Saint José Sánchez del Río

jose-sanchez-del-rioYesterday, Pope Francis canonized seven new Saints in the Catholic Church.  One of them was José Sánchez del Río, a Cristero who was martyred at the age of 14:

In 1927, Catholic Mexico was immersed in a violent storm of religious persecution. The President of Mexico at that time was a despot named Plutarco Calles.  His hatred for the Church had no limits. He killed priests and burned churches.

In legitimate self defense, countless Catholics took up arms to defend their Faith.  Whenever they charged into battle, the Cristeros, as they were called, shouted: “Viva Cristo Rey!” “Long live Christ the King!”

Young Jose Joins the Cristeros

Many Catholics shed their blood in this conflict.  Many were martyred. And Blessed Jose Luis Sanchez del Rio was among them.  From a young age he had a great love and enthusiasm for the Blessed Sacrament, and encouraged his friends to have more devotion to Our Lord and Our Lady of Guadalupe.  Whenever Jose heard of the glorious battles of the Cristeros, which his two brothers were engaged in, his desire to join the holy army only intensified.  Finally, Jose wrote a letter to one of the Cristero Generals, Prudencio Mendoza, pleading to be allowed to fight. The general acquiesced.

Capture and Imprisonment

In a certain battle, Jose was rushing to bring a fellow soldier a new supply of ammo.  Just then, he caught sight of the General whose horse had been shot dead.  On foot, without a horse, the General was extremely vulnerable.

Making a sacrifice that might cost him his life, Jose freely gave the general his own horse.  Moments later, he was caught by the federalists and locked up in a church sacristy that had been turned into a prison.  One of the guards had put a number of expensive fighting roosters inside the church for safekeeping.  This sacrilege troubled young Jose. He said: “This is not a barnyard! This is a place for God!”  He soon caught all the prized roosters and snapped their necks.

The enemies of Christ the King soon decided to kill him.

Holy Boldness in Defense of the Faith

On the way to execution, soldiers struck him savagely with sharp machetes.  With every blow, the young boy cried out, “Viva Cristo Rey!”  When he got to the cemetery, he was bleeding heavily.  His torturers had also cut off the soles of his feet and forced him to walk on salt.  The boy screamed with pain but would not give in.  As the road was nothing but rocks and dirt, the stones where he had walked were soaked in his blood.  The soldiers said:  “If you shout, ‘Death to Christ the King’, we will spare your life.”  He only answered: “Long live Christ the King! Long live Our Lady of Guadalupe!”

The commander ordered the soldiers to bayonet Jose.  They pierced his body.   But with every stab he only shouted louder and louder: “Viva Cristo Rey!”  The commander was so enraged that he pulled out his pistol and on February 10, 1928 killed Blessed Jose on the spot.  There was no trial.

As our own government becomes increasingly hostile towards Christians it is worth remembering all the martyrs who have fought and died for our faith.  ¡Viva Cristo Rey!

(Note: this post, and others to come, are not meant to be our normal “Open Comments” posts.  You are welcome to comment, but they are topical.  I ask that everyone stay on topic.)

Thursday Ghostbusters Open Comments

I stumbled across this video, a Catholic priest discussing ghosts and the Catholic faith:

I was reminded of a story that a nun told me in a workshop at my church.  She had worked at a local hospital on the chaplaincy staff, and was assigned a new patient.  She walked into “John’s” room and was instantly met with intense hatred and anger.  John yelled at the Sister that he didn’t need God, didn’t need the Church, and demanded that she leave.  Sister left, but began praying for him.  John didn’t live very long.

Sister prayed for John every day for seven years.  At the time, she didn’t live in a very good neighborhood, and feared for her safety going in and out of her home. The house next door was a crack house, and she never knew if violence was going to break out.  One night, as she was nervously preparing herself to make the short jaunt to her car, she was surprised to see John. He told her that her prayers were enabling him to move closer to Heaven.  He assured her that she would be safe that night, and thanked her for the prayers.  Sister was safe that night, and she continued to pray for him.

Eleven years after John died, she saw John again.  Just his head, which was rather unnerving, but he told her he was only an inch from Heaven!  He thanked her again, and disappeared.

She told us her story some years after John’s last appearance, but she continued to keep him on her prayer list….because she had no way of knowing for sure when he made it out of Purgatory.

I find this priest’s explanation for ghosts certainly fits in with the Sister’s story.

Wednesday Bible Math Open Comments

I found this article interesting:

The authenticity of the Holy Bible has been attacked at regular intervals by atheists and theologians alike but none have explained away the mathematical seal beneath its surface.

It would seem the divine hand has moved to prevent counterfeiting in the pages of the Bible in a similar manner to the line that runs through paper money. Bible numerics appears to be God’s watermark of authenticity.

Vital research on this numeric seal was completed by a native of the world’s most reknowned atheistic nation, Russia. Ivan Panin was born in Russia on December 12, 1855. As a young man he was an active nihilist and participated in plots against the Czar and his government. He was a mathematical genius who died a Harvard scholar and a citizen of the United States in 1942.

Panin was exiled from Russia. And after spending a number of years studying in Germany, he went to the United States where he became an outstanding lecturer on literary criticism. Panin was known as a firm agnostic—so well known that when he discarded his agnosticism and accepted the Christian faith, the newspapers carried headlines telling of his conversion.
***
In the original languages of the Bible, mostly Hebrew and Greek, there are no separate symbols for numbers, letters of the alphabet are also used to indicate numbers.

The numeric value of a word is the sum total of all its letters. It was curiosity that first caused Panin to begin toying with the numbers behind the texts. Sequences and patterns began to emerge. These created such a stirring in the heart of the Russian that he dedicated 50 years of his life to painstakingly comb the pages of the Bible.

This complex system of numbering visibly and invisibly saturates every book of the scriptures emphasizing certain passages and illustrating deeper or further meaning in types and shadows. The 66 books of the Bible 39 in the Old and 27 in the New were written by 33 different people.

Those authors were scattered throughout various countries of the world and from widely different backgrounds. Many of them had little or no schooling. The whole Bible was written over a period of 1,500 years with a 400 year silence apart from the Apocrypha between the two testaments. Despite the handicaps the biblical books are found to be a harmonious record, each in accord with the other.

Panin says the laws of probability are exceeded into the billions when we try and rationalize the authorship of the Bible as the work of man. He once said: “If human logic is worth anything at all we are simply driven to the conclusion that if my facts I have presented are true, man could never have done this”.

“We must assume that a Power higher than man guided the writers in such a way, whether they knew it or not, they did it and the Great God inspired them to do it”.

***

Let’s take the number seven as an illustration of the way the patterns work. Seven is the most prolific of the mathematical series which binds scripture together. The very first verse of the Bible “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth” (Genesis 1:1), contains over 30 different combinations of seven.

This verse has seven Hebrew words having a total of 28 letters 4 x 7. The numeric value of the three nouns “God”, “heaven” and “earth” totals 777. Any number in triplicate expresses complete, ultimate or total meaning.

Also tightly sealed up with sevens are the genealogy of Jesus, the account of the virgin birth and the resurrection. Seven occurs as a number 187 times in the Bible (41 x 7), the phrase “seven-fold” occurs seven times and “seventy” occurs 56 times (7 x 8).

In the Book of Revelation seven positively shines out: there are seven golden candlesticks, seven letters to seven churches, a book sealed with seven seals, seven angels standing before the Lord with seven trumpets, seven thunders and seven last plagues. In fact there are over 50 occurrences of the number seven in Revelation alone.

There are 21 Old Testament writers whose names appear in the Bible (3 x 7). The numeric value of their names is divisible by seven. Of these 21, seven are named in the New Testament: Moses, David, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel, Hosea and Joel. The numeric values of these names is 1554 (222 x 7). David’s name is found 1134 times (162 x 7).

It’s got more, but you get the idea.

Monday Aquinas Speaks Truth Open Comments

St. Thomas had some harsh truths about Islam:

According to Aquinas, Islam appealed to ignorant, brutish, carnal men and spread not by the power of its arguments or divine grace but by the power of the sword.

/snip

Aquinas contrasts the spread of Christianity with that of Islam, arguing that much of Christianity’s early success stemmed from widespread belief in the miracles of Jesus, whereas the spread of Islam was worked through the promise of sensual pleasures and the violence of the sword.

Mohammad, Aquinas wrote, “seduced the people by promises of carnal pleasure to which the concupiscence of the flesh goads us. His teaching also contained precepts that were in conformity with his promises, and he gave free rein to carnal pleasure.”

This has always been a sticking point for me – Mohammed’s version of paradise closely resembles a cabaret, and that has never seemed to be appropriate for an afterlife environment. I mean, after the first thousand years or so, sex just becomes ho-hum. I mean, do you rotate out those 72 virgins for new ones, or are you facing the same ones repeatedly? And who wants to drink wine without getting drunk? It’s an eternity of brainlessness, and I think I want better than that, and I think my God does, too.

Such an offer, Aquinas contended, appealed to a certain type of person of limited virtue and wisdom.

“In all this, as is not unexpected, he was obeyed by carnal men,” he wrote. “As for proofs of the truth of his doctrine, he brought forward only such as could be grasped by the natural ability of anyone with a very modest wisdom. Indeed, the truths that he taught he mingled with many fables and with doctrines of the greatest falsity.”

Because of the weakness of Islam’s contentions, Aquinas argued, “no wise men, men trained in things divine and human, believed in him from the beginning.” Instead, those who believed in him “were brutal men and desert wanderers, utterly ignorant of all divine teaching, through whose numbers Muhammad forced others to become his followers by the violence of his arms.”

Islam’s violent methods of propagation were especially unconvincing to Aquinas, since he found that the use of such force does not prove the truth of one’s claims, and are the means typically used by evil men.

Just because I may be forced to convert through force, does not mean the religion is real. It’s a weak religion that depends upon force. A good idea will spread on its own. Truth will draw people, while lies require deception and brutish behavior.

At the time Aquinas was writing, Islam was generally considered a Christian heresy, since it drew so heavily on Christian texts and beliefs. Aquinas wrote that Mohammed “perverts almost all the testimonies of the Old and New Testaments by making them into fabrications of his own, as can be seen by anyone who examines his law.”

I read somewhere that Mohammed got information about Christianity from some improperly informed Christians who didn’t fully understand who Jesus was, nor how the faith was constructed. That’s how he got so much wrong.

According to the noted historian Hilaire Belloc, Islam “began as a heresy, not as a new religion. It was not a pagan contrast with the Church; it was not an alien enemy. It was a perversion of Christian doctrine. Its vitality and endurance soon gave it the appearance of a new religion, but those who were contemporary with its rise saw it for what it was—not a denial, but an adaptation and a misuse, of the Christian thing.”

In his Summa contra gentiles, Aquinas ends his argument against Islam by offering a backhanded compliment to Mohammed, noting that he had to keep his followers ignorant in order for them to remain faithful.

It was, Aquinas wrote, “a shrewd decision on his part to forbid his followers to read the Old and New Testaments, lest these books convict him of falsity.”

“It is thus clear that those who place any faith in his words believe foolishly,” he wrote.

Monday Hopeful Open Comments

I was reading my Bible and devotionals this morning, and there seems to be a confluence:

John 14:18 “I will not leave your orphans; I will come to you.”

Devotional: “During difficult times it is critical that we are walking in fellowship with other Christians. When a crisis hits, it is overwhelming to face it alone. But if we have cultivated supportive friendships, we will find strength in the comfort and encouragement of those who care about us. Interdependence is also a safeguard for us when we are lured by temptation…You must link your life with others who are seeking God’s will. Seek to be a person who willingly joins others in carrying out God’s assignments. Strive to be the source of support and encouragement that those around you need.”

Devotional: “If my mind is clouded by nameless dreads, I will track them down and expose their unreality. I will remind myself that God is in charge of me and mine and that I have only to accept His protection and guidance.”

Tuesday Coming Home Open Comments

Okay, I know that not everyone on The Couch is Catholic, and not all of us even believe in God (though He believes in you!), so this story may not appeal to everyone – but when I saw this story I wanted to share it with you. I know that after the FIRSTICUS! post the topic will turn to other things anyway.

His story reminds me of a book I read in my study of my faith – “Born Fundamentalist, Born Again Catholic“. The journey of this couple sounds similar to the journey of David Currie and his wife.

A non-denominational megachurch pastor reportedly stunned his congregation this weekend when he announced that he and his wife are converting to Catholicism.
Image source: Word of Life

Pastor Ulf Ekman told his congregation Sunday that he and his wife are converting to Catholicism (Image source: Word of Life)

Ulf Ekman, pastor and founder of Word of Life Church in Uppsala, Sweden, told parishioners Sunday during his sermon that he and his wife, Birgitta, have experienced a theological change-of-heart, Charisma News reported.

On Ekman’s ministry website a statement titled, “Pastor Ulf Ekman to Be Accepted Into the Catholic Church” provides details on the preacher’s conversion, stating that “a process of many years of prayer and reflection” preceded the decision to embrace the Catholic faith.

“For Birgitta and me, this has been a slow process were we have gone from discovering new things, to appreciating what we have discovered, to approach and even learn from our fellow Christians,” Ekman is quoted in the release. “We have seen a great love for Jesus and a sound theology, founded on the Bible and classic dogma.”

/snip

While his Protestant views had previously led to critiques of the Catholic Church, the pastor said that, after studying the faith, he realized that many of those criticisms simply weren’t valid. The release emphasized that the conversion was the result of “a personal journey.”

“This led us to the realize that it was actually Jesus Christ who led us to unite with the Catholic Church,” the pastor continued.

From anger to sadness and confusion, people are responding to Ekman’s theological switch in a variety of ways, according to the Alethia blog and think tank. …

Thursday Papal Open Comments

The current Pope certainly got Rush’s panties all in a wad recently. As I listened to Rush, I had a strong, strong feeling that he was seriously misinterpreting what the Pope had said. Fr. John Trugilio at the Ucatholic website has come out with an article on this Pope v. Rush controversy:

I often listen to Rush Limbaugh… He uses common sense and logic to expose the fallacious arguments of liberal progressives. Unfortunately, he himself has fallen into a trap by which he erroneously extrapolates a false premise from the recent papal document from Pope Francis.

Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel) is an apostolic exhortation issued on November 24, 2013. While not an ex cathedra infallible document, it nevertheless contains ordinary papal magisterial teaching that demands submission of mind and will by faithful Catholics.

Rush is uncharacteristically inaccurate in his quotations. Pope Francis did not criticize unfettered capitalism; he used the phrase unfettered consumerism. …

/snip

Capitalism is an economic and political ideology, whereas consumerism is a personal and individual ideology. The former is focused on a free market; the latter is obsessed with the acquisition of goods in and of themselves. … One denies the right to access of necessary goods; the other deifies materialism and promotes avarice, greed and envy. A free market system, on the other hand, treats human beings equally…

What Pope Francis, Pope Benedict, Pope John Paul, Pope Leo and others have consistently been saying and teaching, however, is that the individual person is a moral agent. He must answer to God for what he did or did not do to help his neighbor in need. …

That said, besides personal acts of Christian charity, it is logical and reasonable, prudent and necessary to pool resources and, even for the state, to help in cases where the most needy and most urgent cases are helped. Yet no pope ever promoted, nor called for, a welfare state that perpetually cares for the poor. The ultimate goal is to enable the poor to rise above poverty and reach a level of dignity commensurate with their human dignity.

Access to necessary goods is a natural right. That does not mean, however, that the natural moral law requires the poor to become enslaved to the state by permanently keeping them dependent. Rush calls Pope Francis a Socialist at best and a Communist at worst. Does this sound like a commie comment?

/snip

… capitalism was actually created during the high Middle Ages and, …Catholicism is what created it…. through the so-called Dark Ages, during the 12th to 14th centuries, the middle class arose thanks to capitalism, which eventually replaced feudalism. Medieval guilds and religious orders, such as the Cistercians, became contemporary entrepreneurs of their time.

‘They mastered rational cost accounting, plowed all profits back into new ventures, and moved capital around from one venue to another, cutting losses where necessary, and pursuing new opportunities when feasible. …. the Cistercians needed labor-saving devices. They were a great spur to technological development. Their monasteries ‘were the most economically effective units that had ever existed in Europe, and perhaps in the world, before that time.’ (Novak)

Thomas Woods’ How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization has an entire chapter titled “The Church and Economics” in which he, too, proposes that money was not an artificial product of government … but a result of a voluntary process between merchants…. the Cistercians devised accounting systems by which goods could be bought and sold between fellow monks, and this was duplicated by lay merchants who participated in the process.

… it is… Catholic doctrine that all men and women are created in the image of God…That spiritual equality was translated into an economic equality… The emerging middle class came from the peasant class. They did so because their faith taught them they were equal in the eyes of God and therefore had equal opportunities to improve their material situation. Those who could not – the destitute poor, the lame, widowed and orphaned – relied on the Christian charity of the nobility and the emerging middle class.

It was the Church who literally created the colleges and universities, hospitals and orphanages, and who ran the poor houses and soup kitchens. The secular state (government) did not create these institutions…

/snip

We need laws to maintain some parameters on banks and stock brokers to protect people from abuse and exploitation. Republicans and Democrats dispute the length, breadth and depth of such legal regulations, but even a free market has some borders that cannot be ignored. Limited government is still very different from no government. Some, even if minimal, legislation is needed since not everyone acts prudently or fairly or for pristine motives.

That said, it was totally unfair and inaccurate of Rush to attack Pope Francis… The pontiff was merely reiterating consistent Church teaching that supports a free market, but also reminds the moral obligation to act responsibly, honestly and prudently. …. Welfare dependency helps neither the individual nor the nation. Some welfare is necessary…However, the goal is always to help move those into economic independence and become self-sufficient.
/snip

…All Pope Francis is warning is that the possession and acquisition of goods is not salvific, nor does it bring lasting joy. Pleasure is temporary, whereas joy can be eternal.

The pontiff is not forcing any nation or government to abandon capitalism; he’s not advocating socialism let alone communism. He is, however, reminding Catholics all over the globe that we must buy and sell prudently while using our consciences….

I highly urge Rush to read Father Robert Sirico’s Defending the Free Market …. Father Sirico precisely shows that freedom requires a free market and that greed is no friend of capitalism. Rather, greed flourishes under socialism.

Tuesday Open Comments

Soldier Who Read Conservative Books Now Faces Charges

Master Sgt. Nathan Sommers, a decorated soloist with the Army Band, is being charged under a federal law that permits commanding officers to conduct non-judicial proceedings for minor offenses.

Sommers is accused of giving a superior officer the wrong date for a doctor’s appointment. He’s also accused of failing to carry out an order. In order to comply with that order, Sommers would have had to disclose private information about his autistic son’s medical records.

The charges were handed down one day after Sommers told Fox News that he was facing discrimination and persecution because of his conservative political and religious beliefs.

“The timing does seem strange,” retired Navy Commander John Bennett Wells told Fox News. “It’s suspicious. No matter what’s happening it looks like a graduated attempt to build a case against him on some really ridiculous charges.

Wells is representing the 25-year veteran who, until last summer, had a spotless record.

The Military District of Washington disputed allegations that Sommers had been reprimanded or disciplined.

“The Soldier is not, and never has been, ‘facing retribution and punishment from the military for having anti-Obama bumper stickers on his car, reading books written by conservative authors like Mark Levin and David Limbaugh, and serving Chick-fil-A sandwiches at his promotion party,’” Public Affairs Director Michelle Roberts told Fox News in a written statement.

Thursday Open Comments

Italy Rome St Peters Wednesday crowd waiting for Pope

We have a new Pope! Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina has taken the name Pope Francis for his pontificate. From what I hear, this is a man of service and humility.

The new pope is known as a humble man who denied himself the luxuries that previous Buenos Aires cardinals enjoyed. He will also have a special connection to the almost half-billion Catholics who live in Latin America.

“There’s no one else in the house. He’s answering his own door. They didn’t show us into a nice little lounge, where you wait until the grand man comes in,” Small said. “He was just incredibly down to earth.”

He also takes buses to work, rejecting the limousines that some cardinals use. He cooks his own food (we’ll see if he can continue that tradition – I think he has a lot to do!) I was touched by how humble he seemed, and especially so when he asked for prayers before he bestowed his first papal blessing. I was very glad that the cardinal who early on publicly put himself up for consideration wasn’t elected. This is a big job for a wise man, not an egotistical one.

As to where he will lead the flock, we shall see. It does seem, however, that he is the type to disappoint the liberal media. He won’t be ushering in married priests and lesbian nuns any time soon:

Prior to his selection, CNN reported that Pergoglio is known as a “straight-shooter” who has no problem calling situations as he sees them. Potentially crushing dreams that he will take the church in a more liberal direction, he subscribes to the Catholicism’s most conservative wing…

On contraceptives and gay marriage, he has, in the past, taken strict, conservative stances. And he once called abortion a “death sentence” for the unborn.

And we’ll have to see where he goes with social justice.

In 2007, he said, “We live in the most unequal part of the world, which has grown the most yet reduced misery the least. The unjust distribution of goods persists, creating a situation of social sin that cries out to Heaven and limits the possibilities of a fuller life for so many of our brothers.”

Personally, I don’t see poverty so much an unequal distribution of wealth as it is unequal distribution of freedom. There will always be poor, there will always be rich, but to move between the two requires freedom, economic and political.

This Pope is also going to be called on to clean out the Curia and to reform the problems in the Church. Yes, he will be busy, busy, busy.

God bless Pope Francis, and may God’s wisdom shower down upon him.

Wednesday “Winds of Change” Open Comments

It never ceases to amaze me.

Liberal news anchors who are not members of the Catholic Church seem to think that they have some kind of right to impose their opinions upon an institution. Why is it so important to them? Are they going to be denied the Eucharist? How can you be denied something for which you never ask? Are they worried about not learning the new responses during Mass? What impact will the selection of this Pope have on their spiritual life – assuming that liberal news anchors have any? I’m sure that I don’t care who the president of the Southern Baptist Convention is. What impact will a spiritual leader have on their secular life? And why don’t I hear the same push for foreign countries to select certain leaders as they campaign, if not for a specific papal candidate, at least for the desired qualities in the new Pope?

I mean, really, was this comment necessary? With that snarky little grin that Pelley has?

Scott Pelley’s liberal bias got the better of him on Monday’s CBS Evening News as he interviewed three American seminarians studying in Rome. When one seminarian expressed his hope that next pope continues the “beautiful legacy of John Paul II and Benedict XVI,” Pelley replied incredulously, “But you mentioned two popes who have a reputation for being doctrinally conservative. And this is something you’d like to see carried on?”

Why must the Church change its message? If it changes its message to be popular, it no longer is a “rock” on which Christ built his Church. It’s more like a dinghy afloat on the ocean, going wherever the tidal forces take it.

Speaking of “dingy,” there is this interview excerpt:

MASON: There – there has been resistance to this, though. I mean, the Vatican, back in the spring, said the American nuns were pushing radical feminist themes. How did you react to that?

DEACON: Well, my understanding of feminism is – and I like this definition – feminism is the radical idea that women are people. (King and Mason laugh) And if he wants to be calling us radical feminist, with that in mind, I accept that definition. I accept that definition.

KING: And the latest poll shows that 69 percent of American Catholics think it’s a good idea for priests to be able to marry. Where do you stand on that?

DEACON: I – I think that’s a good idea as well. It’s – it’s a discipline that the Church has imposed historically over the last thousand years, and it doesn’t seem to be working anymore. And I would think-

If the celibate priesthood isn’t working, isn’t that a problem for the Church? I would think that these opinionated wissholes hated the Church so much, they’d be rejoicing over it’s eventual demise. Instead, they are dead set on remaking the Church in their own contemporary, liberal image.

If you want to design a faith, you just go for it. Go open the local church of Billy Joe Bob and grow it into a major religion. The Scientologists have done that, so can Mr. Pelley and his ilk. Quit screwing around with mine. We’ll pick our own Pope and follow our own doctrines, thank you very much.