The Catholic Defender: The Fourth Man in the Fire

Posted by John Benko - January 29th, 2013

King Nebuchadnezzar created a golden statue and wanted to honor his creation setting up a herald to cry out: “Nations and peoples of every language, when you here the sound of the trumpet, flute, lyre, harp, psaltery, bagpipe, and all the other musical instruments, you are ordered to fall down and worship the golden statue”.

The King ordered “Whoever does not fall down and worship shall be instantly cast into a white-hot furnace”.

The Gentiles seem to have complied to this order, but the news was spread that the Jews did not play the game.

King Nebuchadnezzar became enraged and called for the Jewish administrators Shadrach, Meshack, and Abednego to be brought before him.

The King became upset at them finding out that it was true, the Jews did not nor will not worship a false god, especially one made of gold. The King began to replay the music for the Jewish representatives only to find that they refused to comply.

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego stated, “There is no need for us to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If our God, whom we serve, can save us from the white-hot furnace and from your hands, O king, may he save us! But even if he will not, know, O king, that we will not serve your god or worship the golden statue which you set up” (Daniel 3:16-18).

The king became very enraged and ordered the furnace to be heated seven times more than usual and had some of the strongest men bind Shadrach, Meshack, and Abednego and they were cast into the firery furnace.

The flames enkindled those who threw the Jews into the furnace. Yet, Shadrack, Meshack, and Abednego were seen walking in the fire singing praise to God.

With this scene, King Nebuchadnezzar began to praise the Lord recognizing the miracle.

As the three men were praising God, hearing them sing, King Nebuchadnezzer rose asking, “Did we not cast three men bound into the fire, I see four men unfettered and unhurt, walking in the fire, and the fourth looks like a son of God” (Daniel 3:91-92).

Upon their release, not even the hair on their head had been singed, there was no evidence they had been in a fire. They were not even smoking!

Angels were seen as “sons of God” (Jb 1:6), in the singular case, I can’t help but see Jesus involved in this.

Regardless if this is an image of Jesus or this fourth man was purely an angel from God, the power source is the same. Jesus is the Word made flesh. God’s protection of Shadrach, Meshack, and Abednego, reveals that God can save his people.

We might find ourselves under extreme pressure and we too must cry out to God. The most important thing for us is to remain faithful to God and keep a song of praise in our heart towards God.

The Jews told the king, win, lose, or draw they would not bow down to any god but the one true God.

We too must have this kind of courage and strength to meet the challenges we face. This story from Daniel gives us hope that the Lord will be with us through any danger that lies ahead.

I have been delivered from the battlefield, I thank God for my life. We must continue to pray for our Nation, for our troops in harms way, and for our families.

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*BEST OF DTB #17* The Catholic Defender looks at The Mass

Posted by John Benko - January 27th, 2013

Have you ever listened to the radio or watched television and heard some minister invite you to a Bible-believing church?

When they say this, they may in effect be saying, “Catholics are not Bible believers because they depend on human tradition and precepts. Come join us where you can really get into the word.”

In response, former Catholics will be shouting, “Amen, brother,” and lukewarm Catholics will say, “Really? Wow, let’s check it out!”

If they really understood the Mass, they would realize, “Hey, the Catholic Church is the most Bible-believing church on any street corner.”

When I’ve invited Protestant friends to Mass, they are astonished to find that the songs, prayers, and scripture are so based on the foundation of Jesus Christ. He is the very core, the center of each Mass.

The Mass is divided into two basic parts: the liturgy of the word, and the liturgy of the Eucharist. The Mass begins with the entrance song, and the procession of the crucifix followed by the altar servers.

The lector boldly carries the word of God with respect and reverence. The priest follows at the rear of the formation.

The Celebrant will then greet the altar. The altar, once consecrated, represents the ‘most sacred’ and ‘whatever touches it will be sacred’ (Exodus 29:37)

It is a holy thing about to be celebrated. Hebrews 13:15 states, “Through him then let us continually offer God a sacrifice of praise that is, the fruit of lips that confess this name.”
The celebrant after assuming his position behind the altar usually in front of his chair will preside over the liturgy of the word.

He greets the people, and all prepare to enter God’s presence by a common confession of unworthiness.

I Corinthian 11: 27-29 states, “Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily will have to answer for the Body and blood of the Lord. A person should examine himself, and so eat the bread and drink the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body, eats and drinks judgment on himself.”

We must recognize that we are sinners and need his help (I Timothy 1:15). The priest may combine the Kyrie Eleison (Lord, Have Mercy) prayer to conclude the penitential rite. On Sundays which do not occur within the season of Lent or Advent, Catholics will sing or pray together ‘The Glory to God in the Highest,’ a song of praise and composite of truths sung by the angels on the first Christmas night.

So, this far into the Mass, we haven’t yet got to the word of God, but we have participated with ancient traditions so infused with scripture that it represents Biblical Christianity with the highest respect.

After the “Glory to God in the Highest,” the Celebrant collects the prayers of the assembly. St. Paul states in I Timothy 2:8, “It is my wish, then, that in every place the men should pray, lifting up Holy hands, without anger or argument.” Together, we bring our needs and desires. The prayers are short, but pointed and forceful.

The scriptural reading now begins. The first reading usually is taken from the Old Testament. This reading usually correlates with the Gospel message from the New Testament. After the Old Testament reading is concluded, we have one of the Responsorial Psalms.

This is an antiphonal arrangement of a psalm intended to be a meditation on the word of God. This is either sung or recited alternately by the lector (the singer), and the congregation.

Then we read a New Testament passage, such as 2 Timothy 3:16, 17, “All scripture is inspired by God, and useful for teaching, for refutation, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that one who belongs to God may be competent, equipped for every good work.”

When Paul wrote to Timothy, he had the Old Testament scripture in mind. It is right that we also keep the Old Testament and honor it.

The next reading is called “The Epistle,” and it’s always taken from the New Testament. It gives instruction for the Christian community to life the Christian life.

After the four Gospels, the New Testament begins with the book of Acts, written by St. Luke as an historical record of the early church.

The next 13 books, from Romans to Philemon, and ordered according to length from longest to shortest, are letters written by St. Paul. After Paul’s writings, comes the book of Hebrews.

The scholars at the council of Hippo (convened from A. D. 393-396 for the purpose of establishing the books of the Bible) were not sure that Paul wrote Hebrews, so they placed it after the rest of his writings.

After Hebrews comes the books called “The Catholic letters,” because they were written to the whole church, not just to a certain church or individual. These books are James, Peter 1 and 2, John 1, 2, and 3, Jude, and Revelation, written by Saint John.

The more you are involved with the order of the Mass, the more biblical you find it. After the epistle, all stand for the ‘Alleluia,’ and verse in preparation for the Gospel. During the season of Lent, the ‘Alleluia,’ is not sung; instead, a Gospel acclamation is used.

The celebrant proclaims the Gospel. The Gospel books are Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. The Gospel and the previous scripture reading are arranged on a three year cycle so that once every three years the entire Bible is proclaimed.

At the reading of the Gospel, the entire congregation stands to hear intently the words of Jesus Christ. Once the Gospel message is announced, we respond by making a sign of the cross on our forehead, mouth, and heart.

This sign means ‘My mind believes the truth, my lips speak the truth, and my heart loves the truth.’
By this time, your Protestant friend has really flipped out. He hasn’t seen so much Bible utilized and proclaimed at one time. He is beginning to wonder, “They say this is not a Bible-believing church.” That’s when I grab the young person on the shoulder and tell them, “Yeah, and you haven’t heard the half of it yet; take a seat.”

After the Gospel, the Homily is given which the priest uses to show practical application of the Gospel message. It’s preaching time! It pays to be attentive just to make sure the priest knows his ‘p’s’ and ‘q’s.’

After the sermon is pronounced,, the Nicene Creed is repeated by all the faithful. The creed is a profession of our faith, and a composite of truths that we Catholics have maintained since the apostles. Hebrews 4:14 states, “Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the Heavens, Jesus, the son of God, let us hold fast to our profession of faith.”

The Nicene Creed is an expansion of the Apostles Creed. The Nicene creed was composed at the council of Nicea in 325 A.D., reaffirmed at the Council of Constantinople in the same century.

The last act in this biblical-inspired drama is the petitions of the prayer of the faithful. We simply ask God for mercy and help in whatever the needs may be. This ends the Liturgy of the Word!

After the word of God has been proclaimed, the Eucharistic celebration of the Mass begins with the offertory procession.

The tithing (money) and gifts of bread and wine are brought to the Altar as a sign of the offering of our lives in union with Christ to the heavenly Father. Usually a song or hymn is sung.

Jesus tells this story about tithing. “A poor widow also came and put in two small coins worth a few cents.” Calling His disciples to Himself, He said to them; “Amen I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the other contributers to the treasury. For they all contributed from the surplus wealth, but she from her poverty, has contributed all she had, her whole livelihood (Mark 12:41-44).”

We shall offer ourselves totally, not from a monetary (though one should give what they can), but of oneself.

Let our offering not be like Cain’s, but more like Abel’s. a sacrifice pleasing to God (Genesis 4:4-5).

The offering begins as the priest prepares the gift of bread and wine that will become the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ, also known as the “Eucharist”.

Modeled after the Jewish prayers, the priest proclaims, “Blessed are you, Lord God of all creation, through your goodness we have this bread to offer which will become the Bread of Life.”
The next phase is the preparation of the gifts. Having prepared the gift of bread, the priest now prepares the gift of wine that will be changed into the blood of Christ.

This chalice becomes the vessel that will help us enact the everlasting Covenant that will be shed for all of us. As the wine is offered by the priest, so we offer ourselves. We ask God to share in His divine nature, just as Christ shared in our human nature.

As water became one with wine, in like manner we would wish to be united with Christ.

The celebrant washes his hands. This practice is a priestly cleaning. The Old Testament prefigures the New Testament. Exodus 29:1-2 states; “This is the rite you shall perform in consecrating them as priest… with fine wheat flour make unleavened cakes mixed with oil, and unleavened wafers spread with oil… Aaron and his sons, the priests of the Levi’s. You shall also bring to the entrance of the meeting tent, and there wash them with water.”

This washing of hands by the priest is symbolic of purification of the soul. Then the priest may approach the great sacrifice without blemish.

This is followed by a prayer that the sacrifice will be acceptable to God. 1 Peter 2:5 states, “You too are living stone, built as an edifice of spirit, into a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”
The washing of hands is followed by prayer over the gifts, the most important of the offering prayers.

There are primarily four Eucharistic prayers used by cannon law: Eucharistic Prayer III is the most common used. Eucharistic Prayer 1 is used usually read during Christmas Mass, and special occasions.

It is during this consecration that the bread and wine are consecrated and the communitites highest attention and adoration is given. It is tradition that the bells ring at the word of Jesus, “This is my body” at the elevation! Then again with “Do this in memory of me”.
During the middle ages, at the moment of the consecration, the tower bells would ring alearting the country side what was happening in the church. Farmers would stop, reflect and pray.

The Angelus, a popular devotion, was common at this time. Jesus renews for us His redemptive sacrifice. He does not suffer or die. This was offered only one!

Before us, Jesus makes present and active among us the power of His life, death, and resurrection.

As a form of prayer, some of the canons go back to the second century. As the priest elevates the host and then the chalice, Jesus is truely present under both species.

We can unify ourselves with Jesus, the one true mediation between God and individual. He offers Himself to the Father on our behalf.

The next phase is called, “The Intercessions”! Here the universal prayers for the church, communion with the saints, for all of us, for the needs, and for the deceased.

These petitions are joined in the rememberance of the passion, death, and resurrection and the Lord’s second coming that is celebrated in the Eucharist (Luke 22:19).

The Eucharistic prayer is climaxed with the Doxology, and the great amen. The priest celebrates the host and the cup proclaiming, “Through Him, with Him, in Him, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all glory and honor is yours, almighty Father forever and ever”.
The Fathers of the Church considered the “Amen” as important for the laity as the words of consecration are for the priest. It is our achknowledgement to the truth of what is taking place.

The Lord’s prayer is from the earliest times, the “table prayer” of the christians. For during this prayer we pray for our daily bread, our Eucharistic bread and it’s fruits.

The next phase is the breaking of the bread. This is the oldest name given to the assymbly/service used in the book of Acts of the New Testament. This was a sign that all, though many, were one loaf, one bread, and one Body of Christ.

During the breaking of the bread, the Angus Des is sung or recited, which is the “Lamb of God” prayer.

The priest then holds the particle of the Eucharistic bread and uses the words spoken by St. John the Baptist. Older versions of the text says, “Behold the Lamb of God; behold Him who takes away the sins of the world.”
Today it begins, “This is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. Happy are those who are called to His supper.”
Just like the centurion so long ago, we respond, “Lord I am not worthy to recieve you, but only the word and I shall be healed.

The communion procession, we as a community share in the body and blood of the Lord, communion with Him and each other.

This is a far greater fulfillment than the Manna given to the Israelites in the desert (John 6:25-51).

The Eucharist is a Latin word meaning “Thanksgiving”! We are called to recieve this gift and take this gift within us, to the whole world.

We are given the final blessing and like the great commission gave the disciples, we are send to go into the streets, the work place, the homes, to witness and share Christ to everyone we meet. Indeed, Jesus calls us to teach the Gospels to the ends of the earth.

*BEST OF DTB #31* The Catholic Defender looks at Abortion

Posted by John Benko - January 26th, 2013

It was 1995, Troop Medical Clinic (TMC) 3, I had just transferred to MEDDAC at Ft. Campbell from the Rakassans, 3/187 Infantry.

I had been with them for nearly 5 years and now I am assigned to the TMC that supported the Rakassans.

That is a world of difference, but it would still be challenging.

One day, a female Soldier comes to my office and wanted to talk to me.

I took her to an exam room where she could talk in privacy.

She took a few moments until, finally, she wanted to talk to me about an abortion she had recently committed.

She was not married; she was having difficulty coping with what she done.

I asked her if she was Catholic and she replied “no”, that she was a member of the Assemblies of God. She told me that she had not been practicing her faith for some time.

I encouraged her to make an appointment with her Pastor, or find her unit’s Chaplain if she needed to speak with a Professional.

I wanted to encourage her to get the kind of help she needed from her spiritual tradition.

That was not the time to discuss religion except that I told her I was Catholic.

I told her that as a representative of Christ, I forgive her for what she did. I think she needed to hear that.

We spoke for a short time but her issue and concern stuck with me for a good while.

I have always been pro-life, politically; I have always supported pro-life Candidates for all elections.

Since that time, I have felt a compassion for those who have had abortions who live with the knowledge they killed their children.

Despair can set in and take control of a young life. There was a national suicide hot line based out of California that reported 45% of those calling them for help were over abortion.

Allot of women are faced with many issues that can make them feel trapped.

Many times it is parents who are pressuring them to have abortions; sometimes it is a boy friend or even husband that pressures them.

Sometimes, it is the Mother who wants to end their pregnancies.

I have spoken with women who displayed great courage and dedication giving life to their child. Other times, the child never had a chance.

Since 1973, we have had more than 50,000,000 babies killed by abortion.

We have basically wiped out a generation of people who are not able to speak for themselves; they are forever silent except on that great and glorious day of the Lord. Their voice will be heard then.

In order to change lives, we must also work to change conditions that give women support and encouragement.

Love within the families, having a strong Father and Mother role model is very important.

That is almost counterculture in today’s society as divorce is common, the family unit is under attack, and people are all over the country separated from loved ones.

Children are being raised without Fathers. Many Father’s are not acting responsible towards their children.

In many cases, the Mother is trying to carry the load. Many Father’s do not lead by example.

As a result, many Daughters do not have a healthy image of Fathers or Mothers.

That has made it difficult for them to see God the Father or the Blessed Virgin Mary.

I have been watching some of the debates on FOX News and can’t help respond to one of the liberals who appear on there speaking as if women are supportive to abortion as a voting block.

I think the women’s vote will be more pro-life than what the NOW Gang care to admit.

Most Americans oppose abortion on demand so depending on who is asking the question, abortion advocates can bend results.

Women’s issues will aways need to be front and center, but liberals sugar coat the issues as they compete for tax dollars such as Planned Parenthood.

The Federal Government has paid billions supporting abortion many using this as a birth control.

Millions of woman have fell into this trap, a sad consequence of the sexual revolution, a battlefield where often times women are the casualties.

Where women are made objects and not respected as a child of God.

The answer really is found in Jesus Christ, Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life.

The problem and challenge is getting Christians to follow the Lord living out his teaching.

To heal the family, individuals, we need God’s love, forgiveness, and mercy. Love and Compassion does not equal toleration and acceptance.

Heaven intervened when the Virgin Mary appeared to St. Juan Diego in 1531 to stop human sacrifice.

Today, we call upon the Lord and His Mother to end the human sacrifices today.

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*BEST OF DTB #128* Blog for CHOICE Day

Posted by John Benko - January 21st, 2013

NARAL Pro-CHOICE America is calling on all the anti-life bloggers to blog for CHOICE. “Blog for CHOICE Day”, they call it. Well I am going to “Blog for CHOICE” as well, but unlike them, I will be very specific about what CHOICE I am blogging about.

The definition of CHOICE is: the right or opportunity of choosing, having an alternative. So I have to ask those who call themselves pro-CHOICE, what are you choosing, what are the alternatives given to women in a crisis pregnancy? The stats of our nation’s number one abortion provider, Planned Parenthood, shows that 96.3% of their services to pregnant women in 2008 were abortions and the other 3.7% were adoptions and prenatal care. * So with that, we can come to the conclusion, that to them CHOICE means ABORTION, with obviously little focus on any alternatives.
Now what is interesting, on NARAL’s website, it writes about Crisis Pregnancy Centers and has this to say “While CPCs may falsely suggest that they provide a full range of reproductive health services, they clearly do not.” Well that’s a very disingenuous statement coming from a movement, that cant own up to what their CHOICE is and how little CHOICE women are given at abortion “clinics”. They also, don’t ever call themselves, by what they really are, abortion “clinics”, but disguise their name as “women “health” centers.
If we look at women who have had abortions, 64% of American women felt pressured by others, more than half felt rushed or uncertain, yet 67% received no counseling, 79% were not told about available alternatives, 84% said they were not fully informed.** Does this sound like CHOICE to you? Is CHOICE coerced, rushed and uninformed ?
It certainly is no secret that Crisis Pregnancy Centers do not provide abortion services nor do they refer women to the NO-CHOICE abortion mills, because some choices are ugly and wrong. CPC’s provide women and their unborn child, with the help they need , to get through the pregnancy, support their child, or put that child up for adoption. They are given alternatives that they won’t regret, they are given information to make the CHOICE best for both them and their child, and they are not forced or coerced to make the decision that is best for the both of them. Now, doesn’t that sound more like CHOICE? And don’t ALL WOMEN and their unborn children deserve the best CHOICES, regardless of how that pregnancy came about?
The anti-life movement, has hijacked the word CHOICE, they misuse and distort its meaning, doing so, because they can’t fess up, to what their CHOICE really is. ABORTION. If you support something which is so ugly, you can’t use the word, maybe you should rethink what you are CHOOSING!
So based on the facts, wouldn’t it be more appropriate for NARAL to call upon their bloggers to “Blog for ABORTION Day”? or “Blog for NO CHOICE day?”
Tomorrow, hundreds of thousands of supporters of CHOICE will be marching in Washington D.C. They will be marching for the right choices, they will be marching for the CHOICE that gives life, not takes life, the CHOICE that heals, not harms. The Author of Life, will not bless America, until America truly becomes pro-CHOICE.
” I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. Choose life, then, that you and your descendants may live” Deut 30:19.
This blog was submitted by Deeper Truth member – Margie Sindelar
If you are in, or know someone who is in a crisis pregnancy, call 1-800-395-HELP.
If you have had an abortion, visit Rachael’s Vineyard OR Hope After Abortion

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*BEST OF DTB #252* The Catholic Defender: My Walking Miracle

Posted by John Benko - January 11th, 2013

Today, my wife was completing a physical for a new job she has been hired. She will serve as a nurse with a position in Arizona. Travel Nursing is a great opportunity especially for our financial situations. My Wife ran into a friend who has known us for sometime. He remembered how my wife was a walking miracle.

It was early February, 2010, that my wife was diagnosed with having a high stenosis of the lower cavity affecting her circulation in her intestines. This is a condition that most of the time is found through an autopsy. It took her doctors over 6 months to find this diagnosis. My wife had previously lost over 44 pounds and was like a walking skeleton. I remember the terrible pain she endured, I think that the doctors in the beginning must of thought she was faking her condition. They were to find out in time that she was not.

A person can die a terrible death in a 24 hour period for not having blood flow through the intestines. My Wife discovered through the MRI, they found that she had two major vessels, the Superior Mesenteric Artery (SMA) and the Celiac Artery more than 90% closed off. Despite being 6 months undiagnosed, there was no necrosis of the intestines. This is a real miracle. I had dedicated the daily rosary for a number of years and so I definitely attribute my wife’s miraculous to the rosary and prayer dedication.

Something else about my wife that I am so thankful, when ever I have encountered great difficulty she has always been there for me. We have supported each other through all the tough times. She is also this years Christmas miracle for me as I had to work twelve hours at Seton Hospital. I was off for Christmas from my regular job and so I was able to pull this shift for my part time job at the hospital.

On Christmas Eve, I was actually awarded a “reward and recognition” certificate and coin for an event that took place at Seton Hospital. According to the form that was written on my behalf it reads:

Respect: Don is always very respectful of and to patients, visitors and employees.

Communication: He has awesome communication skills.

Professionalism: Don’s past military service shapes the way he handles professionally his work as a Security Guard.

Service: When ever I need Don in Labor and Delivery he is here in a minutes notice.

Safety: The Safety of everyone in this hospital is always his upper most concern.

Commitment to Co-Worker: Don is one of the finest Christian men I have ever met.

What a wonderful write up this was that someone would write this up on my behalf. I was humbled by what was said. The following was the write up supporting the above award:

On the evening of November 22nd, late into my shift, I had a patient come in by ambulance by way of the Emergency Room. The husband soon followed. Since the patient had gone straight back, I had the young man come into my office to begin the registrant’s process.

The young man was very distraught over a lot of different issues. He asked to speak to someone who could give him some spiritual guidance. At this point, I asked Don to come down and speak to the young man because he was becoming more and more unwound. He was talking very loudly and using four letter words.

The nurses were afraid of him and did not want him back there with his wife and we had a lot of new mom’s and babies on the ward.

The young man and his brother had gotten into a fight and the brother had a broken hand. At this point, the mother of the 2 young men is also here. It was up to me to keep this person from going past the locked doors and to reassure the wife that her husband would soon join her.

At this point, Don came down immediately and began speaking to the young man. For over an hour, Don spoke to the young man and diffused the situation. Once the young man has calmed down, he was able to join his wife. With the presence of Don as a Security Guard, the young man did not cause any more problems and the nurses and I felt safe in allowing him back there with his wife.

While I privately have thanked Don, I would like to recognize him for the actions he took to insure the safety of everyone involved.

I am in the office alone from 3 to 11:30 P.M. and it is extremely important to know that I can rely on these fine men to protect not only me, the Labor and Delivery staff, but most importantly our patients, newborns, moms and dads.

Ladies and gentlemen, I have always prized more for this kind of letter than the awards I was given. In the Army I received more that 21 medals (awards). I was put in for the Legion of Merit, was awarded a number of Bronze Stars, Meritorious Medals, as well as many others, but I really get a lot of satisfaction when recognized for things like the above.

Throughout my career, my Wife has supported me through all the tough situation we have had to navigate around.  The previous award was given to me on Christmas Eve.  The following week, I found out that there was a nurse or nurses who were offended at my celebration of Christmas.

I worked at Seton Hospital on Christmas Day for 12 hours.  As I made my patrols around the hospital, I would try to spread Christmas Cheer.  Now remember, Seton Hospital is suppose to be a “Catholic” hospital.

While at Labor and Delivery, I was singing the “12 Days of Christmas” and talking about the song when a nurse challenged me asking, “Do you really believe that Jesus was born on December 25th?” 

I responded yes, I could prove it through Scripture, Tradition, history, and science.  I did not elaborate this as the nurse then told me that she would talk about it later.

I did not know what she had meant until  yesterday when I was called indicating that I was no longer welcome working at Seton Hospital.  Apparently, I offended this nurse with spreading Christmas cheer.  Can you imagine such a picture? A Security Guard was relieved of duty for spreading Christmas Cheer on Christmas Day? At a “Catholic” hospital? I was told that I attacked their religion by the “12 Days of Christmas”.

There is something more sinister here that just this.  The person in charge of the Hospital Human Resource Department I had first met at a local job fair not far from Fort Hood.  Being a Combat Medic for 26 years, I was interested in investigating this job opportunity.  It turned out that at the time there was no place for me so I went looking else where.

I was hired on to a local Security Company through one of my RCIA Candidates and was hired on with them.  Guess where I would end up working? Seton Hospital.   When the Lady saw me she went to the hospital leadership about me.  She literally thought I was stalking her sexually? I was floored by this when my leadership told me of the situation.

Fortunately, the Hospital leadership knew me from Fort Campbell when I worked under General Petreaus.  I was able to work there despite the objection of this Lady.  Well, apparently, Human Resources through the leading Lady, would take this complaint of an Anti-Catholic to pursue her opposition to me.

My wife, through all of this, has been a great blessing.  I never suffered from tension until this latest episode, I began having neck spasms that would nearly floor me. 

It is times like this that I really value my Wife, family, and friends.

I encourage everyone to check out our next radio show as we will cover this event.  People, when they hear about this is really shocked.

My Wife will be giving Seton Hospital  one of the first letters that will be mailed to Seton Hospital.

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*BEST OF DTB #251* 3 Tips for Keeping those January Resolutions

Posted by John Benko - January 10th, 2013

Note from the Christie: You’ll probably notice that this isn’t strictly apologetics but more of a tactical application post. Life is hard and Christian life is cross-schlepping hard. How we live speaks more clearly about our beliefs than anything coming out of our mouths or keyboards. Let’s help each other get it right, pick each other up when we get it wrong; witness first in the home, then in the world.

“Let all things be done decently and in order” (I Cor.14:40)

God is a God of order. Like cold is what happens when heat is absent, chaos is what happens when God is absent. Without the hand of God, or your hand as His child, all things will revert to their original state: nothingness. The process isn’t pretty. The first few stages are mere messiness and disorder. Left alone, these degenerate into chaos. Chaos ultimately ends in obliteration and annihilation.

A wife and mom is in a constant fight with the descent into chaos.

It’s the oldest story out there. Creation was orderly and functioned well until we introduced the chaos of sin. After that all Hell broke loose, literally. To make a near eternal story short, if you are battling the Home Depot web page or a counter top that continually fills up with junk mail, half finished scribblings, hair ties, dog collars, dirty coffee mugs, broken crayons, unsharpened pencils, random lists and rubber bands, you can blame Adam and Eve for it.

Thanks guys!

Though, from the looks of my counter top (and no, I will not be showing you a picture of my desk), I’d be the last person to ask about organization, I do have an insight or two into the process. I know how to get organization schemes wrong, I know how to fail, and since that’s about it, let me help you avoid some of the pitfalls as you enter into January’s Resolution Season.

#1 Let God In
Since God created order and you need Him for that, begin any home improvement project with prayer. Don’t try to go at the house on your own steam. Don’t even try to go at it with some expert’s scheme. None of that is going to work as well as simply starting from the premise that you can’t tackle this problem alone. Face it, the Universe is spinning out of control, your counter tops and dusty baseboards are merely evidence of a problem greater than mankind. Entropy is a law you are trying to break! Which leads me to my next point.

#2 You Are Doomed

Not my actual counter…

You are going to fail. You may quit reading now or you may build into your system this humbling realization. Like we continually fall into sin and laziness in our spiritual life and need to be continually repentant and prayerful to battle that tendency, you will continually fall into it in your physical life, too. Whatever your new plans are, a new diet or a vow to keep the gas tank above a quarter tank, you are going to do very well on your new system for a few weeks and then you will slip up. No matter how diligent you think you are, one day in the dim gloom of a drizzly February day, you will look up in surprise to see that counter looking worse than it did when you started. It will hit you that you have failed and you will be tempted to look upon all the effort you put into it to change yourself and your life was a great big honking waste of time! My thinking usually sounds a bit like this, “Almighty Me has put for a bit of effort and now the job should run itself without anything more from Me. It isn’t fair!” If that sounds in any way familiar or if that random Internet pic of a messy counter top is yours, swallow your pride, pray, repent, and get back to the job. That’s just how that works.

#3 Be Smart and Be Lazy
Be lazy enough to understand that a little effort every day avoids the tremendous effort once a week/month/year. Putting off a job multiplies magnificently (horrifically?) the effort it takes to do the same job. You may think you are being lazy by ignoring a problem spot, but the really lazy person designs her life around the least effort humanly possible. If 10 minutes of cleanup twice a week is all that it takes to keep the counter top clear, but 5 seconds of putting away a piece of mail in the moment is all it takes, be lazy enough to pick the latter. That’s just smart.

So, enjoy your New Year. Keep your Resolutions, but do so armed with the understanding that breaking an old habit of disorderliness with a new habit of orderliness is going to take time and a bit of human frailty. Always keep in mind that first thought, that God is a God of order. If you find your February beginning to bloom with the flowers of your old familiar chaos, remember that like cold is the absence of heat, chaos is the absence of God. Laxity in your physical world may be a sign of laxity in the spiritual, so begin weeding it out with prayer and repentance. That could never hurt.

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The Catholic Defender: St. Raymond of Penafort

Posted by John Benko - January 9th, 2013

When looking at the lives of the Saints, it can be very interesting at how the Lord used the gifts of each person.

Although their gifts varied, they were sold out to God with all their hearts, minds, strengths, and souls.

They had many struggles as we all do, that is important to remember, but they are with the Lord.

We want to imitate their strengths and know their weaknesses to help inspire us.

St. Raymond of Penafort was born in 1175. By 1195, St. Raymond, became a professor of Canon Law at the rip old age of 20.

St. Raymond became impressed with the spiritual rule of St. Dominic and became a Dominican by 1221.

His expertise became so well known, Pope Gregory IX sent for St. Raymond to serve as a chaplain.

St. Raymond would institute studies on Oriental languages to help convert the Moors and Jews.

The Pope called for St. Raymond to reorganize and rearrange the whole work on Canon Law.

By 1231, this work was published and the Pope called on this work to be the only authoritative authority to be used in all the schools and higher places of learning.

He is remembered for his works “Summa Casuum” and “Summa de Poenitentia et Matrimonio”. He also requested St. Thomas Aquainus to write his “Summa Contra Gentiles”.

This work continues to be relevant today, I know Seminarians from both Catholic and Protestant backgrounds who research these works as part of their education requirements.

St. Raymond’s work has been very important to Christ’s call to go to all the nations. He lived out his life totally for the Lord and his talents has helped thousands of young men seeking to become priests. He had the gift of Knowledge, Wisdom, and Understanding.

I am reminded of Mother Mary’s instruction to Lucia, one of the children of Fatima, that she would need to learn to read and write to take this message to the world. God uses us when we choose to serve him.

St. Raymond certainly reminds us the need to use our brains as well as live out our faith. The power of an informed mind marked with the faith of a saint. We all have gifts and talents that the Lord gives us. The Lord would take St. Raymond on 6 January 1275 and was canonized by Pope Clement VIII in 1601. Today, St. Raymond sings with the heavenly hosts in that great cloud of witnesses. St. Raymond, pray for us!

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The Catholic Defender: Prayer of St. John Cardinal Newman

Posted by John Benko - January 6th, 2013

St. John Cardinal Newman was a Convert to the Catholic Faith.

His story is well known but this day I want to share a prayer of his that I think will touch your hearts. It gives a clue to the richness of his faith.

As we go through this life we are to “Be Not Afraid”. God is so good and He provides for His people. The Beatitudes should become our daily living pattern.

Join with me this day and pray the words of St. John Cardinal Newman:

“God has created me to do Him some definite service; He has committed some work to me which He has not committed to another. I have my mission–I never may know it in this life, but I shall be told it in the next. Somehow I am necessary for His purposes, as necessary in my place as an Archangel in his–if, indeed, I fail, He can raise another, as He could make the stones children of Abraham. Yet I have a part in this great work; I am a link in a chain, a bond of connexion between persons. He has not created me for naught. I shall do good, I shall do His work; I shall be an angel of peace, a preacher of truth in my own place, while not intending it, if I do but keep His commandments and serve HIm in my calling.

Therefore, I will trust Him. Whatever, whereever I am, I can never be thrown away. If I am in sickness, my sickness may serve Him; in perplexity, my perplexity may serve Him; if I am in sorrow, my sorrow may serve HIm. My sickness, or perplexity, or sorrow may be necessary causes of some great end, which is quite beyond us. He does nothing in vain; He may prolong my life, He may shorten it; He knows what He is about. He may take away my friends, He may throw me among strangers, He may make me feel desolate, make my spirits sink, hide the future from me–still He knows what He is about.”

I saw this prayer in my Mother, I remember the promise Our Good Lord made to St. Faustina consoling her that for the dying, if someone prays the Divine Mercy Chaplet the soul would find peace.

This hits home for me literally as my Mother would be told she had two days to live. She developed a massive blood clot that lodged in her right lower leg causing it to turn blue.

Without circulation, her leg did not make it. When I arrived at the hospital, the Doctors did not believe she would survive the knife. They gave her two days to live.

My Brother and I took Mom home to die as she didn’t want to die in the hospital, but at home with her family around her.

As soon as we got her in her bed, I elevated her leg giving some comfort, I placed a rosary above the site where it was dead, and bathed the area with holy water and prayer.

Mom’s medication such as Morphine helped at times, but what helped her most was praying the Divine Mercy Chaplet with me.

She felt at peace with herself and she was able to rest. This went on for about 10 days when I had to get an extension on my leave as Mom was living longer that what the Doctors projected.

I was sitting next to her bed when Mom asked me,
“Do you believe that the Lord will receive me when I pass”.

I told Mom, “Mom, you know He will receive you! You can trust in His word and stand on what He says”.

That’s when I began to sing to her a song we sing at Mass, “Be Not Afraid”! Gigi, my wife, was standing on the other side of the bed when she saw Mom’s rosary on her desk so she gave it to Mom to hold.

As we were singing the song together, Mom was holding her rosary. It was at this point I noticed the rosary change from silver to gold in her hands. What a sign this was for us and I will write here that the Lord gave my Mom another 18 Months.

Mom was finally taken by the Lord on 1 August 2006. I will never forget how the Divine Mercy Chaplet made such an impact for my Mom. Mom, this song is for you, I love you!

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*BEST OF DTB #45* An epiphany, a gift, or a bust in the mouth?

Posted by John Benko - January 6th, 2013

(originally posted January 5, 2011)

Tomorrow, January 6th, we close the Christmas season with the feast of The Epiphany. The name will always carry an ironic meaning for me for I could imagine myself calling it the feast of the bust in the mouth.

Who could forget the pitiable scene of George Bailey, drowning in bourbon, sobbing his eyes out in fear and despair, pleading with God- “Father, I’m at the end of my rope- show me the way”

Yea….. been there….done that.

You all remember what happens next.

Fast forward.

George Bailey has been pulled from the icy waters after rescuing a man who fell in….or so he thought.

The man, it turns out was an angel trying to earn his wings by helping this very discouraged man. Cue the line of the whole film.

Angel: George, your lip’s bleeding.
George: Yea, I got a bust in the mouth as an answer to a prayer.

I can barely watch this today because it was exactly 5 years ago, on January 6th, 2006 that I got my bust in the mouth as an answer to a prayer.

It was on that day- the Epiphany, mind you- that I received the news so devastating that it shook me to my very core. It evicerated my own self image, destroyed my hope, nearly wrecked my marriage and filled me with grief, guilt and despair so black and pervasive that it seemed impossible to even imagine what crawling back would even look like.

I have to thank my Angel- Noni, my counselor. I told her that God gave me a bust in the mouth as an answer to a prayer, just like George Bailey. She told me that God gave me a gift- the answer and that healing could now begin.

I will not tell you what I learned that day. I will only wish that God will save you from such a day. That I can even sit here today and type these words is all the proof I need that there is a God and that He pulled me and my family from the abyss. Even a bust in the mouth is a small price to pay for that.

So which is it? Is January 6th a bust in the mouth? A gift? An Epiphany?


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*BEST OF DTB #250* Les Miserables

Posted by John Benko - January 6th, 2013

One of the promises I was required to keep, during this Christmas season, was to see Les Miserables in the theater with my wife and daughter. I completed that mission, on this feast of Saint John Neumann (the patron saint of our parish), and on the eve of the last day of Christmas- the Epiphany.

As many of you know, January 6th, 2006 was the worst day of my life and seven year’s passing has not reduced the pain enough that I don’t still dread it’s dawning. A day of joy, a day of celebration….not for us. At least, not yet. Recently, a friend (who shall remain anonymous) posted on his blog, that he got through Les Miserables by watching the LSU game on his smart phone. As much as I enjoyed the word that LSU lost to Clemson, knocking the mighty SEC from it’s perch, this was not a movie to ‘get through’. There are movies to watch and there are movies to ‘get through’ and then there are movies to drown in and and be washed by.

Les Miserables is a movie in which you sink all the way to the bottom and remain there for the duration as wave after wave of emotion of grace sweep over you.

I could make a list of movies that affected me this way- Titanic, The Passion of the Christ, The Lord of the Rings; return of the King and United 93 come to mind. The list would not be many more titles in length. I do not get into movies that rest alone on special effects or mindless violence or overly superficial depictions of love and life. A movie has to really speak to me. I walk away asking what does this film say to me? How is my life affected or changed in having seen it?

If You’ve Got Mail or When Harry Met Sally are the kind of trite, sugar coated mush that make people like me want to throw up, Les Miserables is a baptism of blood- an relenting and seemingly merciless way of the cross. It drags you down out of the warm confines of your comfortable life and into the darkly lit abodes of the lost and forsaken, the despairing and the hopeless who seek death as a respite from the misery that oppresses them and hangs over them like a menacing darkness.

How many of the actors and actresses in this movie really know of this despair, this blackness?

In the event you are not familiar with the story, it starts and ends with the struggle between a man, Jean Valjean who spent 19 years in prison for stealing a loaf of bread for a starving child, and his merciless tormentor Javert, whose Pharisaical zeal for the letter of the law, could not grasp the concepts of love and mercy and redemption. On his road to redemption, Jean first finds mercy from a Bishop and that starts his journey to this hopeless man both finding hope and giving hope, saving others and saving himself.

Javert finds himself in need, from Jean’s hands, the very mercy he, himself refused to ever give. Where mercy saved Jean Valjean, mercy crushed Javert. Unable to give it, he was unable to receive it. Unable to comprehend what it means to love and be loved, to forgive and be forgiven, Javert’s whole world view explodes. Unable to change, he kills himself instead.

Judgement vs Mercy, Mercy vs Judgement, these are the themes that ring through the whole film. The story is unmistakably Catholic, through and through. Not merely superficially Catholic but Sacrament-ally Catholic, so much so that one bristles at the suggestion that Hollywood was capable of making such a film.

One marvels at the ability of God to speak so boldly through a film created in a town with such a rabid hatred for Him. Then it dawns on you that maybe their derision and disdain for us is not entirely without merit.

One of the central themes of Les Miserables, one that fires at you over and over, is that you cannot reach a soul by condemning and judging that soul. Label him a thief and he’ll just become more of a thief. Label her a whore and you give her no reason to believe she is, or can be anything more. How many Jean Valjeans or Fantines have you made? How many have I? Yes, it is true that Hollywood and America are drenched in a sex craving, money worshiping worldview that can not work.

I just wonder, though, do you reach a wounded animal by barking at it? Love is the message of Les Miserables is the same as the movies I mentioned above- Love costs. One must be willing to lay down his very life for love, carry other’s burdens, heal other’s wounds. Only then, do we give the sinner the space to change- the way Jean valjean changed.

How many people perish and are damned simply because there is no one who cared for them or prayed for them or even noticed them stirring in the shadows? God forbid you were ever such a one, just needing one hand of compassion and never finding it.

Matthew 25
41 Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand,
Depart from me, ye cursed, into the eternal fire which
 is prepared for the devil and his angels:
42 for I was hungry, and ye did not give me to eat;
 I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink;
43 I was a stranger, and ye took me not in; naked,
 and ye clothed me not; sick, and in prison, and ye
 visited me not.
44 Then shall they also answer, saying,
 Lord, when saw we thee hungry, or athirst,
or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison,
 and did not minister unto thee?
45 Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily
 I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not unto
 one of these least, ye did it not unto me.
46 And these shall go away into eternal
 punishment: but the righteous into eternal life. 

The worst mistake one could make watching Les Miserables, would be to focus too heavily on the characters themselves, and not enough on the message. The characters are you and me- our good sides and our bad. The times we were low and lost and just needed to be seen as more than a whore on the street or the number 24601, the times when we were haughty and called down God to be merciless judge to anyone not meeting with our approval.

The story of Les Miserables is one of crosses, endless painful crosses and of how the outcasts of the world are the very precious souls that lead us to heaven.

January 6th, 2006 was the day I entered my darkness. It was a darkness I could not have hoped to extricate myself from. The prayers and compassion of others, over time, pulled me out of it, as it did my wife, my son and my daughters. Les Miserables uses the French Revolution merely as a backdrop. Hunger and desperation and loneliness and despair are themes as raw and real and fresh in 2013 as they were in France in the 1800s or even Israel in the first century.

The desire is too strong to stone the transgressors we know but who among us is really worthy to cast that stone? If measured by the same standard, how many stones do we deserve cast at us?

In the end, what we take from Les Miserables might be shaped by what we really value and how we really view life and salvation. How do we really view the least of us. Are they really just Les Miserables (the miserable), the hopeless dregs of society? Or are they children of God, our brothers and sisters, called to be cared for by us?

I give Les Miserables an enthusiastic 5 stars and urge you to see it.

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