Saturday, February 26, 2011

Your Best Life Now

Joel Osteen and his book Your Best Life Now preaches prosperity gospel, teaching how Christians can attain good health and prosperity are promised in the bible.

Your Best Life Now, is the highly acclaimed book by Joel Osteen, pastor of America's largest church. It is written to help you fulfill the potential for your life. Whatever your God given dreams are, whether you desire to be a better parent, do your best at your vocation, or build a stronger marriage, through scripture and Joel's personal experiences, this book will help you to live Your Best Life Now. The good news contained in Your Best Life Now is that your dreams, goals, and aspirations do not have to stay on "tomorrow's to do list," rather, through applying seven steps you can begin to live at your full potential.

Please post your comments.


Wednesday, February 23, 2011


This documentary explores different forms of evangelism for some churches and ministries in a few southern states of the United States.

Please post your comments.


Monday, February 21, 2011

The Enchiridion Of Indulgences

In Catholic theology, an indulgence is the full or partial remission of temporal punishment due for sins which have already been forgiven [*see end of article for explanation]. The indulgence is granted by the Catholic Church after the sinner has confessed and received absolution.

The Church grants indulgences in the exercise of the power of the keys, through the application of the superabundant merits of Christ and of the saints, and for some just and reasonable motive.

Here is the list of indulgences:


Issued by the Sacred Apostolic Penitentiary, 1968
+ Joseph Cardinal Ferretto,
Titular Bishop of the Suburban Church
of Sabina and Poggio Mirteto,

Originally published by Liberia Editrice Vatican,
Vatican City, 1968

This is a digest of the works and prayers listed in the Enchiridion of Indulgences. The Enchiridion recites each indulgenced prayer in full. Because most are recognizable they will only be listed by name. The un- translated Enchiridion lists each work and prayer in alphabetical order by their Latin names. The order shall remain the same in this listing. The descriptions of the works and details regarding obtaining the indulgence will be edited and abreviated in this listing. The following is not represented to be an exact reprint of the Enchiridion but and accurate digest of what constitutes an approved indulgenced work by the Sacred Apostolic Penitentiary.

In all but the plenary indulgence of In Articulo Mortis, at the moment of death, a plenary indulgence mentioned below MUST be accompanied by the three prerequisites of a plenary indulgence.

1. Sacramental Confession,
2. Communion, and
3. Prayer for the intention of the Holy Father, all to be performed within days of each other if not at the same time.

Thus the formula for obtaining a plenary indulgence are the three constants mentioned above plus any one of the variable works mentioned below as being worthy of a plenary indulgence.

1. Direct, we beg you, O Lord. (Prayer from Roman Ritual) Partial indulgence.

2. Acts of the Theological Virtues and of Contrition. A partial indulgence is granted to those who devoutly recite, according to any legitimate formula, the acts of faith, hope, charity, and contrition.

3. ADORATION OF THE MOST BLESSED SACRAMENT. A PLENARY INDULGENCE is granted to those who visit the Most Blessed Sacrament for at least one half hour (together with the three prerequisites (constants) of a plenary indulgence. A partial indulgence is granted to those who visit and adore the Most Blessed Sacrament without the three constants or for any period less than one half hour.

4. Hidden God (Adoro te devote) -- hymn, partial indulgence.

5. We have come (Adsumus) -- prayer, partial indulgence.

6. To you, O blessed Joseph (Ad te, beate Ioseph) --- prayer, partial indulgence.

7. We Give You Thanks ---- prayer from Roman Breviary, partial indulgence.

8. Angel Of God --- prayer, partial indulgence.

9. The Angel Of The Lord --- prayer, partial indulgence.

10. Soul of Christ (Anima Christi) --- prayer, partial indulgence.

11. Visit to the Patriarchal Basilicas in Rome. A PLENARY INDULGENCE to those who devoutly visit one of the Patriarchal Basilicas in Rome and recite one Our Father and the Creed,
1. On the titular feast of the Basilica;
2. On any Holy Day of Obligation;
3. Once a year on any other day of one's choice. (Remember the three constants are also required to obtain ANY plenary indulgence.)

12. PAPAL BLESSING. A PLENARY INDULGENCE is granted to those who "piously and devoutly" receive, even by radio, the Blessing of the Pope when imparted to Rome and the world (Urbi et Orbi). (3 constants.)

13. Visit to a Cemetery. Only applicable to the souls in Purgatory when one devoutly visits and prays for the departed. A PLENARY INDULGENCE is bestowed for this work each day between November 1 and November 8.

14. Visit to a "Catacomb" (early Christian cemetery.) Partial indulgence.

15. Act of spiritual Communion according to any pious formula -- partial indulgence.

16. Recitation of the Apostles Creed or the Nicene-Constantinopolian Creed -- partial indulgence.

17. ADORATION OF THE CROSS. A PLENARY INDULGENCE to those who in solemn liturgical action of Good Friday devoutly assist in at the adoration of the Cross and kiss it.

18. Office of the dead. A partial indulgence to those who devoutly recite Lauds or Vespers of the Office of the Dead.

19. "Out of the Depths" (De profundis). Psalm 129. Partial indulgence to those who recite.

20. Christian Doctrine. Partial indulgence to those who take part in teaching or learning christian doctrine.

21. "Lord God Almighty." (Roman Breviary.) Partial indulgence.

22. "Look down upon me, good and gentle Jesus." "Look down upon me, good and gentle Jesus, while before your face I humbly kneel, and with burning soul pray and beseech you to fix deep in my heart lively sentiments of faith, hope and charity, true contrition for my sins, and a firm purpose of amendment, while I contemplate with great love and tender pity your five wounds, pondering over them within me, calling to mind the words which David, your prophet, said of you, my good Jesus: "They have pierced my hands and my feet; they have numbered all my bones." PLENARY INDULGENCE when recited on a Friday in Lent and Passiontide, when recited after Communion before an image of Christ crucified. On any other day the indulgence is partial.

23. Eucharistic Congress. PLENARY INDULGENCE to those who devoutly participate in the customary solemn eucharistic rite at the close of a Eucharistic Congress.

24. "Hear Us" (Roman Ritual) -- partial indulgence.

25. RETREAT. (Exercitia spiritualia). PLENARY INDULGENCE to those who spend at least three (3) whole days in the spiritual excercises of a retreat.

26. "Most sweet Jesus --Act of Reparation" PLENARY INDULGENCE when this prayer is publicly recited on the feast of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus. Otherwise the indulgence is partial.

27. "Most sweet Jesus, Redeemer -- Act of Dedication of the Human Race to Jesus Christ King." PLENARY INDULGENCE when this prayer is publicly recited on the feast of our Lord Jesus Christ King. Otherwise the indulgence is partial.

28. The Moment of Death (In articulo mortis). PLENARY INDULGENCE. EXCEPTION TO THE THREE CONSTANTS. (Verbatim recitation of the grant follows:) "To the faithful in danger of death, who cannot be assisted by a priest to bring them the sacraments and impart the Apostolic Blessing with its plenary indulgence (see can. 468, Sec.2 of Code of Canon Law), Holy Mother Church nevertheless grants a plenary indulgence to be acquired at the point of death, provided they are properly disposed and have been in the habit of reciting some prayers during their lifetime. The use of a crucifix or a cross to gain this indulgence is praiseworthy." The condition: 'provided they have been in the habit of reciting some prayers during their lifetime' supplies in such cases for the three usual conditions required for the gaining of a plenary indulgence." The plenary indulgence at the point of death can be acquired by the faithful, even if they have already obtained another plenary indulgence on the same day."

29. Litanies. Partial indulgence to those who recite the following litanies: the litany of the Most Holy Name of Jesus; The litany of The Most Sacred Heart of Jesus; The litany of the Most Precious Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ; The litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary; The litany of St. Joseph; and the litany of All Saints.

30. "The Magnificat". Partial indulgence.

31. "Mary, Mother of Grace." (Roman Ritual) Partial indulgence.

32. "The Memorare." (Remember, O Most gracious Virgin Mary.) Partial Indulgence.

33. "The Miserere" (Have mercy of me.) Psalm 50. Partial indulgence.

34. Novena Devotions. Partial indulgence to those who participate in a public novena before the feast of Christmas or Pentecost, or the Immaculate Conception.

35. Use of Articles of Devotion. (Verbatim follows:) "The faithful, who devoutly use an article of devotion (crucifix or cross, rosary, scapular or medal) properly blessed by any priest, obtain a partial indulgence. "But if the article of devotion has been blessed by the Sovereign Pontiff or by any Bishop, the faithful, using it, can also gain a PLENARY INDULGENCE on the feast of the Holy Apostles, Peter and Paul, provided they also make a profession of faith according to any legitimate formula."

36. Little Offices. The following Little Offices are each enriched with a partial indulgence: the Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, St. Joseph.

37. Prayer for Sacerdotal or Religious Vocations. Partial indulgence is granted to those who recite a prayer approved by ecclesiastical Authority for the above intention.

38. Mental Prayer. Partial indulgence to those who spend some time in pious mental prayer.

39. "Let us pray for our Sovereign Pontiff" (Roman Breviary) Partial Indulgence.

40. "O Sacred Banquet" (Roman Breviary) Partial indulgence.

41. Assistance as Sacred Preaching. PLENARY INDULGENCE is granted to those who attend a Mission, hear some of the sermons and are present for the solemn close of the Mission. A partial indulgence is granted to those who assist with devotion and attention at the sacred preaching of the Word of God.

42. FIRST COMMUNION. PLENARY INDULGENCE is granted to those who receive Communion for the first time or to those who ASSIST at the sacred ceremonies of a First Communion.

43. First Mass of a Newly Ordained Priest. PLENARY INDULGENCE granted to the priest and to the faithful who devoutly assist at the same Mass.

44. "Prayer for Unity of the Church." Partial indulgence.

45. Monthly Recollection. Partial indulgence to those who take part in a monthly retreat.

46. "Eternal Rest." A partial indulgence only to the souls in purgatory. "Eternal rest grant to them, O Lord, and let the perpetual light shine upon them. May they rest in peace."

47. "May it Please you, O Lord." Partial indulgence. "May it please you, O Lord, to reward with eternal life all those who do good to us for your Name's sake. Amen."

48. RECITATION OF THE MARIAN ROSARY. (The following is verbatim.) "A PLENARY INDULGENCE is granted, if the Rosary is recited IN A CHURCH OR PUBLIC ORATORY OR IN A FAMILY GROUP, A RELIGIOUS COMMUNITY OR PIOUS ASSOCIATION; a partial indulgence is granted in other circumstances. "Now the Rosary is a certain formula of prayer, which is made up of fifteen decades of 'Hail Marys' with an 'Our Father' before each decade, and in which the recitation of each decade is accompanied by pious meditation on a particular mystery of our Redemption. "The name 'Rosary,' however, is commonly used in reference to only a third of the fifteen decades. "The gaining of the plenary indulgence is regulated by the following norms: "
1. The recitation of a third part only of the Rosary suffices; but the five decades must be recited continuously. "
2. The vocal recitation MUST be accompanied by pious meditation on the mysteries. "
3. In public recitation the mysteries must be announced in the manner customary in the place; for private recitation, however, it suffices if the vocal recitation is accompanied by meditation on the mysteries. "
4. For those belonging to the Oriental rites, amongst whom this devotion is not practiced, the Patriarchs can determine some other prayers in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary (for those of the Byzantine rite, for example, the Hymn 'Akathistos' or the Office 'Paraclisis'); to the prayers thus determined are accorded the same indulgences as for the Rosary."

49. Jubilees of Sacerdotal Ordination. A PLENARY INDULGENCE is granted to a priest on the 25th, 50th and 60th anniversaries of his ordination when he renews before God his resolve to faithfully fulfill the duties of his vocation. If the priest celebrates a jubilee Mass, the faithful who assist at it can acquire a Plenary Indulgence.

50. READING OF SACRED SCRIPTURE. While a partial indulgence is granted to those who read from Sacred Scripture with the veneration which the divine word is due, a PLENARY INDULGENCE is granted to those who read for at least one half an hour.

51. "Hail Holy Queen." (Roman Breviary.) Partial indulgence.

52. "Holy Mary, help the helpless." (Roman Breviary.) Partial indulgence.

53. "Holy Apostles Peter and Paul." (Roman Missal.) Partial indulgence.

54. Veneration of the Saints. Partial indulgence granted to those who on the feast of any Saint recite in his honor the oration of the Missal or any other approved by legitimate Authority.

55. Sign of the Cross. Partial indulgence.

56. A Visit to the Stational Churches of Rome. A partial indulgence is granted to those who on the day indicated in the Roman Missal devoutly visit the stational church in Rome named for that day' but if they also assist at the sacred functions celebrated in the morning or evening, a PLENARY INDULGENCE is granted.

57. "We fly to your Patronage." Partial indulgence.

58. Diocesan Synod. PLENARY INDULGENCE is granted to those who during the time of a diocesan Synod, devoutly visit the church in which it is being held and there recite one Our Father and the Creed.

59. "Down in Adoration Falling" (Tantum ergo) (Roman Breviary) PLENARY INDULGENCE when recited on Holy Thursday and the feast of Corpus Christi. Otherwise a partial indulgence is granted for recitation.

60. The Te Deum. PLENARY INDULGENCE when recited publicly on the last day of the year. Otherwise a partial indulgence is granted to those who recite the Te Deum in thanksgiving.

61. "Come, Holy Spirit, Creator Blest." PLENARY INDULGENCE if recited on the first of January or on the feast of the Pentecost. Otherwise, a partial indulgence is granted to those who recite it.

62. "Come, Holy Spirit" Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and enkindle in them the fire of your love. (Roman Missal) Partial indulgence.

63. EXERCISE OF THE WAY OF THE CROSS. PLENARY INDULGENCE. A Plenary indulgence is granted to those who piously make the Way of the Cross. The gaining of the indulgence is regulated by the following rules:
1. Must be done before stations of the cross legitimately erected.
2. 14 stations are required. Although it is customary for the icons to represent pictures or images, 14 simple crosses will suffice.
3. The common practice consists of fourteen pious readings to which some vocal prayers are added.. However, nothing more is required than a pious meditation on the Passion and Death of the Lord, which need not be a particular consideration of the individual mysteries of the stations.
4. A movement from one station to the next is required. But if the stations are made publicly and it is not possible for everyone taking part to go from station to station, it suffices if at least the one conducting the exercise goes from station to station, the others remaining in their places.
5. Those who are "impeded" can gain the same indulgence if they spend at least one half and hour in pious reading and meditation on the Passion and Death of our Lord Jesus Christ.
6. For those belonging to the Oriental rites, amongst whom this pious exercise is not practiced, the respective Patriarchs can determine some other pious exercise in memory of the Passion and Death for the gaining of this indulgence.

64. "Visit, we beg you, O Lord." (Roman Breviary) Partial Indulgence.

65. Visit to the Parochial Church. PLENARY INDULGENCE is granted to those who devoutly visit the parochial church either on its titular feast or on the 2nd of August when the indulgence of the "Portiuncula" occurs. In visiting the church IT IS REQUIRED that one Our Father and the Creed be recited. Both indulgences can be acquired either on the day designated above or on some other day designated by the Ordinary (bishop) for the benefit of the faithful. The same indulgences apply to the Cathedral church and, where there is one, to a Co-Cathedral church, even if they are not parochial churches; they apply to quasi-parochial churches also.

66. Visit to a Church or an Altar on the day of its consecration. PLENARY INDULGENCE is granted to those who visit a church or an altar on the day itself of its consecration, and there recite on Our Father and the Creed.

67. Visit to a Church or Oratory on All Souls Day. PLENARY INDULGENCE. A plenary indulgence, applicable ONLY to the souls in purgatory, may be obtained by those who, on All Souls Day, piously visit a church, public oratory, or -for those entitled to use it, a semi public oratory. It may be acquired either on the day designated as All Souls Day or, with the consent of the bishop, on the preceding or following Sunday or the feast of All Saints. On visiting the church or oratory it is required that one Our Father and the Creed be recited.

68. Visit to a Church or Oratory of Religious on the Feast of the Holy Founder. A PLENARY INDULGENCE is granted to those who piously visit a church or oratory of a religious order on the feastday of its canonized founder, and there recite one Our Father and the Creed.

69. Pastoral Visitation. Partial indulgence to those who visit a church during the time that a pastoral visitation is being held. But a PLENARY INDULGENCE, to be gained only once during the visitation, is granted if during the time of the visitation they assist at a sacred function at which the Visitator presides.

70. Renewal of Baptismal Promises. A partial indulgence is granted to those who renew their baptismal promises according to any formula in use; but a PLENARY INDULGENCE is granted if this is done in celebration of the Paschal Vigil or on the anniversary of one's baptism.

Source: Catholic Online


Indulgences are 2 kinds: partial and plenary. A partial indulgences removes part of the temporal punishment due for sins. A plenary indulgence removes all of it. This punishment may come either in this life, in the form of various sufferings, or in the next life, in purgatory. What we don't get rid of here we suffer there.

The greatest hurdle is the last. Making a good confession is not particularly difficult, and going to Communion and praying for the Pope's intentions are easier still. It's being free from all attachment to sin that's hard and it's quite possible that even evi-dently good people, who seek plenary indulgences regularly, never, in their whole lives, obtain one, because they are unwilling to relinquish their favorite little sins.

There is an account of St. Philip Neri, who died in 1595, preaching a jubilee indulgence in a crowed church. A revelation was given to him that only two people in the church were actually getting it, an old char-woman and the saint himself. Not exactly encouraging, huh? But don't worry. If you aren't perfectly disposed and can't get the plenary indulgence. you'll at least come away with a partial.

It should be pointed out that the first three conditions may be fulfilled several days before or after doing the prescribed work, through receiving Communion and praying for the Pope are usually done the same day the work is performed.

By the way, the standard prayers for the Pope are one Our Father and one Creed, though you're at liberty to substitute other prayers.

Source: Catholic Online

Please post your comments.


Holy Water

Holy Water is "water blessed by a priest with solemn prayer, to beg God's blessing on those who use it, and protection from the powers of darkness." It is a very important sacramental of our Church.

Water is the natural element for cleansing, and its symbolical use to denote interior purification was common in many ancient religions—the Greeks, Romans, Egyptians and others; and it is so used by the Brahmins of India, the American Indians and other pagans of the present time. Among the Jews, the laws of Moses (contained in the books of Exodus and Leviticus in the Old Testament), enjoined the sprinkling of the people, the sacrifices, the sacred vessels, etc.; and our Church has imitated many of these Jewish practices.

There is a tradition that holy water was used by the Apostle St. Matthew, but this is uncertain. It is traced by some to the early part of the second century, and its use became common somewhat later.

The Kinds of Holy Water.

There are four kinds, each blessed in a different manner. They are as follows:

1. Baptismal Water, which is blessed on Holy Saturday, and may also be blessed on the eve of Pentecost. The Oil of Catechumens and the Holy Chrism are mingled with it. It is used only in the administration of Baptism.

2. Water of Consecration, or "Gregorian Water", so called because its use was ordered by Pope Gregory IX. It is used in the consecration of churches, and has wine, ashes and salt mingled with it.

3. Easter Water, so called because it is distributed to the people on Holy Saturday, the eve of Easter. A part of this water is used for the filling of the baptismal font, to be blessed as baptismal water; the remainder is given to the faithful. In some countries this water is used by the clergy for the solemn blessing of houses on Holy Saturday.

4. Ordinary Holy Water, blessed by the priest for the sprinkling of the people before Mass and for use at the door of the church. It may be used also for the blessing of persons and things, in the church and at home. Salt is mingled with it—a custom which goes back probably to the second century.

Therefore the only varieties of holy water that directly concern the faithful are the water blessed on Holy Saturday and that blessed at other times. They are sanctified by different formulas, but their value and uses are much the same.

The Uses of Holy Water.

It is used in nearly all the blessings of the Church's ritual, in the ceremonies of Matrimony and Extreme Unction, in the giving of Holy Communion to the sick, and in services for the dead. For use in church functions it is generally contained in a bowl-shaped vessel with a swinging handle, provided with a sprinkler.

The "Asperges" (pronounced, "as-per-jays"), This is the sprinkling of the people on Sundays before the principal Mass in a parish church. It takes its name from the first word (in Latin) of Psalm 50, of which the opening verse is recited by the priest and sung by the choir at this ceremony during the greater part of the year: "Thou shalt sprinkle me with hyssop, and I shall be made clean; Thou shalt wash me, and I shall be made whiter than snow."

This practice goes back to the ninth century. It is intended to renew in us every Sunday the memory of our Baptism, and to drive away all distractions during the Mass. In this ceremony, the holy water need not actually touch every person in the church. The whole assembly is blessed together, and all receive the blessing, even though the water may not reach each individual.

The custom of placing holy water at the church door in a "holy water font" is very ancient—probably dating back to the second century. Among the Jews a ceremony of purification was required before entering the Temple, and the Catholic practice may have been suggested by this.

In the Middle Ages it was customary to use holy water only when entering the church, and not when leaving it—to denote that purification was necessary before entering, but not after having assisted at Mass. At the present day holy water may be used both on entering and departing, especially as an indulgence is gained every time it is used.

The Blessing of Holy Water

This is usually done just before the principal Mass on Sunday, but may be done at any other time. The priest reads several prayers, which include an exorcism of the salt and the water, after which the salt is put into the water in the form of a threefold cross, in the name of the Persons of the Trinity. An exorcism is a prayer intended to free persons or things from the power of the Evil One.

The Symbolism of Holy Water

Water is used for cleansing and for quenching fire; salt is used to preserve from decay. Therefore the Church combines them in this sacramental, to express the washing away of the stains of sin, the quenching of the fire of our passions, and the preservation of our souls from relapses into sin.

Salt is also a symbol of wisdom. , Our Blessed Lord called His Apostles "the salt of the earth," because they were to instruct mankind.

The Indulgence

There is an indulgence of one hundred days for using holy water. Pius IX renewed this in 1876, under these conditions:

1. The sign of the cross must be made with the holy water.
2. "We must say: "In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost."
3. We must have contrition for our sins.
4. For this, as for any indulgence, we must be in the state of grace.

Source: Why I Am Catholic

Please post your comments.


Sunday, February 20, 2011

Kerala, The Cradle Of Christianity in South Asia

The six million Christians in Kerala, on the southwest coast of India, follow a variety of liturgical and musical traditions some of which date back to the early Christian era.

This documentary explores the historical embeddedness of these traditions that came about as a result of the region's commercial, cultural, and religious interactions with the Middle East, Europe, and America. The narrative follows the events that led to the introduction of the Chaldean, Antiochene, Roman Catholic, Anglican, and other liturgies along with the musical styles associated with them.

Over the centuries, these styles have become an integral part of the musical mosaic of Kerala. A renewed attempt in the recent past to interpret Christianity in Indian terms has contributed to adaptations of semi-classical and bhajan styles of music into Christian worship.

This documentary documents excerpts from the current practice of chants in East Syriac, West Syriac, Latin, Sanskrit, English, and Malayalam. The film also showcases a unique performance context in which Hindu instrumental ensembles share space in a church festival, indicating the extent of religious harmony that exists in the region; the festival includes several ritual elements that the Portuguese missionaries introduced in the sixteenth century. Drawing attention to the lesser known aspects of the religious, musical, and linguistic complexity of the region, the film presents Kerala as a potential field for inquiries in an emerging area of scholarship on Christian music in India.

Part 1

Part 2

The history of the Syrian Orthodox Christians in Kerala

Part 1

Part 2

Please post your comments.


Saturday, February 19, 2011

Thailand's Destiny in Christ

This documentary takes a closer look at the challenges and victories of sharing the love and reality of Jesus Christ in a Buddhist nation.

Part 1

Part 2

Please post your comments.


Friday, February 18, 2011

Fundamentalist Christianity

Louis Theroux of the BBC explores America's fundamentalist Christianity from the inside and out.

Please post your comments


Monday, February 14, 2011

Prosperity Gospel In Africa

Prosperity Gospel is the teaching that true Christian faith results in material wealth and physical well-being. While it has its roots in America, it has found fertile soil on other continents as well. To accompany the lead article in Christianity Today by Ghanaian scholar Kwabena Asamoah-Gyadu, director Nathan Clarke went to Ghana to explore the forms the prosperity gospel takes in that West African nation.

Please post your comments.


Thursday, February 10, 2011

Evangelical Author Sees Strengths In The Catholic Church

It is not uncommon among Catholics that we look to Evangelicals and, though deeply concerned about some of the theological stances, we admire the vibrancy of their communities. Some of their “megachurches” attract tens of thousands of worshippers. We see them as having a tradition of strong preaching and a good stance on the moral issues of our day. These communities attract many former Catholics who claim the strong, biblical preaching and sense of community and joy was what they found lacking in the Catholic Church. We also see them as attracting many young adults, both single and married, a thing we are struggling in the Catholic Church to do. At least, these are the perceptions.

But every now and then I happen upon a video or article that sheds light some of the struggles the Evangelicals have as well. And, as we look to them with an ocassional sneaking admiration for what we see, some of them look back at us with some admiration as well. Last week an article appeared at the Patheos Website written by David French, an Evangelical author entitled: As Evangelicals Falter, Catholics and Mormons Lead. I want to share some excerpts of the full article (which you can read here: Evangelicals Falter?), and focus particularly on what he says regarding Catholics. As self-critical as we can sometimes be, it is helpful also to know how others see us as strong. Pray God we actually have these strengths and will continue to see them build. The text of the original article is in bold, italic, black text. My comments are in normal text red.

For years I’ve traveled the country, speaking to thousands of evangelical students, and find myself—even in front of “activist” organizations—virtually pleading for a sliver of courage or a trace of commitment in support of life or marriage. In response, I get encouragement, good words, and all too often nothing else.[But], on January 23, 2011, I stood, overwhelmed, in front of almost 2,000 pro-life students. I was overwhelmed by their energy, by their commitment to defending the defenseless, and by their gracious and Godly spirit….It was different. Instead of inspiring, I was inspired. Rather than exhorting others to greater levels of engagement, I was admonished for my own compromises…..And this audience was largely Catholic, and the Catholic Church for almost forty years has been the beating heart of the American pro-life movement. [What a great testimony to those young people with whom he met. It is a great tribute also to the Catholic Church to be described as the beating heart of the pro-life movement. To God be the Glory. While it is true that among us there are debates about whether we focus enough on abortion, and how we can better manifest an even stronger protest and and commitment to fight it, it is also true that others see us as great and prophetic leaders in the pro-life cause.

In the past 15 years we have gotten clearer and bolder. The faithful have insisted that priests and bishops be bolder and unqualified in this matter. And the focused battle has (paradoxically) been a source of renewal for us. God can make a way out of no way. We are not as strong as we should be, but we are strong, and God has anointed us to this task: to be the beating heart of the American pro-life movement. All the more that we should avoid "heart disease" and stay as strong as others see us and be as strong as we know we grow to be.

There are, to be sure, dissenters, but they are fewer, and it's getting harder and harder to be seen as a true Catholic if you support legal abortion. The faithful are insisting that bishops and priests draw the line in terms of disciplining pro-choice legislators who vote to fund abortion. While the debate continues about the prudential way to do this, it is clear the direction in which the Church is headed. Whatever ambiguity we may have sadly had in the past, it is giving way daily to a clearer stand].

As devout Catholics and faithful Mormons step forward boldly, evangelical Protestants appear in cultural disarray. The most popular of the new generation of evangelical pastors—Rick Warren and Joel Osteen—stay out of the cultural fray. Evangelical youth may have orthodox opinions on marriage or life, but they’re increasingly reluctant to voice those opinions, lest they appear “divisive” or “intolerant.” In fact, at times it appears as if much of the evangelical world has retreated into a defensive crouch, eager to promote its universally-loved work for the poor while abjectly apologizing for the cultural battles of years past. [There seems to be an over-correction the Evangelicals may be experiencing. Rev Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson and others often took strong and public stands on the moral issues of the day. As a Catholic, I admired them for this but at times I cringed when they were less nuanced than I wished, or failed to make some necessary distinctions. Further, they often strayed a little closer to politics than I would and often used Old Testament texts in a mechanistic way that did always respect how Jesus recast them.

Sure enough, their action caused a strong and often strident backlash from secularists and progressivist theologians. At some level the backlash was deserved for the reasons already stated and also the perception that some of their involvement in politics was too cozy. It would seem our author is noting that within Evangelicalism this took something of a toll. Some are weary and wary of the strident battles of the past and, it appears, have sought less controversial terrain. But the correction, according to French has gone too far].

Why are Catholics and Mormons increasingly bold when so many evangelicals are increasingly timid? Why are Catholics so often leading on life and Mormons so often leading on marriage? The answer, I think, is theological and cultural, two words that expose profound weaknesses in American evangelicalism. [I would like to say I think Catholics are also showing something of a lead on marriage issues, but in an incomplete way. It is clear we are against Gay "marriage." But how well do we really uphold true marriage in our lives? Our doctrine is clear enough, but in practice we have high numbers of divorce and annulments. Whereas the Mormans have large, strong, and stable families, our witness in the actual way we live is sore comprimised. Hence, our author does not see us as the strong witnesses to marriage we ought to be].

First, theology. One cannot spend five minutes with thoughtful Catholics without understanding how the defense of life is a fundamental and integral part of the DNA of the church. Since the defense of life is theologically-grounded, it is functionally and practically independent of any secular ideology. Nuns who one day attend a sit-in for immigrant rights may the next day do sidewalk counseling outside of Planned Parenthood. Bishops, “progressive” or conservative, defend life in Catholic hospitals. Catholics who study church doctrine, who immerse themselves in the teachings of the church, understand that to defend life is to imitate Christ. Life is not just an “issue,” for a Catholic; it is at the core of the Gospel. [Well, I wish what he said here was wholly true. There are unfortunately some aspects of politics that separate Catholics out into two wings as we have discussed elsewhere on this blog. On one wing are Catholics who are pro-life and focused on the great moral issues of our time: Abortion, Euthanasia, Embryonic Stem cell research, sex education and so forth. On the other wing are Catholics focused on the social issues: poverty, immigrant rights, capital punishment, health care and so forth.

Our author's picture of the nun sitting in for immigrant rights and protesting later in front of the PP "clinic" is beautiful but rarer than I would like. Not all Catholics easily stride back and forth between the two wings. I know many who do and would like to think I am one who does, but the truth is there ARE secular ideologies that negatively impact our ability to be truly prophetic. But pay attention fellow Catholics, someone sees us as strong in this area. Why don't we strive to live up to the powerful image our Evangelical brother sees?

Thank God, too our theology IS very clear on life, seeing it not merely as an issue but as deeply rooted in the Gospel and the Tradition going all the way back to the Didache. Recall the strong reaction to Nancy Pelosi by ALL the bishops when she said it was something less than settled doctrine and only of recent origin. But it is long standing doctrine. Abortion is an intrinsic moral evil without exception (ex toto genere suo). The doors are quickly closing on any Catholic who would hold otherwise].

Next, culture. The Mormon church knows what it is like to live outside the mainstream…..the Mormon culture is inherently resilient in the face of cultural headwinds… Evangelicals, by contrast, are often shocked when co-workers turn on them, or when the country drifts from its heritage. Mormons aren’t so easily shaken. After all, the country wasn’t theirs to begin with. [Note that Mr. French does not include Catholics in his description of the culture of persecution and how it steels one against compromise. At one time he could have said this of Catholics, prior to the 1950s. But as Catholics have emerged from the Catholic Ghetto and had a desire to join the mainstream we have struggled to avoid many compromises. Too many Catholics have as a goal that everyone like them.

There was a time when Catholics were widely hated and feared. We were strong and cohesive in those days. Our parishes were full, our families intact, our schools filled. Slowly we must recover our ability to experience the world's hatred.

And it IS returning. Little by little, anger at the Church for her stance on the moral issues is building. It's going to take strong Catholics to endure and stay. We are going to be tested in the years ahead. Bring it on! It may well be what the Church needs to be more deeply reformed and become more prophetic. I think Mr. French is right, the Mormons have not lost this, but I add that I think most Catholics have. But the times are already here when we're going to have very little choice about rediscovering persecution if we choose to keep the faith in an uncompromised way].

For all our many virtues (and there are many: American evangelicals are among the most generous and loving people in the world), we generally have no conception of—or particular loyalty to—”church teaching” and tend to see marriage and life as “issues” rather than integral parts of our core theology. Since we’re busy being spiritual entrepreneurs, revolutionizing the whole concept of church every 90 seconds, we don’t have the kind of (relative) theological stability that has marked almost 2,000 years of Catholic history, and we can’t come close to matching the (again, relative) uniformity of teaching that marks the Mormon experience….[Well said. There is an ephemeral (passing, or transitory) quality to evangelicalism that I think leads to a lack of depth and stability. Zeal and excitement have their place, but without roots, a mere wind carries one off to the next thing, and the next thing].

We’re more unified than we’ve been in the past, but we’re a collection of subcultures that comprise a shaky, larger whole. And we are often desperate for acceptance. We view the transient scorn of popular culture as a virtual cataclysm, and our distressingly common health and wealth gospels wrongly teach us that Christian faith carries with it measurable earthly pleasures. We lack a theology of suffering. [Without a Pope or even fundamental liturgy to unite them, Evangelicals are really a loose-knit confederation. The Bible alone can't unite them or focus them as a group. Niche marketing has compartmentalized them in many ways.

Mr. French also has some very good insights as to the deep flaws of the prosperity gospel. If the point in life is to have God bless you with material things as a sign of favor, then it becomes hard to go up against the world. For everyone instinctively knows that to do so threatens the flow of the world's blessings.

A clear theology of suffering IS a Catholic strength that well captures Christ's fundamental demand that we take up our cross and follow him, that we endure the hatred of the world as he did. If we are looking to the world for blessings we are already compromised, and it is unlikely we will ever take the risk to be prophets, for we have too much to lose].

Simply put, we evangelicals are blown and tossed by the cultural winds. Right now, the winds are blowing against us, and our young people are reluctant to engage. But God is sovereign, and the fate of the nation is in His hands, not ours. And if we fail, there are others—some from an ancient tradition, some from a new one—who may very well carry out His work with more faith and courage than we ever could.

An excellent article by Mr. French that both encourages us as Catholics but also challenges us to live up the good goals and qualities that others see in us.

Paul Washer is an Evangelical who also has a lot to say about some of the trends in Evangelicalism:

Source: Archdiocese of Washington

Please post your comments.


Debra Herbeck's Testimony

Debra Herbeck shares the story of her conversion from Judaism to a personal encounter with Jesus the Messiah and her journey to the Catholic Church.

Please post your comments.


Monday, February 7, 2011

Become A Priest

Produced by the USCCB and Grassroots Films, this featured video is meant to encourage men to consider the priesthood and to edify all of the faithful with regards to our spiritual fathers.

Please post your comments.


Saturday, February 5, 2011

Voodoo Is Real

This film is an impression of the African voodoo which is still an important part of the daily life in Africa.

Mr Bivine Namaya who converted to Christianity some years ago shares his experiences of both sides - the traditional African religion, voodoo and the religion of the western world, Christianity.

Please post your comments.


Friday, February 4, 2011

Doorways For The Devil

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

Interview by Brian O'Neel

Just prior to the November 2010 meeting of the United States bishops in Baltimore, Bishop Thomas J. Paprocki of Springfield, Illinois announced he would host a two-day conference on exorcism.

More than 50 bishops and 60 priests registered to attend. Paprocki explained he wanted to bring attention to a badly needed ministry in the American Church.

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

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

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

What does that involve?

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

How do exorcists see their position within the Church?

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

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

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

Nationally, how many exorcisms are performed each year?

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

How many have you actually performed?

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

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

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

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

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

What about curses?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have you ever engaged a demon in conversation in exorcism?

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

Have you ever encountered Satan himself?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What are the ways that demons gain access to souls?

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

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

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

Is the occult satanic?

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

Who is most likely to become possessed?

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

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

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

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

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

How many exorcists do we have in the US?

Father Thomas: There are probably two dozen.

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

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

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

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

What brings joy to the demons?

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

In summary, what would you say to our readers?

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

Source: The World Catholic Report

For the last four years, Father Gary Thomas has served at the Sacred Heart parish in Saratoga, Calif., a bucolic suburb of San Jose. But the 53-year-old Roman Catholic priest does a lot more than say Mass and listen to confessions — he is also one of about 14 Vatican-certified exorcists working in the U.S. and the real-life counterpart to Michael Kovak, in the new thriller "The Rite".

Thomas became certified to practice exorcisms after completing 40 hours of study at the Vatican's Athenaeum Pontificium Regina Apostolorum in Rome. During his time there, he met a fellow student, journalist Matt Baglio, who ended up chronicling Father Gary's journey in the book "The Rite: The Making of a Modern Exorcist," which served as the basis for the film.

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 Pope And Angels

Fr. Marcello Stanzione, an Italian priest, is dedicating his life to promote the proper devotion to angels. He has written several books on these heavenly beings. His most recent work, “The Pope and the Angels”, describes how angels have helped popes throughout history. The book begins by saying how guardian angels are a special help to anyone.

“Angels help us on a physical level. A lot of incidents have been avoided due to the help of angels. But above all, they are our companions against demonic temptations and they also give advice on how we can live in a more saintly way. They also teach us how to pray.”

“The Pope and the Angels” talks about the history of angelic intervention in the lives of past pontiffs. Obviously, it discusses the excerpt from the Book of Acts, in which an angel frees Saint Peter from prison.

“Saint Peter was freed from prison by an angel and when he arrived to the house of the Christians, the interesting thing is that nobody believed him and they said: 'It's not him, it's his angel!' This shows the great devotion Christians had towards angels, in the first years of Christianity.”

The book also tells the story of an episode in the life of Gregory the Great. It was in 590 AD, a plague spread throughout the Empire. The Pope asked for help from Heaven in a procession that ended at the Mausoleum of Hadrian. On their march, they met the archangel Saint Michel cleaning a blood-stained sword, indicating the plague had been defeated.

Since then this place is called Castel Sant'Angelo and is guarded by a statue of the archangel.

“During Pope John XXIII's five-year papacy, he spoke about angels about 40 times, and he always said that he convoked the Second Vatican council after being inspired by his own guardian angel.”

From then on, John XXIII said that every pope has about twelve guardian angels. A devotion which he cultivated, but was never declared as a truth of the Catholic faith.

Source: Rome Reports

Please post your comments.