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 SAINT AGNES 

Psalm 23, verse 4:

4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will FEAR no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff comfort me.

Saint Pope John Paul II was an example of someone who walked through the valley of the shadow of death and feared no evil. The Lord’s rod and staff sustained him through the nightmare of the Nazis and the Communists. Both were evil empires devoted to the destruction of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for all except for the few selected elite. 

These empires systematically replaced God with the rule of the chosen ones of the State. People from both the Fatherland and the Motherland sat by and watched the evil grow without taking decisive action, making the adage ‘All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men (or women) do nothing.

We must ‘Remember to measure our nation and our politics with Gods Rod (Rods were often used in ancient times to measure) and not the political States or the media nor the opinion of the rich and the powerful. Let us be ever ready to speak up for what is righteous using God’s rod, which are His laws of justice and mercy, working tirelessly and remember Saint Pope John Paul II words of encouragement,

“I plead with you – never, ever give up on hope, never doubt, never tire, and never become discouraged. Be not afraid.”

Let us also carry with us for the journey the Staff of God, which is truth, not worldly truth but God’s truth. “The word of truth, publicly, indeed almost liturgically, proclaimed was the antidote the Rhapsodic Theater sought to apply to the violent lies of the Occupation. The tools for fighting evil included speaking truth to power.” [1]

 

Saint Agnes[2]


 

Today we honor the martyrdom of Saint Agnes, a God-fearing child of 12, when she faced her death. Here is St. Ambrose’s account of her demise.

 

This treatise has a favorable beginning, since it is the birthday of the holy Virgin Agnes, of whose name, modesty, and martyrdom St. Ambrose speaks in commendation, but more especially of her age, seeing that she, being but twelve years old, was superior to terrors, promises, tortures, and death itself, with a courage wholly worthy of a man.

 

And my task begins favorably, that since today is the birthday of a virgin, I have to speak of virgins, and the treatise has its beginning from this discourse. It is the birthday of a martyr, let us offer the victim. It is the birthday of St. Agnes, let men admire, let children take courage, let the married be astounded, let the unmarried take an example. But what can I say worthy of her whose very name was not devoid of bright praise? In devotion beyond her age, in virtue above nature, she seems to me to have borne not so much a human name, as a token of martyrdom, whereby she showed what she was to be.

But I have that which may assist me. The name of virgin is a title of modesty. I will call upon the martyr, I will proclaim the virgin. That panegyric is long enough which needs no elaboration but is within our grasp. Let then labor cease, eloquence be silent. One word is praise enough. This word old men and young and boys chant. No one is more praiseworthy than he who can be praised by all. There are as many heralds as there are men, who when they speak proclaim the martyr.

She is said to have suffered martyrdom when twelve years old. The more hateful was the cruelty, which spared not so tender an age, the greater in truth was the power of faith which found evidence even in that age. Was there room for a wound in that small body? And she who had no room for the blow of the steel had that wherewith to conquer the steel. But maidens of that age are unable to bear even the angry looks of parents and are wont to cry at the pricks of a needle as though they were wounds. She was fearless under the cruel hands of the executioners, she was unmoved by the heavy weight of the creaking chains, offering her whole body to the sword of the raging soldier, as yet ignorant of death, but ready for it. Or if she were unwillingly hurried to the altars, she was ready to stretch forth her hands to Christ at the sacrificial fires, and at the sacrilegious altars themselves, to make the sign of the Lord the Conqueror, or again to place her neck and both her hands in the iron bands, but no band could enclose such slender limbs.

A new kind of martyrdom! Not yet of fit age for punishment but already ripe for victory, difficult to contend with but easy to be crowned, she filled the office of teaching valor while having the disadvantage of youth. She would not as a bride so hasten to the couch, as being a virgin, she joyfully went to the place of punishment with hurrying step, her head not adorned with plaited hair, but with Christ. All wept, she alone was without a tear. All wondered that she was so readily prodigal of her life, which she had not yet enjoyed, and now gave up as though she had gone through it. Everyone was astounded that there was now one to bear witness to the Godhead, who as yet could not, because of her age, dispose of herself. And she brought it to pass that she should be believed concerning God, whose evidence concerning man would not be accepted. For that which is beyond nature is from the Author of nature.

What threats the executioner used to make her fear him, what allurements to persuade her, how many desired that she would come to them in marriage! But she answered: It would be an injury to my spouse to look on any one as likely to please me. He who chose me first for Himself shall receive me. Why are you delaying, executioner? Let this body perish which can be loved by eyes which I would not. She stood, she prayed, she bent down her neck. You could see the executioner tremble, as though he himself had been condemned, and his right-hand shake, his face grow pale, as he feared the peril of another, while the maiden feared not for her own. You have then in one victim a twofold martyrdom, of modesty and of religion. She both remained a virgin and she obtained martyrdom.

 

Pray that we may emulate Agnes who was martyred rather than forsake her betrothal to Christ and exhibited the traits of a true marriage. 

Life First[3] 9 Days for Life 

9 Days for Life is a "digital pilgrimage" of prayer and action focused on cherishing the gift of every person's life. A multi-faceted novena highlighting a different intention each day provides reflections, bonus information, and suggested actions. Join to receive the novena through the 9 Days for Life app, daily emails, or daily texts. See below for information on how else you can get involved! #9DaysforLife #OurPrayersMatter

 

Day Three: 

Intercession: May all who have experienced sexual abuse receive justice, healing, and God’s peace. 

Prayers: Our Father, 3 Hail Mary’s, Glory Be 

Reflection: Recent reports have once again exposed the terrible abuses that many have suffered at the hands of a member of the Catholic clergy. Our hearts ache for the grave harm that has been inflicted on our brothers and sisters. Words alone cannot express our sorrow, shame and disappointment that such affronts to human dignity have been carried out within our Church. It is our prayer and hope that all who have experienced abuse will find the healing and justice they so rightly deserve, knowing that they are never alone. For, “only by confronting our own failure in the face of crimes against those we are charged to protect can the Church resurrect a culture of life where the culture of death has prevailed”. 

Acts of Reparation (Choose one.)

 

·        Fast from one meal today.
 

·        Seek the intercession of Our Lady by praying a Rosary for Healing and Protection.
 

·        Offer some other sacrifice, prayer, or act of penance that you feel called to do for today’s intention.

 

Fitness Friday[4]

Is Chocolate Good for You? The Health Benefits of Chocolate

Theobroma Cacao, the Latin name for chocolate, means “Food of the Gods” for a reason. It’s a heavenly way to lift your performance. There are also some major health benefits of chocolate.

We’re not talking about junk chocolate in candy bars and sweet desserts; dark chocolate has a long history as a healing plant, a mood enhancer, and even an aphrodisiac. So, you’re in luck: you can indeed use high-quality chocolate to take delicious control of your biology.

7 health benefits of chocolate

You’ve probably read that chocolate affects your brain by causing the release of the “happiness neurotransmitters” serotonin, dopamine, and endorphins. Like coffee, chocolate is also a potent source of polyphenol antioxidants, which can fight damaging free radicals and protect your mitochondria.

But experienced chocolate hackers also know chocolate to be a useful tool for improving performance in lesser-known ways. In fact, cacao exerts a systemic effect on the body, with benefits ranging from improved blood flow and cognition to beneficial alterations in gut bacteria! Here are some of the most important benefits of chocolate (besides taste…).

1.     Chocolate for a better mood

Chocolate can improve your mood, especially in high-pressure or stressful situations. Participants were asked to complete serial subtraction tasks of threes and sevens (counting down by 3s and 7s), and a rapid visual information-processing task to test sustained attention. Those who consumed cocoa flavanol drinks prior to the trial had overall better cognitive performance and reported less mental fatigue than the control group.

2.     Chocolate makes you eat less

One of my favorite effects of chocolate consumption is a reduction in appetite. One study quantified this by giving participants a 100 g serving of either milk or dark chocolate two hours before being served an all-you-can-eat lunch. Ingestion of dark chocolate was correlated with a 17% lower calorie intake at the following meal, compared to the milk chocolate group. (I’d imagine that it’s because the casein in milk binds to the polyphenols in chocolate, making them unavailable to your body.)

Chocolate may also have a significant effect on mood, as one double-blind study recorded that subjects were able to subjectively discriminate the effects of theobromine at doses as low as 100-560 mg.

3.     Chocolate for a healthy heart

Regular chocolate consumption can improve your cardiovascular health. Notably, the polyphenols in cacao increase HDL cholesterol (often thought of as the protective kind of cholesterol), which in turns leads to decreased oxidized LDL cholesterol. Other effects include higher levels of circulating nitric oxide, and reduced platelet adhesion,, resulting in improved circulation benefits of chocolate

One study even found the cacao flavanol epicatechin to be responsible for the rise in nitric oxide, which is essential for vascular health. Bioavailability of nitric oxide is an essential determinate of vascular health as it regulates dilation tone, signals cell growth and inflammatory response, and protects blood vessels from clotting.

Vascular function is also really important for insulin-regulated glucose uptake. That’s why dark chocolate can also improve/

“Healthy levels of insulin sensitivity.

4.     Chocolate for glowing skin and sun protection

Chocolate can help you maintain healthy skin by modulating healthy blood flow. In one study, two groups of women consumed either a high flavanol or low flavanol cocoa powder for a period of 12 weeks. While the low flavanol group showed no change in markers of skin health, subjects in the high flavanol group had on average 25% reduction in UV-induced erythema (sunburn) after exposure to a solar simulator.

The high flavanol group also recorded increased skin density and thickness, as well as better hydration and less transepidermal water loss.

5.     Chocolate may lower inflammation

Chocolate has inflammation-modulating properties. In one study, obese mice supplemented with cocoa powder had healthier levels of inflammation and insulin. These mice also had a 30% reduction in plasma levels of the major pro-inflammatory mediator interleukin 6. Additionally, a cross-sectional study of an Italian cohort discovered an inverse relationship between dark chocolate consumption and serum C-reactive protein.

6.     Chocolate is a prebiotic

While many studies assume that it is the cacao polyphenols acting directly to modulate biomarkers, it is most likely the case that at least some of the effect is indirect, and works through interaction with our gut microbiome. Research suggests that low molecular weight cocoa flavanols such as epicatechin and catechin can be absorbed directly into blood circulation, (unless you mix them with milk) but this is not so for the larger polyphenols. In this case, microflora in the colon work to break down high molecular weight polyphenols, so that the smaller secondary metabolites may circulate throughout the body. Cocoa flavanols are processed by gut microbiota, and secondary metabolites can enter circulation.

benefits of chocolate and effects of cocoa on the immune system

If gut bacteria are feeding on the larger cocoa polyphenols, then it follows that they can also change the composition of the intestinal microbiome. In fact, one study did discover a beneficial prebiotic effect of high flavanol chocolate consumption. After a period of 4 weeks of consuming a high flavanol cocoa powder, subjects had a significant increase in bifidobacteria and lactobacilli populations, as well as significantly decreased clostridia levels. This was accompanied by significantly decreased C-reactive protein (which correlates to inflammation reduction in the body), which was associated particularly with changes in lactobacilli.

7.     Chocolate for anti-aging

Last, but certainly not least, cacao can enhance mitochondrial biogenesis, or, the creation of new mitochondria! If you’ve read about Unfair Advantage, you know how important it is to have healthy mitochondria, and more of them. It is the flavanol epicatechin in chocolate which is responsible for mitogenesis. In one study, oral administration of epicatechin to senile mice shifted numerous biomarkers towards those of young mice, including sirtuin 1, a well-recognized regulator of mitochondrial biogenesis. In another mouse study, treatment with epicatechin improved exercise performance by ~50% compared to controls, and enhanced muscle fatigue resistance by ~30%. The epicatechin group also recorded significant increases in mitochondrial volume in hindlimb and cardiac muscles.

Does chocolate have caffeine?

Yes, but in much smaller amounts than coffee. So much less, you could probably eat a square or two of dark chocoalte before bed without any trouble falling asleep. The really cool energy-giving molecule in coffee is called theobromine. Theobromin is the primary alkaloid found in cocoa that is responsible for multiple positive effects, one of which is similar to the effects of caffeine. Although theobromine is present in other plants, there’s a high contentration in dark chocolate, with measures between 237-519 mg per 50g.

The benefits of theobromine

Promotes steady energy: Due to the molecular makeup of theobromine, while it promotes energy in the body, it doesn’t exert its effects on the central nervous system – so its effects are a more gentle, feel-good type of energy. Also, due to its molecular makeup, theobromine takes longer to clear from your body, which means this calm energy lasts longer.

Better cognitive function: The immediate cognitive effects of chocolate are primarily accounted for by caffeine and theobromine. A study comparing the effects of cocoa powder versus an equivalent caffeine and theobromine powder found equivalent improvements in cognitive and mood assessments.

Addictive taste: It is said that dark chocolate is an “acquired taste,” and research suggests that theobromine may be the component responsible for our attraction to dark chocolate. One study demonstrated an increased liking for a ‘novel’ drink when it was mixed with theobromine.

The pitfalls of chocolate

Most chocolate contains sugar

By now you may be interested in picking up some chocolate, but be sure to choose one with as little sugar as possible or even none.

While research shows that cocoa can have a beneficial effect with regards to maintaining healthy vascular tone and insulin sensitivity, the reverse is true for sugar. Eating sweetened chocolate is still not good for you. Beware of chocolate marketed as “sugar-free” that may contain unhealthy artificial sweeteners, which are found in the “kryptonite” zone of the Bulletproof Diet Roadmap. The only recommended sweeteners are Stevia, erythritol from non-GMO corn, and xylitol from hardwood.

In one study, rats fed a high-fat, high-sucrose diet for 4 weeks displayed insulin resistance, and decreased endothelial nitric oxide synthase (eNOS), which is responsible for creating nitric oxide in blood vessels.[29] Other studies have demonstrated that the detrimental effect of sugar on vascular function is independent of obesity and insulin resistance, so sugar is bad for you even if you are in otherwise good health.

Chocolate can contain mold

Unfortunately, due to intensive farming techniques and poor agricultural, processing, and storage practices, much of the world’s chocolate supply is contaminated with meaningful levels of mold toxins. One of the more insidious and dangerous forms of mycotoxin, ochratoxin A, was present in 98% of samples tested in one study. Of those contaminated with ochratoxin, the study found an 80% co-occurrence of aflatoxin as well. Mycotoxins amplify each other when more than one is present.

Cacao trees are a tropical crop, making them highly susceptible to fungus and mold. Roasting moldy beans destroys the actual fungi, but it doesn’t destroy the fungi’s byproduct: harmful mold toxins. Beans aren’t just susceptible when they’re on the tree. They can become host to mold and fungi during pre-processing, so it’s important not to let them sit for long periods of time.[34] The good news is that one study found that the processing of cocoa beans into a finished product resulted in a 93.6% decrease in ochratoxin A.[35] My experience is that mold toxins vary greatly from batch to batch and from brand to brand, and a brand with “clean” chocolate this month may not be clean the following month.

Keep the following in mind while selecting and eating chocolate:

    Make sure your chocolate is at least 85 percent dark chocolate

    European chocolate tends to be lower in mold toxins, as they have stricter government limits than the US

    Take activated coconut charcoal with chocolate to bind some of the mold toxins like I always do

How to get more chocolate into your day

Your options are almost limitless. Try these unique options to get more chocolate into your diet:

   Drink cacao tea

    Make a Bulletproof Mocha: add some high-quality chocolate powder to your morning BP coffee

    Make Bulletproof Get Some Ice Cream

    Check out The Bulletproof Diet book for Bulletproof dessert AND dinner recipes that use high-quality chocolate

Daily Devotions

·       Unite in the work of the Porters of St. Joseph by joining them in fasting: Today's Fast: For the intercession of the angels and saints

·       Offering to the sacred heart of Jesus

·       Drops of Christ’s Blood

·       Iceman’s 40 devotion

·       Universal Man Plan

·       Operation Purity

·       Rosary




[1] George Wiegel, Witness to Hope, 1999, p66.

[3]http://www.usccb.org/about/pro-life-activities/january-roe-events/nine-days-of-prayer-penance-and-pilgrimage.cfm

[4]https://www.bulletproof.com/diet/superfoods/is-chocolate-good-for-you-health-benefits/



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