Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Priest(s) for Life Takes St. Kateri Parish by Storm

Fr. Stephen, St. Kateri Respect Life Ministry Leader Donna B.,
a volunteer, and a parishioner, eager to learn more.

Though there wasn't anything confrontational about Father Stephen Imbarrato as he gave the weekend homilies and a special presentation on Sunday afternoon, his words carried through the parish with the force of a tropical storm. Tropical Storm Stephen. It fit.

His words were powerful not because they revealed something most of us didn't already  know deep inside. They rocked because they carried the Truth. And people heard them. I've since spoken with several woman who experienced "Aha!" moments during those homilies.

I already knew that most women who have abortions are coerced into them, but Father Stephen explained so clearly how that happens and why. "I'll support you whatever you decide." Sounds innocuous, doesn't it? But behind the words is a clear message: "It's all on you. It would be more convenient if you decided to get rid of this child, but if you choose to keep it, I guess I'll have to support your decision, though I'd prefer it if you got rid of the problem." In other words, women have abortions because they believe they DON'T have a choice.

Why do women allow these seemingly benign words to convince them to commit an act that goes against every natural instinct? Because we are intuitive, and we can sense the real message behind the facade.

Father Stephen came with a plan. 

He said there was a way to end abortion in five years. FIVE YEARS. That's five years too long, but it's a heck of a site better than someday. So, how does this priest think we can win this war? With fortitude.

If, during the reelection year of a first-term president, Catholics, Protestants, Atheists, and all pro-life people went on strike until the murder stopped, the country would come to a standstill, and politicians would be forced to act. Following the example of Poland's peaceful Solidarity movement led by Lech Walesa, we too could accomplish our goal.

That, combined with the peaceful protests of Martin Luther King, Jr., could allow us to change this country. Father Stephen wondered aloud how many people might become more aware if they saw two people on a street corner holding signs that said things such as I love babies! I'm pro-life! or I love women! I'm pro-life! And again on another corner. And another.

Surely, if 1/3 of the Polish workers were able to take on the evil of communist rule and win, we can take back our own country from the politicians and movements that promote a culture of death.

An alternative plan came up at the Sunday talk. If all parishes would join the Gabriel Project, women would have true choice. The Gabriel Project is a national parish-based pregnancy assistance resource. They "seek to serve all pregnant mothers in need regardless of their personal situation, the size of their family, their age or their baby’s gestational stage." Imagine all the women who would keep their child if they saw a way to do it?

This means we must put our intentional discipleship into action. Too often, we think that throwing money at an issue is enough. Jesus didn't ask us to pay for social change. He asked us to go out and be social change.

Here's where I make a confession. I was at one time pro-choice (years ago, when I was away from God), and the biggest stumbling block for me was that standing out front of a clinic with a sign didn't help these women. I imagined that once protesters convinced a woman not to abort her child, they would be satisfied and she would still be alone facing an abusive boyfriend, homelessness, or poverty. The Gabriel Project addresses this very real concern. 

In fact, the more I learn about the abortion industry and the mindset behind it, the more I realize how it is a coordinated attack on women. 

What are some steps we can take now?

Prayer, fasting and alms giving.

Jesus told his apostles that "some demons require prayer and fasting."  Pray and fast. Don't stop eating solid foods. Start slow. Give up snacks in-between your meals. Drink water instead of coffee or soda for a day.  Fasting from food is traditional and effective, but what if you can't do it because of a medical condition or your pregnant or elderly? Fast from Candy Crush or watching television and pray instead. Every sacrifice of a worldly pleasure counts. And don't worry if you fail. Just get back up and try again. Your effort will please God, and maybe more so than if it were easy.

Another interesting point made by Father Stephen was that abortion is a sin of convenience. We can make our prayer a prayer of inconvenience to counter it. How?

If it is inconvenient to get up early to pray, do it anyway. If you're tired at the end of the day and don't feel like taking ten minutes to talk to the Lord, do it anyway. Maybe a friend has asked for a ride to Mass, and that would cut into your morning coffee time. Do it, and offer it up. It makes perfect sense.

The third step is alms giving. Support Priests for Life or 40 Days for Life or any other pro-life organization. Make sure you do your homework, because some pro-abortion organizations use confusing names deliberately. Take Planned Parenthood. Who would guess that it's all about eliminating the necessary element of parenthood--a child?

Don't Take on the World 

It's easy to get depressed or angry over the big picture. When you hear Hillary Clinton praise Margaret Sanger, a racist of the top order who admired Hitler's eugenics program, and then realize she has a very real chance of becoming our next president, it's easy to want to give up. But Jesus is in charge of the world, not us. Stay humble and trust that He's got it covered.

You can see Him at work when Hillary Clinton broke rhetoric by referring to a fetus as an unborn child, something she was blasted for by the president of Planned Parenthood. Sometimes the victories are subtle, but they are sweet.

If you want to find out more about what inspired the Solidarity Movement, here is some suggested reading:

St. Pope John Paul II "On Human Work"

Leszek Kołakowski's 1971 essay "Theses on Hope and Hopelessness"

Friday, June 10, 2016

Walking Through the Rosary

Sometimes, it can be difficult to meditate on the Rosary as you pray it. You should be thinking about each Mystery: The Agony in the Garden, The Visitation, etc. Though it's easy to bring up a familiar image from religious art, the question still remains - how does this Mystery apply to me, personally?

I've written two meditation guides on to help: Walking Through the Rosary and Walking Through the Rosary for the Childless. These are both available on Amazon and other places as both ebook and paperback. However, the purpose behind these books was to get people more involved with  this beautiful, deep, Scriptural prayer, and so I decided to make the book available, chapter by chapter, here on Bad Martha. I'll being with the chapter, "Why Pray the Rosary?"

I hope that it brings you many hours of fruitful prayer.

Why Pray the Rosary?

The Rosary is a weapon for peace.

What if you knew there was a weapon available that could end war? That would put an end to violence on the streets? That would eliminate hate? There is, and it's not the latest bomb from the military but a simple recitation of prayers that's been around in various forms for over a thousand years.

Well, you ask, why hasn't anyone ever told us about this? Why don't the popes recommend it to us? They have, even back to Pope Urban IV in the 1200s. The Rosary was the favorite prayer of St. Pope John Paul II. In an address given to the crowds in St. Peter's Square on October 7,2007, as reported on, Pope Benedict XVI said, "...the Rosary is a means given by the Virgin for contemplating Jesus and, meditating on His life, for loving and following Him always more faithfully." In a Vatican News story on May 4, 2015, Pope Francis told the Swiss Guard to arm themselves with the Gospel and the Rosary. It would be safe to say that the popes are behind the Rosary.

If we want peace in the world, we need to pray the Rosary. Never lose hope. Here are some examples of how the Rosary changed the outcomes of some dire situations.

  • Battle of Lepanto, 1571 - Ottoman Turks outnumbered Christians by three to one, but when the Christian soldiers prayed the Rosary, they miraculously defeated the Turks.

  • Russians Pull Out of Austria - After World War II, the Allies turned Austria over to communist Russia, and the citizens were subject to the atrocities of communism. Father Petrus, a Franciscan priest, began a Rosary rally, and 70,000 Austrians pledged to pray the Rosary every day for Russia to leave the country. Although Austria was a strategic location rich with mineral and oil deposits, Russia inexplicably and peacefully left the country in 1955.

  • Russian Missile Launch Fails - In 1960, Nikita Khrushchev, after promising to "bury" the United States, went home for a final test launch of a nuclear missile. Pope John XXIII called for the world's Catholics to pray the Rosary. On the night of October 12 - 13, about 1,000,000 pilgrims prayed the Rosary at Fatima. At least 300 dioceses around the world joined them. When it came time to test the missile, it didn't leave the launch pad. After about fifteen minutes, government officials and scientists left the safety of the shelter, and the missile exploded, killing over 300 people.

  • A Promise to Defeat Boko Haram- In a recent news story, Bishop Oliver Dashe Doeme from Nigeria tells that he was praying the Rosary in front of the Blessed Sacrament. Jesus appeared to him and held out a sword. When the bishop reached for the sword, it turned into a Rosary, and then Jesus said three times, "Boko Haram is gone." Boko Haram, the Islamic terrorist group that captured 300 schoolgirls in 2014 and murdered 54 people in 2015, is a scourge in the bishop's country. Bishop Doeme understood this apparition to mean that praying the Rosary would rid his country of the terrorist threat of Boko Haram.

UPDATE: By the end of April 2015, CNA/EWTN had reported that Nigerian troops had rescued over 400 women and children from Boko Haram in separate operations. This is after Bishop Doeme began his crusade to get people to pray the Rosary for peace. Coincidence? I don't believe it is.

 We are called to pray it, so it must be important!

Over and over again, the Blessed Mother has urged us to pray the Rosary in her apparitions.

  • At Lourdes, Mary emphasized the Rosary and prayed it many times with Bernadette.

  • At Fatima, Mary told the children, "Pray the Rosary every day in honor of Our Lady of the Rosary to obtain peace in the world . . . for she alone can save it." (Our Lady, July 13, 1917)

  • In Kibeho, Rwanda, our Lady asked that the entire student body of Kibeho High School pray the Rosary for her, and she asked one of the visionaries, Marie-Claire Mukangango, to reintroduce the Rosary of the Seven Sorrows to the world. (Instructions for how to pray the Rosary of the Seven Sorrows appear at the end of this book.)

Archbishop Fulton Sheen summed up the Rosary with these words:

"The Rosary is the book of the blind, where souls see and there enact the greatest drama of love the world has ever known; it is the book of the simple, which initiates them into mysteries and knowledge more satisfying than the education of other men; it is the book of the aged, whose eyes close upon the shadow of this world, and open on the substance of the next. The power of the rosary is beyond description."

There are benefits to praying the Rosary

The Catholic Church has attached indulgences to praying the Rosary. Catholic Answers gives this explanation from The Handbook of Indulgences:

  • A plenary indulgence is granted when the Rosary is recited in a church or oratory or when it is recited in a family, a religious community, or a pious association. A partial indulgence is granted for its recitation in all other circumstances.

  • It has become customary to call [one set of mysteries] the "Rosary" also. Concerning this customary usage then, the following norms are given regards a plenary indulgence.

  • The recitation of [one set of mysteries] is sufficient for obtaining the plenary indulgence, but these five decades must be recited without interruption.

  • Devout meditation on the mysteries is to be added to the vocal prayer.

  • In its public recitation the mysteries must be announced in accord with approved local custom, but in its private recitation it is sufficient for the Christian faithful simply to join meditation on the mysteries to the vocal prayer.
  • In the Eastern Churches where recitation of the Marian Rosary as a devotional practice is not found, the patriarchs can establish other prayers in honor of the blessed Virgin Mary which will have the same indulgences as those attached to the rosary, (e.g., in the Byzantine churches, the Akathist hymn, or the office Paraclisis). (79-80)

What is an indulgence? According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1471, "An indulgence is a remission before God of the temporal punishment due to sins whose guilt has already been forgiven."

Partial indulgences are the partial remission of temporal (not eternal!) punishment for sins. Plenary indulgences are the full remission of temporal punishment for sin.

Finally, Mary made 15 Promises to those who recite the Rosary. She gave these promises first to St. Dominic and later to Blessed Alan de la Roche, and each promise bestows great favors on those who regularly pray the Rosary with devotion.

The Fifteen Promises

1.       Whoever shall faithfully serve me by the recitation of the Rosary shall receive signal graces. (Signal graces are signs from God to help us make the right decisions.)
2.       My special protection and the greatest graces to all those who shall recite the Rosary.
3.       The Rosary will be a powerful armor against hell. It will destroy vice, decrease sin, and defeat heresies.
4.       It will cause virtue and good works to flourish; obtain for souls the abundant mercy of God; withdraw the hearts of men from the love of the world and its vanities, and will lift them to the desire of eternal things.
5.       Those who recommend themselves to me by the recitation of the Rosary shall not perish.
6.       Whoever shall recite the Rosary devoutly, applying himself to the consideration of its sacred Mysteries, shall never be conquered by misfortune.
7.       God will not chastise him in His justice, he shall not perish by an unprovided death, if he be just, he shall remain in the grace of God and become worthy of eternal life.
8.       During their life and at their death, the light of God and the plentitude of His graces; at the moment of death, they shall participate in the merits of the saints in paradise.
9.       I shall deliver from purgatory those who have been devoted to the Rosary.
10.   The faithful children of the Rosary shall merit a high degree of glory in Heaven.
11.   You shall obtain all you ask of me by the recitation of the Rosary.
12.   All those who propagate the holy Rosary shall be aided by me in their necessities.
13.   All who recite the Rosary are my sons, and the brothers of my only son, Jesus Christ.
14.   I have obtained from my Divine Son that all the advocates of the Rosary shall have for intercessors the entire celestial court during their life and at the hour of death.
15.   Devotion (to the Rosary) is a great sign of predestination.

(Predestination is the doctrine that God, in consequence of His foreknowledge of all events, infallibly guides those who are destined for salvation. Definition by Merriam-Webster.)