The Catholic Defender: 431 A.D. Mary, First Called Mother Of God

Posted by Donald Hartley - December 31st, 2015

cathloc defenderIn order to shape America for the next generation we must be willing to defend our holy Catholic Faith and not become reclusive.

Everywhere it seems that somebody is busting out with some new order pushing an agenda.

The Boy Scouts are now accepting a pro-homosexual tune, the Girl Scouts are turning over to the Planned Parenthood mentality, our State Supreme Court Judges are radically destroying the Constitution going against the votes of Americans.

boy scoutsYes, it is a challenge today for the Christian. But we are not to jump underneath the bed hiding hoping that this will all go away? No, we must be willing to confront it by every legal means necessary. 1 our of every 4 Americans are Catholic.

We do hold a lot of clout if we are willing to use it. 1 out of 10 Americans are statistically a former Catholic. We have a great need to be an outreach to them calling them home. That is what Jesus wants us to do. We are called to radically transform our Nation as the Lord transforms our hearts.

If we did this, the whole debate about Christmas would go away, we would meet head on the challenges of the Secular Humanist in taking over our Schools and higher places of learning. We have to be willing to put out the effort, our Shepherds must be willing to lead without compromise. We have a lot of in-house cleaning, Notre Dame caving in to Obamacare is a prime example, but we must walk by Faith and not by sight.

apologeticsApologetics is equally important, truth matters, it should never be bargained or compromised but should always be a position of strength.

The strength of the Catholic Church is it’s foundation. That is it, pure and simple. If Jesus Christ was not the true founder of the Church and the Papacy was truly not established by him then everything falls.

That would include all the anti-Catholic groups out there because if truth was merely an opinion of any group, that holds little in the arena of public debate.

jesus-christ-pics-2204Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life”, He is the truth, we must be solid in this truth. That is the Catholic Faith, we must be willing to stand on this truth against the flood that is seeking to overturn everything decent and holy.

This has been kind of a prep talk, maybe a personal rant, but I felt the need to express that our Faith is not simply a part of the truth, it is THE Truth.

It is important to respond to those who challenge Catholic teaching because if we do not, if their attacks remain unchallenged, that becomes their accepted truth?

Once people get embedded there it is difficult to get them out of it, it is like being brain washed.

Many times I wished I could have been involved with a group before they became so entrenched. One reason why there are so many Protestant denominations is because they can’t agree on the bible, it really seems that the only thing holding them together in the public arena is their union against Catholics.

Have you ever seen that before, Protestants ganging up on a Catholic who would otherwise disagree with each other? We see that a lot on Facebook and the internet.

CavI served in the United States Army for more than 26 years, during that time, I was deployed multiple times to Iraq and the Middle East. While deployed to Iraq, one Sunday morning, I got up and got myself together preparing to go to Mass at the Division Chapel.

I had to make sure that all our obligations were covered and that gave me ample time to go to Mass at 10:30. It’s about a 15 minute walk to the Division Chapel but this particular morning, I became excited about the news of a High positioned Lutheran, Francis Beckwith’s re-conversion to the Catholic Faith. I wanted to report this great news to the congregation. For me, the news of Francis J. Beckwith’s returning to the Catholic Faith was huge. He was among the highest Lutheran leaders and highly respected among the Protestant Evangelical academics.

beckwithFrancis Beckwith’s conversion to the Catholic Faith was like a shot heard around the world. Well, here in Iraq, I heard it and I was anxious to share the news about it.

So, I grabbed my weapon and my gear and I set off to the Chapel. By the time I arrived there, I was drenched, sweating profusely in this 100 plus heat, but it was worth it! I guzzled down a quick quart of water and prepared for Mass. At the end of Mass, Father would give me the opportunity to announce the upcoming events for the week.

We had RCIA that was currently continuing for many people kept coming who wanted to become Catholic. We had just received about 70 Soldiers for the Easter Vigil earlier in April.

Now I had several more Soldiers who were coming forward to be received into the Catholic Faith. Many from my Battalion! We also had Bible Studies that I was conducting at our Chapel (Warrior Chapel) and at the Division Chapel. It was at this time that I had the chance to tell everyone about Mr. Beckwith coming home to the Catholic Faith. I had a number of them come up and asked me more about this when this young man came over to ask me a question. He had originally approached Father, but Father referred him to me.

CD 2I pulled him to the side and he asked me what an apostle was. I responded that an apostle was simple one who is sent. That is the textbook definition.

However, I explained that Christ sent his Apostles out into the world after preparing them for three years for the Great Commission. The Gentleman then identified himself as a “Nestorian” Christian who represented about 5% of the Iraqi Christians in Iraq. He wanted to challenge me on why the Catholic Church refereed to Mary as “Theotokos” meaning “Mother God”?

I responded with a question of my own, “What is the difference from referring to Mary as “Mother of God” as opposed to “Mother of my Lord”? I then quoted Luke 1:42-44, “Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice and said, ‘Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled”.

visitationNotice that St. Elizabeth refereed to Mary as “blessed” twice during this exchange. Notice also that she refereed to Jesus as “Lord” in her womb as well as the word of the Lord.

Adoni was the word used to illustrate “Lord” referring to God. By this time, my Nestorian friend understood my meaning and with that, he had no further questions. He was interested in our bible studies from this point on.

The point of the Council of Ephesus was to defend who the person of Christ is. He is truly God and truly man, it is interesting to note in talking with anti-Catholics how they like to refer to this Catholic Council.

It is like they recognize that Jesus was born of Mary, but not His Divinity, only his humanity. In the same breath, they will believe that Jesus is God, at least those who are more orthodox.

The anti-Catholic ignores the constant apostolic tradition to a fault, they miss so much because they refuse to recognize the truth of the gospel handed down 2,000 years. They choose to hold onto their own personal opinions and give the Holy Spirit credit for their varying opinions. So groups like the Christian Assemblies International wants to credit themselves by their opposition to Mary, Mother of God, Theotokos. Lets take a quick look at some of the early heresies the Catholic Church contended with in the early days:

Adoptionaism: Belief that Jesus was born as a mere (non-divine) man, was supremely virtuous and that he was adopted later as “Son of God” by the descent of the Spirit on him. That sounds a lot like some of these anti-Catholics today, does it not?

Apollinarism: Belief that Jesus had a human body and lower soul (the seat of the emotions) but a divine mind. Apollinaris further taught that the souls of men were propagated by other souls, as well as their bodies.

Arianism: Denial of the true divinity of Jesus Christ taking various specific forms, but all agreed that Jesus Christ was created by the Father, that he had a beginning in time, and that the title “Son of God” was a courtesy one.

Docetism: Belief that Jesus’ physical body was an illusion, as was his crucifixion; that is, Jesus only seemed to have a physical body and to physically die, but in reality he was incorporeal, a pure spirit, and hence could not physically die.

Macedonians: While accepting the divinity of Jesus Christ as affirmed at Nicea in 325, they denied that of the Holy Spirit which they saw as a creation of the Son, and a servant of the Father and the Son. Does George Lujack come to mind?

Monophysitism: Belief that Christ’s divinity dominates and overwhelms his humanity, as opposed to the Chalcedonian position which holds that Christ has two natures, one divine and one human or the Miaphysite position which holds that the human nature and pre-incarnate divine nature of Christ were united as one divine human nature from the point of the Incarnation onwards.

Monothelitism: Belief that Jesus Christ had two natures but only one will. This is contrary to the orthodox interpretation of Christology, which teaches that Jesus Christ has two wills (human and divine) corresponding to his two natures. This one really challenges the Oneness groups because they could never understand that Jesus human will would be subjective to the Father’s will.

Nestorianism: Belief that emphasizes the disunion between the human and divine natures of Jesus. Nestorius’ teachings became the root of controversy when he publicly challenged the long-used title Theotokos (Bringer forth of God) for the Virgin Mary. He suggested that the title denied Christ’s full humanity, arguing instead that Jesus had two persons, the divine Logos and the human Jesus. As such he proposed Christotokos (Bringer forth of Christ) as a more suitable title for Mary.

Patripassianism: Belief that the Father and Son are not two distinct persons, and thus God the Father suffered on the cross as Jesus.

Psilanthropism: Belief that Jesus is “merely human”: either that he never became divine, or that he never existed prior to his incarnation as a man.

Sabellianism: Belief that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are three characterizations of one God, rather than three distinct “persons” in one God.

vatican 1Jesus made a great promise to His Catholic Church when He said, “And so I say to you, you are Peter (Kepa), and upon this rock (Kepa) I will build my Church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18)

Looking at some of the heresies listed above, the kingdom of darkness has certainly tried to knock the Church down, and continues to do so.

Jesus said, “And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20) Think about that promise for a moment, does it make any sense that Jesus would abandon this promise and follow after someone else who establishes a new gospel based on their own opinions based on today’s Sola Scriptura? Not at all.

Jesus said, “I have told you this while I am with you. The Advocate, the Holy Spirit that the Father will send in my name, he will teach you everything and remind you of all that I told you”. (John 14:26) This one is huge, this means that the Church who Jesus entrusted the Faith to will have the Holy Spirit to keep it all in check. In other words, there will be no other authorized opinions outside of this apostolic authority.

false_teachersJesus warns, “Many false prophets will arise and deceive many; and because of the increase of evildoing, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who perseveres to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached throughout the world as a witness to all nations, and then the end will come.” (Matthew 24:11-14)

I love what Jesus said here, “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached throughout the world as a witness to all nations”! Notice what St Paul states to the Church at Rome! “First, I give thanks to my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is heralded throughout the world…” The Catholic Church is a 2,000 year continuation, it is heralded throughout the world, it is His Kingdom being preached throughout the world and it is His witness to all nations!

virgin-maryThe Catholic Church from the very beginning held the Virgin Mary with high honor for her role in Salvation.

It is like the opponents of Mary refuse to admit that she had anything to do with it? It is through her yes that the door was opened for all of us.

She truly is the Woman who is the Mother of the “rest of her offspring, those who keep God’s commandments and bear witness to Jesus”.

So, again, who am I going to recognize as the arbiter of truth, the Church founded by Christ 2,000 years ago or a group founded in 1973 making bold attacks on the people of God?

Looking again of the honor given to Mary, “Theotokos”, Mother of God, Pope Paul VI at the Second Vatican Council renamed the Feast celebrated 1 January from “Feast of the Circumcision” to “Mary, Mother of God”:

pope-paul-vi“In the revised arrangement of the Christmas season, we should all turn with one mind to the restored solemnity of the Mother of God. This feast was entered into the calendar in the liturgy of the city of Rome for the first day of January. The purpose of the celebration is to honor the role of Mary in the mystery of salvation and at the same time to sing the praises of the unique dignity thus coming to “the Holy Mother…through whom we have been given the gift of the Author of life.” This same solemnity also offers an excellent opportunity to renew the adoration rightfully to be shown to the newborn Prince of Peace, as we once again hear the good tidings of great joy and pray to God, through the intercession of the Queen of Peace, for the priceless gift of peace. Because of these considerations and the fact that the octave of Christmas coincides with a day of hope, New Year’s Day, we have assigned to it the observance of the World Day of Peace (Paul VI, Marialis Cultus, Feb. 2, 1974, no.5).

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The Catholic Defender: Midnight Mass and the Tradition of Christmas Music

Posted by Donald Hartley - December 20th, 2015

Bill 1Christmas today is challenged on many fronts, we see the onslaught of the Secularists who strive to not only take Christ out of Christmas, but to take out Christmas itself. There are also a small group of Protestant groups that challenge Christmas claiming it was founded by the Emperor Constantine and it was to them paganism.

But Christmas is shown through history, scripture, tradition, and science to be a real authentic happening taking place from the beginning of Christian roots.

bill 2Pope Telephorus is accredited with establishing the custom of celebrating the Midnight Mass (for Christmas) beginning in 125 A.D.

It is just a few more years (129 A.D.) that he began instituting songs for this Mass about angels.

It is probable that all this is true, but St. Telephorus was not the first formerly to offer Midnight Mass!

Acts 20:7 states, “On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul talked with them, intending to depart on the morrow; and he prolonged his speech until midnight. There were many lights in the upper chamber where we were gathered. And a young man named Eutychus was sitting in the window. He sank into a deep sleep as Paul talked still longer; and being overcome by sleep, he fell down from the third story and was taken up dead. But Paul went down and bent over him, and embracing him said, ‘Do not be alarmed, for his life is in him. And when Paul had gone up and had broken bread and eaten, he conversed with them a long while, until daybreak, and so departed. And they took the lad away alive, and were not a little comforted”.

paul heals man at lystraHere is a written record of someone falling asleep during one of St. Paul’s sermons.

God was able to show his favor with St. Paul through this as the boy fell out of a third story window.

In this case, St. Paul was going to be leaving so this was a late service.

Midnight Mass is late, but it is ushering in the day of Christmas. This tradition would branch throughout the Christian world as the Church would survive terrible persecutions.

In AD 129, Pope Telephorus said that a song called ‘Angel’s Hymn’ should be sung at a Christmas service in Rome. This tradition would take off as the people developed a universal celebration of Christmas.

Singing on Christmas Eve was symbolic of the shepherds who kept vigil over the flocks when the angels announced the good news, “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests” (Luke 2:14).

bill 6During this time, we also read the following words of Theophilus (A.D. 115-181), Catholic bishop of Caesarea in Palestine: “We ought to celebrate the birthday of Our Lord on what day soever the 25th of December shall happen.”

In the 2nd century, a massacre in the catacombs on December 25th was recorded as having occurred on the date of the Nativity.

Shortly thereafter in the second century, Saint Hippolytus (A.D. 170-240) wrote in passing that the birth of Christ occurred on December 25:

“The First Advent of our Lord in the flesh occurred when He was born in Bethlehem, was December 25th, a Wednesday, while Augustus was in his forty-second year, which is five thousand and five hundred years from Adam. He suffered in the thirty-third year, March 25th, Friday, the eighteenth year of Tiberius Caesar, while Rufus and Roubellion were Consuls.”

bill 7Music would become very important in the Mass. By the fourth century a Greek religious, St. Cecilia is regarded as the patroness of music, because she heard heavenly music in her heart when she was married, and is represented in art with an organ or organ-pipes in her hand. 397 A.D. The hymns of St Ambrose began to inspire many.

In Bethlehem, the early Christians would celebrate Midnight Mass carrying torches to the site believed to be where Christ was born. By 313 A.D. the Early Christians built a Church over the site of where Jesus was born, Constantine was by this time a Christian.

bill 9With Constantine’s “Edict of Milan”, the people in Jerusalem built the Church of the Nativity over the traditional site of Christ’s birth in about 326 A.D. Today, there are a number of other Christmas Masses offered earlier on Saturday, mostly for children, and Mass on Christmas day are celebrated all over the world.

379 A.D. The preaching of Saints such as St. Gregory Nazianzus spoke of Christmas continuing the tradition of December 25.

Saint Augustine confirms the tradition of March 25 as the Messianic conception and December 25 as His birth:

“For Christ is believed to have been conceived on the 25th of March, upon which day also he suffered; so the womb of the Virgin, in which he was conceived, where no one of mortals was begotten, corresponds to the new grave in which he was buried, wherein was never man laid, neither before him nor since. But he was born, according to tradition, upon December the 25th.”

bill 3Soon several orchestras and choirs were drawing large crowds in the cities enhancing the popularity of Christmas Carols. Christmas carols were very popular at Midnight Mass along with the candlelight services.

At times because of war and plagues, Christmas caroling slowed down, at other times, it was most popular. Today, I hope that we can renew the interest in Christmas caroling in society as different groups try to keep alive the Christmas spirit.

Lord, in this holy season of prayer and song and laughter, we praise you for the great wonders you have sent us: for shining star and angel’s song, for infant’s cry in lowly manger. We praise you for the Word made flesh in a little Child. We behold his glory, and are bathed in its radiance.

bill 4Be with us as we sing the ironies of Christmas, the incomprehensible comprehended, the poetry made hard fact, the helpless Babe who cracks the world asunder. We kneel before you shepherds, innkeepers, wise-men. Help us to rise bigger than we are. Amen.

By the 4th century it was becoming universal as December 25th became solidified. Some placed emphasis on January 6 because this is the feast of the Epiphany or “manifestation” and so the Eastern Lung of the Church has this strong tradition.

In 567 A.D. the Council of Tours established the Seasons of Advent and Christmas adding these seasons into the Church calender.

Francis 5The Christmas Season runs from December 25th through 6 January, the Feast of the Epiphany, the Wise men.

In 1223 St. Francis began setting up Nativity plays throughout Italy and through the singing of these plays, the people began to spread this devotion to France, Spain, Germany and throughout Europe.  Christmas caroling would grow as people of good will everywhere wanted to share the Christmas story in song.

My Mother would take me to Midnight Mass when I was young and so this was instilled in me very early as a family tradition.

dth16I took my family to Midnight Mass all their growing up years as well. What a great blessing it was celebrating Midnight Mass in Saudi Arabia.

I look back at that time remembering the candles, the Humvee’s, the desert uniforms, the outdoors under the bright stars touching the hearts with Christmas.

Over the years many traditions and customs developed in the many Countries around the world that reflect the ushering in the Christmas story.

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The Catholic Defender: Throne Of Grace

Posted by Donald Hartley - December 19th, 2015

throne 1According to the Websters Dictionary, a throne is:
1. a : the chair of state of a sovereign or high dignitary (as a bishop) b : the seat of a deity
2. : royal power and dignity : sovereignty
3. plural : an order of angels — see celestial hierarchy

Hebrew 4:16, “Let us go with confidence to the throne of grace that we may obtain mercy and find grace.” This Throne represents the highest authority. It is God’s authority. It is from here that the majesty of God dwells.

Of this Throne, Jesus would state, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any one hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. He who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I myself conquered and sat down with my Father on His throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” Revelation 3:20-22

throne 2The Throne of Grace referred to in Hebrews 4:16 speaks of the great High Priest, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who have passed through the heavens. It is from this Throne of Grace according to Revelation 3:20 that we are invited to a feast, this is a Eucharistic feast. Consider Jesus words (John 2:19), “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” What Jesus said here is used against him (Mark 14:58), “We heard him say, I will destroy this temple that was made with hands, and in three days I will build another, not made with hands.”

In both text (Revelation 3:20, John 2:19) Jesus is clearly referring to his body. St. Paul asks this question, “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God? You are not your own; you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” 1 Corinthians 6:19-20

throne 3What I am connecting is that the Throne of Grace and the Temple of God is close to where the Lord Himself is. Plus, we have access to it when we go to Mass and receive the Eucharist. The Throne of Grace is presided over by Jesus, the Son of God, and His priests preside over the Eucharistic banquet.

Consider that with the Throne, there is an Altar. St. Paul writes, “I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven…” 2 Corinthians 12:2

It is from here that St. Paul identifies Paradise, and Our Lord reveals to St. Paul, “My grace is sufficient…” 2 Corinthians 12:9

At this Altar of God, there is a lot of intercessions taking place. Revelation 5:7-10 states, “and he went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who was seated on the throne. And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and with golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints; and they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy art thou to take the scroll and to open its seals, for thou wast slain and by thy blood didst ransom men for God from every tribe and tongue and people and nation, and hast made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on earth.”

throne 4Revelation 8:3-5 states, ” And another angel came and stood at the altar with a golden censer; and he was given much incense to mingle with the prayers of all the saints upon the golden altar before the throne; and the smoke of the incense rose with the prayers of the saints from the hand of the angel before God. Then the angel took the censer and filled it with fire from the altar and threw it on the earth; and there were peals of thunder, voices, flashes of lightning, and an earthquake.”

Matthew 18:10 warns, “See that you do not despise one of these little ones; for I tell you that in heaven their angels always behold the face of my Father who is in heaven.”

throne 5There is another vision taking place at the Throne of Grace, Revelation 11:19 states, “Then God’s temple in heaven was opened, and the ark of his covenant was seen within his temple; and there were flashes of lightning, voices, peals of thunder, an earthquake, and heavy hail.” This sounds a lot like Revelation 8:5 doesn’t it?

When the Archbishop of Canterbury (Stephen Langton) first separated the scriptures into chapters and verses (1227 A.D.), Revelation 12:1 follows Revelation 11:19, but it seems to be the same vision taking place. Revelation 12:1 states, “And a great portent appeared in heaven, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars;  she was with child and she cried out in her pangs of birth, in anguish for delivery.”

ic 15This Woman of Revelation Chapter 12 can certainly be identified with what is taking place in the Temple where the Ark of the Covenant is being seen and described by St. John.

What I am pointing out here is that the Throne of Grace spoken of in Hebrews 4:16 we can see the Temple, the Altar, the holy ones praying, and this Woman bringing forth a Son. Jesus is this Son and Mary is this Woman.

From this Altar in heaven, we get a picture of a table. In the Old Testament, in the Holy of Holies, a table held what was called “the Bread of the presence” (Exodus 25:30) that was before the Lord at all times. The bread of the presence is a shadow to Jesus, who is the Bread of Life, Jesus is present before the Altar of the Lord in every Catholic Church around the world.

So, from the table of the Lord, that is before the presence of the Lord, we place a table, an Altar, where the cup of blessing is blessed and the bread is broken and we participate receiving the Body and Blood of the Lord. 1 Corinthians 10:16

What is taking place at Mass is far more than a ritual, it is an event, a happening, an encounter with the Risen Christ. It is where the Throne of Grace presents the merits of the crucified Christ on behalf of His people where we renew the Covenant of the Lord. “Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you; for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” Matthew 26:26-28

Mass 2We are living our faith as it has been set out from biblical times. Jesus is the High Priest who presides at each and every Mass through the consecration of the Catholic Priests. We have access to this throne room that is everywhere, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:1-2

Of the importance of the Mass, Hebrews 13:10 states, “We have an altar from which those who serve the tabernacle (tent) have no right to eat.” The Eucharist is not a right or really a privilege, but rather an invitation. We are called to receive from the Throne of Grace the one who calls us to Himself.

throne 6If people were to really understand what is taking place in the Mass, no body would ever leave. To those who have left, St. John writes, “Children, it is the last hour; and as you have heard that Antichrist is coming, so now many Anti-Christs have come; therefore we know that it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out, that it might be plain that they all are not of us. But you have been anointed by the Holy One, and you all know.”

Luke 15:4-10 states, “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance. “Or what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and seek diligently until she finds it? And when she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin which I had lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

CONFESSION_1James 5:19-20 states, “My brethren, if any one among you wanders from the truth and some one brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.

One a person repents, goes to Confession and confess their sins, the Lord takes those sins and hurls then into the sea of forgetfulness and remembers them no more (Jeremiah 31:34) and the person is once more returned to the Throne of Grace.

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The Catholic Defender: Unraveling The Case Against Christmas

Posted by Donald Hartley - December 18th, 2015

christmas 15“O come, O come, Emmanuel And ransom captive Israel That mourns in lonely exile here Until the Son of God appear Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel Shall come to thee, O Israel.” I love this song as one of my favorite Advent songs. It is great also to meditate before the Eucharist in Adoration.

The Son of God appeared physically on Christmas Day, December 25th, 2 B.C. as a little baby. The Son of God appears physically at each and every Mass, rejoice at Mass. The Son of God will appear a second and final time for all time bringing the fulfilled promise to liberate His people.

atheist 2The tide against Christmas today is coming basically in opposition to the Catholic Church. And the opposition is coming from several different directions. Secularists and Atheists are coming from one direction while a number of fundamental Protestant groups continue their attacks of Christmas.

Because of the threat of political correctness and the Secularization of our Country, various businesses have voluntarily tried to reduce Christmas to a secular holiday. Bill O’Reily of Fox News, has done much to defend Christmas and as a result, businesses like Wal-Mart reversed their policy and allowed Christmas to be recognized and celebrated. This is why people should let local business know how you feel! I am told they do not want to offend people of other religions, but yet, they have no problem offending the sensibilities of 80% plus of the public who do love the season of Christmas. That makes no sense.

atheist 3People many times are agenda driven, not truth driven, that is the obvious explanation. The war on Christmas can be traced back to the English Parliament under King Charles I in the 1640′s. At the time, the Puritan influence through the Presbyterian Church caused tensions leading to civil wars. Christmas was viewed as “Trappings of Popery and rags of the beast. The Catholic Church was seen as the “Whore of Babylon” and the Pope the “anti-Christ”.

In January 1645, the Directory of Public Worship called for the end of Christmas largely because of the Presbyterian church. The Parliament decreed, “Festivals days, vulgarly called holy Days, having no warrant in the Word of God, are not to be continued.”

Christmas 1647, a number of Ministers were arrested for preaching on Christmas Day. The Catholic Faith was persecuted beginning in 1535 until 1829, so these Ministers were mostly Anglican Clergy. By 1652 Parliament placed penalties on business that celebrated Christmas and by 1657, the Army was brought in to interrogate church goers suspected of celebrating Christmas.

Because of this influence taking place in the English Parliament, the Puritan influence was being felt in the New World as well. Christmas was illegal in New England during this time, the 17th century. This ban on Christmas would last until the 1850′s when immigrants from pro-Catholic Countries such as Ireland and Germany began to arrive by the millions. A Massachusetts law of 1659 punished offenders who celebrated Christmas with a fine of five shilling.

atheist 4To the Puritans, Christmas was an invention of Rome, in that I agree, it was a practice of the early Church. But the Puritans began developing a new historical approach claiming that the Emperor Constantine originated Christmas embodying paganism through it’s practices and rituals. Elaborate versions began to appear as the hostility towards the Catholic Church intensified. Groups like the Seventh Day Adventist were formed (1863) through their anti-Catholic bias.

Because of the influx of Catholics, leading Universities such as Bob Jones University began printing out anti-Catholic tracks and this was basic standard academics in America at the time. The Puritan leaders in America rejected Christmas because they associated it with paganism and idolatry. Even today, small groups of Puritan like minded individuals still try to use these arguments.

atheist 5In 1870, Christmas became a Federal holiday under President Ulysses S. Grant as the Puritan position began to decrease. Americans began to accept Christmas, both the spiritual as well as the commercial value.

Today, the majority of Christians have no problem with Christmas, most of them see Christmas as a holiday to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. That is Christmas. Christmas is a season to bring the message of peace. To recall the story of that first Christmas Day, the coming of Our Savior is to bring great joy.

Isaiah 9:6 states, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government will be upon his shoulder, and his name will be called ‘Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” This good news was prophesied over 700 years before Jesus birth. That is the Christmas story.

To those who celebrate this Child’s birth, Isaiah would say, “no weapon that is fashioned against you shall prosper, and you shall confute every tongue that rises against you in judgment. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord and their vindication from me, says the Lord.”

christmas 12When people wake up to the truth of the Catholic Faith, their eyes are opened to the truth. Then the joy of Christmas can penetrate the heart and mind bringing hope where before there was despair. I think this is a major reason why some of these groups refuse to accept Christmas being December 25, because this totally refutes their agenda of claiming the Church was pagan.

The attack on Christmas is definitely an attack on the Catholic Faith. The Secularists will not always be that open with it, but the various Protestant groups will not hide it, they double down on it.

christmas 23The battle lines are drawn, there are those who seek to rob us of our faith and joy in the Lord. Be encouraged, St. Paul wrote, “May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with you, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.” Colossians 1:11

That is Christmas and so I want to wish everyone a Merry (Mary) Christmas and a happy New Year!

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The Catholic Defender: The Christmas History of the Yule Log

Posted by Donald Hartley - December 17th, 2015

log 5Christmas is one of those times when families come together, when people at work come together highlighting the spirit of good will towards all men. Traditions would have the Yule Log placed on an open fire, lately, I’ve seen where people have a fake yule log crackling in the background on a television. There are Christmas videos where you can sit back and watch a yule log for hours at a time, great for creating a scene familiar with eggnog, hot chocolate, and the best part of it, the family discussions and stories.

I remember watching a movie that had a scene during Christmas time in Africa or Australia that was very hot.

They were so strong on keeping tradition that despite the temp was 100 degrees, they still wanted to burn a Yule log.

ElijahWhat some people will do to keep alive something of home. Hence, the development of the Yule log video.

My family has never burned such a log that I am aware of so I thought this was a good opportunity to investigate the roots of this tradition.

There is a story in the Old Testament where the Lord burned logs miraculously, “Answer me, O LORD, answer me, that this people may know that thou, O LORD, art God, and that thou hast turned their hearts back.” Then the fire of the LORD fell, and consumed the burnt offering, and the wood, and the stones, and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench. And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces; and they said, “The LORD, he is God; the LORD, he is God.” 1 Kings 18:

I like giving a biblical slant to these things, related stories are a great way of bringing a spiritual truth to a tradition being shared for children and grown ups alike. The merging of customs and traditions have always been something that people have done and I certainly like to keep a biblical base as I want to associate all things Christmas to the reason for the season. Jesus Christ is born bringing us and centering us in His Light.

The following is taken from www.whychristmas.com

The custom of burning the Yule Log goes back to, and before, medieval times. It was originally a Nordic tradition. Yule is the name of the old Winter Solstice festivals in Scandinavia and other parts of northern Europe, such as Germany.

log 1The Yule Log was originally an entire tree, that was carefully chosen and brought into the house with great ceremony. The largest end of the log would be placed into the fire hearth while the rest of the tree stuck out into the room! The log would be lit from the remains of the previous year’s log which had been carefully stored away and slowly fed into the fire through the Twelve Days of Christmas.

It was considered important that the re-lighting process was carried out by someone with clean hands. Nowadays, of course, most people have central heating so it is very difficult to burn a tree!
In Provence (in France), it is traditional that the whole family helps to cut the log down and that a little bit is burnt each night.

If any of the log is left after 12th night, it is kept safe in the house until the next Christmas to protect against lightning! In some parts of Holland, this was also done, but the log had to be stored under a bed! In some eastern European countries, the log was cut down on Christmas Eve morning and lit that evening.

log 2In Cornwall (in the U.K.), the log is called ‘The Mock’. The log is dried out and then the bark is taken off it before it comes into the house to be burnt.  Also in the UK, barrel makers (or Coopers as barrel makers were traditionally called) gave their customers old logs that they could not use for making barrels for Yule logs.

(Notice how our Cat, Sylvester, loves to sit in front of our Christmas yule log and watch the flames popping in the fire place)

The custom of the Yule Log spread all over Europe and different kids of wood are used in different countries. In England, Oak is traditional; in Scotland, it is Birch; while in France, it’s Cherry. Also, in France, the log is sprinkled with wine, before it is burnt, so that it smells nice when it is lit.

In Devon and Somerset in the UK, some people have a very large bunch of Ash twigs instead of the log. This comes from a local legend that Joseph, Mary and Jesus were very cold when the shepherds found them on Christmas Night. So the shepherds got some bunches of twigs to burn to keep them warm.

In some parts of Ireland, people have a large candle instead of a log and this is only lit on New Years eve and 12th night.

log 3Different chemicals can be sprinkled on the log like wine to make the log burn with different coloured flames!
Potassium Nitrate = Violet
Barium Nitrate = Apple Green
Borax = Vivid Green
Copper Sulphate = Blue
Table Salt = Bright Yellow
This sounds very dangerous, so please only try this out with some adult supervision!!

The ashes of Yule logs were meant to be very good for plants, this is sometimes called ‘potash’. But if you throw the ashes out on Christmas day it was supposedly very unlucky!

A Chocolate Yule Log or ‘bûche de Noël’ is now a popular Christmas desert or pudding. It’s traditionally eaten in France and Belgium, where they are known as ‘Kerststronk’ in Flemish. They are made of a chocolate sponge roll layered with cream. The outside is covered with chocolate or chocolate icing and decorated to look like a bark-covered log. Some people like to add extra decorations such as marzipan mushrooms!

Christmas 2This Christmas, I want to encourage all of you to enjoy the true meaning of Christmas as we join in the family traditions; “And the angel said to them, “Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people; for to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”

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The Guardian Angel: Eucharistic Miracle of Hungary 1956 Jesus I Trust in You

Posted by Donald Hartley - December 16th, 2015

children in heavenTonight’s show is a beautiful story about innocence and the trust of Children, which we are to model if we want to enter heaven. While a person could look at this as not a direct affect of a Eucharistic Miracle, more indirect, but one of Trust. Is not the Infinite Divine Mercy the Eucharistic Lord, and what does it say on the Picture of Divine Mercy below Jesus, “Jesus I Trust in You.” These children were not double minded and completely trusted in Jesus. Lord help each of us never waiver in our Trust.

The Blessed Sacrament is the Throne of Grace, and notice what is said in Hebrew 4:16, “Let us go with confidence to the throne of grace that we may obtain mercy and find grace.”

And listen to one of the greatest Doctor’s of the Church, really listen, as the wisdom of the Holy Spirit has spoken through Him in Universities of the World. “The Sacrament of the Body of the Lord puts the demons to flight, defends us against the incentives to vice and to concupiscence, cleanses the soul from sin, quiets the anger of God, enlightens the understanding to know God, inflames the will and the affections with the love of God, fills the memory with spiritual sweetness, confirms the entire man in good, frees us from eternal death, multiplies the merits of a good life, leads us to our everlasting home, and reanimates the body to eternal life,” St. Thomas Aquinas.

dominicAnd let us go to another saint as he leads us to the Miracle we will follow this with. “Ask Jesus to make you a saint. After all, only He can do that. Go to confession regularly and to communion as often as you can.” St. Dominic Savio

Eucharistic Miracle of Hungary 1956 Jesus I Trust in You

This is the story of a marvelous miracle that took place a few days before Christmas of 1956 in Communist-occupied Hungary. The story comes to us through a Fr. Norbert, a parish priest in Budapest, who later fled to the West.

Gertrude was a rabidly militant Communist who was an elementary teacher in a girls’ school. She made it her mission to try to steal her pupils’ Catholic faith, and missed no opportunity to either mock their belief, or to slyly indoctrinate them in Marxist propaganda.

Communion 13One particular pupil, Angela, an intelligent, devout little leader, asked Fr. Norbert to let her receive Holy Communion daily to help her bear up under her teacher’s constant persecution. “She will persecute you worse,” Fr. Norbert warned, but the ten year old insisted she needed Jesus more than ever.

Sure enough, from that day, sensing something different, Gertrude began a veritable psychological torture campaign.

On December 17, the schoolmistress devised a cruel trick meant to strike a deadly blow against what she termed “ancient superstitions infesting the school”.

In a sweet voice, she began to question the children, promoting atheistic materialism, arguing that things only exist that can be seen and touched.

To illustrate her point, she asked Angela to step out of the room. Then she had the whole classroom call to her, “Angela, come in!” called the girls in unison.

Angela entered, intrigued, but suspecting a trap.

infant Jesus“You see, girls,” oiled Gertrude, “because Angela is a living person, someone we can see, hear and touch, when we call her she hears us. But suppose…we were to call the Infant Jesus, in whom some of you seem to believe…do you think He would hear you?”

There was a loaded silence; then some voices timidly said,

“Yes we do.”

“What about you, Angela”, asked the teacher.

Now Angela understood. She expected a trap, but not one so terrible. But she answered with ardent faith,

girl-praying“Yes! I believe that He hears me!”

Now Gertrude laughed loud and long. Then, turning to the class, she shot; “Well! Then call Him!”

“Silence!” The Communist’s arguments had not been totally ineffective.

Suddenly, Angela rushed to the front of the class, her eyes glistening. Facing her classmates she shouted,

“Listen girls, we are going to call Him! Let’s all call together: come, Infant Jesus!”

All the girls sprang to their feet and began, “Come, Infant Jesus, come, Infant Jesus…”

Gertrude was startled. She had not expected this reaction.

But the young ones continued. There was now an aura of expectant hope around the little leader.

infant Jesus 1When anticipation was at a height, the classroom door opened soundlessly, an intense brightness shining there, then entering the classroom and slightly increasing like the light of a great, gentle fire. In the midst of this splendor, there was a globe that shone with an even clearer light. As the girls and teacher watched, riveted to the floor, the globe opened disclosing a handsome Infant dressed in a refulgent tunic. His smile was ravishing, as the little girls smiled back, in perfect peace and joy. Then, gently, the globe closed and disappeared through the door.

The children were still raptly gazing in the direction of the door, when they were jolted back to earth by a sharp scream.

“He CAME!” Screamed the terrified school mistress, “He CAME….!!!” And she fled down the hallway.

Fr Norbert questioned the little girls one by one. He attested under oath that he did not find the least contradiction in their accounts.

As for Gertrude, she was interned in an asylum. The tremendous shock of the apparition affected her godless mind, and she never stopped repeating, “He came, He came!”

CommunionIn every Consecration of the Eucharist there is a miracle taking place as Jesus is truly present, body, blood, soul, and divinity.  I have seen miracles of conversion much like the one depicted in this story.  I want to encourage all of you to really dedicate yourself as a special gift to Our Lord for His birthday.  Just like the Little Drummer Boy who played for the King, let our hearts be transformed as we follow the new born King.

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The Catholic Defender: The Christmas Mistletoe

Posted by Donald Hartley - December 15th, 2015

scroogeEvery year when Christmas time comes around, people who on the side of Scrooge come out opposing the spirit of Christmas because they want to say that it began through Pagan foundations.  I have defended Christmas many times showing that Jesus was really born on December 25, 2 B.C.

I written on the Twelve Days of Christmas, Candy canes, Caroling, Midnight Mass, as well as other topics related to the Christmas season, but for the Scrooges of the world, they think Christmas is a gotcha moment against the Catholic Church.

paul 4If St. Paul were here today, what would he say about all this, especially some of the traditions that are not based from the bible?

Consider the following coming from Acts 17:16-28 as he was speaking with Greek Philosophers:

Now while Paul was waiting for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him as he saw that the city was full of idols.  So he argued in the synagogue with the Jews and the devout persons, and in the market place every day with those who chanced to be there.  Some also of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers met him. And some said, “What would this babbler say?” Others said, “He seems to be a preacher of foreign divinities”–because he preached Jesus and the resurrection.  And they took hold of him and brought him to the Are-opagus, saying, “May we know what this new teaching is which you present? For you bring some strange things to our ears; we wish to know therefore what these things mean.”  Now all the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there spent their time in nothing except telling or hearing something new.  

paul 5So Paul, standing in the middle of the Are-opagus, said: “Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious.  For as I passed along, and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription, ‘To an unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you.  The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in shrines made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all men life and breath and everything.  And he made from one every nation of men to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their habitation, that they should seek God, in the hope that they might feel after him and find him. Yet he is not far from each one of us, for ‘In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your poets have said, ‘For we are indeed his offspring.’

Where does the tradition of the mistletoe come from? Do you have anyone you would like to find under a mistletoe?

Tumber-Kissing-Under-MistletoeI have always wondered where the tradition of the mistletoe had derived from. I have seen it on television during the Christmas season and I was just curious to where this tradition comes from.

This particular custom is one that I have not experienced as I never have walked under the mistletoe.

Though I am so thankful for my wife, I am glad that I do not have to depend on a mistletoe. So, if you happen to go to one of those office parties at work or someplace, you better be careful for those looking to capture you under a mistletoe. You never know these days who might be looking for the opportunity to kiss you!

The following is from theholidayspot.com:

“Mistletoe Mistletoe is especially interesting botanically because it is a partial parasite (a “hemiparasite”). As a parasitic plant, it grows on the branches or trunk of a tree and actually sends out roots that penetrate into the tree and take up nutrients. But mistletoe is also capable for growing on its own; like other plants it can produce its own food by photosynthesis. Mistletoe, however, is more commonly found growing as a parasitic plant.

There are two types of mistletoe. The mistletoe that is commonly used as a Christmas decoration (Phoradendron flavescens) is native to North America and grows as a parasite on trees in the west as also in those growing in a line down the east from New Jersey to Florida. The other type of mistletoe, Viscum album, is of European origin.

The European mistletoe is a green shrub with small, yellow flowers and white, sticky berries which are considered poisonous.

It commonly seen on apple but only rarely on oak trees. The rarer oak mistletoe was greatly venerated by the ancient Celts and Germans and used as a ceremonial plant by early Europeans.

The Greeks and earlier peoples thought that it had mystical powers and down through the centuries it became associated with many folklore customs.

The Plant : Mistletoe is especially interesting botanically because it is a partial parasite (a “hemiparasite”). As a parasitic plant, it grows on the branches or trunk of a tree and actually sends out roots that penetrate into the tree and take up nutrients.

But mistletoe is also capable for growing on its own; like other plants it can produce its own food by photosynthesis. Mistletoe, however, is more commonly found growing as a parasitic plant. There are two types of mistletoe. The mistletoe that is commonly used as a Christmas decoration (Phoradendron flavescens) is native to North America and grows as a parasite on trees from New Jersey to Florida.

The other type of mistletoe, Viscum album, is of European origin. The European mistletoe is a green shrub with small, yellow flowers and white, sticky berries which are considered poisonous. It commonly seen on apple but only rarely on oak trees. The rarer oak mistletoe was greatly venerated by the ancient Celts and Germans and used as a ceremonial plant by early Europeans.

The Greeks and earlier peoples thought that it had mystical powers and down through the centuries it became associated with many folklore customs. The Mistletoe Magic : From the earliest times mistletoe has been one of the most magical, mysterious, and sacred plants of European folklore.

It was considered to bestow life and fertility; a protection against poison; and an aphrodisiac. The mistletoe of the sacred oak was especially sacred to the ancient Celtic Druids. On the sixth night of the moon white-robed Druid priests would cut the oak mistletoe with a golden sickle. Two white bulls would be sacrificed amid prayers that the recipients of the mistletoe would prosper.

Later, the ritual of cutting the mistletoe from the oak came to symbolize the emasculation of the old King by his successor. Mistletoe was long regarded as both a sexual symbol and the “soul” of the oak. It was gathered at both mid-summer and winter solstices, and the custom of using mistletoe to decorate houses at Christmas is a survival of the Druid and other pre-Christian traditions.

The Greeks also thought that it had mystical powers and down through the centuries it became associated with many folklore customs. In the Middle Ages and later, branches of mistletoe were hung from ceilings to ward off evil spirits. In Europe they were placed over house and stable doors to prevent the entrance of witches.

It was also believed that the oak mistletoe could extinguish fire. This was associated with an earlier belief that the mistletoe itself could come to the tree during a flash of lightning. The traditions which began with the European mistletoe were transferred to the similar American plant with the process of immigration and settlement. Kissing under the mistletoe : Kissing under the mistletoe is first found associated with the Greek festival of Saturnalia and later with primitive marriage rites.

They probably originated from two beliefs. One belief was that it has power to bestow fertility. It was also believed that the dung from which the mistletoe would also possess “life-giving” power.

In Scandinavia, mistletoe was considered a plant of peace, under which enemies could declare a truce or warring spouses kiss and make-up. Later, the eighteenth-century English credited with a certain magical appeal called a kissing ball.

Kissing under the mistletoeAt Christmas time a young lady standing under a ball of mistletoe, brightly trimmed with evergreens, ribbons, and ornaments, cannot refuse to be kissed. Such a kiss could mean deep romance or lasting friendship and goodwill.

If the girl remained unkissed, she cannot expect not to marry the following year. In some parts of England the Christmas mistletoe is burned on the twelfth night lest all the boys and girls who have kissed under it never marry.

Whether we believe it or not, it always makes for fun and frolic at Christmas celebrations. Even if the pagan significance has been long forgotten, the custom of exchanging a kiss under the mistletoe can still be found in many European countries as well as in Canada.

Thus if a couple in love exchanges a kiss under the mistletoe, it is interpreted as a promise to marry, as well as a prediction of happiness and long life. In France, the custom linked to mistletoe was reserved for New Year’s Day : “Au gui l’An neuf” (Mistletoe for the New Year).

kissing 2Today, kisses can be exchanged under the mistletoe any time during the holiday season. The Legend : For its supposedly mystical power mistletoe has long been at the center of many folklore.

One is associated with the goddess Frigga. The story goes that Mistletoe was the sacred plant of Frigga, goddess of love and the mother of Balder, the god of the summer sun.

Balder had a dream of death which greatly alarmed his mother, for should he die, all life on earth would end. In an attempt to keep this from happening, Frigga went at once to air, fire, water, earth, and every animal and plant seeking a promise that no harm would come to her son.

Balder now could not be hurt by anything on earth or under the earth. But Balder had one enemy, Loki, god of evil and he knew of one plant that Frigga had overlooked in her quest to keep her son safe. It grew neither on the earth nor under the earth, but on apple and oak trees. It was lowly mistletoe. So Loki made an arrow tip of the mistletoe, gave to the blind god of winter, Hoder, who shot it , striking Balder dead.

santa (1)The sky paled and all things in earth and heaven wept for the sun god. For three days each element tried to bring Balder back to life. He was finally restored by Frigga, the goddess and his mother. It is said the tears she shed for her son turned into the pearly white berries on the mistletoe plant and in her joy Frigga kissed everyone who passed beneath the tree on which it grew.

The story ends with a decree that who should ever stand under the humble mistletoe, no harm should befall them, only a kiss, a token of love.”

What could be more natural than to translate the spirit of this old myth into a Christian way of thinking and accept the mistletoe as the emblem of that Love which conquers Death? Its medicinal properties, whether real or imaginary, make it a just emblematic of that Tree of Life, the leaves of which are for the healing of the nations thus paralleling it to the Virgin Birth of Christ.

petra 1Taking a cultural tradition and giving it a Christian purpose is not a bad thing, consider Christian Contemporary Music, I’ve heard it argued that it is wrong because it is like that of the world.  I would argue that music can be used as a tool to reach out to the world with the truths of the Church.

There are many things associated with Christmas and can be used for fun and teaching good ways to spread Christmas cheer.  So as St. Paul would say to his listeners, “Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the churches of Christ greet you. I appeal to you, brethren, to take note of those who create dissensions and difficulties, in opposition to the doctrine which you have been taught; avoid them.” Romans 16:16-17

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The Catholic Defender: Remembering The Candy Cane For Christmas

Posted by Donald Hartley - December 15th, 2015

cane 1The true meaning of Christmas is about the birth of Jesus Christ, He is the Reason for the Season.

Over the years traditions have developed to help bring joy to the Season of Christmas bringing many sub-traditions that help us focus on the reason for the season.

The imagination of children around the world are en-kindled by the stories that tell the story of the Christ Child and the peace He brings.

It is centered around family, faith, and love. It is about traditions that help people identify to the birth of Christ.

As Deepertruth looks at the Season of Christmas, I thought it was interesting to look at the history of the candy cane.

I remember growing up placing candy canes on the Christmas tree and we usually found them in our stockings around the fireplace.

The history of the candy cane goes back centuries with the European tradition of using food decorations for the Christmas tree. Cookies and hard candy made of sugar sticks were wonderful treats for the children as they waited for Christmas to eat them.

candy cane 2These sugar sticks were basically straight and white in color until about the seventeenth century people began when a certain choirmaster at the Cologne Cathedral (from Germany) began to bend the sugar sticks into a cane that took the appearance of a shepherd’s staff. These candy canes were given to the children to hold during the Christmas Mass to help keep them alert and awake. At this time the candy canes were still white.

Soon, this German tradition spread around Europe and eventually America with the German immigrants coming to America in the 19th century. As early as the latter 1840′s August Imgard, an immigrant from Germany, began decorating his home Christmas tree (Wooster Ohio) with these candy canes.

The red stripes on the candy cane began to appear at the turn of the century, judging from the Christmas cards before 1900, they still appeared white, but after 1900, the red and white striped candy canes began to appear.

It was about this time that candy canes were being made with the flavors of peppermint and wintergreen that held some special meaning. The candy canes became a symbol for Christian belief surrounding Jesus Christ. The rich heritage of being connected with Christian traditions, The candy cane being in the shape of a shepherd’s staff was no accident.

candy caneThe shepherd’s staff reminds us of the authority of the Catholic Church calling to mind that the Lord is our Shepherd. Also, the candy cane is in the form of a “J” which stands for Jesus, the King of kings.

The candy cane would be an encouragement to remind us that we can make it through tough times. Along with the shepherds staff, the hardness of the candy cane came to represent the foundation of the Church. The red stripes on the white background represented the blood of Christ and His purity. In the beginning, there were three red stripes that would represent the Trinity, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

The peppermint flavor would represent the use of the hyssop branch which was depicted in the Passover story and again at the Crucifixion scene of Jesus when He was given the fourth cup (wine). The sugar would remind us that the Word of God is sweet to the taste. Jeremiah 15:16 states, “Thy words were found, and I ate them, and thy words became to me a joy and a delight of my heart.”

I love the Christmas Season and the various traditions that come with it. The story of the candy cane is one that is based from the living Christian tradition, it is not taken from a pagan society, but it is rich with Christian understanding.

Father Gregory Keller developed an automated machine capable of producing candy canes on the assembly line in the 1950′s. Today, I’ve seen various different colors used to make candy canes and other flavors are given. Candy canes still can be used as a tool to teach children and to en-kindle in them a love for Jesus and His Church.

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The Catholic Defender: St. Lucy, Handmaid Of The Lord

Posted by Donald Hartley - December 14th, 2015

keysrevelation“And I say to you, you are Kepa, and upon this Kepa I will build my church and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it”. Jesus established His Church with men who would take the gospel to all nations.

For nearly 2,000 years, men and women of all nations, tribes, tongues have witnesses the miracles of His Saints. At times like today, there is great confusion and there is much suffering in the world.

The Catholic Church is like a great visible light that continues to sail through the mix of all hopelessness. 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 states, “Therefore, we are not discouraged; rather, although our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this momentary light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to what is seen but to what is unseen; for what is seen is transitory, but what is unseen is eternal.”

When I was coming home to my Catholic Faith in the late 1970′s, one of the early Catholic Martyrs that had such a great impact on me was St. Lucy.

The college environment was in full transition, the culture was beginning to push the progressive movement.

collegeFor the progressive movement to catch a foothold in the United States, much of our innocence had to be compromised.

The divorce rate was bordering 50% even by the summer of 1976. When I was interviewed by my High School newspaper, I told the paper that my favorite band was a group called the Eagles and my favorite singer was Elton John.

At that time I was not strong in faith and I was not aware of the values and morals this actually would support.

Elton John, for example, had not come out of the closet with his homosexual agenda. I remembered his song “Crocodile Rock” and that was a favorite song of mine at the time. That was a song that reminded me of the sock hop dances at school.

College life in 1977 would be a different scene. I am thankful that the Lord spared me of the progressive movement because of my interest in playing baseball. Instead of experimenting with the party life, I’d be out running 5 miles or in the gym. I would go to the school dances but most of that was exercise.

baseballIt was the fall of 1978 that I began to rediscover perhaps for the first time the importance of my Catholic Faith. The story of St. Lucy intrigued me greatly because of her courage.

St. Lucy lived in the early 4th century during a massive persecution of the Catholic Church. She was a very beautiful young woman whom I wondered how she would have lived in our time.

As a young beautiful woman, many men wanted to take her hand in marriage and her Mother wanted to arrange a wedding for St. Lucy. That never materialized because of St. Lucy’s love and commitment to Jesus Christ. She wanted to be one of Our Lady’s maids who are presented before the King (Psalms 45:15).

St. Lucy dedicated her life solely to the Lord. She would pray at the tomb of St. Agatha and through her intercession, her Mother was cured of a long illness miraculously.

This led to her Mother’s conversion to Christ, but that did not stop the suitors seeking St. Lucy’s hand in marriage.

lucy (1)The rejected bridegroom accused St. Lucy of being a Christian. He took his case to the Governor who sent her to a house of prostitution.

The Lord worked wondrous miracles through St. Lucy. Her guards found her “stiff and heavy as a mountain”. They could not budge her.

While in this house of ill repute, any man who looked upon her lustfully lost their sight. Can you imagine such a sight? They would receive their sight back upon her intercession. In the above picture, notice the eyes placed in her plate. This depicts God’s grace given her for protection.

The Governor was wanting to save her life because she was so beautiful, but her faith was immoveable. Can you imagine what it would be like today if men were to treat women like they were ladies?

Many women today are much like those captives “weighed down by sins, led by various desires, always trying to learn but never able to reach a knowledge of the truth”. (2 Timothy 3:6-7)

lustful illusions (1)Because of their rebellion, “God handed them over to degrading passions. Their females exchanged natural relations for unnatural and the males likewise gave up natural relations with females and burned with lust for one another”. (Romans 1:26-27)

If I thought it was bad in 1978, going back to college in 2013 is a total shock. Our holy Catholic Faith is under attack on all fronts around the world. It is like we have lost all common sense. We really need St. Lucy today more than ever as a role model.

St. Lucy suffered torture during the terrible reign of Diocletian and is remember today as the Patron Saint of the blind and those with eye trouble.

What courage St. Lucy demonstrated because of her strong faith. She contended for the Faith with her life as many of the Saints. She was truly a handmaid of the Lord who bore witness to the love of God in her life. Today she is among the great cloud of witnesses who greatly encouraged me at a critical time in my life.

CD 1 (1)I have stood up for the faith millions of times the past 35 years eventually going to many places in the world. St. Lucy was a great motivation for me. I wanted to have that kind of faith. Her feast day is 13 December.

At a time when there is so much despair, the Lord gives us such great witnesses who encourages is to keep moving forward. If you feel the pressures of life crumbling around you and you feel all is lost, be reminded that “in all things we conquer overwhelmingly through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor present things, nor future things, not powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus Our Lord.” Romans 8″37-39

Saint Lucy, you did not hide your light under a basket, but let it shine for the whole world, for all the centuries to see. We may not suffer torture in our lives the way you did, but we are still called to let the light of our Christianity illumine our daily lives. Please help us to have the courage to bring our Christianity into our work, our recreation, our relationships, our conversation — every corner of our day. Amen

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The Catholic Defender: Christmas Is A Season For Carols

Posted by Donald Hartley - December 13th, 2015

mom (1)My Mother passed away 1 August 2006 just before I was to deploy with the 2-5 Cavalry to Iraq for what would be a 15 month deployment.

I was on leave and on the final day of my leave, my wife and I was just leaving for Fort Hood Texas when we received the news something was going on with my Mother.

I drove back to the farm and ran into Mom’s bedroom. She was not breathing (agonal respirations) normal and she obviously was in a coma state.

I quickly began doing rescue breathing 1 breath every 5 seconds. My wife, Gigi was listening to the breath sounds as we worked together to keep oxygen going through her. She had a pulse at the time so I didn’t need to do CPR.

As I was doing the rescue breathing for her, we called for the Ambulance to come and get her. I was praying the rosary then the Divine Mercy Chaplet as we worked on Mom.

Finally, we got her to the hospital and I called Father who came and anointed her with the Anointing of the Sick. Mom would pass early in the morning after my Brother and I had prayed the rosary together for her.

dth27I received an extension on my leave as we had a week before the funeral. People were coming from miles around to honor my Mother. Many were Indians from Kansas Reservation, Oklahoma, and Missouri. Several camped out all over the farm and celebrated some of the Indian rituals.

My Brother was concerned that I might try to preach to them so we made a pact that these people were here to honor Mom.

She was getting a Catholic funeral, with some of the honor friends and family gave her. On the night before the funeral, the Indians set up a large set of tables and held a feast. They honored my wife letting her sit in Mom’s place and they gave her Mom’s blanket.

powowAfter this, everyone got into a large circle when an Indian drummer and singer sang Indian songs for a few minutes.

My Brother began to tell stories of Mom as we remembered her life.

Then he began singing a Johnny Cash song which led to people singing what ever came to mind.

I went and grabbed Gigi’s auto harp when she saw me. She motioned me to not bring that out but it was too late.

The Indians saw me with it and implored her to sing. She began singing some of the show tunes she sang competing for Miss America.

gigi 2Then one Indian asked her if she could sing a Gospel song. Gigi sang “How great thou Art” and everyone loved it. They asked for more. She sang for a good half hour and I was so proud of her.

Gigi did more to reach them through the sweetness of her voice and the power of the song than I could by preaching to them. My Brother was right on this one!

Gigi would sing a song at the funeral Mass for Mom her favorite song “The Miracle of the Rosary”.

This touched everyone at Mass to include those not Catholic. It is a great blessing to me when we get together with others and sing songs of the faith.

powow 1I recently watched the movie “The Miracle In The Wilderness” that stared Kris Kristofferson and Kim Cattrall and I was taken back because of the story line. the story is centered on a couple and their child who are kidnapped and taken by Blackfoot Indians. This movie powerfully brought forward the Christmas story that really hit home with how they reached the Indians. That is the Great Commission Jesus gave His Catholic Church, to go to all the nations bringing the Gospel message.

Music is an important tool that the Church uses to reach people through the customs and means of the peoples of the world in time and space. Christmas is a season that music greatly reaches out to the masses with the message of the angels that first Christmas day.

christmas 22I use to love to go Christmas Caroling with groups going out through the neighborhood. I would participate with Soldiers as we would go through our Camp in Iraq singing Christmas songs. Even in a place like that you could be filled with peace.

Christmas Caroling has a unique history. Pope Telephorus, the seventh successor of St. Peter, began the tradition of Midnight Mass on the eve of Christmas as early as 125 A.D. He had much to do with beginning the Church calender we continue today.

In AD 129, Pope Telephorus said that a song called ‘Angel’s Hymn’ should be sung at a Christmas service in Rome. This tradition would take off as the people developed a universal celebration of Christmas.

Francis 5In 1223 St. Francis began setting up Nativity plays throughout Italy and through the singing of these plays, the people began to spread this devotion to France, Spain, Germany and throughout Europe.

Christmas caroling would grow as people of good will everywhere wanted to share the Christmas story in song.

Singing on Christmas Eve was symbolic of the shepherds who keep vigil over the flocks when the angels announced the good news, “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests” (Luke 2:14).

christmas-carolersSoon several orchestras and choirs were drawing large crowds in the cities enhancing the popularity of Christmas Carols. Christmas carols were very popular at Midnight Mass along with the candlelight services.

At times because of war and plagues, Christmas caroling slowed down, at other times, it was most popular. Today, I hope that we can renew the interest in Christmas caroling in society as different groups try to keep alive the Christmas spirit.

Lord, in this holy season of prayer and song and laughter, we praise you for the great wonders you have sent us: for shining star and angel’s song, for infant’s cry in lowly manger. We praise you for the Word made flesh in a little Child. We behold his glory, and are bathed in its radiance.

Be with us as we sing the ironies of Christmas, the incomprehensible comprehended, the poetry made hard fact, the helpless Babe who cracks the world asunder. We kneel before you shepherds, innkeepers, wise-men. Help us to rise bigger than we are. Amen.

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