Friday, December 31, 2010

About The Three Wise Men And The Star

The Feast of the Epiphany, Matthew 2:1-12

Behold, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage.” […] Then Herod called the magi secretly and ascertained from them the time of the star’s appearance.

We have already discussed the chronology of the events surrounding the Savior’s birth, yet we subtly avoided a most difficult question regarding the feast of the Epiphany – When did the star first appear to the Magi? This is connected with an additional inquiry regarding the time at which the Magi set out from their home country and the length of their travel to Bethlehem.

Finally, as we will see, the massacre of the Holy Innocents seems to be related to the time of the appearance of the star.

First, we might ask a most practical question: What does it matter when the star appeared? Why should we be concerned at all to determine the time of the star’s appearance or the duration of the Magi’s journey? To this we respond that it will be good to know when the star appeared, because this will indicate something about the order of the manifestation of the Christ. If, for example, we were to conclude that the star appeared to the Magi two years before the birth of Christ (something which many modern scholars presume), we would have to admit that the Magi received the astronomical salutation before the Blessed Virgin had received the Angelic Salutation – is this fitting?

Moreover, we must say that, even prescinding from the practical value of this question, there is great spiritual value to pondering the events surrounding the Nativity. In much the same manner as St. Ignatius Loyola, who traveled to the hills around Jerusalem with hope of discovering which way Christ was looking as he ascended into heaven, we now will seek to glean from the biblical text some indication of the time in which the star was seen by the Magi.

The biblical account (collected from Matthew and Luke)

And it came to pass, that in those days there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that the whole world should be enrolled. And all went to be enrolled, everyone into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, to be enrolled with Mary his espoused wife, who was with child. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

When Jesus therefore was born in Bethlehem of Juda, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem. Saying, Where is he that is born king of the Jews? Then Herod, privately calling the wise men, learned diligently of them the time of the star which appeared to them; And sending them into Bethlehem, said: Go and diligently inquire after the child. And entering into the house, they found the child with Mary his mother, and falling down they adored him.

And after the days of her purification, according to the law of Moses, were accomplished, they carried him to Jerusalem, to present him to the Lord. And after they had performed all things according to the law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their city Nazareth.

And after they [i.e. the Magi] were departed, behold an angel of the Lord appeared in sleep to Joseph, saying: Arise, and take the child and his mother, and fly into Egypt: and be there until I shall tell thee. Joseph arose, and took the child and his mother by night, and retired into Egypt.
Then Herod perceiving that he was deluded by the wise men, was exceeding angry; and sending killed all the men children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the borders thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently inquired of the wise men.

The Magi must have arrived shortly after Christ’s Nativity

There are several points which must be recalled from the biblical narrative: The Magi visit Christ in Bethlehem; the Magi visit Christ in what Matthew calls a “home,” which may be different from the “stable” where Luke states the Child was born; after the Presentation in the Temple (forty days after the Birth), Luke tells us that Jesus was taken to Nazareth; it seems that Joseph took his family to Egypt fairly soon after the Magi departed; when Herod realized he was deceived he had the children in Bethlehem and the surrounding towns killed.

In the previous article, we have seen that the Child was born in a stable and adored that night by the shepherds. However, the Magi probably came shortly later, after the Holy Family had received hospitality in some home in Bethlehem (hence, Matthew speaks of a house). Thus, we can be reasonably certain that the Magi came to Bethlehem at least a day or two after the Nativity. However, it is most certain that they did not come any later than forty days after Christ’s birth, since then the Holy Family would not be in Bethlehem, but in Nazareth (since Luke states that they returned to Nazareth after the Presentation in the Temple which, according to the Law, took place forty days after birth). Hence, we can reasonably conclude that the Magi arrived in Bethlehem somewhere between the second and the fortieth day after Christmas – why not accept the tradition of the thirteenth day?

The star appeared on the day of the Nativity

St. Thomas knew of two opinions about the apparition of the star seen by the Magi: Chrysostom (or the author of the Opus Imperfectum in Mtt.) and Augustine seem to state that the star was first seen by the Magi two full years before the birth of Christ, and that it took these two years for the wise men to make the journey and arrive in Bethlehem (on the thirteenth day after the birth).

On the other hand, St. Thomas mentions “others” who hold that the star first appeared only when Christ was born. According to this opinion, the Magi set off on their journey only on the day of the Nativity and were able to travel a long distance “owing partly to the Divine assistance, and partly to the fleetness of the dromedaries.” This is Thomas’ own opinion (ST III, q.36, a.6, ad 3).
Yet, it may be the case that the star appeared on Christmas day and the Magi arrived thirteen days later on account of the fact that they were not from the far East, but only from a nation a little to the east of Israel – this is the opinion of Cornelius a’ Lapide, and I share it as well.

A good reason to maintain that the star had not appeared to the Magi until the time of Christ’s birth is that, on the presumption that the Magi saw the star two years before the Nativity, the Magi would have learned of the Incarnation even before the Blessed Virgin Mary had! How strange this would be, for the Magi to know of the coming of the King before even the Mother!
Moreover, it seems that Christ should not have been made manifest to the world until after his birth, for until the Nativity he was hidden in the virginal cloister of his Mother’s womb. It is for this reason that the Nativity is celebrated with greater solemnity than the Annunciation (the Incarnation) – it was only in the Nativity that God’s Love was revealed openly to the world.

Hence, Christ should first come into the world openly (by his birth) before he is manifested to the wise men. Therefore, we ought to conclude, as a matter of fittingness, that the wise men did not see the star until the very night of the Nativity. In this way also, Christ’s birth was heralded first to the Jews (to the shepherds) and then to the Gentiles (to the Magi).

The massacre of the Holy Innocents seems to have been nearly two years after the first Christmas

The primary reason why some (both of the past and of the present) hold that the star appeared two full years before the Nativity is based on the following line from Matthew 2:16, “Then Herod killed all the men children from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently inquired of the wise men.” This time inquired from the wise men seems to refer to Matthew 2:7, “Then Herod, privately calling the wise men, learned diligently of the time of the star which appeared to them.” Hence, it is quite clear that Herod’s massacre of the Innocents was determined (in relation to the age of the children killed) by the time when first the Magi saw the star. The slaughter takes place about two years after the star first appeared.

However, while it seems that we ought to maintain that the star had indeed appeared two years before the slaughtering of the Innocents, this does not determine the relation of the appearance of the star to the Nativity. For indeed, it is quite possible that the slaughtering of the Innocents did not occur until nearly two years after the Nativity. In which case, the star would have first appeared on the night in which Christ was born; and Herod would have (over a year later) killed the children of two years, since he knew that the Child could not be older than the star which marked his birth.

If we were to only have Matthew’s account of the Nativity, we could easily be led to think that Joseph and his family fled to Egypt immediately after the Magi left. This, however, seems most improbable, since we know that they first went to the Temple for Mary’s purification (forty days after the Nativity) – and from here, they returned to Nazareth, as Luke tells us. Thus, we must understand Matthew to mean simply that sometime after the Magi life, but not necessarily immediately after they left, Joseph took his wife and the Child and fled to Egypt.

Now Herod did not immediately slaughter the Innocents either – but seems to have waited nearly two full years. And the reason for this delay is that he first thought nothing of the account which the Magi had given him, but presumed that they could not find any child and had not returned to him on account of being humiliated in having misinterpreted the star. However, after some time, Herod learned of how the shepherds had come to adore the Child and also of the rejoicing of Simeon and Anna. Yet, Herod had great difficulty in maintaining order in his kingdom (as is well known from secular history) — thus, he was slow to act against the Christ Child, for he knew that the massacre he had in mind could possibly start a revolt. After two full years, when he was in better standing with Caesar Augustus and had greater control of the district of Judea, Herod accomplished his evil scheme, killing all the children two years and under, since it had been two years since the star had passed.

A Chronology

Day 1: Christ is born. The angel addresses the shepherds. The shepherds come to the stable. The star first appears to the Magi.

Day 8: Christ is circumcised in a private home into which Mary and Joseph had been received.

Day 13: The Magi arrive in Bethlehem and adore Christ in the house where the Holy Family temporarily resides.

Day 40: The Presentation in the Temple. Then the Holy Family goes to Nazareth.

Perhaps a year later: Herod realizes he has been fooled and desires to kill the Child, but he cannot yet act on his desire. The angel tells Joseph to flee. The Holy Family flees into Egypt.
Nearly two years later: Herod gains enough power and control to murder the Innocents and also to quell any revolt which may come up.

Several years later (but before the Christ is twelve): Herod dies and the Holy Family returns to Nazareth.

Source: The New Theological Movement

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Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Christianity: 100 Years of Boom & Bust

What are the most important changes that occurred in the Christian world over the past 100 years?

In 1910, Christianity was far and away the largest faith on the planet and it was the faith of the wealthy Global North. 34.8% of the human race was Christian. The next largest group of believers were Chinese folk religionists. Hinduism was a distant 3rd with 12.7% and Islam was right behind it at 12.6%.

No one could have foreseen what was about to happen. Although the percentage of the world's population that was Christian held basically steady (in 2010, Christians make up 33.2% of the world), where they lived shifted in a dramatic way.

1. Shift to the Global South. In 1910, roughly 82% of all Christians lived in the "west" or global north: Europe and North America. A century later, 60% of all Christians would live in the global south: Africa, Asia, Latin America. The graph below shows the proportion of Christians in the north and south over the centuries. Notice that the Reformation and the Council of Trent occurred at the one point in history where about 92% of all Christians lived in Europe. The bump you see after that is the spread of the faith to the Americas and the Catholic missionary movement in Asia. But when we get to the 20th century, things really begin to take off. Christianity became majority southern in 1981 - within the lifetimes of most of us reading these words.


2. Christianization of Africa. Africa had 11.7 million Christians and 40 million Muslims in 1910. Who would have guessed that African Christianity would multiply 40 times in a century to almost 500 million and would include 48% of the African people in 2010? By 2050, the AGC predicts that Christians will form a majority (52%) in Africa.

3. Growth of the Church in East Asia. Christianity is growing all over Asia - Nepal, Myanmar, Indonesia, Cambodia, etc. But the explosion of Christianity in China and South Korea has seen the Christian population in east Asia grow from 2.3 million to 140 million (9%) since 1910. Christianity grew 4 times faster than the population and there is no end in sight. In 40 years, Christians will likely comprise almost 16% of the east Asian population and Christians in Asia will outnumber Buddhists.

4. Decline in the West.

The boom in the south has unfortunately been offset by a marked decline of Christian practice in the part of the world that has been the center of Christianity for the past 1000 years. In 1910, Europe was nearly 95% Christian and contained 66% of all Christians in the world, A century later, only 80% of Europe's population was Christian and only 25.6% of the world's Christians lived there.

The predictions for 2050 show the basic pattern of European decline continuing: Only 76.6% of Europeans are expected to be Christian 40 years from now and only 15.8% of all Christians will live in Europe. (I'll deal with this complicated issue in a separate post.)

5. Emergence of Independent Christianity. 2010: 369 million. 16.1% of Christians. The Atlas of Global Christianity defines "independents" as "believers who do not identify with the major Christian traditions (Anglican, Orthodox, Protestant, Roman Catholic) They are independent of historic, organized, institutionalized, and denominational Christianity."

In 1910, independent Christians were found largely in Polynesia and the US. In 2010, Independents number 369 million, make up 16.1% of Christians, and are spread all over the world. The largest independent group of Christians are Chinese charismatics (77 million). Africa has the largest number of independent congregations today and is one of the major centers of Independent Christianity along with China and the US. What is surprising is that the 100 year Independent growth rate in Europe was 10 times faster than population growth. One reason is the number of large African Independent congregations in major European cities but there are also an increasing number of white-led Independent groups across the continent. Northern Europe has the highest percentage of Independent Christians in Europe.

6. Worldwide Spread of Pentecostal Christianity ("Renewalists"). 1910: 1 million. 2010: 614 million. 26.7% of all Christians.

Renewalist is a short hand term for Pentecostal/charismatic/neocharismatic renewal which has grown almost 5 times faster than global Christianity over the past 100 years. It would include members of classic Pentecostal denominations, charismatic Catholics, Protestants, and Orthodox, and a majority of Independent Christians. Renewalists now make up over 50% of Christians in 18 countries, including North Korea (88.3%), Nepal (86.9%), and China (81.1%). 22.7% of North Americans are renewalists. The largest renewalist group in the world is made up of charismatic Latin Rite Catholics (133 million).

Source: Catherine of Siena Institute

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Sunday, December 26, 2010

Phrases from the CCC Worth Memorizing

As we look to a New Year, there is no greater prayer that a catechism teacher can have than for her students to come to know and love the Persons of Blessed Trinity, the central mystery of our Faith (CCC 261). Still, a wise teacher knows every student needs a challenge now and again to wrestle with new material and to, hopefully, learn to love it! In the new year, why not set out to do a little memorizing — not only of Scripture — but of key phrases from the Catechism that “speak” to you?

Imagine your growth if you found just 3 lines, from the list below, worthy of your memorization? That’s my challenge. Find 3 lines that speak to you, and memorize them. Ready? Set. Grow!

The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) has over 2800 paragraphs; many are worth memorizing.

I have named, in my humble opinion, my favorite 25 lines that capture the essence of the first 1000 paragraphs of the CCC. (Certainly, if you’ve never read the Catechism before, I believe these 25 gems are great places to start!)

How did I select the 25? Other than being some of my favorites, each has plenty of room for one’s private meditation and contemplation. In other words, each provides a lot to chew on. Each universal truth has room for us to explore its personal application in our lives. How might we do this? By asking the following questions:

* Do I believe this? If not, ask for God’s help: “Lord, help my unbelief! (Mk 9:24)”
* How can I grow and live this truth in my own life?
* How can I share this?

What follows is a listing of some to best “one-liners” (or almost-one-liners) worth memorizing.

Here they are, in numerical order from the CCC, for your consideration:

1. CCC 1 God, infinitely perfect and blessed in himself, in a plan of sheer goodness freely created man to make him share in his own blessed life.

2. CCC 27 The desire for God is written in the human heart.

3. CCC 68 By love, God has revealed himself and given himself to man. He has thus provided the definitive, superabundant answer to the questions that man asks himself about the meaning and purpose of his life.

4. CCC 70 The Son is his Father’s definitive Word; so there will be no further Revelation after him.

5. CCC 80 Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture, then, are bound closely together, and communicate one with the other. For both of them, flowing out from the same divine well-spring, come together in some fashion to form one thing, and move towards the same goal.

6. CCC 163 Faith makes us taste in advance the light of the beatific vision, the goal of our journey here below. Then we shall see God “face to face”, “as he is” [1 Cor 13:12; 1 Jn 3:2]. So faith is already the beginning of eternal life.

7. CCC 221: God’s very being is love. By sending his only Son and the Spirit of Love in the fullness of time, God has revealed his innermost secret: God himself is an eternal exchange of love, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and he has destined us to share in that exchange.

8. CCC 260 The ultimate end of the whole divine economy is the entry of God’s creatures into the perfect unity of the Blessed Trinity.

9. CCC 395 The power of Satan is, nonetheless, not infinite. He is only a creature, powerful from the fact that he is pure spirit, but still a creature.

10. CCC 397 Man, tempted by the devil, let his trust in his Creator die in his heart and, abusing his freedom, disobeyed God’s command. This is what man’s first sin consisted of. All subsequent sin would be disobedience toward God and lack of trust in his goodness.

11. CCC 420 The victory that Christ won over sin has given us greater blessings than those which sin had taken from us: “where sin increased, grace abounded all the more” (Rom 5:20).

12. CCC 430 Jesus means in Hebrew: “God saves.” At the annunciation, the angel Gabriel gave him the name Jesus as his proper name, which expresses both his identity and his mission. Since God alone can forgive sins, it is God who, in Jesus his eternal Son made man, “will save his people from their sins” [Mt 1:21; cf. 2:7]. In Jesus, God recapitulates all of his history of salvation on behalf of men.

13. CCC 435 The name of Jesus is at the heart of Christian prayer.

14. CCC 480 Jesus Christ is true God and true man, in the unity of his divine person; for this reason he is the one and only mediator between God and men.

15. CCC 485 The mission of the Holy Spirit is always conjoined and ordered to that of the Son.

16. CCC 487 What the Catholic faith believes about Mary is based on what it believes about Christ, and what it teaches about Mary illumines in turn its faith in Christ.

17. CCC 621 Jesus freely offered himself for our salvation. Beforehand, during the Last Supper, he both symbolized this offering and made it really present: “This is my body which is given for you” (Lk 22:19).

18. CCC 658 Christ, “the first-born from the dead” (Col 1:18), is the principle of our own resurrection, even now by the justification of our souls (cf. Rom 6:4), and one day by the new life he will impart to our bodies (cf.: Rom 8:11).

19. CCC 682 When he comes at the end of time to judge the living and the dead, the glorious Christ will reveal the secret disposition of hearts and will render to each man according to his works, and according to his acceptance or refusal of grace.

20. CCC 683 To be in touch with Christ we must first have been touched by the Holy Spirit. He comes to meet us and kindles faith in us. By virtue of our Baptism, the first sacrament of the faith, the Holy Spirit in the Church communicates to us, intimately and personally, the life that originates in the Father and is offered to us in the Son.

21. CCC 780 The Church in this world is the sacrament of salvation, the sign and the instrument of the communion of God and men.

22. CCC 826 Charity is the soul of the holiness to which all are called: it “governs, shapes, and perfects all the means of sanctification [Lumen Gentium, 42].”

23. CCC 968 In a wholly singular way she cooperated by her obedience, faith, hope, and burning charity in the Savior’s work of restoring supernatural life to souls. For this reason [Mary] is a mother to us in the order of grace.

24. CCC 977 Baptism is the first and chief sacrament of forgiveness of sins because it unites us with Christ, who died for our sins and rose for our justification, so that “we too might walk in newness of life [Rom 6:4; Cf. 4:25].”

25. CCC 982 There is no offense, however serious, that the Church cannot forgive.

Source: Catholic Exchange

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Saturday, December 25, 2010

Wishing You A Merry Christmas & A Happy New Year


Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Christopher Columbus

Christopher Columbus (c. 31 October 1451 – 20 May 1506) was a Catholic Italian explorer and navigator from the Republic of Genoa, in northwestern Italy, whose voyages across the Atlantic Ocean led to general European awareness of the American continents in the Western Hemisphere. With his four voyages of exploration and several attempts at establishing a settlement on the island of Hispaniola, all funded by Isabella I of Castile, he initiated the process of Spanish colonization which foreshadowed general European colonization of the "New World".

He was convinced that God had chosen him to reach that land, hidden from the Western world for ages, which the Roman philosopher Seneca had once prophesied would be revealed. His discovery would bring the Catholic faith, to which he was devoted, to the people who lived in that land.

The voyages of Columbus molded the future of European colonisation and encouraged European exploration of foreign lands for centuries to come.

Since Columbus supported the enslavement of the Hispaniola natives for economic reasons, he ultimately refused to baptise them, as Catholic law forbade the enslavement of Christians.

A candidate for sainthood in the Catholic Church in 1866, celebration of Columbus's legacy perhaps reached a zenith in 1892 when the 400th anniversary of his first arrival in the Americas occurred. Monuments to Columbus like the Columbian Exposition in Chicago were erected throughout the United States and Latin America extolling him.

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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Catholic Rite Of Exorcism

In Roman Catholic dogma exorcism is a ritual but not a sacrament, unlike baptism or confession. Unlike a sacrament, exorcism's "integrity and efficacy do not depend ... on the rigid use of an unchanging formula or on the ordered sequence of prescribed actions. Its efficacy depends on two elements: authorization from valid and licit Church authorities, and the faith of the exorcist."

The act of exorcism is considered to be an incredibly dangerous spiritual task. The ritual assumes that possessed persons retain their free will, though the demon may hold control over their physical body, and involves prayers, blessings, and invocations with the use of the document Of Exorcisms and Certain Supplications. In the modern era, Catholic bishops rarely authorize exorcisms, approaching would-be cases with the presumption that mental or physical illness is more likely.

Solemn exorcisms, according to the Canon law of the church, can be exercised only by an ordained priest (or higher prelate), with the express permission of the local bishop, and only after a careful medical examination to exclude the possibility of mental illness.

Things listed in the Roman Ritual as being indicators of possible demonic possession include: speaking foreign or ancient languages of which the possessed has no prior knowledge; supernatural abilities and strength; knowledge of hidden or remote things which the possessed has no way of knowing; an aversion to anything holy; and profuse blasphemy and/or sacrilege.

Watch these videos below to understand more about an exorcism:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

If you're interested to lean more about evil and demonic possession, listen to prominent Catholic theologian and exorcist Fr. Malachi Martin on The Nature Of Evil, Exorcism & Possession and watch a real video on an exorcism in America. Watch also this documentary showing a real exorcism in the Philippines.

Fr. Gabriele Amorth, Rome's chief exorcist's book is also worth a read. This milestone book is a great resource on demonology and diabolic possession. Read about how one can get possessed and how to protect yourself and your family - here.

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Friday, December 10, 2010

Angels And The Hierarchy Of The Heavenlies


Archangel Gabriel

If we ever think of the angels at all it would probably be around Christmas time when Hymns and Carols seem full of their presence. In many homes, shopping centres and city malls around the world you will find a Christmas tree topped by a star or by a plastic angel. But how often do we consider these magnificent creatures at other times of the year? At this special time of year even non-believers get caught up with the warmth of love and friendship and somehow we know that there is something more going on than plastic angels and booze. None-the-less, it's a pity that the angelic is a subject that is rarely talked about, thought of or taught in Catholic circles in recent times and yet there is a wealth of spiritual assistance available to every Christian in the Body of Christ who are surrounded at all times by a great cloud of witnesses (Heb.12:1).

One such notion is that when we die we become an angel and do good for others. This is certainly the view of Oprah Winfrey, but I am not sure where this idea comes from except that I remember people using it as a way of explaining what happens after death to young children. In any event, it contradicts the Biblical understanding of the Angelic which informs us that we will "Judge the Angels." It would seem that these ideas come from early folklore and fairy tales which have their roots in a European pre-Christian era. This would no doubt be the reason why so many Christians have rejected their existence as childish notions unbecoming of an intelligent adult.

However, in spite of this, the angelic has become very popular in recent years with the advent of the New Age Movement. Its adherents often use Christian terminology such as "Guardian Angels" to describe consultation with the dead or evil spirits. The angels they are referring to, were until recent years, called "Spirit Guides" or "Familiar Spirits" and are clearly demonic, pagan and occult in origin. In an attempt to clear up this confusion for Christians is the reason for this article. I hope that it will spread some light on the reality and truth of God's Holy Angels whose role is to minister to God and His people.

Ministering Spirits.

These angels whom the Bible calls "Ministering Spirits" (Heb.1:14) have many varying different roles and functions to assist the Christian here on the earth. Not only do they minister to God before the Throne day and night but they also convey God's messages to His people.

Some have specific roles and are created to perform specific tasks such as the Guardian Angels of countries, territories and individuals. Although this subject is too vast to enter into here, perhaps this short article will allow you to study the subject further.

The Luciferic Rebellion and The War in Heaven.

The Bible only mentions the names of four angels from the countless millions that have been created. They are, Gabrielle, whose name means, "God is Mighty", Michael, whose name means, "Like God", Raphael, whose name means, "God Heals", and Lucifer, whose name means, "Light Bearer". All of them were created good!

It was Lucifer
who rebelled against God and who through pride, coveted the Throne of God and the worship that belonged to God alone. This resulted in a mighty war in Heaven. Lucifer, along with one third of the angelic host was defeated by the Archangel Michael and was cast down from Heaven to the earth where he became known as "Satan", a name which literally means; "Adversary" as well as "Devil", which means, "Accuser of the brethren".

So let us examine this angelic war and its outcome.

In Revelations chapter 12 we find the account. A great and wondrous sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head. She was pregnant and cried out in pain as she was about to give birth. Then another sign appeared in heaven: an enormous red dragon with seven heads and ten horns and seven crowns on his heads. His tail swept a third of the stars out of the sky and flung them to the earth. The dragon stood in front of the woman who was about to give birth, so that he might devour her child the moment it was born. She gave birth to a son, a male child, who will rule all the nations with an iron scepter. And her child was snatched up to God and to his throne. The woman fled into the desert to a place prepared for her by God, where she might be taken care of for 1,260 days.

*And there was war in heaven.* Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him.

Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say: “Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ. For the accuser of our brothers, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down. They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death. Therefore rejoice, you heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has gone down to you! He is filled with fury, because he knows that his time is short.”

When the dragon saw that he had been hurled to the earth, he pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child. The woman was given the two wings of a great eagle, so that she might fly to the place prepared for her in the desert, where she would be taken care of for a time, times and half a time, out of the serpent’s reach.

Then from his mouth the serpent spewed water like a river, to overtake the woman and sweep her away with the torrent. But the earth helped the woman by opening its mouth and swallowing the river that the dragon had spewed out of his mouth. Then the dragon was enraged at the woman and went off to make war against the rest of her offspring—those who obey God’s commandments and hold to the testimony of Jesus. (Revelations 12 1-17)

Chapter 7 to 9, *And there was war in heaven* refers to the events prior to the creation of Adam. We find this in Genesis 2: 9, where God warns about two trees in the middle of the Garden of Eden, the Tree of Life, and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.

Lucifer Cast DownCast down before the creation of Adam, Lucifer, referred to as the serpent is already on the earth. The two trees with either eternal life or eternal death were there before the creation of Adam, and so God did not tempt Adam with the Tree of the knowledge of good and evil as many might think, but simply warned Adam of the danger and consequence already present.

Later in Luke 10: 17 - 20, the seventy-two disciples return from a mission with joy and said to Jesus, "Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name." He replied, "I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven."

Jesus referred to the war in heaven because he was there. Jesus is the Word Incarnate; the Word that created all things, including Lucifer and it is against Jesus, the Word; truth, that Lucifer rebelled, and that war continues to this very day.

Again, in Revelations 22: 1-6, we find the end of the story regarding the triumph of the Tree of Life and its consequence for us if we accept Jesus. Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever. The angel said to me, "These words are trustworthy and true. The Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, sent his angel to show his servants the things that must soon take place."

Scripture also refers to Lucifer by many other names all of which describe his "fallen nature." These names are, "Beelzebub", "Prince of Darkness", "King of Tyre", "Father of Lies". "Day Star", "The Thief", "god of this world" (cosmos: Gr. world system) but, never Lucifer again. He is no longer entitled to that name which described his original nature and ministry. Perhaps this would be a good time to put Satan in his proper place and perspective because in these days he is being worshipped as a god by many people around the world.

It becomes clear; Satan (Lucifer) is not an equal
and opposite of God!

Just like all the other angels he was created by God and therefore by definition, he is not God. Satan is a creature and therefore he is subject to God like all else in heaven and earth and he has no more rights or power than God allows.

Popular (New Age) thought adopts the concept of Yin and Yang and believe this to be perfect balance and harmony. However, it is self evident that this is erroneous thinking; even the law of physics testifies to this in that darkness is merely and absence of light, and therefore, unlike light dispelling darkness, darkness cannot enter light nor extinguish it. The only outcome of the war between good and evil in this thinking is perpetual war due to the neutralizing of this equality. Hence there will never be peace with a Yin and Yang concept or any other New Age or occult philosophy, but, it does keep us entertained and Hollywood in business.

Demons manifest and shriek as Catholic Evangelist, Eddie Russell FMI preaches at a conference in Uganda. Not for the faint hearted.

The beginning chapters of the Book of Job show the true inequality very clearly (Job 1:6-12 - Job 2:1-7) and even though Satan has the effrontery to enter God's presence with the other angels (sons) he does so to "accuse" God's people. However, you will notice that Satan can do no more than God allows him to do. "And the Lord said to Satan, "Behold, all that he has is in your power, only do not lay a hand upon his person" (Job 1:12) and of course Satan did not because he could not!

These are comforting thoughts
when we are faced with such evils as we see in the world today, but because of the "New Covenant" in the Blood of Christ each Christian is given authority by God over all the "works" of the adversary. In fact we are "commissioned" by God to "announce" the Good News of the Kingdom, and to bring the captives out of darkness into His wonderful light and so in Mark 16:17, we read, "In my name (Jesus) they will expel demons".

The authority that the Father gave to Jesus is now transferred to His Church. Unfortunately, just like all the good angels, the evil ones and the Devil himself have also been relegated to the area of myth by many Christians whilst the non-believers are very much aware of his reality.

Satan worship is on the increase.

Hiding in myth is a good trick if he can get away with it. It suits his purpose when the only ones who do not believe that he exists are the only ones who can dislodge him from his strongholds. His "new look" is called the "New Age." This is just new packaging for a very old thing: Sorcery. It's selling well at the moment and it has even got through to Christians who have lowered their defences against a subtle sales pitch aimed at a spiritual void.

One of the most nefarious examples today is the message of Marilyn Manson's "Anti Christ Superstar." This album solicits acceptance of Manson as a saviour. It calls young people to kill their parents and whoever else they see as their enemy and then kill themselves. According to Manson, this is how they get saved and set free.

In addition, The Church of Satan is well established under law in the USA and possibly elsewhere too. Television proliferates these beliefs through such programmes as Charmed, Ghost Whisperer, Supernatural and many other witchcraft programmes that are very popular with our youth.

We are able to call on the angelic to assist us when we need help.

Along with the Word of God, the Power, and the Gifts of the Holy Spirit working on our behalf, we also have countless millions of angels at our disposal in the same way that Jesus did when he was arrested in Gethsemane.... "do you not suppose that I can call on my Father to provide at a moment's notice more than twelve legions of angels" (Mat 26:53).

Psalm 91 is worth reading and studying because it refers to the protection the Father provides for all His children who find themselves in dangerous circumstances. It informs us that by remaining in a close relationship with God. He promises to rescue us from: the snare of the Fowler, the destroying pestilence, the terror by night, the arrow by day, and from plagues, the wicked, evil, and affliction.

Then, in verse 11, it says, "for to His angels He has given command about you, that they guard you in all your ways." And again in verse 13, it says: "you shall tread upon the asp and the viper; you shall trample down the lion and the dragon." Notice that it says, "you will". It is "we" who do it! By what power? By the power of God, of course. That is "our" authority and, let's face it, "if God is for us, who can be against us?" (Rom 8:31) It stands to reason that if God is for us everything that is of God is for us too. We are never alone as much as we may think that we are. God's angels are ever present to help us in all that we do.

Angels are countless in number (Rev.5:11)

"Their cavalry troops whose count I heard were two hundred million in number." (Rev 9:16) Angels are immortal Celestial Spirits created by God. They are created to represent Him and to guard His interests (Ps.148: 5-6). Angels were created before God created the world (Job.1:6,).

Angels do not have corporal bodies but they can manifest themselves in human form. An example of this is seen in the account of Lot regarding Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen.19, Acts.10:30, Tobit 12:11-22).

I recommend that you read the whole book of Tobit where you will see the wonderful deeds of the Archangel Raphael on his behalf. Raphael is one of the seven spirits before the Throne of God. He seems to be the angel who protects the family. In this account, you will see how he saves Raguel from the wicked demon, Asmodeus (Arabic: "the destroyer") who has killed seven of her husbands before they could consummate the marriage and how he heals Tobit of his blindness and helps Tobit's son Tobias to successfully marry Raguel. Then in the ending chapters he reveals a truth about his angelic nature.

(Although non Catholics do not accept this book as Canon of Scripture, the book of Tobit is a magnificent insight into the role of Angels that was richly expressed in Hebrew Angelology and belief. The Catholic Church accepts Tobit as part of the Canon of Scripture).

Celestial Beauty.

Occasionally angels will appear in all their celestial beauty and glory (Matt 28:3, Dan.10:5-6). In Daniel 10: 12-14, and verses 20-21, you will see Gabrielle and Michael in their role of bringing an answer to prayer and how they deal with the demonic angel of the kingdom of Persia.

Angels do not marry.

They are pure spirit beings and are referred to as a 'company' rather than a 'race'. They are always referred to in the masculine gender. (Matt.22:30, Luke 20: 34-36). St. Thomas Aguinas tells us that because angels are referred to as a company and not a race they cannot procreate; they are pure spirit beings with no need of a body or its attributes. In wahtever body they might have appeared are only apparant bodies for our comfort when encountering them.

Angels have different functions.

Angels have different functions and are created for specific tasks and they have various levels of authority which include: "Thrones", "Dominions", "Seraphim", "Cherubim", "Angels", "Archangels", and "Guardian Angels" (Col. 1:16, Jude 9.). Guardian Angels are given to children when they are born and are there to minister to them throughout their life (Matt. 18; 10).

Angelic worship.

Angels worship before the Throne of God and serve Him day and night (Ps. 148: 2, Tobit 12:15, Heb. 1:6, Rev. 4: 5-8). The angels celebrate before the Throne of God every time a sinner repents and turns to God. (Luke 15; 10,) Just think how much Heaven will rejoice when we really get moving with Evangelisation!

Angels escort Christians to heaven when they die (Luke 16:22)

The angels record our deeds, good and bad, in a book that will be opened at the final Judgement (Mal.3:16, Rev.20:12). Angels have the authority to execute God's Judgement on Cities, Nations and People (Eccl. 5:6, Ezek. 9:1-6, Ps. 33:4-6, Kings 19:35, Acts 12:23).

Angels are Messengers of God not ascended masters.

Angels are messengers of God to His people (Zech. 1: 9, 13-14, 19 Luke 1:11-20, Luke. 1:26-38) and it is this encounter that dominates our Christmas celebration. However, appearances of the angels are usually brief and formal. They are aimed at improving our relationship with the Lord rather than attracting attention to themselves (Revelation 22: 8-9)

We will judge the Angels.

Until we enter the fullness of our redemption the angels enjoy a superior position to us, but they will then serve under us as the Bride of Christ when we become the elite of all God's creation (Rev. 21: 9-14, 2Tim.2:12). We will even judge the angels (1Cor.6:3).

However, because angels are so magnificent, people have fallen into the sin of angel worship. To us they may seem like God Himself, but to God they are as far away from His perfection as your dog is to you. We must always remember that the angels, good and bad, are creatures, they are not gods. Saint Thomas Aquinas points out that the angels are not supernatural simply because the condition of an angel as a created being is natural to his state. God and God alone is the only supernatural being. So the Bible warns us not to worship angels (Col. 1:18, - Rev. 19: 10).

God's Holy Angels are ever present to help us.

It is comforting to know whom and what you have working on your side. Angels and Christians are partners and allies in the spiritual warfare in which we find ourselves. They assist us to dislodge Satan from his stronghold in the world. When Intercessors come together and prayer prevails it brings powerful angels to aid and assist us to hinder the workings of Satan (Hebrews 1:4, Daniel 10:12-13).

We must not confuse the works of the angels with the role of the Holy Spirit.

The role of the angels and the role of the Holy Spirit are very different even though they are companion roles in our lives by assisting us to build the Church and in establishing the Kingdom of God where we live. The difference lies in that the role of the angels is to administer material affairs. The role of the Holy Spirit is to reveal the mind of God and to make Jesus known. Matthew 4:11 shows this distinction clearly; Jesus was "led" by the Spirit, "taught" by the Spirit, and "filled" with the Spirit, but He was "defended" and 'fed' by the angels.

Angels are also territorial spirits and are assigned to particular earthly territories.

The Archangel Michael is the Guardian Angel of Israel (and ours too). The Bible shows us that Cities are under angelic guardianship (Dan. 12:1, Ezek. 9:1, Acts.16:9, Acts.10:30). When we read Revelations Chapters 2 and 3, we can see this clearly: "To the presiding spirit of the Church in Ephesus". The "presiding spirit" = literally; angels. (NAB footnotes). Angels were thought of as being in charge of whole communities and individuals alike. (Matt. 18:10, Acts 12:15).

"Only God is home for the love of the angels, just as He is for us. The angels must make their way home, for love's fire is the Divine Flame, or there is no warmth".
(St Thomas Aquinas Summa Theologica / Hebrews. 1:7).

It was love's flame that warmed the heart of a young virgin when the Archangel Gabrielle came to announce the good news that a saviour was to be born. It is Gabrielle that God sends to announce "Good News."

Every major proclamation of God was announced by Gabrielle and considering that Mary would have been well acquainted with the angelic tradition of her faith such as we have looked at here. It's not so surprising that she was a little afraid when she was confronted with such a being as Gabrielle although her fear was that of respect rather than that born of a lack of faith. It was her faith to say yes that brought about the greatest miracle of God in all of history, past, present and future.

When the time came for the Saviour to enter into the world, angels appeared to shepherds and proclaimed the "good news" of a Saviour born. The Glory of God shone around them with an angelic multitude of the Heavenly Host, praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and peace to those on whom His favour rests" (Luke.2:9-14). The Shepherds saw that Glory on that first Christmas night and Mary treasured these things in her heart (Luke 2:19).

As you go about your duties next Christmas Season, and you happen to notice a little plastic angel on your Christmas tree, stop a while, and ponder in your heart the Glory that surrounds you and your family. You have powerful friends in high places and perhaps your Christmas Carols might come to mean a little more to you than you may have previously thought.

We are indeed surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses, and there is nothing plastic about that.

Video streaming by Ustream
Source: Blaze Magazine

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Thursday, December 9, 2010

Christmas Tree Facts

Please click the chart on the right to enlarge

Source: The Infographics Showcase

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Monday, December 6, 2010

Shekhar Kallianpur's Testimony

Shekhar Kallianpur was born into a staunch Hindi Saraswat Brahmin (the highest of the four major caste of traditional Indian society) family. His father, a Hindu high priest, was a renowned astrologer and his grandfather was a numerologist.

Like many of his family members, growing up Shekhar believed that salvation could only be attained through the rebirth of one’s soul in a new body. Yet he longed for a deeper understanding of this belief.

In his teenage years, Shekhar struggled with living a life of hypocrisy, and he began to look for love in all the wrong places.

Not long after experiencing the different religions and having no luck, Shekhar’s search for help soon came to an end.

One day a friend gave him a Bible and things began to change for the better. Around 3 a.m. one morning, Shekhar picked up the Bible and began to read it. He started at John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son, that whosoever believes in him would not perish but have everlasting life.”

Watch this video for the rest of the story.

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Cathryn's Testimony

Cathryn describes how God slowly led her back from a life apart from Him, back to the Catholic Church. She also talks about how the Lord healed her and gave her peace.

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Converting To Catholicism

Jane Hanson interviews converts to the Catholic Church. Guests include: 1. Gary Arkin - RCIA Sponser, St. Patricks Church, Brooklyn 2. Daniel Robinson - Convert from Judaism, St. Patricks Church, Brooklyn 3. Linda Hoff - Covert from Presbyterianism, Immaculate Heart of Mary Church, Brooklyn 4. Elizabeth Scalia - Writer/Blogger for the Anchoress 5. Grant Gallicho - Associate Editor for Commonweal Magazine

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Kaká's Testimony

Ricardo Izecson dos Santos Leite commonly known as Kaká, is a Brazilian football midfielder who currently plays for Spanish La Liga club Real Madrid and the Brazilian national team.

In 2003 he joined A.C. Milan for a fee of €8.5 million. While at Milan, Kaká won the Ballon d'Or and FIFA World Player of the Year awards in 2007. After his success with Milan, Kaká joined Real Madrid for a world record fee of $89 million, smashing the previous record of Zidane, $75 million. In addition to his contributions on the pitch, Kaká is known for his humanitarian work. In 2004, by the time of his appointment, he became the youngest ambassador of the United Nations' World Food Programme.

This is his testimony:

When I was eight, I moved to Sao Paulo, Brazil (from Cuiaba, Brazil) where I began to play soccer (football). I have always loved to play soccer.

I played on the Junior Team for Sao Paulo in 2000. We were in the middle of the Paulista Junior Championships when I received a yellow card. I was suspended for the following game, so I took advantage of the free weekend to visit my grandparents, who lived in Caldas Novas at the time.

My brother, my parents, my grandparents and I went to a water park. As I was coming down one of the slides into the pool, I hit my head on the bottom of the pool and my neck snapped. I fractured the sixth vertebra in my neck. At the time, I had no idea what happened.

I returned to Sao Paulo to train on Monday, as well as on Tuesday, all the while with a broken neck. On Tuesday, I called the coach and the physical trainer and told them that I couldn't bear the pain any longer. They sent me to see a doctor at the hospital where they took another x-ray. It was in this x-ray that the fracture in the sixth vertebra was shown. Everyone, including
the doctors, told me I was very lucky that nothing more serious happened. They told me that I could have become paralyzed and lost my ability to walk and to play soccer. I believe it was not luck. I believe God was protecting me during that time from anything more serious.

Many people think that I became a Christian after the accident, but that is not true. My parents are Christians and they raised me with biblical values. The accident happened in October of 2000 while I was playing in the "base" position on the Sao Paulo junior team. Throughout November and December, I had to wear a cervical collar and could not play.

I began to play again in January of 2001, and after about 10 or 15 days, I was called to play for the Sao Paulo professional team. Because of this, I believe God had a purpose in that accident. It is something that happened just before I had the great blessing of starring as a professional in Sao Paulo and initiating my career as a professional soccer player.

As I said before, my parents always taught me the Bible and its values, and also about Jesus Christ and faith. I did not have a specific conversion experience, but little by little, I stopped simply hearing people talk about the Jesus my parents taught me [about], and there came a time when I wanted to live my own experiences with God. One of these experiences with God was when I was baptized at the age of 12. This was a very important step in my walk with
Jesus and soon after many things began to happen in my life where I could experience God in a real way.

I need Jesus every day of my life. Jesus tells me in the Bible that without Him I can't do anything. I have the gift and capacity today to play soccer because God gave it to me. The day He wants me to do something else, I will do that something else and this is why I need Jesus in my life every day. I am successful in my financial life and in my professional life, but all this has
come from God and is a gift of grace from Him for my life. All that I have, I thank Him for.

The difference Jesus makes in my life is that I know I will always have victory, I will always have joy, and I will always have success. This is independent of the situations I face or will face. This brings me great peace.

I usually tell the people who ask, that the Bible is like the user's manual that comes when you buy a product. It has everything we need in it. It makes me happy to read the Bible every day, to study it and to be in fellowship with God and learn more and more about Jesus.

I will win many matches and I will lose many matches, but I know that in all of them, God has a plan. This is why I try to understand the plan of God for me in each moment so that I can have peace during times of pressure. Everyone wants to be a winner, but for me, the true meaning of winning is having Jesus in my life. It is a life of prayer, a life of intimacy and a lifelong friendship, knowing that God is our Father. I can say that I am a winner and I am victorious because Jesus lives in my life. No, I will never stop following Him.

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Friday, December 3, 2010

The Codex Gigas - The Devil's Bible

The Codex Gigas (English: Giant Book) is the largest extant medieval manuscript in the world. It is also known as the Devil's Bible because of a large illustration of the devil on the inside and the legend surrounding its creation. It is thought to have been created in the early 13th century in the Benedictine monastery of Podlažice in Bohemia (modern Czech Republic). It contains the Vulgate Bible as well as many historical documents all written in Latin. During the Thirty Years' War in 1648, the entire collection was taken by the Swedish army as plunder, and now it is preserved at the National Library of Sweden in Stockholm.

About half of the Codex consists of the entire Latin Bible in the Vulgate version, except for the books of Acts and Revelation, which are from a pre-Vulgate version. They are in the order Genesis-Ruth, Isaiah-Daniel, Hosea-Malachi, Job, Samuel & Kings, Psalms-Song of Solomon, Wisdom of Solomon, Wisdom of Jesus, Esdras, Tobit, Judith, Esther, Maccabees. Between the Testaments are Josephus' Antiquities of the Jews and Wars of the Jews, as well as Isidore of Seville's encyclopedia Etymologiae and medical works of Hippocrates, Theophilus, Philaretus, and Constantinus. Following a blank page, the New Testament commences with Matthew-Acts, James-Revelation, and Romans-Hebrews. Following the picture of the devil, Cosmas of Prague's Chronicle of Bohemia, a list of brothers in the Podlažice monastery, and a calendar with necrologium, magic formulae and other local records round out the codex. The entire document is written in Latin, other than Hebrew, Greek, and Slavonic alphabets on the first page.

This is a National Geographic documentary on the Codex Gigas:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

The Codex Gigas also gives detailed instructions for confronting the devil:

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Thursday, December 2, 2010

From Buddhism To Catholicism

Part 1

Part 2

From the pagan religion 'Buddhism', to the true religion of God Almighty, the Holy Catholic Church.

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Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Uttam's Testimony

Uttam was rejected by his stepmother and father throughout his childhood. After he left home to make his way...he was diagnosed with "blood cancer." He had written to CBN after watching a CBN India program. He decided to visit the CBN India center to celebrate his last birthday. After he came, he receive Jesus as Savior—and he was miraculously healed !

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Sunday, November 28, 2010

Dr Scott Hahn

Influential Anti-Catholic Presbyterian pastor converts to Catholicism.

Dr. Scott Hahn who once an influential Anti-Catholic Presbyterian pastor one day wakes up, shocked to discover the Biblical grounds of the Catholic Church. The more Dr. Scott Hahn studied scripture, the more serious questions arose in his mind about such issues as sin and redemption, the nature of the Church, the meaning of the Last Supper, biblical authority and revelation.

Dr. Scott Hahn's dedication to follow the truth wherever it led him, even if it led him to Rome, cost him dearly. He lost his job, his position in the evangelical society, many of his friends and his vocation as a public minister. But he gained much more than he lost: the full truth of the Gospel. The former persecutor becomes a great champion and defender of the faith.

Dr. Scott Hahn is now a renowned contemporary theologian and Catholic apologist. His works include Rome Sweet Home and The Lamb's Supper: The Mass as Heaven on Earth. He currently Professor of Scripture and Theology at the Franciscan University of Steubenville, United States.

Watch this videos on Dr. Scott Hahn's conversion story:

Related video: Why evangelicals are returning to Rome

Related posts:

Dr. Thomas Howard's Testimony

Alex Jones' Testimony

Drake and Crystal McCalister's Testimony

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