It was a time when female infanticide was so rampant that men outnumbered women by 30%. However, we’re not talking about female infanticide in China today, (which unfortunately is much worse), but female infanticide in the First Century A.D. and throughout what was known as the Dark Ages.
Ironically, the satanic push for infanticide occurring in U.S.
and elsewhere in this century is quite literally bringing back the Dark Ages
and stripping women of the very rights that the Catholic Church – yes, the Catholic
Church – helped them attain.
This is just one of many inescapable conclusions that any
student of history cannot help but draw after reading Father William Slattery’s
amazing new book, “Heroism and Genius: How Catholic Priests Helped Build – And
Can Help Rebuild – Western Civilization.” From the title, readers can see that
Father covers all the foundations of Western Civilization from music, art, and
drama to free-market economics. But here we focus on the conflict that is
currently roiling the United States: infanticide and women’s rights and what we
can learn from world history.
Fr. Slattery tells us that in the First Century A.D., female infanticide “grew to such horrendous levels…that in Italy, Roman North Africa, and the eastern Mediterranean area, males outnumbered females by about 30 percent.”
In discussing this phenomenon on a recent episode of “EWTN Live,” Host Fr. Mitch Pacwa noted that unwanted female infants at that time were literally thrown onto a hill outside the walls of Rome where they would be eaten by wild dogs. Christians would comb through the trash at night to try to save as many babies as they could.
What most people don’t know is that it was the Catholic
Church that rammed through legislation in 325 AD making female infanticide in
Rome a criminal offense, possibly with the death penalty attached to it. But as
we all know, laws don’t necessarily change hearts and minds. Catholic priests
continued to fight this attitude from the First Century through the 12th
In fact, Father Slattery says that Catholic priests were quite
literally the only “light” throughout the Dark Ages as they began saving these
“foundlings” by allowing them to be left at churches and monasteries. To deal
with this crisis, they would also establish orphanages, schools, hospitals,
maternity-care centers, and other institutions. During this time, societies of
lay Catholics whose sole purpose was to care for these children also sprang up
to help in this lifesaving work.
Just as the Church stood for the rights of these unborn
female babies, it loudly asserted that women had an equal dignity to men, a
concept that was unheard of at that time. It asserted that men and women had
different genes, but that they were complimentary and necessary to each other.
Says Father Slattery: “The romantic culture created by the
Church in Medieval Times led to the abolition not only of infanticide, but the
abolition of abortion, a tremendous cause of the deaths of countless women, and
to the elimination of polygamy and to adultery as a female-only offense in
ancient Rome, [meaning that only females could be charged with the crime of
“Throughout the Middle Ages, the Church constantly held up
the rights of wife as equal to the husband. Women having right to vote, the
right to the property they came into their marriage with, the right to their
Father tells us that there are records of women being
lawyers, plasterers, doctors and even Crusaders, as well as rulers like Queen
Blanche of France, and military leaders like Joan of Arc. “Men obeyed Joan of
Arc because of a culture that respected women, and while it didn’t normally
expect to have a woman as a military officer, it was able to accept that some
women would be given an extraordinary mission from God which would put them in
What’s important about the history – and all of the history
outlined in Father Slattery’s extraordinary book — is the fact that it is so
relevant for us today.
“The first barbarians believed in marriage, believed men and women were different, believed in God, believed God should be worshiped,” Father said. “Even though they were primitive as regards their idea of justice – for them, vengeance was justice – nevertheless there were fundamental principles they held to be sacred. The new barbarians don’t hold to any of those principles. Therefore, we can say in all legitimacy, that we are entering a new Dark Ages.”
Those who don’t know history are condemned to repeat it.
The Romans throwing babies to the wolves sounds barbaric –
and it is. But is it any less barbaric than what is happening in many U.S.
hospitals today when a newborn, who has survived being poisoned in an abortion,
is left alone to die, with no food, no water, and no human companionship even
as its pitiful cries are ignored by those who jobs it is to save the baby? Is
it any more barbaric than discovering that these babies are often thrown in a
trash bin or their body parts are sold to the highest bidder?
Father Slattery’s must-read book, “Heroism and Genius,” is
the antidote to a second Dark Ages that, once again, threatens to consume us.
He’s a marriage and family therapist who started a ministry to heal couples and families. Little did Dr. Bob Schuchts, founder of the John Paul II Healing Center, know that he would one day have a need for exactly the kind of healing he preached – and for the support of the community that he himself created.
THE SCHUCHTS FAMILY: Dr. Bob Schuchts (back left) with his late wife Margie (front left); his two daughters, Carrie and Kristen; their husbands, and grandchildren.
This week, the author of “Be Healed: Encountering the Powerful Love of Jesus in Your Life,” (http://bit.ly/BeHealedDrBob), and “Be Transformed: The Healing Power of the Sacraments,” was interviewed on EWTN’s “At Home With Jim & Joy,” about his new book, “Real Suffering: Finding Hope and Healing in the Trials of Life,” http://bit.ly/RealSufferingBook. The book shares what he learned from the suffering and death of both his beloved wife Margie (short for Margaret Mary) and his father, who died within two weeks of each other in 2017.
His daughter, Kristen Blake, traveled to EWTN with her dad for his appearance on “At Home With Jim & Joy. (Watch Part 1: http://bit.ly/realsuffering1, and Part 2: http://bit.ly/RealSuffering2. Purchase at http://bit.ly/DrBobOnEWTNJJ.) When her mother became terminally ill, Kristen moved into her childhood home with her husband to help her dad care for the woman they both loved. She says her dad’s marriage and family therapy practice took a giant leap forward, along with his faith, when he founded the “John Paul II Healing Center,” where she serves as the Office Administrator, https://jpiihealingcenter.org.
One quote from a book by Father Jacques Philippe changed Dr. Bob’s view of his wife’s terminal illness: “It’s not so much suffering that hurts us, it’s the fear of suffering that hurts us.”
She says: “What [my dad] has taught for so long, he has now lived. The fruit of being able to say that the Lord was with us and inviting people into that, has been amazing. The prayers, Masses, phone calls, and support [from our community] has sustained us.”
Providentially, Dr. Bob had already agreed to do a series of videos on suffering when both his wife and dad came down with terminal illnesses. The videos he was working on featured testimonies from people suffering from an abortion, from the death of a spouse, and from cancer.
But as Dr. Bob was going through this valley of the shadow of death, he began to focus not only on the painful illness and death of his wife and his father, but on the impact it was having on his entire family, including his brothers, his sisters, his two daughters, their children and his eight grandchildren – all of whom belong to the same parish. After the videos were completed, Dr. Bob decided to write a book – the fruit of his lived experience and his prayer.
“As I prayed, I began to see Jesus as the model of how to suffer physically; Mary, Our Lady of Sorrows, as the model of how to suffer emotionally, Simon Peter for how to heal spiritually,” he said. “I focused not only on how to suffer, but how to find hope and healing in the midst of suffering.”
To prepare his commentary for the videos, Dr. Bob also read the Encyclical by St. John Paul II on human suffering as well as “Interior Freedom,” a book by Spiritual Master Father Jacques Philippe. One quote stuck with him: “It’s not so much suffering that hurts us, it’s the fear of suffering that hurts us.”
Before going home to her Lord, Mrs. Margie Schuchts enjoyed spending time with her newest grandson Will.
Says Dr. Bob: “Father Jacques Philippe explains that it is the fear of suffering that hardens us. Entering into the suffering softens our hearts, opens us, frees us. Every time I wanted to pull back and deny, I remembered his advice: ‘Don’t be afraid.’ Every time fear came, I said to myself, ‘Don’t harden. Don’t self-protect. Bring it to Jesus.’”
How does a person sustain hope in circumstances like this? Dr. Bob said he found his hope in God.
“Once in prayer, I felt the Holy Spirit saying: ‘Would you be willing to risk her [your wife’s] salvation for a little more life?’ I said, ‘No!’ He said, ‘So where is your hope? In having a longer life or in where she will be for eternity?’”
The Schuchts’ eight grandchildren. Although the youngest grandchildren, who were very close to their grandmother, they hung back as she got sicker. Daughter Kristen’s inspired act of love showed them they didn’t have to be afraid!
Unlike most people, Dr. Bob had spent years reflecting on different kinds of suffering, and in helping others do the same as part of a ministry that not only spans North America, but countries overseas. He says all of the prayers and support he and his family received “kept up a level of hope that God was doing something more beautiful than what we were experiencing here. It was a beautiful time, but a hard time.”
When he was younger, Dr. Bob also endured the death of his brother who had fallen away from his faith and his family and eventually contracted AIDS. “I had seen the incredible healing that happened in my family. Watching his conversion, his witness, took away a lot of the fear. He was so radiant with the Holy Spirit. It gave me a great sense of hope that God would be present and doing things for us. I thought no matter what bad is happening now, something good will come of it.”
God’s presence manifested itself in many practical ways. His wife had a brain disease that sometimes caused her to lose control of her limbs. At one point, Dr. Bob was the only one in the house with Margie when her arms began to flail. “Usually, I would pray and things would calm down.” But this time, they didn’t.
PROUD GRANDPARENTS: Dr. and Mrs. Schuchts at one of their granddaughters’ baptisms.
Dr. Bob saw the frantic look on his wife’s face and he says his prayers became equally frantic. “Jesus, please help, please help.” Immediately, he remembered that one of things his daughter often did was play music. His wife had a favorite worship song so he quickly put that on. She calmed down.
He says this is only one example that helped him see that “God is present and He meets us right here and right now.”
About a week before his wife died, she began to lose the ability to speak. Dr. Bob could see she was struggling to say something to him and he strained to hear it. The last thing she said to him was: “Thank you for your kindness towards me.”
IN THE END, THERE IS ONLY LOVE: Margie Schuchts (center) with daughters Carrie and Kristen. In a eulogy to her mother, daughter Carrie said: “In these last few months, I’ve experienced greater intimacy with my mom than I have in my entire lifetime.”
“To have those be the last words… I went after that and started to pray. There was a lot of sadness. I said, ‘God, how am I going to hear her needs if she can’t express them?’ I sensed Him saying, ‘You still have other forms of communication – touch, non-verbal communication.’”
He later spoke with his sister-in-law, a nurse, who told him the same thing: “The eyes – sometimes that is even more intimate.’ That became a real grace over the next two weeks. A gaze that fixed. The two of us looking at each other. God’s presence in the middle of that.”
Dr. Bob said his grandchildren, who were 3 and 5 at the time, had been very close to their grandmother, but they were scared to see the changes taking place. But instead of hiding them away, Dr. Bob said his daughter Kristen sat one of them on his wife’s lap and said, “’You don’t need to be scared of Dodo [a pet name]. Look in her eyes. It’s the same Dodo.’ They saw her kind, loving look. After that, my granddaughter wasn’t afraid. She needed the kids and the kids needed her.”
EWTN Religious Catalogue offers Dr. Bob’s “Real Suffering” and “Be Healed” books, as well as a DVD of his guest appearances on “At Home With Jim & Joy” at http://bit.ly/RealSufferingBook, http://bit.ly/BeHealedDrBob, and http://bit.ly/DrBobOnEWTNJJ. Dr. Bob’s other books, a study guide, journal, and parish streaming pack can be found at JPIIHealingCenter.org.
Dr. Bob also remembers resisting the idea of hospice putting his wife in a hospice bed, where he would be unable to lie with her and hold her hand at night. Instead, the family moved Margie onto their sectional sofa. She sat in the seat in which she liked to watch TV and the entire family gathered around her.
“We ended up spending the last two nights on the couch, watching and being with her as she was dying. It was hard, but beautiful.”
The final chapter of Dr. Bob excellent book includes eulogies from his two daughters, which demonstrate why it’s so very important for a family to walk with their loved one until the end – and not cut that important time short, as society often demands.
A PICTURE IS WORTH 1,000 WORDS: Dr. and Mrs. Bob Schuchts! Said Dr. Bob: “Every time I wanted to pull back and deny [my wife’s terminal illness], I remembered the advice of Father Jacques Philippe: ‘Don’t be afraid.’ Every time fear came, I said to myself, ‘Don’t harden. Don’t self-protect. Bring it to Jesus.’”
In her eulogy, daughter Carrie shared that her mom was typically the one who gave, insisting, for example, that she be the one to do the dishes. During her illness, she allowed the family to give back. Carrie says: “So that’s what we did. We loved her. And we loved every second of it. Don’t misunderstand me. It was hard! Hard to see her suffer. Hard to hear her mumbled and desperate sounds. Hard to feel her confusion. But it was also beautiful because, in my heart (and the hearts of many others), there were no longer barriers and pretenses or defenses. Just love between us.
“This type of love is different than a feeling; it’s a knowing. Like the knowing you have when you wake up six times in the middle of the night to feed your newborn baby. No one chooses to lose sleep, but you choose to nourish and cherish the vulnerable life that is before you. In these last few months, I’ve experienced greater intimacy with my mom than I have in my entire lifetime. I think we all have.”
The book ends with this reminder from Dr. Bob: “Our suffering will end. But if we keep our focus on Jesus, our faith, hope, and love won’t ever end. Neither will our lives have an ending. Death and suffering do not have the final word. They are merely birth pangs giving way to a life that is no longer fragile. We are all being born into a world where there will be no more tears, no more pain, no more suffering, and no more death. There will only be glorious, unblemished love shared between all of our loved ones, who are finally whole. We will be completely healed because we will be in the presence of the Source of all Love: the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We have nothing to fear in our temporary suffering because his perfect love casts out all fear.”
Lisa Wheeler, President and Founder of Carmel Communications which promotes faith-based films, came to EWTN to deliver two very personal messages:
First, foster care and adopting children out of foster care should be part of the Church’s pro-life agenda – and you don’t have to adopt or open your home to a foster child to be of immense service in this area. You’ll be surprised how easy it is to help!
Second, whether you are having a hard time adopting or you’ve never even considered adopting or fostering a child, please take the time to pray about it. “People don’t realize that, right now in our country, there are over 100,000 children who are legally free to be adopted. So many children are waiting for homes. People say it’s so hard to adopt. It’s really not if you know where to go. If you want to build your family, there are children who need homes and who are waiting.”
Lisa Wheeler, her husband Timothy, and their two adopted children at the Kennedy Space Center. The Wheelers are also fostering three brothers whom they hope to adopt!
Wheeler and her husband Timothy have fostered many children, as you will learn if you watch the two episodes of “At Home With Jim & Joy” on which she appeared. (Watch http://bit.ly/LisaWheeler1 and http://bit.ly/LisaWheeler2.) Of the five children the Wheelers have at home, two are adopted out of foster care. In addition, for the past three years, she and her husband have been fostering a group of three brothers, whom they are trying to adopt. This is a woman who knows of what she speaks! So let’s begin with this foster/adoptive mom’s own story.
Wheeler says the first four or five years of her 21-year marriage, she wasn’t worried about the fact that she hadn’t gotten pregnant because she and her husband were traveling and enjoying their personal time together. “It wasn’t until I was around 33 or 34 that I started saying, ‘We’re not doing Natural Family Planning or using any form of contraception [Wheeler is a devout Catholic so this wasn’t an option], and I’m not getting pregnant so something is wrong.”
So began the doctor’s visits in an effort to fix the problem. “That’s when I found out I had severe endometriosis — ovarian cysts – that were likely the reason I couldn’t have kids. I had surgery. Months went by, years went by, and I still wasn’t getting pregnant.”
Wheeler says it wasn’t until years 10 and 12 of her marriage that she started to get desperate. That’s when she began talking about adoption, but to her surprise her husband was adamantly opposed to it. She would later discover this was not because the children would not be theirs biologically. It was the idea of paying for a child that struck the wrong cord with him.
Lisa Wheeler is President of Carmel Communications, which promotes faith-based films, so her daughter Elizabeth, adopted out of foster care, sometimes has the opportunity to go to events where she can meet priests such as Bishop Robert Barron.
“So flash forward to around year 14. We were sitting in Church and there was an announcement from the pulpit about an information meeting about foster care and adoption at the local Department of Children and Family Services. I perked up because when I was in college, I had done some work advocating for children in foster care, but I had always been on the side of helping reunite families – so I wasn’t putting it together [that this could be a way to build our family.].”
Wheeler and her husband went to the meeting and he surprised her again by saying, “‘If this is the way we can build our family. I’m in.’ My husband has a servant’s heart. To him, it was not only that he could potentially be a dad, but he could be helping kids in difficult circumstances. We went through hours and hours of training with lots of intrusive questions and psychological evaluations. Our daughter came to us on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception in 2011. She had just turned 3.”
There’s a lot to be learned from her story – and Wheeler doesn’t shy away from the hard issues. She admits: “Not everyone is called to this. If you really feel you HAVE to have a biological child, your option, as a Catholic, is to utilize a method that is morally acceptable in order to get pregnant. If you still can’t [conceive], then you face a lifetime without a child.”
That wasn’t a choice for Wheeler, who was desperate to become a Mom. “I never questioned – for me – that I wouldn’t be able to love a child who wasn’t biologically mine. What I’ve learned is that God has given me the ability to love these children more than I ever thought possible. My heart has grown so big parenting them that I don’t know how it could be better than this. I experience all the same fears, anxieties, hopes, and dreams that I would have experienced had I been able to give birth naturally.”
But what happens if a foster child is reunited with his or her parent, and there is no path to adoption, which is a real risk and a common objection to foster parenting?
Lisa Wheeler’s son Malachi, adopted out of foster care, is baptized as his sister Elizabeth (in green), also adopted out of foster care, looks on!
“We’ve gone through this 15 times,” says Wheeler, in explaining how she has personally been able to do this. “But when you think of what the alternative is for this child… Isn’t sacrifice the essence of parenting? It’s at the very heart of cooperating with God in the creation and culture of life. And so how can we, in our selfishness, say this is too much for me to bear? When you think about that child, life is too much for them to bear without a parent, without a family unit. To me, that’s a much greater pain than the one I experience from their loss.”
Wheeler says the foster children who have passed through her home will always be a part of her family’s lives. She keeps in contact with the children, if the parents allow it, and she maintains a wall with photos of every child. In some cases, she is able to post a current photo of the child next to the one she took years ago, and she talks to the five children she has now about all the children who have passed through their home.
What Wheeler doesn’t discuss, until pressed, is the faith that underlies both her words and her actions.
”I had a priest very early on introduce me to the devotion of Mary, Undoer of Knots. This was way before Pope Francis made it popular. I really feel like, under that title, Mary has a special devotion to children who are in desperate situations. I have sensed her working miracles through that devotion. She is invoked daily. Each of my children have an image of her in their rooms – a small painting, as well as crucifixes and rosaries – we are very sacramental in our home. My own personal spirituality is around the Carmelite communion of saints. We have images of the Blessed Mother everywhere. You can’t get around my house without running into her somewhere!”
She’s also clear about how important a faith-filled perspective is to her success.
“When my mother was dying, I said, ‘I don’t understand how people can go through this type of suffering and not believe in God.’ I feel the same way about foster care. I know there are people who do it who aren’t religious. But quite frankly, I’m flabbergasted at how they are able to manage the stress and to deliver the right portions of virtues that I think are necessary for raising kids to pivot towards Goodness. Virtue is based on understanding what a perfect Good is; we believe that to be God. If you don’t have a Godly worldview, how do you teach a child to pivot towards the Good?”
Lisa Wheeler, who is a passionate advocate of adopting children out of foster care, says her faith is the key to her success and she has passed that on to her children. Here, her daughter Elizabeth kisses a statue of St. Philomena. But the Blessed Mother, under the title of Our Lady, Undoer of Knots, is Lisa’s favorite saint. “We have images of the Blessed Mother everywhere. You can’t get around my house without running into her somewhere!”
But what if you have prayed about it and you don’t believe you are called to parent a foster child? Can you still help? Absolutely, says Wheeler!
“I think priests [and laity], especially those who are not only in a pro-life ministry but in religious education and faith formation, need to be aware that in their pews are likely foster families who have welcomed children into their home and who are parenting them in sometimes really difficult circumstances. It would be a great extension of the pro-life work of the Church to have the ministry include support for foster families.” So what does she recommend parishes do on a practical basis? Here are a few suggestions:
Set up a closet in the church or the church hall with the basic supplies a foster family needs in a crisis. When Wheeler got the call about the girl who would eventually become her daughter, it was 3 p.m. and she was told she had to be ready to accept the child in two hours. She had no diapers, no sippy cups, no clothes, nothing. “If parishes can accommodate just a small closet that parishioners could restock time and time again, that would be a huge help!”
Provide a meal. Foster children often stay in a home for only a weekend or a few weeks. These transitions are hard on the family. “Meal help is such an easy thing to do and it’s a real benefit to families fostering children.”
Babysit – or provide some other type of respite care.
Help drive children to practices or games. Wheeler says four of her five children are involved in sports and they all have to be in different places.
Help with homework, or tutor a child in a particular subject.
Wheeler says getting involved in foster parenting and adoption is actually a very Biblical thing to do.
“We are the adopted sons and daughters of the Father,” she says. “Over and over again, God is giving us a command through Scripture as to how we are to live as His sons and daughters, and adoption is a very consistent theme in the Word. Men in particular are called to be a father to the fatherless. I think people of faith should be very intentional about praying about how God wants to use them as foster parents, which is the modern orphan crisis of our time.”
Want to learn more? Click on the links above and go to https://nfpaonline.org (National Foster Parent Association) and www.adoptuskids.org to find children waiting for your love.
Father Donald Haggerty is a priest-in-residence at New York’s St. Patrick’s Cathedral, but he travels the world giving retreats to Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity (MOC), who are close to his heart. That’s because he spent his first year studying to be a priest for the MOCs, before deciding to become a diocesan priest.
Father Donald Haggerty (left) on the set of “EWTN Live” with Host Father Mitch Pacwa.
Despite assignments in Ethiopia, and St. Agnes Parish in New York, as well as teaching moral theology at a seminary in New York, Father Haggerty has always found time to write. Recently, he visited EWTN to talk about his newest book, “Conversion: Spiritual Insights Into An Essential Encounter with God.”
But because he is a retreat master for the MOC, “Inside EWTN” was interested in Father Haggerty’s recommendations for a good Lent. As you will see below, this priest does not disappoint!
One of Father’s best stories is about a French doctor who lost his faith as a youth, recovered it in his 40s, and became a Trappist monk! Later in life, the former doctor found himself a bit disappointed by the Trappist life. He said he had expected a seriously contemplative monastery, but found that, while his fellow monks lived an ascetical (penitential) life, they were not deeply prayerful.
“Twenty years later, he was elected Abbot,” Father Haggerty said. “He said to the monks, ‘I’m telling you, under obedience, that when you are in the monastery fields working, each of you is to stop one minute seven times a day and offer your life completely to God – with a serious act of love for God. You will do it on your own; no bell will ring. After one year, he had a monastery full of very contemplative, very prayerful monks!”
Which brings Father to one of “Inside EWTN’s” favorite recommendations:
Father Donald Haggerty
Value the small minutes.
Think of all the time we “waste” every day – time when we are waiting — in line at the grocery store, at an ATM, at the gas pump; time when we are waiting for others to join us for a meeting or a meal. How often do we take out our phones during those wasted moments and scroll through them looking for diversion?
But Father says: “Value the 5 minutes, the three minutes, you have. Give your FULL mind to God in an act of love. One minute — that’s a long time if you’re truly turning to God. God blesses you for that.”
Father said the MOC’s Rule requires the sisters to go into the chapel for at least a minute many times a day, including every time they return to their house to greet their Lord, and when they wake up after rest time.
Make a Point to Enter a Church Every Day.
It’s wonderful to spend an hour with Our Lord in Church, but if you don’t have an hour, don’t let that stop you from making a short visit with Jesus to show Him you love Him.
“Place yourself before the Sacred Mystery of the Blessed Sacrament. Even a few minutes will have an effect on you. During Lent, we often think about penitential acts, but turning to Our Lord and Mary in a positive way is the best beginning. Go to Mass, not as a penitential act, but as a beginning of a spiritual life. That’s Number One!P
Practice Mental Austerity!
“We have to be careful that our thoughts are not dominating us,” Father Haggerty explains. “Are they judgmental, negative, or critical or full of memories that are useless at this point? Make an act of self-denial – not that you deny the thought, but you make a positive act to turn to another thought. It could be a prayer – a Hail Mary. Try to turn to a healthy thought.”
Father says we must become conscious of all the “indulgent” activities we do with our minds using various forms of entertainment, including computers, television, and reading. Says Father: “Make an effort to take your mind back to more focused living.”
Pray a Rosary or Chaplet of Divine Mercy Every Day with a Specific Intention.
“A nice intention in Lent is to pray that Catholics come back to the Sacraments, especially confession; and to pray for those who have not been practicing their Faith or who have lost their faith.”
Father Donald Haggerty
Substitute Scriptural Reading for Secular Media.
Father notes that when we go on retreat, we usually don’t keep up with the news, where we are often assaulted by negativity. He suggests reading a chapter of the Gospel, other than the Mass readings, or the Psalms every day. “Certainly, during Lent, read through the Passion Gospels, which are beautiful and full of more detail than the rest of the Gospels.”
While in the Seminary, Father said he said seminarians were told they should try to read Chapters 14-17 of John – the Last Supper discourse — every day.
Have Some Hands-On Contact with the Poor.
Who are the poor? Where do we find them?
Father Haggerty says: “It could be a relative, or an elderly person in a nursing home. There are so many lonely people in nursing homes. It could be a soup kitchen. It could be somebody you pass frequently on your way to work or on the way home. Make contact with that person. Have some words on a daily basis; make a donation. Let’s do something to engage our HEARTS with the poor. I think that affects our life with God. Once you take a liking to the poor, you cross a threshold, and you want more of that.”
Spend Time Before a Crucifix or a Photo of the Shroud of Turin and Surrender to God.
Father Haggerty says holiness is all about surrendering ourselves to Jesus. He suggests that we frequently say the Surrender Prayer given to us by Fr. Dolindo Ruotolo, an Italian priest, now a Servant of God, who had great interior sufferings and about whom St. Pio spoke glowingly. The prayer is simple yet profound: “Jesus, I surrender myself to you. Take care of everything.”
What a relief!
Want more? Click on the links above to hear Father Haggerty’s interview and homilies or to purchase his books, which are available from EWTN Religious Catalogue.
Lent begins Wednesday, March 6, 2019 – so we, as Catholics, have less than two weeks to decide upon the penitential gift we want to give our Lord this Easter. To give you ideas and, we hope, some inspiration, “Inside EWTN” asked employees, hosts and friars to share what they believe was their best Lenten penance ever – and to explain why they feel it made a difference in their lives.
Please let us know if any of these ideas inspire you. We would also love it if you would share the Lenten penance that made the biggest difference in your own life!
Marie White, Accounting: “My best Lenten penance was becoming a Committed Adorer at my local parish. Our Adoration Chapel is open 24/7, and I used to think I was too busy with extracurricular activities to make this commitment work. Now, after almost a year of belonging to His faithful army of Adorers, I realize that I have grown much closer to Christ and that I was missing out on spending more time with Him!”
Catherine Hadro, Host of EWTN Pro-Life Weekly: “One year, I gave up secular music while driving. I either listened to Christian music or drove in silence; it gave me more opportunities for prayer! Last year, I decided to write one handwritten letter a day to a family member or friend during Lent; it enabled me to tell my loved ones how much I cherish them!
Ximena Izquierdo de Rivas, Media Missionary Manager for Latin America and Spain: “For me, the best penance that started with Lent was to quit drinking Coke! My mom is addicted to Coca-Cola , so I decided to offer this penance to ask for her healing [from a disease for which sugar is a problem] and to stand in solidarity with her. But after Easter, thanks be to God, I was able to continue that penance for the whole year! Now, I don’t drink Coke except on super special occasions!”
Debbie P., EWTN News, Inc. Advertising: “This year I plan to get a large trash bag and, every day, take something I no longer use, or have too many of, and put it into the bag so at the end of the 40 days, I can give it to someone else so they can benefit from the item(s). I’m very blessed and would like to help others. It would help declutter my life and help me focus more on God’s message of being more Christ-like in giving and sharing.”
Fr. Matthew Mary, MFVA, Director of Pilgrimage: “The best penance I ever did was giving up all social media. It is very challenging, and yet very rewarding. We tend to become too dependent upon social media [so much so] that it begins to affect our spiritual life. This can be a good opportunity to detach from the need for continual input and to focus on developing our relationship with God by sitting quietly in the presence of the Lord in Eucharistic Adoration.”
Kevin J. Jones, Catholic News Agency / EWTN News: “Every Lent I commit to saying the Office of the Readings and one hour [Matins, Vespers, etc.] of the Liturgy of the Hours. It is a beautiful way to bring prayer and Scripture into Lent, while making sure I better sacrifice my time for God.”
Tom Graye, Radio: “The best Lenten penance that I ever did was to quit smoking! I did it ‘cold-turkey’ after asking the Holy Spirit to help me. It certainly helped me grow closer to Jesus, not to mention the health advantages. I haven’t had a cigarette for 15 years!!!”
Anonymous EWTN Employee: “My best Lenten practice was the Lent that I decided to go to Daily Mass at 6:30 a.m. Yes, it meant that I had to get us SO much earlier! Yes, it meant that I did not get to hear the morning news programs. But, what life-changing joy! So many mornings, I heard readings that I did not recall ever hearing before and each reading seemed to be selected just for me and the issue that was troubling me! I found that my stressful workdays seemed to go by more smoothly and when [things go wrong] I can bear the stress much better. Why didn’t someone tell me how wonderful it was to go to Daily Mass?
“I wonder what this next Lent will bring?”
Note: Looking for some great Lenten reading? Click here: https://bit.ly/2IAlovv. “Inside EWTN’s” personal favorite: “In Conversation With God – Vol 2: Lent & Easter: Daily Meditations by Francis Fernandez.” Check it out at https://bit.ly/2tD7sGu,
The first thing to know about human trafficking is that its victims don’t fit any one stereotype; in other words, they aren’t always poor women and men from a foreign country or children with a difficult home life – although they could be. The second thing to know is that we can all do more about this terrible crime against humanity than we might think.
Elizabeth Donovan, Director of Legal Clinics and Associate Professor of Law at Ave Maria School of Law in Naples, Fla., says all of us can do more to combat the crime of Human Trafficking than we think.
These are the observations of Elizabeth Donovan, Director of Legal Clinics and an Associate Clinical Professor of Law at Ave Maria School of Law, who was a guest on the Jan. 17 episode of “EWTN Live” (http://bit.ly/EWTNLIVEHumanTraffickingShow). Donovan, who conducts training sessions and speaks to individuals and groups about how to recognize and combat human trafficking, says she did not begin her legal career intending to become an expert on the subject. In fact, her first job was in the employment and labor group of a large law firm in Detroit.
While there, she began to interact with immigrants as part of her pro bono work. Later, she was hired by the newly formed Ave Maria School of Law in Ann Arbor, Michigan as their first Director of Career Services and Externship Programs. Today, her focus is on teaching a Human Trafficking Law Clinic, where students represent undocumented survivors of sex & labor trafficking and other forms of violence, cooperate with government and non-government organizations, and engage in community outreach and training.
How Do You Spot A Victim?
Elizabeth Donovan (third from left) stands outside a government building with students from Ave Maria School of Law. Donovan not only teaches students legal theory but, as the Director of Legal Clinics, she gives students an opportunity to work with real clients, who might not have the resources to hire an attorney.
As Donovan’s work with human trafficking survivors expanded, she began to see that not only did they not fit any one profile, they can be found in all walks of life. For privacy reasons, Donovan can’t discuss her own clients, but she mentions a well-publicized case involving Theresa Flores, a high school student from a religious family living in an affluent suburb, who became a victim of sex trafficking.
Incredibly, it was a boy from Theresa’s own high school who trafficked her. One day, this boy offered to drive Theresa home from school. Instead, they stopped by his house where she was drugged and raped. The rape was photographed. These photographs were used to blackmail her, and the traffickers threatened to kill her family. Teresa was so ashamed and frightened that she told no one for two years. Fortunately, police rescued her from a motel one night and her family discovered what was happening – or who knows where she would be?
“Sometimes it’s about shame,” Donovan said. The trafficker says: “If you don’t want me to reveal these photos, this video, you will do what I say or else. Other times, a young person or a child is coerced by the relationship itself.”
Runaways are frequent targets of psychological coercion. These children are the ones we most often picture as victims. Donovan outlines a typical scenario: A man approaches a girl standing by herself in a bus station. He may say something like: “You’re so beautiful. Are you new in town? I’m on my way to lunch. Can I buy you lunch?”
After lunch, the girl thinks, “This guy really seems to like me. He’s giving me so much attention.” The man asks the young girl if she has a place to stay. If not, he says, she can stay on his couch. She does. He’s “happy to help.”
Ave Maria School of Law students stand outside the building housing the Law School’s clinical programs, which give students hands-on experience. As Director of Legal Clinics, Elizabeth Donovan (not pictured) teaches both a Human Trafficking Clinic and a Mediation Clinic.
Donovan says perhaps they “fall in love” or, at least, the young girl believes she is in love. One day, the man says: “We’re a little tight on cash. If you could just have sex with my friend that might help us out.” The girl may protest, but the man she loves says: “You know, I’ve spent a lot of money on you. It’s just this one time. If you really love me, you will do this.” She does. And then, she is asked to repeat the act again and again. At a certain point, she may say, “Enough!” But at that point, the man may start physically abusing her and threatening her or her family.
“This may involve drugs,” Donovan said. “Perhaps by then she is dependent or addicted to drugs or alcohol. No one has locked her in a room or tied her up. This [kind of psychological abuse] is incredibly powerful with children.”
In fact, it’s so powerful, Donovan says victims often don’t even recognize themselves as such. When confronted about the man’s behavior, they’ll say, “Well, he made a mistake, but he loves me.”
Imagine the impact this story would have if shared with students at a high school assembly.
Donovan says she has seen statistics that put the number of women, men, and children who are victims of human trafficking somewhere between 20 million and 40 million worldwide. She emphasizes the need for better data on labor trafficking, sex trafficking, on all the many forms of trafficking. She shakes her head. “I always say: Let’s take the 20 million. Let’s half it to 10 million; let’s quarter it, or even eighth it. If there is even one person who’s being enslaved either for labor or sex trafficking, that’s enough!”
Poverty, a lack of access to education, and scarce or non-existent employment opportunities are frequently contributing factors, says Donovan, but not always, as the case of Theresa Flores demonstrates.
What You Can Do
An example of the type of outreach anyone can do to help educate a community about the horrors of human trafficking — and what they can do to help!
Although the issue of human trafficking has received increased attention in recent years, in part thanks to Pope Francis’ statements on the subject, the Catholic Church has been focused on this problem for years. Two examples: Members of Talitha Kum, an organization sponsored by the women’s and men’s international unions of superiors general, and consisting of 2,000 consecrated women and men and laity in 77 countries (17 in the U.S.), literally open their doors to victims, https://www.talithakum.info/. Closer to home, Fr. Jeff Bayi of St. John’s Catholic Church in Baton Rouge, LA, founded metanoia-inc.org to help victims in his state. These types of organizations need our support.
In the U.S., President Donald Trump signed legislation last year known as FOSTA SESTA (Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act and Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act), http://bit.ly/TrumpHumanTrafficking, and the U.S. government is making diplomatic efforts to work with other countries on this issue. The U.S. government also has an eye-opening “look beneath the surface” campaign, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l76cqmHI_k0, in which victims explain the different types of trafficking. But there is more all of us can do.
A friend told Donovan that, at one time, her family stopped at a hotel for the night while en route to a vacation destination. Said the friend: “I saw a man off to the side of the reception desk with a very young girl, who was dressed inappropriately. They weren’t talking. She seemed frightened. Was that trafficking?’”
As part of “Human Trafficking Awareness Days” at Ave Maria School of Law, students in the Human Trafficking Legal Clinic created the bracelets and prayer cards above. The Law School community was asked to pray and to wear these bracelets to show solidarity with victims and to increase education and awareness of this egregious human rights violation.
While Donovan can’t know for sure, she says this: “When I talk to groups, I say: ‘If you saw someone running down the street with a bag of cash, you would think something was wrong. What you wouldn’t do is say, ‘That’s really odd, but I’m sure there’s a perfectly reasonable explanation so there’s no need to call the police!’ Report it. Then, your job is done.
“Someone may say, ‘I’m just an average person, not law enforcement,’” she continues. “But all you need to do is place a call to local law enforcement or 911 or a national hotline. Law enforcement wants you to call them. You don’t need to do more.” [Note: To access the National Human Trafficking Hotline, call 1-888-373-7888 or text something as simple as “Help!” to 233733. For more information, go to https://humantraffickinghotline.org.]
Think about it. If the police start getting calls about strange occurrences at a particular hotel, it raises a red flag. An officer could stop by and have a conversation. You will never know the good that call could do.
“Looking beneath the surface” might also mean that you walk by the kitchen door in a restaurant and you see a bunch of sleeping bags on the floor. There could be a reasonable explanation – but it can’t hurt to report it. As Father Mitch Pacwa noted in his “EWTN Live” show with Donovan, it’s important to look for the anomalies. “What’s wrong with this picture?”
In recent years, Donovan said those trying to combat human trafficking now offer training to groups who may encounter victims of labor trafficking and sex trafficking, such as health care professionals, teachers and counselors in school systems, law enforcement, the airlines, and the community groups. Flights attendants and doctors have all told Donovan that they began to look at things differently after being trained.
In addition to helping people “look beneath the surface,” those working to combat human trafficking are increasingly focusing not only on the traffickers who sell women, men, and children for sex, but on those who purchase their “services.” If there were no market, there would be no sex trafficking.
As Donovan says: “All of us need to ask ourselves how we would react if a neighbor said to us: ‘My son just turned 21 and all of his buddies took him to a strip club.’ Do you want to normalize that? Why is it we live in a culture that allows people to be bought and sold, used and discarded. Culture isn’t something that just happens to us!”
Ave Maria Associate Clinical Professor of Law Elizabeth Donovan helps students distribute books to children of adult family members who attended “A Day Without Slavery” in Florida’s Immokalee Community Park.
There is actually a lot the average person can do. Donovan rattles off a few ideas: pray not only for victims and survivors, but for the traffickers and the purchasers; mentor at risk youth and young adults; provide translation services at a battered women’s shelter; commit to sharing the information you’ve just been given with three to 25 people; set up a table about trafficking awareness at large public events, such as a marathon, an art fair, or a Christmas market; pay attention to who is making items and who is harvesting produce; purchase fair trade goods; support a charity that works to combat human trafficking; and talk to others about a commercial, television show or movie where people are treated like objects because that creates the culture that makes human trafficking possible.
It’s also important to find out about pending legislation and to advocate for changes in laws and for enforcement of current laws by writing to your representatives. For example, Donovan says “a woman might have a criminal conviction for prostitution, which will burden her as she tries to move forward. Laws that allow those records to be expunged are consistent with the idea of treating the women as victims and not perpetrators.”
Bottom Line? “This is a global problem, but it’s very important to remember that every case begins in a community and every case ends in a community. That’s important because it reminds us that we can make a difference.”
As a wife, mother, and a law school professor, Donovan has a busy life, but she makes time to speak with others about human trafficking. When asked why she does this, Donovan simply says: “Because I know.” She shrugs. “Sometimes, I wish I didn’t. But I do. I know.”
Gabriel Gillen wasn’t sure what he was going to do with his life after graduating from college, but during his family’s Thanksgiving reunion he was quite vocal about the poor choice he believed his older sister was making.
She was a member of the 82nd Airborne, an elite division of the U.S. Army. Gillen was struggling to understand how she could turn down a promotion to Captain and an opportunity to teach at West Point to get a Masters in Theology at Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio.
“I thought she had gone Bible Belt crazy,” said Gillen, who would one day become a Dominican priest. “I started riling her. ‘So what are you going to do with that degree? Couldn’t you get that part time and still teach at West Point? Take classes somewhere else? It would be a greater witness to teach at West Point. You’re throwing your life away!’”
But nothing he said dissuaded his sister, who had rediscovered her faith and who told him she knew this was what she was supposed to do. Unfortunately, his sister never got her degree. She died of leukemia at Memorial Sloan Kettering, the famous cancer hospital in New York.
When his sister left this earth, Gillen left the Church. He started to question everything. He needed to understand the problem of pain. He looked at philosophy, and eastern mysticism. He look anywhere and everywhere, except his own faith tradition because he thought he knew what the Church taught. But even beyond the grave, Gillen’s sister wasn’t finished reaching out to her little brother.
“She had written a letter to a friend of mind that got him through Ranger school,” Gillen said. “He ended up going to Steubenville. He got engaged, broke it off,
and became a priest. Long story short, he got me out to Steubenville, brought me back to confession and daily Mass. I ended up joining a missionary order and then the Dominicans.
“My first assignment as a Dominican was Sloan Kettering! I almost said, ‘I can’t do this.’ Then, I realized I was able to relate with people, to share [what had happened in my own life]. People are angry. They direct it toward you. I was able to not be afraid of that; to talk them through that. I got it.”
Dominican Father Gabriel Gillen, O.P., who is now director of the Rosary Shrine of St. Jude in Washington, D.C. and who recently visited EWTN to talk about the Angelic Warfare Confraternity (see last weeks’ blog), said that, while he was at Sloan Kettering, he sometimes found himself ministering to people in the same room in which his sister had died.
“At one point, a lady was yelling at me because her daughter was dying. I was walking out of the room, and I really felt like I heard, ‘Get back in there!’”
When he returned, the woman who had booted him out was shocked.
“I said, ‘God hates suffering. This is why God took on suffering – to destroy death.’”
As they spoke, Father said she finally understood why Christ – and therefore His people – had to suffer. As Father says: “Once we understand why Christ had to suffer, everything else makes sense.”
To help us understand this spiritual reality, Fr. Gillen loves to use analogies from the natural world. He came upon one of his best analogies after being asked to give a talk on suffering to a group of children at a Wyoming Indian reservation who had been through a lot of trauma. After spending much time before the Blessed Sacrament, he still didn’t know what he was going to say. But, as he was leaving the church, his eye fell upon a statue of Our Lady of Grace, especially her foot under which she crushes the head of the serpent.
Our Lady of Grace Framed Artwork, available from EWTN Religious Catalogue, http://bit.ly/OurLadyofGraceArtwork.
He remembered a story he had heard about snakes. Until 1895, if someone was bitten by a snake, they died. But Albert Calmette, a French scientist and protégé of Louis Pasteur, discovered that if you milk venom from snakes and give it to sheep – to a lamb – you get an immune response and the blood of the lamb becomes an anti-venom.
Says Fr. Gillen: “No matter how big or how small, when we give the venom we’ve been stung with to the Lamb of God, He turns it into something else in the Body of Christ.”
As Father says, “You can’t make this stuff up! Suffering was useless until Christ came. Nothing was redemptive. Now it’s different. Even a deadly doses of venom can be cured with the Resurrection. Everything has been recreated.”
Father says many in the Early Church couldn’t understand how someone could be both fully human and fully divine. The Jews couldn’t accept the Messiah because they believed he was supposed to reign like David and be greater than David. They couldn’t understand that He was coming twice: first as the Suffering Servant and then in Glory.
The early Church used the term “Christ the Victor,” who was purposely taken into the prison of death, Father said. Early icons showed him kicking down the door and releasing Adam and Eve from their cell.
“Christ allowed Himself to be imprisoned so He could break open the doors. That’s how the Early Church used to describe suffering. Later, St. Basil described suffering as justice. Man had sinned and had to pay the price. It’s helpful to go back to the Church fathers.
“We get scandalized because we’re always wanting to be the Messiah and not the Suffering Servant. As sons and daughter of God, we want to be princes and princesses and to enter into His reign. We don’t realize we have to be Suffering Servants because He wants us to rescue the rest of the body that is still sick!”
So how do we heal from the evils that are perpetrated upon us? We look to the Master. St. Peter denied Christ three times. After the resurrection, Christ appeared to the apostles. Three times he had Peter go back and revisit the evil of his denial. Three times, Peter affirmed his love, thereby undoing the denials and redeeming the situation.
“God sometimes has us revisit things to transform them so they won’t haunt us,” Father Gillen said. “I didn’t want to go near Sloan Kettering. We get caught up in the storms. But with Christ, we can walk on water. He says, ‘I want you to be totally free.’”
Today, secular psychologists sometimes help patients heal by reframing traumas from the past, but Father says God goes much deeper. He goes back and fills those things in us that need to be filled. In fact, many Popes have spoken about “returning to the School of Nazareth.”
“The only holy family was the Holy Family,” Fr. Gillen said. “Every family has different developmental stages. All have been given certain things or not given certain things. At your current age, you might have forgiven everybody, but you need to go back to those different ages. The nine-year-old [you], the 15-year-old [you], has to be filled with the things you weren’t filled with. God really goes back, out of time. You can go back to different stages with Mary as mother, Joseph as father, and Jesus. You can go back and nurture [your earlier self] and remove things.”
Father says we can pray the rosary and place ourselves at the different stages of Christ’s life.
“Feel the great love the Blessed Mother had, not just for Jesus, but for all the people who will be baptized into Christ. We need to place ourselves into the Body of Christ and let Jesus and Mary and Joseph fill us. That’s spiritual passages.”
So let us go to the School of Nazareth, as Father suggests, and let God in. Let us ask Him for healing. Meditate on His Word and His life. Ask Our Lady, our Mother, through the mysteries of the rosary and other Biblical scenes to help. Turn to St. Joseph, foster father of the Savior and a carpenter, to help craft something beautiful out of something that may be very ugly. If we do this, then we will be able to resonate with Father Gillen’s final words:
“Evil is a lack of goodness; it has no substance. Lucifer imploded on himself. He was an angel, but instead of going outward in love, he became a black hole. God doesn’t create the void [which is how those who have experienced a tragedy sometimes feel]. He fills it. He allowed himself to be swallowed by death for three days; He went into a spiritual darkness that God did not create.
“You cannot fill a black hole on an actual level. How do you fill it on a supernatural level? Only God can do it. [God] allowed His uncreated light to be swallowed into that black hole to fill it and that’s how he destroyed it, so the game is never over. There is nothing in life we could be hit with that could destroy us.”
Amen Father Gillen!
Want to learn more? Fr. Gillen recommends: “Behold the Pierced One,” http://bit.ly/PiercedOne by Cardinal Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI) and Part 1 of “My Way of Life,” which he calls “a devotional way of going through the ‘Summa,’” by Fathers Farrell and Healy, http://bit.ly/MyWayofLife. Father likes the section about the angels. You can also watch a homily Father Gillen delivered while at EWTN this past November at http://bit.ly/FrGillenHomily.
He is a well-known saint, a doctor of the Church and one of the greatest intellects of his day, but did you know that St. Thomas Aquinas was once subjected to a great temptation against chastity?
Dominican Father Gabriel Gillen, O.P., director of the Rosary Shrine of St. Jude in Washington, D.C. who visited EWTN recently to talk about the Angelic Warfare Confraternity (more on that in a moment), tells the story. Aquinas was born into a wealthy family who did not want him to become a Dominican because, at the time, the Dominicans were a new community with no social standing. Instead, they wanted him to become a Benedictine.
Father Gabriel Gillen, O.P., director of the Rosary Shrine of St. Jude in Washington, D.C., recently visited EWTN in Irondale, Ala. to discuss the Dominican Order’s Angelic Warfare Confraternity.
When young Thomas refused to join any order but the Dominicans, Aquinas’ own family put him under house arrest! Unfortunately for them, their son could have cared less. For at least a year, he used his solitude as a time for study. In frustration, the family resorted to a desperate measure.
“His brothers brought in a prostitute!” Fr. Gillen said. “As soon as she came into the cell [where Thomas was housed], they locked the door! Thomas grabbed a brand from the fire and chased her out of the room [We assume she had the key!]. Thomas closed the door behind her, put a sign of the cross on the door with the firebrand, and prayed God would preserve him in his vocation, his chastity and his purity.”
Aquinas’ diary would reveal that the saint later had a dream in which two angels wrapped a cord around his waist saying, “On God’s behalf, we gird you with the girdle of chastity, a girdle which no attack will ever destroy.”
Said Fr. Gillen: “A lot of people who have touched a cloth to his cord have overcome whatever chastity problems they were having.”
The cord that Aquinas wore around his waist is now housed at the Dominican Church in Chieri, Italy, which is just outside of Turin.
Of course, sins against chastity aren’t only about fornication. Are you, or someone you know, struggling with an addiction to pornography, with lustful thoughts, or other sexual impurities? Are you a married or single person who struggles to be faithful to your state in life?
Fr. Gabriel Gillen, O.P. delivers a homily while at EWTN in November 2018. Watch at http://bit.ly/FrGillenHomily
“You have to own the gift of yourself [in other words, your thoughts and your own body] to do the exchange of vows [in a marriage ceremony],” Father Gillen says.
If you’re struggling, don’t despair. Help is available! The Dominican order offers anyone who is interested the opportunity to enroll in the Angelic Warfare Confraternity (AWC), which owes its existence to St. Thomas’ victory! Although Aquinas lived in the 13th Century, it wasn’t until the 17th Century that another Dominican friar, Fr. Francis Duerwerders, established the confraternity at the Catholic University in Louvain, Belgium.
The AWC is described on its website as “a supernatural fellowship of men and women bound to one another in love and dedicated to pursing and promoting chastity together under the powerful patronage of St. Thomas Aquinas and the Blessed Virgin Mary.”
Among other things, the Confraternity formalized the praying of 15 Hail Mary’s daily for persevering in one’s own state of life, as well as for others struggling with the same problem. Pope Benedict XII officially founded the Angelic Warfare Confraternity for the entire Church in 1727.
“I lifeguarded and rescued people out of the ocean throughout high school and college,” Fr. Gillen says. “You can be a great swimmer, but if the waves are really rough, you need help. That’s kind of what a confraternity does. Father Benedict Groeschel used to say: “The saints know they are sinners. The sinners think they are not.’ The Angelic Warfare Confraternity helps you with the spiritual warfare which is always going on. A lot of saints enrolled in it before pornography ever existed. Jesus set some high demands: ‘Whoever looks lustfully at a woman commits adultery.’ It’s about excellence!”
It is encouraging to note that the Dominicans who run this association do not focus on avoiding the seven deadly sins. “As Dominicans, we don’t deny there are weeds in the garden of a soul, but we concentrate on what can grow, on the lively virtues!”
Of course, Father Gillen says the AWC is not a magic wand!
“A gardener can’t make it rain; they just prepare the soil. This is a way to prepare the soul for the rain, the grace. We have to put in the work.”
While the AWC has no regular meetings, there is an enrollment ceremony, as well as other informal gatherings. Find out everything you need to know about enrollment in the AWC at https://www.angelicwarfareconfraternity.org/. While enrollees are asked to say 15 Hail Mary’s a day, Fr. Gillen assures those who enroll that they won’t be penalized if they don’t. “Only good things can come from [enrollment],” he said.
Today, Father Gillen says the AWC boasts 10,000 members. In addition to Aquinas, other saints and blesseds who have enrolled in the Confraternity include St. Aloysius Gonzaga, Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati, Blessed Columba Rieti and Blessed Stephana Quinzan, who promoted the AWC among women.
Fr. Gabriel Gillen, O.P., who was recently at EWTN discussing the Angelic Warfare Confraternity, is no stranger to EWTN. He previously discussed Fatima in a 2017 episode of “At Home With Jim & Joy.” Find it at http://bit.ly/FrGillenJimJoy.
“Jesus is always telling us to store up virtue in heaven,” Fr. Gillen said. “Any acts of virtue are like a fruit in the garden of our souls. Weeds – we will always have them! Give them to the Lord. He takes and removes them. It’s a constant process of growth. That’s what a confraternity does. It helps you bear fruit in the garden of your soul. Get enrolled in this confraternity!”
Note: Don’t miss Fr. Gillen in a soon-to-be-posted episode of “Life on the Rock,” which you will find on EWTN’s YouTube channel, www.youtube.com/ewtn in the coming weeks.
It was 1939 and the world was going to war. However, at the Vatican, a bevy of men were working feverishly underneath St. Peter’s Basilica to fulfill Pope Pius XI’s request to be buried in that mostly forgotten and unused space. Because the space was only six feet high and Pius’ successor, Pope Pius XII, wanted to add a small chapel to the gravesite, workers were forced to dig deep.
Suddenly, the ground gave way and one of the workers fell 30 feet – and into a wonderland!
“Very quickly he found himself in an amazing and until-then unknown world, with bright mural paintings of flowers (particularly roses), birds, vases full of vividly colored fruit, idyllic landscapes, cupids, and pretty winged beings. … Digging further, the workmen discover the remains of the daughter of a Roman consul, wrapped in purple garb with a golden brooch. Then they encountered the most amazing find of all: the much simpler grave of a woman from the mid-second century, with Christian inscriptions on her tomb.”
This astounding discovery was the impetus behind Pope Pius XII’s decision to begin a search for the bones of St. Peter. He was well aware that three previous Popes tried and failed to do this, so he resolved to keep the project secret lest a failure shake the faith of a people burdened by war. To keep the secret, he decided to hire only priests and Vatican workers to do the excavation. This would prove to be a serious mistake.
The incredible story of how St. Peter’s bones were found and authenticated (as well as the quote above) can be found in an exciting new book, “The Fisherman’s Tomb: The True Story of the Vatican’s Secret Search” by New York Times Best-Selling Author John O’Neill, http://bit.ly/FishermansTomb. Before O’Neill’s guest appearance on “EWTN Live,” http://bit.ly/EWTNLiveFishermansTomb, the lawyer turned author stopped by “Inside EWTN” for an interview about his fascinating and easily digestible book, which reads like a true-life detective novel. What follows are just a few of the highlights.
Pope Pius XII knew that before the search could begin, he needed money – and lots of it. Enter Texas wildcatter George Strake, who O’Neill says owned the third largest oil field ever discovered. “He believed God had given it to him to give back to projects for the Catholic Church.”
As O’Neill tells it, Pope Pius XII sent a priest to meet with Strake saying: “’The Pope would like to know if you’d be willing to finance the most secret, the most important project, of the Catholic Church. It could fail. If you do it, no one will ever know.’” Despite the conditions, or maybe because of them, the humble oilman agreed.
Scene from the movie “St. Peter” starring Omar Sharif.
It’s hard for present day Catholics to imagine how the burial place of the first Pope could be lost to time, but a little understanding of the period in which St. Peter lived makes clear why and how this happened.
The Roman Emperor Nero executed Saints Peter and Paul between A.D. 64 and A.D. 66. Nero’s cruelty was legendary even in his own time. O’Neill says Nero killed his mother, his first wife, his brother, and his pregnant second wife (whom he kicked to death), and he was “involved” in the poisoning of his adopted father, who he killed in order to become emperor.
Most Catholics have heard about or seen images of Christians being used as human torches to light Nero’s palace gardens. Nero supposedly inflicted this cruelty on them in retribution for the Great Fire of Rome. However, O’Neill says it was most likely Nero himself who had the fire set. This would allow the egomaniac to use the land, now conveniently cleared of homes, to build a mega-palace for himself.
After Peter’s death by crucifixion, the Romans discarded his body on nearby Vatican Hill, with the rest of the city’s trash. However, because of the persecution at the time, Peter’s “grave” had to be secretly marked by Christians, who had developed inscriptions that could be read by the faithful but not by the pagans. Around A.D. 150, a structure was built near Peter’s grave on Vatican Hill to further mark the spot, and sometime between A.D. 250 and A.D. 300, Peter’s bones were secretly entombed in the nearby Graffiti Wall.
The bigger problem occurred during the construction of the first St. Peter’s Basilica. Vatican Hill was now overflowing with the tombs of wealthy Roman families. To level the hill for construction of the Basilica, these tombs had to be covered with tons of fill — and so the secrets of those graves would lay hidden for more than a thousand years.
Pius XII’s search for St. Peter’s remains began in the Vatican library, which boasts more than 75,000 ancient documents that can’t be found anywhere else in the world. Three separate documents seemed to support the burial of Peter under St. Peter’s.
The priests and Vatican workers appointed to do the excavation were well meaning, but inexperienced at best. As O’Neill tells it, the person who assumed “practical control” of the project was Father Antonio Ferrua. He had obtained a doctorate in archeology two years before the project commenced, but obviously had little to no real world experience.
“In 1951, the Pope became very uncomfortable with the nature of the excavation,” O’Neill said. “At the suggestion of [a close advisor], he brought in the greatest archeologist in the world – a woman and an agnostic: Margherita Guarducci. She was supposed to be there a week. She said to the Pope: ‘They’ve done a terrible job! Inscriptions have great meaning. No one has done anything to preserve the murals. The bones should be forensically examined.’ The Pope fired [Ferrua and his workers] and put Guarducci in charge. Her one-week [consultation] turned into a 25-year assignment.”
The book details how Guarducci went about figuring out the puzzle of where St. Peter’s tomb actually lay – and how she discovered the saint’s bones amidst myriad other bones, including those of a mouse. In 1964, the former agnostic, who converted to Catholicism during her search for the truth, wrote a report for the Vatican, which published in early 1965.
She asserted that the bones of the fisherman had indeed been found. This ignited a firestorm, with Father Ferrua, who had been appointed head of the Vatican’s Commission on Archeology in the 70s, leading the charge in denying the authenticity of the find. Guarducci spent three years adding even more evidence to her claim and answering her critics.
Scene from the movie St. Peter starring Omar Sharif.
Unfortunately, after the death of Pope Paul VI (who had taken over the project from his predecessor), there remained only two people alive who had anything to do with the excavation: Guarducci and Ferrua. Three days after the Pope’s death, Ferrua fired Guarducci, who was then 76 years old.
“He ordered the bones to be put in storage, eradicating any mention of her or [St. Peter’s] bones,” O’Neill said. “But if he thought that was the end, he made the mistake of a lifetime. Guarducci went back to teaching at the University of Rome and became even more famous. She solved even more mysteries, including the one about the black Madonna.”
In 1992, the 88-year-old Guarducci was interviewed at the University of Milan by Federico Zeri, who O’Neill describes as “a major television figure, a Sotheby expert on antiquities, and another great detective in outing fakes.” Ferrua had accused Guarducci for years of allowing her faith to control what she did. However, O’Neill said the former agnostic told the crowd that she had been devoted to science her whole life and that her faith came from her scientific discoveries.
O’Neill summarizes Zeri’s eloquent statement at the conclusion of their interview, paraphrasing it like this: “I’m not a Christian Margherita, but I’ve tracked your work. There is no question you’ve found Peter!”
It’s not hard to imagine this as a movie.
For readers, the question remains: How did O’Neill get the inside scoop for this book? He says he came to Houston after graduating from the U.S. Naval Academy and the University of Texas School of Law, and after completing a clerkship at the U.S. Supreme Court. With that pedigree, he had a wonderful legal practice centering on the oil industry with a large law firm.
Thanks to that work, he met and befriended Strake’s son and grandson, which is how he first heard about the secret project. Later, he became close friends with the elder Strake. As he says in the Forward to his book, “Sometimes a story finds an author rather than the reverse.”
It’s a good thing. As O’Neill noted: “If Strake had died without this coming out, all would have been lost. He started high schools, colleges, and scout camps, and would never allow his name to be used, but he was willing to tell the story now. After his death, his kids [let people know] his name. There’s not even a Wikipedia entry for George Strake. His son is on it, but not senior!”
Thanks to O’Neill’s book, the humble wildcat oilman will now go down in history posthumously as the person who funded one of the Vatican’s most important projects, a former agnostic as the woman who made one of the Church’s most astounding discoveries – and lawyer John O’Neill as the man who had the privilege of telling the world about it.
She was a woman who admired St. Francis Xavier so much that she added his name to hers when she became a nun. She was a religious who dreamed of imitating her namesake by traveling east to China as a missionary. Instead, she would go west to the United States as soon as she understood that this is where God wanted her to go.
She was the foundress of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, who crossed an ocean in the expectation of staffing an orphanage, a school and a hospital. Instead, she arrived in New York to find a rat-infested tenement and many Italian immigrants who were not only living in horrible conditions, but who had lost their faith because there were almost no clergy or religious who spoke their language to help them.
She was Mother Frances Xavier Cabrini, the first American saint and the subject of a fascinating EWTN Original Movie, “Mother Cabrini,” which premieres at 8 p.m. ET, Saturday, Nov. 10, with an encore at 1:30 a.m. ET, Monday, Nov. 12.
Daniela Gurrieri of CRISTIANA Video, who wrote, directed, and co-produced the movie with her husband Fabio Carini, says she and her husband were not interested in simply chronicling the more than 67 schools, orphanages, and hospitals Mother Cabrini founded in America and around the world. Instead, the filmmakers wanted to tell the audience about the way Mother Cabrini overcame all the unexpected obstacles that she encountered.
That decision is what makes the film so dramatic and what makes Mother Cabini such a compelling figure. Gurrieri says her problem was not in finding obstacles, but in editing them down to a manageable few.
One of the big obstacles – the Italian immigrants’ crisis of faith – was something with which Mother Cabrini and her nuns were familiar. The nuns came to the U.S. from northern Italy, where the scourge of freemasonry was rampant.
“In that period in Italy, the people felt this big clash, the opposition of ethics, of the freemasons against the Pope,” Gurrieri said. “She witnessed, on one hand, the growth of atheism and also of this attitude of hate against the Church, against Jesus Christ, against God and against the priests and the nuns. On the other, she witnessed great love and support of the Church, which had been so attacked. She was used to this kind of opposition. She felt a great danger in the growth of a culture against faith, against the Church, and against life.”
As the film shows, Mother Cabrini and her nuns would be responsible for bringing many people back to the Faith.
Another reason Gurrieri was interested in doing a film on Mother Cabrini is that her life was so adventurous and challenging.
“She was the first to found [a group of nuns who were] independent of any institution or congregation,” Gurrieri said. “Women in Italy didn’t have any freedom at that time. They were not allowed to have a job. They were not allowed to sign contracts. They were not allowed to manage any kind of property. She did all these things. She traveled alone. She bought houses and hospitals. She was very much in relationship with the Pope, many Cardinals, and the bishops, but she was never dependent on them.”
Mother Cabrini was inspired by the love of God for her brothers and sisters in need — whatever their ethnic background – and always sought to show respect for the dignity of each person, no matter how badly they treated her or her nuns. Following her death on Dec. 22, 1917, Gurrieri says, “the Pope received more than 150,000 reports of miracles from people all over the world.” She was canonized on July 7, 1946.
“I will feel satisfied if this movie inspires great confidence in God and in making the gifts that God gives us bear more fruit,” Gurrieri said. “I will feel satisfied if [this movie helps people understand] that even if society tells us we are weak — because we are women, or weak because we are immigrants, or weak because of whatever does not make us comfortable – that can be overcome. The only thing we need is God, [who taught us in the person of Jesus] to live our life at the service of others.”