I have posted an excerpt from Cardinal Seán’s blog, in which he recounts a beautiful story of conversion. If only all of us would have such a conversion of heart. You may find this post here.

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This past week, we marked the passing of Dr. Bernard Nathanson. His funeral Mass was held at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City.

Though at one time he was a self-professed Jewish atheist and one of the architects of legalized abortion in the United States, by the end of his life he had become a Catholic and a great apostle for the Gospel of Life.

index

I first met him in 1979, when he had just written “Aborting America” that discussed what he called “the dishonest beginnings of the abortion movement.” At that point, he had already turned from his support of abortion and had come to a pro-life position.

However, my first real contact with him came in about 1985 when friends of mine from Honduras had called to tell me there was legislation to de-penalize abortion in their country.

I asked them when the new law was to go into effect, and they said it would be within a few months. My advice to them was to gather as many Catholic professionals as they could and begin to put ads on the television and radio, and write columns for the newspaper to raise awareness among the people. It was my conviction that once a law goes into effect it becomes much more difficult to change it — as we have seen in the United States.

Then I called Bernard Nathanson, who was in New York at the time, and asked him to accompany me to Honduras. I explained that I was going there because my friends in the country asked if I could be of any help to them. He told me he had just had his documentary film “The Silent Scream” translated into Spanish and that he would be happy to go.

We traveled to the capital, Tegucigalpa, where he addressed physicians at the university medical school and the country’s legislators. We also had him make appearances on television, and speak at rallies. I served as his translator throughout the trip.

The happy ending to the story is that, ultimately, the law was repealed.

Before we left Tegucigalpa, a close friend of mine who had been a parishioner of mine in Washington gave him a little crucifix.

A couple of years later, I saw Bernard at pro-life meeting in Venezuela and he came over to say hello to me. The first thing he did was reach in his pocket and pull out the crucifix. He then told me that he was so grateful for that trip to Honduras, and that his only regret was that he didn’t take his wife along with him.images-2

At the time, I thought “This man is on a journey of faith.” Sure enough, a few years later, in 1996, Cardinal John O’Connor received him into the Church in New York.

When he was later asked why he converted to Catholicism, he said “No religion matches the special role for forgiveness that is afforded by the Catholic Church.”

This man who had aborted so many children and fought to legalize abortion was completely converted into a pro-life Catholic.Nathanson 2

I think there is a great lesson in that for all of us. Sometimes people in the pro-life movement lose sight of the fact that one of our goals has to be to try to lead people to the light of Christ and out of darkness. Even though some of these people may evoke such anger or disgust in us because of their positions on abortion, we must never stop praying for them, loving them and hoping they will receive the graces Bernard Nathanson received, which helped him to find the truth and discover in Christ the answer to all of the questions of his life.

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Amen and again, amen.

St. Augustine on Prayer

Here are some short quotes of St. Augustine on prayer which I find very uplifting, followed by a short prayer to the saint who wrote them:

Holy prayer is the column of all virtues; a ladder to God; the support of widows, the foundation of faith; the crown of religious; the sweetness of the married life. (Auct. Serm. ad. Fratres in eremo apud St. Aug. Serm 22)

Prayer is the protection of holy souls; a consolation for the guardian angel; an insupportable torment to the devil; a most acceptable homage to God; the best and most perfect praise for penitents and religious; the greatest honor and glory; the preserver of spiritual health. (Aug. ad. Probam)

“Oh holy Saint, for many years you knew the torment of sin. You relished it, and held up heresy as though it were a great pearl, you loved unchastity and loathed the Church as something sacriligious. But the Lord, through his great divine mercy captured your heart from the bonds of sin, he lifted you out of the muck and mire, causing you to renounce your former heresy and to obediently be baptized. The Lord thought it good for you to become a shepherd of his flock, teaching his Gospel to your sheep, and ruling over them in love and charity.

Where once you were unchaste, you became a pillar of abstinence,
Where once you provoked the Lord, now you have become a shining star of obedience,
Where once you had been far off, now you are in the presence of the Most High God,

Therefore we honor you, oh great Doctor of the Church, defender against destroying heresies, and strong protector and shepherd of your flock and we do cry to you:

Rejoice, you once far off, for the prodigal has returned
Rejoice, oh pillar of the faith, for the Lord of Truth is with us.
Rejoice, oh ever obedient and shepherding one, For our hearts are restless until they find their rest in God
Rejoice, defender against heresies, for the sword of Truth, which is Christ, defeats all foes,
Rejoice, bishop of the Church, for the Light of the Holy Spirit shines forth from you,
Rejoice, oh penitent in soul, for your penance has won you a great pearl
Rejoice, for God is great in his Saints, and worthy to be praised.

To God be all dominion, power, and glory, Of the Father and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, now and forever and unto the ages of ages.

Holy Protector and defender of Christians, Bishop Augustine, fervently pray for us, that the Lord may deliver us from all vices and all evil passions and may bring us unto eternal rest with his saints; that we may attain the goal of reaching that heavenly city, the city of God for which you longed for in life, and which in repose you now see. Most penitent, pillar of abstinence, pray that our hearts would throw off the shackles of sin, and embrace God, in whom we find our rest.

Amen

Archpastoral Message of His Beatitude Met. Jonah on Nativity ’09

To the Very Reverend and Reverend Clergy,
Monastics, and Faithful of
The Orthodox Church in America

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Christ is Born! Glorify Him!

We rejoice in the coming of the Savior, the Advent of the Son of God into this broken world. His Nativity anticipates and prefigures His Second and Glorious Coming again in the flesh, not clothed in the swaddling bands of humility, for but a few years; but in the radiant vesture of the Kingdom to reign forever.

For us Orthodox Christians, the Nativity of Christ is the Winter Pascha, and our celebration is rooted in the liturgical life of the Church; the world’s “Xmas” hymns go on and on, oblivious, rather intentionally, to the point of the celebration. While we enjoy the worldly celebration, the family time, the gifts and giving, these are empty if we miss the central celebration itself: the services of the Nativity, culminating in receiving the Holy Mysteries. We can have Christmas without the Nativity, as does the world; but for Christians the Feast of the Nativity is Christmas!

We pray and fast to prepare ourselves for forty days before Christmas not only to be obedient to the Church, but to prepare ourselves to receive the Mystery of Communion. Will this Christmas be unto salvation, discerning and receiving His Body–that same Body born of Mary and laid in the Manger, the Son of God who has taken flesh and likened himself to us, so that He might liken us to Himself? Or do we judge ourselves, unaware or oblivious to the Mystery of Christ’s assumption of our nature. We pray and fast to open our spiritual eyes, so that we can see Christ, discern Christ, know Christ–not just as a historical figure who taught nice things, but as God who has come and will come again.

The traditional Christmas carols talk about Baby Jesus lying in the manger. Let us contemplate this mystery during this season, a mystery that at that time only His Mother really understood: that this little infant, no different than any other, would become the Savior of the world, and redeem mankind, indeed all of creation, from death. What infinite potential, the potential of a man fulfilling the Divine Likeness, and manifesting God in His flesh, was invested in that little child. Who would have thought that a child born in the most destitute poverty and anonymity would become the criterion of judgment for the whole world?

We can also contemplate this same mystery in the life of every child. Who knows what the destiny of that child will be? Who can tell if he or she will become a point of hope for the whole world? That same infinite potential, the potential for deification, the potential for a life transfigured by God, the potential for a life that will bring joy and peace, or beget such a child?

The Feast of the Nativity is not only the contemplation of God taking human flesh. It is also the great celebration of humanity, that God so loved as to become one of us, that through that One, joy and peace and salvation may be given to the whole world. Let us treasure the life of every child, who is the image of Christ born of the Virgin, and remember the great calling which he or she, and each of us, has in God. Let us also remember that the ultimate fulfillment of that calling is found in the transformation of our very flesh, in which God became incarnate, that having become man for our sake, He enables us to partake of His Divinity on that glorious day of His coming again in the flesh.

With love in the Newborn Lord,

SIGNATURE
+JONAH
Archbishop of Washington
Metropolitan of All America and Canada

On the Death Penalty

I apologize to all for not posting recently. I’ve been in the finals season at school and am finally close to being done! (YAY!) Also, on Saturday I was Chrismated with my fiance Michelle. I chose the name Benjamin Augustine in honor or my given Christian name (and the great patriarch) and also Augustine without whom I would not be in the Orthodox Church, and without whose prayers, I would certainly fail. Michelle chose to keep her name as it is a perfectly good name, the female form of the Archangel Michael.

Anyways, I have been thinking much as of late on ethical issues, especially my opposition to the death penalty. In weighing of the convictions of my conscience with the teachings of my church, I came across this resolution passed by the 1989 All-American Council:

RESOLUTION ON THE DEATH PENALTY

August, 1989.

WHEREAS Orthodox Christians should be called to go beyond the political, social, and legal issues raised by capital punishment and recognize and address the deeper moral, ethical, and religious questions of the supreme value of human life in a manner consistent with our opposition to abortion and mercy killing, and in all such questions involving life and death the Church must always champion life; and

WHEREAS in an effort to further the respect for all human life and to witness to the redemptive nature of the Gospel of Jesus Christ who Himself prevented the legal execution of a woman (John 8:3-11) and realizing that premature death resulting from the application of the death penalty can prevent the rehabilitation, reconciliation, and redemption of the offender; and

WHEREAS, while we recognize the necessity to punish those guilty of violent crime, we also recognize that there is no humane way to execute a human being;

BE IT RESOLVED THAT the Ninth All-American Council of the Orthodox Church in America supports the abolition of the death penalty in this and all countries and does urge our elected and appointed officials in those states where prisoners are still executed to introduce and support appropriate legislation aimed at abolishing the death penalty;

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this Council requests all governors of states where the death penalty is still in force to halt all further executions according to the power of their office, but that legislative provisions be made for life imprisonment without possibility of parole for those subject to the death penalty;

FINALLY, BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Ninth All-American Council of the Orthodox church in America supports and encourages religious bodies, organizations and human rights groups which seek the abolition of the death penalty.

Orthodox Church in America

I will, sometime in the coming week put forth what I see as a Christian response to the Death Penalty and the overarching issues involved herein.

I covet your comments and ideas
-Benjamin Augustine

Happy ThAnKsGiViNg!

Thou Shalt Not (?)

I have been studying Judaism in my History of World Religions class as of late. During my studies I have had some certain things strike me as odd.

The first of these is that classical Judaism does not stress the afterlife hardly at all (and in some sects, none). I was perplexed at first and began to think to myself “why?”

Is it perhaps because they didn’t believe in it? That can’t be the case. One only has to go to a Jewish funeral to witness the knowledge of an afterlife, or witness one of the prayers in the Merits of the Fathers to see that Jews (well of the orthodox variety at least) tend to still see that there is a life after this one.

Perhaps it is because they have no Messiah. In reality, most Jews (again with the exception of orthodox jews) don’t even believe in a literal Messiah. Many Jews today, in fact, believe that the foundation of the Modern Israeli state, with all its downfalls, constitutes the promise of the messiah.

So why is it that Christianity is so “other world” obsessed and Judaism simply is not. Perhaps it has to do with the body.

Judaism has EVERYTHING to do with the body and what is done in it. As Christians we believe it is heresy to separate the body from the soul, this is Gnosticism. So, too, with Judaism, the soul and body are thought of as inseparable. If ever there is a separation at death, that is up to G_d, but otherwise, we cannot seperate the two in our understanding of the human person.

We find this because when God gave his chosen people their law, he largely gave them a way to rule their bodies. When God created man, in bodily form, he said that it was very good. “And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.” God, in this passage, unites inseparably the human body with the human soul. He creates the whole of the human person in His image, or eikon. Thus, when he gives them the law, he gives them ways to conform theirselves, largely through the body, to the way of life.

In Leviticus there are laws on what to eat, what to drink (the law of kash rus, or kosher). There are laws about human interaction. Laws about how to treat animals. How to sacrifice. How to bathe. . . and the list goes on and on. All together there are over 600 laws in the OT directed towards the body. Heck, there are even laws about women’s interaction with others during their menstrual periods. Why is God so obsessed with the Body?! Because we are made in his image and likeness.

I believe that the degredation of the Church’s witness in the world as we see it today, whether it be Orthodox, Catholic, or Protestants, doesn’t have much to do with modernism, post-modernism, or any other ism. It has to do specifically with how man and woman have chosen to use their bodies. In short, it can be traced back to the sexual “revolution”.

The failure of the church to stand up to the world on the issues of the human body is the problem, not its ascent to modern philosophy. As Nietzsche envisioned “When the Church loses the ability to say ‘Thou shalt not’ it will  lose all authority.” When the Church gives into contraception (as the protestant churches have in full, and the orthodox seem to be moving towards, though not as fast and with limits) it loses ground in its moral authority in the world, for she is to be the physician of the human person.

This is the same problem with Homosexuality. I love homosexuals. They are beautiful creations of God. Some of my . friends are homosexuals. But, this does not mean that the Church ought to sanction their lifestyle, because she knows that the active homosexual lifestyle is not GOOD for the human person! Instead, she ought to be teaching and correcting, comforting and counseling that person to wipe off the soil that has encrusted over the image of God in them, just as all of us must work out our salvation (in the Church) with fear and trembling.

The Church is the body of Christ in the world. She is the salt, the bitter preservative which saves the world. When it attempts to become an attractive and tasty item like sugar and ceases to become salty, it looses its ability to preserve and correct.

I believe, very firmly, that the reason that there are so many divorces in the church today also has to do with this lack of preserving in the church. For instance, and getting back to the area of contraception, I see a problem with oekonomia being practiced to allow contraception to the extent which it is allowed in the American Orthodox Church. Oekonomia is applied to something that is sin, but is not easily given up. It is concession to sin, often involving a lessening of penance, in order for the weak human person to be weaned off of sin. Its purpose is primarily for addictions and a concession for human weakness. If a person can, AT ALL, resist the sin of contraception, he or she should not be sanctioned to use it, because it is not good for fostering the practice of chastity within the marital bounds. (Of course this is ultimately up to the Bishop through the Priest, but I would argue that it ought to be used much more sparingly than in current practice).

Contraception sets forth an unnatural dichotomy and usage of sex within the human marriage bonds. It allows the couple to engage in sexual activity much more than envisioned by God. This brings about an unhealthy balance within the marriage that equates the quality of the marriage with the quality of sex. The further degredation of this, which I am seeing in my own generation is the bypassing of marriage alltogether, in an effort not to get sucked into a “loveless” marriage somewhere down the road (because our understandings of that marriage have become inordinate, equating sex with relationship).

It also brings about a problem with the very nature of the conjugal act itself, in essence re-defining it. God created the female body to work in a particular way in cycles of fertility. When a couple usurps those boundaries by using contraception, which have their aim at disrupting those cycles, it allows them to act in a way unestablished by God. The Human Marriage, which God established even before the fall of man into sin as very good, ceases to be a salvific sacrament of grace to save the human person, and becomes instead an instrument of death. It becomes an institution of the hedonism of our day.

We are not called to pleasure, though God allows it for the enjoyment and fullness of the human person. The primary purpose of marriage is not pleasure, but the union of man and woman with the ultimate outcome being the procreation of the human race. Those who cannot conceive for whatever reason are not in sin, because they are fulfilling the commandment of God to “be one as I and the Father are one.” This is no fault of their own. But those who choose to contracept, in an effort to usurp the boundaries the sovereign God has placed on our personal lives (and yes, this includes financial aspects as well. See Matthew 10:29-32) are willfully choosing to disobey the Church’s teaching on that subject, choosing their own pleasure over the good order of things as established by God (not to mention that this practice will inevitably lead to the extinguishing of not only the Christian people, but the Human race if taken to its natural end, but this is another discussion in itself).  We are called to repent, and believe, and be baptized. In the sacraments of the Church there is salvation, outside there is death.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only son; so that whosoever believes in Him shall enherit eternal life. [...] For Christ did not come into the world to condemn it, but to save it and unite it unto himself.” The restrictions of the Church on the body are not meant as empty law imposed on its members, but as the bringing about of the koinonia which exists in the body of Christ. It is for the salvation of the human person.

Think upon these things. As always I welcome your thoughts and reflections

In Christ,

Ben

Some Ground Rules

I have received some comments as of late which I have had to delete for various reasons. As such I think that it is only fair that I should put forth a criteria for posting on this blog. This is meant to help facilitate the discussion that can happen on here efficiently. None of my deletions were meant as a personal attack on anyone at all. So without any further adieu, here are the criteria for posting:

1. Please refrain from posting links unless incredibly necessary to the purposes of your argument. If you do post links to outside sources, please refrain from posting from dubious sources such as non-canonical sites (like OrthodoxInfo) or someone’s mother’s rant about how she thinks that the government is secretly implanting us with chips which will make us all the beast’s servants and usher in the rule of the anti-christ. . .

2. All, spam will be deleted or edited.

3. The comment must pertain to the post, (I may be liberal with this one, but on a whole please keep the conversation centered on the topic at hand.

4. If you have something which you would like me to hear but do not have a post to attach it to effectively, please feel free to email me. I would love to hear your comments and converse with you about them.

5. Please refrain from degrading, belittling, berating, attacking, swearing at, pulling the hair of, taking a knife to, or any otherwise violent behavior. It’s just better that way.

Thank you all for reading and for your time and may the Lord bless you and keep you and make his face to shine upon you!

Peace,
-Ben

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