Happy Pentecost!

Pentecost, the celebration of the Holy Spirit, has begun. The Holy Spirit is symbolized by wind, fire, and doves. At Pentecost, we pray that the Holy Spirit, will bring us blessings.

I learned from a priest’s sermon that in medieval Europe, people spent the week of Pentecost relaxing and celebrating the Holy Spirit. Even today, in many Catholic countries, the day after Pentecost (Whit Monday) is a national holiday. This year, by coincidence, the day after Pentecost is Memorial Day in the United States, so Whit Monday will be a holiday here as well.

The Beginning of the Church and the Tongues of the Holy Spirit

Pentecost is the day when the Church began, in the year A.D. 33. It is the day when the Holy Spirit bestowed his grace upon the assembled Apostles, and gave birth to the only Church recognized by God. In other words, it is the birthday of the Catholic Church.

Factus est repente (Gregorian Chant) (Chorał gregoriański)

“When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly a sound came from heaven like the rush of a mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues as of fire, distributed and resting on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance” (Acts 2:1–4).

The grace of the Holy Spirit, symbolized by the tongues of fire, enabled them to speak and understand foreign languages in an instant. The languages miraculously spoken by the Apostles were understood by the native speakers of those languages, who were present when the miracle occurred.

After the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, the custom of speaking in tongues (or “glossolalia” in Greek) continued in some places in the early Church. Saint Paul discusses the topic in I Corinthians 14.

What exactly the phenomenon of glossolalia in the early Church consisted of cannot now be known with certainty. Some believe that the languages spoken in such cases were completely unintelligible except to God and the angels; others think that the speakers in tongues spoke in foreign languages that they had not learned, but which others who heard them could recognize. Perhaps it was sometimes one and sometimes the other.

Seven gifts of the Holy Spirt

According to tradition, there are seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, taken from Isaiah 11:1–3, which reads (in the Douay-Rheims version):

“And there shall come forth a rod out of the root of Jesse, and a flower shall rise up out of his root. And the spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him: the spirit of wisdom, and of understanding, the spirit of counsel, and of fortitude, the spirit of knowledge, and of godliness. And he shall be filled with the spirit of the fear of the Lord.”

So, the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit are:

1. Wisdom

2. Understanding

3. Counsel

4. Fortitude

5. Knowledge

6. Piety

7. Fear of the Lord

Jesse is King David’s father, and all the kings of the Jews were his descendants, including Jesus Christ, the final King of the Jews. “Upon whom the Spirit of the Lord will remain,” means that a descendant of Jesse will receive the blessings of the Holy Spirit.

This prophecy of Isaiah was fulfilled at the baptism of Jesus (Matthew 3:16), when Jesus “saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and alighting on him.”

The Holy Spirit and Red Rose Petals

Climbing the Pantheon’s Dome on Pentecost – EWTN Vaticano

It is a traditional custom on Pentecost to scatter rose petals from the ceiling of the church at Mass, during the singing of the “Veni Sancte Spiritus” between the Epistle and the Gospel. It is not known when this method of celebrating with rose petals began, but it is symbolic of the “tongues of fire” mentioned in the Bible.

The history and dignity of the Church of Sancta Maria ad Martyres (i.e., the Pantheon in Rome) make it a place of graceful masses. At Sancta Maria ad Martyres, people still scatter rose petals from the ceiling every year on the day of Pentecost, because the rose petals are the symbolic color of the Pentecost. The red rose petals falling from the sky are indescribably beautiful. At least once in my life, I would like to attend Mass at Sancta Maria ad Martyres on the Day of Pentecost.

Peace and Freedom Brought by the Holy Spirit: St. Josemaria Escriva

As explained in this article (The secret to spiritual freedom and peace, according to St. Josemaria Escriva –Aleteia), St. Josemaria Escriva, the founder of Opus Dei, taught that we can experience peace and freedom only when we deny ourselves for the love of God and separate ourselves from all selfishness and false security. He says that this experience is a benefit that Christ has won for us and that is given to us by the Holy Spirit.

The author of the article goes on to say, “The next time you sit down to pray, consider what it is that holds you back from this spiritual freedom, and what things need to be ‘denied’ in order to find the peace you long for.”

These are painful words for me to hear. I find that (when I look back on my life) my will, words, and deeds are often not in accordance with God’s will. I find it especially difficult to abandon ‘self.’

The Holy Spirit Blowing where it wills.

“The wind blows where it wills, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know whence it comes or whither it goes; so it is with every one who is born of the Spirit” (John 3:8).

Whenever I read this verse, I always imagine the wondrous freedom the Holy Spirit gives us. I get the impression that if we are freed from worldly attachments by the grace of the Holy Spirit and are able to live in spiritual freedom, there will be a refreshing feeling like a breeze blowing through the air.

I would like to pray for the grace of the Holy Spirit, so that I can live as a free spirit, free from attachment to worldliness.

May the Week of the Holy Spirit be full of grace.

image: The dove of the Holy Spirit stained glass by Gian Lorenzo Bernini in 1660 in the apse inside St. Peter s basilica in Rome

Fatima Prophecy: Three Secrets Revealed by Our Lady(2)

Our Lady of Fatima appeared to the shepherd children six times, and Her message to Lucia included what are known as the “Three Secrets.” Fr. Andrew Apostoli, C.F.R., points out, in Fatima for Today, that the secrets revealed in the July and October apparitions are of particular importance (Fatima for Today, p. 53).

The First Secret – the vision of Hell (that Hell is real).

When this secret was revealed to the three children, they had a vision of hell.

Our Lady showed us a vision of a sea of fire in which human souls were screaming in agony and despair. The transparent, humanoid souls were forever trapped in the bowels of the earth with hideous demons in bizarre, never-before-seen animal forms.” (summarized from Wikiwand)

The Bible tells us that hell is real. There are several places in the Bible that describe hell, the place where those who disobey God go if they do not repent. 

For example, The Revelation to John speaks of the souls of the dead who will be cast into hellfire:

“This is the second death, the lake of fire; and if any one’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:14–15).

In Mark 9:47–48, our Lord refers to

“…hell, where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.”

In this case, our Lord is quoting Isaiah 66:24, which gives the same description but does not state clearly that it refers to hell. So, the verse in the Gospel of Mark makes clear what is only implied in the Book of Isaiah. Judith 16:17 and Ecclesiasticus 7:17 also describe the punishment of the wicked as “fire and worms.”

Our Lord warns against being trapped in hell for eternity:

“Then [at the Last Judgment] he [the Son of man] will say to those at his left hand, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; ….’ And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life” (Matthew 25:41–46).

After the children, especially Francisco and Jacinta, saw this vision of hell, they began to suffer often for the salvation of sinners. Jacinta appeals to those who try to follow fads, saying that once a person understands the meaning of eternity, he will do anything to change his way of life, and that a church that follows the eternal Lord has nothing to do with fads.

St. Faustina saw a similar vision of hell

Saint Faustina (1905–1938), a Polish visionary, also had a vision of hell, shown to her by God, to prove to her that hell was real. The horrific vision that she described is similar to the one seen by the Fatima children. She describes the hellfire she saw in her vision as an eternal spiritual fire that causes terrible suffering. In addition, she describes seeing human sinners trapped in eternal torment with the devil, in darkness, with a terrible, suffocating stench.

Perhaps many people think that only those who have committed terrible sins will go to hell. In fact, it is not so simple. St. Faustina tells us that many souls who have fallen into hell were people who did not believe in hell. If one does not believe in the existence of hell, there is a greater risk that one will sin against God and die without repentance.

“Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither the immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor robbers will inherit the kingdom of God” (I Corinthians 6:9–10).

Those who cannot inherit the Kingdom of God, that is, those who do not fully realize that they have sinned, or do nothing when they do realize it, have a greater chance of going to hell. I have sometimes wondered whether or not to go to confession, but after confession I have often realized that, in fact, I had just become desensitized to sin.

As Our Lady of Fatima emphasized, repentance, turning to God and asking his forgiveness, and being reconciled with God—these are the things that will lead the soul to salvation. This fact, and our Lady’s grave warning of the reality of hell, should be taken seriously. This is because we human beings are creatures who continue to sin, and hell is the destination of those who die in a state of sin.

The Second Secret – About the Most Important Events and Movements Shaping Modern Society

The Second Secret is divided into two parts.

Our Lady wants to establish devotion to her Immaculate Heart in order to save souls and bring peace. She is asks for the consecration of Russia to her Immaculate Heart, and for the devotion of the Five First Saturdays, in order to prevent war, famine, and persecution of the Church. If the requests are heeded, Russia will be converted, and peace will be granted. (summarized from Wikiwand)

Part 1 

Request: Devotion and Prayer to our Lady of the Immaculate Conception.
Prophecy: The end of the First World War.
Warning and Prophecy: If sinners are not sufficiently converted, another world war will occur, beginning in the reign of Pope Pius XI.

Part 2: Consecration of Russian, and Devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary

Request: Devotion to Our Lady of Fatima on First Saturdays.
Prophecy: Famine in many places.
Warning and Prophecy: If the Pope, in union with all the bishops, consecrates Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, there will be peace in the world. If not, the errors of Russia will spread throughout the world, leading to persecution of the Catholic Church.

Our Lady’s prophecy regarding Part 1 of the Second Secret has already been fulfilled, since that was a prophecy about World War II. But the prophecy in Part 2 seems to foreshadow further wars, which may well be in the future.

July 13th: The third secret that was sealed

Sister Lucia had been warned by the Virgin Mary not to reveal the third secret to anyone until the time was right. Told by Bishop Silva to leave the third secret in writing, Lucia wondered what to do.

Then, in January 1944, the Virgin Mary appeared to her.

She said to Lucia, “Do not write down the meaning of the secret as you understand it. Just describe the secret as you see it.”
Lucia obeyed Our Lady’s words, wrote down the third secret, and gave the sealed letter to Bishop Silva. At that time, Lucia asked Bishop Silva to disclose the third secret after Lucia’s death, or at the latest in 1960.

In 1957, Bishop Silva delivered the letter, still under seal, to Rome. However, by 1960, the third secret was still not disclosed.

In 2000, the Vatican finally made the third secret public. It is said that the reason it was not made public until 2000 was because it prophesied the assassination of the Pope.

The Third Secret: The Murdered Pope.

Wooden cross on the top of the mountain on sunset

The vision in the third secret was as follows:

To the left of the Virgin, and slightly above her, flew an angel with a flaming sword in his left hand, crying out, “Penance, penance, penance!” in a loud voice.

In the vision, several bishops, priests, monks, and nuns, along with a bishop dressed in white (probably the Pope), are climbing a steep mountain path with a crude cross at the top. The bishop dressed in white was praying for the dead in anguish and grief, as he passed a large, ruined town with trembling steps.

Arriving at the top of the mountain, the bishop knelt and prayed before the cross, only to be killed by several soldiers. Bishops, priests, monks, nuns, and laymen of various ranks and occupations were also killed and died there one by one. Beneath the two arms of the Cross were two Angels, each with a crystal aspersorium in his hand, who gathered up the blood of the Martyrs and sprinkled the souls that were making their way to God (Summarized from Wikiwand).

The Pope in this vision is thought by some to represent John Paul II, who was nearly assassinated on May 13 (the feast of Our Lady of Fatima) in 1981. On the other hand, Pope St. John Paul II survived his attempted assassination, whereas the bishop in the vision did not survive. It seems more likely that the bishop depicted in the Third Secret is not a specific individual, but rather a symbolic figure.

Many people believe that there are parts of the Third Secret that have not been made public. Also, whereas the first and second secrets each contain both a vision and verbal commentary by our Lady, the third secret (as published by the Vatican) contains only a vision, and no commentary.

After commenting on the visions of the first and second secrets, why would our Lady have offered no commentary on this difficult-to-understand third vision? And, if the third secret was only a vision (perhaps showing the assassination of a pope), why was it kept secret, even after 1960?

Actually, there is some evidence that Sister Lucia recorded the Third Secret in two separate documents. (For more information, see Chapter 13 of the book The Devil’s Final Battle, by Fr. Paul Kramer.) The more one learns about the third secret, the more doubtful it appears that the Vatican has given us the whole story.

Oct 13th: The Miracle of the Sun.

For the first time in recorded history, a prophet or seer was asking all the people to assemble at a certain place and time to witness a public miracle to prove that the message which had been received came from God. (Fatima: The Great Sign by Francis Johnston)

On October 13, believers and non-believers alike gathered in Fatima and Cova de Iria to witness the miracle of Our Lady. Roughly 40,000 to 80,000 people gathered. (The exact number is unknown.) The rain that had been falling since the day before had soaked the people, and the ground was muddy and slushy.

Lucia, who was waiting for the apparition of the Virgin Mary and praying in front of the small tree where she had appeared, suddenly felt an urge welling up inside her, and asked the people gathered to pray the rosary. As the people began to pray the rosary, the Virgin Mary appeared to the three children. When Lucia asked Our Lady what she wanted her to do, she said, “I am Our Lady of the Rosary. Please build a church here. Pray the rosary every day. Soon the war will be over, and the soldiers will come home.”

She also told Lucia, when asked about the healing of those gathered, “Some will be healed, some will not. People need to repent and change their way of life.” Our Lady also warned them not to anger God any further.

After delivering these messages, the Virgin Mary opened her hands to reflect the light of the sun and ascended into heaven. Lucia then shouted to the crowd, “Look at the sun!” At that moment, the clouds opened, the rain stopped, and the crowd saw the sun miraculously spinning, zigzagging, and plummeting toward them (Fatima for Today, p. 114). Even stranger, eyewitnesses testified that, although the sun shone brightly, it did not hurt the eyes of those who were watching it. (Fatima for Today, p. 113)

Natural science professor testifies to miracle

Dr. Gonzalo de Almeida Garrett, a professor of natural sciences at the University of Coimbra, was also there to witness the miracle of the sun. In this miracle, a multicolored light was seen by some, but not by others. Dr. Garrett testified to the fact that when the miracle occurred, the surroundings were tinted with an amethyst color.

The sun shone clearly and strongly, like a glowing disk, its edges were cleanly cut and did not hurt the eyes. On the other hand, I disagree with the comparison of the sun to a dull silver disk. The atmosphere was amethyst-colored due to a solar phenomenon, and the sky, the atmosphere, and everything around us was amethyst-colored. I feared that I had a retinal anomaly, but in that case I should not have been able to see purple. (Summarized from Aleteia)

However, what the three children saw was not the dancing sun, but visions of the Virgin Mary, St. Joseph, the mysteries of the Rosary, and Our Lady of Mount Carmel. After all the miracles were over, the people’s clothes, and even the ground, were completely dry.

I believe that this miracle of the sun took place for the sake of those who could not turn without experiencing a miracle of God.

When will the third secret be fulfilled?

Father Nicholas Gruner (1942-2015) was one of those who believed that the third secret has not been completely revealed.

Fr. Gruner on the Message of Fatima/ Your Last Chance Conference/ May 2012

In 1931, our Lord appeared to Sister Lucia. He again warned her that great misfortune would befall the world if the consecration of Russia were not carried out.

In this video, Fr. Gruner uses the prophecy of St. Margaret Mary Alacoque to explain what the possible timing of God’s judgment might be, if the consecration of Russia is not accomplished.

On June 17, 1689, the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to Margaret. Margaret then explained to the King of France that our Lady had asked her to tell him to please consecrate the nation of France to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. However, three generations of French kings continued to ignore the words of the Virgin Mary. Then, on June 17, 1789, exactly 100 years after the prophecy, the King of France was deprived of his royal prerogatives by the Third Estate. Less than four years later, he was executed by guillotine.

Father Gruner expressed his concern that the “time limit” of the Fatima request might also be 100 years, counting from 1931.

Benedict XVI: Pray for the triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary

On May 13, 2010, on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the beatification of Blessed Jacinta and Francisco Marto (and seven years before the 100th anniversary of the Fatima apparitions), Pope Benedict XVI gave a homily regarding the secrets of Jacinta, Francisco, and our Lady of Fatima. In this homily, the Pope made it clear that it would be a mistake to think that the prophetic mission of Fatima is complete.

He also introduced the words of Jacinta and Francisco with regard to their burning love for God. He emphasized the importance of faith, quoting the words of our Lord in Luke 11:28: “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!” He added that faith does not fail us, that it opens the horizon of hope, and that it is the foundation for a life without fear. Moreover, he expressed his hope that devotion to Our Lady of Fatima would spread throughout the world, and would hasten the fulfillment of the prophecy that the Immaculate Heart of Mary will triumph. (EWTN, Homily, Mass in Fatima 13 May 2010)

It has already been 19 years since Benedict XVI prayed that the prophecy of the triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary would soon be fulfilled, but that silver lining is still not in sight. Given the state of the world today, it seems more likely that the horrors of World War III will come to pass first. On the other hand, Luke 21:9 says, “When you hear of wars and tumults, do not be terrified; for this must first take place, but the end will not be at once.” Hope remains, it seems.

Consecration not performed as requested by Our Lady of Fatima

The two conditions for avoiding the war prophesied by Our Lady are: first, the Five First Saturdays devotion as an atonement for the people’s blasphemy and insults to Our Lady, and second, the consecration of Russia, which only the Pope can do.

In the more than 100 years since the apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary, prayers have been offered several times by successive Popes for the conversion and consecration of Russia. Unfortunately, none of the attempts at the Consecration of Russia have been carried out as Our Lady requested.

As the March 21, 2022 edition of LifeSite News explained:

The world’s bishops were invited, but not commanded, to join in the consecration.
It could also be said that the Five First Saturdays devotion, available to all the faithful, is not yet sufficiently popular or widespread. At any rate, the Fatima prophecy tells us that if the Consecration of Russia is not carried out, many nations will disappear from the earth.

I sincerely pray that the prophecy of the triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary will speedily be fulfilled, and that the world will be at peace.

Fatima Prophecy: The Appearance of the Virgin Mary (1)

Portugal is a fascinating country for Catholics. It has many beautiful and historic churches, including the Jerónimo Monastery, which is a World Heritage Site. Above all, it is the country where a series of apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary, our Lady of Fatima, took place.

Has Our Lady of Fatima been recognized by the Vatican as an authentic apparition?

The Virgin Mary of Fatima is known, even to non-Catholics, because of her miracles and her prophecies concerning the Last Judgment. Before believing in this apparition, however, it is important to check whether the Vatican has recognized it.

The Catholic Church has investigated numerous alleged apparitions of Our Lady. Traditionally, the Catholic Church takes time to recognize apparitions and other miracles; in the 20th century, a whopping 386 apparitions of Our Lady were reported to the Vatican with requests for approval, but, with regard to 299 of them, the Vatican has not given a definitive answer.

Of the remaining 87, the Church has decided in 79 cases that the alleged apparitions were not of a supernatural character. So, out of the 386 alleged apparitions, there are only eight cases in which the Church has decided that, yes, the events were of a supernatural character. Our Lady of Fatima is one of those eight cases.  (University of Dayton)

On October 13, 1930, José Alves Correia da Silva, Bishop of Leiria, deemed the Fatima apparitions worthy of belief and authorized a general devotion to the Virgin under the name Our Lady of the Rosary of Fatima. The feast day of Our Lady of Fatima was set for May 13, but, for a long time, it remained only a local feast.

In 1940, Pius XII declared that the apparition at Fatima was an authentic, supernatural apparition of Our Lady, the Blessed Virgin Mary. In 2002, the feast day was included in the Universal Calendar of the Catholic Church, and it has remained an official feast day of the Church to this day.

The apparition of the Virgin Mary of Fatima to three shepherds

On Sunday, May 13, 1917, the Virgin Mary appeared to three shepherd children, Lucia (1907-2005?), Lucia’s cousin Francisco (1908-1919), and his sister Jacinta (1910-1920); all three children lived in the small Portuguese village of Fatima.

It was Sunday, and the three children had gone to Mass early in the morning. After Mass, they took their flock of sheep to a place known as the Cova de Iria to graze. While the sheep were grazing, the three children spent their time eating lunch and praying.

It was a sunny day with blue skies. They were playing games as usual. Then, suddenly, they saw a strong light. Seeing the sudden light, the children thought it was lightning, and they hurried to get the sheep home. It was then that the second light shone. On top of a small holm oak tree, the three saw a glowing woman in a white dress. (Abridged from Fatima for Today, by Fr. Andrew Apostoli, C.F.R.)

Of the three, only Lucia was able to speak with the Virgin Mary. Francisco could see the Virgin, but he could not hear or speak to her. Lucia later said that the Virgin Mary looked like a young woman of about 17 years old (Fatima for today).

The three children, whose fates were as prophesied by Our Lady of Fatima.

Portuguese shepherd children Lucia dos Santos, center, and her cousins, Jacinta and Francisco Marto, are seen in a file photo taken around the time of the 1917 apparitions of Mary at Fatima. (Public domain)

During the second apparition of the Virgin on June 13, when Lucia asked, “Will you take us to heaven?” the Virgin replied, “I will take Jacinta and Francisco immediately. You will stay here a little longer.”

Jacinta and Francisco died a few years later, just as Our Lady of Fatima had prophesied. They both died of the Spanish flu, Francisco on April 4, 1919, and Jacinta on February 20, 1920. Lucia then became a boarder at the school of the Sisters of St. Dorothy at the age of 14, entered the convent in Tuy, Spain, as a postulant of the Institute of the Sisters of St. Dorothy, and made her first vows on October 3, 1928. On October 3, 1934, she took perpetual vows, and assumed the name Sister Mary of the Mother of Sorrows.

She returned to Portugal in 1946, and entered the Carmelite Convent of Santa Teresa in Coimbra in March 1948, where she remained for the rest of her life.

(Servant of God Lucia Santos | EWTN)

Jacinta and Francisco became the youngest non-martyr saints.

It is said that Francisco’s only dream was to go to heaven. Before his death, Jacinta, who was only seven years old, told Lucia that the Immaculate Conception would lead us on the path of salvation, which requires prayer, conversion, and devotion to the Blessed Virgin. Francisco and Jacinta, although they were young children, were endowed with a deep spirituality, and people even asked God to intercede for them through their prayers.

On May 13, 2000, Jacinta and Francisco were beatified by Pope John Paul II. On May 13, 2017 (the 100th anniversary of the first apparition of Our Lady of Fatima) they were canonized by Pope Francis. Their feast day is February 20.

Jacinta Pereiro Marto, a niece of Jacinta and Francisco, described them in an interview with CNA on the occasion of their canonization on April 20, 2017.

She said that Francisco was focused on “praising God, adoring God, worshiping God.” Jacinta, however, was primarily concerned with conversion, and desired that “everyone return to God, that everyone convert, that everyone go to heaven.”

The apparitions at Fatima, and the subsequent canonization of the children, clearly make manifest the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, when he said:

“Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them; for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 19:14).

The Mystery of Sister Lucia

After the early deaths of Jacinta and Francisco, Lucia, the only one left of the three, became a nun and eventually joined the Carmelites, but there has been great mystery surrounding Lucia since 1948.

According to official statements from the Vatican, Lucia died in 2005 at the age of 97. Many people, however, believe that she actually died long before, and that the Lucia who died in 2005 was not the real Sister Lucia of Fatima.

SISTER LUCIA TRUTH began working with various experts and medical professionals in 2017 to investigate whether it was indeed the real Sister Lucia who died on February 13, 2005. They compared photographs of Sister Lucia, as well as her handwriting and facial structure. The results are described below.

They have determined that two women actually existed: the real Sister Lucia, to whom our Lady of Fatima appeared in 1917, and an imposter who presented herself as the real Sister Lucia of Fatima from at least May 13, 1967, until her death on February 13, 2005.

Since the truth has not yet been revealed, it is up to the individual to decide whether or not to believe the results of their analysis. On the other hand, if one compares the 1946 and post-1967 photos of Sister Lucia, even a non-expert can clearly see in the 1967 photos a different person from the Lucia in 1946 photos. If there were two Sister Lucia’s, what on earth were they for? And where did the real Lucia disappear to?

Image: Statue of the image of Our Lady of Fatima

Continued in part two.

Life or Death: A Catholic Perspective on the Abortion Issue

In the past, I actually did not think that abortion was equivalent to murder, because I didn’t think much about it at all. When the issue of abortion was brought to my attention, and I researched it, and learned the facts about how the fetus grows and how it is aborted, I was horrified. I suspect that many pro-choice people are probably as ignorant of the truth about abortion as I used to be.

In this article, I would like to discuss why abortion is an important issue, and what the Catholic perspective on this issue is.

God’s Forgiveness and the Sin of Abortion in Catholicism

The teaching of the Catholic Church is that it is always wrong to willfully take the life of an innocent human being. An unborn child is human, and is obviously innocent. So, the killing of an unborn child, or abortion, is the taking of an innocent human life, and is therefore a mortal sin. If a person leaves this world with even one unrepented mortal sin, that sin will send him or her headlong into eternal hell. So, anyone who has committed or cooperated with the mortal sin of abortion, just as in the case of any other mortal sin, must make a good confession, sincerely asking God for forgiveness, in order for his or her soul to be redeemed.

What about non-Catholics?

As it turns out, even non-Catholics who do not make a sacramental confession can be forgiven and benefit from God’s grace, because God loves them. In one of my local priest’s sermons, he emphasized that, while it is true that our Lord Jesus Christ said “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but by me” (John 14:6), and even though Christ founded one Church, which he desires all men to join, it does not follow that everyone who is not Catholic must, necessarily, go to hell.

The priest explained that God’s forgiveness and grace sometimes operate in mysterious ways, without any outward and visible signs. The priest emphasized that, while we Catholics have the great advantage of the sacraments, nevertheless, God’s grace is available, in some way, to all people.

Does Having an Abortion mean Going to hell?

“We all make many mistakes” (James 3:2).

The priest stated that the people who go to hell are those who, whether Catholic or non-Catholic, reject the forgiveness and grace of God, who is love. God values free will above all else, and therefore cannot extend His salvation to those who willfully reject it.

What this means with regard to abortion is that, on the one hand, to have an abortion, or to pay for or otherwise cooperate with one, are grave sins that could potentially send a person to hell; on the other hand, any person, Catholic or not, who loves God, is sorry for having offended him, and truly repents of his or her sins (what is known as “perfect contrition”) can be forgiven by God for abortion or any other sin. “As I live, says the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live” (Ezekiel 33:11).

Public Opinion on Abortion in the United States

In January 1972, the Supreme Court of the United States, in its decision in the Roe v. Wade case, ruled that all laws prohibiting abortion were unconstitutional. However, in June 2022, the Supreme Court overturned that decision, ruling that there is no constitutionally-protected “right” to abortion. That means that each of the fifty States is now free to prohibit abortion if it wishes to do so.

A subsequent survey conducted by the Pew Research Center found that 62% of U.S. adults said that abortion should be legal in all or most cases, while 36% said it should be illegal in all or most cases. Another survey found that relatively few Americans hold absolutist views on the issue.

The survey found that 83% of non-religious people are pro-choice. Among Christians, according to the survey, a majority of black Protestants (71%) and white non-evangelical Protestants (61%) take the position that abortion should be legal in all or most cases. But nearly three-quarters of white evangelicals (73%) say abortion should be illegal in all or most cases.

Are cultural Catholics pro-choice?

Also, according to the survey, 53% of Catholics believe that abortion is not morally wrong.

At first glance, this is a shocking result, but, of course, it is possible to get a different result by changing the way the survey questions are asked. Moreover, I believe that this number includes what are called “cultural Catholics.” Cultural Catholics are those who check the box for Catholic on the survey, but do not care about Catholic doctrine or morals, and do not attend Church regularly. Clearly, the 53% of Catholics who responded to the survey as indicated above are ignorant of doctrinal and moral matters.

Is Abortion the Answer?

One of the questions posed to those who oppose abortion is what to do if a woman becomes pregnant as the result of rape. As far as Catholics are concerned, abortion is not an option. This is true even if the rape victim has an unwanted pregnancy and the financial and psychological burden makes it difficult for her to have a baby.

Rape is a serious problem in the U.S. According to RAINN, a rape occurs every 68 seconds, and one in six women experience sexual victimization in their lives.

However, abortion has been found to have no positive outcome for rape victims. According to Live Action, 88 percent of rape survivors who choose to have an abortion regret it. Also, 93% of rape survivors who have had an abortion say they would not recommend abortion to others in the same situation.

Rape is an act of violence for which a woman bears no responsibility; abortion is an act of violence for which she is morally responsible. (Students for life of America)

Rape Survivors Speak Up, “I did not choose to be raped, nor did I choose to become pregnant. Nor did my child want me to become pregnant. I have no right to take his life because of the horrible situation that happened to me.” (Students for life of America)

One major problem that emerges from these facts is the misperception that abortion is the solution for a woman who has been victimized. There is also a need for more welfare and community support for women who are brave enough to choose to have a child. I have always resented the fact that victims of sexual crimes are subjected to further suffering after they have been victimized. I have always felt that giving women the “right” to abortion does not do anything to mitigate the damage caused by serious sex crimes.

Dr. Bernard N. Nathanson, who assisted in the Roe v. Wade Decision

OB/GYN Dr. Bernard N. Nathanson, known as “the Abortion King,” was a pro-choice activist who helped to bring about the victory of his side in the Roe v. Wade decision. However, ultrasound images caused Nathanson to change his mind about abortion.

He saw a fetus smiling, stretching, and wiggling its toes in the womb. He could also see the fetus shrinking away from the abortion equipment, which he felt was a sign that the fetus was in pain. After seeing the truth about the unborn child thanks to ultrasound, he founded the National Abortion Abolition Society. (For more about Dr. Nathanson, see Inside the Vatican.)

Dr. Nathanson calls abortion “the cruelest holocaust in American history.” The fetus is not a hunk of meat, but a human baby trying to escape the abortion apparatus. According to Pew Research Center abortions are on the decline in the United States. On the other hand, drug-induced abortions are on the rise. For example, even in the conservative state of Texas, where state law makes abortion illegal, drug abortions are up 1100% (Celebrate Life Magazine. Winter 2023, p. 30). The holocaust, as Dr. Nathanson calls it, is far from over.

Deuteronomy: Choosing Life

In the Bible, God commands us to choose life:

“I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse; therefore choose life, that you and your descendants may live” (Deuteronomy 30:19).

The words “therefore choose life” are imperative in both the Japanese (Don Bosco Colloquial) and English (RSV) translations, as well as in the Greek, Latin, and some other English translations. One of the Ten Commandments is “Thou shalt not kill,” meaning, “Thou shalt not kill innocent people.” In other words, abortion is equivalent to murder.

The God who gave us life commanded us to “choose life.” We humans have no right to rewrite that divine command.

A Child whose Mother Chose Life

Ryan Bomberger, a child conceived as the result of a rape, is a Christian, a designer, an Emmy Award-winning artist, a songwriter, an author, and a “factivist” (Bomberger coined the word from “activist” and “fact.”)He wrote the song “Meant to Be” to thank his biological mother for her choice of life.

The song is a message to his mother, to thank her for giving him a life that has had, and continues to have, meaning in the past and in the present, as the English phrase “meant to be” suggests.

“MEANT TO BE” by Ryan Scott Bomberger – YouTube

What organizations are on the side of abortion “rights”?

Even though I am aware of the “pro-life” teaching, when I see news stories advocating the “right” to abortion, I often feel as though it might be okay for a woman to have an abortion if her pregnancy was the result of a sex crime, or if she has health problems. But the idea of compromising on abortion “rights” is a devious trick.

Satanic Temple, a pro-abortion group

The Satanic Temple, which was approved as a religious organization in 2019, continues to work for abortion “rights.” They say that they do not really worship the devil, but interestingly, they display images of the devil prominently on their website, and they actively support ideas that are contrary to Christianity.

As I read this news, I was reminded of the English saying, “If it looks like a duck and sounds like a duck, it probably is a duck.” I thought to myself, with regard to the Satanic Temple, “If they look like Satanists, and act like Satanists…”

Fr. Gabriele Amorth, who was an exorcist, described how people who willingly violate God’s law are similar to the fallen angels:

“The original sins of the angels are the same as those who implicitly or explicitly adhere to Satanism. Angels and men who follow Satan base their existence on three principles and practical rules of life: you can do what you wish, that is, without subjugation to God’s laws; you obey no one; and you are the god of yourself.” (Catholic Exchange, April 19, 2023)

From the secular world’s point of view, when it comes to abortion, the Catholic Church and the Satanic Temple, as described above, are just two odd but colorful groups with a difference of opinion. It would seem as if the problem would be solved if those who take a stand against abortion did not impose their anti-abortion values on others.

For the pro-life movement, however, the right to life, from conception to natural death, is not only a religious dogma, but also a basic principle of natural law, part of the foundation of a just and stable society. A society that does not protect or care for its most vulnerable members will eventually dissolve into the anarchy of “might makes right.”

“Abortion rights” or “freedom of choice” (the choice of a woman to have an abortion or not) might sound like a good idea at first, but those who support this idea, like their (acknowledged or unacknowledged) leader, the devil, have an ungodly agenda. And the devil’s goal is always the destruction of society, of the family, of the Church, and of souls.

Life over Political Correctness

The topic of abortion is complicated by many factors: political, moral, and religious. Recent social trends, strongly left-wing, have made opposition to abortion out of step with the political correctness of “mainstream” society. Catholics have even been called extremists, and have even been arrested for praying in front of abortion clinics—not rioting, not violence, but merely praying.

The issue of abortion is often thought to entail a conflict between religious beliefs and secular values. This causes some people (on both sides) to become very emotional. And yet, abortion is not the sort of issue that one should make up one’s mind about based only on one’s own personal feelings. A clear understanding of this issue does not depend on one’s feelings about religion. Even atheists can understand, with reason alone, that abortion is wrong. (See, for example, this webpage: Secularprolife)

The choice between life and death does not depend on political correctness or religious dogma, but on human nature. The world should not become a place where “choosing life” is considered extremist.

I strongly hope and pray that the day will come soon when all lives will be protected by civil law, in accordance with natural law and God’s will.

Image: Virgin Mary and baby Jesus

Benedict’s Anniversary, Without Benedict (1)

On April 19, 2023, New Liturgical Movement published the following (in an article written by Gregory DiPippo) in memory of former Pope Benedict XVI:

“Today is the first time that we mark the anniversary of Benedict XVI’s election to the Papacy in 2005 without having him among us in this world: a good day to offer a prayer for his eternal repose.

Deus, qui inter summos sacerdótes fámulum tuum Benedictum ineffábili tua dispositióne connumerári voluisti: praesta, quáesumus; ut, qui Unigéniti Filii tui vices in terris gerébat, sanctórum tuórum Pontíficum consortio perpétuo aggregétur. Per eundem Christum, Dóminum nostrum. Amen.

God, Who in Thy ineffable providence, did will that Thy servant Benedict should be numbered among the high priests, grant, we beseech Thee, that he, who on earth held the place of Thine Only-begotten Son, may be joined forevermore to the fellowship of Thy holy pontiffs. Through the same Christ, Our Lord. Amen.”

The Resignation of Benedict XVI

Benedict XVI, who resigned from the Papacy on February 28, 2013, remained in the Vatican as Pope Emeritus, and passed to his eternal reward on December 31, 2022, at the age of 95. Therefore, this year will mark the first time since Benedict XVI became Pope that he will be absent from the Vatican.

Even after Benedict XVI’s unexpected resignation, it was thought by conservatives and traditionalists that Benedict XVI might still, in fact, be the Pope.

Benedict XVI: popular among traditionalists and conservatives.

Benedict XVI was one of the longest-lived popes in history. He was multilingual, able to read not only ecclesiastical Latin but also ancient Greek and classical Hebrew. Perhaps Benedict XVI’s mastery of Latin helped him to appreciate the importance of the traditional Latin Mass, which he safeguarded and encouraged with his Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum. He also left us many valuable books.

Benedict XVI’s sudden departure from office sent tremors through the Catholic Church and the faithful. It is no wonder that the unprepared faithful did not want him to step down. So, did some people want to believe that Benedict XVI was still Pope after the abdication drama, simply for sentimental reasons? Actually, the reasons are not so simple.

To an outsider unfamiliar with Catholicism, there would appear to be no doubt that Cardinal Bergoglio (Francis) is the current Pope. It would be hard for such an outsider to see how conservatives and traditionalists could arrive at any other conclusion. However, to one familiar with the details of Benedict XVI’s abdication, as well as the background behind it and the events surrounding it, things are not so simple. From the point of view of Catholic doctrine, canon law, and precedent, the precise meaning of Benedict XVI’s status as ” Pope Emeritus” is not at all clear.

Why did Benedict XVI step down?

First, the reasons for the Pope’s abrupt departure.
There are a number of factors that cannot be ignored that make one wonder if there was a reason for Benedict XVI’s abdication that could not be made public. On the other hand, it can be said that none of the various speculations about the reasons for the Pope’s departure are anything more than speculation.

Benedict XVI’s Retirement Announced on the Day of the Founding of Vatican City State

First, the official public announcement of Benedict XVI’s resignation was made on February 11. The statement reads (in part), “Due to my advanced age, I have come to believe that my strength is no longer adequate for the full exercise of the Papacy.”

February 11 was the date of the Lateran Treaty of 1929, by which the Vatican was recognized as an independent state. In other words, it is the day on which the Vatican City State was founded, with the Pope as its absolute monarch. Is it a coincidence that Benedict XVI announced his stepping down (or his forcible removal?) on such an important day?

I do not think it is a coincidence. It seems as if the Pope was signaling that his (theoretical) power as absolute monarch of the Vatican City State had been overthrown. If so, then who was really in charge? Could it have been someone involved in the Vatican banking scandal? If such was the case, it was the day that someone (or some group) involved in the Vatican banking scandal seized control of Vatican City and its king, the Pope.

The Vatican Bank Scandal and Benedict XVI

Power and corruption are inextricably linked, and the Vatican is no exception. Benedict XVI was the first pope to attempt to reform the Vatican Bank, which is rumored to have ties to criminal organizations. The Vatican Bank has been the subject of many dark rumors, including various theories about the mysterious death of Pope John Paul I, the Mafia, and the Freemasons. It is therefore believed by many that Benedict XVI’s reforms were stalled by people and organizations that were unfriendly to his intentions.

In addition, none of the allegations of money laundering, ties to criminal organizations, unaccounted money, etc. that should have been investigated in the Vatican bank scandal have been properly investigated; or, if they have been investigated, the results have never been revealed. The following is a summary of the complex and difficult-to-understand case, summarized from an article in the Financial Times on December 6, 2013.

Stop doing business with the Vatican Bank

It all started when, in the wake of the Euro crisis, the EU banking investigative body decided to investigate Deutsche Bank, JP Morgan (also in Germany), and UniCredit Bank (in Italy), all of which had business with the Vatican.

Upon learning of the investigation, the European banks under investigation reportedly warned the Vatican Bank that they might find themselves no longer able to do business with it. Soon after, UniCredit Bank, which was suspected of money laundering, became the first major institution to stop doing business with the Vatican Bank.

European investigators suspected that there was corruption in the Vatican Bank, but they could not investigate it directly, because the Vatican City is an independent state, and not a member of the E.U. So, investigators began to put pressure on several EU banks that do business with the Vatican.

Action taken by Benedict XVI

To remedy the situation, in 2009 Benedict XVI appointed a new head of the Vatican Bank, the Italian Ettore Gotti Tedeschi. He also invited MoneyVal (an organization that investigates allegations of money laundering) to investigate the Vatican Bank.

Although Tedeschi was well-liked by the Italian banking community, he did not get along well with many of the Cardinals. In May 2012, the directors of the Vatican Bank expelled him and accused him of money laundering. The Italian government subsequently investigated Mr. Tedeschi but did not charge him with any crime.
In March 2012, Germany’s JP Morgan withdrew from doing business with the Vatican.
MoneyVal’s investigation found that the Vatican Bank had a rating of 9 out of 16.

Vatican ATM Suspension and Sudden Resignation of Benedict XVI

Then, on January 1, 2013, the Vatican ATMs shut down. This happened because the Bank of Italy put pressure on Deutsche Bank, which held the right to operate the Vatican ATMs. The Bank of Italy sent a letter to Deutsche Bank, saying that the Vatican Bank was not compliant with international law, and questioning whether Deutsche Bank, by cooperating with the Vatican Bank, was engaging in illegal activity. Alarmed by this crisis, Deutsche Bank decided to suspend the operation of Vatican ATMs.

To resolve the problem, Benedict XVI appointed a German, Ernst von Freyberg, as the new head of the bank and a Swiss, Rene Bruelhart, as the Vatican Finance Regulator. Mr. Bruelhart then asked the Aduno Group, a Swiss bank unaffiliated with the EU, to operate the ATMs. Then, On February 11, Benedict XVI abruptly announced his resignation. The next day, February 12, the contract with the Aduno Group was finalized, and the ATMs began functioning again.

Swiss banks are known for their extremely high level of secrecy. To this day, Aduno holds the right to operate the Vatican ATMs, keeping them out of the reach of the EU. In addition, a Frenchman, Jean-Baptiste de Franssu, was appointed by Pope Francis on July 9, 2014, as the head of the Vatican’s bank, a position he holds to this day.

Benedict XVI decides to step down after a mystical experience?

According to an article in the Guardian dated August 21, 2013, Benedict XVI decided to step down after a mystical experience, after which he decided to devote his life to prayer. According to the Guardian, the news was reported by the news agency Zenit. Zenit, which was said to be the source of the information, temporarily ceased operations in December 2020. It now appears to be back in business, but I was unable to find the article attributed to that source.

On the other hand, CNA (Catholic News Agency), in an August 27, 2013 article, denies that Benedict XVI stepped down due to a mystical experience. In the article, Benedict’s personal secretary, Archbishop Georg Gänswein, is quoted as saying that the story was “fabricated from alpha to omega.”

Compared to Archbishop Gänswein and CNA, an anonymous source and a missing Zenit article have little credibility. The story of Benedict XVI’s “mystical experience” is probably nothing more than a myth.

image of Benedict XVI from Turn back to God

The Risen Lord Jesus Christ: Savior of Souls (2)

Today, the place said to be the tomb of the resurrected Christ may be found in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem. How did this church come to be?

The tomb of Christ where St. Helena made a pilgrimage.

The story goes that Helena, the mother of Emperor Constantine (Reign 25 July 306 – 22 May 337), went on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, and asked the inhabitants of Jerusalem where Christ’s tomb was. They led her to a certain Roman temple of Venus, beneath which, according to a tradition that had been handed down through the centuries, lay the spot where Jesus had been buried. Because it was a pagan temple, neither the Christian nor Jewish inhabitants would enter it. Before the conversion of Emperor Constantine, Roman emperors were pagans, not Christians. It is likely that the Romans built a pagan temple over the tomb of Christ in order to prevent Christians from worshipping there. Hearing of this fact, Emperor Constantine ordered the pagan temple to be destroyed. Afterward, he caused a magnificent church to be built on the spot. A legend adds that Helena also found the remains of our Lord’s cross at that time.

Eusebius, the fourth-century church historian, wrote that Helena went on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, and built churches at the places of Christ’s birth, his ascension, and his resurrection. Other than that, we cannot be sure what really happened. However, to this day, pilgrims from all over the world visit the Church of the Holy Sepulcher to venerate what they believe to be the tomb of Jesus, the place where he rose again from the dead.

Mary Magdalene, the first to see the resurrected Jesus

Christ Appearing to Mary Magdalene, ‘Noli me tangere’

Mary Magdalene was the first person to see the resurrected Jesus. Her encounter with the empty tomb and the risen Lord is described in the Gospel of John, chapter 20, vv. 1–18.

At the Easter Mass I attended, a priest spoke about faith, using the analogy of “Doubting” Thomas and Mary Magdalene. When the risen Jesus spoke to Mary, without hesitation she answered, “Rabboni” (Teacher). Thomas made it clear that he would not believe until he laid his hands on Jesus’ scars. The priest said that for modern people, Thomas’s reaction was easier to understand than Mary Magdalene’s.

I have always been impressed by the faith of Mary Magdalene. Although she did not even touch the risen Jesus, she had no doubt at all that he had bodily risen, and she immediately went to announce his resurrection to the rest of the disciples, as she had been told to do. I find myself tempted to want to know the scientific evidence for the resurrection, even though I know the Biblical story.

As I listened to the priest say, “Blessed are those who believe without seeing” (John 20: 29), I realized once again that I had been paying attention only to what I could see, in other words, the things of this world. I feel that I should pray more earnestly that I may become the kind of person who can believe in the unseen God, not only in the things that can be seen.

Easter Baptism

In my church, seven people were baptized on Easter. They ranged in age from young to old. They looked so happy and bright and shining. I think that Easter, symbolically, fits perfectly with baptism, and their baptism will be for them a memory that will last a lifetime.

When I was baptized, I felt as happy as they did. I felt as if I had been born anew, because my mind and body became lighter. Not only that, but the chronic feeling of depression and disappointment in life that I had been feeling was gone.

I don’t know the real reason, but think that before baptism, my soul was spiritually dead. I believe that through my baptism, I was brought back to life by the life of Christ. Even now, I sometimes feel depressed, but the feeling of total darkness in my heart that I used to feel has completely disappeared. I can be sad and yet still feel at peace with myself.

Regarding miracles, Rev. W. Wilmers, S.J., in his Handbook of the Christian Religion (Benzinger, 1891), writes as follows (p. 18): “If God can work miracles; if, as the Lord of the universe, He wishes to speak to us through miracles, He can also so dispose circumstances, and so influence our mind, that in many cases we may know with certainty that a miracle has taken place.” For me, the “resurrection” of my soul after baptism was that kind of miracle.

Image: Christ`s tomb, in the Old City of Jerusalem, Israel

The Risen Lord Jesus Christ: Did Jesus die on the cross? (1)

Best Wishes for a Joyful Feast of the Resurrection of our Lord!

After Lent comes the most important feast day of all for Christians: Easter.
The liturgies of the Sacred Triduum and Easter celebrate the crucifixion, death, and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The Resurrection: a Divine Mystery

All liturgies are important, but Easter is special among them for Christians. We believe in the salvation of souls through the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. I knew very little about Easter until I began studying Christianity in preparation for my baptism. Probably, for most non-Christians (such as I once was), it is just a day of Easter eggs and the Easter Bunny. Common sense tells us that the resurrection of a dead person ought to be simply impossible. How can anyone be expected to believe such a thing?

Well, if we believe that Jesus Christ is God, and that God is omnipotent, it follows that our Lord Jesus can perform any miracle he wants to, including the miracle of bringing himself back to life after having died. And the Church teaches that that is exactly what he did. For those of sufficient faith, that answer is enough. I suspect, however, that for most people, faith needs a little help from circumstantial evidence.

I, too, used to be skeptical with regard to the resurrection. I thought that perhaps Jesus was in a state of suspended animation—a kind of swoon, or coma—when He was taken down from the cross, and that He recovered from his “swoon” in the sepulcher. However, I found out that this was almost impossible. The Roman soldiers of the time were well versed in how to execute criminals. It would have taken a miracle to survive a Roman crucifixion.

The Fate of Spartacus and his 6,000 Companions

So, what exactly was the punishment of crucifixion? Crucifixion was a method of execution intended especially for the lower classes and slaves who tried to rebel against the Roman government. It was not used on Roman citizens.

One well-known crucifixion figure is the story of Spartacus and his 6,000 companions.

Between 73 and 71 B.C., the gladiator Spartacus led a slave revolt (gladiators were members of the slave class in Roman society). However, the rebel slaves were defeated by the Roman army. The Roman soldiers made a long line of crosses along the road connecting Rome and Capua, and crucified Spartacus and 6,000 of his companions on these crosses.

Crucifixion was chosen because it was torture and execution combined in one simple device. Also, the simplicity of the method made it convenient for executing a large number of criminals at once.

Since the Romans had already successfully crucified Spartacus and 6,000 of his companions, it would have been a simple task to execute Jesus and two other criminals. No record of a criminal surviving a Roman execution has ever been found. The most likely reason is that no one survived.

Was it Possible to Survive a Crucifixion?

During a Roman Crucifixion, there was always a soldier on guard at the cross until the criminal was dead. It generally took about two or three days for the criminal to die. If the Romans were in a hurry, and the criminal did not die quickly enough, an iron club was sometimes used to break his legs, so that his body would lose support and he would die quickly from suffocation.

Also, to make him an example, the criminal was crucified in full view of the passersby and of the people. It is said that sometimes, as the criminals were hanging helplessly on their crosses, vultures and crows would fly down and peck at their eyeballs.

Roman law stated clearly that if the criminal survived or escaped, the soldier on guard was to be crucified in the criminal’s place. This ensured that the soldier did not fail in his duty.

In the case of Jesus, he died only three hours after being nailed to the cross. That was a shorter time than usual, so the soldier on guard had to make sure that Jesus was actually dead. To that end, he drove a spear through Jesus’ side and into his heart. Even if Jesus had survived the massive blood loss from his scourging, the crown of thorns, and the nail wounds, a spear through the heart would surely have killed him. John was standing by the cross, and watched the whole thing. John’s Gospel describes what was undoubtedly a piercing of the heart.

The Heart of Jesus Pierced by a Spear

Here is how St. John describes the piercing of our Lord’s side:

“But one of the soldiers pierced [Jesus’] side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water. He who saw it has borne witness” (John 19:34–35).

My question here is, what was the “water” that John saw? According to a joint paper by William D. Edwards, MD; Wesley J. Gabel, MDiv; Floyd E. Hosmer, MS, AM, the water that flowed from Jesus’ body was probably serous pleural fluid and pericardial fluid. The paper is published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

However, this theory would be true only if Jesus had been impaled from the right side. The Gospel says nothing about whether Jesus was pierced on the right side or on the left side. What is interesting, however, is that the man whose image is on the Shroud of Turin, thought to be Jesus, was pierced on the right side.

Is this a coincidence? There is more than one curious fact about this cloth. The Shroud of Turin has many mysterious characteristics that cannot be explained scientifically.

At any rate, given the thoroughness of Roman executions, it is impossible to believe that the Roman soldiers could have failed to execute our Lord. The idea that Jesus, after having been tortured and crucified by the Romans, was not dead, but only swooning, does not stand up to scrutiny.

There are also other theories designed to explain away the Resurrection, such as that what the Apostles saw on Easter was not a resurrected body, but rather a hallucination or a ghost, or that the Apostles simply invented the story of the Resurrection, and perpetrated a massive fraud. I have examined these theories as well; I do not have time to explain all the results of my research in this post, but suffice it to say: all of the other rationalizing theories also do not stand up to scrutiny.

The more one knows, the more difficult it seems to be to doubt the resurrection of our Lord Jesus.

Image: Two sheep by fsHH

Continued in part two.

Good Friday and the Passion of the Lord

The Friday of the Passion, or, Good Friday

Maundy Thursday, the day of our commemoration of the “Last Supper,” is over; The Friday of the Passion is upon us. The Friday of the Passion, the day of the suffering and death of Jesus Christ, is the most solemn day of the Holy Triduum (the last three days of Lent, consisting of Maundy Thursday, The Friday of the Passion, and Holy Saturday). In English it is called “Good Friday;” there are many theories as to the origin of this name. It commemorates the Crucifixion of our Lord, the day of salvation, when, as we Christians believe, Christ, who is perfectly good, became obedient unto death, in order to atone for the sins of all mankind.

Good Friday Liturgy

Good Friday is a day of prayer and fasting. Below is a small sampling of what the Catholic Church around the world looks like on Good Friday.

Christians In Jerusalem Walk In A procession To Mark Good Friday | Good Friday 2023 LIVE | News18

In Jerusalem

In Jerusalem, many Christian clergy and laypeople gather each year to pray and walk in procession along the Via Dolorosa, or Way of the Cross, the path which, according to legend, Jesus followed on his way to the Crucifixion. The fourteen “Stations,” where the procession stops for special prayers and meditations, are places associated with Jesus either in the Bible or in unwritten tradition. The procession along the Via Dolorosa was begun in Jerusalem by Franciscan friars. Since then, Franciscans have been walking the Way of the Cross every Friday. A live news broadcast shows many people participating in this year’s event. I could also see many Franciscan friars walking the Way of the Cross.

In the Vatican

April 7, 2023, Celebration of the Passion of the Lord Pope Francis

In the Vatican, the Good Friday Mass was celebrated in St. Peter’s Basilica. Cardinal Raniero Cantalamessa, a priest and theologian of the Order of Friars Minor Capuchins, delivered the homily. Using Nietzsche as an example, Cardinal Cantalamessa explained that if God is “dead,” it is usually man himself that is enthroned in the central place formerly occupied by God. He also noted how dangerous it is to be ruled by an imperfect man rather than by God, who is perfectly good. In particular, he warned that Western countries, which have become de-Christianized, are in danger of losing their souls in the black hole of relativism and nihilism, which is the end result of atheism.

In Washington, D.C., U.S.A

At the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C., U.S.A., the liturgy was conducted by the Most Reverend Walter R. Rossi. Fr. Rossi described the history of the Way of the Cross, and talked about his favorite book of meditations on it (the one written by St. Alphonsus Liguori). He also sang two verses (in English translation) from the Stabat Mater, the traditional 14th-century chant often sung during the Way of the Cross. He also used the Virgin Mary’s grief as an analogy, referring to the grief of mothers who lost their children in violent crimes and wars. He also emphasized that the Virgin Mary is our protector. He concluded by asking the Blessed Virgin Mary to help us remain close to Christ until the end.

In Tokyo, Japan

At St. Mary’s Cathedral in Tokyo, Japan, Archbishop Isao Kikuchi said that the Lord’s Passion Day, where we find the cross of the Lord, is the starting point of our faith. He also spoke of aligning our hearts with the Passion of the Lord, who suffered for us. He encouraged us to follow the example of the Virgin Mary, who remained by the cross, and found the way to the true glory and hope that lies beyond suffering. Finally, he prayed for the Pope, for all those who serve the Church, for the victims of the earthquake in southeastern Turkey, for medical personnel, and for all those suffering from war.

Praying the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary

When I pray the Rosary, I find that I have always been least fond of the Sorrowful Mysteries (usually prayed on Tuesday and Friday), which end with the death of Christ on the cross. The “realness” of the story of our Lord’s cruel treatment and execution makes me feel uncomfortable.

When I feel that way, I continue praying the rosary, while trying to focus on the thought that Christ died for love of us, and brought salvation to us all. I am a little surprised at myself, because even when I watch movies that are somewhat violent, etc., they seem fake to me, and they don’t bother me. Maybe it is the weight of my sins that I find so horrible and disgusting.

I often wonder if I am conscious enough of my sins. Am I able to think like the “good thief” who, being crucified to one side of Christ, could say to the thief on the other side, “We are receiving the due reward of our deeds” (Luke 23:41)? Our Lord tells us, “Take up your cross and follow me.” I pray that Christ will grant me the forgiveness of my sins, and the courage to carry my own cross.

Image: Reproduction of painting Pieta of Villeneuve les Avignon. The author is probably Enguerrand Quarton. 15. century, Louvre, Paris.

Holy Thursday, the Day of the Last Supper

Only three days left until Easter on Sunday.

Maundy Thursday, the Thursday before Easter, is the commemoration of the Last Supper. The “Last Supper” is the name given to the meal (probably a Passover meal) that Jesus ate with his disciples before his Passion. It is one of the oldest Christian feasts; it is not known when it began. Perhaps the twelve Apostles celebrated some version of the Maundy Thursday liturgy in the earliest years of the Church.

The exact date of the Last Supper, and whether or not it was a Passover meal, is the subject of much debate, and theologians and researchers hold many competing theories on the topic. I will not discuss those theories here. Suffice it to say that the Last Supper, and the commemoration of it on Maundy Thursday, are important in almost all Christian denominations.

“The Last Supper,” as Painted by a Genius Artist

The Last Supper. 1495- 1498, Leonard da Vinci

Numerous artists have depicted the Last Supper. However, one of the most famous paintings in the world is Leonardo da Vinci’s “The Last Supper” (1495-1498), in the Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan. The painting is so poorly preserved that it is said to be a miracle that it still exists.

In Leonardo’s painting, Judas, who later betrays Jesus, can be seen holding a bag of money. Although this is not the traditional method of portraying the story as the Bible describes it, it is instantly understood as “Judas the betrayer,” creating a more dramatic effect. And then there is John. Traditionally, John’s head is depicted facing Jesus. In Leonardo’s painting, however, John’s head is facing away from Jesus. This creates a space between Jesus and John, and the visual effect is to draw more attention to Jesus in the center. What is interesting is that only Jesus is depicted with a halo, not his disciples.

Unlike the more traditional work painted by the nun Neri (introduced below), Leonardo’s painting is one in which the human drama between the apostle and Jesus is conveyed with great feeling. While the disciples of Jesus and Jesus are depicted realistically, the painting as a whole gives us a sense of holiness and mystery. The genius of Leonardo da Vinci is truly amazing.

“The Last Supper”, as Painted by a Nun

The Last Supper. 1550s, Plautilla Neri

In a composition very similar to Leonardo’s painting, Plautilla Neri (1524-1588), a Dominican nun, also painted a version of the Last Supper, in Santa Maria Novella in Florence; it is the only surviving painting that bears her signature.

Judas in Neri’s painting is depicted as the biblical figure “who has dipped his hand in the dish” (Matthew 26:23). Also, Judas is the only person depicted in the painting without a haloNeri’s depiction does not emphasize the originality of the artist, as Leonardo’s does, but is traditional and based on the Bible.

While nuns of the time (if they were artists) usually made only small works, such as book illustrations, this is a large 7m x 2m oil painting. I suspect that Neri may have been inspired by Leonardo’s “Last Supper.” Maybe it was the example of Leonardo’s painting that inspired her to make her own painting so large.

The Meaning of Lamentations

Traditionally, on Holy Thursday morning, we sing some verses from the beginning of the Lamentations of Jeremiah (“Lamentationes” in Latin, “Threnoi” in Greek, “Kinoth” in Hebrew). Symbolically, the Lamentations relate to the condition of the world after the murder of the Messiah, and to the condition of a soul that has fallen into sin.

According to Haydock’s Bible commentary, the prophet Jeremiah spoke the words of God relating to the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians. Whether the Lamentations were written before or after the destruction of Jerusalem is unknown.

St. Jerome states that the Lamentations were written before the destruction of Jerusalem, at the time of the death of King Josiah. If so, of course, the same Lamentations could also have been sung again at the time of the death of King Zechariah and the destruction of Jerusalem. Symbolically, the Lamentations relate to the condition of the world after the murder of the Messiah, and to the condition of a soul that has fallen into sin.

Ancient Chant for Maundy Thursday

Gregorian chant began in Rome, and spread throughout the Western world, but Spain and Portugal have their own unique kind of chant, called Mozarabic chant. Like Gregorian chant, Mozarabic chant is sung in Latin. Its melody, perhaps influenced by Arabic music, is a melody of deep sadness befitting a lament. When I listen to the rich spiritual sound of the Mozarabic chanting of the Lamentations, I can feel the close connection between music, prayer, and faith.

Mozarabic Lamentations | Holy Thursday, Lectio 1/Gregorian Chant Academy

Here is the content of the chant, in English (King James Version):





1 (Aleph) How doth the city sit solitary, that was full of people! 

How is she become as a widow! she that was great among the nations, 

And princess among the provinces, how is she become tributary! 

2 (Beth) She weepeth sore in the night, and her tears are on her cheeks: 

Among all her lovers she hath none to comfort her: 

All her friends have dealt treacherously with her, they are become her enemies. 

3 (Gimel) Judah is gone into captivity because of affliction, and because of great servitude: 

She dwelleth among the heathen, she findeth no rest: 

All her persecutors overtook her between the straits. 

4 (Daleth) The ways of Zion do mourn, because none come to the solemn feasts: 

All her gates are desolate: her priests sigh: 

Her virgins are afflicted, and she is in bitterness. 

5 (He) Her adversaries are the chief, her enemies prosper; 

For the Lord hath afflicted her for the multitude of her transgressions: 

Her children are gone into captivity before the enemy. 

Traditionally, Holy Thursday Mass was celebrated in the morning, like other Masses, but since Vatican II, it has been celebrated in the evening. In the church, we prayed for families, priests, the sick, the dead, and for the United States to respect all human life (from conception to natural death).

The end of the Lenten season is now only two days away.

Should the Seal of the Confessional be protected by law?

Some stories in the news recently have led to a controversy over the confidentiality of information divulged during the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Such confidentiality is known as “the seal of the confessional,” or “clergy-penitent privilege.” The controversy concerns whether it is advisable, or even constitutional, to legally require priests to report to the police any information they have heard in the confessional, if that information relates to the sexual abuse of children.

The states of Washington and Vermont are deliberating on whether to repeal their civil laws that protect the seal of the confessional. In response, Bishop Thomas Daly of the Diocese of Spokane, Washington, told the Washington Examiner, in an interview this week, that Catholic clergy would refuse to comply if the bill (HB 1098) proposed in the state legislature is enacted –LifeSite News, March 3.

The Confidentiality of the Confessions is non-negotiable

Bishop Thomas Daly’s declared that, if such legislation were enacted, he would go to jail rather than break the seal of the confessional. He added that he was confident that his fellow Catholic clergymen would all do the same. Furthermore, Bishop Daly affirmed that “the integrity of the sacraments is non-negotiable.”

According to the March 8 edition of America Magazine, the States of Washington and Delaware will decide within a few weeks whether the bill will become law.

Also, in Wilmington, Delaware, Bishop Koenig of Wilmington stated that the seal of the confessional will not be broken “under any circumstances,” despite the proposed legislation against the sacraments. – LifeSite News, Mar 9.

The Delaware News (March 8) says a decision will be made within a few weeks on whether this bill will become law.

In both cases, it appears that the information has not yet been updated since March 8.

In 2019, the California legislature attempted to enact a law that would have required priests to become mandatory reporters of certain kinds of information heard in the confessional. That attempt failed. Based on precedent, I expect this year’s attempts to fail as well, but I am not convinced that somebody will not try the same thing again someday. There is a strong possibility that similar attempts to hinder the work of priests will find their way into legislatures in the future.

A Church Interior with Women at the Confessional 1863
Ludwig Passini

Is the Seal of the Confessional Unnecessary?

On the other hand, a certain priest supported the idea of revoking the clergy-penitent privilege. The following is a summary of the story:

Fr. James E. Connell, a retired Catholic priest from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, wrote an editorial in which he supported the idea of revoking clergy-client privilege. Wisconsin Archbishop Jerome Listecki lamented the disturbing words of Fr. Connell, and stripped him of all faculties to administer the sacrament of reconciliation.- LifeSite, Mar 23.

The right to administer the Sacrament of Reconciliation comes from a priest’s archbishop or bishop; therefore, Fr. Connell will no longer be able to hear confessions in any Catholic diocese in the world. If Fr. Connell (or any other priest) were to break the seal of the confessional, he would incur automatic excommunication.

The Sacrament of Reconciliation (or Confession), in which one confesses one’s sins to God through a priest, is different from what the world considers “confession” to a person. Forgiveness of sins involves the salvation of a soul. Some priests have been martyred for not revealing the sins of penitents. And any priest who, under any circumstances whatsoever, reveals information heard during a confession, incurs automatic excommunication.

I believe that Archbishop Listecki’s revocation of the faculties of Fr. Connell was also intended to eliminate the risk of his excommunication. And I hope that the confidence of the faithful that the content of their confessions will remain secret will encourage them to receive more frequently the sacrament that is the salvation of their souls.

Lawyers Consider Legislation to Mandate Reporting of Confessions

In an article published by the Ethics and Public Policy Center, Eric Kniffin, an outstanding First Amendment lawyer who has defended the rights of over 300 religious and other groups, points out three major problems with the proposed laws in Washington State, Vermont, and Delaware, namely:

1) The proposed laws incorrectly presume that the government could coerce priests to break the seal of the confessional. In reality, if these laws were passed, the result would not be priests “turning State’s evidence;” the result would be priests in jail.

2) The proposed laws incorrectly presume that breaking the seal of the confessional would make children safer. In reality, if these laws were passed, abusers (and other sinners as well) would tend to stay away from confession. Children would be less safe as a result.

3) The proposed laws discriminate against religion. The proposed laws attack clergy-penitent privilege (i.e. the seal of the confessional), but they make no mention of attorney-client privilege (lawyers do not reveal what their clients tell them). In other words, according to the proposed laws, secrecy is OK if it is for secular reasons, but it is not OK if it is for religious reasons. That is discrimination against religion, which is unconstitutional.

Kniffin concludes by quoting Boston Globe columnist Jeff Jacoby, who recently wrote, “Protecting children is a matter of crucial importance. Protecting religious faith is too. It isn’t the job of lawmakers to privilege one of those worthy aims over the other. It is to strive, with care and respect, to do both.”

Freedom of religion is important for everyone. In a society that forces priests to choose between excommunication and arrest, no one is truly free.

Revealing the Content of Confessions

As mentioned earlier, what is said in the confessional is strictly confidential.

Two years ago, a book was published that comes close to exposing such confessional confidentiality, namely: Je Vous Pardonne Tous vos Péchés (I Forgive All Your Sins) by Vincent Mongaillard, France. The book is a collection of true stories, provided by 40 priests, about confessions that they have heard. Both priests and penitents remain anonymous; one priest who was interviewed for the book explained that, in order to avoid violating Church law, all personal details of the confessions were changed.

Some excerpts were translated and published by Harper’s Magazine; they range from the comical confessions of a couple in their fifties to the regret one priest felt after giving absolution to a criminal. My impression (based solely on the excerpts I read) is that most of the confessions seem to be about common errors people make (many of them, for example, involve marital infidelity).

Even if the book does not violate Church law, I still feel that the dignity of the Sacrament of Reconciliation would be better served by concealing such stories than by revealing them.

A point made by a priest about the Sacrament of Reconciliation

In an interview on LifeSite News, Michel Rodrigue, a priest also known as a mystic, was talking about the Spiritual War are facing. He emphasized the importance of receiving the Sacrament of Reconciliation along with prayer. Regarding the Sacrament of Reconciliation, Fr. Rodriguez gave the following advice:

1) Confess both mortal and venial sins.
2) Confess sins of omission, that is, the things that you should have done but did not do.

Until now, I have not paid much attention to 2), the things I should have done but did not do. However, it occurred to me that the simple fact that I didn’t do some things — things that might be considered duties, or things merely advisable — could be a sign of sloth, which is one of the seven deadly sins.

I realized that just because I am working and keeping myself busy, that does not mean that I am free from sloth. Sloth is the sin of spiritual laziness, which is difficult to become aware of, and troublesome to deal with, without the grace of God.

It is said that, since Vatican II, the number of people going to confession has decreased. I have experienced many times that my mind and body have become lighter after receiving the Sacrament of Reconciliation. I am not the only one. A formerly Protestant acquaintance of mine told me that after he converted and made his first confession, when he received sacramental absolution the first time, he felt a sense of exhilaration and lightness, as if a huge load had literally been lifted from his back.

Mother T. always told me how important it was to pray and receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation. We should not miss out on the benefit of being offered such a powerful sacrament.

The Seal of the Confessional and Religious Freedom

In the United States, the rift between State and Church is growing ever larger. As mentioned earlier, the biggest problem is the pressure that threatens the religious freedom of the Church. Pressures include laws that would force Catholic hospitals to perform abortions, laws that would make Church-affiliated organizations pay for contraceptives used by their employees, laws that would force Catholic adoption agencies to place children with same-sex couples, and (now) proposed laws that would revoke clergy-penitent privilege.

When people talk about requiring priests to break the seal of the confessional, it reminds of me of people who support the “ordination” of women; in both cases, they are talking about something that is quite simply impossible. Just as, in 1994, Pope John Paul II declared that “the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women,” so it is in this case, with respect to the revoking of clergy-penitent privilege: the Church has no authority to do it. The seal of the confessional is not only Church law, it is “God’s teaching;” even if the Pope himself wanted to change it, he could not.

The secular state, however, is not going to readily accept the fact that the Church has rights independent of it.

The real purpose of bringing up the language of “child sexual abuse” in regard to this issue is to sway people’s emotions, and blind their eyes to the fact that the proposed laws seek to change a thing that cannot, in fact, be changed. The proposed laws are not really about preventing child abuse. They are nothing less than an attack on freedom of religion, an attack on the sacraments, and an attack on the Church.

Image: Wooden judge`s gavel. Law. Judge`s office