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Sunday, July 3, 2022

  fourth Sunday after Pentecost ST. THOMAS   Matthew, Chapter 10, verse 28 And do not be AFRAID of those who kill the body but cannot...

90 Days to Peace

 

DAY 1 – 90 DAYS TO PEACE "THE FRUIT OF FEAR OF THE LORD IS PEACE"

“FREEDOM FROM FEAR” BY FR. BILL PECKMAN

In the Garden of Eden, the devil tempts Adam and Eve. He lies to them. His lie is effective because it taps into fear. The fear is simple: God does not want what is good for you. The devil sells a fear to Adam and Eve that God wishes them to be perpetually ignorant of good and evil (even though they already knew the good), and that they are missing out without that knowledge. Fear finds its roots in a disbelief in God’s providence and care. God knows this and, in the Scriptures, He tells us repeatedly to not be afraid. Overcoming fear is trusting in God.

Fear rules our nation now. It used to be that the American Dream was the ability to act rightly and freely and set a course independent of one’s socioeconomic status. In the last 100 years the American Dream transformed into accumulation of possessions and status. Now the American dream has turned into a nightmare of anarchy by which the dream is complete autonomy and self-determination independent of God, science, or reason. The fear comes from a belief that this life is all that there is, and we must create a reality conducive to our personal truth. Anyone who challenges this is to be feared and despised.

Fear rules within most churches now too. It has reduced the evangelical call of the Great Commission to a call for the comfortable and non-challenging. It has stilled our tongues on moral issues, gutted our catechesis, emptied our seminaries, and decimated the priesthood. Being Catholic has always carried a stigma in this country. With the scandals in the Church, fear of being accused of things one would never do is a strong deterrent to answering God’s call. It was for me. When the purveyors of fear have raised their voices, we Catholics have allowed ours to be scared silent. A fearful person who will not stand up against the lies of a human being will never stand up to the lies perpetrated by the father of lies, the devil. We would do well to heed Jesus’ rebuke of His apostles in Matthew 8:26, “Why are you fearful, ye of little faith?” He says this as they are being tossed on the sea by a strong storm.

It might be said that courage is the virtue that combats fear. It goes deeper. The real virtue to cultivate is the theological virtue of faith. To countermand the devil’s use of fear (that God does not want what is good for us or will abandon us if we follow Him), we must develop faith.  Faith makes us able, and willing, to put our trust in His goodness and plan.

Because it is a theological virtue, the virtue only grows with the assistance of the grace of God. We will not be able to cultivate faith without the sacramental life of the Church. Even when circumstances prevent our participation in the sacramental life of the Church, the fervent desire to participate in the sacramental life of the Church allows that opening for God to flood us with the grace to grow our faith. Such desire has aided the imprisoned, the ill, and the exiled.

Faith must lead to conversion. If not, then the grace of God is squandered. We shall have to answer for this. Conversion is an outward and inward sign of the trust and faith we have in God. Conversion sets the devil on his heels. It calls out his lie. Faith will lead us to a place where we can stand out against the rising tide and fight against the diabolical. Dead men float downstream, weak men are pushed downstream, but strong men can walk against the current and move forward. Faith is the powertrain to give us such abilities. (From “Let Freedom Ring“) 

You can enlist in the United States Grace Force HERE (please recruit family and friends!)

Information on the United States Grace Force can be found HERE

We highly recommend ordering the book “Let Freedom Ring” authored by Fr. Bill Peckman, Fr. James Altman and Fr. Rick Heilman. This amazing book will be a great tool for easy access, highlighting and bookmarking as you traverse through the first 40-days of our 90 Days to Peace journey with tens of thousands of other special forces prayer warriors!

You can order the book at RomanCatholicGear.com. 

GET YOUR PEACE THROUGH STRENGTH PRAYER JOURNAL …

HERE


Day 2

“Freedom from Despair” by Fr. Rick Heilman

There is a stirring scene in the sixth chapter of John’s Gospel, a chapter referred to as the “Bread of Life Discourse.” Jesus had just told the crowd, “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life.” The response by nearly all was, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?” Jesus returns with, “The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing.” And then, in the 66th verse of chapter 6 of John’s Gospel, or rather John 6:66, almost everyone leaves: “From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.”

The crowd who abandoned Jesus had abandoned hope. They despaired. So, what did they do? They turned back to the emptiness of merely existing in the flesh. This emptiness, or desolation, is the place the devil wants us to be. It is Satan’s kingdom.

I believe it is no accident that the chapter and verse of this act of despair in John’s Gospel is 666. We are given free will. We can choose God or not. In the Book of Revelation, 666 is the number of the beast or the number of man. Once separated from God, Satan wants us to believe we are merely one animal (beast) among many; just part of the herd. So, like animals, we are left to scramble to fill this void with worldly wants and lusts; works of the flesh.

Make no mistake about it, the influencers of our culture (media, Hollywood, TV, universities, public schools, etc.) are, by and large, godless propagandists who are determined to instill in us the notion that we are “merely animals.” Therefore, women are objectified, men are just vulgar beasts, pre-born babies are a clump of cells, and the nuclear family – the bedrock of civilization – is outdated. As the Satanist Aleister Crowley said: “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law.” Just be animals.

After the crowd abandoned Jesus in despair, He then said to the Twelve, “Do you also want to leave?” Simon Peter answered him, “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and are convinced that You are the Holy One of God.”

The Apostles were not buying the lie of the devil. No, we are not just animals; we are precious children of God, created in His image. Therefore, life in the Spirit is filled with the hope of a joyful and amazing journey of striving to please God in every way, especially by striving to become the best version of ourselves we can possibly be. And, just as Jesus demonstrated on the cross, we are called to a total selfless love of neighbor.

The crowd abandoned Him in despair, but the Apostles stayed with Him in hope. If we want the hope of all meaning and purpose in life as a child of God, we simply must get near to Him, because “the Spirit gives life.” We must combat the temptation of allowing our faith to devolve into merely “punching the clock” by fulfilling basic obligations. Many avoid an intimate relationship with the Lord because, like the crowd, they believe, “This is a hard teaching.” In other words, if we “let God in” He will ask “too much” from us. It’s better to keep God at arm’s length — a manageable distance.

It’s time to make it personal. It’s time to get near to Him before the Blessed Sacrament, to spend time adoring Our Lord. This can be done by scheduling an hour at a local adoration chapel, or you can simply come early or stay after Mass. Be careful though, because you may just find yourself crying out, “My Lord and my God!” … and then everything will change. Your life, filled with hope, will rise to new and exciting heights!

“Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint” (Isaiah 40:31). (From “Let Freedom Ring“)


DAY 3 – 90 DAYS TO PEACE“Freedom from Treason” by Fr. James Altman

Dear family, the very word “treason” stirs a fundamental loathing within us toward the traitor. Nobody likes a traitor, a betrayer. Indeed, as to the greatest traitor of all time, the betrayer of the Son of God, Jesus Himself said “… woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed. It would be better for that man if he had never been born” (Matthew 26:24).

The common understanding or definition of traitor is criminal disloyalty, typically to the state. It is a crime that covers some of the more extreme acts against one’s nation or sovereign. Perhaps the most ancient figure that exemplifies treason is Brutus, who betrayed Julius Caesar, through whom Shakespeare had utter the famous words “et tu Brute?” – “and you, Brutus?” – even you, Brutus, my friend? Remember such similar, chilling words, spoken 2,000 years ago, “Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?” (Luke 22:48).

As Americans – at least before the current historical revisionism – we have known since schooldays what to think of treason. We were taught what to think through classic examples that, like every good parable, imparted to us the sense of right and wrong. On the one hand, we learned of the betrayal by Benedict Arnold, whose name has become synonymous with treason. Benjamin Franklin wrote that “Judas sold only one man, Arnold three million.” On the other hand, we learned of the glorious sacrifice of Nathan Hale who, as he stood before the British gallows, uttered the renowned words “I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country.”

Who can forget the brave witness of faith of Bishop St. John Fisher who refused to apostatize himself before the malevolent King Henry VIII, whilst the rest of the cowardly episcopacy bent to the will of a mere human? Who can forget the more recent brave witnesses of the Mexican clergy-martyrs, like Blessed Miguel Pro, or the incomprehensibly brave 14-year-old boy, St. José Sánchez del Río?

It all fits together … the secular revulsion we have toward the “Benedict Arnolds” of the world, and the revulsion we have toward the “Judases” who betrayed us in the Faith. It certainly explains the revulsion that the faithful had for the grave betrayal of the abuse scandal. It was bad enough that abuse occurred in the first place; it was immeasurably worse when certain members of the hierarchy covered it up; it was much worse than that when others who knew stood by and did nothing; and worst of all when some of the hierarchy themselves were perpetrators. The grave consequences to the faith of the faithful are well known.

But it is easy to blame those we readily identify as Judases. It is a lot easier to point the finger at other particularly evil traitors, but what about us? Let us never forget the parable Jesus taught about those who were convinced of their own righteousness. How often are we like the Pharisee who took up his position in the temple “and spoke this prayer to himself, ‘O God, I thank You that I am not like the rest of humanity — greedy, dishonest, adulterous — or even like this tax collector’” (Luke 18:11).

The fact is that we all have been traitors. In fact, we all are traitors, to a greater or lesser extent maybe, but traitors, nonetheless. Every single time we betray the Sacrifice on Calvary…traitor. Every time we sin, in what we have done and in what we have failed to do…traitor. We betray the Cross of Christ every time we refuse to pick up our crosses and follow Jesus to our own personal Calvary. For today, let us look at what might be the most insidious way we betray Jesus — in what we have failed to do.

As the great Archbishop Charles Chaput once said: “For Pope Benedict, lay people and priests don’t need to publicly renounce their Catholic faith to be apostates; they simply need to be silent when their baptism demands that they speak out, to be cowards when Jesus asks them to have courage.” So, what about us? What about our own treason?

Dear family, in our politically-correct-poisoned culture, we are stigmatized, chastised, and ostracized when we try to live out our Faith publicly. We are hammered by the proposition that we are being “judgmental” when we stand up for the truths of our Faith. Yet, if we speak up and speak out about the unchanged and unchangeable truth about sin, and endure the repercussions for doing so, should we not have the same attitude as Jesus to the temple guard? — “If I have spoken wrongly, testify to the wrong; but if I have spoken rightly, why do you strike me?” (John 18:23).

Let us pray this day to be free from treason – from highest treason – against Jesus our Lord, in what we do, but perhaps even more, in what we have failed to do.  Too many times we have remained silent when our baptism calls us to stand up and speak out against sin in the world. Indeed, dear family, we will know we have gone spiritually blind when we can see nothing significantly wrong with something that God has called sin.

DAY 4 – 90 DAYS TO PEACE

 “Freedom from Predation” by Fr. Bill Peckman

The devil is the ultimate predator. St. Peter warns his readers, “Stay sober and alert. Your opponent the devil is prowling like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). The devil is always looking for any opening in which he can pounce and destroy. He uses everything from occult practices to our concupiscence (our predilection to sin) to gain a beachhead. He will also teach us how to follow him as predators ourselves.

We live in a society that encourages predation. From the mobster who shakes down the local merchant for protection, to the sex trafficker and pornographer, to the predatory interest charged in so many loans, to the endless scams used to bilk people out of money, to the common bullying (cyber and otherwise), to those engaged in domestic violence — our society is full of predators looking for their mark, looking for their next meal. Many hide behind the cover of darkness, anonymity, or even behind the law.

Our Church has been rocked over the past half century by predation. The most obvious examples have stemmed from the scandals in which clerics preyed on their own flocks for sexual gratification, heinously even preying on the lambs of their flock. Others have preyed on their flock through financial malfeasance by defrauding their parishes or dioceses of funds. Many are also complicit in withholding from their flocks how to stave off predation. In abandoning their flocks, they are every bit as guilty as the wolves they welcomed.

Certainly, we can extend these behaviors to the most basic building block of the Church: the domestic church, or the family. In these places we can see domestic violence, molestation, and other nefarious abuses of power that have their roots in the diabolic. The demonic mimicking of the predatory behaviors of the devil must be purged from all levels of the Church.

All predatory behavior stems from selfishness: the person’s needs or wants are so important that all means to satisfy them are justified. For a predator, his or her satiation is of far greater value than your happiness, security, or life. While a predator may be infatuated by their prey, they cannot love them. Their intent is to eventually destroy or discard, after they have taken all they want. What force could possibly stand up against such an insatiable beast?!

We look to Christ the Good Shepherd for our answer! Christ does not prey on His flock. No, He places Himself between His flock and that which would destroy them. He stands in that breech, sacrificing Himself for their salvation. Jesus tells us, “I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep” (John 10:11). Why would He do this? Because He loves them. It is impossible to love someone and prey on them at the same time. Hence, the virtue we cultivate to conquer the desire to be a predator is the theological virtue of love. Love, divine love (or agape) is completely selfless. Instead of focusing on one’s own desires and satiation, love allows you to look to the good of others, even when doing so incurs suffering or sacrifice. Love, because it is of God, chases away the devil and his minions. It helps us, as St. Paul says of himself, to be “poured out like an oblation” (2 Timothy 4:6)  (From “Let Freedom Ring“)

DAY 5 – 90 DAYS TO PEACE

“Freedom from Cowardice” by Fr. Rick Heilman

Recently, Facebook suspended my account for 24 hours for sharing a video of a respected doctor who has had success with a treatment for COVID-19. The video that supposedly does not follow Facebook’s community standards had 1.5 million views in one week, and at the time of this writing has not been banned on YouTube.

What’s going on here? Obviously, this is about the ongoing threat of my willingness to speak the truth openly. Such behavior is not allowed by the mob who is clearly in power now. This action by Facebook is an example of the classic chilling effect meant to place fear in anyone who does not stay within the lines of the mob’s agenda. “Chilling effect” is a term in law and communication that describes a situation where speech or conduct is suppressed by fear of penalization at the interests of an individual or group.

The problem right now is that this chilling effect is proving to be remarkably effective. Most people are cowering in fear. Even religious leaders are kowtowing to the mob. Why? Because speaking the truth openly is considered “divisive.” In other words, because those who oppose the Holy Spirit aggressively express their offense of divine revelation (Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition), we must remain silent on these teachings. For the sake of unity, we are expected to silently sit by and allow the normalization of killing babies, the demise of the nuclear family, sodomy, gender dysphoria (grown men sharing a bathroom with little girls), Marxism, etc.

These growing calls for silence, amid the mounting aggression of the mob, have turned an incrementalism of evil into a bum-rush of everything that betrays the will of God.

Archbishop Fulton Sheen wrote, “The refusal to take sides on great moral issues is itself a decision. It is a silent acquiescence to evil. The tragedy of our time is that those who still believe in honesty lack fire and conviction, while those who believe in dishonesty are full of passionate conviction.”

Jesus did not prescribe this silent acquiescence to evil as a way to avoid division. We are not to kowtow to any chilling effect from the mob. Instead, we must be willing to boldly speak the truth with love, despite the backlash that is sure to come. We were told, “Brother will hand over brother to death, and the father his child; children will rise up against parents and have them put to death. You will be hated by all because of my name, but whoever endures to the end will be saved” (Matthew 10:21-22).

There it is — “but whoever endures to the end will be saved.” Therefore, I must ask myself, “What if I get hit by a car today and must stand before the judgment throne of God?” Will I be eternally condemned for speaking truth that might have been divisive or offended people? Or will I be saved because I stood with Christ and His truth, endured in fortitude, and was unafraid to thwart the advancement of evil in our times, regardless of what the consequences were?

DAY 6 – 90 DAYS TO PEACE

“Freedom from Vengeance” by Fr. James Altman

Dear family, vengeance sounds a whole lot like revenge to me, both of which we know in our hearts are not good things. One site tried to explain the difference: “the difference between revenge and vengeance is that revenge is any form of personal retaliatory action against an individual, institution, or group for some perceived harm or injustice while vengeance is revenge taken for an insult, injury, or other wrong.” Well, that was no help! They still sound like the same thing. Sure enough, another site called the words synonyms.

In any event, this we know: “Vengeance is Mine, saith the Lord” (Deuteronomy 32:35). The truth in Deuteronomy is found in the words of St. Paul, “Beloved, do not look for revenge but leave room for the wrath; for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord” (Romans 12:19). When the Word became Flesh and dwelt among us, He confirmed it all, teaching: “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, offer no resistance to one who is evil. When someone strikes you on (your) right cheek, turn the other one to him as well” (Matthew 5:38-39).

What does “offer no resistance to one who is evil” mean exactly? In our day and age, this is an important question that is, unfortunately, too often answered with a glib and meaningless recitation of “turn the other cheek.” This response though is a disconnected scriptural verse, taken out of context, out of culture, and out of text written about 2,000 years ago in a language that few people understand.

Let us begin with what Matthew 5:38-39 really means. The biblical notes to those two verses state: “The Old Testament commandment was meant to moderate vengeance; the punishment should not exceed the injury done. Jesus forbids even this proportionate retaliation.” Right away then, we see this only pertains to the concept of retaliation. It did not mean then, and it does not mean now, that we simply lay down and play “doormat” for any evil doer.

This “I’m not a doormat” principle may be explained best by considering self-defense. We are entitled to protect our own lives and the lives of others. This right is not negated by Jesus’ teachings, and in fact, it stands in contrast to the scriptural admonition against retaliation. The warning against retaliation may be understood by pondering one of its consequences: escalation. For example, one bad actor “A” incites retaliation from “B”, which incites retaliation from “A”, which incites more retaliation from “B”, etc.  This vengeance cycle can escalate to the point where others end up getting caught in the crossfire.  In the real world this results in bodies in the streets of our cities, and innocent victims (too often little children) reaping the repercussions.

In a larger sense, who can deny that the current culture of violence, rioting, looting, and burning is nothing other than vengeance and retaliation? The anarchists set themselves up against Christian truth, truth found in the words of the great prophet Jeremiah: “To whom shall I speak? Whom shall I warn and be heard? … See, the word of the LORD has become for them an object of scorn, for which they have no taste” (Jeremiah 6:10). It explains why the Seattle mayor’s absurd response to CHOP (the Capitol Hill Organized Protest) seems to prevail everywhere – remember she called it “the summer of love.” We saw the “love” in the murders and violent crimes. Her perverse twisting of truth also is found in the words of Jeremiah: “They have treated lightly the injury to my people: ‘Peace, peace!’ they say, though there is no peace” (Jeremiah 6:14).

In a more personal sense, all that we are seeing is nothing other than a reflection of people’s hearts devoid of the tempering grace of Divine Love. Divine Love did not rain down lightning bolts upon the Roman centurions who drove the nails into His sacred body. Rather, Jesus sought to show Divine Love when He asked our Father to forgive them, for they knew not what they did (cf. Luke 23:34).

Let us realize, though, that Jesus did not paint with a broad brush of forgiveness to include those who knew what they were doing, or those who should have known. That is why Jesus said the members of the Sanhedrin who condemned Him would not enter the Kingdom of Heaven (cf. Matthew 5:20). That is why God’s justice will have its day when the lack of love drives so many to act in a vengeful way.

Again, the opposite of vengeance is love. But love is not demonstrated by playing “doormat.” In the face of evil, genuine love is known as “tough love.” True love speaks up and speaks out with courage, in the face of grave error that threatens real peace. True love is enshrined in the spiritual works of mercy that teach us to instruct the ignorant and admonish the sinner. Instruction and admonishment are correction, they are not the same as vengeance or retaliation.

In these dark times, let us not fall into the trap of a false mercy, some twisted interpretation of “turning the other cheek.” Rather let us be a Light of Christ and an example of genuine love that instructs the ignorant and admonishes the sinner. Amidst all the vengeance we see in the streets, and in the personal hurts in our own lives, we will have plenty of opportunity to do that. So, any time we find ourselves struggling with thoughts of vengeance instead of mercy, let us make haste to spend more time before the Blessed Sacrament, meditating upon the Holy Cross, where the Light of Christ enlightens the darkest thoughts of our own souls. 

DAY 7 – 90 DAYS TO PEACE

“Freedom from Envy” by Fr. Bill Peckman

It is the green-eyed monster that mocks what it feeds upon. In Othello, Iago warns Othello of the green-eyed monster that we know as jealousy or envy. How appropriate that the deadly sin of envy should be given a monstrous or demonic personage! Envy is the resentment one feels for the success or good of another. It is not necessarily directed only at enemies but also at one’s family and friends, which leads to the German term schadenfreude (leave it to our German ancestors to have an extensive vocabulary for pain).

In the Gospel of Mark, 9:38-40, the apostles come across a man who is exorcising demons in Jesus’ name and they try to stop him. Jesus responds by telling them to let the man be, as anyone who is with Him cannot be against Him. We see time and again the envy of the religious leaders who persecute Jesus, seeking ways to trap Him in the process of showing mercy. Envy, as Shakespeare noted, mocks what it feeds on because it is incapable of rejoicing in the good of another.

Envy is pervasive in our society. We are taught to resent the success of others as if somehow it threatens our identity or morale. We are taught to resent the belongings of others as if they somehow came from our portion of the pie. We are taught to find excuses in our perpetual victimhood that can be laid at the feet of those who succeed. Some political movements, such as Marxism, rely on envy to stir resentment that destroys the social order. Envy leads us to demonize the successful, to seek their downfall, to denigrate their talents, and to destroy their reputations. It is much easier to tear someone down than it is to convert oneself to something greater.

Such a mentality can find itself in our churches. I worked in the business world for several years prior to going into the seminary; I have seen and climbed the corporate ladder. On those rungs, I did not see nearly the amount of professional jealousy that I have seen among those who work in the Church. Envy and ambition are constant companions. I have seen volunteers tear down and wish failure upon other volunteers because they were envious of their success. I have seen this in priests and have been guilty myself, from time to time, during my over 23 years of priestly ministry. Envy is as destructive within the Body of Christ as it is outside of it.

How do we combat such a demonic presence? Let us go back to the response of Christ in Mark 9: “No man who performs a miracle using my name can at the same time speak ill of me. Anyone who is not against us is with us.” The apostles should have rejoiced that the man in question was exorcising in Jesus’ name. They should have seen his success as Christ’s success. Hence, part of defeating the demonic influence is learning to share in the joy of those who have succeeded justly and to pray for the redemption of those who have succeeded under nefarious means. Either leads us closer to our Christian call. Cultivate joy at the good. Cultivate mercy through prayer for the bad.

Another way to combat envy is thanksgiving. Gratitude for what God has done, and continues to do, will do more to alleviate the grasp of the green-eyed monster than anything else. It is easy to be envious when one has a dearth of thanksgiving. When one is truly thankful, one has less time and inclination to be envious of what others have or who others are. This thankfulness leads to a generosity and a correct stewardship of what God has given us. Nothing so starves and chases away the green-eyed monster of envy quite the way a heart full of thankfulness does.

Finally, one must cultivate the virtue of humility. Humility seeks the truth about oneself, both good and bad, and restrains us from getting caught up in the tentacles of envy. A good example of this can be found in St. Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians. St. Paul is tempted to resent Peter and Apollos in their preaching in Corinth. Although none of these three men saw themselves as anything other than being of the team, the people of Corinth had allowed division based on who said what. In St. Paul’s response, a plea for unity in Christ, he does not defend himself as greater than Peter or Apollos, rather he humbles himself. He acknowledges that God uses each as He deems fit. Humility, because it is bound in truth, enables us to rejoice in the good of our brothers, to be thankful for what God does for us, and to have an attitude of mercy.

DAY 8 – 90 DAYS TO PEACE

“Freedom from Elitism” by Fr. Rick Heilman

In an interview with Carl E. Olson, Dr. Angelo Codevilla, author of the book, The Ruling Class, said:

“The ruling class are society’s ‘ins.’ This class comprises persons in government, those who depend for their livelihoods on government, and whose socio-economic prospects and hopes are founded on government. Thus, it includes most people in the educational establishment, the media, and large corporations. Its leading elements and its major voting constituencies are the Democratic party. But it transcends political parties because any number of Republicans aspire to its privileges and share its priorities.

 

Above all, the ruling class defines itself by a set of attitudes, foremost of which is contempt for those outside itself. This contempt stems from the rather uniform education that the ruling class’s members absorbed from universities and which they developed by living in their subculture. Believing themselves intelligent apostles of scientific truth, they regard others as dumb and in the grip of religious obscurantism. Religion is the greatest of the divides between the ruling class and those it deems its inferiors. Whereas they believe themselves morally good and psychologically sound, they regard others as suffering from psychological dysfunctions and phobias – effectively as bad people. The ruling class does not believe that those outside itself have the right or capacity to conduct their own lives.”

The rest of us, often described as the “country class” or, as the 2016 Democratic presidential candidate called us, “deplorables,” comprise most of our country. Nevertheless, the secular religion of the ruling class has captured virtually all the sources of influence: the media, Hollywood, TV, universities, public schools, etc. At the same time, unfortunately, many religious leaders seem to be tripping over themselves with shameless attempts to ingratiate themselves with this secular religion’s high priests.

In today’s culture, this elitism has seemed to take control, as speech or conduct contrary to the agenda of the elites is suppressed with threats:  threats against reputation, employment, property, and even one’s physical safety. Let’s call it what it is: They are bullies. Operating from moral relativism, which proclaims the end always justifies the means, everything – EVERYTHING! – is on the table for accomplishing the elites’ goal of gaining complete power and control.

Elitism is the temptation of every human being, and we have all recognized it as early as our childhood days when the so-called “cool kids” on the playground would exert their superiority, often by ridiculing those they deemed as “beneath” them. The temptation is to compromise, surrender, or even join ranks with these elites of our day. No! Jesus calls us to be the “mighty influencers” of our culture, to be “disrupters.” We are called not to promote the selfish “establishment” and their power-hungry and godless agenda, but to promote the virtues, morals, values, and ethics of God’s kingdom.

The influence of the elites is strong and, in many ways, we have grown weak. More than any other time, WE NEED EACH OTHER! We need to become UNIFIED! We need to do all we can to spend as much time as possible with others who are striving to GET STRONG in the virtues of God’s Kingdom. Proverbs 27:17 says, “Iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.”

Parishes were always meant to be these epicenters of unity and strength. Parishes simply must work to be the best possible “spiritual gymnasiums” they can be, where those who attend are encouraged, challenged, and instructed in all the ways to become “strong in the Lord and in His mighty power” (Ephesians 6:10). Parishes must be places where we find fellow Catholics who “spur one another on toward love and good deeds” (Hebrews 10:24).

I’m sure you are, like me, long past tired of the ruling class’s mob claiming the moral high ground with their demonically influenced secular religion. It’s high time for all of us to become a force to be reckoned with, UNITED in our resolve to GET STRONG in God’s mighty power!

DAY 9 – 90 DAYS TO PEACE

 “Freedom from Abuse of Sexuality Outside the Marital State” by Fr. James Altman

Dear family, it is time to speak truth, and speak it boldly, on the issue of the abuse of sexuality outside of the marital state, which can best be understood by the phrase “interim period.” There is a dichotomy in this world: God and Lucifer. God has His plan, and it is Good. Lucifer has his plan, which is the opposite of God’s, and it is evil. Once we confess and admit what God’s intention actually is, we then can identify, recognize, and avoid Lucifer’s evil plan while striving to follow God’s good one. Lucifer’s scheme is evil in all its insidious and diabolical facets, most particularly in artificial contraception, cohabitation, abortion, and same-sex unions.

God’s good plan is simple, straightforward, and easy to understand: “God created mankind in His image; in the image of God He created them; male and female He created them. God blessed them and God said to them: ‘Be fertile and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it’” (Genesis 1:27-28). “The LORD God said: ‘It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suited to him’ … The LORD God then built the rib that He had taken from the man into a woman. … That is why a man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife, and the two of them become one body” (Genesis 2:18, 22, 24).

That is God’s plan, that is the truth, and anything contrary to the truth is false. That is known as the PNC, the Principle of Non-Contradiction. Therefore, anything contrary to one man, one woman, open to children, for life is false. Period. End of debate. So how did we ever get to the point where any Christian dares to suggest, much less insist, that artificial contraception, co-habitation outside the sacramental bond of matrimony, termination of a baby’s life in the womb, and same-sex unions are A-OK with God? With what twisted and diabolical poison have we been fed? Here is how all this happened: greed and selfishness.

In God’s creation, and throughout millennia, boys and girls reached puberty roughly at 12-14 years of age. Having a very developed brain by the age of roughly 12, they were mature enough to be able to cope with the onset of hormonal challenges while they were in the safety and security of their family homes. Then, when fully mature, the young man would leave the family home for the purpose of getting married and thereafter cling to his wife. There was no interim period between leaving the family home and marriage. Not in God’s plan, which is the only plan that matters.

Then diabolical greed came into the picture. The food supply was tainted by steroids and growth hormones, all for the purpose of profiteering. This tainted food affected the physiological development of children even before birth, when the mother’s own food was tainted. This taint has affected physiological development such that our children’s bodies are maturing before their brains. In fact, this introduction into the children’s bodies even affects the development of the brain, not unlike the introduction of alcohol at a certain point of pre-birth development causes the irreversible damage of fetal-alcohol syndrome. In short, earlier onset of puberty comes before God intended and at a time the child’s brain and the child are not mature enough to handle it.

Then, instead of leaving the family home for the purpose of marriage, the young adult leaves the home to go to college, and “God forbid” someone gets married before graduating from college. There is an issue of economic greed at play. In fact, even after college, the young adult is discouraged from entering sacramental matrimony because, well, “I have to get my career started.” Again, it is an issue of economic greed. And then, “God forbid we have kids right out of the starting block. We need time to get settled.” Again, there is an issue of economic greed at play.

In society today, it is the norm to delay marriage for materialistic and relativistic reasons. Over time, the aforementioned factors have widened the gap between the average onset of physical maturity and the typical age of entrance into a sacramental marriage, making it harder for people to remain chaste.

Despite the change in society’s norms, God’s good plan still expects us to remain pure and chaste before sacred matrimony. Is it any wonder that so many fail so badly when faced with the challenge of living up to God’s plan, and why we justify divergence from God’s plan with relativistic Luciferian terms?

The results, of course, are obvious to anyone with courage enough to admit it. The results are exactly as Pope St. Paul VI said they would be when he wrote Humanae Vitae. The results are exactly as our Blessed Mother warned us about at Fatima — that the final battle would be an attack on God’s plan for family. That is the ultimate “Russian error” of which she spoke. Hence, we have rampant contraception, cohabitation, baby-murdering, and homosexuality. (Ironically, all of these were inherent in the Albigensian heresy.)

There is not space in this reflection to discuss the totality of reasons why there is such horrific abuse of sexuality outside of the marital state. There is not space to describe the foundations and causes of the fall into contraception, the utter horror of baby murdering in the womb, the flagrant disregard of our bodies as the temples of the Holy Spirit through cohabitation, as well as the psychological reasons for the development of same-sex attraction. Fortunately, we do not have to go into great depth to find the truth about any of it. It all is founded in the simple and definitive principle that we have chosen to diverge from God’s plan, and among the greatest underlying causes is greed.


DAY 10 – 90 DAYS TO PEACE

“Freedom from Belligerence” by Fr. Bill Peckman

In the Shakespeare play Julius Caesar, there is a scene in which Marc Anthony is alone with the body of the freshly assassinated Julius Caesar. He seeks vengeance on the assassins knowing it will send Rome into a killing frenzy. From this scene we hear the words, “Cry ‘havoc’ and let slip the dogs of war!” (Julius Caesar Act III, Scene I). This refrain plays all too quickly in our society as we fall into hellish nightmares of belligerence and anarchy.

The word belligerence comes from the Latin words bellum (war) and genere (to bear or carry) and means a person engaged in war. In common usage, a belligerent person is one who looks for and pursues reasons to stir trouble and engage in violent revenge. The father of belligerence is none other than he who fomented the first ever revolution against God: the devil.

We live in a horribly belligerent society right now. So many refer to being “triggered,” or easily and frequently offended in such a way that justifies both the tenacity and disproportionate nature of their vengeance. The belligerent see themselves as victims of injustice whose suffering, real or imagined, is sufficient grounds for any destruction and mayhem they may engage in to address the injustice. They wreak havoc in the lives of all who around them. It is as if they look for (even long for) reasons to be angry so that they may act out without regards for consequences.

That belligerence finds itself in our churches as well. There are so many ways in which we find ourselves willfully polarized by everything from music to ritual to leadership. Some of the most hateful things I have seen posted on social media over the years have been Catholics showing a truly hateful belligerence to their fellow Catholics. I have often noted how Satan cackles at our circular firing squads. As in the secular world, belligerence is all about the accrual of power.

There are times we will not be able to avoid the belligerence of others in our defense and propagation of the truth. Jesus Himself refers multiple times to parent being set against child and child against parent as some accept and follow Christ. How do we answer belligerence? How do we stave off the desire to become belligerent against all but Satan and his minions?

The answer, I believe, can be found in Matthew 11:28-30: “Come to me, all you that labor and are burdened, and I will refresh you. Take up My yoke upon you and learn of me because I am meek, and humble of heart: and you shall find rest to your souls. For My yoke is sweet and My burden light.” In this we see that our lives will come with burdens, pains, injustices, and sorrows. We will have that temptation to return belligerence for belligerence. Certainly, Christ carried this reality right up the cross.

The answer lies in our willingness and ability to show meekness. Meekness has a bad reputation as the quality of being mousy, timid, or weak. Meekness is patience, a virtue that St Paul in Galatians 5:22 reminds us is a fruit of the Holy Spirit. Patience is anything but weakness; patience takes incredible strength. It is the strength that Jesus demonstrated on the cross. He shows His strength in patience and endurance. The time for judgment will come. It will be just.

Our ability to show meekness in the face of harm neither condones the harm done to us nor allows another to treat us as a doormat. It shows the strength of character that reduces the mocking and ridicule, thus providing a far stronger witness to all. Our war footing should be directed to the devil and his forces; with them we should show nothing but scorn and forcefulness. The devil and his demons have no hope of conversion. They are eternally damned. As for our fellow human beings, if they are on this side of the moment of death, the possibility, however slim, exists for possible conversion. The Church exists for the salvation of souls. Driving belligerence from our hearts and souls helps us endure the yoke of Christ: the ability to selflessly love and show unswerving obedience to the will of the Father in all things. Our only cry to release “havoc and the dogs of war” should be against the devil and his minions.

DAY 11 – 90 DAYS TO PEACE

“Freedom from Lust” by Fr. Rick Heilman

One of the most effective weapons of the devil today is lust. Our Lady of Fatima revealed, “more souls go to Hell because of sins of the flesh than for any other reason.” It’s more than interesting to note that Margaret Sanger opened the first birth control clinic in 1916, just as the angel first appeared to the children in Fatima. The “roaring twenties” would then burst onto the scene shortly after Our Lady’s dire warning, which seemed to be “a leak in the dike” of a more debased view of sexuality.

But the dam would burst wide open with our modern-day sexual revolution. It was in the 1965 case of Griswold v. Connecticut that the Supreme Court would strike down state laws prohibiting contraception. This would be quickly followed in 1973 by the infamous Supreme Court case of Roe v. Wade, which legalized the killing of pre-born children in all states.

Once the “consequence of conception” seemed to be removed, or the legal right to kill pre-born babies was made available, the sexual revolution flooded into our culture. Now, we are seeing the “normalization” (socially acceptable) of sex-for-pleasure outside the bond of holy matrimony and the explosion of easy access pornography.

Fr. Robert Fromageot, F.S.S.P. writes, “The leading lights of our age often claim to champion the rights of women, and in certain respects the claim is legitimate. At the same time, however, our age has clearly not sought to protect and foster the sacred dignity of women. On the contrary, society would have us remove our wedding garment, divest ourselves of Christ, and put on the ‘old man’ and make ample provision for the flesh. Men are practically encouraged to treat women as mere objects of pleasure, and women are encouraged to seek this degrading form of attention and accept it as normal and compatible with their dignity.”

I began by writing that lust is one of Satan’s most effective weapons. Why? According to St. Thomas Aquinas, the daughters (consequences) of lust are “blindness of mind, thoughtlessness, inconstancy, rashness, self-love, hatred of God, love of this world, and abhorrence or despair of a future world.” While mortal sin kills the life of grace within us, lust accomplishes this in a most effective way. In essence, it has taken men (especially) off the battlefield of spiritual warfare. Instead, they lose any resolve to seek God and His will. They become, in essence, a lump of self-absorbed clay, easily manipulated by the devil. They are lifeless. Satan has managed to sideline countless men, who would otherwise be mighty disciples and soldiers for Christ. Imagine how daunting Christ’s army would be if it weren’t for millions of souls who have, literally, no desire to enter the fray.

Many are caught in the vice of lust. “Vice” indicates the habitual nature of the sin. This vice reveals the “quality” of a man’s soul. Caught in the vice of lust, many confess the sin with little or no resolution to cease its repetition. Therefore, grace may not be given entrance to such a soul while the “daughters of lust” maintain their residence there.

I’m often asked what someone caught in the vice of lust can do. Of course, there are organizations and support groups available. But I often tell men that they need to change their perspective.

This is something I wrote that, I believe, gets to the heart of this proper perspective:

“God’s glorious creation began with things such as dirt, then vegetation, then animals, etc. … it just kept getting better and better. God then created His great love interest … His adopted children … human beings. Yet man was created only second to last. Woman is the crescendo … the last and greatest of all of God’s creation! More than a beautiful sunset or starry night or any cascading waterfalls or picturesque mountain range … God has created nothing more beautiful, more loving, more tender-hearted, more nurturing. That is why women are perfectly positioned to be wife and mother. And, because women are the pinnacle of all God’s creations, they too, like the Blessed Mother, should be esteemed as sacred. They have been given the special role of being the tabernacle of God’s next love interest.”

This is the perspective we must recover. I tell men, “go ahead and notice the wonder of woman – it’s not dirty or sinful to do so – and give praise to God, but do that in a split second, and don’t entertain the base thoughts of the ‘old man.’” I recall when this perspective was prevalent, as I watched in my childhood years, gentlemen stand when a lady entered the room. Oh, how I wish that practice would return!

 DAY 12 – 90 DAYS TO PEACE

“Freedom from Stinginess/Miserliness” by Fr. James Altman

Dear family, who is the one person that most often comes to mind when we think of stingy misers? For many it may be the infamous Ebenezer Scrooge, from Charles Dickens’ 1843 novella, A Christmas Carol. At the beginning of the story, Scrooge is a cold-hearted miser who despises Christmas. His attitude can be summed up in two words: “Bah, humbug!” Dickens describes Scrooge as “a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous, old sinner! Hard and sharp as flint … secret, and self-contained, and solitary as an oyster.” Yes, that about sums up the image we have when we see Scrooge’s heartless attitude toward his clerk, Bob Cratchit, whose household includes the crippled child, Tiny Tim.

Maybe you, like me, have run into some Scrooges in your lifetime – miserly people who are stingy with their money like Ebenezer Scrooge. The adjective miserly evolved from the Latin word miser, which means “unhappy, wretched.” How often do we see unhappiness and wretchedness in the genuinely stingy and miserly?

Why are the stingy and miserly unhappy and wretched? Because misers are a step beyond mere frugality. They are a leap beyond mere prudence in spending. Misers are those who love the accumulation of money, which brings them into direct conflict with the first commandment, to love God above all things.

Jesus directly taught us on this very issue in a parable entitled The Rich Fool, emphasis on the word “fool”: “There was a rich man whose land produced a bountiful harvest. He asked himself, ‘What shall I do, for I do not have space to store my harvest?’ And he said, ‘This is what I shall do: I shall tear down my barns and build larger ones. There I shall store all my grain and other goods and I shall say to myself, ‘Now as for you, you have so many good things stored up for many years, rest, eat, drink, be merry!’” But God said to him, ‘You fool, this night your life will be demanded of you; and the things you have prepared, to whom will they belong?’ Thus will it be for the one who stores up treasure for himself but is not rich in what matters to God” (Luke 12:16-21).

Perhaps it was grace that inspired Dickens to write The Christmas Carol – grace that enabled him to understand that we are formed by our experiences, but all is not lost. It is not too late; it is never too late, to change. The actual novella opens with a description of Scrooge’s lonely and unhappy childhood, and his aspiration for money to avoid poverty. Unlike the rich fool, Scrooge indeed overcame his early formation and, as we know, when he did there was joy: “I don’t know what to do! I am as light as a feather, I am as happy as an angel, I am as merry as a school-boy. I am as giddy as a drunken man. A merry Christmas to everybody! A happy New Year to all the world! Hallo here! Whoop! Hallo!”

It is not likely that our own transformation from stinginess and miserliness will arise from being visited by three ghosts, Past, Present, and Future; however, we do not need nocturnal visits from ghosts to effect a change in ourselves. Rather, if we are open to it, we may make the effort to ponder our own past experiences, then meditate upon how these experiences have formed us and resulted in our present, and then make a firm purpose to amend our future, an amendment to be less stingy and miserly with anything we have.

Certainly, this applies to any material goods, but perhaps most importantly to our time – time we could spend in prayer of thanksgiving, intercession for others, even imploring God on our own behalf. Indeed, what may be most required of us is our time; it so often is a lot easier to just throw some money at a problem, but extremely difficult to spend some personal time fixing it. How stingy and miserly we are with our time. How little we comprehend the implications of the words God spoke to the rich fool: “this night your life will be demanded of you.”

Dear family, we must examine our lives. As the great Socrates is said to have uttered: “The unexamined life is not worth living” (as described in Plato’s Apology, which is a recollection of the speech Socrates gave at his trial. (38a5–6)). One commentator described the meaning of Socrates’ statement thusly: “It means any life which is not checkmated, unaccountable is not worth living. It tries to emphasize that everyone has to live a life that they should be proud of, a life that they can look back to what they achieved and say yes indeed I made a mark or I have not lived up to my expectations, so I need to make amends.”

We must examine our lives and when we do, let us keep in mind the sobering words of the ghost of Jacob Marley: “‘I wear the chain I forged in life,’ replied the Ghost, ‘I made it link by link, and yard by yard.’” And when we examine our lives let us understand the truth spoken by Scrooge after the visit of the ghost of the Future: “Are these the shadows of the things that Will be, or are they shadows of things that May be, only?” In other words, Scrooge asked it if was too late to change. No, dear family, it is not too late, it is never too late, to change.

Scrooge changed because the three ghosts forced him to examine his life. Let us force ourselves to do the same. After all, that is the whole point of the Examination of Conscience we are supposed to do before entering the Sacrament of Reconciliation. In that examination, let us ask ourselves if we truly love God above all things, or whether we are stingy and miserly with any or many of the gifts God has given us, especially the gift of time. Let us not fear such an examination, but rather revel in the fact that we know transformative grace will come to us through the sacrament. Let us pray that through this transformation it may be said of us as it was said of Scrooge in some concluding words of A Christmas Carol: “And it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge. May that be truly said of us, and all of us!”

DAY 13 – 90 DAYS TO PEACE

“Freedom from Pornography” by Fr. Bill Peckman

In 79 A.D., the Roman cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum were buried under the ash of the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius. In the mid-1700s, when the cities were discovered and excavated, we got a good look into life in the earliest days of the spread of Christianity and the culture they were up against. In the ruins were many indications of pornography in brothels and even common homes. The sexual promiscuity of the Roman culture was no secret even if the practice of it was kept behind closed doors in the name of being discreet. How much it saturated the society was a bit of a shock.

Pornography has been with humanity for an exceptionally long time. The word comes from the Greek words porne (prostitute) and graphos (to write). Prostitution deliberately cheapens the human dignity of a person by exploiting them for sexual gratification; pornography further cheapens that dignity by reducing the person to nothing more than an image with which to self-pleasure.

In 1953, we saw the eventual mainstreaming of pornography with the playboy mentality of Hugh Hefner. Within 50 years, the acceptability of pornography had grown so much that viewing it became seen as both a healthy and normal behavior. It is now a 97-billion-dollar industry that fuels human trafficking worldwide.  It is estimated that the sex trafficking trade claims 4.5 million men, women, and children as its victims.  These victims are shown pornography to learn how to “perform,” and are forced to be a pawn in its production. The consumer in this evil exchange is conditioned to completely objectify the human person as a means of self-gratification. There are fewer more potent cancers in our society today than pornography.

It is legion in our society. Both in soft and hard-core versions (everything from “romance” novels to violence), it permeates the entertainment industry at all levels. It is sung about in music, lauded on TV and in motion pictures as normal guy behavior, and now, with the help of the internet and social media, has spread to the point where our children are taking nude pictures of themselves and sending it to others via texting. It influences how we dress, what we show, and the way we interact. It does permanent damage to the human brain, especially if the person starts using it in adolescence. It is known to inhibit the ability to participate in healthy adult relationships. It is estimated that even among Christians, 64% of men use pornography. In a study done on human sex trafficking, it was remarked that pornography is the gateway to prostitution.

The issue with pornography is that it reduces sex to something outside of the marital bond. It is easy adultery. It divorces sex from the marriage and trains married users how to objectify each other for physical gratification. The grim reality with porn is that it is a total rejection of God’s plan for human sexuality. As the U.S. bishops wrote in their 2015 pastoral letter “Create a Clean Heart in Me,” deliberately viewing pornography is a grave sin against chastity. Sexual intimacy and the pleasure that derives from it are gifts from God and should remain personal and private, enjoyed within the sacred bond of marriage alone. Such intimacy should not be put on display or be watched by any other person, even if that person is one’s own spouse. Nor should the human body be unveiled or treated in a way that objectifies it sexually and reduces it to an erotic stimulant. Jesus is clear in his teaching that sexual immorality is not only a matter of one’s actions, but also a matter of one’s heart: “You have heard that it was said, ‘you shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you, everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:27-28).

Pornography is likewise a grave sin against human dignity. As the Catechism says, “filming or taking pictures of the intimate parts of the body or of sexual acts does ‘grave injury’ to the person(s) ‘performing,’ to anyone responsible for its making or production, and to the public. Pornography dehumanizes the persons depicted, making them into objects of use. Those who produce and distribute pornography harm the common good by encouraging and even causing others to sin. They do serious harm to the women and men who consent to be in pornographic material, often out of desperation for money or out of an impoverished sense of self-worth. Even worse, in some cases pornographers take advantage of those who cannot even give consent – children and other victims of human trafficking – which is both a grave sin and a heinous crime.”

Pornography in its variety of forms (print, movie, virtual, TV, music) must be purged from a faithful Catholic’s home. It must be treated as the voracious cancer it is. It may well be with us from antiquity, but its influence must be curtailed so that a renewed respect for the human person’s dignity and integrity may be restored.


DAY 14 – 90 DAYS TO PEACE


“Freedom from Rebellion” by Fr. Rick Heilman

Recently, I have been pointing to one of Venerable Fulton Sheen’s popular TV shows from the 1960s. Sheen entitled this episode, “Quo Vadis, America,” which translates to “America, Where Are You Going?” This is a reference to a conversation recounted in the apocryphal Acts of Peter in which Peter, fleeing his ministry and the threat of crucifixion in Rome, meets the risen Jesus on the road. Peter asks Jesus “Quo Vadis, Domine?” (Where are You going, Lord?), to which Jesus responds that he is going to Rome to be crucified again. This gives Peter the courage to return to his ministry in Rome, where he ultimately ends up crucified upside down.

This sets up Sheen’s talk about patriotism. Sheen said, “Patriotism is a virtue that was allied to the old virtue of the Greeks and Latin called pietas, meaning love of God, love of neighbor, love of country. And when one goes out, all go out. When we no longer have love of God, we no longer have love of country.”

Sheen continued, “We started our country with a revolution. Revolution is in the air today. In fact, the arguments, today, are that we started that way, why not continue it? We do live in America with a revolutionary tradition. But the question is, what kind of revolution should we have?”

He then tells the story of a soldier who fought at Concord. The soldier was asked why he fought, why he went to Concord. The answer came, “For one reason, that we might govern ourselves.” Sheen goes on to say, “Now, what’s the revolution of today? VIOLENCE! Violence just for the sake of violence … the new type of revolt, which involves the destruction of everything in the past. And these people who are actuating violence today, claim they are in line with the American Revolution. THEY ARE NOT!”

The point Venerable Fulton Sheen makes is that our nation was founded, and has thrived, by the understanding that our rights and liberties come from God. The revolution he was viewing in the 1960s, and we are seeing reenacted today, is a rejection of God, in favor of man.

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “The Church teaches … the devil and the other demons were indeed created naturally good by God, but they became evil by their own doing. Scripture speaks of a sin of these angels. This ‘fall’ consists in the free choice of these created spirits, who radically and irrevocably rejected God and his reign. We find a reflection of that rebellion in the tempter’s words to our first parents: ‘You will be like God.’”

You see? Once we rebel against God and his reign, we are left to make ourselves our own gods. We are then left to the inevitable outcome, which is totalitarianism. Totalitarianism is a form of government that theoretically permits no individual freedom and that seeks to subordinate all aspects of individual life to the authority of the state. The evil elites, throughout history, have sought such a government. Once they have gained control of every source of influence (media, education system, etc.) they are then equipped to build their army of useful idiots. “Useful idiot” is a derogatory term, referenced in writings of totalitarian governments, for a person perceived as propagandizing for a cause without fully comprehending the cause’s goals, and who is cynically used by the cause’s leaders.

The evil elites of history have always rebelled against God and country with the same method of operation, which is to use a compliant, violent mob to usher in their plan for totalitarian rule. Sheen puts it this way, “Their principle was that in order to get people to pass through a certain door, there was only one way to do it, and that was the way of terror.” There is a reason why there is a “silent majority” … they’re terrified to go against the agenda of the evil elites, and their violent mob.

Venerable Fulton Sheen then brings us to his point: “The world is built on order. There’s a plan. So, scientists are able to discover the laws of the universe. And in discovering the laws of the universe, men find harmony. This harmony, and order, had to come from somewhere. It came from God. What is the essence of Satanism? The essence of Satanism is the destruction of that order – the order of law, the order of morality, the order of religion, the order of ethics, anything you please.”

 DAY 15 – 90 DAYS TO PEACE

“Freedom from Wastefulness” by Fr. James Altman

Dear family, maybe you, like me, would hear your mom say something to the effect, “Finish what’s on your plate, don’t waste it, you know there are people starving in Africa.” It’s safe to say that when it came to peas and carrots, I was not much concerned about who might be starving. Frankly, if they were hungry, I gladly would have shared my excess peas and carrots.

The same anti-wastefulness doctrine would be drilled in many ways, “Quit standing there with the refrigerator door open” – “Close the door, we’re not heating the outside” – “Don’t waste your money on that.” Whatever it might be, we came to understand that wastefulness was a bad thing. In these “green” times, the culture really has hammered us with wasting any natural resources.

Further, depending on the gravity of what was wasted, the consequences could be great indeed. If we failed to work hard in school, we will have “wasted” our opportunity to get a good education. If we failed to further God-given talents in any other field, like music or sports, we might hear, “What a waste.” Pope St. John Paul II said, “Artistic talent is a gift from God and whoever discovers it in himself has a certain obligation: to know that he cannot waste this talent, but must develop it.”

If we failed to take advantage of any opportunity for such development, it would be an opportunity “wasted.” Who among us would want to bear the brunt of the accusation, “What a waste”? Jesus the Lord taught about wasting talents in the Parable of the Talents, and we all know what became of the guy who buried his talents in the back yard: “Throw this useless servant into the darkness outside, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth” (Matthew 25:30).

Ironically, when I was younger, there was a phrase bantered about, essentially as a badge of honor, “I got wasted,” when referring to having done some hard partying. Somehow “getting wasted” was a good thing. To my shock, when researching the theology of waste, one search turned up the following: “Guidance on Cannabis Waste Management Requirements.” Seriously? What’s this world coming to?

Dear family, we all know we are supposed to eat our food, conserve energy, take good care of our bodies, and make something of the talents God has given us. We probably all do a credible job at not being wasteful in those departments. Rather, at the Last Judgment, the thing that likely will be the downfall of many is something few people even think about: wasted time. Victor Hugo, author of Les Miserables and The Hunchback of Notre Dame, said: “Short as life is, we make it still shorter by the careless waste of time.” Unfortunately, it seems not many pay attention to this waste of time until they run out of time. We all have heard the line: “On their deathbed nobody ever says I wish I would have spent another day in the office!” What I never have heard anyone say is “I wish I would have spent another day in church.”

So much of our thought processes about waste, maybe all of them, consider waste only as regards to temporal things. Do we ever consider waste regarding preparation for eternity? How much time do we waste that better could be spent in prayer and contemplation of eternal truths upon which our salvation actually depends? Perhaps if we spent more time in prayer and contemplation, we would not feel so great a need to waste so much time immersed in activities that do not promote an increase of grace in our lives. Perhaps we would not waste so much time on the accumulation and maintenance of temporal goods and spend a lot more time in accumulation and maintenance of spiritual goods. Unfortunately, sometimes trying to tell someone this is like “talking to the wall,” as the saying goes. In other words, it may seem like “you’re wasting your breath!”

St. Vincent de Paul said, “Our business is to attain heaven; everything else is a sheer waste of time.” That pretty much says it all. How many of us devote even a small portion of time, much less spend adequate and sufficient time, on the business of attaining heaven? How many of us hear and follow the voice of the Good Shepherd Himself who told us point blank, “When (Jesus) returned to His disciples He found them asleep. He said to Peter, ‘So you could not keep watch with Me for one hour? Watch and pray that you may not undergo the test’” (Matthew 26:40-41).

Do we not know that the time for testing is upon us?! Are we even attempting to waste less time on frivolous and temporal matters and spend more time on the only thing that counts?

Even this thought does not give us the fullness of our calling, our duty of service to others. All of us are called to suffer for others, to suffer for their souls. That is why the great Archbishop Sheen said, “Much suffering in hospitals is wasted.” It is why Mother Angelica said, “Suffering in itself does not make us holy. It is only when we unite it, out of love, to the suffering of Christ that it has meaning. Suffering without love is wasted pain.” It is why Pope St. John Paul II said, “each man, in his suffering, can also become a sharer in the redemptive suffering of Christ.”

Dear family, time is the only thing we cannot buy. No amount of money can perpetually delay our inevitable suffering and death. When that time comes for all of us, we will be called to account for our time. Did we waste it, or did we make good use of it? Did we take the toughest times of suffering and offer it up to share in the redemptive suffering of Christ? Let us once again stop and ponder those ultimate words of St. Vincent de Paul, “Our business is to attain heaven; everything else is a sheer waste of time.” (From “Let Freedom Ring“)

 DAY 16 – 90 DAYS TO PEACE

“Freedom from Godlessness” by Fr. Bill Peckman

I have a confession. For about four to five years of my life, I was an agnostic. I was so troubled by what I saw in the seminary in the 1980s that I could no longer believe that there was a personal God. I could not believe that He had any concern nor hold on what was happening in the world or even in His own Church. Consequently, I found that nature abhors a vacuum. Something or someone would have to fill that hole in my soul, and someone was going to have to be the judge of morality and the direction of my life. The first problem I tried to fill with pleasure, money, power, and honor. It was an exercise in futility that left me often exhausted and frustrated. The second problem was quite the narcotic: I could decide for myself what was good and evil. Amazingly, such power led to me living a less than chaste life. I was not horrible because the foundation my parents built led me to have a work ethic, to try to be honest, and to avoid substance abuse. I was reduced to a moral pagan. Truth be told, I felt I was living a more moral life than what I had seen in the seminary.

I do not tell you this, kind reader, so that you may think one way or the other about me, only to assure you I know this sin from its maddening and intoxicating inside.

Our society is largely agnostic and atheistic. Our civil religion tips its hat in God’s general direction occasionally but largely resents any influence religion, particularly Judeo-Christianity, has in the public purview. God has been chased from the public square, from our schools, and from our day to day lives. There are forms of politics such as socialism and Marxism that are expressly atheistic. They must be for the state takes the place of all authority and is the giver of all rights. We can’t have a deity interfering with that!

There are many within the Church, even among her leaders, who are agnostic or atheistic, either practically or by confession. I would posit that it is impossible for some within the Church who have engaged in nefarious and predatory behavior to do such and believe anything of Jesus Christ or a personal God. Certainly, the pervasive watering down of catechesis would point to a de facto agnosticism among so many academics. You see, nature does abhor a vacuum, and if we divorce the idea of a personal and transcendent God from religion, all we have left is a social justice non-for-profit with arcane rituals and occasion statuary.

In Eden, the devil grounds his temptation in a belief that God does not want what is good for us. In this, he can tempt us to become our own gods, knowing for ourselves what is good and evil. He can sow vast amounts of seeds of doubt by just showing us the evil others do; especially the evil done by those who claim to represent God. The last 100+ years have been a field day for the devil to sow such seed!

To combat such a virulent temptation, we must cultivate the theological virtue of faith. This is more than making professions of faith or intellectually adopting points of the teachings of the Church. It is adopting these teachings in our lives and allowing them to draw us closer to God. We will have to do this during a storm! We will have to do this even when we see immense scandal in our Church and frightening godlessness in society. This allows us to give proper Christian witness to those scandalized or seeking. It allows others to see Christ through us.

One of the main reasons I returned to the Catholic faith and back into the seminary and priesthood, despite many misgivings, was that complaining about the poor witness and scandalous behavior of some within the Church did not absolve me of following the vocational path God had beckoned me to. I had a responsibility to live the type of life Christ calls us to live, authentically and powerfully. While I completely understand the reasons why people wander away or outright flee from the Church, I also understand that trying to fill the God-shaped hole in us with the things of this world is a frustrating dead-end; the narcotic of being one’s own god leaves you empty and anchorless. Our society is exhibit A in this fool’s errand. There is no denying that anger, frustration, and feeling adrift are hallmarks of our society and in so many of our churches.

St. Augustine, in his Confessions, reminds us, “Our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee.” Let us not let the temptations of the devil leave our hearts wandering and baseless. Let us refute the devil and hold fast to the faith and relationship Christ has in store for us. (From “Let Freedom Ring“)

 

 DAY 17 – 90 DAYS TO PEACE

“Freedom from Lukewarmness” by Fr. Rick Heilman

In the Book of Revelation, we see the Lord has some rather severe words about the lukewarm: “I know your works; I know that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either cold or hot. So, because you are lukewarm, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth” (Revelation 3:16). Pope St. Pius V went so far as to say,“All the evil in the world is due to lukewarm Catholics.” Pope St. Pius X showed no less disdain with, “All the strength of Satan’s reign is due to the easygoing weakness of Catholics.” Wow! All the evil in the world? All the strength of Satan’s reign? Spit you out of My mouth? The level of fury toward the lukewarm is alarming. Why?

Here’s why. Let’s look at the passage from Revelation. Our Lord, first, wishes we were “hot or cold.” It’s easy to see why the Lord would wish someone were hot. Someone who is “hot” would be that soul blazing with the “fire of love” for God, with a fiery passion to do His will.

So, why would our Lord wish someone were “cold”? Someone who is cold has completely disconnected from God and can often even be antagonistic toward God. So, why would our Lord wish for that? Because “cold souls,” who have outwardly drawn the line in the sand and proclaimed their stance in relation to God, have a greater chance for hitting rock bottom and giving their life over to God; they have a greater chance for conversion. Furthermore, a soul clearly disconnected from God does little to influence souls that are “hot” from straying away from our Lord, as “cold souls” are seen clearly for who they are and where they stand.

So, why the outrage toward the lukewarm? Because the lukewarm do the most damage. They are highly effective in modeling for others how to be a very poor or even a “fake” Catholic. While “cold souls” openly disavow any claim to be a faithful Catholic, lukewarm souls make that claim while they betray the Lord at every turn.

Lukewarm souls are those who have allowed their faith to diminish to little more than what appears to be faith in the eyes of man. Lukewarm souls will often “use” their Catholic faith to build their own personal brand. So, you’ll often see politicians make the claim of being a devout Catholic while they advocate for a plethora of evil policies that horrify God. Or there are those lukewarm Catholics who see no problem voting these evil politicians into power. This is a-okay for the lukewarm, as they have convinced themselves that God’s mercy extends to allowing every kind of sin. Which is why lukewarm souls may go to a communal penance service once or twice a year “to be seen,” but really don’t see any reason for this sacrament.

The most horrifying thing about lukewarm souls is that they usually possess the sins against the Holy Spirit that are referred to as “unforgiveable.”

The unforgiveness is about unrepentance. Lukewarm souls have convinced themselves, and poorly modeled for others, that “they don’t need to prove their love for God.” In other words, they think they can commit any sin and avoid prayer and any charitable work beyond basic obligations, and their ticket is punched because of “mercy.” And, of course, nobody should “judge” anyone, according to the lukewarm soul. St. Thomas Aquinas said, “mercy without justice is the mother of dissolution; justice without mercy is cruelty. To correct the sinner is a work of mercy.”

Lukewarm souls are like a dangerous virus that spreads throughout the Church. On issues of human life, sex, marriage, family, faith, and morality, many within the Catholic Church have absolutely no problem advocating for laws, policies, and politicians that clearly oppose the will of God. This “lukewarm virus” has spread so far that as many as 40% of Catholics favor abortion and 61% of Catholics support gay marriage. Now, you can see why our Lord, Pope St. Pius V, and Pope St. Pius X are so outraged by the lukewarm.

To combat the demonic viral spread of lukewarmness, we must cultivate in ourselves the Holy Spirit gift of fear of the Lord, also known as awe and wonder. Fear of the Lord is the gateway gift to all the gifts of the Holy Spirit. If your local parish is cultivating a watered-down, lukewarm version of Catholicism that avoids Church teaching on any “hot button” issues, “GET OUT!” Or, if possible, work with the pastor to cultivate reverent liturgies, frequent confession, ample opportunities for Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, and the practice of many devotions. And, for heaven’s sake, have your pastor’s back when he hits hot-button issues. This all assists the faithful in “drawing nearer unto the Lord.” This gives the soul immunity to the virus of lukewarmness. (From “Let Freedom Ring“)

 DAY 18 – 90 DAYS TO PEACE

“Freedom from Jealously” by Fr. James Altman

Dear family, let us ponder the root cause of jealousy. It’s called being human. From the beginning, humanity has always been susceptible to its grip. Humanity is prone to jealousy because – remember this now, it’s so basic and fundamental – nothing ever is enough.

Think of what I call The Life Lesson of Adam and Eve. They lived in paradise! They essentially had everything, and they did not have sickness and death, so they could have enjoyed everything forever! I like this part: they had dominion over the animals. They did not have to fear a lion or a shark. If they were trying to take a nap – I’m sleep deprived, so this is a very meaningful example for me – if they were trying to take a nap and the lion was getting all growly making noise, all they had to do was to tell it to get lost. They. Had. Everything. Except one piddly dumb tree. And yet, having everything wasn’t enough. Human nature kicked in. Lucifer understood human nature. What did he do? He tempted Adam and Eve not with more of everything, but only with the one thing.

The same goes for us, dear family. The devil does not come in with a red cape and pointy horns. He comes as everything you ever wished for.

Here is a true story about human nature from psychology. Fill a room full of toys…chuck full of toys. Then put one kid in the middle of it. Like the proverbial “kid in a candy store,” the kid can pick and choose whatever he wants. He’s happy. Couldn’t be happier. Then … introduce another kid. Put another kid in the room, a second kid. He looks around at all the toys and picks one for himself. What happens? The first kid gets jealous. He thinks along the lines of “I must have not chosen the best one for myself because that kid over there chose that one.” Even though the first kid was perfectly happy playing all by himself, when that second kid comes in and chooses a different toy, the first kid just has to have it!

Adam and Eve. Two kids in a toy room. Both have a form of jealousy. The Cambridge Dictionary defines jealousy as “a feeling of unhappiness and anger because someone has something or someone that you want.” We might readily understand this and apply it to the two kids in the toy room. But what about Adam and Eve? They were jealous of something God had, or at least what Lucifer told them God had.

Remember Lucifer’s damnable lie: He asked the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You shall not eat from any of the trees in the garden?’” The woman answered the snake: “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden; it is only about the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden that God said, ‘You shall not eat it or even touch it, or else you will die.’” But the snake said to the woman: “You certainly will not die! God knows well that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened and you will be like gods, who know good and evil” (Gen 3:1-5).

How often do such words poison our own thought processes? How often do we turn our eyes away from what we have toward something someone else has? How often do we compare and despair?

Dear family, there is a secret to peace and tranquility. It is easy to say, though perhaps, at times, especially at a time of seeming deprivation, it is hard to do. The secret is this: to be happy, you must be happy for what you do have, and not unhappy for what you do not have.

Our humanity is poisoned by a compulsion to compare and despair. Looking back, at various times I thought I wanted to be a champion tennis player, a very wealthy person, or a rock star, maybe live on some island in the Caribbean. Ultimately the wants came from comparing and despairing over such things as the fact that I was growing up in a snow-belt where the tennis courts were buried for 2/3 of the year. Would I have been happy and content and at peace if I had attained any of those things? No. The Life Lesson of Adam and Eve proves not. Nothing ever is enough. My parents tried to teach this to me, saying such things as “there always will be someone with more ____” – just fill in the blank. Even if we accept this as truth, it still is hard to come to terms with the proposition that someone else has more of something.

There is only one way to overcome jealousy, and that is to discover that God is in love with you. Wholly and completely in love…with you. Yes, yes, we know: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him might not perish but might have eternal life” (John 3:16). Nowadays, most people do not even believe in God, much less that He loves them personally, much less that He sent His Divine Son to die for us. So instead, let us focus on another Johannine verse: “And the Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us, and we saw His glory, the glory as of the Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).

Dear family, St. John, the beloved apostle saw the glory of Jesus, full of grace and truth. That is why he could write to us: “What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we looked upon and touched with our hands concerns the Word of life – for the life was made visible; we have seen it and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life that was with the Father and was made visible to us – what we have seen and heard we proclaim now to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; for our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. We are writing this so that our joy may be complete” (1 John 1:1-4).

Notice, St. John did not say his joy would be complete if he had a new car or a house on the beach. He certainly did not say his joy would be complete if he had dominion over the animals. St. John’s joy only would be complete if he shared the glory of Jesus, His Grace, His Truth.

Dear family, that is the only way we ever will be happy. If jealousy pangs strike, understand we are not happy for what we have, but unhappy for what we do not have. But God has given us all we need to be happy…Himself. That is why He came in the first place. To give us that only thing. Himself. So, the next time jealousy rears its ugly, Luciferian head – and that is indeed where jealousy originates – turn your eyes upon Jesus. Turn them upon His Holy Cross. Ponder the infinite love poured out in every drop of blood, in every struggling breath … unto His last drop of blood and His last breath.

Take your eyes off whatever tree Lucifer points you to, whatever forbidden fruit with which he taunts you, and as the hymn goes: “Turn your eyes upon Jesus. Look full in His wonderful face. And the things, the things of earth, will grow strangely dim. In the light of His glory and grace.” (From “Let Freedom Ring“)

 DAY 19 – 90 DAYS TO PEACE

“Freedom from Syncretism” by Fr. Bill Peckman

“Elijah went before the people and said, ‘How long will you waver between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow Him; but if Baal is god, follow him.’ But the people said nothing” (1 Kings 18:21).

In the Old Testament, both the Kingdom of Israel and the Kingdom of Judah participated in the same sin. It was a form of idolatry in which the people would worship both the God of Israel and the gods of the surrounding regions. This participation in more than one religion is called syncretism. God likens syncretism, in the Scriptures, to an unfaithful spouse who wants the benefits of life with her spouse while acting the harlot with anyone. On Mt. Carmel, Elijah purposes a test to the Kingdom of Israel. He and the prophets of Baal will prepare a sacrifice without lighting it and the God who answers with fire is to be worshipped alone. He poses the above question to them. Notice they do not answer. I can only imagine the awkward silence felt at that moment.

The southern kingdom of Judah also would worship God up on the temple mount and would go into the Valley of Hinnom (known in Jesus’ time as Gehenna) and worship idols, even sacrificing their children to these idols. The prophets, particularly Jeremiah, warn the people that God takes note of such infidelity and will not allow the people to benefit from a relationship with Him while they play the harlot in the valley of Hinnom. For both kingdoms, their sin of syncretism led to their downfall and exile. God will not allow us to keep the benefits of a relationship with Him while we push Him away in favor of our idols.

In Matthew 6:24, Jesus reminds us we cannot serve two masters; that we cannot serve both God and mammon. Notice mammon is not capitalized. It is not an idol per se. Mammon is wealth or any other worldly pursuit we allow to take the number one position that rightly belongs to God. Most church going Catholics would say that they do not worship anyone or anything but God. That reminds me of Jeremiah 2:23, ““How can you say, ‘I am not defiled; I have not run after the Baals’? See how you behaved in the valley; consider what you have done.” The people do not acknowledge their idolatry under the pretense that they do go to the temple.

Our society has become godless and exerts much pressure to make sure all are like-minded. The third commandment to keep holy the Sabbath is so forgotten as to be rarely practiced. Even Sunday morning has been taken over by sports, shopping, chores, and other things that turn Mass (if one goes at all) into something that is “fit in” instead of prioritized — as if the day of the Lord is instead the hour of the Lord. We will know if we have idols in our lives by merely looking at our choices when it comes to the day of the Lord. Is Mass the center of the day? It is what everything else is scheduled around? Is there rest? Or is the pursuit of honor, pleasure, money, or power more sought after? Chances are if the day of the Lord has been reduced to the hour of the Lord, and if that hour of the Lord is a lesser choice when given other options, than the rest of the week is likely just as godless.

While I do sympathize with those who became distraught at churches closing because of COVID-19, it greatly saddened me that for 65-70% of self-professed Catholics the closing of churches made no difference on what they did with Sunday. The closing of ball fields and stores had a greater impact. Yet, these same self-proclaimed Catholics will expect God’s protecting hand and all the benefits of a relationship with Him, while ignoring God and disdaining His sacramental grace in favor of worldly idols and their promised benefits. Perhaps we would do well to look how that worked out for the Kingdoms of Israel and Judah.

Now is the time of Jeremiah! The call to turn our backs on our idols of wealth, honor, power, and pleasure (and that includes our disproportionate and slavish relationship with sports, entertainment, and leisure) and put God back to being our only God and worshipping Him alone. We need to cultivate that virtue of fidelity to God in our lives. The devil will use every distraction, perceived good, selfish desire, and twisted logic to deter us from seeking such fidelity. The devil wants no better for us than the lot he himself is consigned to for eternity. He wants for us the same eternal broken relationship that he has chosen by his own infidelity. He will not warn us of the price of syncretism. He will encourage us to worship anything and everything as more pertinent to our lives than God; he is all too happy to have us treat God as some here-after insurance policy. We must fight him. Hold fast to the faith and relationship Christ has in store for us. (From “Let Freedom Ring“)

DAY 20 – 90 DAYS TO PEACE

“Freedom from Lack of Trust in Divine Providence” by Fr. Rick Heilman

Recently, in the past few years, I lost four priests who were near and dear to me: my uncle and Godfather (the inspiration for my priesthood), my spiritual director, my bishop, and my best friend. These four priests were more than just brothers in Christ, they were my lifeblood. During the many challenges of life, especially those unique to priesthood, these men were kindred spirits to me. Not only did we recognize together, the M.O. (Method of Operation) of Satan in today’s world, but we were all in agreement as to the ways God was calling all of us, especially priests, to engage in a counter-offensive against the tactics of the devil.

By and large, we all knew it was incumbent upon us to do all we could to speak the truth, open and honestly, but to do so in the most loving way possible. The devil is trying to devour the faithful with his lies, and we all knew it, and we were all passionate about calling the devil out and leading the faithful to truth. More than anything, as shepherds, we all knew we were called, especially during the time we now live, to do all we could to assist the flock in coming to the place where they cry out, “My Lord and my God!”

Of course, the devil hates, more than anything, truth and reverence. Therefore, Satan works especially hard to destroy anyone who dares to thwart the devil’s plan to mislead and confuse souls, as he works diligently to deaden the hearts of the faithful. If we get in his way, he will get busy to take us out. In many respects, this is the reason religious leaders recoil in their call to administer truth and reverence. They have come to understand just how vicious the devil can be, if we dare “go there.”

I recall when Bishop Morlino first arrived in our diocese with his passion for “truth and reverence.” The assaults on him, especially from those who held the levers of power and influence, were ferociously vicious. This did not deter this courageous bishop in any way. During this time, or whenever the attacks were turned on me, we stuck together in brotherly love.

So many times, I have been tempted to lose trust in God’s providence. I mean, here I am, alone on the battlefield, I felt. My four closest “battle buddies” are no longer here. Not only do I miss them, but I feel like I could now be “easy pickins” for the devil to swoop in and take me out, without the security of knowing my battle buddies are right there, ready to in essence, call out, “I got your six” (I got your back).

I share this just to say that I can relate to all those who face devastating challenges in their lives. Yes, I can relate to those who are tempted to lose their trust in God’s providence. Sometimes, we want to just say, “What the heck, God?!”

But I didn’t say that. Instead, by God’s grace, my hope has deepened during this challenging time. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church: “Hope is the theological virtue by which we desire the kingdom of heaven and eternal life as our happiness, placing our trust in Christ’s promises and relying not on our own strength, but on the help of the grace of the Holy Spirit” (CCC 1817).

In my case, having lost my battle buddies, I’m thinking about the kingdom of heaven and eternal life as our happiness more than ever before. While my battle buddies are no longer here to support me in the flesh, my relationship with them has only deepened as I know they’ve “got my six” in an even more powerful way. They are my prayer warriors now! For example, I know we received an amazing new bishop, when it seemed inevitable we would not, only because Bishop Morlino interceded for us.

As we all know, we are facing challenges that are historic. How easy, and seemingly justifiable, it would be for all of us to despair as we lose our trust in God’s providence. I choose not to, and I pray it is the same with you. Instead, my prayer has become even more fervent, my resolve to enter the fray against the devil’s schemes has become more intensified, and my confidence in the power of God, versus my own power, has become stronger than ever.

I’ve come to understand that sticking with God and believing and trusting in His providence in challenging times is a lot like resistance training (lifting weights). With the power of God’s grace, we “press against” these challenges, and our faith, hope, and love become even stronger. We must trust in God’s providence during these storms of our lives and know He will carry us safely to shore. And know that, ultimately, heaven is going to be amazing! (From “Let Freedom Ring“)

 DAY 21 – 90 DAYS TO PEACE

 “Freedom from Indifference” by Fr. James Altman

Dear family, of all the things you can apply the saying “take it or leave it” to, going deeper into our faith is not one of them. We cannot be indifferent to our faith.

When we try to reflect on some principle of our faith – like “indifference” – it is always good to refer to the Catechism to get a working definition, so we all are on the same page. That is my starting point.

So, §2093 states: “Faith in God’s love encompasses the call and the obligation to respond with sincere love to divine charity. The first commandment enjoins us to love God above everything and all creatures for Him and because of Him.” Ok. So good so far.

Then it follows up with §2094 which states: “One can sin against God’s love in various ways” – and then includes the definition for indifference: “indifference neglects or refuses to reflect on divine charity; it fails to consider its prevenient goodness and denies its power.”

Oh, dear family, my head hurts when I try to read something like §2094, something someone cannot seem to put in understandable language. If I asked you, “Exactly what does it mean to fail to consider divine charity’s prevenient goodness and deny its power?” could you answer the question? Don’t feel badly if you couldn’t; I couldn’t either. I had to look up the word “prevenient” and then try to place it in some sort of context of “goodness,” and then try to figure out how does refusing to reflect on divine charity have anything to do with understanding prevenient goodness and, more so, what that has to do with denying its power? Is it any wonder people do not get through the Catechism when they run into roadblocks like this? I say all this just so you know you are not alone. Even priests sometimes struggle with this stuff.

For the record, the definition of prevenient is “preceding in time or order; antecedent.” So indifference, which apparently is neglecting to reflect on divine charity, means failing to consider its “preceding in time or order, antecedent” goodness. But what does that even mean?!?

In the law, there is an ongoing movement to take “legalese” – the formal and technical language of legal documents that is often hard to understand – and put it into “plain English.” So, let us try to do that here.

God loved us first. His love preceded humanity’s creation; it was so great that He willed us into existence so He could share it with us. And then, when we did not reciprocate that love (that’s the whole fall of Adam and Eve thing and every sin afterwards), He still loved us so much that He sacrificed His only Son to hopefully inspire us to love Him back. In fact, He sent His Son even though He knew exactly what some of us would do to Him, because He knew it would be proof of His divine love. It is why St. Paul – so cognizant of this infinite love of God – hardly could keep in the immensity of his praise and worship for God when he wrote to the Ephesians: “Praised be the God and Father of our Lord, Jesus Christ, who has bestowed on us in Christ every spiritual blessing in the heavens. God chose us in Him, before the world began, to be holy and blameless in His sight. He predestined us to be His adopted sons through Jesus Christ, such was His will and pleasure, that all might praise the glorious favor He has bestowed on us in His beloved. In Him, and through His blood, we have been redeemed, and our sins forgiven, so immeasurably generous is God’s favor to us” (Ephesians 1:3-7).

It is no accident that in the Breviary, the Church’s Liturgy of the Hours, this passage is prayed every Monday at Evening Prayer. It, along with the entire Breviary, is a constant reminder of God’s love for us. To pray the Liturgy of the Hours is to contemplate and reflect upon Divine Charity. It is the opposite of indifference.

So maybe by considering the opposite of indifference, we get a better understanding of whether we are or are not indifferent. If we want to know if we have fallen victim to indifference, perhaps the best answer is to ask the question: Do we immerse ourselves daily in contemplating God’s love, so much so that we, like St. Paul, are compelled to praise and worship God in such words as he wrote to the Ephesians? Do we reflect enough upon the magnitude of God’s love, expressed in our very own existence, such that we are compelled to give back to Him even just a tithing of the countless gifts He has given us?

Having just celebrated two Holy Masses of Christian Burial, this thought is fresh in my mind, the words prayed after the final Song of Farewell: “We give You thanks for the blessings which You bestowed upon (decedent) in this life: they are signs to us of Your goodness and of our fellowship with the saints in Christ.”

God’s blessings are indeed signs of His goodness, signs of His infinite love. Are we indifferent to those signs of His goodness and love? Are we so unaware of His signs that we are disconnected from Him, that we can take it or leave it? Or do we, in our daily contemplation, reflect so deeply upon those signs of His love that we are compelled, like St. Paul, to sing out such words as that hymn written way back in 1674 – amazingly enough, before even indoor plumbing and anesthesia: “Praise God from Whom all blessings flow. Praise Him all creatures here below. Praise Him above ye Heavenly hosts. Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.” (From “Let Freedom Ring“)


 DAY 22 – 90 DAYS TO PEACE


“Freedom from Narcissism” by Fr. Bill Peckman

In Greek mythology, we find the rather tragic figure of Narcissus. As the story goes, he is an extraordinary young man in every possible way, but he is aloof and rather full of himself. Anyone who falls in love with him pays a steep price because he will not love them back. Eventually, while hunting, Narcissus stoops down to the water to get a drink. He sees his own reflection and falls madly in love with it. He reaches out to grab the reflection and drowns, suffering the abysmal fate others who tried to love him did. In psychology, narcissism is described as “selfishness, involving a sense of entitlement, a lack of empathy, and a need for admiration, as characterizing a personality type.” My brothers and sisters, does this word not describe our society “to a T”?

Narcissism arises out of several converging storms: First, the self-centeredness of the individual as almighty. Reality and morality are subjectivistic and only are there to confirm the feelings of the narcissist. Second, with no empathy, the means justify the ends for the narcissist. The narcissist simply makes pronouncements without care as to how it affects others and only cares about how he or she is affected. Third, while the narcissist is free to judge and condemn the actions and words of others AND presume the absolute worst in other people’s motivations, he or she will see any judgment and condemnation of their actions as defamation of character, to which they will respond with great vengeance. Fourth, the sense of absolute entitlement endemic of narcissism, stretches to the insane. Every word and action must be to the benefit of that narcissist. No demand is too unreasonable and any failure to provide is seen as a personal attack.

Certainly, within our society, we see narcissism run amuck. Social media has laced this stick of dynamite. We now are seeing a wholesale rejection of any objective truth; consequently, there cannot be a God who judges. The new mantra of society is, “It is okay to terrorize anyone we want, as long as we feel justified in our actions.” According to this logic, we should be able to despoil whoever we want if our feelings tell us it’s okay. It has even gotten to the point where some are demanding the acceptance of pedophilia as a mere sexual orientation, using the familiar path of others who want universal acceptance of their choices. For our narcissistic society, all things must be remade in the narcissist’s image: Entertainment, sports, law, and morality must be adjusted so that the narcissist’s predilections are approved at worst and ignored at best.

Even within our Church we see narcissism in several ways. We have seen it in how Mass went from a transcendent focus to a place where the transcendent is ignored. This is not anything asked for by Vatican II or present in the General Instruction of the Roman Missal. We see it in the constant push to revise the sexual moral teachings of the Church to be as accommodating and permissive as society, in everything from homosexuality to artificial birth control to transgenderism, and so on. The Church just becomes another place where the mirror of narcissism can be held and only able to see its world visage. So much of the financial and sexual scandal, ensuing cover-up, and regular abuse of power finds its roots in a narcissism that allows the preying on of the flock to satiate one’s needs. The reach of narcissism in our society and Church is wide.

The antidote to narcissism is the very essence of God: love. Specifically, divine love (agape) is what is needed. In agape, we completely empty ourselves for the good of others. We allow ourselves, as St. Paul says, to be poured out as a libation. Love forces us to look beyond ourselves and weigh how our actions and words affect our relationships with God and each other. Love leads us to humility, a frank honesty which allows us to avoid demanding that the world convert to suit us, but instead enables us to convert to suit Christ. Because love is a theological virtue, it needs that constant relationship with God to thrive. It is no wonder that the more narcissism has grown in our society, the shorter our confession lines have become and the less we see of people at Mass. We need that sacramental presence in our lives to bolster our immunity to the constant virus-like ferocity of narcissism.

For if we love as God loves, the abuse of our neighbor is no longer justifiable. If we love as God loves, our own wants no longer become our focus. If we love as God loves, we can no longer justify our harm and sin inflicted on others. I am asking you dear reader to have what I call a “Darth Vader moment.” I am referring to the scene in Return of the Jedi where the emperor is killing Luke for his unwillingness to convert to the dark side. In that scene, Darth Vader keeps looking at the begging face of his son and the evil cackling face of the emperor … he is making a choice. He can either go with the status quo and allow his son to die, or lose everything, including his life, and kill the emperor (or so we thought). I am asking you to look at the Cross of Christ and then look at the fury we see in the media day after day. Choose between the great love displayed on the Cross and the insatiable fury of narcissism. We can’t have both. Choose wisely, for the Cross of Christ is the path to heaven and the fury of narcissism is the superhighway to hell. (From “Let Freedom Ring“)


DAY 23 – 90 DAYS TO PEACE


“Freedom from Idolatry” by Fr. Rick Heilman

Reports surfaced that there was no cell phone activity in a high-security portion of the Wuhan Institute of Virology from October 7 through October 24, 2019, indicating that there may have been a “hazardous event” on or about October 6. On the very same day (October 6), Sr. Agnes Sasagawa of Akita received a private message … the first since 1973 (year of infamous Roe v. Wade decision). The message was not unlike the warning Jonah received for Nineveh, in that it called for repentance: “Put on ashes and pray a repentant rosary every day.”

It’s more than interesting that Our Lady of Fatima appeared with her warning from May to October in 1917, urging the world to pray the rosary, repent, turn from its wicked ways, and return to the Lord, or there would be consequences. This warning came just before the 1918 plague (the Spanish Flu) broke out and claimed 50 million lives. Until now, this was the last plague in which churches were closed.

A consistent theme in the Bible is that when the people distance themselves from God and His will, which always leads to idolatry, God repeatedly allows a punishment, which is usually a plague.

Our Lady of Fatima pointed to the errors of Russia: “Russia will spread its errors throughout the world, raising up wars and persecutions against the Church.” It was in May of 1917 (just as Our Lady first appeared to the children in Fatima) that the Russian Revolution broke out, leading the way to communism. Communism is a reductively atheistic materialist worldview which aims at undermining anything Christian in society. At its essence, communism is an idolatry of man over God, and its atheistic materialist worldview has spread across the planet like a virus.

What about our time? On March 24, 2020, as we were entering the height of the COVID-19 plague’s worst devastation, Bishop Strickland of Tyler, Texas, tweeted the following: “People of the world, fall to your knees. Fall to your knees to beg forgiveness of your sins. Stop worshiping yourself, stop worshiping creation, stop worshiping your desires, fall to your knees and worship God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Repent!” Bishop Strickland was among many, including myself, who recognized the biblical and historic connection between idolatry and plagues.

According to paragraph 2113 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “Idolatry not only refers to false pagan worship. It remains a constant temptation to faith. Idolatry consists in divinizing what is not God. Man commits idolatry whenever he honors and reveres a creature in place of God, whether this be gods or demons (for example, Satanism), power, pleasure, race, ancestors, the state, money, etc.” What do we revere ahead of God?

So many times, I have pointed to the Pew Research study from August 5, 2019, which revealed that nearly 70% of professed Catholics don’t believe in the Real Presence. 70%!!! I recall Bishop Robert Barron being shaken by this, but very few others. Personally, I believed this was a “make or break” moment in which the Church needed to act decisively, or else.

But no, instead, the talk of communion for those in mortal sin, ending celibacy for priests, women as deacons, sodomy no longer being a sin, nature worship, etc. only accelerated in the weeks and months that followed (leading up to October 2019). It became so escalated during this time, that there was even an apparent movement to “normalize” pagan idols being brought into our churches. It was as if you could hear God say, “ENOUGH!”

Okay, so what do we do? My thoughts go to Nineveh and Jonah’s warning given to them. What did they do? They repented and even put on sackcloth as an outward sign of their humility before God. Most importantly, and this is repeated throughout the Bible, they put down their idols and made God the highest priority in their lives.

Now is the time for us to be honest with ourselves and ask, “What am I making a priority ahead of God in my life? What are my idols?” We must ramp up our prayer and fasting, particularly for the bishops and priests in our Church to become more and more courageous in their stand against the forces in the world who oppose God and His will. The laity must be courageous too!

Satan and his narcissistic useful idiots are emboldened, maybe as never before. Why? Because we are too busy with our idols to stand up for God and His will. The hope is that the horror of this plague and the shock of unbridled evil from sea to shining sea will bring us to our knees, as a country, as we call out to God seeking His love and His mercy!

“If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14).

 DAY 24 – 90 DAYS TO PEACE

“Freedom from Consumerism” by Fr. James Altman

Dear family, if there was one word that might underlie the modern day “fall of mankind” it very well could be consumerism. We’ve heard it said that we spend a lot of money we do not have on a lot of things we do not need – especially around Christmas. Surely we all are horrified by the annual satanic feast known as “Black Friday,” the day after Thanksgiving, when we reveal just how little thanks we have.  We go from being “so thankful” for all the stuff we own, to rushing out in the wee hours of the morning to stand in line (in all kinds of weather), to be one of the first people through the door to buy a bunch more stuff. Dear family, the only Black Friday a good Catholic knows is Good Friday, for we know that on that blackest day in human history, when it seemed Lucifer had his victory, Easter Sunday was coming. How much less would we consume on the satanic holiday of Black Friday if our eyes were focused on The Resurrection of Jesus the Lord on Easter Sunday?

Consumerism is a compensating behavior. It is a behavior that compensates for the hole within us, the hurts and wounds we have accumulated, the woundedness and brokenness from which we all suffer. When we have a headache we have our go-to drug of choice, Excedrin, Tylenol or whatever. When we are hurting in our hearts and souls, we have our go-to compensating behavior. Our compensating behaviors are as addictive as any drug or any other vice into which we fall. We use it to compensate for our suffering. Such is consumerism. As with any addiction or vice, it only is a temporary anesthetic, something that relieves the suffering only temporarily. Ultimately, it is a suffering that only can be healed and filled by Divine Love.

Why is it that humanity is so susceptible to falling into compensating behaviors like consumerism, and so quick to forsake the Divine Healer? Why is it that we think more stuff will ever be enough?

It is well understood that affluence is a faith-killer. When we have all we need (indeed way more than we need) and when we can rely upon ourselves to obtain or accumulate what we think we want, we tend to forsake God. The day we think we do not have to rely upon God is the day we begin to drift away, very quickly immersing ourselves in immediate gratification through our own devices. Most certainly, we forget Jesus’ admonition:

“If God so clothes the grass of the field, which grows today and is thrown into the oven tomorrow, will he not much more provide for you, O you of little faith? So do not worry and say, ‘What are we to eat?’ or ‘What are we to drink?’ or ‘What are we to wear?’ All these things the pagans seek. Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom [of God] and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides” (Matthew 6:30-33).

Anecdotally, Ireland once was an extremely poor country yet, at the same time, a rock-bed of Catholicism. Enter the economic boom of the 1990s-early 2000’s. It was a time of such spectacular economic growth in Ireland that it had its own nickname: Celtic Tiger. Faith fell away. Interestingly, Ireland still has about the lowest divorce rate in the Western world, less than a third of the United States. However, recently Ireland legalized abortion and same-sex marriage and – not in small part due to the horrific failure amongst bishops and the abuse scandal – faith has decreased significantly. Similarly, from the first time I went on pilgrimage to the Sanctuary of Divine Mercy in Poland in 2001, to the last time in 2017, there not only has been a very visible increase in affluence but, sadly, an increase of the seeds of immorality being sown in the public square (Beware of the young woman holding an umbrella in the broad daylight).

Here’s the thing about consumerism. We already contemplated the Life Lesson of Adam and Eve – how nothing ever is enough. Far worse than that, consumerism cannot heal. Only the Divine Healer can heal the wounds within us. Only Divine Mercy can heal.

Dear family, we can build ourselves a bigger house, surround ourselves with more stuff in the house, get a bigger SUV to go get more stuff for the house – but nothing compares to being in a genuine Catholic Church, God’s house, where His Son is present in the Real Presence. Nothing we can buy, nothing we can accumulate, absolutely nothing, will heal our hearts and minds and souls like being in the presence of the Real Presence. That being the case, why is it that we spend a lot more time at work, working so hard to earn some money, to pay the bills that arise from buying – consuming – so much stuff we don’t need? All we really must do is spend a little less time consuming and a little more time with Jesus.

We used to have a Catholic devotion, a Catholic tradition, of stopping by the Church daily, even for just a few minutes. We were born and raised knowing that Jesus not only is present, but He waits for us in the Tabernacle. He thirsts for us to come and keep Him company. Do we understand that if we just spent a little bit of time in His Real Presence every day, something we do need, we would feel a lot less need to spend a lot of money to consume so much other stuff we do not need? (From “Let Freedom Ring“)

 DAY 25 – 90 DAYS TO PEACE

“Freedom from Wrath” by Fr. Bill Peckman

In the medieval classic, The Divine Comedy: Inferno, Dante places the wrathful in the 5th circle of Hell. The wrathful spend eternity forever fighting each other on the surface of the River Styx while the sullen and resentful gurgle beneath the surface of the river. These are fitting punishments for the wrathful. For the warlike wrathful (those who actively engage in harm to those who harmed them) it is fitting that they spend eternity forever inflicting the eternal cycle that revenge begets. It is appropriate as well that the embittered and resentful drown in a river of their passive-aggressiveness and resentment. In either case, wrath is unable to produce any positive in a person’s life.

As a connoisseur of social media, on more than one occasion I have seen memes saying that moments of righteous indignation are okay because Jesus toppled tables of moneychangers and livestock sellers in the temple as if what we are witnessing is a divine temper tantrum. Is Jesus really indulging in a deadly sin? No. More on that in a bit.

Wrath has become quite dominant in our culture right now. Real and perceived injustices are both met with a carte blanche to seek retribution through violent means. Real perpetrators, or even innocent bystanders, are punished in a wave of violence that can only beget a backlash that perpetuates more violence. For the wrathful, any slight, real or perceived, is just grounds for vicious retribution and despoiling of reputation through gossip, detraction, and calumny. The devil himself is full of wrath. His anger with God at creating humanity, and seeing that as a slight against him and the other fallen angels, has become cause for him to wage an eternal battle with not just God but with His creation. All temptation in generated by the devil’s eternal resentment and rebellion against God. The devil in his pride loves nothing more than for us to engage in his same behavior of wrath. Misery loves company.

Jesus places a premium on mercy and forgiveness in the Gospels…even from the Cross. He tells us, “But I say to you, love your enemies: do good to them that hate you: and pray for them that persecute and calumniate you: Then you will prove yourselves sons of Your heavenly Father” (Matthew 5:44-45). Similar lines are repeated in the Gospels multiple times. What then of flipping tables? We are told Jesus is full of zeal and not wrath. These things did not belong in the temple area. His expulsion of these things was not a divine hissy fit, but a sign that He came to restore what was needed and cast out what was not. He is not avenging Himself on these sellers; He is exorcising from the Temple what is foreign to it.

The antidote for wrath is, as we see above, mercy and forgiveness. There are two things to understand in this. First, to forgive means to no longer hold against (as in a loan) a person their debt/trespass/sin for future reference. It does not mean to condone or rationalize evil done to you. Mercy is to render to another person what is needed, whether they deserve it or not. In many homilies, I have referred to mercy and forgiveness as the ultimate acts of self-preservation. Wrath can ruin us on every level of our being. Mercy frees us from such a cross of iron.

It is incredibly important that we forgive. Our eternal life in heaven hinges on our ability to do so. In the Our Father we pray, “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us!” In other words: “God, forgive me as I forgive others.” That little prayer tucked into the Our Father can either be a blessing or an eternal curse depending upon our ability to forgive and our ability to stem wrath in our lives. After giving us the Our Father, Jesus warns us, “For if you will forgive men their offenses, your heavenly Father will forgive you also your offenses. But if you will not forgive men, neither will your Father forgive you your offenses” (Matthew 6:14-15). We entertain wrath and revenge at our own peril. We run the risk of the wicked servant in Matthew 18:23-35 who, because he was unwilling to forgive the much lesser debt of a fellow servant after he himself had a huge debt forgiven by the master, was now thrown into prison. It ends with the rather ominous “So my Father will do to you if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.” Wrath can have no hold in the life of a follower of Christ. (From “Let Freedom Ring“)


 DAY 26 – 90 DAYS TO PEACE


“Freedom from Pride” by Fr. Rick Heilman

Pride is the “Biggie.” This is the sin Satan committed in his choice to refuse to submit to God. This is the “original sin” that infected our first parents – “You will be like God” – and every generation that followed. In fact, without the waters of baptism, empowering us to stand against the original sin, along with a daily commitment to keep our “personal pride radar” up and on high alert, we can very easily slip into the intoxicating grip of pride. If we are not careful, we can find it driving just about every sin we commit. Pope St. Gregory the Great counted pride as the “mother of all sins.”

Pride, in fact, is the sin that is most at work to divide and destroy our culture. Think about this, Adam and Eve, to their ruin, believed that “freedom” was defined as the freedom from adhering to the will of God.  They wanted the ability to “Just Do It,” to do as they pleased and determine for themselves what was right and wrong.  They believed they had “progressed” beyond God.

There’s that seemingly indisputable term: “progress.” Or, as its adherents refer to themselves, “progressives.” By and large, this is a movement to remake whatever is determined to be archaic and no longer applicable, by the generation who has thankfully, “arrived on the scene” (sarcasm alert). They claim to have a kind of gnostic understanding of things that the “common folk” do not possess. They often make the lofty proclamation that they have “evolved.” What is archaic? What have they evolved from? GOD!

In fact, God, and His adherents, are a threat to the agenda of the “evolved.” In their eyes, the Dark Age’s notions must be destroyed. Notions such as seeing faith as a positive influence in the culture; revering and protecting the child in the womb; supporting the bedrock of civilization – the nuclear family; seeking care, housing and assistance for those dealing with psychological disorders and addictions … many of which are abandoned on the streets (e.g., drug addicts, homosexuals, those with gender dysphoria, etc.); banning the slavery of prostitution and child sex-trafficking; supporting a healthy economy to assist people off of government assistance and giving them the dignity of work; healing, instead of stoking, racial division; seeking quality education for our children (over kowtowing to unions who fill politicians’ coffers); having a patriotic heart for our country; honoring and thanking the heroic lives of police, military, first responders, and all those who put themselves in harm’s way to protect us and our freedoms.

In today’s culture, if you hold these truths to be self-evident (to borrow a phrase) – notions that find their source in our faith in God – YOU are the problem! YOU are causing division. And YOU must be silenced or even assaulted. In other words, the so-called progressives have granted to themselves the right to dictate to everyone else what is right and wrong. They are the arbiters of what is considered the “new normal” of values. They have made themselves gods.

Add to this, that fitting in has become compulsive among far too many. Those who seek to preserve the best qualities of our culture, founded in God, have become targets for the “evolved.” We have now found ourselves in a place where it has become socially acceptable to ridicule, shame, and even physically attack those who are not adhering to the new values. Many are even on the receiving end of this socially acceptable abuse from family members and friends.

Humility opposes pride. Not that we are called to let ourselves be a “whipping boy” to bolster others’ lust for superiority. Humility is a reverence for the truth; a reverence for who we are and what we are called to be; a reverence for the reason we even exist – God. Humility opens the door to the spirit of gratitude. In our abundant gratitude for all God has done (beginning with setting us into existence) and is doing, we say “YES” to God, and a big fat “NO” to the incessant propaganda of a new normal of lies that directly oppose the will of God.

Like the heroic first Christians, we go about radiating our love for God and neighbor, while we are willing to die for the TRUTH. This was why the first Christians grew in number so rapidly. They were attractive because they were HEROIC! Now is the time, possibly more than any other time in salvation history, for more and more souls to rise up, as the first Christians did, with that humble and heroic light of truth and love. (From “Let Freedom Ring“)


 DAY 27 – 90 DAYS TO PEACE


“Freedom from Gluttony” by Fr. James Altman

Dear family, we all have heard of the Seven Deadly Sins, even if we cannot remember all seven on the spot. By the time you get done with the Let Freedom Ring training, all three of us will have written on every one, so you likely could “get” seven out of seven. In a random poll, however, while most would remember pride, greed, and lust, and probably most would remember gluttony – as for sloth, wrath, and envy, not so much. As a confessor, it must be said that most people do not seem to do an adequate and sufficient examination of conscience; they don’t often discuss those times when they have fallen into these deadly sins. When they are confessed, sometimes it’s pride, many, many times it’s lust, and occasionally it’s envy and gluttony. Again, as to the others, not so much. Maybe the deadliest part of any of these is that we do not pay enough attention to them, and that may be because we have not taken the time to meditate upon the fullness of the sin.

Gluttony usually is defined in relation to food, but really could be defined as the overindulgence and overconsumption of anything to the point of waste. The “food” aspect is derived from the Latin gluttire, meaning to gulp down or swallow.

St. Thomas Aquinas took a more expansive view of gluttony, arguing that it could also include an obsessive anticipation of meals. Aquinas prepared a list of five ways to commit gluttony, one of which was eating too much. Another “ardenter” – was eating too eagerly. Of these, ardenter was often considered the most serious, since it is extreme attachment to the pleasure of mere eating (I’m not sure if my attachment to Flaming Hot Cheetos falls into this category, but when I use it as a breakfast comfort food, I’m probably skating on thin ice!) Aquinas said ardenter can make the committer eat impulsively; absolutely and without qualification live merely to eat and drink; lose attachment to health-related, social, intellectual, and spiritual pleasures; and lose proper judgement. (Pretty sure I’m not there yet, on those Flaming Hot Cheetos.)

The great Fr. John Hardon’s Modern Catholic Dictionary defines gluttony thusly: “Inordinate desire for the pleasure connected with food or drink. This desire may become sinful in various ways: by eating or drinking far more than a person needs to maintain bodily strength; by glutting one’s taste for certain kinds of food with known detriment to health; by indulging the appetite for exquisite food or drink, especially when these are beyond one’s ability to afford a luxurious diet; by eating or drinking too avidly, i.e., ravenously; by consuming alcoholic beverages to the point of losing full control of one’s reasoning powers. Intoxication that ends in complete loss of reason is a mortal sin ….”

Donald Attwater’s A Catholic Dictionary also points out that this rising to the level of mortal sin occurs when food consumption is excessive to the point of causing health issues, or drinking is excessive to the point of intoxication.

The point of all this – which may border on TMI (too much information) – is that if we do not know what we are talking about, how will we ever know if we are, as mentioned, possibly skating on that thin ice?

The bottom line – gluttony easily can be understood as eating and drinking too much. It is fair to say that Americans fall much more into the category of Rich Man Dives: “There was a rich man who dressed in purple garments and fine linen and dined sumptuously each day” (Luke 16:19), than we fall into the category of Poor Man Lazarus: “And lying at [Dives’] door was a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who would gladly have eaten his fill of the scraps that fell from the rich man’s table. Dogs even used to come and lick his sores” (Luke 16:20-21). And that will be a problem one day, because we all know where Dives ended up — yes, the eternal tormenting fires of hell! How much better to aspire to the example of St. Teresa of Calcutta who served the poorest of the poor, who served all the “Poor Man Lazaruses” of Calcutta.

We are well off in America. In fact, it has been said that the poorest Americans are richer than the richest third-world-citizens. Are we so gluttonous, has gluttony become so much a part of our day-to-day, that we do not even recognize it for what it is? Are we just like Dives? He seemed clueless, didn’t he? And yet, remember in Jesus’ parable, it was not like Dives did not know Poor Man Lazarus. In the reality to which Jesus spoke, Dives practically would have had to trip over Lazarus every time he went in and out of the front gate. We actually know that Dives knew exactly who Lazarus was, because Dives called him by name when Dives appealed to Abraham: “Father Abraham, have pity on me. Send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am suffering torment in these flames” (Luke 16:24).

Dear family, let us take time to realize just how much we have, how much we consume (especially food and alcohol), and then ponder whether we genuinely have fasted from either.  Have we freed up and offered some of our wealth for the benefit of the Lazaruses who might be sitting outside our own front gate? (From “Let Freedom Ring“)

DAY 28 – 90 DAYS TO PEACE

“Freedom from Racism” by Fr. Bill Peckman

As dominant a topic as racism is today, the word is only 140 years old in usage. I have been reading the book The Guarded Gate by Daniel Okrent. He traces how both nativism and eugenics in 19th Century America and Northern Europe led to the closing of the U.S.A.’s doors to immigrants in the 1920’s from groups deemed to be lesser races. Race didn’t exclusively refer to the color of one’s skin as it does today. Races were divided by religion and nationality as well. The likes of Sen. Henry Cabot Lodge would have been indignant at the idea that a WASP (White Anglo-Saxon Protestant) such as himself, would have been put in the same race as Poles, Russians, Slavs, Italians, Spaniards, Irish Catholics, Catholics, or Jews. This type of racism found its most deadly form in the Third Reich in Nazi Germany. Hitler, being a northern European, also sent Slavs, Poles, Roma (aka Gypsies), Russians, Catholics (especially clergy and seminarians), as well as Jews to the concentration/death camps.

The notion of racism these days fully arises out of eugenics. For those who do not know what eugenics is, it is a belief that humanity can become a super race by eliminating what are considered lesser strains, or human “weeds”. English scientist Thomas Galton began this controversial study based on the extension of the work of his cousin, Charles Darwin. The Nativist movement in the U.S. and the U.K. picked up on this and found a particular champion in America with Planned Parenthood founder, Margaret Sanger. It was she who designated the entirety of those with black skin to be among the lesser of humanity, taking a view of them akin to the slave traders and owners who 50 years prior sought to keep them enslaved.

Racism is another way that Satan sets us against each other. It is another potent dividing line. Although he doesn’t address race in his epistles (mainly because the concept is non-existent), St. Paul writes many times how these manmade divisions are inappropriate to the Body of Christ. He says that in Christ, there is no male or female, Jew or Greek, slave or freeman (Galatians 3:28). It takes little effort to imagine he would extend this to the idea that in Christ there are no races, but that all in Christ are one despite manmade differentiations and the superior/inferior delegations we put to them.

Racism is tearing apart our country right now. It is a tool used by people with hopes of tearing down this country and reconstituting it as a communist or socialist nation. Both ideologies require struggles between an oppressed class and oppressor class to justify upending the system. They have simply borrowed the categories from other totalitarian groups, such as the Nazi’s, and tweaked them to suit the new narrative. They can do this because we have 150 or so years of fomenting the idea of racism.

There have been incidents of racism within the Church. When one looks at the story of Fr. Augustine Tolton, declared venerable by the Church, we see a black man and former slave who was called by God to the priesthood yet could not find an American seminary to take him. I believe that racism, in a soft form, has largely gutted inner city parishes where the natives refused or failed in evangelizing the new people moving in because they didn’t look like them. To be honest, I have heard more than a few times, vile racial slurs from those who claim to be good Catholics. Such things, as St. Paul would remind us, are wholly unacceptable behaviors for a follower of Jesus and have no place within the Body of Christ.

It is our society that likes dividing the population into separate corporate bodies to pit them against each other. Certainly, more nefarious political systems need and thrive upon such divisions. Within the Body of Christ, this is wholly evil. One of the marks of the Church is ‘One’ —that is, that we are one in Christ. That oneness is not subservient to worldly divisions and political jostling. Consider that the Catholic Church has over 1.4 billion members. Those 1.4 billion come from every conceivable culture, language, and skin color, yet we are called to be one. That oneness starts here and stretches to eternity.

What is needed is wisdom, that gift of the Holy Spirit that enables us to see one another as Christ sees us. First and foremost, He sees each of us as needing God’s love and grace. He sees each of us as redeemable and worth the price of the Cross. We need to see each other in such a light. When someone searching comes upon us, they should not see us looking like the world, but they should see us in stark contrast to the world. We don’t seek to divide what is called to be one. Over the years, I have thought it asinine to make judgements about the character of a person based on how much melanin happens to be in their skin. Wisdom leads us to truth. Truth leads us to love. God is love. Let us pray for the courage to look at the agent provocateurs who use race (and any other category they can find) to pit us against each other, and instead choose to love each other as God loves us. (From “Let Freedom Ring“)


DAY 28 – 90 DAYS TO PEACE


"Once someone detaches from their call to advance in the spiritual life, they can become satisfied with what St. Thomas calls a mere “animal beatitude.” In other words, we demote ourselves to mere animals, aimlessly feeding the flesh with all its lust and wants. Once this fails, and it usually does, we are left to fall into a nihilism, or even a hatred of being.


For a soul adrift in acedia, and therefore unstable with loss of meaning and purpose in life, he is left to vacillate between reducing himself to just another animal species, or worse, a blight on an otherwise perfect natural world. Is this sounding familiar yet? It should be; it is pervasive thought in a world becoming more and more disconnected from God.


How did we get here, and how do we get out of this epidemic of acedia in our culture, and even in our Church? I continue to believe we Catholics deserve much of the blame. Why? This is where I point to a previous reflection I gave on lukewarmness. Recall it was Pope St. Pius V who went so far as to say, “All the evil in the world is due to lukewarm Catholics.”


If we are the one true Church founded by Jesus Christ – and we are – then we were called to lift the world out of the emptiness of acedia that leads to believing we are mere animals. Yet, for more than 50 years, we have been peddling a weak and watered-down religion; a religion that denies the power of God; a religion of “activism” that seems to abhor the call to advance in the spiritual life. It almost seems like the proponents of this modern-day Catholic religion were (and are), themselves, plagued with acedia. Some even militate against a restoration of sacred beauty and sacred worship. “It’s too much,” they proclaim. “People won’t like our Church if we promote all the ‘sacred stuff.’” In essence, they are saying, “We need to be a ‘Church of Acedia’ in order to reach those caught in acedia.” And so, the acedia is left to spread like a virus." - Fr. Rick Heilman


“Freedom from Acedia” by Fr. Rick Heilman

Recently, I wrote a reflection on pride. I said, “Pride is the Biggie,” because it’s “the sin that is most at work to divide and destroy our culture.” Although I believe that to be true, I would say the most dominant sin that characterizes our culture today is acedia. Acedia has been referred to as the “noonday devil.”

“Acedia” originates from the Greek, akèdia, meaning “lack of care.” It’s a kind of indifference or a “lack of spiritual energy,” which is a phrase from the book by Jean-Charles Nault, O.S.B., The Noonday Devil: Acedia, the Unnamed Evil of Our Times. Nault, the abbot of the Benedictine Abbey of Saint-Wandrille in France, is one of the world’s experts on acedia. I recall the acclaim this book had in 2015, and I ordered it right away. I highly recommend it.

Nault references how it came to be called, “the noonday devil.” In the writings of Evagrius of Pontus (345-399, one of the Desert Fathers), he explained that acedia manifests itself as a temptation for the monk to depart his cell. This temptation is often worst around midday, hence the “noonday devil.”

The reasons for abandoning his cell could all be reasonable or even noble: He may want to work on his health, or he is just seeking a change of scenery, or maybe he wants to visit family, or he believes he could help more people outside his cell. Therefore, acedia doesn’t necessarily always have to do with laziness. It could be manifested in activism.

Acedia can often be associated with “spiritual instability,” a kind of restlessness. So, the soul may find itself horrified by its commitments, even abhor the spiritual life. The soul finds itself stuck in a kind of spiritual malaise which prevents it from advancing in the spiritual life.

St. Thomas Aquinas said of acedia that it is a “sadness about spiritual good.” It’s a sadness of even the ultimate good of union with God. How can that be? St. Thomas says that man can become sad at the prospect of union with God because it requires him to give up goods to which he is attached.

Once someone detaches from their call to advance in the spiritual life, they can become satisfied with what St. Thomas calls a mere “animal beatitude.” In other words, we demote ourselves to mere animals, aimlessly feeding the flesh with all its lust and wants. Once this fails, and it usually does, we are left to fall into a nihilism, or even a hatred of being.

For a soul adrift in acedia, and therefore unstable with loss of meaning and purpose in life, he is left to vacillate between reducing himself to just another animal species, or worse, a blight on an otherwise perfect natural world. Is this sounding familiar yet? It should be; it is pervasive thought in a world becoming more and more disconnected from God.

How did we get here, and how do we get out of this epidemic of acedia in our culture, and even in our Church? I continue to believe we Catholics deserve much of the blame. Why? This is where I point to a previous reflection I gave on lukewarmness. Recall it was Pope St. Pius V who went so far as to say, “All the evil in the world is due to lukewarm Catholics.”

If we are the one true Church founded by Jesus Christ – and we are – then we were called to lift the world out of the emptiness of acedia that leads to believing we are mere animals. Yet, for more than 50 years, we have been peddling a weak and watered-down religion; a religion that denies the power of God; a religion of “activism” that seems to abhor the call to advance in the spiritual life. It almost seems like the proponents of this modern-day Catholic religion were (and are), themselves, plagued with acedia. Some even militate against a restoration of sacred beauty and sacred worship. “It’s too much,” they proclaim. “People won’t like our Church if we promote all the ‘sacred stuff.’” In essence, they are saying, “We need to be a ‘Church of Acedia’ in order to reach those caught in acedia.” And so, the acedia is left to spread like a virus.

In Paul’s letter to Timothy, he warned about just such a time as ours: “But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people” (2 Timothy 3:1-5).

Thank God, many are talking about the need for us to repent. But repent from what? We must repent from creating a Church that has the “form of godliness but denies its power.”  This renewed faith and trust in the power of God, and worshiping as though we actually believe in it, is the antidote for our global pandemic: acedia. (From “Let Freedom Ring“)


DAY 29 – 90 DAYS TO PEACE


"How do we sin regarding secularism? Simple. We sin every time we support, in word or deed, the big lie of “separation of church and state” according to the secularist model. We sin through any kind of voting for godless agendas. We also commit sins of omission when we fail to make a reasonable effort to be aware of, and fight against, these dark forces which are prevailing in our times. The many, versus the few, sin constantly in their ignorant and uninformed support – even cowardly support – for the godless left-wing agenda. This would include disregarding the unchanged and unchangeable truth regarding the five non-negotiables of Catholic morality, including abortion and same-sex unions." - Fr. James Altman


“Freedom from Acedia” by Fr. Rick Heilman

Recently, I wrote a reflection on pride. I said, “Pride is the Biggie,” because it’s “the sin that is most at work to divide and destroy our culture.” Although I believe that to be true, I would say the most dominant sin that characterizes our culture today is acedia. Acedia has been referred to as the “noonday devil.”

“Acedia” originates from the Greek, akèdia, meaning “lack of care.” It’s a kind of indifference or a “lack of spiritual energy,” which is a phrase from the book by Jean-Charles Nault, O.S.B., The Noonday Devil: Acedia, the Unnamed Evil of Our Times. Nault, the abbot of the Benedictine Abbey of Saint-Wandrille in France, is one of the world’s experts on acedia. I recall the acclaim this book had in 2015, and I ordered it right away. I highly recommend it.

Nault references how it came to be called, “the noonday devil.” In the writings of Evagrius of Pontus (345-399, one of the Desert Fathers), he explained that acedia manifests itself as a temptation for the monk to depart his cell. This temptation is often worst around midday, hence the “noonday devil.”

The reasons for abandoning his cell could all be reasonable or even noble: He may want to work on his health, or he is just seeking a change of scenery, or maybe he wants to visit family, or he believes he could help more people outside his cell. Therefore, acedia doesn’t necessarily always have to do with laziness. It could be manifested in activism.

Acedia can often be associated with “spiritual instability,” a kind of restlessness. So, the soul may find itself horrified by its commitments, even abhor the spiritual life. The soul finds itself stuck in a kind of spiritual malaise which prevents it from advancing in the spiritual life.

St. Thomas Aquinas said of acedia that it is a “sadness about spiritual good.” It’s a sadness of even the ultimate good of union with God. How can that be? St. Thomas says that man can become sad at the prospect of union with God because it requires him to give up goods to which he is attached.

Once someone detaches from their call to advance in the spiritual life, they can become satisfied with what St. Thomas calls a mere “animal beatitude.” In other words, we demote ourselves to mere animals, aimlessly feeding the flesh with all its lust and wants. Once this fails, and it usually does, we are left to fall into a nihilism, or even a hatred of being.

For a soul adrift in acedia, and therefore unstable with loss of meaning and purpose in life, he is left to vacillate between reducing himself to just another animal species, or worse, a blight on an otherwise perfect natural world. Is this sounding familiar yet? It should be; it is pervasive thought in a world becoming more and more disconnected from God.

How did we get here, and how do we get out of this epidemic of acedia in our culture, and even in our Church? I continue to believe we Catholics deserve much of the blame. Why? This is where I point to a previous reflection I gave on lukewarmness. Recall it was Pope St. Pius V who went so far as to say, “All the evil in the world is due to lukewarm Catholics.”

If we are the one true Church founded by Jesus Christ – and we are – then we were called to lift the world out of the emptiness of acedia that leads to believing we are mere animals. Yet, for more than 50 years, we have been peddling a weak and watered-down religion; a religion that denies the power of God; a religion of “activism” that seems to abhor the call to advance in the spiritual life. It almost seems like the proponents of this modern-day Catholic religion were (and are), themselves, plagued with acedia. Some even militate against a restoration of sacred beauty and sacred worship. “It’s too much,” they proclaim. “People won’t like our Church if we promote all the ‘sacred stuff.’” In essence, they are saying, “We need to be a ‘Church of Acedia’ in order to reach those caught in acedia.” And so, the acedia is left to spread like a virus.

In Paul’s letter to Timothy, he warned about just such a time as ours: “But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people” (2 Timothy 3:1-5).

Thank God, many are talking about the need for us to repent. But repent from what? We must repent from creating a Church that has the “form of godliness but denies its power.”  This renewed faith and trust in the power of God, and worshiping as though we actually believe in it, is the antidote for our global pandemic: acedia. (From “Let Freedom Ring“)


DAY 30 – 90 DAYS TO PEACE


"How do we sin regarding secularism? Simple. We sin every time we support, in word or deed, the big lie of “separation of church and state” according to the secularist model. We sin through any kind of voting for godless agendas. We also commit sins of omission when we fail to make a reasonable effort to be aware of, and fight against, these dark forces which are prevailing in our times. The many, versus the few, sin constantly in their ignorant and uninformed support – even cowardly support – for the godless left-wing agenda. This would include disregarding the unchanged and unchangeable truth regarding the five non-negotiables of Catholic morality, including abortion and same-sex unions." - Fr. James Altman


DAY 31 – 90 DAYS TO PEACE


"What Jesus calls for, instead of such an attachment to the material world, is a detachment from the material world. In the Sermon on the Mount, in the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus says, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.” If this is the attitude Jesus tells us to have about the necessities of life, how much more does this apply to things like ballgames and other non-essential activities? I am not against sports. I am for right priorities. Faith helps us discern right priorities, considering that which is material, and hence passing, to be of lesser importance to the spiritual." - Fr. Bill Peckman


“Freedom from Materialism” by Fr. Bill Peckman

Back in 1985, Madonna nearly topped the Billboard 100 singing how she was “a material girl living in a material world.” It seemed apropos for the eighties where herds of free-range yuppies thundered across the fruited plains alerting anyone who could hear them that too much stuff was never enough. Certainly, the USA is one of the wealthiest countries the world has ever seen. Even the bottom 20% of the economic strata in our country consumes more than the bottom 60% of the rest of the developed world. Our suburbs are full of McMansions stuffed with goods. At my worst, I had clothes in my closet that I owned for a couple years and never removed the price tags from. It used to be that the American Dream was about the ability to make something of yourself despite your economic class. Now, the American Dream is the house, the car, the possessions and so on. It can become a garish display.

Materialism comes from a very dark place. It is a godless place. Philosophically, materialism holds that all that is true is made up of material or comes from material interactions. Even the mind is subservient to the material world. In essence, all we have is what is measurable. No god. No heaven. No hell. No devil. Our life ends when we die. There is nothing beyond the grave. Hence, our only true happiness can be found in the accumulation of wealth, power, pleasure, and honor. Life becomes a mad dash of consumption and manipulation. Materialism is like a creeping vine; if not pulled up right away, it will insinuate itself into your life and choke off any fruit a relationship with God might have born.

Many people who consider themselves good Catholics can be functional materialists. A canary in the mineshaft is our attitude to the Day of the Lord, our attitude towards Sundays. If there is anywhere where the effects of materialism (and its twin serpent, secularism) are more greatly felt, it is in how we treat Sunday. In the last forty years Sunday has gone from the Day of the Lord to the hour of the Lord, that is, unless there is something more fun or important to do. Even for one day we cannot put down our material interests to address our spiritual need for prayer, communion, and rest. Apart from school, every other secular enterprise has gobbled up Sunday like a quickly eaten trifle. *ALERT* You are entering the slaughtering of sacred cows’ zone!

Let’s use the following conversation that I have had multiple times with parishioners: “My kid can’t serve because he has a ball tournament this weekend.” “And this tournament is both on Saturday night and SUNDAY MORNING?” “I know, Father, but he did make a commitment to the team. We will try to get to Mass at some time.” Thinking to myself: Hmm. I am sure what God meant by first fruits was really leftovers, but that’s another discussion. Maybe we should talk about their commitment to God being of greater value. “So why is going to this game so important?” “Because he needs extracurriculars to get into a good college?” “Why is that important?” “So he can get a good job.” “Why is that important?” “So he can be successful and make a good salary.” “Why is that important?” “So he can raise a family and live without financial worry.” Me thinking to myself: Hmm, no wonder my homilies on priestly vocations fall on deaf ears; but again, another time. “May I quote Mark 8:6? ‘What does it profit for man to gain the whole world yet forfeit their soul?’ The third commandment is to keep holy the Sabbath, no? Is teaching your son that a ball game holds greater importance than the Day of the Lord a lesson you wish teach to him?”

Teaching others, especially those placed in our care, that the material world and its prizes are of greater value than one’s relationship with God and His people is a dangerous lesson. It is a contributory factor to the ever-plummeting attendance at Mass. If we will abandon Mass for worldly gain, will we not abandon anything of God to get ahead? The devil will grab his pom-poms and cheer you on that drive!

What Jesus calls for, instead of such an attachment to the material world, is a detachment from the material world. In the Sermon on the Mount, in the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus says, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.” If this is the attitude Jesus tells us to have about the necessities of life, how much more does this apply to things like ballgames and other non-essential activities? I am not against sports. I am for right priorities. Faith helps us discern right priorities, considering that which is material, and hence passing, to be of lesser importance to the spiritual.

It is telling that in such a culture abstinence and fasting are seen as little more than misery-making exercises consigned to Lent. Are you aware that we are still not supposed to eat meat on any Friday? Outside of Lent, we can substitute something else. But Friday…all Fridays are days of abstinence. Fasting and abstinence are incredibly good ways of breaking ourselves from materialism.

I challenge you, dear reader, to start breaking apart from materialism with one simple step: make the Day of the Lord a day of rest and worship again. Maybe pick up some fasting and abstinence. We need to find ways to shout boldly our faith, “We need God before anything this world has to offer.” (From “Let Freedom Ring“)


DAY 32 – 90 DAYS TO PEACE


"Fear of the Lord is the entry point; this is the “trigger” that ignites all the other gifts of the Holy Spirit. Without this trigger, we are prone to reduce our faith/religion to merely another organization that has a sense of social responsibility. Jesus is then reduced to a historic figure to emulate. Mass is just a social gathering that many may say (without saying), "it had better have good entertainment if You are going to make me endure this for an hour." So then, why not just throw on our worst recreational attire for Mass, and get in line to grab Jesus like we're reaching for a potato chip? Where is the desire to be filled with the supernatural power of grace?


St. Bernard said, “For I have learnt for a fact that nothing so effectively obtains, retains and regains grace, as that we should always be found not high-minded before God, but filled with holy fear." - Fr. Rick Heilman

 

“Freedom from Irreverence” by Fr. Rick Heilman

It was on February 2, 1998, that I had the experience of a lifetime. It was my first ever Papal Mass, and this was with Pope John Paul II on the Feast of the Presentation. I went on sabbatical for two months with some priest friends to study in Rome. The priests studying received a beautiful, engraved invitation to the Papal Mass, and we were thrilled to be going.

There we were in St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, about to pray with the Vicar of Christ. As Mass began, glorious sacred music filled the Basilica…and my soul. Since it was a Papal Mass there was great attention given to precision, which struck me as “beautiful order,” much like is seen with a military honor guard granting the highest respect to a fallen soldier. But it was more than that. While I had always loved the Mass, I felt, maybe for the first time, that we were truly “glorifying” God. On that day, February 2, 1998, I was profoundly changed.

That amazing experience simultaneously left me filled with regret. I began to ask myself, “What have I been doing?” I had spent the first ten years of my priesthood buying into the common (at the time) notion that if we created all kinds of trendy nuances to the Mass, while keeping it as whimsical and entertaining as possible, people would hear about how “cool” and “fun” and “with the times” we were and come running. We were treating the Mass as a commodity that we needed to somehow market to the world. Worse than anything, I realized we were all but throwing out any sense of divinity, any sense of the supernatural. Where in all of this was any sense of awe and wonder in God’s presence? Where was the sense of God’s majesty? I realized, for the first time, we were gravely sinning in our irreverence before God.

Saint Francis of Assisi said, “Man should tremble, the world should quake, all Heaven should be deeply moved when the Son of God appears on the altar in the hands of the priest.” Where was that in my “night club act” or “Broadway musical” entertainment-focused Masses? Irreverence!

I’ve come to understand that we have, throughout most of the Church, removed the very gateway into the Divine Life. I happen to agree with Pope St. Gregory the Great who, wanting to capture the spiritual dynamism of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, posited the following order: “Through the fear of the Lord, we rise to piety, from piety then to knowledge, from knowledge we derive strength, from strength counsel, with counsel we move toward understanding, and with intelligence toward wisdom and thus, by the sevenfold grace of the Spirit, there opens to us at the end of the ascent the entrance to the life of Heaven” (“Homiliae in Hiezechihelem Prophetam,” II 7,7).

As you can see, the entry point to all the Gifts of the Holy Spirit is “Fear of the Lord.” What is Fear of the Lord, also known as the Gift of Awe and Wonder? According to Fr. John Hardon, Fear of the Lord “… inspires a person with profound respect for the majesty of God. Its corresponding effects are protection from sin through dread of offending the Lord, and a strong confidence in the power of His help. The fear of the Lord is not servile but filial. It is based on the selfless love of God, whom it shrinks from offending. Whereas in servile fear the evil dreaded is punishment; in filial fear it is the fear of doing anything contrary to the will of God. The gift of fear comprises three principal elements: a vivid sense of God’s greatness, a lively sorrow for the least faults committed, and a vigilant care in avoiding occasions of sin. It is expressed in prayer of the Psalmist, ‘My whole being trembles before you, Your ruling fills me with fear’” (Psalm 119:120).

Fear of the Lord is the entry point; this is the “trigger” that ignites all the other gifts of the Holy Spirit. Without this trigger, we are prone to reduce our faith/religion to merely another organization that has a sense of social responsibility. Jesus is then reduced to a historic figure to emulate. Mass is just a social gathering that many may say (without saying), “it had better have good entertainment if You are going to make me endure this for an hour.” So then, why not just throw on our worst recreational attire for Mass, and get in line to grab Jesus like we’re reaching for a potato chip? Where is the desire to be filled with the supernatural power of grace?

St. Bernard said, “For I have learnt for a fact that nothing so effectively obtains, retains and regains grace, as that we should always be found not high-minded before God, but filled with holy fear.”

Fr. John Hardon wrote: “St. Thomas Aquinas believed that man is more than a composite of body and soul, that his is nothing less than elevated to a supernatural order which participates, as far as a creature can, in the very nature of God. Accordingly, a person in the state of grace, or divine friendship, possesses certain enduring powers, the infused virtues and gifts, that raise him to an orbit of existence as far above nature as heaven is above earth, and that give him abilities of thought and operation that are literally born, not of the will of flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.”

Do you see why Satan is winning?! He is in the supernatural realm using supernatural weapons, while we have surrendered ours. We seem to be choosing, instead, an irreverent, secular (anti-supernatural) version of religion. I honestly believe this goes to the very root of our problems. Unless, and until, we see a worldwide movement within our Church to restore reverence in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, that assists us in becoming predisposed to receive the gateway Holy Spirit Gift of Awe and Wonder, Satan will continue to have an easy-time with us. Until then, Satan is eating our lunch! (From “Let Freedom Ring“)

DAY 33 – 90 DAYS TO PEACE


"Dear family, most of us – excluding the rioters, looters, burners, and shooters - know that we should not steal tangible things. How about for today let us ponder how so many of us steal intangible things – like time – like God’s time? As part of our next confession, let us examine our consciences and ask ourselves how much time we have stolen. That is an important examination, dear family, because stealing time makes us thieves. To help with that examination, let us ask ourselves if we have made it a point to do what Jesus told us to do: spend an hour a day with our Lord in this life, so we really can spend an eternity with Him in the next. Then let us in these troubled, troubled times, resolve to be free from our attachment to time, and to start giving back to the Lord one hour for every 23 other hours of the day He gives us." - Fr. James Altman


“Freedom from Irreverence” by Fr. Rick Heilman

It was on February 2, 1998, that I had the experience of a lifetime. It was my first ever Papal Mass, and this was with Pope John Paul II on the Feast of the Presentation. I went on sabbatical for two months with some priest friends to study in Rome. The priests studying received a beautiful, engraved invitation to the Papal Mass, and we were thrilled to be going.

There we were in St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, about to pray with the Vicar of Christ. As Mass began, glorious sacred music filled the Basilica…and my soul. Since it was a Papal Mass there was great attention given to precision, which struck me as “beautiful order,” much like is seen with a military honor guard granting the highest respect to a fallen soldier. But it was more than that. While I had always loved the Mass, I felt, maybe for the first time, that we were truly “glorifying” God. On that day, February 2, 1998, I was profoundly changed.

That amazing experience simultaneously left me filled with regret. I began to ask myself, “What have I been doing?” I had spent the first ten years of my priesthood buying into the common (at the time) notion that if we created all kinds of trendy nuances to the Mass, while keeping it as whimsical and entertaining as possible, people would hear about how “cool” and “fun” and “with the times” we were and come running. We were treating the Mass as a commodity that we needed to somehow market to the world. Worse than anything, I realized we were all but throwing out any sense of divinity, any sense of the supernatural. Where in all of this was any sense of awe and wonder in God’s presence? Where was the sense of God’s majesty? I realized, for the first time, we were gravely sinning in our irreverence before God.

Saint Francis of Assisi said, “Man should tremble, the world should quake, all Heaven should be deeply moved when the Son of God appears on the altar in the hands of the priest.” Where was that in my “night club act” or “Broadway musical” entertainment-focused Masses? Irreverence!

I’ve come to understand that we have, throughout most of the Church, removed the very gateway into the Divine Life. I happen to agree with Pope St. Gregory the Great who, wanting to capture the spiritual dynamism of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, posited the following order: “Through the fear of the Lord, we rise to piety, from piety then to knowledge, from knowledge we derive strength, from strength counsel, with counsel we move toward understanding, and with intelligence toward wisdom and thus, by the sevenfold grace of the Spirit, there opens to us at the end of the ascent the entrance to the life of Heaven” (“Homiliae in Hiezechihelem Prophetam,” II 7,7).

As you can see, the entry point to all the Gifts of the Holy Spirit is “Fear of the Lord.” What is Fear of the Lord, also known as the Gift of Awe and Wonder? According to Fr. John Hardon, Fear of the Lord “… inspires a person with profound respect for the majesty of God. Its corresponding effects are protection from sin through dread of offending the Lord, and a strong confidence in the power of His help. The fear of the Lord is not servile but filial. It is based on the selfless love of God, whom it shrinks from offending. Whereas in servile fear the evil dreaded is punishment; in filial fear it is the fear of doing anything contrary to the will of God. The gift of fear comprises three principal elements: a vivid sense of God’s greatness, a lively sorrow for the least faults committed, and a vigilant care in avoiding occasions of sin. It is expressed in prayer of the Psalmist, ‘My whole being trembles before you, Your ruling fills me with fear’” (Psalm 119:120).

Fear of the Lord is the entry point; this is the “trigger” that ignites all the other gifts of the Holy Spirit. Without this trigger, we are prone to reduce our faith/religion to merely another organization that has a sense of social responsibility. Jesus is then reduced to a historic figure to emulate. Mass is just a social gathering that many may say (without saying), “it had better have good entertainment if You are going to make me endure this for an hour.” So then, why not just throw on our worst recreational attire for Mass, and get in line to grab Jesus like we’re reaching for a potato chip? Where is the desire to be filled with the supernatural power of grace?

St. Bernard said, “For I have learnt for a fact that nothing so effectively obtains, retains and regains grace, as that we should always be found not high-minded before God, but filled with holy fear.”

Fr. John Hardon wrote: “St. Thomas Aquinas believed that man is more than a composite of body and soul, that his is nothing less than elevated to a supernatural order which participates, as far as a creature can, in the very nature of God. Accordingly, a person in the state of grace, or divine friendship, possesses certain enduring powers, the infused virtues and gifts, that raise him to an orbit of existence as far above nature as heaven is above earth, and that give him abilities of thought and operation that are literally born, not of the will of flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.”

Do you see why Satan is winning?! He is in the supernatural realm using supernatural weapons, while we have surrendered ours. We seem to be choosing, instead, an irreverent, secular (anti-supernatural) version of religion. I honestly believe this goes to the very root of our problems. Unless, and until, we see a worldwide movement within our Church to restore reverence in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, that assists us in becoming predisposed to receive the gateway Holy Spirit Gift of Awe and Wonder, Satan will continue to have an easy-time with us. Until then, Satan is eating our lunch! (From “Let Freedom Ring“)

DAY 34 – 90 DAYS TO PEACE

"So, what is the antidote to such a potent poison? Humility, humility, humility! In humility we see the truth. In humility we see our own paltry attempts at truth as nothing before God. In humility we bow our heads to God’s wisdom and power. In humility we see truth clearly and can act rightly and justly. Since humility doesn’t consider “What’s in it for me?” it gives us clarity of vision and a hunger to act in truth. It helps us see relativism for the self-serving and ultimately (and eternally) self-destructive drug it is. Humility gives us the ability to move beyond ourselves and become genuinely loving.


My brothers and sisters, we do well to cultivate humility even when such cultivation upends our lives and forces conversion. This is a good thing. We would do well to do this now before it is too late. We might be able to fool ourselves and even those around us. We might be able to bully our neighbor and shout down those who disagree with us. Be that as it may, we will not be able to defend, shout down, nor bully God into seeing our way and giving us the reward set aside for those who allowed themselves to be conformed to His image and likeness. For after saying He is the way, the truth, and the life, Jesus tells us that no one comes to the Father except through Him. We do well to listen." - Fr. Bill Peckman


“Freedom from Relativism” by Fr. Bill Peckman

For years, I have tried to do a class with my seventh and eighth grade religion classes on some form of critical and analytical thinking. One of the first things I teach them is the difference between subjective and objective truth. I do this because they are entering a society that is more and more hostile to the concept of objective truth.

The easiest way to tell the two apart is that objective truth is something that is true on its own merit (it does not need my opinion to prove its veracity), whereas subjective truth is something that is true by my criteria (opinion). Our society has embraced relativism as a natural outgrowth of its hostility to true faith. In fact (and I say this as a former agnostic), relativism is the grand prize of godlessness: I get to decide for myself what is good and evil, moral and immoral, and right or wrong. Relativism gives me the false pretense of being my own God. It is biting into the apple at Eden.

Relativism bases itself in our emotions being more important than our rational thinking when it comes to decision making and the pursuit of truth. Since everything is subjective, truth is what I feel it is based on my own perceived emotional needs and passions. My passions and emotions are the filters through which I define my reality. So, what happens when my reality does not line up with your reality? You must be wrong and you should align yourself with my reality. If you don’t, then I will call you intolerant, and if you try to express an opinion contrary to mine, then I will shout you down. Does this sound familiar?

Our society is rife with relativism. It has long trumped faith; now it trumps science and empirical evidence. If I am a male and feel that I am not, you must accept it. If I am sexually attracted to…well…anything, you must accept it. If I believe that I should get everything for free, you must give it. Progressivism is relativistic. It is why everything: every belief, every thought, and every word, must be a reflection of itself. It is the powertrain of narcissism.

Our Church has been rocked with relativism. It shows up in the cleric who has come to his own conclusion that a teaching is antiquated (say artificial birth control), and therefore ceases to discuss it or teaches contrary to it (and also in the one who believes it but lacks the intestinal fortitude to instruct his flock). It shows up in the “I am Catholic but…” attitude that CINO (Catholic In Name Only) politicians and academics like to hide behind.  They pretend they are Catholics in good standing to get your vote or your ear. I have seen it in so called “celebrity priests” who talk a good game but allow the press to go to their heads. They start thinking they are above the teachings us ordinary folk must follow, and scandal soon ensues. I still maintain that a cleric must have a high degree of relativism to prey on their flock (or allow the predation to happen), AND still even so much as touch the Blessed Sacrament, let alone say Mass. It is the food that feeds the attitude that the purpose of the Mass is “getting something out of it.”

In John 14, from the Farewell Discourse, Jesus says “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). When preaching on this passage, I always remind people that articles matter. Jesus doesn’t use the indefinite article as in “I am a way, a truth, and a life.” He uses the definite article. Jesus, His teachings, and the Gospel are not just one man’s opinion or an option among other possible options. His words are not co-equal with worldly or secular wisdom. Since He alone is the Second Person of the Trinity made flesh who dwelt amongst us, His words and teachings carry a unique and singular authority. By the same notion, the Church He set up, is the caretaker and keeper of the keys to that same singular truth. Because someone else (or even our own self) has come up with an alternative, does NOT make that alternative true or co-equal with the truth that is Jesus Christ.

So, what is the antidote to such a potent poison? Humility, humility, humility! In humility we see the truth. In humility we see our own paltry attempts at truth as nothing before God. In humility we bow our heads to God’s wisdom and power. In humility we see truth clearly and can act rightly and justly. Since humility doesn’t consider “What’s in it for me?” it gives us clarity of vision and a hunger to act in truth. It helps us see relativism for the self-serving and ultimately (and eternally) self-destructive drug it is. Humility gives us the ability to move beyond ourselves and become genuinely loving.

My brothers and sisters, we do well to cultivate humility even when such cultivation upends our lives and forces conversion. This is a good thing. We would do well to do this now before it is too late. We might be able to fool ourselves and even those around us. We might be able to bully our neighbor and shout down those who disagree with us. Be that as it may, we will not be able to defend, shout down, nor bully God into seeing our way and giving us the reward set aside for those who allowed themselves to be conformed to His image and likeness. For after saying He is the way, the truth, and the life, Jesus tells us that no one comes to the Father except through Him. We do well to listen. (From “Let Freedom Ring“)


DAY 35 – 90 DAYS TO PEACE


"How did we get here? The simple answer is poor parenting, or even absent parenting. I recall when the Nouveau Parenting movement began - mostly spurred on by the new “woke” and “progressive” APA. Parents were told to cease disciplining their children, for fear of traumatizing them. Meanwhile, organizations started handing out participation trophies just for showing up, because disappointment over not earning a prize could be damaging to a kid’s self-esteem. What. A. Colossal. Disaster!


Parents who coddle their children are, quite frankly, stunting their emotional maturation. This is certainly not how our perfect parent, God, parents us. Salvation history is replete with examples where God, having first tried to inspire us, resorts to allowing us to go through challenges. The opposition we face in those challenges, impels us to “raise our game” - to mature. Left to our spiritual immaturity, we are prone to behave as spoiled children do. We expect God to give us everything we want, including heaven, without ever needing to humbly obey, express our gratitude, or work hard for it; we feel we are just entitled to it. We’d rather not know of such adult concepts as, “Effort brings reward.”


Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me” (Matt 16:24). These are not the words of someone who coddles with participation “trophies.” This is the Son of God telling us to “GROW UP and BE A MAN! (or WOMAN!)”


In the military, they put it this way, “It never gets easier, you just get better.” -Fr. Richard Heilman


“Freedom from Childishness” by Fr. Rick Heilman

Psychology has always been an area of interest for me. In fact, I graduated from college with a degree in psychology. Since then, I have become very suspicious of the APA (American Psychological Association) as they have been, quite obviously, infiltrated by so-called “progressives” (See my reflection on “Freedom from Pride” to discover the problem with progressives). These people, among other things, crave notoriety for so-called “new knowledge” that, up to now, has not been commonly held.

Consequently, the behavioral “science” coming from the APA has become muddled. Behaviors formerly seen as disorders, are now considered normal behavior by the progressive APA. So, for example, grown men must now be allowed to share bathrooms with little girls. And watch out for the new movement looking to normalize pedophilia…it’s coming fast! I will get back to the APA, shortly.

In the context of Let Freedom Ring, we talk about the spiritual deficiencies of values, virtues, and morals in our culture. In many ways, these spiritual deficiencies intersect with psychological deficiencies.

When observing the condition of our culture, it is clear it shows signs of an alarming growth of emotional childishness, which is not unlike a lack of spiritual maturity. More and more people have, as renowned psychologist, Dr. Susan Heitler states, “reached chronological adulthood without having mastered the core elements of adult emotional functioning.”

Dr. Heitler points to 10 signs of a childish adult – See how many of these you recognize in the mob’s temper tantrums:

  1. Emotional escalations
  2. Blaming
  3. Lies
  4. Name-calling
  5. Impulsivity
  6. Need to be the center of attention
  7. Bullying
  8. Budding narcissism (“It’s all about me.” In the eyes of a narcissist, no one else counts. If they don’t get their way, they may result to pouting or bullying in order to do so.)
  9. Immature defenses (the tendency to attack anyone who expresses a differing viewpoint- ex. “cancel culture”).
  10. No observing ego (the inability to see, acknowledge, and learn from their mistakes).

These behaviors are not unique to the mob in the streets, as it is replete in the mainstream media; look at Hollywood and the far too many emotionally childish politicians. In today’s culture, we are treading in completely new territory. While some may say we have always seen immature adults, the degree to which we are witnessing this today is massive and unprecedented. It is no longer about right vs. left; it is about mature adults vs. childish adults.

It used to be that grownups could disagree with each other and calmly work out their differences, while listening, considering each other’s viewpoints, and maintaining a level of respect for each other. Now, in this new milieu of widespread emotional immaturity, those of us playing like adults are living in fear of being assaulted by the temper tantrums of those who act like misbehaving children (blaming, lies, name-calling, bullying, attacking, etc.).

Consider what has happened, just recently, in my neck of the woods, but it is emblematic of what is going on everywhere in America. A friend recently had his car keyed because he had a pro-life bumper sticker. Another friend had his house damaged for flying the Thin Blue Line flag that honors police. Our downtown is boarded up and painted with graffiti because the mob’s temper tantrums include violence, looting, tearing down statues, and burning down businesses. In the 2020 election year, few dared to display yard signs or bumper stickers for the candidate the childish didn’t like, for fear of being attacked. Many were scared to associate themselves in any way with the “wrong” candidate (in the eyes of the childish), for fear of being assaulted, calumniated, or even fired from their jobs. A friend of mine chose not to run for public office over worries that he and his family would be targeted by the childish mob. And the examples go on and on and on.

How did we get here? The simple answer is poor parenting, or even absent parenting. I recall when the Nouveau Parenting movement began – mostly spurred on by the new “woke” and “progressive” APA. Parents were told to cease disciplining their children, for fear of traumatizing them. Meanwhile, organizations started handing out participation trophies just for showing up, because disappointment over not earning a prize could be damaging to a kid’s self-esteem. What. A. Colossal. Disaster!

Parents who coddle their children are, quite frankly, stunting their emotional maturation. This is certainly not how our perfect parent, God, parents us. Salvation history is replete with examples where God, having first tried to inspire us, resorts to allowing us to go through challenges. The opposition we face in those challenges, impels us to “raise our game” – to mature. Left to our spiritual immaturity, we are prone to behave as spoiled children do. We expect God to give us everything we want, including heaven, without ever needing to humbly obey, express our gratitude, or work hard for it; we feel we are just entitled to it. We’d rather not know of such adult concepts as, “Effort brings reward.”

Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me” (Matt 16:24). These are not the words of someone who coddles with “participation trophies.” This is the Son of God telling us to “GROW UP and BE A MAN! (or WOMAN!)”

In the military, they put it this way, “It never gets easier, you just get better.” (From “Let Freedom Ring“)


DAY 36 – 90 DAYS TO PEACE


"When I was teaching in the high school, I would ask the juniors or seniors, “How much do you think you will make when you get out of college?” The answers ranged from a low of about 40k, to a high of around 80k. The thing is, it did not matter what number with which I started, when we subtracted a mere 1/3 for taxes, and then subtracted the things upon which they themselves said they would spend “their” money – housing (I mentioned to them the hidden extras like furniture, appliances, bedding, towels, laundry soap, homeowners’ or renters’ insurance), auto (I mentioned to them the hidden extras like auto insurance, gas, oil changes), student-loans, cell phones, cable/internet, pizza on Friday – when we got done, both high and low incomes were at least 10-20% “in the red!” The thing is, the more we make, the more we live in nicer housing, drive fancier newer cars, and get the newest latest iPhones. And then I would bring up “Christmas and birthday gifts” – where their money was spent on someone other than themselves! They thought about it and sure enough, deeper into the red they went. And then – here it comes, dear family – about this point I would say “Hey! What’s missing here?! I don’t see any almsgiving, no giving back to God for all He has given you. There is nothing here for Church and charity.”


Dear family, I wasn’t being mean. I only was pointing out the reality that pretty much all of us are infected with an avaricious “living large” mentality.” -Fr. James Altman


DAY 37 – 90 DAYS TO PEACE


"People come to me and ask, “When is it considered gossip?” My first question is, “Have you talked to that person about this?” That would be the first step in the scriptural method for fraternal correction. Second, I ask if you are seeking that person’s conversion or humiliation. If it is the former, then you need to talk to that person per the teachings of Christ. If it is the latter, then sin is incurred. In short, we should cultivate charity within our own heart. Jesus warns us that the “measure you use against others will be the same measure that will be used on you” (Matthew 7:2). If we spent the time we waste on gossip, praying for the good of the person we gossip about, we would find ourselves in a much holier and peaceful place.


Now, please excuse me as I contemplate all possible meanings of "Physician heal thyself.” -Fr. Bill Peckman


“Freedom from Gossip” by Fr. Bill Peckman

On the old TV show Bewitched, there was a character named Mrs. Cravitz. Mrs. Cravitz sat by her blinds, watching outside for anything that didn’t look normal. and would yell for her husband, Abner, every time she had something to report. If I were to pick a character that dominates the media now, it would be Mrs. Cravitz. We seemingly can’t get enough gossip. The more famous the person, the more gossip. We have TV shows dedicated to celebrity gossip. We have websites dedicated to gossip. We have collectively taken the attitude that, “if you have nothing nice to say about anybody, come sit next to me.”

The type of gossip I am talking about is what we call calumny and detraction. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, one who commits detraction is one who “without objectively valid reason, discloses another’s faults and failings to persons who did not know them” and one who commits calumny is one who, “by remarks contrary to the truth, harms the reputation of others and gives occasion for false judgments concerning them” (CCC 2477).

Gossip is an act in which we seek to destroy the reputation of another person for whatever reason. Many times, gossip is a passive-aggressive form of vengeance. Sometimes gossip is done for pure blood-sport. This is especially true in politics. Gossip is done as a way of distracting people from the problems the gossiper has. Sometimes it is done to position oneself as better in the eyes of others, to get some worldly prize. Whatever reason it is done, it is a sin against charity.

Both calumny and detraction rely on a third leg for this dismal and demonic trifecta: rash judgement. The Catechism refers to one who commits rash judgement as one “who, even tacitly, assumes as true, without sufficient foundation, the moral fault of a neighbor” (CCC 2477). To engage in gossip is to act as if we expect the absolute worst, in motivations and actions, from the person being gossiped about. Furthermore, it is a sin against Jesus’ teaching.  In Matthew 18:15-20, gossiping about one who has sinned, or appears to have sinned, is NOT one of the steps of fraternal correction. As followers of Christ, we are to seek the conversion of those who have sinned, not their public ridicule. It is most difficult to inspire conversion through destroying another person’s good name.

This becomes mortally sinful with lies, when either through unwarranted speculation or outright maleficence, the gossip is not true. One then sins against the 8th Commandment: “Thou shall not bear false witness”.

We see this in the Church with great regularity. Many times, in Catholic social media and in the blogosphere, we see stories that are little more than exercises in rash judgement, detraction, and calumny. As a priest, I would say that gossip is all too often an occupational hazard among clerics. I know I can justify it from time to time. I can sound like a not-to-be-named nineties TV character who said, “I don’t gossip. Maybe sometimes I find out things or hear something and I pass that information on… You know…kind of like a public service.” We can make all kinds of excuses for our gossip. It is sinful.

People come to me and ask, “When is it considered gossip?” My first question is, “Have you talked to that person about this?” That would be the first step in the scriptural method for fraternal correction. Second, I ask if you are seeking that person’s conversion or humiliation. If it is the former, then you need to talk to that person per the teachings of Christ. If it is the latter, then sin is incurred. In short, we should cultivate charity within our own heart. Jesus warns us that the “measure you use against others will be the same measure that will be used on you” (Matthew 7:2). If we spent the time we waste on gossip, praying for the good of the person we gossip about, we would find ourselves in a much holier and peaceful place.

Now, please excuse me as I contemplate all possible meanings of “Physician heal thyself.” (From “Let Freedom Ring“)


DAY 38 – 90 DAYS TO PEACE


"Under the power of supernatural grace, we are called to lift ourselves up, along with the entire world, into the “higher life” of the principals, morals, ethics, values, and virtues of God that raises every society out of darkness and chaos into the light of truth and peace. President Ronald Reagan once famously stated, “We maintain the peace through our strength; weakness only invites aggression.” The Grace Force uses the motto, “Peace through Strength” (in Latin, Per Virtutem Pax). Spiritual warfare is about our resolve to become strong in God’s supernatural power; the only power capable of “shining out” the dark and aggressive satanic forces of evil.


Go to Confession frequently. Go to Confession frequently. Go to Confession frequently. And walk humbly with your God. So, pray as though you believe God is right there listening; humbly obey “all” Church teachings; look for opportunities to, selflessly, be a light in others’ lives; and BELIEVE in the power of God!


Be in the world, but not of the world. Be Supermen! (or, Superwomen!). Be Saints! Be-lieve!” -Fr. Rick Heilman


 “Freedom from Worldliness” by Fr. Rick Heilman

This being the finale of my reflections for Let Freedom Ring (LFR), I felt called to write about the amazing “Life of Grace.” Almost all those who have been participating in LFR have enlisted in the United States Grace Force. At this writing, the Grace Force is 76,000 strong. The Grace Force adheres to St. Paul’s call to get strong: “Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that You can take Your stand against the devil’s schemes” (Eph 6:10-11).

By choosing to live in God’s supernatural grace, we are choosing a life lived beyond the low life of mere worldliness and, instead, we are choosing to live the “higher life” in God’s grace, described so well by Archbishop Fulton Sheen:

“Christ’s reason for taking upon Himself a human nature was to pay for sin by death on the cross and to bring us a higher life … This higher life which is divine, distinct from the human, is called grace, because it is gratis or a free gift of God … Man may live at three different levels: the sensate, the intellectual, and the divine. These may be likened to a three-story house.

 

The sensate level, or the first floor, represents those who deny any other reality except the pleasures that come from the flesh. Their house is rather poorly furnished and is capable of giving intermittent thrills which quickly dry up. The occupant of this first floor is not interested in being told of higher levels of existence; in fact, he may even deny their existence.

 

On the second floor, there is the intellectual level of existence, that of the scientist, the historian, the journalist, the humanist; the man who has brought to a peak all of the powers of human reason and human will. This is a much more comfortable kind of existence, and far more satisfying to the human spirit. Those on the second floor may think their floor is ‘a closed universe,’ regarding as superstitious those who desire a higher form of life.

 

But there is actually a third floor which is the floor of grace by which the human heart is illumined by truths which reason cannot know; by which the will is strengthened by a power quite beyond all psychological aids, and the heart is entranced with the love which never fails; which gives a peace that cannot be found on the two lower levels …

 

The world, therefore, is divided into the ‘once born’ and the ‘twice born’: between the sons of the old Adam, and the sons of the new Adam, Christ; between the unregenerate and the regenerate. There is a real inequality in the world. There are ‘superior’ and ‘inferior’ peoples, but the basis of distinction is not color, race, nationality, or wealth. The superior people of the earth are the supermen, the God-men; the inferior people are those who have been called to that superior state but, as yet, have not embraced it.”

Boil everything down, and we see that this is at the heart of the battle today. While we are called to be “Supermen/God-men,” the “influencers” of our culture are pulling us down to that base and brute level of existence. These influencers, known as the “ruling class” (elites), are actually the inferior people who dwell on the first two floors, who believe and promote that we are nothing more than another animal species. As I pointed out in a previous reflection, the influencers are the media, Hollywood, TV, politicians, universities, public schools, etc., who relentlessly promote the false gods of sexual hedonism and radical narcissism. “If it feels good, just do it.” This is the “law of animals.”

Add to this, we are emerging from a very grim period of spiritual weakness where most Christians ceased to believe in the supernatural power of God. As a result, Satan and his minions have been able to move almost unabated while, in spiritual terms, we have stood naked on the battlefield with no spiritual armor and no spiritual weapons to combat Satan’s evil designs. Thank God, we are witnessing a renaissance of “belief” in the supernatural power of God.

Under the power of supernatural grace, we are called to lift ourselves up, along with the entire world, into the “higher life” of the principals, morals, ethics, values, and virtues of God that raises every society out of darkness and chaos into the light of truth and peace. President Ronald Reagan once famously stated, “We maintain the peace through our strength; weakness only invites aggression.” The Grace Force uses the motto, “Peace through Strength” (in Latin, Per Virtutem Pax). Spiritual warfare is about our resolve to become strong in God’s supernatural power; the only power capable of “shining out” the dark and aggressive satanic forces of evil.

Go to Confession frequently. Go to Confession frequently. Go to Confession frequently. And walk humbly with your God. So, pray as though you believe God is right there listening; humbly obey “all” Church teachings; look for opportunities to, selflessly, be a light in others’ lives; and BELIEVE in the power of God!

Be in the world, but not of the world. Be Supermen! (or, Superwomen!). Be Saints! Be-lieve! (From “Let Freedom Ring“)


DAY 38 – 90 DAYS TO PEACE


"Dear family, here is one last way to understand the sin of presumption. Again, think of it as an attitude of “good enough.” There is a quote, with many variations, all of which say the same thing: “The attitude of ‘good enough’ is the enemy of ‘great.”’ Put another way, “the enemy of ‘great’ is not ‘bad’, the enemy of ‘great’ is ‘good enough.’”


Our Father offered up the Greatest on Calvary. Does our offering – through the carrying of our crosses – measure up to such greatness?


The cure for the sin of presumption is to strive daily to not do JUST what we have been commanded to do. That only makes us a useless servant. The cure for the sin of presumption is to do MORE than we have been commanded to do.



So, now that we are reaching the end of our forty days of preparation, let us do more. Let us continue to practice daily with the U.S. Grace Force Team (join at usgraceforce.com). Let us continue to make the Catholic Team strong, with all of us earning our playing time in the game.” -Fr. Jame Altman


“Freedom from Presumption” by Fr. James Altman

Dear family, we are almost to the end of the forty days. What a holy, holy endeavor with so much grace, so very much grace. This grace we need now, more than ever, with all the crazy stuff going on around us. The best words to wrap up my part are words of encouragement.  Keep going.  Do not stop now, for we are not yet at the end of our time on earth. Rather, Our Father has chosen us to live in this time and place, and to serve Him in this time and in this place. What we have endured, amidst the abandonment of so many shepherds, is only a precursor to what may be coming soon. The spiritually weakened state of so many out there will not bode well when worse things come. To me, this entire holy endeavor was a spiritual boot camp to toughen us up, to make us strong enough to fight the battles that lie ahead.

Fr. Heilman tells me that thousands will join us in this spiritual boot camp. That is amazing. It tells us, dear family, that we are not alone. But maybe the number should be hundreds of thousands. In fact, the grotesque abandonment by so many shepherds is even more reason why there should be millions. So, why aren’t there that many, and more? A big reason, probably the biggest reason, is the sin of presumption.

As always, a good starting place is Fr. John Hardon’s Modern Catholic Dictionary. He states that presumption “leads one to expect graces from God without doing anything to obtain them, and even when acting the opposite, as when sinning, the person presumes that forgiveness is assured.” (etymology: Latin “praesumere”, to suppose, take for granted.) Donald Attwater’s, A Catholic Dictionary writes similarly that presumption is “a vice … whereby a man expects to gain eternal life by his own strength or without merits, or to obtain pardon without repentance.”

Wow. There it is in a nutshell. I don’t have to reinvent the wheel; that is the beauty of being Catholic. We have 2000 years of the Bible, 2000 years of saints and martyrs, 2000 years of the constant teaching of the Catholic Church, 2000 years of the unchanged and unchangeable truth. So, unlike, say, Joel Osteen et al. who wallow in presumption, we know that as a disciple of Jesus the Lord, we are charged to pick up our crosses daily and carry them. We must not carry them for five minutes and set them down; that’s not what Jesus said. Jesus did not say, “clock in, carry for 8 hours, clock out.” Jesus did not say, “any time after eight hours is overtime, time-and-a-half.” No. The real Jesus said, in essence, “take it from Me when you wake up, let Me hold it close while you sleep.”

Our crosses mean that we must make an effort to grow in grace daily. Truly, we can never be worthy of the salvation for which Jesus endured His Passion, and thankfully, He does not ask us to be. He asks us only to pick up our crosses daily. Yet so many do not. Presumption is bad enough amongst Catholics, but in so many Protestants it is even worse. That whole “I just asked JAY-zus into my heart and I’m SAAAAVED” is so much presumption baloney. Jesus never said that. Jesus said to pick up your cross…daily.

Amongst Catholics, there seems to be way too many with a similar attitude – an attitude that has become pervasive since we have been inculcated with all the meaningless drivel put out after Vatican II.  One that thinks, “Oh, Our Father loves us all and doesn’t want anybody to go to hell, so since I didn’t do something really bad, like kill somebody, I’m good to go.” Or one that hopes, as a well-known shepherd recently posited, that hell is actually kind of an empty place. Really? That is not what Jesus taught about hell. The presumptuous mindset of “I’m good enough” is not the standard Jesus set on Calvary.

Cardinal St. John Henry Newman brilliantly eviscerated the attitude of presumption when he observed “that [the aim of most men] is, to all appearances, not how to please God, but how to please themselves without displeasing Him!”

Jesus spoke specifically to such an attitude in a parable that addressed those who were convinced of their own righteousness. Remember the Pharisee “took up his position [in the Temple] and spoke this prayer to himself, ‘O God, I thank You that I am not like the rest of humanity—greedy, dishonest, adulterous—or even like this tax collector.” Jesus then contrasted that attitude with the sinner who “stood off at a distance and would not even raise his eyes to heaven but beat his breast and prayed, ‘O God, be merciful to me a sinner.’” Jesus then said: “I tell you, the latter went home justified, not the former; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted” (Luke 18:9-14). So, dear family, let us be incredibly careful about justifying our own righteousness, and exalting our status vis-à-vis our eternal destination.

Instead of being self-righteous, Jesus gave another parable about the right attitude of one of His disciples, or servants, “Is [God] grateful to that servant because he did what was commanded? … When You have done all You have been commanded, say, ‘We are unprofitable servants; we have done [only] what we were obliged to do’” (Luke 17:9-10).

Dear family, let us conclude with a sports analogy. There is no “I” in team. That’s why the Protestant attitude about “me ‘n JAY-zus” is just pure garbage. Jesus is a team effort. He calls us to be part of His team. That means that every day is another day for each team member to show up for practice – practice to be a better team player. Each person on the team has a position to play, and the better that person plays, the better the team (which is why, by the way, that blowing off attendance at Holy Mass on Sunday is not just a grave personal sin but is a grave sin against the whole team). What happens when a player doesn’t show up for practice? At best, he “rides the pine” (meaning, he sits on the bench).  The coach – in this case, God – cannot give him playing time, because he hasn’t practiced. He has let the whole team down. That is what happens at best. At worst, he gets kicked off the team (welcome to hell).

Dear family, here is one last way to understand the sin of presumption. Again, think of it as an attitude of “good enough.” There is a quote, with many variations, all of which say the same thing: “The attitude of ‘good enough’ is the enemy of ‘great.”’ Put another way, “the enemy of ‘great’ is not ‘bad’, the enemy of ‘great’ is ‘good enough.’”

Our Father offered up the Greatest on Calvary. Does our offering – through the carrying of our crosses – measure up to such greatness?

The cure for the sin of presumption is to strive daily to not do JUST what we have been commanded to do. That only makes us a useless servant. The cure for the sin of presumption is to do MORE than we have been commanded to do.

So, now that we are reaching the end of our forty days of preparation, let us do more. Let us continue to practice daily with the U.S. Grace Force Team (join at usgraceforce.com).  Let us continue to make the Catholic Team strong, with all of us earning our playing time in the game. (From “Let Freedom Ring“)


DAY 39 – 90 DAYS TO PEACE


"The failure to challenge oneself, or to completely abandon one’s responsibilities, has spiritual effects that I often liken to its physical and intellectual counterparts. For example, if we are slothful on the physical front, it leads to poor health, loss of muscle mass, and obesity. The body must be taken care of. It must be correctly fed and exercised to stay strong and healthy. Sloth in the physical realm can have a grave cost. If we are slothful in the intellectual realm, not only do we not grow smarter, but we also lose knowledge that we had prior gained. This can have devastating consequences on a person who is in school (ex. grades) or in the workplace. Sloth eats away at any strength or success that might be gained in the physical or intellectual realms. As remarked in the column of acedia, sloth in the spiritual realm leads to a denigration of the spiritual life and breaks down, and distances us in, our relationship with God. Sloth is ultimately another form of selfishness.


To fight this deadly sin, we must look to the cardinal virtue of justice. Justice helps us to assume our responsibilities and to give to others what is rightfully due. Justice leads us away from a slavish devotion to comfort and provokes us to use our God-given abilities and talents for a greater good. It encourages us to treat those tools God has blessed us with (body, mind, and soul) in such a way as to be able to fulfill our purpose. It helps us take care of all aspects of ourselves. Justice helps us be wise and steadfast stewards of God’s gifts in our lives, and to be diligent in the duties and relationships we are called to live in. The purpose of our exercise in prayer, fasting, and abstinence has been to detach ourselves from worldly comfort, looking to another and higher goal.


At the end of these 40 days, let us remember the motto of Bl. Pier Giorgio Frasatti, “verso l’alto” (to the heights), and let the good habits we have engaged in lead us to a greater holiness and life in Christ.” - Fr. Bill Peckman


“Freedom from Sloth” by Fr. Bill Peckman

Here we are at the end of 40 days of prayer, fasting, and abstinence, asking for God to purge all demonic influences from our lives and lives of the Church. If we have been faithful to the program of prayer and fasting/abstinence, we should have begun a new way of life where we can incorporate such things into our daily routines. Forty days is hardly sufficient to cast all diabolic activity from our lives, our society, and within our Church. What we hope to do is start new and better habits.

Fr. Heilman wrote a wonderful column on acedia, the slothfulness we often display to spiritual matters. Certainly, we will experience temptation to backtrack on our renewed spiritual vigor. As I tell my parishioners at the beginning of Lent, “the point of the next 40 days isn’t to make yourself uncomfortable and miserable for the sake of making yourself uncomfortable and miserable.” Instead, we have committed ourselves to detachment from the diabolical, much the same way an excellent athlete commits to a workout regimen, or the way a scholar commits to their academics. The goal is to become stronger, and through prayer and fasting, holier.

However, sloth can be a sneaky demonic presence. It is an unwillingness to exert effort or to work. Sloth sees comfort as an end goal, so it leads us to steal time and energy from our jobs, families, and faith in the interest of self. It can lead us to procrastination and half-heartedly attending to the duties that others count on us doing.

The failure to challenge oneself, or to completely abandon one’s responsibilities, has spiritual effects that I often liken to its physical and intellectual counterparts. For example, if we are slothful on the physical front, it leads to poor health, loss of muscle mass, and obesity. The body must be taken care of. It must be correctly fed and exercised to stay strong and healthy. Sloth in the physical realm can have a grave cost. If we are slothful in the intellectual realm, not only do we not grow smarter, but we also lose knowledge that we had prior gained. This can have devastating consequences on a person who is in school (ex. grades) or in the workplace. Sloth eats away at any strength or success that might be gained in the physical or intellectual realms. As remarked in the column of acedia, sloth in the spiritual realm leads to a denigration of the spiritual life and breaks down, and distances us in, our relationship with God. Sloth is ultimately another form of selfishness.

To fight this deadly sin, we must look to the cardinal virtue of justice. Justice helps us to assume our responsibilities and to give to others what is rightfully due. Justice leads us away from a slavish devotion to comfort and provokes us to use our God-given abilities and talents for a greater good. It encourages us to treat those tools God has blessed us with (body, mind, and soul) in such a way as to be able to fulfill our purpose. It helps us take care of all aspects of ourselves. Justice helps us be wise and steadfast stewards of God’s gifts in our lives, and to be diligent in the duties and relationships we are called to live in. The purpose of our exercise in prayer, fasting, and abstinence has been to detach ourselves from worldly comfort, looking to another and higher goal.

At the end of these 40 days, let us remember the motto of Bl. Pier Giorgio Frasatti, “verso l’alto” (to the heights), and let the good habits we have engaged in lead us to a greater holiness and life in Christ. (From “Let Freedom Ring“)


DAY 40 – 90 DAYS TO PEACE


STRIVE FOR PERFECTION


“If you are what you should be, you will set the whole world ablaze!” -St. Catherine of Siena


“This is the very perfection of a man, to find out his own imperfections.” -St. Augustine


“To live is to change, and to be perfect is to have changed often.” -Bl. John Henry Cardinal Newman


“He who climbs never stops going from beginning to beginning, through beginnings that have no end. He never stops desiring what he already knows.” -St. Gregory of Nissa


“Let us begin in earnest to work out our salvation, for no one will do it for us, since even he himself, who made us without ourselves, will not save us without ourselves.” -St. Margaret Mary Alacoque


“Gentlemen, we will chase perfection, and we will chase it relentlessly, knowing all the while we can never attain it. But along the way, we shall catch excellence.” – Coach Vince Lombardi


HOLY MARY, HELP US TO STRIVE FOR PERFECTION!

GOD’S WORD

“So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 4:48)

HEROES’ WORDS

“If you are what you should be, you will set the whole world ablaze!” -St. Catherine of Siena

“This is the very perfection of a man, to find out his own imperfections.” -St. Augustine

“To live is to change, and to be perfect is to have changed often.” -Bl. John Henry Cardinal Newman

“He who climbs never stops going from beginning to beginning, through beginnings that have no end. He never stops desiring what he already knows.” -St. Gregory of Nissa

“Let us begin in earnest to work out our salvation, for no one will do it for us, since even he himself, who made us without ourselves, will not save us without ourselves.” -St. Margaret Mary Alacoque

“Gentlemen, we will chase perfection, and we will chase it relentlessly, knowing all the while we can never attain it. But along the way, we shall catch excellence.” – Coach Vince Lombardi

MEDITATION

“All Christians in any state or walk of life are called to the fullness of Christian life and to the perfection of charity.” All are called to holiness: “Be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (CCC 2013)

Spiritual progress tends toward ever more intimate union with Christ. This union is called “mystical” because it participates in the mystery of Christ through the sacraments – “the holy mysteries” – and, in him, in the mystery of the Holy Trinity. God calls us all to this intimate union with him, even if the special graces or extraordinary signs of this mystical life are granted only to some for the sake of manifesting the gratuitous gift given to all. (CCC 2014)

The way of perfection passes by way of the Cross. There is no holiness without renunciation and spiritual battle. Spiritual progress entails the ascesis and mortification that gradually lead to living in the peace and joy of the Beatitudes. (CCC 2015)

 

You can enlist in the United States Grace Force HERE (please recruit family and friends!)

Information on the United States Grace Force can be found HERE

We highly recommend ordering the book “Let Freedom Ring” authored by Fr. Bill Peckman, Fr. James Altman and Fr. Rick Heilman. This amazing book was used for our first 40 days of reflections during this 90 Days to Peace journey with tens of thousands of other special forces prayer warriors!

For the remaining 50 days of this 90 Days to Peace Journey, we are drawing reflections from the 54 Day Basic Training in Holiness. This leather-bound pocket manual (see below), along with its companion, Combat Prayer Book, are both inspired by the original World War II pocket prayer book, My Military Missal. The daily reflections in this handbook are this basic training. Drawing from the truths found in the Holy Scriptures, the saints, and the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the first 27 days focus upon the qualities of excellence toward which we are all called to strive. The second 27 days contain excerpts from Fr. Heilman’s book, Church Militant Field Manual: Special Forces Training for the Life in Christ.


DAY 41 – 90 DAYS TO PEACE


STRIVE FOR THEOLOGICAL VIRTUE OF FAITH


The theological virtues are the foundation of Christian moral activity; they animate it and give it its special character. They inform and give life to all the moral virtues. They are infused by God into the souls of the faithful to make them capable of acting as his children and of meriting eternal life. They are the pledge of the presence and action of the Holy Spirit in the faculties of the human being. There are three theological virtues: faith, hope, and charity (CCC 1813). Faith is the theological virtue by which we believe in God and believe all that he has said and revealed to us, and that Holy Church proposes for our belief, because he is truth itself.


By faith “man freely commits his entire self to God.” For this reason the believer seeks to know and do God’s will. “The righteous shall live by faith.” Living faith “work[s] through charity” (CCC 1814). “Our faith must be complete. We completely submit our intellect and will to God. Our faith therefore illuminates our daily life. Our fallen race inherits from its first parents a propensity to sin, but our constant objective must be to live as Holy Mother Church teaches. We seek to live by the theological and cardinal virtues. We consciously avoid the seven capital sins. We go to the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass every day if possible, or every Sunday at minimum. We go to Confession every month if possible. We do all this because we have faith that the Catholic Church has Christ’s authority to teach us how to prepare for heaven.”


HOLY MOTHER OF GOD, PRAY THAT WE RECEIVE THE VIRTUE OF FAITH!

 GOD’S WORD

“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1)

HEROES’ WORDS

“To one who has faith, no explanation is necessary. To one without faith, no explanation is possible.” -Attributed to St. Thomas Aquinas

MEDITATION

The theological virtues are the foundation of Christian moral activity; they animate it and give it its special character. They inform and give life to all the moral virtues. They are infused by God into the souls of the faithful to make them capable of acting as his children and of meriting eternal life. They are the pledge of the presence and action of the Holy Spirit in the faculties of the human being. There are three theological virtues: faith, hope, and charity (CCC 1813). Faith is the theological virtue by which we believe in God and believe all that he has said and revealed to us, and that Holy Church proposes for our belief, because he is truth itself.

By faith “man freely commits his entire self to God.” For this reason the believer seeks to know and do God’s will. “The righteous shall live by faith.” Living faith “work[s] through charity” (CCC 1814). “Our faith must be complete. We completely submit our intellect and will to God. Our faith therefore illuminates our daily life. Our fallen race inherits from its first parents a propensity to sin, but our constant objective must be to live as Holy Mother Church teaches. We seek to live by the theological and cardinal virtues. We consciously avoid the seven capital sins. We go to the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass every day if possible, or every Sunday at minimum. We go to Confession every month if possible. We do all this because we have faith that the Catholic Church has Christ’s authority to teach us how to prepare for heaven.”

DAY 42 – 90 DAYS TO PEACE

STRIVE FOR THEOLOGICAL VIRTUE OF FAITH


The theological virtues are the foundation of Christian moral activity; they animate it and give it its special character. They inform and give life to all the moral virtues. They are infused by God into the souls of the faithful to make them capable of acting as his children and of meriting eternal life. They are the pledge of the presence and action of the Holy Spirit in the faculties of the human being. There are three theological virtues: faith, hope, and charity (CCC 1813). Faith is the theological virtue by which we believe in God and believe all that he has said and revealed to us, and that Holy Church proposes for our belief, because he is truth itself.


By faith “man freely commits his entire self to God.” For this reason the believer seeks to know and do God’s will. “The righteous shall live by faith.” Living faith “work[s] through charity” (CCC 1814). “Our faith must be complete. We completely submit our intellect and will to God. Our faith therefore illuminates our daily life. Our fallen race inherits from its first parents a propensity to sin, but our constant objective must be to live as Holy Mother Church teaches. We seek to live by the theological and cardinal virtues. We consciously avoid the seven capital sins. We go to the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass every day if possible, or every Sunday at minimum. We go to Confession every month if possible. We do all this because we have faith that the Catholic Church has Christ’s authority to teach us how to prepare for heaven.”


HOLY MOTHER OF GOD, PRAY THAT WE RECEIVE THE VIRTUE OF FAITH!

 GOD’S WORD

“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1)

HEROES’ WORDS

“To one who has faith, no explanation is necessary. To one without faith, no explanation is possible.” -Attributed to St. Thomas Aquinas

MEDITATION

The theological virtues are the foundation of Christian moral activity; they animate it and give it its special character. They inform and give life to all the moral virtues. They are infused by God into the souls of the faithful to make them capable of acting as his children and of meriting eternal life. They are the pledge of the presence and action of the Holy Spirit in the faculties of the human being. There are three theological virtues: faith, hope, and charity (CCC 1813). Faith is the theological virtue by which we believe in God and believe all that he has said and revealed to us, and that Holy Church proposes for our belief, because he is truth itself.

By faith “man freely commits his entire self to God.” For this reason the believer seeks to know and do God’s will. “The righteous shall live by faith.” Living faith “work[s] through charity” (CCC 1814). “Our faith must be complete. We completely submit our intellect and will to God. Our faith therefore illuminates our daily life. Our fallen race inherits from its first parents a propensity to sin, but our constant objective must be to live as Holy Mother Church teaches. We seek to live by the theological and cardinal virtues. We consciously avoid the seven capital sins. We go to the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass every day if possible, or every Sunday at minimum. We go to Confession every month if possible. We do all this because we have faith that the Catholic Church has Christ’s authority to teach us how to prepare for heaven.”

 DAY 43 – 90 DAYS TO PEACE

STRIVE FOR THEOLOGICAL VIRTUE OF HOPE


Hope is the theological virtue by which we desire the kingdom of heaven and eternal life as our happiness, placing our trust in Christ’s promises and relying not on our own strength, but on the help of the grace of the Holy Spirit (CCC 1817). The virtue of hope responds to the aspiration to happiness which God has placed in the heart of every man; it takes up the hopes that inspire men’s activities and purifies them so as to order them to the Kingdom of heaven; it keeps man from discouragement; it sustains him during times of abandonment; it opens up his heart in expectation of eternal beatitude. Buoyed up by hope, he is preserved from selfishness and led to the happiness that flows from charity (CCC 1818).


Christian hope unfolds from the beginning of Jesus’ preaching in the proclamation of the beatitudes. The beatitudes raise our hope toward heaven as the new Promised Land; they trace the path that leads through the trials that await the disciples of Jesus. But through the merits of Jesus Christ and of his Passion, God keeps us in the “hope that does not disappoint.” Hope is the “sure and steadfast anchor of the soul … that enters … where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf.” Hope is also a weapon that protects us in the struggle of salvation: “Let us … put on the breastplate of faith and charity, and for a helmet the hope of salvation.” It affords us joy even under trial: “Rejoice in your hope, be patient in tribulation.” Hope is expressed and nourished in prayer, especially in the Our Father, the summary of everything that hope leads us to desire (CCC 1820).


HOLY VIRGIN OF VIRGINS, PRAY THAT WE RECEIVE THE VIRTUE OF HOPE!

 GOD’S WORD

“Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.” (Hebrews 10:23)

HEROES’ WORDS

“Pray, hope, and don’t worry.” -St. Pio of Pietrelcina

MEDITATION

Hope is the theological virtue by which we desire the kingdom of heaven and eternal life as our happiness, placing our trust in Christ’s promises and relying not on our own strength, but on the help of the grace of the Holy Spirit (CCC 1817). The virtue of hope responds to the aspiration to happiness which God has placed in the heart of every man; it takes up the hopes that inspire men’s activities and purifies them so as to order them to the Kingdom of heaven; it keeps man from discouragement; it sustains him during times of abandonment; it opens up his heart in expectation of eternal beatitude. Buoyed up by hope, he is preserved from selfishness and led to the happiness that flows from charity (CCC 1818).

Christian hope unfolds from the beginning of Jesus’ preaching in the proclamation of the beatitudes. The beatitudes raise our hope toward heaven as the new Promised Land; they trace the path that leads through the trials that await the disciples of Jesus. But through the merits of Jesus Christ and of his Passion, God keeps us in the “hope that does not disappoint.” Hope is the “sure and steadfast anchor of the soul … that enters … where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf.” Hope is also a weapon that protects us in the struggle of salvation: “Let us … put on the breastplate of faith and charity, and for a helmet the hope of salvation.” It affords us joy even under trial: “Rejoice in your hope, be patient in tribulation.” Hope is expressed and nourished in prayer, especially in the Our Father, the summary of everything that hope leads us to desire (CCC 1820).


DAY 44 – 90 DAYS TO PEACe

STRIVE FOR THEOLOGICAL VIRTUE OF LOVE


Charity is the theological virtue by which we love God above all things for his own sake, and our neighbor as ourselves for the love of God (CCC 1822). Charity: The infused supernatural virtue by which a person loves God above all things for his own sake, and loves others for God’s sake. It is a virtue based on divine faith or in belief in God’s revealed truth, and is not acquired by mere human effort. It can be conferred only by divine grace. Because it is infused along with sanctifying grace, it is frequently identified with the state of grace. Therefore, a person who has lost the supernatural virtue of charity has lost the state of grace, although he may still possess the virtues of hope and faith. (Fr. John Hardon, Modern Catholic Dictionary)


Jesus makes charity the new commandment. By loving his own “to the end,” he makes manifest the Father’s love, which he receives. By loving one another, the disciples imitate the love of Jesus, which they themselves receive. Whence Jesus says: “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you; abide in my love.” And again: “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you” (CCC 1823).


The practice of all the virtues is animated and inspired by charity, which “binds everything together in perfect harmony”; it is the form of the virtues; it articulates and orders them among themselves; it is the source and the goal of their Christian practice. Charity upholds and purifies our human ability to love, and raises it to the supernatural perfection of divine love (CCC 1827).


MOTHER OF CHRIST, PRAY THAT WE RECEIVE THE VIRTUE OF LOVE!
GOD’S WORD

“Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love.” (John 15:9-10)

HEROES’ WORDS

“Love to be real, it must cost — it must hurt — it must empty us of self.” -Mother Teresa

“To love God is something greater than to know him.” -St. Thomas Aquinas

“It is not hard to obey when we love the one whom we obey.” -St. Ignatius of Loyola

MEDITATION

Charity is the theological virtue by which we love God above all things for his own sake, and our neighbor as ourselves for the love of God (CCC 1822). Charity: The infused supernatural virtue by which a person loves God above all things for his own sake, and loves others for God’s sake. It is a virtue based on divine faith or in belief in God’s revealed truth, and is not acquired by mere human effort. It can be conferred only by divine grace. Because it is infused along with sanctifying grace, it is frequently identified with the state of grace. Therefore, a person who has lost the supernatural virtue of charity has lost the state of grace, although he may still possess the virtues of hope and faith. (Fr. John Hardon, Modern Catholic Dictionary)

Jesus makes charity the new commandment. By loving his own “to the end,” he makes manifest the Father’s love, which he receives. By loving one another, the disciples imitate the love of Jesus, which they themselves receive. Whence Jesus says: “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you; abide in my love.” And again: “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you” (CCC 1823).

The practice of all the virtues is animated and inspired by charity, which “binds everything together in perfect harmony”; it is the form of the virtues; it articulates and orders them among themselves; it is the source and the goal of their Christian practice. Charity upholds and purifies our human ability to love, and raises it to the supernatural perfection of divine love (CCC 1827).

DAY 45 – 90 DAYS TO PEACE

STRIVE FOR CARDINAL VIRTUE OF PRUDENCE


Human virtues are firm attitudes, stable dispositions, habitual perfections of intellect and will that govern our actions, order our passions, and guide our conduct according to reason and faith. They make possible ease, self-mastery, and joy in leading a morally good life. The virtuous man is he who freely practices the good (CCC 1804). Four virtues play a pivotal role and accordingly are called “cardinal”; all the others are grouped around them. They are: prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance.“ If anyone loves righteousness, [Wisdom’s] labors are virtues; for she teaches temperance and prudence, justice, and courage.” These virtues are praised under other names in many passages of Scripture (CCC 1805).


Prudence is the virtue that disposes practical reason to discern our true good in every circumstance and to choose the right means of achieving it; “the prudent man looks where he is going.” “Keep sane and sober for your prayers.” Prudence is “right reason in action,” writes St. Thomas Aquinas, following Aristotle. It is not to be confused with timidity or fear, nor with duplicity or dissimulation. It is called auriga virtutum (the charioteer of the virtues); it guides the other virtues by setting rule and measure. It is prudence that immediately guides the judgment of conscience. The prudent man determines and directs his conduct in accordance with this judgment. With the help of this virtue we apply moral principles to particular cases without error and overcome doubts about the good to achieve and the evil to avoid (CCC 1806).


MOTHER OF DIVINE GRACE, PRAY THAT WE RECEIVE THE GIFT OF PRUDENCE!

 GOD’S WORD

“The simple believe anything, but the prudent give thought to their steps.” (Proverbs 14:15)

HEROES’ WORDS

“The prudent man considers things afar off, in so far as they tend to be a help or a hindrance to that which has to be done at the present time.” -St. Thomas Aquinas

MEDITATION

Human virtues are firm attitudes, stable dispositions, habitual perfections of intellect and will that govern our actions, order our passions, and guide our conduct according to reason and faith. They make possible ease, self-mastery, and joy in leading a morally good life. The virtuous man is he who freely practices the good (CCC 1804). Four virtues play a pivotal role and accordingly are called “cardinal”; all the others are grouped around them. They are: prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance.“ If anyone loves righteousness, [Wisdom’s] labors are virtues; for she teaches temperance and prudence, justice, and courage.” These virtues are praised under other names in many passages of Scripture (CCC 1805).

Prudence is the virtue that disposes practical reason to discern our true good in every circumstance and to choose the right means of achieving it; “the prudent man looks where he is going.” “Keep sane and sober for your prayers.” Prudence is “right reason in action,” writes St. Thomas Aquinas, following Aristotle. It is not to be confused with timidity or fear, nor with duplicity or dissimulation. It is called auriga virtutum (the charioteer of the virtues); it guides the other virtues by setting rule and measure. It is prudence that immediately guides the judgment of conscience. The prudent man determines and directs his conduct in accordance with this judgment. With the help of this virtue we apply moral principles to particular cases without error and overcome doubts about the good to achieve and the evil to avoid (CCC 1806).

DAY 46 – 90 DAYS TO PEACE

STRIVE FOR CARDINAL VIRTUE OF JUSTICE


Justice is the moral virtue that consists in the constant and firm will to give their due to God and neighbor. Justice toward God is called the “virtue of religion.” Justice toward men disposes one to respect the rights of each and to establish in human relationships the harmony that promotes equity with regard to persons and to the common good. The just man, often mentioned in the Sacred Scriptures, is distinguished by habitual right thinking and the uprightness of his conduct toward his neighbor. (CCC 1807).

 

MOTHER MOST PURE, PRAY THAT WE RECEIVE THE GIFT OF JUSTICE! 

GOD’S WORD

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” (Matthew 25:34-40)

HEROES’ WORDS

“Charity is no substitute for justice withheld.” -St. Augustine

“The source of justice is not vengeance but charity.” -St. Bridget of Sweden

“If you want God to hear your prayers, hear the voice of the poor. If you wish God to anticipate your wants, provide those of the needy without waiting for them to ask you. Especially anticipate the needs of those who are ashamed to beg. To make them ask for alms is to make them buy it.” -St. Thomas of Villanova

MEDITATION

Justice is the moral virtue that consists in the constant and firm will to give their due to God and neighbor. Justice toward God is called the “virtue of religion.” Justice toward men disposes one to respect the rights of each and to establish in human relationships the harmony that promotes equity with regard to persons and to the common good. The just man, often mentioned in the Sacred Scriptures, is distinguished by habitual right thinking and the uprightness of his conduct toward his neighbor. (CCC 1807).

DAY 47 – 90 DAYS TO PEACE

STRIVE FOR THE CARDINAL VIRTUE OF FORTITUDE


“I know well that the greater and more beautiful the work is, the more terrible will be the storms that rage against it.” -St. Faustina


“Moreover, Christians are born for combat, whereof the greater the vehemence, the more assured, God willing, the triumph: ‘Have confidence; I have overcome the world’ (Jn 16:33).” -Pope Leo XIII


Fortitude is the moral virtue that ensures firmness in difficulties and constancy in the pursuit of the good. It strengthens the resolve to resist temptations and to overcome obstacles in the moral life. The virtue of fortitude enables one to conquer fear, even fear of death, and to face trials and persecutions. It disposes one even to renounce and sacrifice his life in defense of a just cause. “The Lord is my strength and my song.” “In the world you have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (CCC 1808).


MOTHER MOST CHASTE, PRAY THAT WE RECEIVE THE GIFT OF FORTITUDE! 

GOD’S WORD

“Wait for the LORD; Be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the LORD.” (Psalm 27:14)

HEROES’ WORDS

“Fortitude is the disposition of soul which enables us to despise all inconveniences and the loss of things not in our power.” -St. Augustine

“I know well that the greater and more beautiful the work is, the more terrible will be the storms that rage against it.” -St. Faustina

“Moreover, Christians are born for combat, whereof the greater the vehemence, the more assured, God willing, the triumph: ‘Have confidence; I have overcome the world’ (Jn 16:33).” -Pope Leo XIII

“Though the path is plain and smooth for men of good will, he who walks it will not travel far, and will do so only with difficulty, if he does not have good feet: that is, courage and a persevering spirit.” -St. John of the Cross

MEDITATION

Fortitude is the moral virtue that ensures firmness in difficulties and constancy in the pursuit of the good. It strengthens the resolve to resist temptations and to overcome obstacles in the moral life. The virtue of fortitude enables one to conquer fear, even fear of death, and to face trials and persecutions. It disposes one even to renounce and sacrifice his life in defense of a just cause. “The Lord is my strength and my song.” “In the world you have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (CCC 1808).

DAY 48 – 90 DAYS TO PEACE

STRIVE FOR THE CARDINAL VIRTUE OF TEMPERANCE


Temperance is the moral virtue that moderates the attraction of pleasures and provides balance in the use of created goods. It ensures the will’s mastery over instincts and keeps desires within the limits of what is honorable. The temperate person directs the sensitive appetites toward what is good and maintains a healthy discretion: “Do not follow your inclination and strength, walking according to the desires of your heart.” Temperance is often praised in the Old Testament: “Do not follow your base desires, but restrain your appetites.” In the New Testament it is called “moderation” or “sobriety.” We ought “to live sober, upright, and godly lives in this world.” (CCC 1809)



“To live well is nothing other than to love God with all one’s heart, with all one’s soul and with all one’s efforts; from this it comes about that love is kept whole and uncorrupted (through temperance). No misfortune can disturb it (and this is fortitude). It obeys only [God] (and this is justice), and is careful in discerning things, so as not to be surprised by deceit or trickery (and this is prudence).” -St. Augustine


MOTHER INVIOLATE, PRAY THAT WE RECEIVE THE VIRTUE OF TEMPERANCE! 

GOD’S WORD

“Do you not know that, of those who run in a race, all of them, certainly, are runners, but only one achieves the prize? Similarly, you must run, so that you may achieve. And one who competes in a contest abstains from all things. And they do this, of course, so that they may achieve a corruptible crown. But we do this, so that we may achieve what is incorruptible.” (1 Cor 9:24-25)

HEROES’ WORDS

“Temperance is a disposition that restrains our desires for things which it is base to desire.” -St. Augustine

“Our body has this defect that, the more it is provided care and comforts, the more needs and desires it finds.” -St. Teresa of Avila

“If you would rise, shun luxury, for luxury lowers and degrades.” -St John Chrysostom

MEDITATION

Temperance is the moral virtue that moderates the attraction of pleasures and provides balance in the use of created goods. It ensures the will’s mastery over instincts and keeps desires within the limits of what is honorable. The temperate person directs the sensitive appetites toward what is good and maintains a healthy discretion: “Do not follow your inclination and strength, walking according to the desires of your heart.” Temperance is often praised in the Old Testament: “Do not follow your base desires, but restrain your appetites.” In the New Testament it is called “moderation” or “sobriety.” We ought “to live sober, upright, and godly lives in this world.” (CCC 1809)

“To live well is nothing other than to love God with all one’s heart, with all one’s soul and with all one’s efforts; from this it comes about that love is kept whole and uncorrupted (through temperance). No misfortune can disturb it (and this is fortitude). It obeys only [God] (and this is justice), and is careful in discerning things, so as not to be surprised by deceit or trickery (and this is prudence).” -St. Augustine

DAY 49 – 90 DAYS TO PEACE

STRIVE FOR THE HOLY SPIRIT GIFT OF WISDOM


The seven gifts of the Holy Spirit are wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord. They belong in their fullness to Christ, Son of David. They complete and perfect the virtues of those who receive them. They make the faithful docile in readily obeying divine inspirations. “Let your good spirit lead me on a level path” (Ps 143:10). “For those who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God” (Rom 8:14). (CCC 1831)



The Gift of Wisdom: The first and highest gift of the Holy Spirit. It makes the soul responsive to God in the contemplation of divine things. Where faith is a simple knowledge of the articles of Christian belief, wisdom goes on to a certain divine penetration of the truths themselves. Built into wisdom is the element of love, which inspires contemplative reflection on these divine mysteries, rejoices dwelling on them, and directs the mind to judge all things according to their principles. (Fr. John Hardon, Modern Catholic Dictionary)


MOTHER UNDEFILED, PRAY THAT WE RECEIVE THE GIFT OF WISDOM!

 GOD’S WORD

“Good and upright is the LORD; therefore he instructs sinners in his ways. He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way. All the ways of the LORD are loving and faithful toward those who keep the demands of his covenant.” (Psalm 25:8-10).

HEROES’ WORDS

“Dost thou hold wisdom to be anything other than truth, wherein we behold and embrace the supreme good?” -St. Augustine

“Let your old age be childlike, and your childhood like old age; that is, so that neither may your wisdom be with pride, nor your humility without wisdom.” -St. Augustine

“God gives each one of us sufficient grace ever to know his holy will, and to do it fully.” -St. Ignatius of Loyola

“We are to love God for himself, because of a twofold reason; nothing is more reasonable, nothing more profitable.” -St. Bernard of Clairvaux

MEDITATION

The seven gifts of the Holy Spirit are wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord. They belong in their fullness to Christ, Son of David. They complete and perfect the virtues of those who receive them. They make the faithful docile in readily obeying divine inspirations. “Let your good spirit lead me on a level path” (Ps 143:10). “For those who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God” (Rom 8:14). (CCC 1831)

The Gift of Wisdom: The first and highest gift of the Holy Spirit. It makes the soul responsive to God in the contemplation of divine things. Where faith is a simple knowledge of the articles of Christian belief, wisdom goes on to a certain divine penetration of the truths themselves. Built into wisdom is the element of love, which inspires contemplative reflection on these divine mysteries, rejoices dwelling on them, and directs the mind to judge all things according to their principles. (Fr. John Hardon, Modern Catholic Dictionary)

DAY 49 – 90 DAYS TO PEACE

STRIVE FOR THE HOLY SPIRIT GIFT OF UNDERSTANDING


The Gift of Understanding: The infused gift of the Holy Spirit given to the mind for grasping revealed truths easily and profoundly. It differs from faith because it gives insight into the meaning of what a person believes, whereas faith, as such, merely assents to what God has revealed. This gift produces three principal effects in those who possess it. They are enabled to penetrate to the very core of revealed truths, without ever fully understanding their meaning; they are confirmed in their belief by acquiring great certitude in the revealed word of God; and they are brought to the knowledge of a greater number of truths by drawing numerous conclusions from revealed principles. (Fr. John Hardon, Modern Catholic Dictionary)


MOTHER MOST AMIABLE, PRAY THAT WE RECEIVE THE GIFT OF UNDERSTANDING!

GOD’S WORD

“The unfolding of your words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple.” (Psalm 119:130)

“Having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints …” (Ephesians 1:18)

HEROES’ WORDS

“Understanding is the reward of faith. Therefore seek not to understand that thou mayest believe, but believe that thou mayest understand.” -St. Augustine

“Understanding is the sure and clear knowledge of some invisible thing.” -St. Bernard

“Thus understanding and love, that is, the knowledge of and delight in the truth, are, as it were, the two arms of the soul, with which it embraces and comprehends with all the saints the length and breath, the height and depth, that is the eternity, the love, the goodness, and the wisdom of God.” -St. Bernard

MEDITATION

The Gift of Understanding: The infused gift of the Holy Spirit given to the mind for grasping revealed truths easily and profoundly. It differs from faith because it gives insight into the meaning of what a person believes, whereas faith, as such, merely assents to what God has revealed. This gift produces three principal effects in those who possess it. They are enabled to penetrate to the very core of revealed truths, without ever fully understanding their meaning; they are confirmed in their belief by acquiring great certitude in the revealed word of God; and they are brought to the knowledge of a greater number of truths by drawing numerous conclusions from revealed principles. (Fr. John Hardon, Modern Catholic Dictionary)

DAY 50 – 90 DAYS TO PEACE

MOTHER MOST AMIABLE, PRAY THAT WE RECEIVE THE GIFT OF UNDERSTANDING!

GOD’S WORD

“The unfolding of your words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple.” (Psalm 119:130)

“Having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints …” (Ephesians 1:18)

HEROES’ WORDS

“Understanding is the reward of faith. Therefore seek not to understand that thou mayest believe, but believe that thou mayest understand.” -St. Augustine

“Understanding is the sure and clear knowledge of some invisible thing.” -St. Bernard

“Thus understanding and love, that is, the knowledge of and delight in the truth, are, as it were, the two arms of the soul, with which it embraces and comprehends with all the saints the length and breath, the height and depth, that is the eternity, the love, the goodness, and the wisdom of God.” -St. Bernard

MEDITATION

The Gift of Understanding: The infused gift of the Holy Spirit given to the mind for grasping revealed truths easily and profoundly. It differs from faith because it gives insight into the meaning of what a person believes, whereas faith, as such, merely assents to what God has revealed. This gift produces three principal effects in those who possess it. They are enabled to penetrate to the very core of revealed truths, without ever fully understanding their meaning; they are confirmed in their belief by acquiring great certitude in the revealed word of God; and they are brought to the knowledge of a greater number of truths by drawing numerous conclusions from revealed principles. (Fr. John Hardon, Modern Catholic Dictionary)

DAY 51 – 90 DAYS TO PEACE

MOTHER MOST ADMIRABLE, PRAY THAT WE RECEIVE THE GIFT OF COUNSEL

 GOD’S WORD

“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” (Psalm 119:105)

“For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot.” (Romans 8:7)

“The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.” (1 Corinthians 2:14)

“Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8)

HEROES’ WORDS

“Of all human activities, man’s listening to God is the supreme act of his reasoning and will.” -Pope Paul VI

“Listen and attend with the ear of your heart.” -St. Benedict

MEDITATION

The Gift of Counsel: One of the special gifts of the Holy Spirit; it perfects the virtue of prudence. Its function is to enable a person to judge promptly and rightly, as by a sort of supernatural intuition, what should be done, especially in difficult situations. With the gift of counsel, the Holy Spirit speaks, as it were, to the heart and in an instant enlightens a person what to do. It corresponds to the promise made by Christ to his followers, “When they hand you over, do not worry about how to speak or what to say; what you are to say will be given to you when the time comes; because it is not you who will be speaking; the Spirit of your Father will be speaking in you” (Mt 10:19). Counsel refers primarily to prudent conduct in one’s own case, and only secondarily in favor of others. Enlightened by the Spirit, a person learns what to do in a specific case and what advice to give when consulted or command to make if he is in authority. (Fr. John Hardon, Modern Catholic Dictionary)

DAY 52 – 90 DAYS TO PEACE 

MOTHER OF GOOD COUNSEL, PRAY THAT WE RECEIVE THE GIFT OF FORTITUDE! 

GOD’S WORD

“The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?” (Psalm 27:1)

“When I am afraid, I will trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can mortal man do to me?” (Psalm 56:3-4)

“For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, ‘Abba, Father.’” (Romans 8:15)

“Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be men of courage; be strong.” (1 Corinthians 16:13)

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.” (2 Timothy 1:7)

“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” (1 John 4:18)

HEROES’ WORDS

“The principal act of courage is to endure and withstand dangers doggedly rather than to attack them” -St. Thomas Aquinas

MEDITATION

The Gift of Fortitude: One of the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit; it gives a person a special strength of will. This gift confers an extraordinary readiness to undergo trials for love of God or in fulfillment of the divine will; unusual courage to bear difficulties even for many years; firmness in carrying arduous tasks to their completion; perseverance in a lifetime fidelity to one’s vocation in spite of heavy trials or disappointments sent by God; and gladness in being privileged to suffer persecution or humiliation in union with Christ and for the sake of his name. (Fr. John Hardon, Modern Catholic Dictionary)

DAY 53 – 90 DAYS TO PEACE

MOTHER OF OUR CREATOR, PRAY THAT WE RECEIVE THE GIFT OF KNOWLEDGE! 

GOD’S WORD

“An intelligent heart acquires knowledge, and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge.” (Proverbs 18:15)

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.” (Proverbs 1:7)

HEROES’ WORDS

“We judge all things according to the divine truth.” -St. Augustine

“A scrap of knowledge about sublime things is worth more than any amount about trivialities.” -St. Thomas Aquinas

“There are some who desire knowledge merely for its own sake; and that is shameful curiosity. And there are others who desire to know, in order that they may themselves be known; and that is vanity, disgraceful too. Others again, desire knowledge in order to acquire money or preferment by it; that too is a discreditable quest. But there are also some who desire knowledge, that they may build up the souls of others with it and that is charity. Others, again, desire it that they may themselves be built up thereby; and that is prudence. Of all these types, only the last two put knowledge to the right use.” -St. Bernard

MEDITATION

The Gift of Knowledge: One of the seven infused gifts. By the illuminating action of the Holy Spirit it perfects the virtue of faith. It gives a person the ability to judge everything from a supernatural viewpoint. The object of this gift is the whole spectrum of created things insofar as they lead one to God. Through infused knowledge the faithful can see the providential purpose of whatever enters their lives, and they are able to put creatures to the right use according to God’s will for themselves and for others. Sometimes called “the science of the saints,” it enables those who have the gift to discern easily and effectively between the impulses of temptation and the inspirations of grace. (Fr. John Hardon, Modern Catholic Dictionary).

DAY 54 – 90 DAYS TO PEACE

MOTHER OF OUR SAVIOR, PRAY THAT WE RECEIVE THE GIFT OF PIETY!

 GOD’S WORD

“The spirit you received is not the spirit of slaves bringing fear into your lives again; it is the spirit of sons, and it makes us cry out ‘Abba, Father!’” (Romans 8:14-15)

HEROES’ WORDS

“In so far as divine love beautifies our souls and makes us pleasing to his divine Majesty, it is called grace; in so far as it gives us strength to do good, it is called charity; but when it reaches such a degree of perfection, that it makes us not only do the good, but do so carefully, frequently, and readily, then it is called devotion.” -St. Francis de Sales

“Charity and devotion differ no more, the one from the other, than the flame from the fire.” -St. Francis de Sales

“Devotion is a certain act of the will by which man gives himself promptly to divine service.” -St. Thomas Aquinas

MEDITATION

The Gift of Piety: A special gift of the Holy Spirit; it perfects the virtue of religion, which is the practice of justice toward God. It produces an instinctive filial affection for God and devotion toward those who are specially consecrated to God. As an infused gift of God, it is ready loyalty to God and the things of God, arising not so much from studied effort or acquired habit as from a supernatural communication conferred by the Holy Spirit. This gift enables a person to see in God not only one’s sovereign Master but a loving Father, according to the teaching of St. Paul: “Everyone moved by the Spirit is a son of God. The spirit you received is not the spirit of slaves bringing fear into your lives again; it is the spirit of sons, and it makes us cry out ‘Abba, Father!’” (Rom 8:14-15). It engenders in the soul a filial respect for God, a generous love toward him, and an affectionate obedience that wants to do what he commands because it loves the one who commands. (Fr. John Hardon, Modern Catholic Dictionary)

DAY 55 – 90 DAYS TO PEACE

VIRGIN MOST PRUDENT, PRAY THAT WE RECEIVE THE GIFT OF FEAR OF THE LORD! 

GOD’S WORD

“Serve the Lord in fear, and exult in him with trembling.” (Psalm 2:11)

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of holiness is prudence.” (Proverbs 9:10)

“His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation.” (Luke 1:50)

HEROES’ WORDS

“For I have learnt for a fact that nothing so effectively obtains, retains, and regains grace, as that we should always be found not high-minded before God, but filled with holy fear.” -St. Bernard

“We must fear God out of love, not love him out of fear.” -St. Francis de Sales

MEDITATION

Gift of Fear of the Lord: Infused gift of the Holy Spirit that confirms the virtue of hope and inspires a person with profound respect for the majesty of God. Its corresponding effects are protection from sin through dread of offending the Lord, and a strong confidence in the power of his help. The fear of the Lord is not servile but filial. It is based on the selfless love of God, whom it shrinks from offending. Whereas in servile fear the evil dreaded is punishment; in filial fear it is the fear of doing anything contrary to the will of God. The gift of fear comprises three principal elements: a vivid sense of God’s greatness, a lively sorrow for the least faults committed, and a vigilant care in avoiding occasions of sin. It is expressed in prayer of the Psalmist, “My whole being trembles before you, your ruling fills me with fear” (Ps 119:120). One of its salutary effects is to induce a spirit of deep humility in dealing with others, especially with inferiors, since it makes a person aware that he or she stands constantly before the judgment of God. (Fr. John Hardon, Modern Catholic Dictionary)

DAY 56 – 90 DAYS TO PEACE

VIRGIN MOST VENERABLE, PRAY THAT WE RECEIVE THE FRUIT OF CHARITY! 

GOD’S WORD

“God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.” (1 John 4:16)

HEROES’ WORDS

“Our hearts were made for you, O Lord, and they are restless until they rest in you.” -St. Augustine

“The fruits of charity are joy, peace, and mercy; charity demands beneficence and fraternal correction; it is benevolence; it fosters reciprocity and remains disinterested and generous; it is friendship and communion: Love is itself the fulfillment of all our works. There is the goal; that is why we run: we run toward it, and once we reach it, in it we shall find rest.” -St. Augustine

“Charity brings to life again those who are spiritually dead.” -St. Thomas Aquinas

“Charity is the form, mover, mother, and root of all virtues.” -St. Thomas Aquinas

MEDITATION

By this power of the Spirit, God’s children can bear much fruit. He who has grafted us onto the true vine will make us bear “the fruit of the Spirit: . . . love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” “We live by the Spirit”; the more we renounce ourselves, the more we “walk by the Spirit.” (CCC 736)

Fruits of the Holy Spirit: Supernatural works that, according to St. Paul, manifest the presence of the Holy Spirit. The one who performs them recognizes God’s presence by the happiness he experiences, and others the divine presence by witnessing these good works (Gal 5:22-23). They are, in other words, identifiable effects of the Holy Spirit. In the Vulgate text they are: charity, joy, peace, patience, benignity, goodness, longanimity, mildness, faith, modesty, continency, and chastity. (Fr. John Hardon, Modern Catholic Dictionary)

Fruit of the Spirit and fullness of the Law, charity keeps the commandments of God and his Christ: “Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love.” (CCC 1824)

DAY 57 – 90 DAYS TO PEACE

VIRGIN MOST RENOWNED, PRAY THAT WE RECEIVE THE FRUIT OF JOY 

GOD’S WORD

“You have made known to me the ways of life; you will fill me with joy by your presence. At your right hand are delights, even to the end.” (Psalm 16:11)

“His lord said to him: ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. Since you have been faithful over a few things, I will appoint you over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.’” (Matthew 25:21)

HEROES’ WORDS

“Joy is a net of love by which we catch souls.” -Mother Teresa

“Joy is very infectious; therefore, be always full of joy.” -Mother Teresa

“We are at Jesus’ disposal. If he wants you to be sick in bed, if he wants you to proclaim his work in the street, if he wants you to clean the toilets all day, that’s all right, everything is all right. We must say, ‘I belong to you. you can do whatever you like.’ And this is our strength. This is the joy of the Lord.” -Mother Teresa

“Let the brothers ever avoid appearing gloomy, sad, and clouded, like the hypocrites; but let one ever be found joyous in the Lord, gay, amiable, gracious, as is meet.” -St. Francis

MEDITATION

Fruit of Joy: In spiritual literature, the feeling aroused by the expectation or possession of some good. One of the fruits of the Holy Spirit. Joyful emotions affect the body, but they are essentially in the higher faculties of the soul. Differs from pleasure, which may affect the human spirit but originates in some bodily sensation. Thus joy is possessed by angels and human beings, and its source is the rational will. (Fr. John Hardon, Modern Catholic Dictionary)

DAY 58 – 90 DAYS TO PEACE

VIRGIN MOST POWERFUL, PRAY THAT WE RECEIVE THE FRUIT OF PEACE 

GOD’S WORD

“The Lord will give strength unto his people; the Lord will bless his people with peace.” (Psalm 29:11)

“But the meek shall inherit the earth; and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace.” (Psalm 37:11)

“My son, forget not my law; but let thine heart keep my commandments: For length of days, and long life, and peace, shall they add to thee.” (Proverbs 3:1-2)

“For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.” (Romans 8:6)

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:13)

HEROES’ WORDS

“But above all preserve peace of heart. This is more valuable than any treasure. In order to preserve it there is nothing more useful than renouncing your own will and substituting for it the will of the divine heart. In this way his will can carry out for us whatever contributes to his glory, and we will be happy to be his subjects and to trust entirely in him.” -St. Margaret Mary Alacoque

“Who except God can give you peace? Has the world ever been able to satisfy the heart?” -St. Gerard Majella

“Peace is better than a fortune.” -St. Francis de Sales

MEDITATION

Fruit of Peace: the tranquility of order. Peace is first of all the absence of conflict. But it is also the serenity experienced because there is no conflict. It is the calm that accompanies agreement of human wills, and is the foundation of every well-ordered society. (Fr. John Hardon, Modern Catholic Dictionary)

DAY 59 – 90 DAYS TO PEACE

VIRGIN MOST MERCIFUL, PRAY THAT WE RECEIVE THE FRUIT OF PATIENCE 

GOD’S WORD

“And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all.” (1 Thessalonians 5:14)

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us.” (Hebrews 12:1)

“May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy.” (Colossians 1:11)

“My brothers, when you have fallen into various trials, consider everything a joy, knowing that the proving of your faith exercises patience, and patience brings a work to perfection, so that you may be perfect and whole, deficient in nothing.” (James 1:2-4)

HEROES’ WORDS

“Patience is the companion of wisdom.” -St. Augustine

“Patience is the root and guardian of all the virtues.” -Pope St. Gregory I

“The virtue of patience is the one which most assures us of perfection.” -St. Francis de Sales

“If there be a true way that leads to the Everlasting Kingdom, it is most certainly that of suffering, patiently endured.” -St. Colette

MEDITATION

Fruit of Patience: A form of the moral virtue of fortitude. It enables one to endure present evils without sadness or resentment in conformity with the will of God. Patience is mainly concerned with bearing the evils caused by another. The three grades of patience are: Lowest: to bear difficulties without interior complaint, Middle: to use hardships to make progress in virtue, Highest: to desire the cross and afflictions for Christ’s love, to have something to offer up, and to accept them with spiritual joy. (Fr. John Hardon, Modern Catholic Dictionary)

DAY 60 – 90 DAYS TO PEACE

VIRGIN MOST FAITHFUL, PRAY THAT WE RECEIVE THE FRUIT OF KINDNESS 

GOD’S WORD

“But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you.” (Luke 6:27-31)

“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:32)

“Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.” (Colossians 3:12)

“She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.” (Proverbs 31:26)

“So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 2:1-5)

HEROES’ WORDS

“Be kind to all and severe to thyself.” -St. Teresa of Avila

MEDITATION

Fruit of Kindness: One of the fruits of the Holy Spirit; the quality of understanding sympathy and concern for those in trouble or need. It is shown in affability of speech, generosity of conduct, and forgiveness of injuries sustained. (Fr. John Hardon, Modern Catholic Dictionary)

DAY 61 – 90 DAYS TO PEACE

MARY, MIRROR OF JUSTICE, PRAY THAT WE RECEIVE THE FRUIT OF GOODNESS! 

GOD’S WORD

“Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you. This is the essence of all that is taught in the law and the prophets.” (Matthew 7:12)

HEROES’ WORDS

“Inasmuch as we exist, we are good.” -St. Augustine

“Be a good child, and God will help you.” -St. Joan of Arc

“To attribute to God, and not to self, whatever good one sees in oneself; but to recognize always that the evil is one’s own doing, and to impute it on one’s self.” -St. Benedict

MEDITATION

Fruit of Goodness: In general, whatever is suitable or befitting someone or something. Practically, however, it is that which all things tend toward or desire. The good is the desirable, and therefore the object of the natural (or supernatural) needs or tendencies of a being. (Fr. John Hardon, Modern Catholic Dictionary)

God created the world to show forth and communicate his glory. That his creatures should share in his truth, goodness, and beauty — this is the glory for which God created them. (CCC 319)

Man participates in the wisdom and goodness of the Creator who gives him mastery over his acts and the ability to govern himself with a view to the true and the good. The natural law expresses the original moral sense which enables man to discern by reason the good and the evil, the truth and the lie: “The natural law is written and engraved in the soul of each and every man, because it is human reason ordaining him to do good and forbidding him to sin … But this command of human reason would not have the force of law if it were not the voice and interpreter of a higher reason to which our spirit and our freedom must be submitted” (Pope Leo XIII). (CCC 1954)

DAY 62 – 90 DAYS TO PEACE

MARY, SEAT OF WISDOM, PRAY THAT WE RECEIVE THE FRUIT OF LONGANIMITY!

GOD’S WORD

“And not only that, but we also find glory in tribulation, knowing that tribulation exercises patience, and patience leads to proving, yet truly proving leads to hope.” (Romans 4:3-4)

“Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.” (Romans 12:12)

“And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” (Galatians 6:9)

HEROES’ WORDS

“This, in short, is the difference between us and others who know not God, that in misfortune they complain and murmur, while the adversity does not call us away from the truth of virtue and faith, but strengthens us by its suffering.” -St. Cyprian

MEDITATION

Fruit of Longanimity: Extraordinary patience under provocation or trial. Also called long suffering. It is one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit. It includes forbearance, which adds to long suffering the implication of restraint in expressing one’s feelings or in demanding punishment or one’s due. Longanimity suggests toleration, moved by love and the desire for peace, of something painful that deserves to be rejected or opposed. (Fr. John Hardon, Modern Catholic Dictionary)

day 63 – 90 DAYS TO PEACE 

MARY, CAUSE OF OUR JOY, PRAY THAT WE RECEIVE THE FRUIT OF GENTLENESS! 

GOD’S WORD

“Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11:29)

“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.” (Colossians 3:12)

HEROES’ WORDS

“Nothing appeases an enraged elephant so much as the sight of a little lamb.” -St. Francis de Sales

“When you encounter difficulties and contradictions, do not try to break them, but bend them with gentleness and time.” -St. Francis de Sales

“He who can preserve gentleness amid pains, and peace amid worry multitude of affairs, is almost perfect.” -St. Francis de Sales

MEDITATION

Fruit of Gentleness: Mildness is gentle disposition and behavior. A perfection of love which tempers justice by avoiding unnecessary actions that might provoke anger or resentment. (Fr. John Hardon, Modern Catholic Dictionary)

day 64 – 90 DAYS TO PEACE

MARY, SPIRITUAL VESSEL, PRAY THAT WE RECEIVE THE FRUIT OF FAITHFULNESS! 

GOD’S WORD

“For we walk by faith, not by sight.” (2 Corinthians 5:7)

“For by grace, you have been saved through faith. And this is not of yourselves, for it is a gift of God.” (Ephesians 2:8)

“But the Lord said: ‘If you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you may say to this mulberry tree, “Be uprooted, and be transplanted into the sea.” And it would obey you.’” (Luke 17:6)

HEROES’ WORDS

“For faith is the beginning and the end is love, and God is the two of them brought into unity. After these comes whatever else makes up a Christian gentleman.” -St. Ignatius of Antioch

“Faith means battles; if there are no contests, it is because there are none who desire to contend.” -St. Ambrose “Faith does not quench desire, but inflames it.” -St. Thomas Aquinas

“A faint faith is better than a strong heresy.” -St. Thomas More

“It is not the actual physical exertion that counts toward a man’s progress, nor the nature of the task, but the spirit of faith with which it is undertaken.” -St. Francis Xavier

MEDITATION

“Fruit of Faithfulness: Our faith is a free assent to the whole truth that God has revealed. We have faith only if we believe in Christ’s entire public revelation. The Catholic faith is faith that Christ instituted a divine institution, a Church blessed with authority to infallibly teach his public revelation. If we accept only doctrines consistent with our own experience we are not accepting them on faith but rather on human analysis.”

DAY 65 – 90 DAYS TO PEACE

MARY, VESSEL OF HONOR, PRAY THAT WE RECEIVE THE FRUIT OF MODESTY!

GOD’S WORD

“But the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.’” (1 Samuel 16:7)

HEROES’ WORDS

“The dress of the body should not discredit the good of the soul.” -St. Cyprian

“The purpose of clothing is to keep warm in winter and to cover your nakedness, not to serve your vanity.” -St. Cyril of Jerusalem

MEDITATION

Purity requires modesty, an integral part of temperance. Modesty protects the intimate center of the person. It means refusing to unveil what should remain hidden. It is ordered to chastity to whose sensitivity it bears witness. It guides how one looks at others and behaves toward them in conformity with the dignity of persons and their solidarity. (CCC 2521)

DAY 66 – 90 DAYS TO PEACE

MARY, SINGULAR VESSEL OF DEVOTION, PRAY THAT WE RECEIVE THE FRUIT OF CONTINENCE! 

GOD’S WORD

“A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls.” (Proverbs 25:28)

“No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13)

“But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.” (1 Corinthians 9:27)

HEROES’ WORDS

“He who is chaste in flesh should not be proud, for he should know that he owes the gift of continence to another.” -Pope St. Clement I

“I thought that continence was a matter of our own strength, and I knew that I had not the strength: for in my utter foolishness I did not know the word of your Scripture that none can be continent unless you give it.” -St. Augustine

“Great are those two gifts, wisdom and continence: wisdom, forsooth, whereby we are formed in the knowledge of God; continence whereby we are not conformed to this world.” -St. Augustine

MEDITATION

Fruit of Self-Control (or Continence): The virtue by which a person controls the unruly movements of sexual desire or other bodily emotions. It is connected with the virtue of temperance. It generally means the chastity to be observed by the unmarried. But it may also refer to the abstinence, in marriage, voluntarily agreed upon by both parties or forced by circumstances to abstain from marital intercourse. (Fr. John Hardon, Modern Catholic Dictionary)

DAY 67 – 90 DAYS TO PEACE

MARY, MYSTICAL ROSE, PRAY THAT WE RECEIVE THE FRUIT OF CHASTITY! 

GOD’S WORD

“The eye is the lamp of the body; so then if your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light.” (Matthew 6:22)

“Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and that temple you are.” (1 Corinthians 3:16)

HEROES’ WORDS

“Do not say that you have chaste minds if you have unchaste eyes, because an unchaste eye is the messenger of an unchaste heart.” -St. Augustine

“Now, though the era of persecution is gone, yet our peace has its martyrdom, because though we bend not the neck to the sword, yet with a spiritual weapon we slay fleshly desires in our hearts.” -Pope St. Gregory I

MEDITATION

Chastity means the successful integration of sexuality within the person and thus the inner unity of man in his bodily and spiritual being. Sexuality, in which man’s belonging to the bodily and biological world is expressed, becomes personal and truly human when it is integrated into the relationship of one person to another, in the complete and lifelong mutual gift of a man and a woman. The virtue of chastity therefore involves the integrity of the person and the integrality of the gift. (CCC 2337)

The chaste person maintains the integrity of the powers of life and love placed in him. This integrity ensures the unity of the person; it is opposed to any behavior that would impair it. It tolerates neither a double life nor duplicity in speech. (CCC 2338)

Chastity includes an apprenticeship in self-mastery, which is training in human freedom. The alternative is clear: either man governs his passions and finds peace, or he lets himself be dominated by them and becomes unhappy. (CCC 2339)

DAY 68 – 90 DAYS TO PEACE

MARY, TOWER OF DAVID, PRAY FOR US! 

DRAW YOUR STRENGTH FROM THE LORD

“We belong to the Church Militant; and she is militant because on earth the powers of darkness are ever restless to encompass her destruction.” – Venerable Pius XII

Pope Benedict XVI stated that we are facing a critical moment: “In vast areas of the earth the faith risks being extinguished, like a flame without fuel.” The pope warned, “We are facing a profound crisis of faith, a loss of a religious sense which represents one of the greatest challenges for the Church today … The renewal of faith must, then, be a priority for the entire Church in our time.”

In recent decades, we have seen Satan engage the world as never before. In all of human history we have never witnessed evil promoted so effectively while virtue and character and morals are roundly mocked and rejected. Meanwhile, it could be said that the Mystical Body — the Church — has never been so unprepared for and unengaged in the challenging mission of spiritual warfare. It is obvious that Satan’s forces are well trained and well organized while ours are clearly not. At the very beginnings of our great nation, Sir Edmund Burke is said to have warned, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”

Yes, we are being called upon to fight the mother of all wars against powerful evil spirits in the heavenly realm, but we are sure to meet our demise unless we discover these battles cannot be won without first acquiring God’s strength and mighty power:

“Draw your strength from the Lord and his mighty power. Put on the armor of God so that you may be able to stand firm against the tactics of the devil. Our battle is not against human forces but against the principalities and powers, the rulers of this world of darkness, the evil spirits in regions above. You must put on the armor of God if you are to resist on the evil day; do all that your duty requires, and hold your ground” (Eph 6:10-12)  (Excerpt from Church Militant Field Manual).

DAY 69 – 90 DAYS TO PEACE

MARY, TOWER OF IVORY, PRAY FOR US!

SUMMONED TO COURAGE

A society increasingly disengaged from the Divine Life has no place to go but down. Definitely not progress, but a radical descent away from our greatest potential. “Tens of millions of unborn babies have been slaughtered; illegitimacy rates have soared; divorce has skyrocketed; pornography is rampant; drug use has exploded; sexually transmitted diseases such as AIDS have killed millions; birth control is a way of life; sex outside of wedlock has become the norm; countless children have been permanently damaged — their innocence lost forever — because of the proliferation of broken homes; and sodomy and homosexuality are celebrated openly. America has become the new Babylon” (Jeffrey Kuhner, Washington Times).

Summoning us to courage, a popular saying challenges us to fight: “Hope has two beautiful daughters: their names are anger and courage. Anger that things are the way they are. Courage to make them the way they ought to be.”

St. Cyril of Jerusalem in his Mystagogical Catechesis insists, “Just as the Savior, after his baptism and the coming of the Holy Spirit, went forth to vanquish the Enemy (in the wilderness), so you too, after Holy Baptism and Mystical Chrismation, having put on the whole armor of the Holy Spirit, are to resist the power of the Adversary and to vanquish him, saying, ‘I can do all things in Christ who strengthens me’ (Phil. 4:13).”

“Let us be filled with confidence,” St. John Chrysostom exhorts, “and let us discard everything so as to be able to meet this onslaught. Christ has equipped us with weapons more splendid than gold, more resistant than steel, weapons more fiery than any flame and lighter than the slightest breeze … These are weapons of a totally new kind, for they have been forged for a previously unheard-of type of combat. I, who am a mere man, find myself called upon to deal blows to demons; I, who am clothed in flesh, find myself at war with incorporeal powers.” (Excerpt from Church Militant Field Manual).

DAY 70 – 90 DAYS TO PEACE

MARY, HOUSE OF GOLD, PRAY FOR US

SANCTIFY YOURSELF

Pope Urban II launched the First Crusade in 1095 with the primary goal of the Christian re-conquest of the sacred city of Jerusalem and the Holy Land. So great was the pope’s speech in Clermont, France, on that day that the crowd was inspired to cry out: “Deus Vult! Deus Vult!” (“It is the will of God! It is the will of God!”). This became the battle cry of brave and noble knights who sought to recover that holy ground.

In our vastly secularized modern world, the need has never been greater to reclaim the surrendered ground of the sacred. While it was nearly a millennium ago that Pope Urban II challenged would-be warriors to “reclaim the sacred,” in our day it was Pope John Paul II, in his January 6, 2000, Apostolic Letter, Novo Millennio Ineunte, who made his clarion call for us to put aside all fear and pursue daring apostolic goals which are rooted deeply in prayer. This is a call to return to our first priority, the Universal Call to Holiness: “All Christian faithful … are called to the fullness of the Christian life and to the perfection of charity.”

The spiritual devastation of the last few decades compelled Pope John Paul II to draw up his master plan for the new millennium. In his plan, he emphasized the importance of “starting afresh from Christ”: “No, we shall not be saved by a formula but by a Person.” Thus, he called for pastoral initiatives that would focus on “Training in Holiness” and “Schools of Prayer.” St. Francis of Assisi affirms this training in holiness as the fundamental starting point: “Sanctify yourself and you will sanctify society.”

Pope John Paul II challenges us to consider, “since baptism is a true entry into the holiness of God through incorporation into Christ and the indwelling of his Spirit, it would be a contradiction to settle for a life of mediocrity, marked by a minimalist ethic and a shallow religiosity … ‘Do you wish to become holy?’ It means to set before you the radical nature of the Sermon on the Mount: ‘Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect’ (Mt 5:48).” (Excerpt from my book, Church Militant Field Manual).

DAY 71 – 90 DAYS TO PEACE

MARY, ARK OF THE COVENANT, PRAY FOR US

RECON 

Any combat training and tactical planning begins with a process of intelligence collection, analysis, and dissemination. Recon (reconnaissance) is a military term used to determine the enemy force’s disposition and intention, gathering information (or intelligence) about an enemy’s composition and capabilities. Dr. Peter Kreeft wrote: “You cannot win a war if you are unwilling to admit we are even at war or you don’t know who your enemy is or you don’t know what strategy your enemy is using.”

We have all witnessed how the dry wind of the enemy’s militant secular propaganda campaign has hardened the hearts of so many of our family members, friends, and neighbors. Spiritually speaking, many have crossed into the dry and lifeless valley of the dry bones prophesied in Ezekiel 37. Dead in their sins, with the rigor mortis of indifference hardening their hearts, they are without the breath of the Spirit, destined for eternal damnation, unless some campaign of search and rescue is launched.

So why has the devil been so effective? What is his strategy? To better understand the tactics of the devil, it is important to understand his names: “diabolos” means “he who places division or separation,” and “daio,” the root of “demon,” means “to divide.” These names identify the two great tactical campaigns the enemy has deployed, especially in recent decades: 1) Cut us off from our (supernatural) supply lines and 2) Divide and conquer. (Excerpt from my book, Church Militant Field Manual).

We will look at these two tactics of the devil over the next two days.

DAY 72 – 90 DAYS TO PEACE

MARY, GATE OF HEAVEN, PRAY FOR US

STATE OF GRACE

Devil’s Tactic #1 – Cut us off from our supply lines

The first major strategy from the father of lies is actually as old as the Garden of Eden itself. It is simply to convince us we do not need God (Gen. 3:5-6), nor do we need his strength and his power (Eph. 6:10).

In modern times, we have witnessed this in the effective campaign of militant secularists who have sought to de-mythologize our faith, a flat out rejection of the supernatural power of God. Once the devil has us convinced that we can challenge him under our own natural power, or simply deny that he even exists, he’s cut us off from the only real power capable of defeating him: God’s supernatural grace.

More and more common is the modern “secularized” version of religion that sees it reduced to a kind of psychotherapy for self-actualization. Some seminaries seem to focus on training therapeutic practitioners rather than theologians. In other words, instead of seeing Jesus as God with us — a real and ever-present source of supernatural love and grace — he is reduced to a historic figure we simply emulate as a model in our efforts at self-actualization.

Sadly, this secular version of religion has become so prevalent that most people’s eyes begin to glaze over at the mere mention of God’s supernatural grace as a necessary source of power in our lives. St. Peter warns us to be fortes in fide, strong in faith, because the devil prowls around like a lion, looking for someone to devour (1 Pt 5:8-9). Lions size up a herd to find the weakest and easiest target. Once we are detached from God and his supernatural grace, we are powerless to defend ourselves from the tactics of the devil.

Our ancestors and all of the saints knew all about this supernatural power and strength and that being in a state of grace was the armor of God that was to be treasured and protected at all cost. Like the scriptural images for the kingdom of God, this Divine Life in God (state of grace) is the “hidden treasure” and the “pearl of great price” (Mt 13:44-46). (excerpt from my book, Church Militant Field Manual).

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DAY 73 – 90 DAYS TO PEACE

MARY, MORNING STAR, PRAY FOR US 

UNITY IN TRUTH

Devil’s Tactic #2 – Divide and Conquer

The second modern tactic of the devil is actually the very ancient military strategy of “divide and conquer.” This strategy is defined as one that separates a force that would be stronger if united. As we said, the devil is roaming around like a lion that sizes up the herd to find the easiest target. He is also watching to see who is separated from the herd. Large, coordinated forces are difficult to defeat. If the enemy can separate us into small units or individuals, he can more easily defeat each one.

“Strike the shepherd and the sheep scatter” (Zec 13:7). There’s no doubt that the devil has focused his assault on the religious leaders of our day. While these leaders may have had noble intentions of charity and pastoral sensitivity, the results have been devastating. Decades of lenient, non-confrontational leadership have left the faithful feeble and prone to be “conformed to the pattern of this world” (Rom 12:2). St. Augustine once said, “Charity is no substitute for justice withheld.”

The unfortunate laxity of discipline has permitted confusion and strife where there should be clarity and harmony, an authentic unity based on the truth. As a result, the modern trend among those who believe and teach falsehoods that directly contradict the Church’s teaching is to consider these pockets of dissent as merely “differing tribes” within the Catholic Church. In this deceptive tribal system, those who believe in and teach all that the Church teaches are then considered extreme among these tribes.

Right or wrong, religious leadership seemed to calculate that it is better to refrain from “charged issues” for fear of offending some or even losing members. However, St. Peter Canisius cautioned: “Better that only a few Catholics should be left, staunch and sincere in their religion, than that they should, remaining many, desire as it were to be in collusion with the Church’s enemies and in conformity with the open foes of our faith.” (Excerpt from my book, Church Militant Field Manual).

DAY 74 – 90 DAYS TO PEACE

MARY, HEALTH OF THE SICK, PRAY FOR US

THIS DAY WE FIGHT

Spiritually speaking, the devil is doing all that he can to catch us isolated and unarmed on the battlefield — no spiritual armor, no spiritual weapons, and no comrades in the heavenly realm to fight alongside of us. In other words, the reason evil is promoted so effectively today is because we’re ignoring God’s offer of supernatural strength and power and ignoring the mightiest of all allied forces: the Communion of Saints.

C.S. Lewis wrote, “Enemy-occupied territory — that is what this world is. Christianity is the story of how the rightful king has landed, you might say landed in disguise, and is calling us all to take part in a great campaign of sabotage.” The Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds us: “This dramatic situation of ‘the whole world, which is in the power of the evil one,’ (1 Jn 5:19; cf. 1 Pt 5:8) makes man’s life a battle: ‘the whole of man’s history has been the story of dour combat with the powers of evil, stretching, so our Lord tells us, from the very dawn of history until the last day. Finding himself in the midst of the battlefield, man has to struggle to do what is right, and it is at great cost to himself, and aided by God’s grace, that he succeeds in achieving his own inner integrity’ (Gaudium et Spes, 37:2)” (CCC 409).

Are you ready to do battle? In the movie, Lord of the Rings: Return of the King, Aragorn calls his men to throw down the gauntlet against the forces of evil. Let this call be ours:

“My brothers! I see in your eyes the same fear that would take the heart of me! A day may come when the courage of men fails, when we forsake our friends and break all bonds of fellowship. But it is not this day. An hour of wolves and shattered shields when the age of Men comes crashing down! But it is not this day! This day we fight!” (Excerpt from my book, Church Militant Field Manual).

DAY 75 – 90 DAYS TO PEACE

MARY, REFUGE OF SINNERS, PRAY FOR US

CATCH EXCELLENCE

The desire to enter the fight is a desire to enter into a genuine training in holiness, pursuing the goal of becoming one of God’s champions. St. Paul put it this way:

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize” (1 Cor 9:24-27).

St. Paul talks about a strict training and a desire to run in such a way as to win. The famous Green Bay Packer coach, Vince Lombardi, would have heard these words from St. Paul many times in his life, as he went to Mass every day. In fact, he admitted, “I derive my strength from daily Mass and Communion.”

As Coach Lombardi describes what it takes to be number one, see if you do not recognize a bit of St. Paul in his words:

“And in truth, I’ve never known a man worth his salt who in the long run, deep down in his heart, didn’t appreciate the grind, the discipline. There is something in good men that really yearns for discipline and the harsh reality of head to head combat. I don’t say these things because I believe in the ‘brute’ nature of men or that men must be brutalized to be combative. I believe in God, and I believe in human decency. But I firmly believe that any man’s finest hour — his greatest fulfillment to all he holds dear — is that moment when he has worked his heart out in a good cause and lies exhausted on the field of battle — victorious.”

Sadly, far too many people have become conditioned to cower when they hear the words, “strive for perfection.” In the coddled culture in which we live, the reflex response is, “I will never be perfect.” Yet, Coach Lombardi said, “Perfection is not attainable. But if we chase perfection, we can catch excellence.” (Excerpt from Church Militant Field Manual).

DAY 76 – 90 DAYS TO PEACE

MARY, COMFORTER OF THE AFFLICTED, PRAY FOR US

SUPERIOR IDEAL

Among the ways we have just let Coach Vince Lombardi inspire us, let’s focus on the most important one: He went to Mass and received Communion every day of his life. Pope John Paul II said the Holy Eucharist “contains the Church’s entire spiritual wealth: Christ Himself.”

Precisely during a time when our culture was becoming disconnected from their True Source, Vince Lombardi remained firmly and wholly connected to his. No matter what Lombardi dedicated himself to, he never abandoned his true self as a child of God and devoted disciple of Jesus Christ. More than anything, he understood the necessity of receiving God’s Divine Life, as he brought himself, daily, to the altar of our Lord to receive him — body, blood, soul, and divinity — as the real source of power in his life. This was where his energy, his very life came from. Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen once said, “As a man must be born before he can begin to lead his physical life, so he must be born to lead a Divine Life. That birth occurs in the Sacrament of Baptism. To survive, he must be nourished by Divine Life; that is done in the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist.”

There is no other authentic way to strive for perfection. Lombardi recognized this as the superior ideal that must never be abandoned, but interwoven into all of our pursuits, whether it is as a businessman or parent or professor or coach.

Vince Lombardi lived profoundly by God at the exact time our culture was unraveling and when it was all too easy to abandon God (as it continues to be today). How easy it was (and is) for so many to follow the crowd through the wide gate (Mt 7:13) of the many fads and trends of immorality, self-gratification, and anti-authority in the 1960s and up to today. Lombardi is yet another reminder that the real heroes of every age are those brave souls who courageously accept the challenge of integrity by ignoring the trends of their times while remaining true to themselves, even if it means being a signum cui contradicetur, a sign of contradiction, in the world (Lk 2:34). (Excerpt from Church Militant Field Manual).

DAY 77 – 90 DAYS TO PEACE


MARY, HELP OF CHRISTIANS, PRAY FOR US

SET THE WORLD ABLAZE

The word “courage” actually derives its meaning from a Latin root word “cor” which means “heart.” It means we are never more courageous than when we “have the courage of our convictions,” that is, when we live from the heart, remaining true to who we really are. Lombardi was courageous because he simply yielded to his raison d‘être, his reason for existence. St. Catherine of Siena put it this way: “If you are what you should be, you will set the whole world ablaze!”

Who are we, then, and what is our reason for existence? Sometimes the message escapes us in its simplicity. Jesus said, “I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to the childlike” (Mt 11:25). The Baltimore Catechism states who we are quite plainly: “We were made to the image and likeness of God … to know him, to love him, and to serve him in this world, and to be happy with him forever in heaven.” The spiritual master, Fr. Thomas Merton, wrote: “To say that I am made in the image of God is to say that love is the reason for my existence, for God is love. Love is my true identity. Selflessness is my true self. Love is my true character. Love is my name.”

It was on the gridiron in the 1960s that Coach Vince Lombardi, fully grounded in this superior ideal, compelled his men to strive for greatness, never settling for second best. At the very same time, the Church Fathers of the Second Vatican Council were calling upon all of us to engage a spiritual heroism — the universal call to holiness — not settling for a second – or third-rate spiritual life. The challenge is to move “ALL IN” for God and his plan for our life. (Excerpt from Church Militant Field Manual).


DAY 78 – 90 DAYS TO PEACE


MARY, QUEEN OF ANGELS, PRAY FOR US

LOVE DEMANDS EFFORT

Throughout all of salvation history we see such cries as “Let his face shine upon you” (Nm 6:25) and “Do not hide your face from me” (Ps 27:9, 69:17, 102:3). This face-to-face, “look-me-in-the-eye” bonding is essential in understanding the necessity for making a semper fi connection with Christ. This kind of face-to-face encounter with God changes everything as it calls forth, quite literally, a transformation that cannot be undone. It marks a major shift away from a “face-in-the-crowd,” “Christian in name only,” “do-only-what’s-minimally-required” empty religiosity, into a totally dedicated (semper fi) loyalty in love that remains faithful to God, to each other, and to the mission, no matter what.

Pope John Paul II said, “Real love is demanding. For it was Jesus — our Jesus himself — who said: ‘You are my friends if you do what I command you’ (Jn 15:14). Love demands effort and a personal commitment to the will of God. It means discipline and sacrifice, but it also means joy and human fulfillment.” Mother Teresa said of love: “Love to be real, it must cost — it must hurt — it must empty us of self.”

“We have a tendency to think only about self-protection, safety, and avoidance of trouble,” says Bishop Robert Barron, “This tends to be our primary frame of reference. But God thinks relentlessly in terms of love, even when that love entails suffering. So, we ask ourselves, what is our final frame of reference? Is it, ‘How do I avoid pain?’ or is it, ‘How do I love?’ So, if I wake up every morning and my basic question is ‘How am I going to avoid pain?’ then I am going to live my life in a certain way — ultimately, a selfish way. But if when I wake up in the morning I say, ‘How do I love today?’ then I will live the life of a saint.” (Excerpt from Church Militant Field Manual).


DAY 79 – 90 DAYS TO PEACE


MARY, QUEEN OF PROPHETS, PRAY FOR US

ONE THING NECESSARY

Pope Benedict XVI said, “The heart open to God, purified by contemplation of God, is stronger than guns and weapons of every kind … the Evil One has power in this world, as we experience continually; he has power because our freedom continually lets itself be led away from God.”

This brings us to the key to Pope John Paul II’s master plan for the new millennium, as he asks us to set aside our disconnected busy-ness, and to start fresh by contemplating the face of Christ. It is clear that the Holy Father was encouraging us to place our emphasis on reconnecting to the Divine Life of God, which is classically referred to as the unum necessarium, the one thing necessary.

The “one thing necessary” constitutes the essential foundation for the interior life and consists in hearing the word of God and living by it (I will serve!). It stems from the story of Martha and Mary (Lk 10:38-42), where we first see that, amazingly, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity was sitting right in their living room. Now, Martha remains busy with the good and noble protocol of hospitality while Mary sits at the feet of Jesus, her eyes locked on his holy face, peering into his soul, hanging on his every word. Mary is actually in adoration, soaking in everything our Lord wants to give her. I like to say that she is “Mary-nating” — soaking in the gusher of God’s graces.

When Martha objects to Mary’s lack of activity, Jesus tells Martha that she remains anxious and upset about many things while Mary has chosen the better portion, the “one thing necessary” (unum necessarium). Mary was the one who was making the guest truly feel welcomed while Martha remained detached, going through the motions of the demands of protocol. God is light and love and truth who brings order and meaning and serenity to our lives. While we remain disconnected from our Source, we remain easily agitated and frustrated in our disordered and chaotic existence as we continue to walk in darkness. (Excerpt from Church Militant Field Manual).


DAY 80 – 90 DAYS TO PEACE


MARY, QUEEN OF APOSTLES, PRAY FOR US

DIVINE CONNECTION

The Gospel story Pope John Paul II sets as the foundation for his new millennium appeal is the “Call of the First Disciples” (Lk 5:1-11). This is the classic scene in which Jesus tells Peter to “Put out into deep water (duc in altum), and let down the nets for a catch.” Peter’s response is: “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.” They proceed to catch the maximum amount of fish their nets can hold. Peter, filled with awe and wonder once he realizes he is in the presence of divinity, does not feel worthy to be called. But Jesus says, “Do not be afraid, from now on you will be fishers of men.”

Why does the Holy Father choose this particular Gospel reading as the basis for his new millennium master plan? Because Peter’s words — “We’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything” — could not speak any more directly to the modern tsunami-like wave of secularism rolling across our planet, as well as our endless parade of parish programs that are mostly done as though God were not there (etsi Deus non daretur).

In other words, the story of the great catch is meant to show that when we try to move only under our own natural power without God (we’ve worked hard), we will flounder in the chaos of darkness (all night) and come up empty (caught nothing) every time. Jesus asks us to get in sync with him (to obey him) and not be afraid to set aside our superficial (man-powered) tendencies, as we enter the depths of a supernatural (God-powered) life.

Everything in the religious order — sacraments, devotions, teaching, scripture, moral discipline, preaching, etc. — is meant to bring us to this deeper state of being, to this Divine Connection. Jesus calls it “abiding” (Jn 15:4). The Latin for this is maneo which means “to remain” or “to stay” or “to endure” (or like the Marine Corps’ semper fi). This Divine Connection, this conformity to love, this participation in the Divine Life of God is the very power of the Holy Spirit and is referred to as being in a state of grace. (Excerpt from Church Militant Field Manual).

DAY 81 – 90 DAYS TO PEACE

MARY, QUEEN OF MARTYRS, PRAY FOR US

GOD STRONG

The U.S. Army ran a very effective “Army Strong” advertising campaign to recruit soldiers. The key message was: “There is strong, and then there is Army Strong.” The commercial goes on to say, “It is a strength like none other. It is a physical strength. It is an emotional strength. It is strength of character. It is strength of purpose. The strength to do good today, and the strength to do well tomorrow. The strength to obey, and the strength to command. The strength to build, and the strength to tear down. The strength to get yourself over, and the strength to get over yourself.”

These are warrior assets necessary to overcome the enemy. However, recall that our struggle is not against flesh and blood combatants, but against the much stronger and craftier spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realm (Eph 6:11). This means it is not enough for you to possess the power of a warrior. You must discover what it means to be supernaturally empowered by God. You are to become not just Army Strong, but God Strong. You must know what it means to be in a state of grace. St. Ignatius of Loyola said, “Few souls understand what God would accomplish in them if they were to abandon themselves unreservedly to him and if they were to allow his grace to mold them accordingly.”

Fr. John Hardon wrote: “St. Thomas Aquinas believed that man is more than a composite of body and soul, that his is nothing less than elevated to a supernatural order which participates, as far as a creature can, in the very nature of God. Accordingly, a person in the state of grace, or divine friendship, possesses certain enduring powers, the infused virtues and gifts, that raise him to an orbit of existence as far above nature as heaven is above earth, and that give him abilities of thought and operation that are literally born, not of the will of flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” (Excerpt from Church Militant Field Manual).

DAY 82 – 90 DAYS TO PEACE

MARY, QUEEN OF CONFESSORS, PRAY FOR US

YOU MADE US FOR YOURSELF

The unfortunate reality is that the modern campaign of militant secular indoctrination has been so severe that fewer remain who believe or trust in God’s supernatural power. In spiritual terms, this makes us puny and scrawny rather than strong and powerful mighty warriors ready to confront the powers of darkness in the heavenly realm. With so many modernized Christians ignoring the reality of grace, it is no wonder that evil is thriving in our day.

In speaking of the need for a New Evangelization, Pope Benedict XVI said, “the true problem of our times is the ‘Crisis of God,’ the absence of God, disguised by an empty religiosity” … a kind of lukewarmness, going through the motions of one’s faith, which ends up collapsing completely. The terrible consequence of this war on the supernatural is seen in the epidemic of spiritual sloth in our times — hearts deadened to the Divine Life of God.

Bishop Robert Barron draws attention to this very real epidemic in our times: “A real concrete statistic around this is that 70 percent of the baptized faithful are staying away from Mass on a regular basis. And we’re doing well in comparison with the European countries. Vatican II said the Mass is the source and summit of the Christian life … everything leads to and flows from the Mass. The Eucharist is everything, and 70 percent could care less about it. Yes, there are many reasons around why some do not go to Mass, but I suspect that, for most, they are suffering from spiritual sloth; they could just care less.”

Aristotle said, “No one can long remain in sadness without any joy.” Depriving oneself of spiritual joy through neglect and sloth leaves one desperate to fill that void with inferior pleasures. Hence, it is no wonder why we see so many people frantically attempting to fill their lives with every kind of activity and distraction possible, desperately trying to avoid the gloom of emptiness. St. Augustine said, “You have made us for yourself, Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.” (Excerpt from Church Militant Field Manual).

DAY 83 – 90 DAYS TO PEACE

MARY, QUEEN OF VIRGINS, PRAY FOR US

OIL – OBEDIENCE IN LOVE

How then are we to prepare our restless hearts to receive the power of the Holy Spirit? Recall Jesus’ parable of the ten virgins (Mt 25:1-12), five of whom were wise and five of whom were foolish. When the time came to meet the Bridegroom and go in to join the festivities, the foolish ones did not have enough oil for their lamps. They were forced to go get more oil while everyone else went in to “join the dance.”

Why has study after study shown that people of religious conviction are the happiest? For those who have yielded to a deeply devoted (semper fi) love relationship with Jesus, there is a distinctive serenity and joy about them. There seems to be an extra spring in their step and twinkle in their eye. Far from the boredom and misery of sloth, they radiate a supernatural love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, generosity, and gentleness (Fruit of the Holy Spirit, Gal 5:22-23). They are attracted to spiritual things. They have a resolve to lighten the burdens of others. They have a sense of purpose and mission. They seem to have discovered the way to “join the dance” of life.

In the meantime, like the five foolish virgins, there are those who seem to be “on the outside looking in,” wondering what it takes to be invited to “the dance of life.”

Now, the Holy Spirit is often depicted as fire. Jesus said, “I have come to cast fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled” (Lk 12:49).

So, what is the fuel we offer for the Holy Spirit’s fire? The word “oil” provides a superb acronym to describe the necessary fuel for receiving the fire of the Holy Spirit: O.I.L. = Obedience In Love. Blessed Charles de Foucauld called obedience the “yardstick of love.” It’s a clear way we measure the fidelity and unselfishness of our hearts. Jesus said that his yoke is easy and his burden light (Mt 11:28-30) not because he would ask less of us, but because he knew that love renders suffering bearable and even joyful. St. Ignatius of Loyola said, “It is not hard to obey when we love the one whom we obey.” (Excerpt from Church Militant Field Manual).

DAY 84 – 90 DAYS TO PEACE

MARY, QUEEN OF ALL SAINTS, PRAY FOR US

THE WARRIOR ETHOS

The Soldier’s Creed of the United States Army states: “I am disciplined, physically and mentally tough, trained and proficient in my warrior tasks and drills.” Former Navy SEAL Eric Greitens said: “One of the things that makes a warrior into a warrior is that they are dedicated to developing their strength in service to others.”

Whether it’s a Navy SEAL or a saint, we admire those who put it all on the line — go “all in!” — those who are totally dedicated to the mission. In the military, this dedication is revealed in the Warrior Ethos, four simple lines embedded in the Soldier’s Creed:

  • I will always place the mission first.
  • I will never accept defeat.
  • I will never quit.
  • I will never leave a fallen comrade.

Sustained and developed through discipline, commitment, and pride, these four lines motivate every soldier to persevere and, ultimately, to refuse defeat. What would happen if we dedicated ourselves to the training and mission of Jesus Christ with the same intensity Eric Greitens and his comrades dedicated themselves to the “Warrior Ethos” and to their training to become Navy SEALs? What is keeping us from becoming, in essence, SEALS for Christ?

We must learn the special operations (special ops) techniques and procedures for search and rescue missions of fallen comrades (those who have become weak in their faith). Although rarely wielded by the Catholics today, this supernatural strength and these techniques are truly authentic gifts of the Church that are field-tested and battle-hardened. We must commit ourselves to their restoration if we ever hope to stem the tide of evil and rescue our lost loved ones who may be destined for eternal damnation. (Excerpt from Church Militant Field Manual).

DAY 85 – 90 DAYS TO PEACE


MARY, QUEEN CONCEIVED WITHOUT ORIGINAL SIN, PRAY FOR US

Pentecost Novena begins May 27. Read HERE

YOU ARE A COMMISSIONED OFFICER

Admission into Christ’s elite fighting force begins by knowing that by your baptism you have been “commissioned by the Lord Jesus Christ to fulfill a most dramatic mission; it is the mission of saving souls. This mission cannot be accomplished without entering into conflict with ‘the world, the flesh and the devil.’ It is not a mission for the fainthearted or for those who wish to take the wide road to heaven. It is the path of warfare, of spiritual battle.”

“Holiness,” writes Pope Benedict XVI, “has its deepest root in the grace of baptism, in being grafted on to the Paschal Mystery of Christ, by which his Spirit is communicated to us, his very life as the Risen One.” “Jesus Christ is the one whom the Father anointed with the Holy Spirit and established as priest, prophet, and king. The whole People of God participates in these three offices of Christ and bears the responsibilities for mission and service that flow from them” (CCC 783).

In St. Faustina’s Diary (742), our Lord put it this way:

“I am giving you three ways of exercising mercy toward your neighbor: the first — by deed, the second — by word, the third — by prayer. In these three degrees is contained the fullness of mercy, and it is an unquestionable proof of love of me.”

Notice how these three degrees of mercy — prayer, word, and deed — are present in the corresponding offices of priest, prophet, and king. From the very first days of our membership in the Mystical Body of Christ, we are, in essence, commissioned officers in the Church Militant. In other words, the power of the Holy Spirit to combat evil and rescue souls proceeds precisely through the three offices of Christ: Priest, Prophet, and King. (Excerpt from Church Militant Field Manual).

DAY 86 – 90 DAYS TO PEACE


MARY, QUEEN ASSUMED INTO HEAVEN, PRAY FOR US

PENTECOST NOVENA BEGINS MAY 27. READ HERE

BORDER WALKERS

Priest: Bishop. Robert Barron says, “A priest prays for others, intercedes, and performs sacrifices. Priests are border walkers. They walk the border between heaven and earth. They are mediators as friends of God and friends of the human race. They bring divinity and humanity together. It means you must be a person of prayer — intercessory prayer — prayer on behalf of others. It pleases God to channel his providential care precisely through us and through the instrumentality of our prayer.”

Recall the last line of the Warrior Ethos: “I will never leave a fallen comrade.” Consider the recent Medal of Honor recipients who reportedly ran through a hail of bullets to rescue their comrades from the clutches of the enemy. It is very similar in the spiritual realm. When our loved ones are “dead in sin,” they are not only separated from God, but they lose their desire to seek God. Some become so far removed from God that they find repulsive all things spiritual. So, prayer, Holy Mass, spiritual reading, etc. all become boring and, to some, even detestable when they are dead inside: no Divine Life. They are, quite literally, caught behind enemy lines (imprisoned in their worldliness) with no way out unless some campaign of search and rescue is launched. Does our love, care, and concerns for them extend to their eternal salvation? Remember the Warrior Ethos: “I will never leave a fallen comrade!”

St. John Vianney understood this critical need to call out to God in prayer on behalf of those caught in the clutches of the enemy and unable to save themselves:

“I can’t stop praying for poor sinners who are on the road to hell. If they come to die in that state, they will be lost for all eternity. What a pity! We have to pray for sinners! Praying for sinners is the most beautiful and useful of prayers because the just are on the way to heaven, the souls of purgatory are sure to enter there, but the poor sinners will be lost forever. All devotions are good but there is no better one than such prayer for sinners.” (Excerpt from Church Militant Field Manual).

DAY 87 – 90 DAYS TO PEACE


MARY, QUEEN OF THE MOST HOLY ROSARY, PRAY FOR US

Pentecost Novena Begins Today – Day 1 HERE

BORN FOR COMBAT

Prophet: Bishop Robert Barron says, “A prophet is someone who speaks for God. Their task is to speak God’s word, in season and out (whether that word is popular or not). It means you should be a reader of theology and spirituality that you might, as St. Peter put it, ‘give a reason for the hope that is in you.’ We’re living in a time when religion is under attack. If someone challenged you, could you give a reason for the hope that is in you?”

For Pope Leo XIII, to be a prophet means we are “born for combat”: “To recoil before an enemy, or to keep silence when from all sides such clamors are raised against truth, is the part of a man either devoid of character or who entertains doubt as to the truth of what he professes to believe. The only ones who win when Christians stay quiet” he says, “are the enemies of truth. The silence of Catholics is particularly disturbing because frequently a few bold words would have vanquished the false ideas.” “Christians are,” Leo continues, “born for combat.” It is part of their nature to follow Christ by espousing unpopular ideas and by defending the truth at great cost to themselves.

The element of surprise often catches us off-guard when faced with an opportunity to defend the faith from attacks or share why our faith is so important to us. Those moments often come and go rather quickly. These can be seen as “teaching moments” as they teach us to be better prepared the next time it happens. This is why it is essential for us to make the necessary preparations by developing short but impactful statements or quotes that really leave, in a brief moment, a spiritual mark on the recipients. In the public relations world, these are called talking points or, as Pope Leo XIII called them, “a few bold words.” A talking point in debate or discourse is a succinct statement designed to persuasively support one side taken on an issue. Such statements can either be free standing or created as retorts to the opposition’s talking points. Yes, you should study theology and spirituality, but like arrows in your quiver, you must have these talking points prepared and memorized, ready to fire (Excerpt from Church Militant Field Manual).

DAY 88 – 90 DAYS TO PEACE


MARY, QUEEN OF THE FAMILY, PRAY FOR US

Pentecost Novena Day 2 HERE

SHOCK TROOPS

KING: As Jean-Baptiste Chautard recounts in his book The Soul of the Apostolate, Pope St. Pius X was conversing with a group of his cardinals one day. The pope asked them:

“What is the thing we most need, today, to save society?”
“Build Catholic schools,” said one.
“No.”
“More churches,” said another.
“Still no.”
“Speed up the recruiting of priests,” said a third.
“No, no,” said the pope, “the most necessary thing of all, at this time, is for every parish to possess a group of laymen who will be at the same time virtuous, enlightened, resolute, and truly apostolic.”

Chautard continues, “Further details enable us to assert that this holy pope at the end of his life saw no hope for the salvation of the world unless the clergy could use their zeal to form faithful Christians full of apostolic ardor, preaching by word and example, but especially by example. In the diocese where he served before being elevated to the papacy, he attached less importance to the (count) of parishioners than to the list of Christians capable of radiating an apostolate. It was his opinion that shock troops could be formed in any environment.”

“Shock troops” (or assault troops) is actually a military term that refers to infantry formations, along with supporting units, created to lead an attack. Consider the Allied Forces of World War II moving toward the beaches of Normandy on D-Day, June 6, 1944. That first wave of men knew full well that their chances were extremely poor of ever leaving that beach alive, but they knew somebody needed to go first. It is no less than profound that the holy Pope St. Pius X would use a military term, shock troops, to describe the most necessary need of our times. The pope is resolute in acknowledging we are in spiritual warfare as he calls for an uncommon valor willing to be the tip of the spear, the vanguard, warrior saints unafraid “to lead.” (Excerpt from Church Militant Field Manual).


DAY 89 – 90 DAYS TO PEACE


MARY, QUEEN OF PEACE, PRAY FOR US

Pentecost Novena – Day 3 HERE

LIVE A SUPERNATURAL LIFE

Surveys by Gallup, the National Opinion Research Center, and the Pew Organization conclude that spiritually committed people are twice as likely to report being “very happy” than the least religiously committed people. Secular analysts seem to be doing back flips trying to explain away the simple reality that there is no other authentic and fulfilling way to live other than a supernatural life.

St. Paul writes, “The unspiritual man does not receive the gifts of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Cor 2:14). This is the person who acts only by using his or her human faculties (intelligence and will) and who therefore can be wise only in the things of the world. He remains superficial and worldly. This is a heart that has hardened to the presence of God. The prophet Jeremiah writes “Cursed is the man who trusts in human beings, who seeks his strength in flesh, whose heart turns away from the Lord. He is like a barren bush in the desert that enjoys no change of season, but stands in a lava waste, a salt land and empty earth” (Jer 17:5-6).

However, throughout the Bible (e.g., Ps 1, Jer 17, Rev 22) we are told that the blessed ones are those who trust God and his ordinances; they are like trees planted beside streams of water. These trees are full of life (their leaves stay green) and they fulfill their purpose (produce fruit) even in the face of life’s challenges. The commentary on 1 Corinthians in the Navarre Bible states, “The spiritual man is the Christian reborn by the grace of God; grace elevates his faculties to enable him to perform actions which have a supernatural value — acts of faith, hope, and charity. A person who is in the state of grace is able to perceive the things of God, because he carries with him the Spirit in his soul in grace, and he has Christ’s mind, Christ’s attitude. ‘We have no alternative,’ St. Josemaria Escriva teaches, ‘there are only two possible ways of living on this earth: either we live a supernatural life, or we live an animal life. And you and I can only live the life of God, a supernatural life’ (Friends of God).” (Excerpt from Church Militant Field Manual).

DAY 90 – 90 DAYS TO PEACE


OUR LADY OF AMERICA, PRAY FOR US

Pentecost Novena – Day 4 HERE

POWER OF PRAYER

The heroes of our faith are the warrior saints who have gone before us. God worked mightily and miraculously through them. Therefore, we must study their ways. In humility, obedience, and trust (H.O.T.), we ask: How did they remain so well connected, in such strong friendship with God, so that his river of supernatural grace could flow so freely through them? What do these “SEALS for Christ” teach us about the ideal spiritual disciplines, the ultimate daily regimen of prayer?

Prayer is our outstanding supernatural resource for fighting the wiles of the enemy. St. Alphonsus said, “Prayer is, beyond doubt, the most powerful weapon the Lord gives us to conquer evil … but we must really put ourselves into the prayer, it is not enough just to say the words, it must come from the heart. And also prayer needs to be continuous, we must pray no matter what kind of situation we find ourselves in: the warfare we are engaged in is ongoing, so our prayer must be on-going also.”

We are being asked to allow God’s grace to surge through us to a waiting world, but nemo dat quod non habet (no one gives what he does not have). Fr. John McCloskey in his Seven Daily Habits of Holy Apostolic People correctly points out that the following seven exceptional habits of prayer are the way of storing up spiritual energy to be used to bring Christ to others. St. Bernadette said: “Do not just be a channel for grace, but a reservoir, an overflowing reservoir. No sooner has a channel received grace than it pours it out. A reservoir waits to be filled up and then offers grace to those who come to draw from its superabundance.”

Fr. John McCloskey’s Seven Daily Habits of Holy Apostolic People include:

  1. The Morning Offering
  2. Mental Prayer (at least 15 minutes)
  3. Spiritual Reading (at least 15 minutes)
  4. Holy Mass and Communion
  5. The Angelus (at 6 AM, noon, 6 PM)
  6. The Holy Rosary
  7. Brief Examination of Conscience (at night)

(Excerpt from Church Militant Field Manual).



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