Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Spiritual Exercises Of St. Ignatius Of Loyola

The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola, (composed from 1522-1524) are a brief set of Christian meditations, prayers and mental exercises, divided in four thematic 'weeks' of variable length, designed to be carried out over a period of 28 to 30 days. They were composed with the intention of helping the retreatant to discern Jesus in his life, leading then to a personal commitment to follow it.

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The New Missionary

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Proclaiming Christ's message in daring and disputed ways

In Zaïre, Lester Green, 45, a Protestant missionary, climbs out of his Land Rover near the village of Lolwa, deep inside the Ituri rainforest. In fluent Ki-Swahili, he asks where he might find the Walese Pygmy tribes. Soon a guide is hacking his way through the dense undergrowth. Green follows, Bible in hand.

In Botswana, Randy Ewert, 25, and his wife Roxie, 24, American Mennonites, camp under canvas for days at a time while crossing the forbidding Kalahari Desert, bringing modern farming methods to impoverished nomadic Bushmen.

In Nepal, Milwaukee-born Father John Dahlheimer, 57, a Jesuit missionary, counsels refugees fleeing Tibet in search of religious freedom. Though he and the 366 other Christian workers in this officially Hindu land obey the law against proselytizing, their example has inspired more than 3,000 Nepalese to convert since 1954.

In the Philippines, Father Brian Gore of Perth, Australia, has been charged by the Marcos government with inciting rebellion and may be accused of murder as well. His defenders argue that the charges are trumped up: Gore's only crime was organizing community-action groups among the poor. Gore admits, "I cannot help fearing for my life."

In Nicaragua, Sister Rachel Pinal, 48, walks for hours through the precipitous mountains of Nueva Segovia to help the impoverished campesinos. She spends her nights sleeping alongside mangy dogs, chickens and pigs on the hard-packed clay floors of the shacks of peasants who take her in. Despite such hardships, says Sister Rachel, "we get involved in so many wonderful things that sometimes I cry myself to sleep from joy."

In a multitude of ways, these missionaries are all obeying the injunction of Jesus Christ: "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations" (Matthew 28:19). Their numbers include Roman Catholic priests in the Himalayas who wear the maroon robes of Buddhist monks. There are born-again Protestant bush pilots coming in on a wing and a prayer to land on narrow runways in the Amazonian and Indonesian jungles. They are seeking to spread the good news of Christ in a vast variety of situations: amid revolution and civil war in Central America; in parched, famine-haunted lands in Africa; in the forests of Southeast Asia, where the demons worshiped by animistic tribes are almost a palpable presence.

In all, there are an estimated 220,000 Christian missionaries at work in the world today: 138,000 Catholics and 82,000 Protestants, including more than 6,000 Catholics and 32,000 Protestants from the U.S. The new missionary typically works with the downtrodden and despised of societies in the far stretches of Africa or Latin America or in the vast highlands of Southeast Asia.

To commemorate the birth of Jesus, 250 Lisu tribesmen in Thailand's mountainous Chiang Rai province will assemble this week for three days of prayer and movies about Christ. In Sarawak, a Malaysian province on the island of Borneo, Dyak tribesmen one generation removed from head-hunting will gather in longhouses along the turbid Rajang River for caroling. Similar scenes will take place in impoverished villages in Guatemala, Brazil, Botswana and India. In many cases, the celebrations will be organized and guided by Western missionaries. Says Timothy Wyma, a Protestant who supervises nine New Tribes Mission outposts in the jungles of Bolivia: "To me, this is the only job in the world that is big enough. If you are looking for something that needs all you have, this is it."

The 19th century missionaries and their immediate successors have been attacked by historians and many Third World leaders for having served as spiritual agents of the colonizing powers, blithely destroying cultures as they sought to impose Western values as well as Christian doctrines on their converts. In a somewhat more muted form, that criticism is still heard today. Argentine Theologian José Miguez-Bonino, a member of the six-person presidency of the World Council of Churches, says, "The missionary enterprise of the past 150 years is interwoven with the expansion of economic, political and cultural influence of the Anglo-Saxon world, whether Catholic or Protestant. We from the Third World call this neocolonialism or imperialism."

Others wonder how long missionaries from the West will still be needed as thriving local churches in the Third World develop strong leadership. By the year 2000, demographers predict, Asia, Africa and Latin America will have three-fifths of the world's Christians, compared with 47% today. Protestant churches in the Third World now send out 15,000 missionaries of their own, including some to Europe and the U.S.

Along with the old disputes about spiritual imperialism or the propriety of seeking converts from other faiths, there is a continuing sharp debate over whether missionaries should be mainly savers of souls or workers trying to improve the daily lives of people. Among Protestants, there has been a shift toward greater involvement with the basic economic and social problems of the people the missionaries are trying to reach. The change is exemplified by the efforts of the Rev. Dan Schellenberg, who is trying to improve the farming techniques of the same Kenya tribes that his father evangelized. Schellenberg, who is with the biggest U.S. mission agency, the Southern Baptist Convention, says, "My father wouldn't approve of what I'm doing," and calls his father's methods of seeking converts "buttonholing for Jesus." Yet the younger Schellenberg remains an evangelist. When a hot day's work is done, he chats with farmer friends about the threat of evil spirits and the opportunity of gaining freedom through Jesus Christ.

The longstanding arguments about social action are now hitting Catholics full force, especially in Latin America. The new Catholic emphasis on service to the poor has its roots in the Second Vatican Council. The Rev. Simon Smith, head of the Jesuit missions sent from the U.S., argues that the sharing of Christian beliefs "has taken second place to being of service to human beings."

For an increasing number of Catholic missionaries, identification with the cause of the poor means advocacy of radical changes in political and economic systems—even if those changes are being spearheaded by Marxist revolutionary movements. Advocates of this so-called liberation theology are most visible in Nicaragua, where five priests, contrary to the Pope's directive against the clergy holding political office, are members of the Marxist-led Sandinista government.

The belief that missionaries should care as much about helping people improve their lives as about converting them to Christianity originated with the "mainline" Protestant denominations that constitute the National Council of Churches (N.C.C.). But this liberal Protestant view is a waning influence around the world. Reason: mainline churches believe that indigenous workers should be doing most of the spiritual tasks once performed by missionaries. Thus churches that belong to the N.C.C. now support only 2,813 career missionaries abroad, compared with 9,844 in 1953.

By contrast, Fundamentalists and Evangelicals—many of whom do belong to mainline churches—are supporting a missionary movement that since 1953 has tripled its number of workers abroad to more than 30,000. The Christian and Missionary Alliance, an evangelical denomination with 200,000 members, supports 40% more workers than does the United Methodist Church, which has 9.5 million adherents. The overseas staffs of conservative churches care as deeply as others about improving the lives of the people they work among, but their primary goal is to turn them into born-again Christians. The most important change in Protestant missionary strategy in the past ten years has been to identify and seek to contact some 16,000 tribes and social groups around the world that have been beyond the reach of Christianity.

Alan Foster, 35, and his wife Vickie, 29, live with their three children in Campamento Chimora, a frontier settlement hacked out of Bolivia's hellish rain forest. Foster, whose father was an evangelist, was sent by the New Tribes Mission to work with the Yuqui Indians. He is about to join a "contact team" that hopes to find three elusive Yuqui groups deep in the jungle. Such teams are often attacked by the tribesmen they are trying to reach. But for all the dangers of their task, the Fosters have developed a close rapport with Indians at the station. Says Vickie Foster: "They get so close to us, they become like family."

The burgeoning evangelical groups often post missionaries to foreign countries without waiting to be invited, while N.C.C. missionary boards stress close collaboration with Third World churches. Nonetheless, the conservatives are becoming far more sophisticated in anthropology and far more respectful of the peoples and cultures of other nations than they used to be. In Bolivia, evangelical missionaries even steeled themselves not to object to the custom of the Ayoré tribesmen of killing their firstborn and burying old people alive.

All missionaries, liberal or conservative, Catholic or Protestant, agree that one key goal is to develop self-sufficient indigenous churches, if only because they never know when political conditions will force foreign-born clerics to leave forever. Says the Rev. Joseph Kelly, an American missionary with the Holy Ghost Fathers who has worked in Tanzania and Kenya for 31 years: "Unlike people in the business world, who want to make themselves indispensable, the task of the missionary is to make himself unnecessary."

In contrast to their predecessors, the new missionaries agree that as much as possible, the preaching of the Gospel should be shorn of Western cultural trappings and adapted to the civilization of the people to whom it is offered. Instead of Christianizing Africa, so the policy runs, missionaries should help to Africanize Christianity.

The current buzz word used by Catholics for the process of adapting the Christian message to local traditions is "inculturation." The idea is not new. Four centuries ago, Father Matteo Ricci, a Jesuit missionary in China, tried to incorporate the Confucian reverence for ancestors into Catholic ritual. The Vatican quashed the experiment. Says one Catholic official in Rome who works with missionaries: "Inculturation is a difficult thing and sometimes I would say a dangerous thing. Leaving your own culture and adopting that of the people among whom you work may lead you to go too far, toward animism perhaps." At the moment, the first black archbishop in Zambia, Emmanuel Milingo, is in Rome for a period of "reflection" because he carried on a ministry of exorcism and faith healing, complete with such tribal accoutrements as fly whisks and animal skins.

The new sensitivity toward local cultures has led even conservative Protestants to treat tribal religion with respect. Missionaries try to banish belief in, and fear of, evil spirits; yet they also plumb the animist religions for concepts of eternal life or of a remote "high god" or primordial creator that might be used to inspire belief in the one God of the Bible. After all, the missionaries point out, Christmas was originally a pagan rite that ancient preachers turned to good advantage.

Indeed, there are missionaries who believe that conversion is fundamentally irrelevant to their true task. Says Father Walbert Buhlmann, the Rome-based mission secretary of the Order of Friars Minor Capuchin: "In the past, we had the so-called motive of saving souls. We were convinced that if not baptized, people in the masses would go to hell. Now, thanks be to God, we believe that all people and all religions are already living in the grace and love of God and will be saved by God's mercy."

The Christian churches may differ in doctrine and in their basic convictions about what mission work is all about, but one factor tends to unite liberals and conservatives, Protestants and Catholics: they are all reaching out to the poor. By and large, the unevangelized populations of the world are those stricken by poverty and threatened by rapid change in their societies. All these conflicting patterns and tensions converge in Latin America, which has more U.S. missionaries than any other part of the world: some 9,250 Protestants and 2,180 Catholics. With a few notable exceptions, Catholic missionaries in the 17th and 18th centuries preached subservience to Spanish and Portuguese rule, while promising the natives a better life in the hereafter. Protestant missionaries, who began arriving in force in the 19th century, condemned the rich Catholic landowners and military elites, and were severely persecuted. As recently as the decade ending in 1958, there were 126 Protestants killed, 279 schools closed and 60 churches destroyed in Colombia alone. After Pope John XXIII took office in 1958, attacks on Latin America's Protestants abated. Today, by contrast, Catholic missionaries have strongly aligned themselves with the poor, encouraging them to fight for social justice. Pope John Paul II has supported his priests in this cause, as long as they do not become directly engaged in politics. Some Protestant missionaries share the radical views of the Catholic activists. But a majority of the evangelical and fundamentalist missionaries either sympathize with rightist regimes or accept the status quo and insist that spiritual conversion, not political action, is the true work of the Lord.

Because they defied the authorities, two French Catholic missionaries languished last week in federal police headquarters in Brasilia, the capital of Brazil, while they appealed eight-and ten-year sentences for alleged "incitement to kill." Father Aristides Camio, 41, and Father François Guriou, 40, got into trouble in the jungles of the Amazon basin by advising the impoverished natives that, under the law, they had a claim on land in a rain forest. When the natives hacked out villages, clearing the tangle of trees with machetes, they were attacked by gun squads hired by absentee owners of the forests. According to the priests, 47 people died in the skirmishes.

On Aug. 13, 1981, the squatters, as the government calls them, killed one of the gunmen and wounded four federal agents. Though the two priests were not involved, police burst into their rectory and arrested them on the charge that their sermons the previous Sunday had stirred up the rebellion. The two fathers deny the accusations; their defense lawyers say that police used torture to persuade nine peasants to testify against the two men. The priests are warmly remembered back in the jungle. Says Josias de Silva, 37, the head of one of 36 families guarding their makeshift village in the rain forest: "Father Aristides showed us the church is on the side of the poor."

In Guatemala, the Catholic hierarchy remains staunchly conservative. Mario Cardinal Casariego, the Archbishop of Guatemala City, says he knows of no murdered clergy in his country (there have been at least ten, according to most accounts). Says the Cardinal: "If you mix in politics, you get what you deserve." Although Guatemala is desperately short of priests, Casariego wants troublesome missionaries to leave. The Cardinal is equally perturbed by the growth of Protestant churches, which now claim 21% of the population, including the head of the government, General Efraín Ríos Montt. The general, whose brother is a Catholic bishop, is a born-again Christian who found his new faith in 1978 at a tent church run by Pentecostals from California. Some of the evangelists were converts from the drug culture.

When Ray Elliott, 50, and his wife Helen, 56, came to Guatemala in 1953, Protestants were a scorned and despised minority. After arriving in the remote village of Nebaj, nestled in a steep valley 165 miles northwest of Guatemala City, the Elliotts learned that a priest was warning the people that Protestants were devils and kidnapers who should be refused all goods and supplies. To this day, Helen Elliott has trouble acknowledging Catholics as fellow Christians.

The young couple, who had been high-school sweethearts in Independence, Kans., settled with their three children into a two-room dirt-floor sharecropper's cabin. The Elliotts had been sent to Guatemala by the Wycliffe Bible Translators of Huntington Beach, Calif., who dispatch teams around the world to create the first written form of languages or dialects that exist only in a spoken form. Experts then translate the New Testament into the language—in the Elliotts' case, a difficult Indian tongue called Ixil.

The Elliotts faced stony opposition for two years. Then, one day, there was an explosion in a storehouse for firecrackers, which the Ixil tribesmen used to get the attention of gods to whom they offered sacrifices. Two boys were horribly burned. By the time Helen arrived on the scene, neighbors had already plastered the burns with a mixture of lime, wood ash and motor oil.

Helen, who had had no medical training, gave the boys morphine and antibiotic injections, picked off the goo and seared flesh, wrapped the victims in sheets sterilized in a pressure cooker, and forced them to drink eggnog through straws (all the water was contaminated). When Helen returned after putting her own children to bed, she discovered that a witch doctor had ripped off the bandages and was rubbing hot pepper on the wounds, invoking Christian saints and Mayan deities, all the while drinking rum. In a scene reminiscent of Elijah confronting the prophets of Baal, Helen told the parents that they must choose between her treatment and the witch doctor's.

The parents chose Helen. As the boys hovered near death, she prayed as never before. "This was a chance for people to experience the living Gospel," she recalls. But, she adds, "my family's lives were at stake." The boys survived and Helen was so besieged by the sick that she soon became the village's practical nurse, delivering hundreds of babies, suturing hundreds of wounds. The Ixils began to accept the Elliotts as prophets of a loving god.

The crisis also produced a breakthrough in Ray's torturous translation struggle. An Indian woman, marveling at Helen's treatment of the boys, used a word they had never heard: shum, which means giving without receiving anything in return. This was the word Ray needed to translate "love" into Ixil.

The Elliotts suffered through typhoid fever, malaria and amoebic dysentery. But their most wrenching experience was the loss last year of their home. Left-wing guerrilla activity around Nebaj got so heavy, says Ray, that "our presence was endangering our friends." Along with all Catholic missionaries, they had to pull out of the war zone.

Operating from a house trailer in Guatemala City, the Elliotts now work to get shipments of roofing, food, blankets, clean water and medical supplies for their village. Every few days the Elliotts board a cargo flight to Nebaj, where 10,000 refugees, many burned out of their homes, huddle in camps. The planes land, amid bursts of guerrilla fire, and are immediately surrounded by the Elliotts' Ixil friends. Helen's eyes mist over. "Nebaj is the home of our children," she says. "Now most of the people understand the word of God because of Ray's work." Latin America has been nominally Catholic for centuries, and most of its nations won their independence in the 19th century. Both Christianity and statehood, however, are relatively new to black Africa.

Protestant and Catholic mission schools were responsible for training many leaders of the 38 new nations on the continent that have gained their independence since 1956. For missionaries in what is now Zimbabwe, the civil war that ended in 1979 brought death and harassment from both sides.

Father Mark Hackett, 46, a Catholic priest from Britain, recalls that black guerrillas opposed the missions as relics of the colonial past. On the other hand, government troops threatened to kill Hackett for harboring rebels. The suspicions were correct. Black guerrillas appeared almost nightly at Hackett's mission hospital in Makumbi, and, he says, "we never turned anyone away who needed help." One guerrilla was saved when hospital workers disguised him as a pregnant woman. Unlike many of their Latin American colleagues, foreign missionaries in Africa today generally steer clear of politics. The reason: even vague criticism of sensitive black regimes can result in deportation within 24 hours.

Most missionaries are also Most missionaries are also careful to avoid offending the sensibilities of the increasingly successful black churches that are independent of Western denominations and missions. The largest of these is the Kimbanguist church in Zaïre, which has 3.5 million members. There are more than 6,700 independent denominations in Africa with a total membership of 30 million. Some are highly orthodox in doctrine, while others incorporate tribal rites in their services and even accept polygamists in church offices. These growing black churches are sending out missionaries of their own. Among them is Ken Okeke, a Nigerian Anglican who works with his countrymen studying in England. Okeke is dismayed by what he finds in the nation that first evangelized his homeland: "This country has become more and more apostate."

For all the vigor of the black churches, there is still a role in Africa for traditional missionaries with skills and tact. One is Alfred Merriweather, 63, a physician sent in 1944 by the United Free Church of Scotland to run the Livingstone Mission at Molepolole, Botswana; the center is named for David Livingstone, the famed 19th century Scottish missionary and explorer. Merriweather has seen massive changes over four decades. "On reflection, we made many mistakes. When I joined the mission service, my immediate senior banned traditional tribal dancing as being heathen. Today no one would dream of denying the local people their traditions. We do, however, have to battle even now, as in the past, against witch doctors and so-called healers who kill as often as they cure."

At the lonely bush hospital, Merriweather had to contend with ailments brought from the outside world, such as tuberculosis and syphilis, as well as malnutrition, leprosy, maulings by lions or a scalp fungus caused by a lack of washing. In the cruel Kalahari Desert, explains the doctor, "water, if you find it, is for drinking, not washing." As an ordained clergyman, Merriweather also performed funeral services for patients who died.

The Molepolole hospital is now operated by the Botswana government, and Merriweather has become the senior medical officer at Princess Marina Hospital in the country's capital, Gaborone. He was crippled in a 1971 auto crash that killed his first wife and almost ended his medical career. Walking with a limp and in some pain, he still makes his hospital rounds. A Commander of the British Empire, the unassuming doctor was elected the first speaker of the National Assembly when Botswana won its independence in 1966, a rare honor for a white.

In addition to his demanding hospital schedule, Merriweather continues to conduct weekly services in the hinterlands. His second wife Mary does the packing and often drives their Land Rover. One recent Sunday in the village of Kumkwane, members of the Bakwena tribe proudly presented 15 babies to be baptized by their esteemed guest. After the goats were cleared from the church, Merriweather preached, in impeccable Setswana, of God's love and read Scriptures translated into the local dialect by Robert Moffat, Livingstone's father-in-law. Meanwhile, Merriweather's wife taught Sunday school to the children.

The Merriweathers have a three-year-old adopted daughter named Mpho, which means "gift." Her mother came to the hospital desperately ill and about to deliver a baby. Merriweather saved both. Then, he explains, "the grateful mother could think of no better gift for us than the baby. It may seem unconventional in Western terms, but believe me, this is a long way from the West. So we accepted Mpho as a gift from God, and that is what she has been to us ever since.

"I came to Botswana to heal and to teach and to give," says Merriweather, who has no plans to retire. "I find that I also learn and receive. I learn patience and I see how to endure and receive affection and trust. In those needy eyes of the Bakwena, I see the eyes of Christ, and I know that as I serve them I serve him who said, 'Inasmuch as you have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, you have done it unto me.' "

In contrast to black Africa, where Christianity may well become the majority religion by the year 2000, post-colonial Asia is an area where Christians constitute a mere 4.4% of the population. Although most Muslim and Communist lands forbid proselytizing, missionaries have been able to seize surprising opportunities in Asia, particularly among remote adherents of tribal religions. Consider the extraordinary odyssey of one Oklahoma family: J. Russell Morse, his sons Eugene and Robert, and the eight of their twelve children who are now third-generation missionaries.

They are sponsored by the Christian Churches, a loose confederation of conservative Protestant congregations. The Morses are among the leading missionaries in Asia. Because of their efforts, 120,000 Asian adults are Christians.

J. Russell Morse went to Tibet in 1921. He was nearly killed by feuding warlords, and moved into a mountainous area of China near the Burmese border. Ordered by the U.S. consul to leave the region during an outbreak of civil war in 1927, the family made a 70-day trek through snowcapped mountains and malarial forests into Burma. The Morses eventually returned to work again in Yunnan, a remote region of China where cannibals roamed, Tibetan bandits burned villages, and the chief trade with the outside world was carried on by opium dealers. The nearest hospital was four weeks away by foot.

Between 1927 and 1937, Morse established some 30 churches and baptized 2,000 converts. Evacuated to Burma again during World War II, Morse advised the Allies to use a different and safer air route to fly the "Hump" over the Himalayas to Kunming. Meanwhile, young Robert organized tribes to assist airmen who crashed. The family returned to China for a third postwar tour; Eugene was imprisoned briefly in 1949, after the Communists seized power, and his father was held in solitary confinement and tortured for more than 15 months. The family remained undaunted. Says Robert: "A missionary with a martyr complex is useless."

Starting over in the Kachin village of Muladi in northern Burma, the Morses and several thousand converts who followed them out of China gradually created one of Burma's most prosperous areas and one that became 90% Christian. "We wanted to show what Christians working together could achieve," says Eugene Morse. In a valley where there had only been jungle, 35,000 members of the nomadic Lisu and Rawang tribes created 30 villages. Malaria was virtually wiped out.

The Morses were uprooted yet again in December 1965, this time by soldiers of Socialist Dictator Ne Win. The night the order came, 600 Lisu packed the thatch-roofed church to hear the family patriarch, then 67, read from Matthew 10: 23: "When they persecute you in one town, flee for the next; for truly, I say to you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the son of man comes."

After leaving their homes, the Morses and thousands of Kachin refugees created yet another Christian Utopia in an uninhabited valley near Burma's border with India. In 1972, the missionaries were ordered out of Burma for good. They settled in the city of Chiang Mai in northern Thailand for the eighth phase of the family's career. Robert, 59, is a teacher and linguist, and Eugene, 61, organizes evangelists to reach the 13,000 of the brightly costumed Lisu people within Thailand. Eight of the brothers' twelve children are missionaries in Thailand; the other four are studying in the U.S. Next month, J. Russell Morse plans to leave Oklahoma and come back to help the clan. He is 84.

Leon Dillinger has had similar success in another obscure corner of Asia: the interior of Irian Jaya (formerly Dutch New Guinea and now part of Indonesia). Dillinger, 51, and wife Lorraine, 48, work among Dani tribesmen cut off from the outside world by crocodile-infested, malarial lowlands and mountain ranges that soar to 13,000 ft. It is against Indonesian law to convert any person who already has a religion, and 88% of the country is Muslim. But the government does allow Christian missionary work, Minister for Religious Affairs Haji Alamajah Ratuprawiranegara acknowledged to TIME, "as long as it is only aimed at the animists." When Dillinger arrived 24 years ago, he remembers, "every aspect of the Dani world had spirits: the mountains, the gardens, the trees. The people lived in constant fear and dread." The oppressive atmosphere also bred wars between tribes. "That was the hardest part for me," says Lorraine, "watching them kill each other before we could teach them the Gospel."

Then the Dillingers went to work to convert tribesmen who relied on charms and fetishes to fight the evil spirits. Lorraine, a nurse, used penicillin to cure yaws and iodine to treat goiters. The medical treatment and the Dillingers' radio seemed miracles to members of the Stone Age tribe: they thought the disembodied voices belonged to their ancestors.

In 1960, when the couple lived in a grass hut in the village of Kelila, the tribal chief surprised them one day by coming to say, "As long as we have our fetishes, we are not ready to hear God." About 5,000 Danis brought charms and spirit paraphernalia to throw onto a bonfire. Recalls Dillinger: "The men shouted for joy, and people ran up and down, so happy were they to be free of those things. It couldn't have been noisier if U.C.L.A. were playing U.S.C." Tribal bloodshed ceased, the fear of spirits abated, and gradually more than 100,000 of the Danis became Christians.

The Dillingers trained local preachers from the first wave of converts, and Leon established the Dani Bible Institute, which now graduates 75 preachers a year. Says he: "Our greatest success is to work our way out of a job. In all developing countries, the goal should be to teach people to be self-reliant and not to rely on the big white Santa Claus."

One day recently the Dillingers stood in a mountain pasture greeting hundreds of nearly naked black Dani tribesmen and women who had gathered for a traditional pig feast. The two missionaries seemed as much at ease as they would be at a church potluck supper in Leon's home town of Souderton, Pa. Leon chatted with the last man in the village to accept Christianity: the son of the sorcerer. Lorraine sampled food that a Dani woman had just pulled from the braising pit hollowed out of the ground for the occasion.

The Dillingers, who represent the Unevangelized Fields Mission, a conservative Protestant agency, have helped the Danis make Christianity their own by blending it with local customs and practices. At worship, Danis use sweet potatoes and raspberry juice instead of bread and wine for Communion, and sing hymns they have written themselves.

The missionaries even allow male converts who have more than one wife to retain their spouses. The Dillingers reason that to banish all but the first wife would disrupt the tribal culture and cause prostitution. Unmarried converts, however, may take only one wife after joining the church.

Each year brings new delights and surprises for the Dillingers. Last December, it was the Christmas pageant in costume, staged by the Danis. As the drama proceeded, it became clear that the tribespeople were portraying not the Nativity in Bethlehem but Christ's Crucifixion, complete with catsup for blood. When it was over, a Dani chief explained, "Why not? Jesus was born to die for us on the Cross, so it's all the same thing." The Dillingers understood. It is difficult not to admire the zeal of the Dillingers and thousands of other missionaries who have dedicated their lives to the selfless yet ultimately self-fulfilling task of spreading Christ's word throughout the world. Nonetheless, despite their awareness of the religious arrogance of older missionaries, and their sensitivity to the customs and rituals of the peoples they serve, questions remain as to whether the spiritual good they do is not balanced, in part, by social and cultural harm. In the Irian Jaya village of Mulia, for example, schools set up by the missionaries threaten a complex family structure that developed over the course of centuries. The children no longer can help their mothers work in the gardens and the rise in monogamy adds to the wives' labor.

As a result, some overburdened women are dying young. The introduction of Western agricultural techniques has also undermined the self-esteem of the Danis: the missionaries can raise superior crops and 300-lb. pigs, five times as large as those the tribes were producing. Says Bob Lehnhart, an official of the Mission Aviation Fellowship, which flies supplies into the Indonesian jungles: "Suddenly the people are feeling that they must throw out everything from the past and learn everything new." In rebuttal, missionaries argue that evolution toward modern ways is inevitable and that they can buffer the struggles more humanely for the tribes than would land and mineral developers.

Try as they might to blend with the local population and to adapt the Christian message to their ways, the visitors inevitably bring Western values with them. For instance, missionaries in Asia expect newly baptized Christians to take personal blame for their actions; that is not an easy lesson for people raised in neo-Confucian societies that emphasize group responsibility. New Christians, whose cultures have taught them to mask emotions or express them indirectly, have difficulty accepting the evangelical emphasis on a public affirmation of faith.

The new ways and the old often mix badly. The faith of some recently established congregations in rural Thailand tends to waver if prayers go unanswered. At the Ban Ti Christian Church north of Lamphun, a large blackboard hangs on the wall behind the pulpit. Prayers for rain, a speedy harvest and painless cures for various maladies are recorded every Sunday, then checked off the following week against the results.

This kind of pragmatic approach to Christianity does not surprise Rubem Alvez, one of Brazil's leading liberal Protestant thinkers. He argues that missionaries from the West, and especially from the U.S., bring with them an implicit promise: "Be converted to Protestantism, and you will become like the affluent nations of the world."

Among non-Christians, the most serious criticism of missionaries is that, just as in the past, they are changing religious ways of life for whole societies. Says Saeng Channgarm, a professor at Chiang Mai University in Thailand, a Buddhist and a respected analyst of his society: "Even though we are very much Westernized nowadays, our Buddhist culture keeps us uniquely Thai. When a Thai becomes Christian, the country loses a unit of its spiritual power. If the entire country became Christian, it would no longer be Thailand."

In their defense, conservative Protestants acknowledge they are trying to win converts, but say they are simply offering a choice, and point out that those who change their religions do so freely and happily. The Morses, for example, have never put pressure to convert on students who stay at their hostel in Chiang Mai. "By the time they leave," says young Bob Morse, "they know what the Bible says and can make their own decision."

Sweeping the debate over conversions aside, the Rev. Willie Cilliers, secretary for missions of the black Dutch Reformed Church in South Africa, argues that the true role of the missionary is simply to reach out to the poor, in imitation of Jesus. Says he: "We have a message to proclaim: that from a Christian perspective it is the weak in society who have the first priority. That is what the Christian message is about—reaching out to the weak."

It is 4:30 a.m. in Cairo when Sister Emmanuelle, 74, awakens in her hut with its dirt floor and gaping hole in the roof. After washing in a bucket, she sets out on a two-mile walk to attend Mass at the nearest church. She is clad in a white smock and a necklace with a silver cross. Her route takes her through mounds of fetid garbage, rotting produce and broken glass. The tiny figure wards off snarling dogs in the darkness with a dart of light from a battered flashlight.

The Belgian-born nun, whose very name bespeaks Christmas, is the only missionary among the 10,000 garbage pickers of the Egyptian capital. They are untouchables who live in what amounts to perpetual serfdom, bequeathing their trade and squalor to succeeding generations. The garbage pickers stay alive by sorting through the refuse that is hauled out from the city in creaking donkey carts. The ragged men and women save the bottles and tin cans to be sold, and feed the slop to the pigs who live with them. Infant mortality in the community is an appalling 40%.

At 9 o'clock Sister Emmanuelle welcomes 40 youngsters who attend school at her hut. She is distressed that ten students are absent; undoubtedly they are out working with their parents in the garbage heap. She will visit them later that day with lessons. In this environment of waste and disease, where she has worked for ten years, Sister Emmanuelle endlessly preaches the need for cleanliness, and the children at school are neatly dressed.

As the lesson goes on, she speaks to the children in Arabic in a voice that almost sings. Each faltering step toward literacy is rewarded with a smile from the nun and a hearty shout of "Bravo!" or a piece of candy.

Then Sister Emmanuelle turns to Bible stories and prayers with students who are Coptic Christians; the Muslim ones depart. "Today we don't talk about conversion any more," she explains. "We talk about being friends. My job is to prove that God is love, to bring courage to these people."

Waving aside the flies that fill the air in enormous clouds, Sister Emmanuelle spends hours visiting her flock, carrying a ledger in which she has meticulously written down the names and needs of 3,000 families. But her gentleness turns to steel when she browbeats bureaucrats or bankers to help the garbage pickers. She envisions motorized vehicles to replace the dilapidated donkey carts. She wants to replace pickers' filthy garments with clean uniforms and to pen the pigs instead of allowing them to roam in and out of homes. Says she: "It will cost money, but it won't be expensive. I want to prove it's possible to be a clean and dignified garbage collector, and slowly, slowly, we will do it. With God, everything is possible."

In her life and actions among the garbage pickers, the nun epitomizes the best in today's new missionary. "I'm not interested in going to those convents where old nuns spend their last days," she reflects. "I want to remain here doing what I'm doing until the day I die. I wouldn't want to be anywhere else because here I feel I am giving the life of Jesus Christ to the children." The final gift to mankind of Sister Emmanuelle, and thousands of missionaries like her, is themselves.

— By RichardN. Ostling. Reported by Dean Brelis/Middle East and South Asia, Sandra Burton and David DeVoss/Asia, Peter Hawthorne and Alistair Matheson/Africa and James Wilde/Latin America

Source: TIME

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Saturday, August 28, 2010

Who Wrote The Bible?

This is a documentary by the History Channel.

The above is Part 1.

Watch Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9, Part 10, Part 11, and Part 12.

Also watch Banned From The Bible and The Lost Gospels.

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Thursday, August 26, 2010

Jeb Bush

John Ellis "Jeb" Bush was the 43rd Governor of Florida from 1999 to 2007. He is a prominent member of the Bush family: the younger brother of former President George W. Bush and the second son of former President George H. W. Bush and former First Lady Barbara Bush.

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Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Peter Lynch

Peter Lynch is one of world's most renowned Wall Street stock investor. Lynch graduated from Boston College in 1965 and earned a Master of Business Administration from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania in 1968.

Peter Lynch managed the Fidelity Magellan Fund from 1977 to 1990, during which time the fund's assets grew from $20 million to $14 billion. More importantly, Lynch reportedly beat the S&P 500 Index benchmark in 11 of those 13 years, achieving an annual average return of 29%.

He is considered one of the greatest investors in the world.

Peter Lynch, a Catholic, is also President Emeritus of The Catholic Schools Foundation, Inc.

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Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Veni Sancte Spiritus

Veni Sancte Spiritus means Come Holy Spirit.

This is one of my favorite hymns.

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Sunday, August 22, 2010

Christianity In China

A new generation of Chinese is learning that there's more to life than making money. Chinese Christians are risking arrest to practice their faith. They tell Barry Petersen why. (

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Know Satan's Tactics

They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony. —Revelation 12:11

If we are going to do spiritual warfare, then we need to know Satan's tactics in order to overcome them. Satan is out to deceive. Revelation 12:9 describes him as "that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world" (KJV).

How does he set about his deception? In 2 Corinthians 11:14, Satan is called "an angel of light," which means that he uses apparently respectable means and people to deceive us. He tries to lure us away from the truth and towards the counterfeit. Paul says: "For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with him" (2 Cor. 11:4, KJV).

Satan is out to demoralize: "Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night" (Rev. 12:10, KJV).

How does Satan accuse? Sometimes he tells us that we are not saved. Or if he can't succeed with that, he tries to convince us that God has finished with us and that we are irreparably out of His will. Nothing is more demoralizing to a Christian than this. But let me give you a rule of thumb here: all oppression is of the devil.

Another method of accusing and demoralizing us is to tell us that we are not fit to worship God as we are. The devil reminds us of some weakness or failing in our life, and he says, "You must get that right before you can worship God. You're not in a fit state to do anything." He tries to get in during the week, and if he fails there, he tries on Sunday morning. If we lose our temper or give in to some other weakness, he says to us, "You see, you're not fit." But God never says that.

So what are we to do in the face of Satan's strategies? The answer is that we must refuse to give place to him. We must realize that Satan's strategy is aimed to produce one thing—a grieved Holy Spirit. That is all he wants. And if he achieves that, then he has won.

Excerpted from Worshipping God (Hodder & Stoughton, 2004).

Source: Charisma Magazine

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Catholic Devotions

This was the poll I did last year through twtpoll on Catholic Devotions. The question was:

There are thousands of Catholic Devotions. Which is your favorite Catholic Devotion ?

These are the results from the 65 people who voted:

(click to enlarge)

Here is a list of prayers, novenas and devotions.

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Skateboarding Priest Becomes YouTube Hit

The Reverend Zoltan Lendvai, 45, who lives and preaches in Redics, a small village on Hungary's border with Slovenia, believes skateboarding can open the way to God for young people.

The video of him in action, Funny Priest Skateboarding, has so far attracted close to 170,000 hits and now also has a music version.

Read more here.

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Saturday, August 21, 2010

Exorcism And The Church Militant

In this book Fr. Thomas J. Euteneuer explains in detail the origin of exorcism, its place in the Church, the working of Satan and his demons, discernment, how an exorcism is conducted, the aspects of healing, deliverance, and much more. He also addresses how spirits interact, can one evil spirit enhance the power of another and how do we tell if they are there and how to expel them.

Fr. John Corapi who wrote the foreword of this book says "The phenomenon of demonic possession is one of the most frightening realities of the fallen human condition—and one of the most misunderstood. For those who seek insight into this serious aspect of the Christian faith, Fr. Euteneuer, an exorcist who has performed numerous exorcisms as well as dozens of deliverances on afflicted persons, has compiled an in-depth compendium of the basic teachings about exorcism, which will give the reader an insider’s perspective on the Church’s warfare against the enemy of our souls."

Father Thomas J. Euteneuer is president of the pro-life organization Human Life International (HLI), a position he has held since December 2000 and an exorcist priest.

Watch his interview below on EWTN's "The World Over Live".

Part 1

Part 2

Read an interesting interview with Fr. Euteneuer about exorcism and demons here - Part 1 and Part 2

If you need help pertaining to cases of demonic possession or oppression, please contact a deliverance prayer group in your area listed in this worldwide directory.

Please post your comments.


Can You Live The Bible Literally ?

Author, philosopher, prankster and journalist A.J. Jacobs talks about the year he spent living biblically -- following the rules in the Bible as literally as possible.

Watch this video.

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Is God Real ?

Datuk Tony Tiah and his wife Alicia

The testimony of Datuk Tony Tiah. This is the testimony of how the Lord has touched him.Datuk Tony Tiah is the Executive Chairman of TA Enterprise Bhd, a multi-billion dollar company listed on the Bursa Malaysia (Kuala Lumpur Stock Exchange). He was formerly a member of the National Economic Action Council, Chair of the Association of Stock Brokers Malaysia and a Committee Member of the Bursa Malaysia. He holds a Masters in Business Management, and his God given purpose is to bring the reality of the Scriptures into the lives of businessmen. Datuk Tony - The 30th Richest Malaysian for the year 2008.

This has been a very inspiring video to me and to everyone I have recommended it to. I believe that God speaks to us in many different ways and He has a unique purpose for everyone. It is evident that His grace goes beyond any version of theology or attempted human interpretation thereof.

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The Dangers Of The Prosperity Gospel

Picture from Pris-tine Pondering

By Fr. Robert Barron

A few weeks ago, I came across an article in the Atlantic Monthly magazine, which bore the extraordinary title “Did Christianity Cause the Crash?”

I realize that much of the mainstream media is ready to blame Christianity for almost every societal ill, but this seemed a bit much. As I read through the article, it became plain that the culprit, in the author's mind, is the so-called "prosperity Gospel," the view propagated by quite a few extremely popular evangelists that material prosperity flows from the depth and quality of one's faith in God. His argument was that the willingness on the part of many Christians to risk their savings on questionable investments conduced toward the bursting of the housing bubble and the subsequent economic meltdown. Well, I'm not sure that that particular argument carries much weight, but I'll confess that the article piqued my interest in this influential theology.

In its American incarnation, the prosperity Gospel probably began with the theological speculations of the late evangelist Oral Roberts. Roberts encouraged his followers to "expect miracles" and to look forward with confidence to the ways in which God would reward them, materially and financially, for their trust in his providence. One of the most prominent prosperity gospellers on the scene today is Joel Osteen, the pastor of the largest church in America, best-selling author, and a former student at Oral Roberts University. He tells his millions of readers and listeners that they should not settle for mediocre lives; instead they should trust in the Lord's ability to give them the house that they desire, the job that they deserve, and children that will make them proud. A typical piece of Osteenian advice: "friend, you have to start believing that good things are coming your way and they will!" Other advocates of this position today include the very popular televangelists Joyce Meyer and T.D. Jakes.

To give the prosperity gospellers their due, there is some biblical warrant for their position. The book of Deuteronomy consistently promises Israel that, if it remains faithful to God's commands, it will receive numerous benefits in this world. The psalmist too assures us, "delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart." And Jesus himself counsels: "seek ye first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things (food, shelter, clothing, etc.) will be added unto you." And there is no doubt that the Bible consistently urges people to trust in the providence of God at all times. Jesus' reminder that the birds, who neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns but who are nevertheless fed by their heavenly Father, is a summation of the Scriptural confidence in God's care for those who have faith in him.

However, we must be attentive to the very subtle way that the Bible itself nuances and specifies these claims. The great counterpoise to the book of Deuteronomy is the book of Job, which tells the story of a thoroughly righteous man who, in one fell swoop, suffers the loss of all of his material prosperity. Job's friends, operating out of a standard Deuteronomistic (or prosperity Gospel) point of view, argue that he must have grievously offended God, but Job—and God himself—protest against this simplistic interpretation. The deepest reason for Job's suffering, we learn, is lost in the infinite abyss of God's permissive will and is by no means easily correlatable to Job's virtue or lack thereof. And Jesus himself, the very archetype of the faithful Israelite, experiences not earthly prosperity, but a life of simplicity and death on a brutal instrument of torture. If Joel Osteen and Oral Roberts were right, we would expect Jesus to have been the richest man in Nazareth and a darling of Jerusalem high society.

The resolution of this issue turns on a distinction between a conventional understanding and a divine understanding of the successful life. Deuteronomy is indeed right when it says that "prosperity" will follow from obedience to God's will, but the prosperity in question is spiritual flourishing, and not necessarily worldly success. Obeying the divine commands does indeed lead to the right ordering of the self, and therefore to an increase in joy, even if that very obedience leads, in worldly terms, to abject suffering or failure. St. Thomas More followed the voice of his conscience and this led to the loss of his home, his family, his considerable fortune, his high political status, and eventually his life. But he died, spiritually speaking, a successful man, a saint. St. Thomas Aquinas endeavored to answer a question that many of us ask: why do the wicked often prosper and the righteous suffer? Thomas turned the question on its head by introducing the wider context of God's purposes. Perhaps, he suggested, the good person who is deprived of material goods is actually being rewarded, since that deprivation opens him more and more to the spiritual dimension; and perhaps the wicked person who has every worldly benefit is actually being punished, since those material preoccupations close him to the only good that finally matters.

So embrace the prosperity Gospel, as long as you construe prosperity along properly Gospel lines. Following God's will, abandoning yourself to the divine providence, will indeed give you treasure in heaven, but don't expect it necessarily to give you treasure on earth.

Source: The Integrated Catholic Life

Prosperity gospel or theology (also known as prosperity doctrine or the health and wealth gospel) is a Christian theology followed by millions of Christians centered on the belief that God provides material prosperity for those he favors.

It has been defined by the belief that "Jesus blesses believers with riches" or more specifically as the teaching that "believers have a right to the blessings of health and wealth and that they can obtain these blessings through positive confessions of faith and the 'sowing of seeds' through the faithful payments of tithes and offerings."

Prosperity gospel is not a clearly defined denomination, but a theological belief that it held by charismatic or pentecostal churches and a large number of mainstream evangelical churches.

It has its roots in the United States after World War II evangelised by Oral Roberts and it became particularly popular in the 1990s. More recently, the theology has been exported to less prosperous areas of the world, with varying results.

Prosperity theology has been criticised by some in the Christian community as contrary to traditional biblical teachings, and more particularly as exploitative of its congregation.

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Friday, August 20, 2010


Edison "Edson" Arantes do Nascimento, best known by his nickname Pelé is a retired Brazilian football player. He is widely regarded by polls among football experts, former players and fans as the greatest footballer of all time. In his career he scored 760 official goals, 541 in league championships, making him the top scorer of all time. In total he scored 1281 goals in 1363 games.

Pelé, a Roman Catholic, has had audiences with most of the popes since Pius XII.

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Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Dangers Of The Paranormal

Fr. Andrew Calder is an ordained priest with the CEEC, the Communion of Evangelical Episcopal Churches, with full authorization and dispensation by his Bishop and Archbishop to perform exorcisms and deliverances.

He has been involved as a paranormal researcher for over 13 years.

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Montecassino Abbey

Deo Gratias,Montecassino (also spelled Monte Cassino), a small town about 80 miles south of Rome, is the home of the sacred relics and monastery of St. Benedict (480-543), the patron saint of Europe and the founder of western monasticism.
Since its founding by St. Benedict in 529 AD, Montecassino Monastery has had a troubled history, suffering from repeated attacks, pillage, and natural disasters. Most recently, it was the site of a terrible battle during World War II that resulted in great loss of life and complete destruction of the monastic buildings.

Despite its significant and frequent setbacks, the monastery has always been rebuilt and the relics of Saints Benedict and Scholastica have survived through all the turmoil. The building that stands today was constructed after 1944 using the old plans.

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Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Incorrupt Body St Vincent De Paul

Bolstered poor and impoverished nobles, was the sovereign counsel, defended the Church against the heresies of the time

In 1633, he founded the Daughters of Charity, made up of women united by votes, but without being religious. It was the beginning of a work which provided relief to millions of needy worldwide.

"The Church - he said - is going to ruin in many places because of the bad life of priests, they are to lose it and destroy."

Most of the nobles of Lorraine had emigrated to avoid starvation, their misery was the worst because they dared not extend his hand. No one to help them, because they were not seen as needy. St. Vincent became aware of this situation, and bailed. Commented that he felt great pleasure in this, because it was justice that assist and relieve poor nobility, to honor our Lord, who was very noble and very poor at the same time

Nobody served the King with more fidelity, and the ecclesiastical hierarchy with more respect, than the simple Fr Vincent. Possessed all the qualities that characterize a man of action: initiative, daring, organizational genius, prudence, wisdom, selflessness, patience and persistence. Its practicality and thorough and weighed the pros and cons, both in whole and in details. When entering a path, not stopping, not looking backward, not destroyed in one day what he had built the day before, nothing made him retreat.

Died on September 27, 1660. In 1737, 27 cardinals, hundreds of prelates, the King of England, the Roman nobility and ambassadors attended the solemn canonization of St. Vincent de Paul, in the pontificate of Clement XII.

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Thursday, August 12, 2010

Life With God

Richard Foster, the best selling Christian author, encourages us not only to read the bible but to be transformed by it and live it.

The Bible is all about human life “with God”. It is about how God has made this “with” life possible and will bring it to pass. In fact, the name Immanuel, meaning “God is with us”, is the title given to the one and only Redeemer because it refers to God’s everlasting intent for human life – namely, that we should be in every aspect a dwelling place of God. Indeed, the unity of the Bible is discovered in the development of life with God as a reality on earth, centred in the person of Jesus. We might call this The Immanuel Principle of life.

This dynamic, pulsating, with-God life is on nearly every page of the Bible. To the point of redundancy we hear that God is with people: with Abraham, with Moses, with Esther, with David, with Isaiah and Jeremiah and Amos and Micah and Haggai and Malachi, with Mary, with Peter, with James and John, with Paul and Barnabas, with Priscilla and Aquila, with Lydia, Timothy, Epaphroditus, Phoebe, and a host of others too numerous to name. These varied stories form a mosaic illustrating how the “with” life works in all circumstances of human existence, both in specific historical periods and through all times. This mosaic suggests a beautiful design for the way in which we view the Scriptures. From Genesis to Revelation we learn that “The Immanuel Principle, is after all, a cosmic principle that God has used all along in creation and redemption. It alone serves to guide human life aright on earth now and even illuminates the future of the universe. It is the wellspring of the river of life flowing through the Bible, surging with the gracious word of God to all humankind – “I am with you”. This river pours into the thirsty wastelands of the human soul, inviting us to enter with its insistent call “Will you be with Me?” Now, once we decide to surrender freely to this river of life, we must learn how to see into the Divine life within the bible, and increasingly receive that Life as our own, not just for us but for the sake of the world God so loves.

Nurturing the Intention

God not only originated the Bible through human authorship; God remains with it always. It is God’s book. No one owns it but God. It is the loving heart of God made visible and plain. And receiving this message of exquisite love is the great privilege of all who long for life with God. Reading and studying and memorising and meditating upon Scripture have always been the foundation of the Christian Disciplines. All of the Disciplines are built upon Scripture. Our practice of the Spiritual Disciplines is kept on course by our immersion in Scripture. And so it is, we come to see, that this reading and studying and memorising and meditating is totally in the service of “the life that really is life” (1 Tim 6:19).

We long with all our hearts to know for ourselves this with-God kind of life that Jesus brings in all its fullness. And the Bible has been given to help us. God has so superintended the writing of Scripture that it serves as a most reliable guide for our own spiritual formation. But as in its authorship, so in its presentation to the world, God uses human action. So we must consider how we can ourselves come to the Bible and also how we can present it to all peoples in a way that does not destroy the soul but inducts it into the eternal kind of life.

We begin by opening our lives in Christian community to the influx of God’s life, and by experientially finding, day-to-day, how to let Jesus Christ live in every dimension of our being. We can gather regularly in little groups of two or more to encourage one another to discover the footprints of God in our daily existence and to venture out with God into areas where we have previously walked alone or not at all.

But the aim is not external conformity, whether to doctrine or deed, but the re-formation of the inner self – of the spiritual core, the place of thought and feeling, of will and character. “Behold” cries the psalmist, “you desire truth in the inward being, therefore teach me wisdom in my secret heart… create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me.” (Ps. 51:6, 10) It is the “inner person” that “is being renewed (renovare) day by day.” (2 Cor. 4.16)

While the many Christian traditions have differed over the details of spiritual formation, they all come out at the same place: the transformation of the person into Christlikeness. “spiritual formation” is the process of transforming the inner reality of the self (the inward being of the psalmist) in such a way that the overall life with God seen in the Bible naturally and freely comes to pass in us. Our inner world (the secret heart) becomes the home of Jesus, by his initiative and our response. As a result, our interior world becomes increasingly like the inner self of Jesus, and, therefore, the natural source of the words and deeds that are characteristic of him. By his enabling presence we come to “let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus” (Phil 2.5)

Reading with Understanding

In seeking to discover this with God life it is helpful to read the bible in four distinct ways.
First, we read the Bible literally. Reading from cover to cover, internalizing its life-giving message. By reading the whole of Scripture, we begin to apprehend its force and power. We enter into the original dynamics and drama of Scripture; struggling with Abraham over the offering up of the son of promise; puzzling with Job at the tragedies of life; rejoicing with Moses at Israel’s release from the house of bondage; weeping with Jeremiah “for the slain of my poor people” (Jer 9.11); bowing in awe with Mary at the messianic promise.

Second, we read the bible in context. This means allowing the way in which the author originally depicted life with God to establish the standard for understanding our life with God today. We read with a firm determination to discover the intent of the original author, and then allow that intent to control our comprehension of the passage. All this helps us grasp the way God continues to shape human life today.

Third, we read the Bible in conversation with itself. In other words, we seek to understand how the whole of Scripture gives structure and meaning to each of its parts. The unfolding drama of Scripture often raises puzzling questions that are resolved only when more obscure and difficult passages are held under the light of clearer more straightforward passages. In biblical interpretation, systematic passages interpret incidental passages, universal passages interpret local ones, didactic passages interpret symbolic ones. In this way the whole Bible guides us into a better understanding of its particular parts.

Fourth, Christians read the Bible in conversation with the historic witness of the People of God. The Church learned from the Synagogue that it is the community that reads the Bible. This, in part, is what we mean when we speak of “the communion of saints”. Christians throughout the centuries help us understand the nature of life with God and provide insight and discernment that enrich our own spiritual life. So we read the Bible in conversation with Origen and Jerome, Augustine of Hippo and Hildegard of Bingen, John Chrysostom and John Calvin, Martin Luther and Richard Baxter, Watchman Nee and Sundar Singh – and many others, including wise and mature interpreters of Scripture today. This corporate reading of the Bible illuminates for us the multifaceted way The Immanuel Principle is experienced in ordinary life. (Ed. note: for Roman Catholics, the Magisterium of the Church and Tradition would be part of our interpretation and understanding of the Scriptures.)

(extract from “Life with God” by Richard Foster, with Kathryn Helmers published by Hodders and Stoughton price £10.99 – available from Good News Books, 15 Barking Close, Luton, Beds LU4 9HG tel 01582 571011 or email toni(at) )


“The Word Made Flesh” by Eugene H Peterson (author of the Message) price £11.99 published by Hodder & Stoughton (available from October 2008)

Source: Good News


Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Martin Sheen

Ramón Antonio Gerardo Estévez, better known by his stage name Martin Sheen, is an American actor known for his performances as Kit Carruthers in Terrence Malick’s Badlands and Captain Willard in Francis Coppola’s Vietnam War epic Apocalypse Now.

Martin Sheen adopted his stage name in honor of the Catholic archbishop and theologian, Fulton J. Sheen.

Martin Sheen also has a great affinity for the University of Notre Dame and in 2008 was awarded the Laetare Medal, the highest honor bestowed on American Catholics, in May 2008 at the school's commencement.

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Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Late Thierry Henry

I particularly like this joke.

Fr. Rufus Pereira Vice-president Of The Association Of Exorcists

Father Rufus Pereira is a Roman Catholic priest and exorcist of Mumbai, India. He performs exorcisms worldwide and has been the catalyst in bringing lay people into the deliverance ministry and the Catholic church's closer cooperation with such groups.

In 1994 he was selected as Vice-president of the exclusive International Association of Exorcists which was started in 1993, and in 1995 initiated the International Association for the Ministry of Deliverance.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Latest: Fr Rufus Pereira died in the morning on Wednesday, 2 May 2012 due to cardiac arrest during sleep in London, UK. 

If you need help pertaining to cases of demonic possession or oppression, please contact a deliverance prayer group in your area listed in this worldwide directory.

Please post your comments.


The Saint Benedict Medal

by Taylor Marshall

I love the Saint Benedict Medal. I wear one around my neck and keep one on my Rosary. The medal is a sacramental recalling the the power of Christ and his Saint Benedict against the wiles of Satan. As you may know, the medal contains a number of exorcisms. Here they are.

The arms of the Saint Benedict Cross contain the initials of an exorcism rhyme: C S S M L - N D S M D

Crux sacra sit mihi lux!
Nunquam draco sit mihi dux!

The Holy Cross be my light;
Never the dragon be my guide.

In the corners of the Cross are the letters C S P B: Crux Sancti Patris Benedicti ("Cross of Holy Father Benedict").

Above the Cross is the word Pax ("Peace"), the Benedictine motto.

Surrounding the circumference of the medal are the initials to the words of another rhyming Latin exorcism: V R S N S M V - S M Q L I V B

Vade retro Satana!
Nunquam suade mihi vana!
Sunt mala quae libas.
Ipse venena bibas!

Get behind me, Satan!
Never suggest vanities to me!
Evil are the things you pour,
Drink your own poison!

Source: Canterbury Tales

The exact time and date of the making of the first St. Benedict Medal cannot be certain. But St. Vincent de Paul, who died in 1660, appears to have been acquainted with the Medal and the Sisters of Charity founded by him have worn it attached to their rosary beads, and for many years.

At some point there were letters found on the back of the medal. These remained a mystery until a manuscript dating back to 1415 was found at Metten Abbey in Bavaria in 1647, and the letters were found to correspond to the Vade retro satana (Step back Satan) phrase.

The medal was formally approved by Pope Benedict XIV in 1741 and the Jubliee medal was struck in 1880, in remembrance of the 1400th anniversary of St. Benedict’s birth. The initials of the Vade retro satana formula (VRSNSMV SMQLIVB or VRS:NSMV:SMQL:IVB) have been found on Saint Benedict Medals at least since 1780

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Thursday, August 5, 2010

Lord I Lift Your Name On High

"Lord I Lift Your Name on High" is a Christian worship song. It was written by Rick Founds in 1989. This is popular praise and worship in the Pentecostal and The Catholic Charismatic Renewal.

Please post your comments.

Saint Alphonsus Liguori's Maxims For Becoming A Saint

Maxims for the direction of a soul that desires to obtain perfection in the love of Jesus Christ.

by Saint Alphonsus Liguori

1. To desire ardently to increase in the love of Jesus Christ.

2. Often to make acts of love towards Jesus Christ. Immediately on waking, and before going to sleep, to make an act of love, seeking always to unite your own will to the will of Jesus Christ.

3. Often to meditate on his Passion.

4. Always to ask Jesus Christ for his love.

5. To communicate often, and many times in the day to make spiritual Communions.

6. Often to visit the Most Holy Sacrament.

7. Every morning to receive from the hands of Jesus Christ himself your own cross.

8. To desire Paradise and death, in order to be able to love Jesus Christ perfectly and for all eternity.

9. Often to speak of the love of Jesus Christ.

10. To accept contradictions for the sake of Jesus Christ.

11. To rejoice in the happiness of God.

12. To do that which is most pleasing to Jesus Christ, and not to refuse him anything that is agreeable to him.

13. To desire and to endeavor that all should love Jesus Christ.

14. To pray always for sinners and for the souls in purgatory.

15. To drive from your heart every affection that does not belong to Jesus Christ.

16. Always to have recourse to the most holy Mary, that she may obtain for us the love of Jesus Christ.

17. To honor Mary in order to please Jesus Christ.

18. To seek to please Jesus Christ in all your actions.

19. To offer yourself to Jesus Christ to suffer any pain for his love.

20 To be always determined to die rather than commit a willful venial sin.

21. To suffer crosses patiently, saying, "Thus it pleases Jesus Christ."

22. To renounce your own pleasures for the love of Jesus Christ.

23. To pray as much as possible.

24. To practice all the mortifications that obedience permits.

25. To do all your spiritual exercises as if it were for the last time.

26. To persevere in good works in the time of aridity.

27. Not to do nor yet to leave undone anything through human respect.

28. Not to complain in sickness.

29. To love solitude, to be able to converse alone with Jesus Christ.

30. To drive away melancholy.

37. Often to recommend yourself to those persons who love Jesus Christ.

32. In temptation, to have recourse to Jesus crucified, and to Mary in her sorrows.

33. To trust entirely in the Passion of Jesus Christ.

34. After committing a fault, not to be discouraged, but to repent and resolve to amend.

35. To do good to those who do evil.

36. To speak well of all, and to excuse the intention when you cannot defend the action.

37. To help your neighbor as much as you can.

38. Neither to say nor to do anything that might vex him. And if you have been wanting in charity, to ask his pardon and speak kindly to him.

39. Always to speak with mildness and in a low tone.

40. To offer to Jesus Christ all the contempt and persecution that you meet with.

41. To look upon [religious] Superiors as the representatives of Jesus Christ.

42. To obey without answering and without repugnance, and not to seek your own satisfaction in anything.

43. To like the lowest employments.

44. To like the poorest things.

45. Not to speak either good or evil of yourself.

46. To humble yourself even towards inferiors.

47. Not to excuse yourself when you are reproved.

48. Not to defend yourself when found fault with.

49. To be silent when you are disquieted.

50. Always to renew your determination of becoming a saint, saying, "My Jesus, I desire to be all Yours, and You must be all mine."

Source: The Incarnation, Birth, and Infancy of Jesus Christ 1927
Canterbury Tales

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Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Why Humility Opens Doors

By Marcellino D'Ambrosio, Ph.D.

“Nice guys finish last,” says the world. “The last will be first,” replies Jesus.

My guess is that the Lord of creation knows best who really wins in the end. And he says in this Sunday’s gospel, “whoever exalts himself will be humbled and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted” (Luke 14:11)

To understand why the humble get ahead and why the meek shall inherit the earth, we need to be sure that we understand what humility and meekness really are.

Humility does not mean looking down on oneself or thinking ill of oneself. It really means not thinking of oneself very much at all.

The humble are free to forget themselves because they are secure. They accept the fact that, as creatures, they are small, vulnerable, and not ultimately in control. But they know there is a Creator who is great, omnipotent, and totally in control. And they know that they’ve been made in the image and likeness of that Creator. That makes gives them a dignity that they don’t have to earn and can never be taken away. Though they’ve tarnished the divine likeness through sin, they know that the Creator came down from the heights of heaven to become human and fix what they couldn’t fix.

So when they mess up, the humble don’t have to cover up. They just say “please forgive me,” give thanks for God’s mercy, and move on. And when their creaturely limitations cause them to fail, they are not surprised. They realize that they are not God.

All this is simply a way of saying that the humble are in touch with reality. If the definition of insanity is being out of touch with reality, then our proud world with its “nice guys finish last” illusion is clearly insane.

Since the humble are secure, they are strong. And since they have nothing to prove, they don’t have to flaunt their strength or use it to dominate others. Humility leads to meekness. And meekness is not weakness. Rather, it is strength under control, power used to build up rather than tear down.

The humble are not threatened either by God’s greatness or the reflection of that greatness in the talents of others. In fact, this is what naturally catches their eye and absorbs their attention – the goodness of God, wherever it may be found.

The form of prayer that extols God’s goodness is called praise. The activity that honors God’s goodness in other people is called affirmation. The humble take delight in praising God and affirming people.

The reason the humble take the last place of honor at the table is not because they think ill of themselves, but because they are preoccupied with honoring others. And the reason people ask them to move higher is because they know this admirable attitude is rare. In fact it is actually divine. It is exactly the way the three Divine Persons relate to each other. The Father glorifies the Son, the Son glorifies the Father, and the Spirit is so preoccupied with glorifying the Father and the Son that most of us feel we really don’t know much about Him.

“An attentive ear is a wise man’s joy” (Sirarch 3:28). The humble are able to truly listen to another with genuine interest and delight in the other’s goodness. The humble are the people who give you their undivided attention and make you feel special and appreciated. You love to have them around. You love to work hard for them. You cheer when they are honored.

The proud, on the other hand, are so self-absorbed that their conversations become monologues. When you are speaking, they are not listening. They are just thinking about what they are going to say next. Eventually you smile, yawn, and do your best to get away from them. You roll your eyes when they brag of their exploits. If you work for them, you do the minimum required while looking for a better job. So those who exalt themselves are ultimately left alone. But those who humble themselves gather a crowd of admirers.

When asked to name the four Cardinal Virtues, St. Bernard of Clairvaux replied “humility, humility, humility, and humility. He said this because the word “cardinal” means “hinge.” And everything hinges on humility. Humility opens the door to the hearts of others and to the heart of God.

Source: Catholic Exchange

“Humility is the foundation of all the other virtues hence, in the soul in which this virtue does not exist there cannot be any other virtue except in mere appearance.” - Saint Augustine

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