Category Archives: Holy Year of Mercy

The Church: sacrament of salvation?


In my practice as a technologist, I use a little ditty: “The good news is there are A LOT of options! The bad news is there are A LOT of options!”

Another one I like, not necessarily professionally, is “There is no love like family love!  No money like public money!  No politics like Church politics!”  🙂

-from an article by Mark Shea, former Baptist and now Catholic apologist

“The good news about the Catholic Church,” said a friend of mine “is that it’s like a big family.”
“The bad news about the Catholic Church,” he continued, “is that it’s like a big family.”

A basic fact of life is that the same Body of Christ that is the sacrament of salvation, the fountain of so many graces, the home of so many amazing and wonderful people, so much healing, so much beauty, and the glorious treasury of saints to whom we owe so much…that same Church is the scene of incredibly devastating hurts dealt out by traitors, perverts, scoundrels, monsters, selfish jerks, liars, grasping careerists, Pharisees, libertines, and fools.

Just about everyone has a story to tell: the scheming chancery functionary bent on inflicting economic harm on some struggling Catholic self-employed businessman; the priest who was an insulting, despair-inducing buffoon in the confessional; the sexually abusive cleric and the bishop who protected him; the Church Lady with her petty hurtful gossip; the jackass who poses as the uber-pious Catholic while he cheats on his wife; the nun who shamed and scarred the little girl in third grade; the crazy mom who destroyed her kids lives while yakking about God, dragging them from one quack visionary to the next and then running off with the priest; the liturgist who decided the mandate was not “Feed my sheep” but “Try experiments on my rats”; the Catholic schoolteacher who destroyed your shot at college because she was a vindictive psycho who hated males.

It is, in fact, a story as old as the New Testament. Jesus’ story is, after all, a story of betrayal. It’s easy to forget that Judas was, at one time, a friend of Jesus’. And so one of the great psalms of the Passion records the messianic sufferer lamenting, “Even my bosom friend in whom I trusted, who ate of my bread, has lifted his heel against me” (Psalm 41:9).

Nor did the other apostles always present a sterling example of loyal friendship. They fought amongst themselves about who was the greatest, even as Jesus was celebrating the Last Supper and warning of his betrayal (Luke 22:24). James and John elbowed each other for a coveted spot at Jesus’ left and right hands, and even sent their mom to run interference for them as they jockeyed for position (Matthew 20:20-24). Peter, who had massive failings of his own when it came to denying Jesus and chickening out in a pinch, was also frustrated by Simon Magus, a baptized Christian who saw Jesus as a potential source of super powers and who tried to buy Peter off (Acts 8:9-14).

Similarly, Paul has to write on a number of occasions to express his exasperation, not with persecuting pagans outside the Church, but with his own fellow Christians within it. “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and turning to a different gospel” he tells the Galatians, adding later (of those Judaizing Christians who were tempting the Galatians to abandon the gospel and return to salvation by circumcision): “I wish those who unsettle you would mutilate themselves!” (Galatians 5:12). (It’s been a while since a bishop blurted out in frustration that he wished members of his flock would castrate themselves.)

In various letters, Paul complains about Christians getting drunk at their agape meals, embarrassing the poor, having relations with their stepmother, rejecting the resurrection, getting puffed up with pride, refusing to work since Jesus was coming soon, and rejecting himself as an apostle since he was not one of the original Twelve. Indeed, for all the abuse and beatings Paul got at the hands of both Jews and pagans, the greatest pain and frustration he felt was at the sheer ingratitude and hostility he received from fellow Christians, a fact easily verified from 2 Corinthians 10-13, in which the apostle “vents” (as they say these days) about the exasperation he feels at having to establish his bona fides as a “real” apostle to the spouting popinjays at the Church in Corinth who were simultaneously undermining all his hard work—work done at the cost of beatings, shipwreck, stoning and abuse—while leading the thankless Corinthians away from apostolic tradition. Paul practically pioneered the discovery of many a Catholic saint since that no good deed goes unpunished.

And all this sets the stage for a rich and colorful pageant of Catholic history in which Catholics drive each other crazy, hurt each other, lie to each other, cheat each other, make war on each other, rape each other, and kill each other. And by this, I mean Catholics from every walk of life. You can find everybody from Pope to dog catcher in the rogue’s gallery: clerical, lay, male, female, young, old, black, white, unlettered ruffian, cultured scholar, foreign, and domestic. No wonder Paul has to exhort us to bear with one another (Colossians 3:13) and Jesus tells us to forgive one another. It’s easy to forget that these instructions are not some platform for general social reform in which saintly Christians march out and show a barbarous world of buffoons the True Path.

Rather, the instructions to bear with and forgive one another are given to Christians first, because we need to hear them first. The New Testament documents are meant to be read in Christian assemblies of worship and are calculated to help Christians get along with each other. They were not written for classes on Civilizational Uplift to be taught by Holy Christians to a rabble of unwashed pagan thugs. Nor were they written for Christians to study in a class on “how to endure persecution from non-Christians” (though a few remarks here and there do, indeed, instruct Christians on how to cope with persecution from non-Christians).

On the contrary, the command to forgive—a command so crucial that it is the only part of the Our Father on which Jesus comments (warning “if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matthew 6:15))—frankly presupposes that the Church is the rabble of sinners who hurt each other before it is the communion of saints that reaches heaven.

Because of all this it’s worth looking at some of the biblical principles by which the Church orders its life for when its member don’t act like saints. In a world of pain infliction like ours, it’s easy to leap to a variety of conclusions that can hurt rather than help our faith and our obedience to Jesus Christ. We can assume that the person who hurt us meant to hurt us. We can assume that the hurt is proof the person is not really a Christian and is bound for Hell. We can assume the sinner is acting with the power and the authority of the Church (a particularly easy assumption when the sinner is a cleric). We can assume the hurt is proof that we “had it coming”. We can assume the hurt is proof the entire Catholic faith is a fraud. We can assume the hurt is proof Jesus Christ is a fraud. We can assume the hurt is proof the existence of God is a fraud.

Because of our tendency to draw unwarranted conclusions from the pain Catholics cause each other as they bonk into each other in the hurly burly of life, it’s wise to think about such matters and plan ahead for the moment when (not if) somebody in the Church hurts you.”

Love, always begging forgiveness for those whom I have hurt,

“We are saved by those we despise.” -Pope St Gregory the Great


-by Dr. C. Colt Anderson, PhD

Saint Gregory the Great taught that God uses the people we despise to save us. This does not necessarily mean people that we hate, but people we think little of or that we see as impure. Those who we see as steeped in sin today often surpass us in holiness tomorrow. His example of such a person was St. Paul, who participated in the brutal murder of St. Stephen before becoming the Apostle to the Gentiles. In the Forty Gospel Homilies, Gregory preached that God places these people in the Church so that we are forced to recognize our own imperfection. They highlight the contrast between the richness of God’s mercy and the littleness of our own judgments.

Humble Christians, who have a sense of their imperfection, are able to be sympathetic to the struggles of sinners. Humility breaks through the walls of the self and allows the Christian to love others. For Gregory, love always involves an extension or gift of self to another, which is not really possible for people who feel self-satisfied and self-sufficient. This type of love, which he called the bond of charity, can only be learned in a community and can only be achieved through humility.

The bond of charity is central to Gregory’s spirituality and his understanding of the Church. He believed Christ’s perfect and solid uprightness (soliditas standi) is not given to His followers through the grace of redemption; instead, Christians are justified through the firmness of love (soliditas caritatis) found in the Church. Since God only accepts the humble and contrite heart, and since God rejects the proud, the effort to extend ourselves to those we despise is an integral part of the process of sanctification. In fact, the Church purifies us by demanding this extension of patience, love, and mercy to those we despise.

This dynamic is also why there are so many irritating people in the Church. We need people who are irritating, offensive, and even wicked, in order to exercise patience, mercy, and forgiveness. The Church brings us all together so that we can learn to be like God. It is a mixed community: good fish and bad fish, sheep and goats, wheat and tares. If I am irritating you, I might be serving as an opportunity to grow in holiness. You’re welcome.


The fact that God frequently moves the people we may see as sinful to great holiness also inspires hope. It shows us that we should not ever give up on anyone. If your son or daughter, aunt or uncle, mother or father, friend or spouse has fallen away and seems steeped in sin, realize that they may yet excel in holiness.

Because we are saved by those we despise, we must welcome people to our communion and avoid attitudes and actions that discourage them from entering or returning to our community, which is what Pope Francis has been emphasizing. The challenge, of course, is to stop despising anyone, which I must confess I have not quite mastered.

If you are comfortable with despising people and wish to exclude the impure, you may have fallen into the sin of Donatism, a heresy that seeks a pure Church on Earth. The new Donatism is growing increasingly evident.

Lord, save & protect us, help us love one another, especially when that is most inconceivable. We shall receive mercy from You in proportion as we offer it to those we despise. Help us love one another, for our own sake. Be merciful to us, Lord, for we have done what is evil in Your sight.


Merciless Catholic fascists


Robert Mickens
-by Robert Mickens

“Pope Francis’ decision to call an extraordinary Holy Year of Mercy looks more and more urgent with each passing day.

Several incidents in the past couple of weeks here in Rome alone suggest there is a great need for the entire church to reflect deeply on how the acceptance and imitation of God’s mercy, forgiveness and unfailing love make up the central tenet of what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ.

Sadly, among those who seem least inclined to embrace this reality are some of the church’s ordained leaders — clergymen at every level of the hierarchy and those preparing to join them. A number of these individuals are quite prominent. And since the little group of which they are a part has become loud and well-organized, one might mistakenly think they represent the majority of all our deacons, priests and bishops.

Pray God that they don’t.

But — at least publicly — they have been promoting petitions, giving interviews and spearheading events that seem to be aimed more at making sure people pay for their mistakes — and, at times, pay dearly — rather than finding a way to offer them God’s mercy.

(These zealots) secured the official backing of six Vatican officials. They included Cardinals Angelo Amato (Congregation for the Causes of Saints), Marc Ouellet (Bishops) and Zenon Grocholewski (retired), as well as Archbishops Vincenzo Paglia (Pontifical Council for the Family) and Zygmunt Zimowski (health care). Cardinal Raymond Burke was actually present at the rally. He was one of 20 non-Italian bishops who outnumbered their Italian confreres… Heads of only 15 of Italy’s more than 220 dioceses (included).

But among them — and perhaps also for strategic motives — was Archbishop Bruno Forte. He, too, sent a written endorsement …. Of course, he is the same theologian-bishop traditionalists fiercely criticized last October after he put accommodating language about gay Catholics in the midterm report at the synod on the family.

The traditionalists were out in spades.., and many of them then attended a Tridentine Mass that Msgr. Marco Agostini offered …. The 53-year-old priest from Verona has been a papal master of ceremonies the last six years.

…Reparation is a favorite theme in traditionalist circles, where, apparently, there are some questions about just how absolute is God’s mercy and forgiveness. The traditionalists place a greater emphasis on divine judgment, sacrifice, penance and the fires of purgatory. It seems as if it all boils down to paying for one’s sins and mistakes.

Not mercy, but sacrifice. Not forgiveness, but repayment of the debt.

Unfortunately, a similar attitude can be found in the alarmist pleas that are urging the pope not to allow this October’s synod to change a single iota of the church’s law and discipline regarding marriage and sexuality. There are at least three or four groups frantically trying to whip up support for petitions in this regard.

A right-wing university group for the “defense of tradition, family and property” claims to have garnered more then 200,000 signatures for an online petition to the pope to “save the family.” They paint a dark picture of “dissident Catholic pressure groups” that are “bombarding” the synod to “water down the indissolubility of marriage; allow the reception of Holy Communion for divorced and civilly remarried couples; make the Church ‘LGBT-friendly’; and approve same-sex civil unions.”

Two other petitions voicing similar concerns are currently trying to solicit signatures from priests in Britain and in the United States.

In the midst of all this, several cardinals and a small group of the world’s roughly 5,000 bishops are engaging a number of theologians to come up with arguments to help block any development of the church’s teaching on marriage and family matters.

Two of them — Cardinals George Pell of the Vatican and Peter Erdo of Esztergom-Budapest, Hungary — predicted in separate interviews last week that “nothing will change” at the synod. What is most troublesome is the fact that the Hungarian cardinal has a key role in the synod as its “relator general,” a sort of moderator in charge of helping to frame the discussions.

The synod “will massively endorse the tradition” of the church, according to Pell. “I don’t anticipate any deviation from that at all,” he told a few hundred people (including Burke)…

These uncompromising defenders of truth, tradition and life say the church has no authority to develop, alter or modify teachings that, they insist, come directly from Jesus. They are certainly sincere when they express the conviction that they are defending a law of God that cannot be changed.

Pope Francis has taken up the urgent challenge of trying to help them — and all Christians — to understand what is too difficult for most us humans to comprehend: Namely, that greater than any of God’s laws is God’s absolute and boundless mercy.”


“Mercy is the word that summarizes the Gospel; we might say that it is the ‘face’ of Christ, that face that He showed when He went towards everyone, when He healed the sick, when He shared a table with the sinners, and especially when, nailed to the cross, He forgave: there we find the face of divine mercy. And the Lord calls upon us to be ‘channels’ of this love firstly towards the least among us, the poorest, who are privileged in His eyes. Let yourselves be continually challenged by the situations of fragility and poverty with which you come into contact, and endeavor to offer in the appropriate ways the witness of charity that the Spirit infuses in your hearts.

Mercy will allow you to open up promptly to current needs and to be industriously present in the new areopagus of evangelization, prioritizing — even if this may involve sacrifices — openness towards those situations of extreme need, symptomatic of the maladies of today’s society.”

— Audience with General Chapter of the Priests of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, June 5, 2015

I hate fascists. I hate Catholic fascists.

Love, and His infinite, unfailing mercy for all to the end,

Our Lady of Mercy, pray for us!!!




Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to thy protection, implored thy help, or sought thine intercession was left unaided.

Inspired by this confidence, I fly unto thee, O Virgin of virgins, my mother; to thee do I come, before thee I stand, sinful and sorrowful. O Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not my petitions, but in thy mercy hear and answer me.


-by Br Daniel Klimek, TOR

“Heroine, cocaine, opium, marijuana, excessive alcohol, not to mention hallucinogenic drugs like mushrooms (psilocybin) and LSD – he consumed most of these before the age of 18, many before he turned 14, the addictions growing stronger as the existential emptiness deepened. What sounds like an introduction to a Hunter S. Thompson novel actually constitutes the autobiography of a Catholic priest. Fr. Donald Calloway of the Marians of the Immaculate Conception retells his dramatic and heart-wrenching life story in No Turning Back: A Witness to Mercy.

As a destructive youth, Calloway spent his adolescence succumbing to temptations large and small, from sins of the flesh with constant promiscuity, to crimes against the law with thousands of dollars of grand theft in stolen merchandise, as well as nightly partying with friends consuming all forms of drugs and addictives while listening to heavy-metal music.

At one point, Calloway became a follower of the rock band the Grateful Dead, inspiring entrance into a psychedelic culture which—among other things—left him with a big Grateful Dead tattoo on his arm. To this day he has it, as a remembrance of the past he lived. The past he left. To this day he doesn’t have a clue how that tattoo got there, being stoned to oblivion during the night of its implementation.

During his youth, Calloway was such an angry and rebellious kid that he names a chapter in his book “Animal” in describing himself, his early mentality, his vicious ways. His family (especially his parents) suffered great emotional trauma as a result of their son’s behavior. For a while, they lived on a military base in Japan, for Calloway’s stepfather was an officer. This didn’t last too long. Running around with Japanese gangs, stealing tens of thousands of dollars in merchandise—from electric guitars to cars—got young Donald Calloway arrested and deported from the country. He was escorted through the airport by military guards with chains and shackles around his hands and feet, while he spat at his captors and threw out verbal obscenities to surrounding pedestrians, angrily cursing his way onto the plane.

Although, like any angst-filled adolescent, Calloway developed a strong hatred for his parents—notwithstanding their efforts to help their struggling son, praying for him and checking him into rehabilitation facilities numerous times—a guilt-stricken consciousness still haunted him about his younger brother, where a stronger bond existed. Fr. Calloway describes his feelings poignantly:

“The only bond that I had left with my family was with my little brother, Matthew. When it came to him, I felt terribly, almost inexplicably conflicted. Ten years younger than I, he would often plead, ‘Brother, play with me.’ A part of me wanted to stay home and be the big brother I wanted to be and thought he needed. But I was so preoccupied with my girlfriends and drug buddies that I didn’t want to commit to anything domestic.”

After returning from Japan and checking into an ineffective rehabilitation clinic in Pennsylvania, things did not get any better. For years the drugs continued, so did the promiscuity, the theft, and another arrest. In terms of his growing addictions, Calloway describes vividly what a poisonous rabbit hole he fell into, hitting rock bottom in what reads like a distant and dreary space.

“On one occasion, I even found myself in a crack house, crawling around on the rug on my hands and knees looking for any cocaine that might have fallen on the floor. There were cockroaches running around and maggots in the sink from all the unwashed dishes. A crying baby could be heard, unattended in a back room. Yet there I was on the floor, right along with the baby’s mother, searching frantically for white specs on the floor. If we found anything white, we’d put it in the bowl and smoke it, even if we didn’t know what it was.”

So, what on earth could have turned this rebellious youth, this struggling addict, this “animal” (as he later described himself), into a devout Catholic priest, not to mention into an eloquent author of books on theology and Mariology?

It all began one night in March 1992 when, to the surprise of his friends, Donald decided not to go out partying, as was the usual routine, but to stay at home for the night. He felt immensely depressed, a longing and emptiness occupied his very being. “I found myself sitting there alone in my room with nothing to do and no one to turn to. My existence was laughable. My life was a waste, and I was hoping it would somehow come to an end…I hated my life. I was restless and anxious about everything.” Looking for a way to fill the time, he began browsing his parents’ bookshelf, not to find anything to read but, preferably, land on a National Geographic for the pictures. Instead, his hand landed on something else, an odd book about a subject so alien and obscure to the teenager that it was intriguing enough to read. The book was called The Queen of Peace Visits Medjugorje.

Essentially, it was the story of the Marian apparitions in Medjugorje which brought on the crisis of his conversion. He was only one of the first of a long line of Christians who were to fall under the spell of the mystical Bosnian village, embracing that land of mystery.

“This book showed me a side of things I had never really heard of or experienced before, but I certainly could relate to the radical nature of the message…It wasn’t long before I realized this book was presenting me an offer to change my life and surrender to something greater than myself – to believe in God and be different. It was a revelation that required a revolution in my thinking. Could this be the way out I was looking for?”

He spent the whole night reading the book, until the early hours of the morning. In the process, the inner beings of his soul were transformed from the anxiousness and restlessness he previously experienced to a deep serenity and peace that radiated and pervaded his spirit. The messages of Medjugorje touched him on a higher level, the return to prayer, peace, fasting, a reconciliation with God and the need for conversion. For the first time, something offered him hope from his abusive past, from his life of sin and despair.

“The Virgin Mary was saying things that were so clear and captivating that I found myself moved and literally experiencing emotion in a deep way. This was a kind of emotion I hadn’t experienced since I was a little boy who really loved his mother and wanted to make her happy. And yet the Virgin Mary was saying that she was my mother, that she was the mother of those who had gone astray and was calling us back to God, to Jesus. She made it clear that she was not God, but she was pointing to her Son and saying He is the Messiah, the Savior of the world. I found myself totally falling in love with this mother, this woman.”

The aesthetical quality was sublime. He was experiencing a beauty he hadn’t felt in a very long time. In this Woman, the Virgin Mary, he found a beauty that was not poisonous and sinful—like his past encounters with women—but pure and refreshing, an immaculate gentleness that offered a ray of hope and emanated a radiant light into Donald’s darkened world. Spiritual and sublime, this attraction led Donald to a small prayer of the heart, in which he revealed his longing for this mysterious presence in front of him.

“As I continued to read, I said to her in my heart, ‘I want to believe. I really do. You are piercing the little bubble of my world and offering me something more than I ever heard. I need this.’”

This inner need, this spiritual longing, was being satisfied. As he continued reading, a strange, but wondrous, rebirth from death to new life occurred. “Although I was in serious despair about my life, as I read the book, I felt as if my heart was being melted. I hung on to each word like it was transmitting life straight to me.”

Then a new day came. “Early in the morning, when I closed the book, I said, ‘The message in this book is life-changing. I have never ever heard anything so amazing and convincing and so needed in my life.’ One might say that this was my first prayer. Whoever this Virgin Mary was, I believed what she was saying – that she was my mother and came from heaven for me.”

Instantly, after telling his overwhelmed mother about the experience, Donald—though not a Catholic yet—ran off to Mass for the first time in his life, speaking to a priest afterwards, confessing his entire past to the man. When he came back home, Donald began throwing out all of his filthy possessions from his past life, from drug paraphernalia to pornographic magazines ranging from his Playboy and Penthouse collections, to his heavy metal records, and his water bongs and pipes. Six 30-gallon bags were the result.

After clearing his space of all distractions, Donald knelt by his dresser and deeply desired to go into prayer. But he didn’t know how to pray. As he recalls, “Until earlier that day, I had never said a prayer in my entire life.” This did not stop him, however, from falling into an overbearing ambiance of deeply healing and purifying tears. His past was still very prominent in his mind and the remorse, the regret that was felt was overwhelming – the need for forgiveness encapsulated his entire being.

“In fact, I started crying so hard that I could hardly breathe. I had to literally gasp for air because I was crying so uncontrollably. There were torrents of liquid coming out of my eyes. Before long, the clothes I was wearing were soaking wet.”

Hours of such excruciating crying led to inexplicable tears of joy and, all of the sudden, Donald felt an immense peace in his heart, a tranquility that surpassed understanding. “I started to feel almost bubbly and giddy, almost like a child being tickled by his father. Suddenly, I was animated. I had life again and felt so much different. My body tingled all over. I was so wrapped up in Jesus that I became aware of how much I was loved.”

This purifying peace led to something inexplicable, a mystical—if not downright supernatural—experience. Like thousands of patients who have reported undergoing near-death experiences, Donald left his body.

“But all of a sudden something below me and within me – this is very difficult to explain – knocked me out of my body. I literally felt as if I had left my body. My physical form remained on the couch, but my soul or spirit had left.” The experience paralyzed him, as he gradually saw his body farther and farther away from him, his spiritual presence being slowly removed from the physical. Out of desperation, he led out a penetrating, spiritual cry to that person who had just touched his soul. “Mary!” What happened next was phenomenal. Donald was “violently slammed back” into his body.

“After I got over the shock of the impact, a feeling of peace overwhelmed me, a peace that was tangible. Then I heard a voice, the most pure feminine voice I have ever heard and ever will hear. It was within me, it was outside of me, it was like liquid love being poured over me. It was pure maternal love. It said, ‘Donnie, I’m so happy.’ That’s all I heard, but I knew who it was. Nobody called me Donnie but my mother. Nobody. I knew this was the voice of Mary, the Blessed Virgin Mary. I was so at peace that I felt like a little boy snuggled close to his mother’s breast. I was so at peace, so loved, and so at rest that I went into a deep sleep. I hadn’t slept like that since I was a young boy.”

The phenomenon that Donald experienced, in addition to leaving his body, is called an interior locution (locution cordis), the mystical grace of hearing a spiritual presence – in this case, Our Lady – in an interior way through the depths of the soul.

After his profound spiritual experiences, an official conversion to Roman Catholicism followed. What also followed was the desire for the priesthood. Not just any priesthood. Donald wanted to become a Marian priest, both for Our Lady and for the reason that the Marians of the Immaculate Conception are the official promoters of the Divine Mercy devotions of St. Faustina Kowalska, the Polish nun and mystic who experienced visions of Christ in the 1930s. Donald saw himself, through his past, as the poster-boy for Divine Mercy. For, through the grace of God, he received the greatest mercy after a life of sin.

Becoming a priest meant going back to school. For this high school dropout, this wasn’t the easiest task.

Notwithstanding, through his subsequent education and efforts, Donald was able to encounter some of the most eminent Catholic intellectuals and scholars in the world. After earning his GED and spending some time in community college, the Marians sent Donald to study at the Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio, where he earned his B.A. in theology and philosophy. It was at Franciscan that he encountered some of his favorite professors, including the prominent Catholic intellectuals Scott Hahn and Mark Miravalle. Donald admits that Professor Hahn had an influential impact on his studies, implementing a deeper love of God in his mind.

Professor Miravalle, a theologian and Mariologist, is a leading figure in the Marian movement, and also played a great influence on Donald. Miravalle is the president of Vox Populi Mariae Mediatrici, a movement within the Catholic Church that hopes to gain papal approval to deem Mary as the Co-Redemptrix, becoming the fifth Marian dogma. Interestingly, Miravalle’s own connections to Medjugorje are not small. He has written numerous books on the subject and, when he was a doctoral student in Rome, his dissertation was called, The Message of Medjugorje: A Postconcilar Formulation of Lourdes and Fatima. The dissertation showed how the messages of Medjugorje align with Chruch tradition, ranging from the Gospels to the teachings of the early Church Fathers in their foundational elements and, of course, to Vatican II and other approved apparitions. The thesis was successfully defended in the Pontifical University of St. Thomas (Angelicum) in Rome in 1984.

Beyond inspirations like Professors Hahn and Miravalle at Franciscan, Donald went on to study with other greats. He received both his M.Div and S.T.B. at the Dominican House of Studies in Washington, D.C., and then earned an S.T.L. at the International Marian Research Institute in Dayton, Ohio. At the Institue, Donald studied with such prominent theologians and Mariologists as Fr. Luigi Gambero and Fr. Eamon Carroll. Most remarkably, Donald took the last class that the great French theologian and Mariologist Rene Laurentin taught at the Institute. Laurentin himself has been one of Medjugorje’s greatest supporters for years, with countless of books on the apparitions.

Donald’s S.T.L. dissertation concentrated on the Mariology in the diaries of St. Faustina Kowalska, combining his love for Our Lady with his love for the Divine Mercy devotions. The dissertation was over 200 pages long, contained over 700 footnotes – in Latin, French, Polish, Italian, and Spanish – and, years later, was published into a book called, Purest of All Lilies: The Virgin Mary in the Spirituality of St. Faustina. He even graduated summa cum laude with his S.T.L.

The former drug addict, convicted criminal, and high school dropout graduated summa cum laude with an advanced degree, studying with some of the most renowned theologians in the world, and publishing his work into a book about the Mother of God. Today, Father Calloway is the House Superior for the Marians of the Immacluate Conception and their vocations director. He preaches his story throughout the world, reaching countless of hearts. His life story is an example of grace and divine mercy in motion, through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary and particularly her continuing work in Medjugorje. No Turning Back constitues a powerful and poignant testimony about one man’s journey, being led out of a tunnel of darkness and despair into the radiance of hope and belief in something purer, truer, and warmer than the temptations of contemporary culture – what the human soul longs for, spiritual sublimity and meaning in one’s existence.”

“Jesus said to her, “I am the Resurrection and the Life. The one who believes in Me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in Me will never die.” -Jn 11:25-26


The Necessary Spiritual Battle


The Christian soul, when created, is not yet not perfected.  The soul, like the body, requires maturity and maturation.  The carnal desires and pleasures of the body are good, in that God created them, too.  Our free will and its responsibility to choose wisely, in a holy way, according to His will, are corrupted by our fall from grace in God.  So, humans may take the good nature of the carnal desires and pervert them by attempting to derive pleasure from disordered ends; not the birth of children, not the love of spouse.  We can never perfect ourselves by our own efforts; we only make progress by His Grace. As Pope Benedict reflected:  “Holiness does not consist in not making mistakes or never sinning.  Holiness grows with the capacity for conversion, repentance, willingness to begin again, and above all with the capacity for reconciliation and forgiveness.”

Why would God allow such a thing?  We know that God gifts us with free will, praise Him!!!, and even allows disordered choices by the very definition of the name “free” in the gift.  But, we also know that God, when he allows disorder, has, in His infinite Wisdom, a great good in mind.  God is so omnipotent and omniscient, He brings good out of our disordered choosing.  The good, may I propose, that he brings out of disordered choosing from carnal desire is the denial of the lie that in the pleasure which results from acting on carnal desire, that all our fulfillment lies therein; not in God, but in orgasm, or sensation.  The average practitioner of this lie realizes that no matter how much dissolution they give themselves over to, there is always something missing.  Something, at first, without reflection, difficult to identify, troubling.  This void, this ache, is our union with the Infinite, for which we were made.  The pleasure is a shadow, a reflection, a hollow specter of that fulfillment in God, yet to be attained by the soul, but hinted at in our mortal experience, beautifully.  This is what St Augustine speaks of when he cries out:  “Late have I loved you, O Beauty ever ancient, ever new, late have I loved you!”

The Spiritual Battle is necessary, as necessary as physical struggle and work for the body, to strengthen, to grow, to discipline, to more perfect, the soul.  See, God does bring good from evil.  He truly does.  Praise Him!!!!!!  We must caution against, however, the misinterpretation that sin and struggle are a good in themselves.  They are not.  They are evil and the result of evil.  Occasions, or near occasions, of sin must be avoided at all opportunities, with our cooperation, certainly, but aided infinitely and only by His grace; our true hope.


The Force of Mercy


-by Luke Arredondo

“About a week ago, I joined the cool kids club and got to see The Force Awakens in theaters. It was a fantastic movie, and because I just finished reading a dissertation on John Paul II, there were a lot of really intense philosophical and theological ideas bouncing around my brain as I tried to soak in the movie. But there was also one much more basic theme, and that’s what I’d like to focus on here. First: SPOILER ALERT. DO NOT DO NOT DO NOT READ unless you’ve seen the film and/or just don’t care.

Throughout The Force Awakens (hereafter: TFA), one character’s journey really captured my mind. I couldn’t figure out why at first, but after the film was over, I figured it out. The key was mercy, and the character was Finn. So, I decided with the Year of Mercy upon us, it would be good to meditate on mercy in the spiritual life and how Finn displays the power of mercy. Again: SPOILER ALERT!

In John Paul II’s view, people become more and more human as they become in possession of their selves. This comes about as a result of recognizing truth and freedom and seeking them with the will. In TFA, Finn starts as a Storm Trooper, but he faces a conflict of will with the orders he is given. After he sees one of his fellow Storm Troopers die, and gets his blood on his mask, he has a sudden realization of the truth of his situation and begins to realize the brutality of the First Order. He then refuses to follow an order to murder innocent resistance fighters.

In short order, Finn has decided to not only resist participation in the evil of the First Order, but to fight back directly. The entire film shows Finn adjusting to this new life. It’s awkward for him; he’s been so consumed by the identity he was given as a Storm Trooper that he hasn’t learned to be a human. He was, literally, a number (FN 2187). There’s an obvious parallel here to how prisoners were treated in the Nazi concentration camps in WWII. No names, just numbers. Yet even in those places where hope seemed lost, there were human beings who would resist (like Maximilian Kolbe). Finn shows that kind of fortitude.

What’s really fantastic about Finn, though, is he shows the power of a single decision which is then followed through. He makes a firm amendment of will not to participate in the atrocities of the First Order and never backs down. He’s not sure how to make an identity for himself apart from his Storm Trooper background, but he eventually utilizes his knowledge of the workings of the evil organization to help bring about its downfall.

Saints as Real Human Beings

There is, in Finn’s story, the core of many stories of saints. People tend to have a very whitewashed image of what the life of a typical saint looks like. We imagine them being brought up as perfect little children who knew their prayers, then magically went through adolescence without ever disobeying their parents, and joined a monastery at the age of 15, never to sin again.

Yet, the plain fact is many saints were once mired in sin; some knew nothing other than a life of vice and sin, but were struck powerfully by an encounter with truth and goodness and found themselves drawn out of the darkness and into the light. Still others, like St. Augustine, show that even when there is a model of spirituality close to home, it’s easy to ignore it to pursue worldly pleasures and accolades. That’s what the young Augustine did until he realized that, even with all the world could give him, his heart was still restless, and wouldn’t find rest until he found God.

What’s so neat about Finn’s character is that he follows this kind of transformation. It’s a great visual of the process of spiritual conversion. While any conversion is likely to begin with a decision, it only becomes real when it’s lived out. Finn tries, early in the film, to just merely hide from the First Order. But he realizes that isn’t a viable option. This is what happens when we attempt to flee from sin. In order to truly overcome sin, it has to be confronted and, most importantly, whatever the source of that sin is must become integrated into a fully human life. If one is overly proud, the way to overcome that is not merely by trying hard to stop being proud, but by being humble. Virtue is what leads to victory over vice.

This is the kind of image we need to help us in the year of mercy. Pope Francis has convened on Dec. 8th a year of mercy in which we will celebrate, in a special way, the power of mercy, which is at the heart of any conversion story. Even if someone succeeds in making the decision to amend their life after a failed struggle with sin and temptation, they still need mercy. But we need it even more when we’re in the struggle and when we fail. Through God’s mercy, all can be forgiven and all can be overcome. That doesn’t make sin insignificant, and it doesn’t make going forward in virtue easy. But it does mean it’s possible. It makes it worth doing, and it makes life worth living.

What we can read about in the pages of a great spiritual work like The Confessions by St. Augustine is brought to life on screen, albeit in an analogical way, by the actions and choices of Finn. Even though he’d been a part of the First Order for as long as he’d known, and had directly participated in their evil, he knew it was wrong. When he made his initial, perhaps hasty decision to leave it all behind, he was in over his head. He tried to run away, then had to confront the problem. If only, during this year of mercy, we might muster the same courage and do as St. John Paul II so often reminded us to: be not afraid!”

Love, His Mercy is for you & me!!!!

Dec 8, 2015 – Jesus puts mercy before judgment

Pope Francis opens the Holy Door of St. Peter's Basilica to inaugurate the Jubilee Year of Mercy at the Vatican Dec. 8. (CNS photo/Maurizio Brambatti, EPA) See POPE-MERCY-DOOR Dec. 8, 2015.
Pope Francis opens the Holy Door of St. Peter’s Basilica to inaugurate the Jubilee Year of Mercy at the Vatican Dec. 8. (CNS photo/Maurizio Brambatti, EPA) See POPE-MERCY-DOOR Dec. 8, 2015.

“Lord, forgive me if I have forgiven too much. But You’re the One Who gave me the bad example!” -a priest who had doubts about whether he was too forgiving in the confessional, The Name of God is Mercy (Random House, 2016).

December 8, 2015

-by Junno Arocho Esteves
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — On a cloudy, damp morning, Pope Francis’ voice echoed in the atrium of St. Peter’s Basilica: “Open the gates of justice.” With five strong thrusts, the pope pushed open the Holy Door, a symbol of God’s justice, which he said will always be exercised “in the light of his mercy.”

The rite of the opening of the Holy Door was preceded by a Mass with 70,000 pilgrims packed in St. Peter’s Square Dec. 8, the feast of the Immaculate Conception and the beginning of the extraordinary Holy Year of Mercy.

As the sun broke through the clouds, heralding the start of the jubilee year, the pope bowed his head and remained still for several minutes in silent prayer.

Amid a crowd of dignitaries and pilgrims, a familiar face was also present at the historic event: retired Pope Benedict XVI, who followed Pope Francis through the Holy Door into St. Peter’s Basilica.

During his homily, Pope Francis emphasized the “simple, yet highly symbolic” act of opening the Holy Door, which “highlights the primacy of grace;” the same grace that made Mary “worthy of becoming the mother of Christ.”

“The fullness of grace can transform the human heart and enable it to do something so great as to change the course of human history,” he said.

The feast of the Immaculate Conception, he continued, serves as a reminder of the grandeur of God’s love in allowing Mary to “avert the original sin present in every man and woman who comes into this world.”

“This is the love of God which precedes, anticipates and saves,” he said. “Were sin the only thing that mattered, we would be the most desperate of creatures. But the promised triumph of Christ’s love enfolds everything in the Father’s mercy.”

The Year of Mercy, the pope stressed, is a gift of grace that allows Christians to experience the joy of encountering the transforming power of grace and rediscovering God’s infinite mercy toward sinners.

“How much wrong we do to God and his grace when we speak of sins being punished by his judgment before we speak of their being forgiven by his mercy,” he said.

“We have to put mercy before judgment, and in any event God’s judgment will always be in the light of his mercy. In passing through the Holy Door, then, may we feel that we ourselves are part of this mystery of love.”

Fifty years ago, he said, the church celebrated the “opening of another door,” with the Second Vatican Council urging the church to come out from self-enclosure and “set out once again with enthusiasm on her missionary journey.” The council closed Dec. 8, 1965.

Pope Francis, the first pope to be ordained to the priesthood after the council, said the council documents “testify to a great advance in faith,” but the council’s importance lies particularly in calling the Catholic Church to return to the spirit of the early Christians by undertaking “a journey of encountering people where they live: in their cities and homes, in their workplaces. Wherever there are people, the church is called to reach out to them and to bring the joy of the Gospel. After these decades, we again take up this missionary drive with the same power and enthusiasm.”

Shortly after the Mass, as thousands of people waited in St. Peter’s Square for a chance to walk through the Holy Door, Pope Francis led the midday Angelus prayer.

The feast of the Immaculate Conception has a special connection to the start of the Year of Mercy, he said, because “it reminds us that everything in our lives is a gift, everything is mercy.”

Like Mary, the pope continued, Christians are called to “become bearers of Christ” and to “let ourselves be embraced by the mercy of God who waits for us and forgives everything. Nothing is sweeter than His mercy. Let us allow ourselves to be caressed by God. The Lord is so good and He forgives everything.”

Love, rejoicing in His mercy!!!

THE path to Joy!!!


an excerpt from an article by Sr. Theresa Aletheia Noble, FSP, (Daughters of St Paul) a former atheist who, thanks to the grace of God, has returned to the faith she was raised in and now tries to help others bring their loved ones back to the faith. A few years after returning to the Church, she heard God calling her, so she left her job in Silicon Valley to join the Daughters of St. Paul. She now lives in Miami, where she prays, evangelizes, bakes bread, and blogs.

“Pardoning offenses becomes the clearest expression of merciful love, and for us Christians it is an imperative from which we cannot excuse ourselves.

—Pope Francis, Misericordiae Vultus

In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus is described as healing “the blind, the lame,” and what some translations refer to as “the maimed” (15:30).

“The maimed.”

This phrase jumped out at me when I recently read this passage. I let it wash over me during my early morning meditation, and as I prayed, I realized something.

My heart is maimed.

Like all human hearts, it has been injured by original sin, concupiscence, wounds from others, and my own sin.

I felt inspired to quickly go through the narrative of my life and I picked out four people I have not forgiven. When I imagine their faces, I still feel my heart immediately harden with anger, bitterness and, in some cases, disgust.

One particular person hurt me almost twenty years ago. But I have never relived the injury with Jesus. I have not brought my maimed heart before God in prayer in order to allow him to heal that wound.

I don’t regularly think of this person, but I know that the hurt still lurks in the background of my interactions with others, unconsciously pushing me to irrational anger, to lashing out, or to withdrawing in fear from various situations.

As the Year of Mercy begins, I feel an invitation to turn my wounded heart over to Jesus to be healed, so that I may become more like him: both merciful and forgiving.

If you have not read the beautiful letter from Pope Francis for the Year of Mercy, Misericordiae Vultus, I highly recommend that you do.

As I read the letter, I noticed how many times Pope Francis connects the virtue of mercy with forgiveness.

Several times, Pope Francis describes forgiveness as the vehicle through which we can be merciful and God is merciful to us.

As I read the letter, I realized that sometimes I see forgiveness as just one of the many things I “should” do because I am a Christian. But when God asks us to be merciful by forgiving others, he is not asking us to do this simply because it is the right thing to do. But because forgiveness is the right thing to do, it is a path to joy. And God wants us to have joyful hearts.

Pope Francis writes that mercy is “a wellspring of joy, serenity and peace.”

Sometimes in our world, merciful hearts are mocked. A merciful heart is seen as a weak heart. Rather, it is righteous anger that seems to be the preferred expression of courage.

We trust righteous anger; we do not trust merciful hearts.

For many of us, the first recourse before, during and after conflict is not to humbly seek the forgiveness of God and to forgive others. Rather, it is to blow our tops, to rage and rant, and to demand justice without a drop of mercy (which, as Aquinas would tell us, is not true justice).

Why is this?

Because mercy is much more difficult. (MUCH!!!)

Mercy is the path of the truly courageous. It is not a virtue that makes us a doormat, a weakling or a pansy. It is the virtue that heals our wounded hearts so that we can respond to others like Christ—with assertiveness, love, objectivity, and peace.

Pope Francis writes: “In [the Gospel], mercy is presented as a force that overcomes everything, filling the heart with love and bringing consolation through pardon”.

Through forgiveness, mercy is the force that overcomes everything.

Mercy and forgiveness are the oils the Lord uses to heal our wounds. Our wounds never completely go away, but they make us stronger, rather than weaker, more open, rather than afraid and closed, more peaceful rather than fearful and angry.

In this Year of Mercy, may we allow our maimed hearts to be healed by our Divine Physician with the oil of mercy, so that we may become more like Christ for others.

Most sacred, forgiving Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us.”


“His Mercy anticipates us.” -St Augustine


an excerpt from an article by Sr. Theresa Aletheia Noble, FSP, (Daughters of St Paul) a former atheist who, thanks to the grace of God, has returned to the faith she was raised in and now tries to help others bring their loved ones back to the faith. A few years after returning to the Church, she heard God calling her, so she left her job in Silicon Valley to join the Daughters of St. Paul. She now lives in Miami, where she prays, evangelizes, bakes bread, and blogs.

“Mercy is dependent on justice and the concept of sin because when God shows us mercy, it is so He can forgive our sins.

So what meaning does mercy have in a world that does not believe in sin?

I used to not believe in sin. I was an atheist who had a moment of instantaneous conversion back to belief in God. However, my journey back to the Church was not so immediate. It was a slow and gradual process (Ed. gradualism, anyone?). It was a process in which God and other Christians showed me love, patience and acceptance as I stumbled along. Finally, I began to intellectually assent to the teaching authority of the Church, including sin as defined by the Church.

But in the early months of my conversion, my repentance and my sins were not God’s focus. The focus was how much God loved me. I’ll never forget the feeling of those first months. I walked around as if cradled in the hand of the Creator, simply basking in His loving gaze.

And I continued sinning. Seriously.

But I now knew a God Who loved me. And His merciful love anticipated my repentance. He did not draw back in disgust at seeing my lack of repentance. He did not smite me as I stood for continuing in my former way of life. He entered my soul and embraced me precisely where it was darkest. In the areas where I was dead, Jesus died with me.

Eventually, through my relationship with God, I felt an invitation to return to the Church. I was baffled and disgusted. I loved God, but I was not interested in returning to the Church. I wanted to love God on my own terms. But I knew God would only lead me to a place where he could love me more fully.

So, in obedience to the God I loved, I began to attend Mass more regularly.

One day I will never forget, I was getting ready for work and felt a sudden illumination of my conscience. It was as if I could finally see all my sins as God sees them, all I had done, all I was doing and all I would continue to do as a sinful human being. I collapsed, sobbing on the floor (Ed. the gift of tears).

This was a moment of mercy.

But God’s mercy did not begin in that moment. God began showing me mercy much earlier on; his mercy anticipated my repentance. It was the anticipatory, non-contingent nature of this mercy that led me to repent. God loved me in the midst of my darkness because he knew that it was only his blazing love that could save me.

This is how God loves us. He extends his mercy to us throughout our lives, up until the last breath we take. His mercy anticipates our cooperation. His mercy anticipates our repentance. His mercy anticipates our return to Him.

God is outside of time so His mercy on human beings with free will is not contingent on what we do. He pours it out on us always because it is part of His nature to be merciful.

Every day. Every hour. Every minute.

If our hearts are unrepentant, we cannot receive the fullness of God’s salvific graces, but that does not mean His merciful love goes to waste. Rather, if we are even slightly cooperative, it can slowly soften our hearts and help us see truth.

God bears with our sins in order that we may repent: “But you have mercy on all, because you can do all things; and you overlook sins for the sake of repentance” (Wisdom 11: 23).

What does this reality mean in this Year of Mercy?

It means we are called to show others God’s mercy in this same way. We are called to show others a mercy that does not begin with pointing out another person’s sin. (This is particularly true if another person does not even believe in the concept of sin.)

Mercy begins with the person, where he or she is, and leads that person back to God. Mercy puts the other person’s spiritual well-being first and creates space for the gradual nature of conversion. Mercy respects that slamming the Ten Commandments or the Catechism in someone’s face is often going to be useless if the other person does not first accept God’s love, or the basic fact of His existence.

Mercy anticipates judgment and pointing out sin with love.

A merciful anticipatory love does not dismiss sin as unimportant. Mercy does not skip over sin and pretend that all is well.

As St. Augustine wrote: “His mercy anticipates us. He anticipates us, however, that we may be healed.”

But mercy does not prioritize sin.

Mercy prioritizes God’s healing love, so that we may come to understand our sin, repent of it and be healed.

Thomas Aquinas refers to God’s mercy as that which “dispels misery.” We are called to accompany others on this journey in which God wants to dispel misery. It is a journey that sometimes requires our patience as we walk with others who do not even recognize their sin as misery.

But this is the same journey we walk with our patient, merciful God who surrounds us with his mercy now, before we are perfect, so that we can be perfected in his merciful love.”

Love, and rejoicing His mercy anticipates me!!!