*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: The Cross of Christ

Posted by John Benko - August 28th, 2011

“Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer greatly from the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed and on the third day be raised. Then Peter took Jesus aside and began to rebuke him, ‘God forbid, Lord! No such thing shall ever happen to you’. He turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle to me. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do’. Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. What profit would there be for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life? Or what can one give in exchange for his life? For the Son of Man will come with his angels in his Father’s glory, and then he will repay all according to his conduct” (Matthew 16-21-27).

This is a most important scriptural text coming from Our Lord. At Christmas time it seems that many attempt to remove Christ from Christmas.

I’ve seen “X-Mas” which means nothing to me. It is Christmas! Similarly, many want to detach Jesus from his cross.

St. Peter wanted to avoid the cross. Jesus told St.Peter, “Get behind me Satan” because Jesus knew this was his divine mission.

To go to the cross. More than that, Jesus calls for us to pick up our cross and follow him. Suffering is a part of life and we must endure our cross patiently with trust in God’s providence. We must join our sufferings to that of the cross.

St. Paul writes, “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of his body, which is the Church, of which I am a minister in accordance with God’s stewardship given to me to bring to completion for you the word of God, the mystery hidden from ages and from generations past. But now it has been manifested to his holy ones, to whom God chose to make known the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; it is Christ in you, the hope for glory” (Colossians 1:24-27).

In this life we have many trials, our Faith gives us peace and strength as we move forward with our eyes gazing upon the cross of Christ.

Through the cross we find victory!

St. Paul writes, “Death is swallowed up in victory. Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting? The sting of death is sin,and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:55-56).



St. Peter would pay the ultimate price for Our Lord as he would be crucified upside down at Vatican Hill near 67 A.D. He did not feel that he deserved the same death as our Lord. It is estimated that 1 out of every 4 martyrs for Christ took place in the 20th century.

Even now in America our future is not certain with the natural disasters hitting us hard, with our economy as tough as it is on workers and their families. Through the cross of Christ, we have our hope of salvation. St. Paul also writes, “Working together, then, we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain. For he says: ‘In an acceptable time I heard you, and on the day of salvation I helped you’. Behold, now is a very acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation. We cause no one to stumble in anything, in order that no fault may be found with our ministry; on the contrary, in everything we commend ourselves as ministers of God, through much endurance, in afflictions, hardships, constraints, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, vigils, fasts; by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, in a holy spirit, in unfeigned love, in truthful speech, in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness at the right and at the left; through glory and dishonor, insult and praise” (2 Corinthians 6:1-8).

We are called to pick up the cross of Christ and follow him. “Bear your share of hardship along with me like a good soldier of Jesus Christ. To satisfy the one who recruited him, a soldier does not become entangled in the business affairs of life” (2 Timothy 2:3-4). We are Soldiers of the Cross!


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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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