My Christmas Letter to You

Posted by John Benko - December 25th, 2013

Dear and Precious One,

God loves you with a deep and everlasting love. His is the only perfect love you will experience here on earth. All other loves, as beautiful as they can be, are only pale imitations of His true and abiding Love. He resides in your heart, caring for each precious beat of it, whispering to the inmost part of you His words of True Love.

Like all good loves, He listens, too. He waits for your word, longs to hear you utter the smallest of prayers so that He can hear your desire for Him, for change, for perfection. He wants you to love Him in return. He will never force Himself upon you. He will wait for you and love you from afar for as long as you demand it.

He knows how you breathe, how you feel, how you wonder. He also knows your struggles. He meets you with Mercy when you fail to live in the way that He knows is best for you. He asks you to wait for something much better than you can imagine. He sighs with your impatience and anger at Him and loves you anyway.

Your life is so much more than you can even imagine. His plans for you are so far above your ideas as the Heavens are above the Earth. Allow Him, the author of your very soul, to whisper the first parts of His desire
s for you in the silence of your expectant heart.

I will pray each day for you, my brother, my sister in Christ,
Christie Martin


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*BEST OF DTB #114* The Catholic Defender: The Immaculate Conception

Posted by John Benko - December 8th, 2013

It was 27 January, 2007 I had been out with the Scouts as we went to a number of villages looking for weapons.

That had been a long day that was very beneficial to us as we were able to find weapons and get some key information.

Once we returned back to Base, I was able to take off and go to a scheduled class I was prepared to give.

The following is what I wrote on the Defenders of the Catholic Faith Message Board:

Beginning this morning, I was outside the wire on mission and didn’t get back until after 18:00 hours. I was in full battle rattle when I got to my room and grabbed my computer and speaker system and made my way to the Division Chapel which was about a mile away. I had to go by foot. I got there to find Father was there with the RCIA class which was real glad I was able to get there. Even though I was 45 minutes late, everyone stayed the whole time to watch the DVD on Mary. That was so cool. A non-denominal preacher happened to be in another room became interested in the subject matter so after I dismissed the class we talked for another hour. It was a good night of RCIA action!!!

As I walked back to my unit, it was night time, very dark. I heard the explosions in the distance, the gun fire. I reflected on some of the questions I covered at this evenings class.

I have Soldiers who were raised as Mormons, Church of Christ, Lutherans, Anglicans, Seventh Day Adventist, Baptists, Non-Denominational, Pentecostals, former Catholics, and non-believers.

They had various opinions based from what they were raised so their questions are very interesting as they were all sharing their journey to the Catholic Faith.

In one way, it reminded me of the first Christians who were Baptised that first day (Acts 2:41) St. Luke writes, “Those who accepted his (St. Peter’s) message were baptised, and about three thousand persons were added that day”.

I thought it was cool that we were continuing the work that Christ commissioned the Church to do.

The teaching on Mary was tonight’s main discussion and the Doctrine of the Immaculate Conception was a main issue. What a great reflection of the love of God and I continued to walk along my journey back to my room.


I thought of Genesis 3:15, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; He will strike at your head, while you strike at his heal”.

I thought about that for a while, certainly God knew who this woman was when he said this. This woman can not be Eve as I’ve heard some think because her offspring did not conquer the serpent.

It was Jesus who conquered sin and death, St. Paul wrote, “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor present things, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38).

I felt that the Virgin Mary was the only one who could be the Woman of Genesis 3:15. This is the belief of the Early Church Fathers and the constant teaching of the Catholic Church.

Resting in this truth, my heart just came alive. I continued to reflect on the Immaculate Conception remembering that Gabriel was sent to tell Mary that she was this Woman.

This is very important. Compare the appearance of Gabriel to the Virgin Mary with when the Angel appeared to St. John. Revelation 22:8, St. John writes, “It is I, John, who heard and saw these things, and when I heard and saw them I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who showed them to me. But he said to me, ‘Don’t! I am a fellow servant of yours and your brothers the prophets and of those who keep the message of this book, Worship God”.

I thought about how St. John was with Jesus for three years learning and hearing the Lord’s teaching first hand. He was one of the Twelve, yet he lost himself with the appearance of the Angel.

Compare this with Mary’s response to Gabriel, an Archangel. The Angel first greets Mary with “Hail, Full of grace, the Lord is with you” (Luke 1:28). I recalled the original Greek “Kecharitomene” means “having been” or “have already been” graced, Mary is “Full of Grace”, a past perfect participle.

Because God knew who the Woman of Genesis 3:15 would be, at the appointed time, God prepares the Virgin Mary from her very beginning to be the Mother of Jesus.

This does not mean that she didn’t need Jesus, she absolutely did, it is when she was free of Original Sin. It is a singular grace by God to the Virgin Mary that benefits all mankind.

She was protected by God from the Devil from the moment of her conception. St. John writes, “When the dragon saw that it had been thrown to the earth, it pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child (Jesus). But the woman was given the two wings of the great eagle, so that she could fly to her place in the desert, where, far from the serpent, she was taken care of for a year, two years, and a half year. The serpent, however, spewed a torrent of water out of his mouth after the woman to sweep her away with the current. But the earth helped the woman and opened it’s mouth and swallowed the flood that the dragon became angry with the woman and went off to wage war against the rest of her offspring, those who keep God’s commandments and bear witness to Jesus” (Rev 12:13-17).


The Virgin Mary appears to St. Catherine Laboure in 1830 giving us the “Miraculous Medal” that shows Mary standing on the moon and the Devil under her feet.

St Augustine said (354-430), “Since the devil is the head of original sin, this head it was that Mary crushed: for sin never had any entry into the soul of this Blessed Virgin, which was consequently free from all stain”.

As I kept thinking about this, I just wanted to reach out to God and thank him, even in this place. He has given us so much.


I couldn’t help thinking of Our Lady of Lourdes, the Virgin Mary appeared to St. Bernadette Soubirous identifying herself, “I am the Immaculate Conception”.

I thought of the wonders God has worked at Lourdes that even today miracles are happening.

I understand that several thousand people go to Lourdes France everyday from around the world.

God promised us signs and wonders through his presence among his Church. As I walked into our Orderly Room, I checked in so they would know I was accounted for. I stopped in talking with the duty personnel and I was overjoyed from all that I was involved in this night.

I could still hear mortar fire in the distance, machine gun fire sporatic, every now and then a real loud explosion, yet it could not dampen my spirit. I dedicated my prayer for those who were in the midst of the fight.

Looking back, what a blessing it was to paticipate in the journey of so many people wanting to become Catholic. Despite the danger we lived, I was consoled with this truth: “You belong to God, children, and you have conquered them, for the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world” (1 John 4:4).

Recently, Islamic Terrorists have attacked Catholic Churches in Baghdad killing many. Please pray for the Church persecuted today.



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The Catholic Defender: Battle Rhythm

Posted by John Benko - September 17th, 2013

In the Army we have a saying that we use to ensure that our troops are prepared daily to handle the constant missions being laid out.

The first thing we would do would be “Stand Too” which before dawn every Soldier would be at their fighting position prepared for an attack.

Once daylight had broken through, only specific guards would maintain vigilance as everyone else would continue on for the day.

The cooks would go to the dining hall, the medics would go to the Aid Station, maintenance would go to the motor pool. Everyone has different areas of responsibilities. All would have to have personal hygiene done before all of this.

I remember what it was like putting cold water on your face to shave in zero degree weather. I was always hardcore like that as I never really took to electric shavers in the field. Platoon Sergeants would go to the First Sergeant’s meeting to get the information and the plans for the next coming days.

We would develop a “Soldiers Book” to keep up with all the Soldiers under your responsibility. They had to be supervised to ensure that not only all missions were met on time as planed, but that they were in the correct uniform and that their equipment is serviceable.

All this is important to get through the day. Once you have everything supported and covered, once everything has been met, you might be able to get some downtime. The Army has really changed in 26 years as today, you will see that just about everyone has a lab top computer that can play movies, use Internet, amazing technology to keep up with the family and world back home.

The Battle Rhythm is an important tool to help each Soldier stay on top of their responsibilities.

Our Faith can be like that as well. Without an established Battle Rhythm, it is easy to pass days without praying or dedicating time with the Lord that we need.

1 Timothy 4:7-9 states, “Avoid profane and silly myths. Train yourself for devotion, for, while physical training is of limited value, devotion is valuable in every respect, since it holds a promise of life both for the present and for the future”.

It’s good if we can make daily Mass, weekly bible study, rosary and other devotions you can join in on. It’s those individual commitments that can be a challenge.

A Battle Rhythm can help you manage each day to dedicate your commitment to the Lord. It’s important to be prepared for the missions coming up that we support such as the pro-life rally’s, or other issues we are involved in.

Prayer is very important. Daily prayer is personal, how many times do we fail because there just is not enough time in a day?

That has always been a struggle at times especially when I am home because of all the events and obligations I end up participating in.

Sometimes just a change to chill out and watch a good movie or something can take up a lot of time.

This is when a Battle Rhythm can be a tool the Lord can use to help you fulfill your own commitments. Let us not grow lazy in our prayer life, but faithful to our obligations to prayer.

Prayer can be work at times, sometimes we may not feel like it. Do it anyway! You never know what good you offer by doing so! Prayer builds character such as the following example:


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The Catholic Defender: St. Monica’s Example

Posted by John Benko - June 3rd, 2013

Today I was in a discussion with some friends concerning the question of Apostasy.

It seems that people today have no problem with loved ones leaving the Church.

At least some will give support for the decisions their loved ones are making.

This is not a healthy response to the problem of apostasy.

I’ve seen this attitude develop when parents come to terms with a child claiming to be gay.

Not long ago, Rob Portman, Republican 2012 Presidential Nominee, changed his view towards Gay Marriage after his own son came forward claiming to be Gay.

I think that people naturally shy away from pain much in the same ways you would when touching a red hot stove.

Can we simply turn and look the other way as opposed to dealing with the situation? What is the appropriate response when a loved one has fallen from the faith?

Prayer must be the first baseline support for anyone who has fallen from the faith.  Remember, St. Monica prayed for both her Husband, (Patritius) and St Augustine for 30 years.  

There is so much in the scripture that speaks to this, but I wanted to share what Our Lord told St. Faustina in 1935:

Today bring to Me the Souls of those who have separated themselves from My Church*,
and immerse them in the ocean of My mercy. During My bitter Passion they tore at My Body and Heart, that is, My Church. As they return to unity with the Church My wounds heal and in this way they alleviate My Passion.”  

Most Merciful Jesus, Goodness Itself, You do not refuse light to those who seek it of You. Receive into the abode of Your Most Compassionate Heart the souls of those who have separated themselves from Your Church. Draw them by Your light into the unity of the Church, and do not let them escape from the abode of Your Most Compassionate Heart; but bring it about that they, too, come to glorify the generosity of Your mercy.

Eternal Father, turn Your merciful gaze upon the souls of those who have separated themselves from Your Son’s Church, who have squandered Your blessings and misused Your graces by obstinately persisting in their errors. Do not look upon their errors, but upon the love of Your own Son and upon His bitter Passion, which He underwent for their sake, since they, too, are enclosed in His Most Compassionate Heart. Bring it about that they also may glorify Your great mercy for endless ages. Amen.

Notice what Our Lord states, “During My bitter Passion they tore at My Body and Heart, that is My Church”.  

This speaks volumes and this tells me  we should not be taking this so lightly.  We need to have the heart and mind of St. Monica.

Saint Monica is a patron saint for mothers and wives. She lived by example all her life.  She exhibited great faith in the midst of trials and tribulations.  

Today, this is all too common as our world has become more technological and advanced in knowledge.  

It is interesting that Daniel 12:4 states, “As for you, Daniel, keep secret the message and seal the book until the end time; many shall fall away and evil shall increase”.

                                                             Prayer to Saint Monica


Exemplary Mother of the Great Augustine,
You perseveringly pursued your wayward son
Not with threats but with prayerful cries to heaven.
Intercede for all mothers in our day
So that they may learn to draw their children to God.
Teach them how to remain close to their children,
Even the prodigal sons and daughters who have sadly gone astray.
Dear St Monica, troubled wife and mother,
many sorrows pierced your heart during your lifetime.
Yet, you never despaired or lost faith.
With confidence, persistence, and profound faith,
you prayed daily for the conversion
of your beloved husband, Patricius,
and your beloved son, Augustine;
your prayers were answered.
Grant me that same fortitude, patience,
and trust in the Lord.
Intercede for me, dear St Monica,
that God may favorably hear my plea.
(mention your intention here)
Grant me the grace to accept His Will in all things,
through Jesus Christ, our Lord,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, forever and ever.
Amen




St Augustine was sent to Carthage because of the great potential he exhibited, but it was not long that he would become involved with Manichaeism. This would closely resemble much of the secular humanism of today. He would get involved with loose women much like the Prodigal Son. He became addicted to sensual appetites and pleasures. St. Monica’s persistence should be an inspiration to anyone who has wayward children.

St. Monica said not long before the Lord would take her to her heavenly reward: “I do not know what there is left for me to do or why I am still here, all my hopes in this world being now fulfilled. All I wished for was that I might see you a Catholic and a child of Heaven. God granted me even more than this in making you despise earthly felicity and consecrate yourself to His service”. 

This should be the cry of all wives and Mothers for their Children who have returned home to the Catholic Faith. This has to be our song.

Like St. Monica, we to can be over joyed when a Prodigal comes home.  Not only is there a celebration in heaven, Our Lord says to St. Faustina, “ As they return to unity with the Church My wounds heal and in this way they alleviate My Passion.” 


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*BEST OF DTB #222* Praying and Saints and the Body of Christ: A Catholic Take

Posted by John Benko - October 11th, 2012

“Saints and the Garden of God” Podcast
Listen to internet radio with Deeper Truth on Blog Talk Radio



What’s With All the Saints?
And the Nature of Prayer

Originally Posted on 9-18-2011

“I’m having trouble with praying to the saints. I know it’s possible, I just can’t see why it’s necessary.” This question came from a fellow convert. Her conversion, like mine, was emotional and total and nearly as instantaneous. God simply handed her the Truth of the Church and reduced her (and continues to reduce her to tears) at the beauty of 2,000 years of the Faith laid out like a welcome mat before her. We both (and indeed we all) have been graced with the one true faith; what we don’t know is the details. This type of conversion of the heart means that the mind sometimes takes a little while to catch up, so my young friend will ask me questions on occasion, knowing I went through a similar process. Sometimes, I have looked into it already. Sometimes we have to go looking for answers and off we trot. This was what I found out in answer to her question. 

Unlike me and my spiritual meanderings, she comes directly from a Protestant background, so Biblical references are helpful to her. I’ve listed them below so you can read them at your leisure. For the purpose of this explanation, I am going to assume that you, too, know the truth, but are hungry to know why it should be true.

The Prayers of Petition: Who Needs Them?

1) God doesn’t need you. You need God.

First off, we need to understand that God doesn’t need anything. He Is. He can do what He wants, with or without our input. Petitioning God for you and your own needs or even intercessory prayer (a prayer that asks God to do something for another person) does not turn God into a slot machine. Insert prayer, pull handle, receive blessing. As we all know, every petitionary or intercessory prayer is answered with either a yes, a no, or a wait awhile.We need to ask. God wants us to ask, but He has no need of the asking.

2) Prayer is a gift.

The act of prayer is not even our own. It is our response to grace. The desire to pray is placed in our heart. It is a sign that we are beginning to cooperate with the Will of God, no matter how imperfectly. It is often the person praying that God changes in order to answer the prayer. So, for example, even though you may be praying for a stubborn coworker who drives you batty, the answer to your prayer may look a little like this:

You haven’t thought about that obnoxious co-worker much lately, but in the middle of an tense discussion with your husband you are suddenly graced with a vivid understanding of how petty you are being. You are given the insight to see that he is bothered by your demands, but is perfectly willing to do it your way to keep the peace. Not only do you see your own pettiness, but you can see a direct correlation between your pettiness and the pettiness of that coworker you’ve been praying for. The insight into your own character is in answer to that original prayer and if you could put it into words it would be something like: “Is it any wonder that this coworker bugs me so much? Everything he does pricks my conscience!”

I try hard to remember that there are an infinity of irritants in the world and most of them bounce off with little notice. It’s the irritants that resonate with our own faults that catch and hold our attention. I know this may seem off the topic, but it really has a lot to do with the question of praying to the saints. It has to do with our needs, rather than God’s. My point is that God does not need to be asked to act, and in a similar way, God does not need the saints to ask either. Neither do the saints need anything, being in Heaven already.

When we pray to God to change something in our life, we are responding to the grace to pray and are cooperating with His will. He will use our cooperation to change us, to make us more of who He created us to be. 

3) Intercessory prayer increases our communion with the Body of Christ.

It is a spiritual no-brainer to understand that praying increases our communion with God. You have to talk to someone to get to know them better, so that sort of truth about prayer can be intuited without much research or contemplation. Something about intercessory prayer that might not be obvious is that we begin to commune with each other as we pray. Prayer is communication. When we pray for others part of our communication is our communion with God and also with the person we are praying for. In other words, we are strengthening our relationship with that person through God. Strengthening the bonds with another strengthens the unity of the Body of Christ here on Earth. It brings us together in community here and helps us remember that we are, in fact, related and necessary for one another.

Asking the saints to pray for us is the same thing, only with the larger Body of Christ. The saints don’t need our prayers, being in Heaven already. God doesn’t need our prayers, being God, nor does He need the saint’s prayers. We have need of the saints, though. We need to be closer to those who have triumphed. We need to build stronger bonds with Heaven and the residents there. It helps us remember that there is our home, the more we call upon all the loved ones there. 

Our focus should be Heaven. Our actions should be Prayer. Our life should be God’s. Prayer helps us to make that happen. Prayer is so much more than what we bargain for and thank God for it!



 

 

Scripture Proofs (from this link)

I. We are One Family in Christ in Heaven and on Earth

Eph. 3:14-15- we are all one family (“Catholic”) in heaven and on earth, united together, as children of the Father, through Jesus Christ. Our brothers and sisters who have gone to heaven before us are not a different family. We are one and the same family. This is why, in the Apostles Creed, we profess a belief in the “communion of saints.” There cannot be a “communion” if there is no union. Loving beings, whether on earth or in heaven, are concerned for other beings, and this concern is reflected spiritually through prayers for one another.
Eph. 1:22-23; 5:23-32; Col. 1:18,24 – this family is in Jesus Christ, the head of the body, which is the Church.
1 Cor. 12:12,27; Rom. 12:5; Col. 3:15; Eph. 4:4 – we are the members of the one body of Christ, supernaturally linked together by our partaking of the Eucharist.
Rom. 8:35-39 – therefore, death does not separate the family of God and the love of Christ. We are still united with each other, even beyond death.
Matt. 17:3; Mark 9:4; Luke 9:30 – Jesus converses with “deceased” Moses and Elijah. They are more alive than the saints on earth.
Matt. 22:32; Mark 12:27; Luke 20:38 – God is the God of the living not the dead. The living on earth and in heaven are one family.
Luke 15:7,10 – if the angels and saints experience joy in heaven over our repentance, then they are still connected to us and are aware of our behavior.
John 15:1-6 – Jesus is the vine and we are the branches. The good branches are not cut off at death. They are alive in heaven.
1 Cor. 4:9 – because we can become a spectacle not only to men, but to angels as well, this indicates that angels are aware of our earthly activity. Those in heaven are connected to those on earth.
1 Cor. 12:26 – when one member suffers, all suffer. When one is honored, all rejoice. We are in this together as one family.
1 Cor 13:12; 1 John 3:2 – now we see in a mirror dimly, but in heaven we see face to face. The saints are more alive than we are!
Heb. 12:1: we are surrounded by a great glory cloud (shekinah) of witnesses. The “cloud of witnesses” refers to the saints who are not only watching us from above but cheering us on in our race to heaven.
1 Peter 2:9; Rev. 20:6 – we are a royal family of priests by virtue of baptism. We as priests intercede on behalf of each other.
2 Peter 1:4 – since God is the eternal family and we are His children, we are partakers of His divine nature as a united family.
1 Cor. 1:2; Rom. 1:7 – we are called to be saints. Saints refer to both those on earth and in heaven who are in Christ. Proof:
Acts 9:13,32,41; 26:10; 1 Cor. 6:1-2; 14:33; 2 Cor. 1:1; 8:4; 9:1-2; 13:13; Rom. 8:27; 12:23; 15:25,26, 31; 16:2,15; Eph. 1:1,15,18; 3:8; 5:3; 6:18; Phil. 1:1; 4:22; Col 1:2,4,26; 1 Tm 5:10; Philemon 1:5,7; Heb. 6:10; 13:24; Jude 1:3; Rev. 11:18; 13:7; 14:12; 16:6; 17:6;18:20,24; Rev 19:8; 20:9 – in these verses, we see that Christians still living on earth are called “saints.”
Matt. 27:52; Eph. 2:19; 3:18; Col. 1:12; 2 Thess. 1:10; Rev. 5:8; 8:3-4; 11:18; 13:10 – in these verses, we also see that “saints” also refer to those in heaven who united with us.
Dan. 4:13,23; 8:23 – we also see that the angels in heaven are also called “saints.” The same Hebrew word “qaddiysh” (holy one) is applied to both humans and angels in heaven. Hence, there are angel saints in heaven and human saints in heaven and on earth. Loving beings (whether angels or saints) are concerned for other beings, and prayer is the spiritual way of expressing that love.
Top

II. God Desires and Responds to Our Subordinate Mediation / Intercessory Prayer

1 Tim 2:1-2 – because Jesus Christ is the one mediator between God and man (1 Tim. 2:5), many Protestants deny the Catholic belief that the saints on earth and in heaven can mediate on our behalf. But before Paul’s teaching about Jesus as the “one mediator,” Paul urges supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people. Paul is thus appealing for mediation from others besides Christ, the one mediator. Why?
1 Tim 2:3 – because this subordinate mediation is good and acceptable to God our Savior. Because God is our Father and we are His children, God invites us to participate in Christ’s role as mediator.
1 Tim. 2:5 – therefore, although Jesus Christ is the sole mediator between God and man, there are many intercessors (subordinate mediators).
1 Cor. 3:9 – God invites us to participate in Christ’s work because we are God’s “fellow workers” and one family in the body of Christ. God wants His children to participate. The phrase used to describe “fellow workers” is “sunergoi,” which literally means synergists, or cooperators with God in salvific matters. Does God need fellow workers? Of course not, but this shows how much He, as Father, loves His children. God wants us to work with Him.
Mark 16:20 – this is another example of how the Lord “worked with them” (“sunergountos”). God cooperates with us. Out of His eternal love, He invites our participation.
Rom. 8:28 – God “works for good with” (the Greek is “sunergei eis agathon”) those who love Him. We work as subordinate mediators.
2 Cor. 6:1 – “working together” (the Greek is “sunergountes”) with him, don’t accept His grace in vain. God allows us to participate in His work, not because He needs our help, but because He loves us and wants to exalt us in His Son. It is like the father who lets his child join him in carrying the groceries in the house. The father does not need help, but he invites the child to assist to raise up the child in dignity and love.
Heb. 12:1 – the “cloud of witnesses” (nephos marturon) that we are surrounded by is a great amphitheatre of witnesses to the earthly race, and they actively participate and cheer us (the runners) on, in our race to salvation.
1 Peter 2:5 – we are a holy priesthood, instructed to offer spiritual sacrifices to God. We are therefore subordinate priests to the Head Priest, but we are still priests who participate in Christ’s work of redemption.
Rev. 1:6, 5:10 – Jesus made us a kingdom of priests for God. Priests intercede through Christ on behalf of God’s people.
James 5:16; Proverbs 15:8, 29 – the prayers of the righteous (the saints) have powerful effects. This is why we ask for their prayers. How much more powerful are the saints’ prayers in heaven, in whom righteousness has been perfected.
1 Tim 2:5-6 – therefore, it is because Jesus Christ is the one mediator before God that we can be subordinate mediators. Jesus is the reason. The Catholic position thus gives Jesus the most glory. He does it all but loves us so much He desires our participation.


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The Catholic Defender: Journey to the Center of the Faith

Posted by John Benko - December 13th, 2010

Hebrews 11:1 says, “Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and the evidence of things not seen”.

Colossians 1:28 states, “It is he whom we proclaim, admonishing everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone perfect in Christ”.

St. Paul is basing this through the Authority of Christ as he states, “Now I rejoice in my suffering for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions on Christ on behalf of his body, which is the church, o which I am a minister in accordance with God’s stewardship given me to bring to completion for you the word of God, the mystery hidden from ages and from generations past”.

As we search for this center of faith, an important clue comes from St. Augustine, “the Old Testament is the New Testament concealed, the New Testament is the Old Testament revealed”.

Jesus Commands the Church to “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20).

Through the apostolic Ministry of the Catholic Church, “As they traveled from city to city, they handed on to the people for observance the decisions reached by the Apostles and presbyters in Jerusalem. Day after day the churches grew stronger in faith and increased in number” (Acts 6:4-5).

1 Corinthians 1:10 commands us, “I urge you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Chris, that all of you agree in what you say, and that there be know divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and purpose”.

Acts 14:22-23 encourages us “They strengthened the spirits of the disciples and exhorted them to persevere in the faith, saying, “It is necessary for us to undergo many hardships to enter the kingdom of God. They appointed presbyters for them in each church and, with prayer and fasting, commended them to the Lord in whom they had put their faith”.

1 Corinthians 16:13 says, “Be on your guard, stand firm in the faith, be courageous, be strong. Your every act should be done with love”.

St. Jude echos this writing “Beloved, although I was making every effort to write to you about our common salvation, I now feel a need to write to encourage you to contend for the faith that was once handed down to the holy ones. Keep yourselves in the love of God and wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. ON THOSE WHO WAIVER, HAVE MERCY; SAVE OTHERS BY SNATCHING THEM OUT OF THE FIRE; ON OTHERS HAVE MERCY WITH FEAR, ABHORRING EVEN THE OUTER GARMENT STAINED BY THE FLESH” (Jude 3,21).

St. James echos this teaching, “My brothers, if anyone among you should stray from the truth and someone bring him back, he should 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” (James 5:19-20).

St. Paul writes, “I, then, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you o live in a manner worthy of the call you have received, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another through love, striving to preserve the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace: one body and one Spirit, as you were also called to the one hope of your call; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all”(Ephesians 4:1-5).

Titus 3:15 says, “All who are with me send you greetings. Greet those who love us in the faith”.

Having gone to many nations and meeting many people from around the world, I find St. Paul’s encouragement to “love us in the faith” really inspiring. The Catholic Church is truly universal and to meet people from all over has been a great blessing.

The seven gifts of the Holy Spirit are (From Wikipedia):

  • Wisdom: With the gift of wisdom, we see God at work in our lives and in the world. For the wise person, the wonders of nature, historical events, and the ups and downs of our lives take on deeper meaning. The matters of judgment about the truth, and being able to see the whole image of God. We see God as our Father and other people with dignity. Lastly being able to see God in everyone and everything everywhere.
  • Understanding: With the gift of understanding, we comprehend how we need to live as a follower of Jesus Christ. A person with understanding is not confused by all the conflicting messages in our culture about the right way to live. The gift of understanding perfects a person’s speculative reason in the apprehension of truth. It is the gift whereby self-evident principles are known, Aquinas writes.[4]
  • Counsel (Right Judgment): With the gift of counsel/right judgment, we know the difference between right and wrong, and we choose to do what is right. A person with right judgment avoids sin and lives out the values taught by Jesus. The gift of truth that allows the person to respond prudently, and happily to believe our Christ the Lord
  • Fortitude (Courage): With the gift of fortitude/courage, we overcome our fear and are willing to take risks as a follower of Jesus Christ. A person with courage is willing to stand up for what is right in the sight of God, even if it means accepting rejection, verbal abuse, or even physical harm and death. The gift of courage allows people the firmness of mind that is required both in doing good and in enduring evil, especially with regard to goods or evils that are difficult, just like Joan of Arc did.
  • Knowledge: With the gift of knowledge, we understand the meaning of God. The gift of knowledge is more than an accumulation of facts.
  • Piety (Reverence): With the gift of reverence, sometimes called piety, we have a deep sense of respect for God and the church. A person with reverence recognizes our total reliance on God and comes before God with humility, trust, and love. Piety is the gift whereby, at the Holy Spirit’s instigation, we pay worship and duty to God as our Father, Aquinas writes.
  • Fear of the Lord (Wonder and Awe): With the gift of fear of the Lord we are aware of the glory and majesty of God. A person with wonder and awe knows that God is the perfection of all we desire: perfect knowledge, perfect goodness, perfect power, and perfect love. This gift is described by Aquinas as a fear of separating oneself from God. He describes the gift as a “filial fear,” like a child’s fear of offending his father, rather than a “servile fear,” that is, a fear of punishment. Also known as knowing God is all powerful. Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (Prov 1:7) because it puts our mindset in its correct location with respect to God: we are the finite, dependent creatures, and He is the infinite, all-powerful Creator.

The Fruits of the Holy Spirit are:

Love
Joy
Peace
Patience
Kindness
Generosity
Faithfulness
Gentleness
Self-control

With these gifts and fruits of the Holy Spirit this gives us the tools to fight the battle of life:

Grace
Faith
Service
Suffering
Vigilance
Cooperation
Authority
The Beatitudes
Unity
Perseverance
Faithfulness
Steadfastness
Healing
Trust
Wait upon the Lord

To go through the journey to the center of the Faith, your only true hope is to find the Catholic Faith to utilize the Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0a1cD5Ej-QI&feature=BF&list=MLGxdCwVVULXd-3KO_75ylz9uCkR3woIot&index=3


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*BEST OF DTB #38* The Catholic Defender Explains Purgatory

Posted by John Benko - November 13th, 2010


It was June of 1985, I had already passed Basic Training and AIT. I was now at my first duty station at Fort Stewart Georgia.
I was assigned as a Medic with the Ambulance Section and given responsibility for a track M113A2 vehicle.
This was great experience for me as I learned a lot as we trained for our missions. I became involved with the local Catholic Church (St. Stephens) in Hinesville Georgia.
I was teaching the 5th grade CCD and still conducting Seminars on Rock music for the area to include a Catholic School in Savannah.
Those were great opportunities as we spoke to many students and families to include the presentation at the Fort Stewart Recreation Center. There were several single Soldiers present and they were very respectful. Father Norton was the Catholic Chaplain at the time and he supported our efforts.
Father Norton would become very special to me as I would serve as a “Lay Eucharistic Minister”. During field operations and “in the absence of a Catholic Priest”, I was responsible for the Eucharist, I could distribute Holy Communion. We often went to train at Fort Irvin California to conduct desert training for a 30 day rotation.

I would have the Blessed Sacrament with me for Catholic Communion Services in the field.
I could imagine how David felt as he danced before the Ark of the Old Covenant.
I had Jesus Christ in person with me. I will always treasure this gift. I met several Soldiers in my unit that became very special to me.
One was from Philadelphia who would discuss the Catholic Faith with me.
He was raised a Calvinist, but was not practicing it. Originally, he became interested in the work I was doing on the Rock Seminars. He would help me prepare for them. He had some good questions he asked me concerning Purgatory.
He didn’t understand why Catholics prayed for the dead. I began with the Old Testament showing that their were three places that were understood in the afterlife. Heaven, Sheol (the Netherworld) and Gehenna (hell).
It is understood that if a person goes to hell, there was no getting out of it. That is eternal punishment. I shared Maccabees 12:38-46 showing that praying for the dead was part of the Jewish belief system.
Some of Judas Maccabeus’s men who were killed in battle were found with Pagan amulets that offended God. This was forbidden yet some of them took the risk of disobedience. “Turning to supplication, they prayed that the sinful deed might be fully blotted out. The noble Judas warned the soldiers to keep themselves free from sin, for they had seen with their own eyes what happened because of the sin of those who had fallen. He then took up a collection among all his soldiers, amounting to two thousand silver drachmas, which he sent to Jerusalem to provide for an expiatory sacrifice. In doing this he acted in a very excellent and noble way, inasmuch as he had the resurrection of the dead in view; for if he were not expecting the fallen to rise again, it would have been useless and foolish to pray for them in death. But if he did this with a view to the splendid reward that awaits those who had gone to rest in godliness, it was a holy and pius thought. Thus he made atonement for the dead that they might be freed from this sin”.

This perfectly fell into the message I was giving with the Rock Seminars as there are a lot of images that Rock fans wear that are Pagan amulets such as Pentagrams, Hexagrams, and many others.

I explained how this understanding and belief carried over into the New Testament. 1 Peter 3:18-21 states, “For Christ also suffered for sins once, the righteous for the sake of the unrighteous, that he might lead you to God. Put to death in the flesh, he was brought to life in the spirit. In it he also went to preach to the spirits in prison, who had once been disobedient while God patiently waited in the days of Noah during the building of the Ark, in which a few persons, eight in all, were saved through water. This prefigured baptism, which saves you now”.


From the time when Adam and Eve were kicked out of the Garden of Eden, mankind had not been allowed back to that relationship with God.

Those who were not damned were placed in “prison” awaiting for the promised Messiah. I shared Luke 16:19-31 explaining Jesus showing two places of the dead.
One was hell where the rich man went and the poor man (Lazarus) was in this “prison” or the “bosom of Abraham”.
There is a great chasm that prevents anyone from crossing from either side to the other. Jesus says something very important, warning, “Then Abraham said, ‘If they will not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded if someone should rise from the dead”.
Jesus was speaking of himself. When you read Matthew 27:51-54, your reading about the death of Jesus (Matthew 27:45-50) but follow what happens,
“And behold, the veil of the sanctuary was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth quaked, rocks were split, tombs were opened, and the bodies of many saints who had fallen asleep were raised. And coming forth from their tombs after his resurrection, they entered the holy city and appeared to many. The centurion and the men with him who were keeping watch over Jesus feared greatly when they saw the earthquake and all that was happening, and they said, ‘Truly, this was the Son of God”! I was beginning to make sense for my friend as he continued to ask questions about this. He felt it was clear that in the Old Testament there was this place of waiting before Christ came.
Was this place of waiting done away with in the New Testament?
According to the teaching of the Catholic Church, no this place was not done away with. Jesus warns, “Therefore, I say to you, every sin and blaphemy will be forgiven people, but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come” (Matthew 12:31-32).
Knowing and understanding this, St. Paul writes, “May the Lord grant mercy to the family of Onesiphorus because he often gave me new heart and was not ashamed of my chains. But when he came to Rome, he promptly searched for me and found me. May the Lord grant him to find mercy from the Lord on that day. And you know very well the services he rendered in Ephesus” (2 Timothy 1:16-18).
August 1985, our unit was deploying to Fort Irwin California for a 30 day training event. My friend stayed back at Fort Stewart couple of days before he came out there. One night I was asleep near my vehicle when he found me and nudged me waking me up.
He wanted to share with me the good news that he was received into the Catholic Faith. Father Norton had been working with him and that was why he remained a couple of more day in the rear. What a blessing!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H5HjNoTcj9w




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The Catholic Defender Remembers Basic Training

Posted by John Benko - November 10th, 2010

February 7, 1985 I was on the bus from Harrison Arkansas to the Little Rock MEPS to begin my Military career.

I memorized the “Code of Conduct” along the way. I wanted to start my new career with the right motivation.

I remember staying at the hotel waiting for the plane taking us to Ft. Jackson South Carolina for Basic Training (Boot Camp).

The only thing I recall from this short stay in Little Rock was that some of the other applicants had hookers come to their rooms. I was not one of them as I would not have condoned that kind of activity.

I had been practicing my faith solidly for a good while, thankfully, by this time. From the very beginning of my Military career, I felt it was important to be faithful to God. This would be important to note because this was my position throughout my military career.

I would have many schools and field problems where infidelity was rampant. I tried to be a Soldier for Christ first and a good example for those who were away from home for the first time.

Basic training started out just like you see in the movies and the classic stories. We were “herded” on the ‘cattle trucks” and we were quickly placed into platoons.

I’ll never forget the drill instructors bringing it on from the outset. Just getting off the trucks was an interesting experience.

I quickly got the nickname “Padre” because of my strong faith. I encouraged everyone to go to church on Sunday, especially if they were Catholic.

It worked good for most of them, but still others would drift off as some were tempted by females assigned to nearby barracks.

Late at night they would find places to get together.

I tried to discourage that but for some, the temptation was just to strong.

James 1:12-15 states, “Blessed is the man who perseveres in temptation, for when he has been proved he will receive the crown of life that he promised to those who love him. No one experiencing temptation should say, ‘I am being tempted by God’; for God is not subject to temptation to evil, and he himself tempts no one. Rather, each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire conceives and brings forth sin, and when sin reaches maturity it gives birth to death”.

I come from a strong patriotic background, I have always believed in what the Red, White, and Blue of our flag represents.

The red stands for the blood shed in defense of our freedoms.

The white stands for the purity of our actions.

The Blue stands for the truth by which we stand.

This is why I stand up against those who would burn the flag.

For those who would alter and dishonor the truth from our foundations. This is why Secular Humanism is a danger to freedom. They want to take Christ out of public life making our nation a Secular State.

One of my Brothers joined the Marine Corps because of the problem with the “Hostages of Iran”. He felt like he should do something about what was on the news for so long. He had an influence over me.

On one occasion, we were shown a video of how the Russian Soldiers trained. This was while the “Cold War” was still in effect, at the end of the video, the Drill Sergeant invited us to ask questions from what we saw. After a number of troops asked their questions, I raised my hand to make a statement.

The Drill Sergeant gave me permission to speak. I then stood up and said, “Drill Sergeant, we have been watching how our counterparts train. One major reason why I prefer this uniform that I’m wearing now is because it protects our right to worship God in freedom and preserves our liberty to do so. On the other hand, these Russian Soldiers do not mind taking clubs and beating old men, women, and children because they were hiding in a barn to worship God. These people have to worship God in secret”.

At that point an immediate round of applause and cheering followed my words which surprised the Drill Sergeant. He was taken off guard with what I said and the response it got. This went on for another 20-30 seconds until the Drill Sergeant regained his composure.

When he gave that look everyone went back to their sitting at attention leaving me standing their alone. The Drill Sergeant looked at me for a moment and said, “That’s all Private” and I sat back down.

Everyday was a new challenge as we passed every part of Basic Training. The road marches, The obsticle course, the field exercises, the mind games were all challenges that we had to meet.

At the end of the day, often times my Platoon would ask me to say a prayer. I felt that was an honor because they respected me and felt it was important.

On one occasion one of the Drill Sergeants had us in a formation at ease as we watched a demonstration on marching.

The Drill Sergeant was frustrated from what he was seeing. He screamed out, “Who do you think I am, Jesus Christ”? I responded, “Drill Sergeant”, I’m not Jesus Christ, but I am a representative of his”. That got me a few pushups!

As I reflect back to the time I was in Basic Training, I am so thankful that my faith was solid. My Faith has served me like a compass for over 26 years.

During my time in the Army I have had the chance to witness to thousands of people from all over the world.

God has blessed me far beyond any expectation I can have. The good news is that He is still doing so!


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