Prepping for……?


I’m intrigued by those folks who are consumed with “prepping” their families for any of several big catastrophes yet-to-come. They stockpile food and water and many of them have elaborate home defense systems, energy reserves and secret “bug out” locations. Some of them, I’ll admit, kinda creep me out. Especially the ones who teach their toddlers to use weapons and who regularly chow down on roadkill or reptiles. But even so, I know that being prepared for an emergency is a good thing. If you live in an earthquake zone or in a place where tornadoes or hurricanes or snowstorms threaten (and that just about all of us) then it’s a good idea to have a stocked emergency kit and response plan in place.

One of the disaster scenarios that promises the most devastation is something called a nuclear Electro-Magnetic Pulse (EMP) event. If some rogue country or terrorist group gets their hands on a nuclear bomb and detonates it at a fairly high altitude, it would send out a sort of gigantic lightning strike into the atmosphere. This would, according to many sources, cripple or destroy most of our modern electronics. In a few seconds, our satellite communications systems would be gone. Electrical grids would fail. Most cars and other small engines wouldn’t work anymore. Planes would fall from the skies. In a flash, everything we’ve come to rely on so heavily in our modern world would be gone. Things like clean running water, stocked supermarkets, working hospitals and reliable emergency services—all would be gone. We’d be back to pioneer days. If you didn’t have access to clean water, you’d be dead in just a few days. Your food would be limited to what you have on hand in your pantry or whatever wildlife you could trap or kill. If you need medication, your at-home supply would soon run out. In a few weeks, our society would begin to seriously break down as desperate people seek food wherever they can find it. It sounds horrifying.

And it probably won’t happen. Yes, it’s within the realm of possibility, but so are the odds of winning the lottery. As for me, I’ll stock up on a few essentials like bottled water and toilet paper and coffee…and carry on. We can imagine several doomsday scenarios like the extreme preppers do, or we can live our lives and prepare for the very real future of our own mortality. This is something we KNOW is going to happen but most of us are pretty good at not thinking about. And yet we’re constantly moving towards that transition.

I say “transition” and not “end” because as a Christian, I know that I’ve been created for eternal life. “Prepping” for us means allowing Christ to live in us and through us every day, in every moment. We do this in a group called “His Church” and He gives us everything we need to follow Him. We receive His grace, His very life, in the Sacraments He’s given us. He draws us to Himself as we gather around His altar with our parish family. We build one another up and use our different gifts to glorify Him and to serve one another. We grow in mercy and kindness and patience. We sin and ask for His forgiveness and then we try again. We carry the cross He has given us and we look to the Saints for inspiration and prayerful support. We ask our Blessed Mother to lead us closer to her Son and we beg the angels to protect us from the forces of this fallen world. It’s not a journey designed for someone to go it alone, which is why Jesus left us a Church. In her, we find all that we need, the fullness of the treasury of our faith.

So as some prepare for the widespread loss of cellphones and CNN (oh happy day!), those of us who belong to Jesus will keep our eyes fixed on Christ. We’ll go to confession. We’ll go to Mass and receive the gift of His Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity in the Holy Eucharist. We’ll pray that we my decrease and that He may increase. I’ll pray that Jesus will help me to be kind and to live each day with joy. I’ll beg for His mercy on me, an undeserving sinner. I’ll give thanks for all His many blessings and I’ll pray that I can be a blessing to others. So, yeah, maybe I’m a prepper after all.

“There are better things ahead than any we leave behind.”
—–C.S. Lewis

The Seal of the Confessional


I’m a big fan of Alfred Hitchcock movies. “The Birds” scared me to death as a kid. Still does. I love his casting choices and his camera angles. It’s great fun anticipating his cameo appearances on screen. I guess my favorites are “Rear Window and “The Man Who Knew Too Much’ with “Strangers on a Train” a close third. But there’s one that I’ll bet you’ve never seen and it’s a real gem. “I Confess” is the story of a priest (Montgomery Clift) who becomes the subject of a murder investigation. The real murderer has confessed his sin to the priest but because the good father is bound by the “seal of the confessional” he can’t tell the police and thereby clear his name. It’s suspense at its best.

It would have been so simple for the priest to go to the detective (Karl Malden) and tell him who the murderer was. No jail, no trial, no electric chair. But he couldn’t. He was bound to maintain the sacred seal of privacy. This seal means that no priest can ever, under any circumstance, reveal what he has heard in the sacrament of confession, at least in a way that would identify the penitent. He can’t discuss anyone’s confession in a manner that would reveal the person’s identity, even in seeking advice from another priest or even his bishop. This has been a practice of the Catholic Church for many hundreds of years and was made a part of Church law in 1215. So Montgomery Clift’s character does exactly what he’s supposed to do—he says nothing.

Why does the Church do this? So that no one should ever fear that their sins will be made known to anyone other than their priest-confessor and The Lord. You can go to confession and be completely honest with him because he’ll never reveal what you’ve told him. No sinner need ever avoid seeking God’s mercy because there is a sacred trust of confidentiality. There are certain situations where the priest must seek the counsel of his bishop. Even then, the penitent’s name is never revealed. If the priest breaks this seal he is automatically excommunicated and this can only be mitigated by the Pope himself.

This trust between penitent and priest has been generally respected by the courts in our country. Like other relationships requiring confidentiality, like an attorney and their client or a therapist or physician and their patient, most courts have allowed confessions to remain secret. Certainly if someone confesses a criminal act to a priest in confession, the priest may encourage them to surrender themselves to the authorities, but that’s all the priest can do.

Unfortunately a recent court case in Louisiana is challenging the absolute privacy of the confessional. A parish priest heard the confession of a young lady who told him she had been sexually-abused by a member of their parish (who is now deceased). Her family has sued the priest for not reporting the abuse to the police. Initial findings by the Louisiana Supreme Court are challenging the Church’s protection of the confessional. And while the final court decisions are still pending, this is another unsettling assault on the Church. The Diocese of Baton Rouge will continue to protect the responsibility of the priest to remain silent. This is crucial to Catholics, but it should be concerning to all Americans. The Establishment Clause of our Constitution protects churches from government intrusion. This is what is also being violated by the Affordable Care Act. Now in Louisiana, the Church is being challenged again. As Americans, we believe in the free exercise of our faith—and that our faith should be free from governmental regulation. Whether or not you’re Catholic, if you believe in our Constitution, this is serious.

“Religious freedom is the lifeblood of the American people, the cornerstone of American government.”
—Timothy Cardinal Dolan
Archbishop of New York

Marked For Christ


Monograms. They’re everywhere you look these days: on tee shirts and tote bags, on water bottles and baby clothes and the back windshields of cars and trucks. Pinterest and etsy are full of ideas and items that are personalized with your initials. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve got no problems with monogramming anything that will sit still for it. After all, I’m from the South where we’re practically born monogrammed. Everything is fair game. Here in Georgia, if there’s anything we ladies love better than the sound of our voices, it’s the sight of our own initials. It marks things as belonging to us and only us. It’s our sign.

But not all letters and signs are just for show. Right now in Iraq the homes of Christians are being marked with the Arabic version of the letter “N” which stands for “Nazarene.” It means that the family living there belongs to Jesus of Nazareth. It’s a kind of monogram that sets the Christians of Iraq, who are mostly Catholic, apart from other religions and the Muslim majority. Now that ISIS is in charge in many places in Iraq, being marked as a Christian also means being marked for death unless you’re willing to convert to Islam. The video and photographs coming out of Iraq are horrifying. Children are beheaded while their parents are forced to watch. Mothers and fathers have their throats slashed in front of their toddlers. It’s absolutely inhuman and heartbreaking. During the Holocaust, Jews were made to wear a Star of David on their sleeves by the Nazis. Then millions of them were rounded up and transported to the death camps where they were tattooed with their prison number on their forearms before being murdered for their faith. St. Maximilian Kolbe was killed in Auschwitz (Prisoner #16670) when he gave his life in exchange for another prisoner. Grace in the midst of hell.

The Iraqi Christians and Fr. Kolbe were marked in another way, as well. They were baptized with water and with the Sign of the Cross. This “monogram” is invisible to human eyes, but baptism marks every Christian with an indelible sign of belonging to Jesus Christ. In baptism, Christ claims us as a member of His family and an heir of His inheritance. Sometimes we may forget that this inheritance also marks us for suffering in this world. Belonging to Christ also includes belonging to His Holy Cross. This Cross is being carried today by Christians all over the world who are suffering and dying because they belong to “The Nazarene.” In Iraq and Egypt, in Nigeria and China, in Somalia and India and in dozens of other countries, Christians face persecution, imprisonment and death ( Our faith can cost us our earthly lives, which is something those of us living in a free country sometimes forget.

When we wear that monogrammed necklace or tee shirt, it proclaims us as individuals. In effect, you’re wearing who you are. If you wear a crucifix or a cross around your neck, it proclaims that your life was purchased at a great price. It should change the way you live in the world, just as the grace of your baptism does. We are the precious and blood-bought children of a great and loving God, Who weeps to see His children suffering.

If you want to do something to help, the Knights of Columbus is a charitable organization of Catholic men who are actively providing support to the persecuted Christians in Iraq. In fact, the Knights will match your donations, dollar for dollar. Your gifts are tax-deductible and the Knights pledge that 100% of the money they receive will go to refugee relief in Iraq and the surrounding region. You can trust this charity. As Christians who share the same “monogram” with our faith family in Iraq, we are called by Christ to help them. Please consider a gift to the Knights at or K of C Christian Refugee Relief, Knights of Columbus Charities, P.O. Box 1966, New Haven, CT 06509-1966.

“For an immediate end to the violence and destruction of life in Iraq, especially as it is directed to native Christians, that these evils will be defeated by efforts for peace and justice. Let us pray to The Lord.
—Lord, hear our prayer.”


Talking With The Dead


She’s a bleached-blonde Italian dynamo. Short in stature, but with an oversized personality, Theresa Caputo is known as the “Long Island Medium” on her successful reality show on TLC. Her bright blue eyes and dazzling smile are just the thing for a television star. Theresa lives (where else?) on Long Island with her husband and two children. She’s brash and loud in an endearing kind of way. If you watch a few minutes of her show you’ll soon realize why she’s raking in tons of money, especially from her touring show and personal appearances. She’s engaging and energetic. And she’s dangerous.

God tells us in no uncertain terms that if we love Him, we should have nothing to do with mediums or fortune-tellers.
—“Do not turn to mediums or necromancers…”(Leviticus 19:36)
—“A man or woman who is a medium or necromancer shall surely be put to death…”(Leviticus 20:27)
—“And I will cut off sorceries from your hand, and you shall have no more tellers of fortunes.” (Micah 5:12)
—“You shall not permit a sorceress to live.” (Exodus 22:18)

And these are just a few examples of God condemning the actions of mediums and fortune-tellers. The Lord claims us as His children and desires our hearts for Himself. When we look to the spirit world for answers, we’re being unfaithful to God. Mrs. Caputo states that she is a faithful Catholic who goes to Mass every Sunday. The Catholic Church certainly has a very long and rich history of saints and mystics who had a variety of spiritual gifts. Mrs. Caputo claims to speak with the dead and to relate messages from the dead to their living relatives. She does this for a fee. Saints and mystics receive messages from God, not from dead human beings. And they don’t seek out this information, but receive it as a gift. The Church is always hesitant to affirm these personal messages and a very lengthy and thorough review must take place first.

Catholics believe that the souls of the departed are either in heaven, hell or purgatory. It’s a holy practice for us to pray for them. But trying to contact dead people through a medium goes against the teachings of Scripture and the Catechism. When we have “readings” or engage a medium or fortune-teller to contact a dead person, we turn our heart away from God and look for reassurance and answers from other sources. This can open the door to spirits that seek our destruction. Remember that satan and his army are fallen angels who want us to turn away from God. On the television show, all of the departed souls are in heaven (as we are led to believe) and they are “at peace.” Yet none of them ever mention Jesus or praise Him for the gift of their salvation. We don’t get any sense of the presence of the Holy Trinity at work here. Mrs. Caputo doesn’t use the name of God but calls on “spirit” as her guide. Who is this “spirit” on whom she relies?

To be clear, I don’t claim to know Theresa Caputo’s heart or her intentions. All i can see is that she’s making a lot of money through claiming to be a medium who communicates with the dead. Her activities go against the Bible and the teachings of the Catholic Church. She is in danger of leading others into peril and sin through her activities. She seems like a kind and sensitive woman who genuinely cares about her clients and her family. I would ask her to talk with her pastor about what she does for a living, though. And I hope he’d advise her that praying for the departed is a spiritual work of mercy, but claiming to talk with the dead is dangerous and sinful. With her energy and with solid spiritual direction, I’d bet she’d be a great addition to any number of parish ministries in her local church.

There is a term that’s used to describe our present culture: practical atheism. We say we believe in God and yet we don’t let this faith affect our everyday choices and actions. We go to church but we read our horoscopes every morning. We believe in “karma” and “luck.” Don’t be taken in by fortune-tellers or mediums or “spiritual readings” or ouija boards. Keep your eyes fixed on Christ and pray for His mercy and guidance in all things. Our hope is in Jesus, and we place all our trust in Him alone. We pray that our lives will be a witness to His love and that by our example others will come to know Him as their Savior and Redeemer. You were purchased at a terrible price.

“Eternal rest, grant unto them, O Lord and let perpetual light shine upon them. May the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen,”
—The Requiem Eternam
Prayer for the Dead

My Refuge


We’re all sinners. That’s one of those euphemism we sometimes use when what we really mean is: I am a sinner. I sin. I sin every day. I struggle with particular sins that seem to have a lasting hold on me. Maybe you know what I mean. Whenever I examine my conscience as I prepare for confession, I find myself struggling with the same, familiar, unwelcome stumbling blocks. About a year ago (yes, it took me that long), I decided enough was enough.

Most of my readers know that I was raised in the Baptist faith and entered the Catholic Church while I was in college. Like many protestants, I had to learn a lot about Mary and her role in God’s plan for our salvation. I love how Catholics have so many titles for Mary. She’s the Queen of Heaven, the Mother of Mercy, Our Lady of Perpetual Help, The Immaculate, and Star of the Sea, among many others. The title that draws me in these days is “Refuge of Sinners.” I’m a sinner of need of refuge, surely. So I asked Mary to be that refuge, to let me hide my troublesome, habitual sins within her immaculate heart. I begged her to take my desire and my will and to conform it to her Son’s will for my life. It took me so many years to run to Mary for help.

Was this because I didn’t grow up in the Church? Would I have more easily embraced Mary if I’d met her in my childhood? As a Baptist, we only talked about Mary at Christmas and then only in a limited and supporting role. Otherwise, she didn’t seem to have any part in our lives. Coming to know her as an adult has been a bit of a process for me. And she has never given up on me—her slow, stumbling child.

Mary is “full of grace” (Luke 1:28). Her role is to bear Grace to us, just as she bore Jesus under her heart. Understanding the bounty of her love and her motherly desire to lead her children to Jesus finally became clearer to me And I don’t think this was so much because I didn’t grow up knowing her, as it was due to my protestant understanding of grace and salvation. As a Baptist, this was completely and utterly personal. Once you’d accepted Christ as your savior and been baptized, it was all between you and The Lord. If you later struggled with sin (as we all do) it was because you’d lost your way (backslider!) and would need to examine whether or not you’d truly been saved. There was no sacramental confession, no absolution, no penance. It was such a completely personal and internal process that I could find neither my way in nor my way through it. My sins were “covered” by Christ’s victory, but how could I grow in grace so that sin had less and less of a hold on me? Where was my refuge?

The Sacraments of the Catholic Church have been my roadmap and my source of grace. This is why Christ gave them to us–to fill us with His love and draw us to His heart. And Mary has become my refuge. The sins I’ve struggled with for so long, I’ve given over to her. That was last summer. Have I become sinless now? Hardly. But I will say this: The Blessed Virgin mothers me and holds me so close to her heart that my old sins, those terrible and persistent ones, can’t seem to find me anymore. When I feel the least temptation, I cry out to the Virgin. I know many Saints who recommend Mary as our refuge. She’s held that title since the 8th century, after all. But it’s taken me most of my life to come to know her and accept her help.

God gave us a Church to teach us about Jesus and to lead us to salvation. Nowhere in Scripture does He tell us to find our own way or to figure things out on our own. The Apostles, the Saints and God’s own Blessed Mother are our family of faith. When we fail to embrace this family, we overlook a great gift that The Lord has offered to us. He loved the disciples with all His heart and He gave them His Body and Blood at the Last Supper. He chose Mary to be His mother; chose her arms to shelter and raise Him to manhood; and gave her to us as our Mother as He hung on the Cross. To all my protestant brothers and sisters, I pray you’ll come to know your heavenly mother, too. Just ask her Son to introduce you.

“Never be afraid of loving the Blessed Mother too much. You can never love her more than Jesus did.”
—St. Maximilian Kolbe
(1894 – 1941)