a demon in conversation in exorcism?

Father Thomas: Not other than, “What’s your name?” and, “In the name of Jesus, get out!” 

Have you ever encountered Satan himself?

Father Thomas: Once or twice, or at least what appeared to be Satan, because he identified himself as such.

Have you ever been frightened by a demon during an exorcism?

Father Thomas: No. I’m not frightened. I give them a certain amount of respect because they’re more powerful than me alone. The only thing that makes me unafraid is having Christ on my side. If I didn’t have Christ, I would be afraid, but God is more powerful than any demon.

How do you know if the exorcism really worked? How do you prevent the demon from returning?

Father Thomas: Once the manifestations stop, that doesn’t necessarily mean the demon has departed. You continue the exorcism prayers for a time. That might mean the person comes back again because demons try and hide, by trying to convince the exorcist they have gone away. Demons enter through the senses—the eyes, the ears, the mouth, and the nose. I can tell through the eyes. I can see the presence. It is as if the eyes of a person look like they have Coke bottle-like contact lenses; there is a presence within the presence. But the demons are very devious, and they want to hide, and so I just continue to look at the eyes of the person after the manifestations have stopped, because sometimes it’s just a ploy.

What is the most surprising thing you have learned in the course of doing an exorcism?

Father Thomas: I think simply the presence of a pure spirit and its power.

What happens to those who are possessed yet never get help? 

Father Thomas: If they don’t get help, they’ll simply continue to deteriorate, both physically and mentally, not just psychologically.

In your battles against demons and Satan, what is your greatest weapon?

Father Thomas: It would be Christ, the invocation of Christ. That would be my greatest weapon.

How would you respond to someone who says all you need is to use the name of Jesus?

Father Thomas: I think it takes more than just saying, “In name of Jesus Christ, I command you to leave.” We have a rite that’s recognized, even by the demons, as legitimate. Spontaneous prayers of deliverance are not the same thing as the official rite of exorcism.

What are the ways that demons gain access to souls?

Father Thomas: Well, they don’t get access to souls, they gain access to bodies. The involvement in pagan, satanic, or occult practices are the classical ways.

If a person suffered from physical or sexual abuse, and if they are also involved with things like the occult, the chances of something demonic or something of the spiritual realm affecting them increase. Because you’re tapping into the spiritual realm, and if you have a soul wound, you’re taking a risk.

Pornography is a doorway. But addictions of any kind can be—not are, but can be—a doorway, but it’s coupled with other things. For instance, drug use alone isn’t going to invite the demonic in, but coupled with the occult it could.

Is the occult satanic?

Father Thomas: Not in and of itself, but it’s opening a doorway. It’s tampering in the spirit world, and you do not know who’s going to show up. So when someone gets into Wicca, black magic or white magic, psychics, séances, Tarot cards, spells, or all that other idolatrous stuff, they don’t know what’s going to happen. They’re tapping into a realm they know nothing about, most of the time.

Who is most likely to become possessed?

Father Thomas: More often than not, it’s women. I think women have much more of an affective sense to them, where they’re much more open to the spiritual than men are. Again, that’s an opinion. But in my experience, most people who come to me—and this is not an opinion—are women, probably 70 percent.

In your experience, is it a problem that priests and even some in the episcopate no longer seem to believe in Satan?

Father Thomas: I think so…I’m not knocking the Second Vatican Council, but a lot of things in the formation of priests just disappeared following the Council.… The categories of sin have become very blurred, and so it doesn’t surprise me that the whole notion of Satan has become blurred, because the two are related. But I would remind anybody, look at the cross. The paschal mystery is why we continue to gather as a Church. If there’s no Satan, then the cross is a hoax, because that’s why Jesus Christ came, to defeat Satan, who made his presence known in the Book of Genesis and manifested himself as a serpent. If there’s no Satan, the whole economy of salvation is up for grabs. Why did Jesus come? He came because humanity had fallen from grace, and Satan had a stranglehold on the world.

We don’t see Satan face-to-face in all the calamities involving upheaval in the world in the same way as when someone has a diabolical attachment that is manifesting. People don’t see the demon because the demon is a pure spirit. But they must be blind if they don’t see what’s going on in the world around them and see that Satan is at the heart of much of the tumult in the world.

As an exorcist, I see the response of demons to sacramentals such as the crucifix or holy water or even the presence of a priest. The Eucharist will send possessed persons right over the edge. That’s the amazing thing. I tell the people in my parish, if demons believe in the Real Presence, shouldn’t we? I’m telling you, I’ve brought the Blessed Sacrament [to exorcisms], and the people want to go jumping out windows. It’s not them, it’s the demons.

How many exorcists do we have in the US?

Father Thomas: There are probably two dozen.

If, according to canon law, every diocese is supposed to have an exorcist, why do we have so few?

Father Thomas: My opinion is that bishops have been largely skeptical, because they don’t know who to appoint or know the criteria for how to appoint, or in some cases are ambivalent about the reality of Satan. Some are afraid of [deciding] who to appoint and how to go about appointing them. And I think that’s fair; I don’t think that’s a criticism. I don’t think that many bishops in the country know what’s involved…. Some do because we’ve told them, but when my bishop appointed me, he didn’t realize what it was really going to entail. And I know in talking with others, they didn’t know either.

If you compare the former rites of the Church with their revisions (blessings, baptisms, etc.), you notice that in times past, prayers against Satan were a more common feature. Has their removal had any real, practical effects, and if so, what are they?

Father Thomas: I can tell you that in the old rite of exorcism, the prayers have much more punch to them than the prayers of the new rite. And quite honestly, none of those [who actually do exorcisms] were ever consulted [about the revision], which I thought was amazing. How you would change prayers and not even talk to the experts who use the prayers all the time?

What brings joy to the demons?

Father Thomas: Look at the world and the kinds of behaviors and attitudes people hold toward personal conduct, how they treat their spouses, neighbors, children, and coworkers. Look at heads of states declaring war or acting dictatorially and oppressing people. I think whenever people are involved in what is ungodly, Satan is happy. And, of course, the allegiance to self. It goes back to Adam and Eve, when the serpent said, “Eat the fruit and you will become like gods.” This is one of our biggest problems in the world today.

In summary, what would you say to our readers?

Father Thomas: Don’t be afraid of Satan. Respect the power of evil only insofar as it does exist and it has limited power, but to remember Christ is more powerful than anything satanic.

Brian O’Neel writes from Wisconsin. This article appears in the February 2011 issue of CWR.


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