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.

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The happy ending to the story is that, ultimately, the law was repealed.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

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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

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!

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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Strange Things are A-Brewing in Russia

831I found this article on Interfax-Religion today and couldn’t help but post it. It made me laugh.

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Stavropol, October 2, Interfax – Ph.D. Anatoly Dolzhenko from Stavropol demanded that the Old Testament should be considered extremist literature, its distribution should be banned in Russia and those who distribute it should be brought to trial.

He turned with a corresponding 11-sheet statement to the Prosecutor’s Office of the Lenin District, Stavropol issue of Komsomolskaya Pravda daily has reported on Friday.

Evgeny Trufanov, an arbitrator and methodologist on struggle against organized crime and corruption, backs up Dolzhenko.

“We want the Old Testament be officially recognized as literature of extremist content that kindles interethnic hostility and to this end we cite quotations from the Bible in our statement,” Trufanov said.

In the event of refusal, the applicants are going to address the European Court of Human Rights.

The statement cites some quotations that outraged both the scientist and the judge. For instance, “do not give your daughters in marriage to their sons or take their daughters for your sons. Do not seek a treaty of friendship with them at any time.”

Commenting on the unusual initiative of Stavropol residents, press secretary of the local diocese Evgeny Bronsky reminded, “the world of the Old Testament is the world where people rejected God, rejected sense of values, of sin, the world where pagans sacrificed their babies to soulless idols, where mass murder of captives was usual practice.”

“It was possible to restrict this evil and not to let humanity vanish only by force. It was the Lord’s hard way in the world of evil, in the world deprived of grace, it was the way of sufferings. However, this way led the whole humanity to the good news of Christ, to the New Testament,” the Diocese official said.

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