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 Writings of Fr. Denis E. O'Brien M.M. Spiritual Director, A.L.L.

1979-2002

Rest in Peace

These writings were published in the Celebrate Life Magazine. Permission for use was granted by Judie Brown, President of American Life League

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 August-September Issue Celebrate Life 1990

 Blue, red, yellow, green-beautiful stays in the the rainbow's fan. We are never satisfied with glimpsing the iris. We want to follow it. It is so beautiful that we might even suspect that a pot of gold will be found there.

But if we admire the primary colors without taking into account the other tints, we are missing half the spectacle. We might forget that the balance of the rainbow's beauty is determined by the less prominent shades, like violet.

The flowers we call violets seem pretty common. There are many species of them. Hold on! The violet has a proud and ancient history. It has spread far and wide from its primeval cradle in the Andes. It can give us lessons in the art of survival, concrete instructions about increasing and multiplying.

The deep tones depict colors of richness and beauty unmatched in the visible spectrum. When they are mixed with other flowers they deepen the hues of their neighbors and add to their richness. And violet is royalty's sign of splendor.

The "shrinking violets" of our race? We need many more of them. Like Mary: Behold the handmaid of the Lord, be it done unto me according to thy word. Like John the Baptist: He must increase, I must decrease. Like Joseph, silent Joseph, who was entrusted with parental authority by God over His own Son. Like all those shrinking violets who picket, who pray, who speak, who write letters, who make phone calls, who donate, who block the gates of the death camps. Nobodies. Unknowns. Garden variety witnesses who shun publicity. Where would we be without them? They are the ones who make our survival possible; they are the ones who enable the pro-life movement to increase and multiply. Second fiddlers. Like Mark and Luke, who recorded the apostolic activities of Peter and Paul. In God's eyes they were very important. He told them what to write. And they did. No more. No less. Imagine a symphonic concert without second violins!

By the Rev. Denis O'Brien, M.M., Spiritual Director, American Life League.

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 May/June Issue Celebrate Life 1992/The Garden

Conscience

 "Conscience doth make cowards of us all."

And a good thing, too! Otherwise, nobody would be safe. So-what is this moral on-off button that tells us to do whatever it commands and to flee from whatever it forbids?

Man has in his heart a law inscribed by God. This law is a reflection of the eternal law by which God governs creation and His children according to a plan conceived in wisdom and love. God enables man to arrive at a deeper knowledge of Himself by recognizing moral truths and living according to them. Man's dignity consists in obeying the eternal law etched in his heart. Alone with God, one hears only God, attends to that still, small voice which tells one to obey the law which God has given for His children's happiness on earth.

A truth, because it is certain, is unchangeable. Theories are subjective, truths are so whether or not I was ever conceived.

Thus, conscience is not for supporting what I would like to think and do, but rather it is the voice of my Father who loves me instructing me how to decide and carry out whatever He wants, though the heavens fall. My decisions direct my steps to where I will pass eternity.

"Freedom of conscience" does not mean freedom to choose as I please and the devil take the hindmost. I am not free to choose whatever seems convenient here and now, or to choose according to the world's standards because "everybody's doing it." I am a creature. I am not absolutely independent. I am merely humanly independent. I may not make arbitrary decisions. John Henry Newman described conscience as "an instrument for detecting moral truth." Ships sailing into unknown harbors proceed slowly while the crew measures the fathoms. Otherwise, the ship may well strike a reef and the vessel may sink with the loss of all hands. Just so does conscience detect moral truths. It interprets a norm which it did not create, is therefore superior to the creature, and must be obeyed.

Conscience is not a bail bondsman for getting me out of trouble. Conscience does not provide alibis. Conscience does not pass the buck. Conscience is the mirror of the eternal law. I must make my decisions accordingly. I must use the great help to salvation as it was meant by God to be used: to unite my weak, fragile human will to His.

Conscience is like a gift of the type that comes with the instructions which advise that "some assembly is required." We cannot put it together any old way. If it is to operate properly we must follow the directions which God has written on our hearts. That way we will learn to distinguish between the blips of an informed conscience and mere ground echoes that clutter our moral radar.

Father Denis O'Brien, M. M.
Spiritual Director, A.L.L.

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 July/August Issue Celebrate Life 1992

 Let us continue our reflection on conscience, asking God to enlighten our minds and inflame our wills so that we will gladly obey Him.

We must look at the relationship between conscience and truth in order to understand the legitimate supremacy of a conscience in tune with the Commandments. In other words, is something so because I say so or want it so, or is it so because it is true whether or not I was ever conceived? Is murder always wrong? Fornication? Adultery? Lying? Homosexual acts? If I believe in the true God Who gave us the Ten Commandments and nevertheless go my own way, do I not deny the relation between conscience and truth? Either I obey, conforming what I think or wish to what God wants me to do, or I betray my dignity as being made in the image and likeness of God, knowing that I am wrong, or worse, I deny that certain norms of behavior exist. Is not conscience our moral nucleus and holy of holies where we are one on one with God? And is God not truth itself? It is bad enough to fall through weakness. How terrible it is to look God right in the eye and tell Him, I'll make up my own mind. Make up my own mind? Based on what knowledge and experience, like the grass that is here today and tomorrow cut down? Based on what norm or standard or ideal? If I base my personal decisions on my own standard of truth my "conscience" is reduced to a reflection of social circumstances. And circumstances alter cases. If I decide on the basis of what I want to do, never mind anyone else's knowledge and experience, I am no longer free, because I have broken the link between myself and truth. I am an island. I have no roots. I am spiritually homeless.

I see what I want to see (and I will pay) instead of looking through the window of life at common truth. I deafen my conscience to reality pounding on its door.

Conscience cannot be identified with personal wishes or taste or social advantage; it is not the same as consensus or majority opinion. All such criteria change with fashionably correct thinking or bow to pressure. Conscience won't go away just because I will not face the reality of dealing justly with God and with my fellow citizens on this earth.

Individual judgments are subject to reversal by appeals to higher authority. Even the judgments of the courts are frequently appealed, sometimes even to a supreme court, to the World Court, to the United Nations. Whatever our Supreme Court decides becomes, to use the common expression, "the law of the land." The decisions are based on principles. Therefore, we must admit that there are objective norms which supersede and override our private criteria. And who would deny that most litigation involves theft, life, perjury and marriage and family life–broadly speaking–all of which are found in the Ten Commandments, and which are the basis for just decisions.

It is true that the Supreme Court has erred. The Dred Scott decision and Roe v. Wade are two examples. No person may be enslaved just because a court says so; murder is still murder even if abortion is legalized by raw judicial power. Nobody may in good conscience take advantage of such a decision. Just the same, people recognize that there are standards superior to and independent of their personal way of thinking. Otherwise, chaos would replace justice.

Court decisions sometimes need to be reversed because the judges may err, even with the best of intentions. But God can never deceive nor be deceived, and the person who believes in a supreme, transcendental God who will demand an account of each person's free decisions, must adjust and align his or her moral judgments to the divine law which has been etched in the hearts of all men.

Father Denis O'Brien, M.M.
Spiritual Director, A.L.L.

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 Sept./Oct. Issue celebrate Life 1992

 A common topic of conversation is the way people are acting. The media inform us practically every hour on the hour about some tragedy. Violence is tearing us apart. Drive-by shootings of infants, family quarrels that end in death, workers who have been fired who come back and start shooting up the place, death in the schools and so on, without mentioning the effects of drugs and drunken driving. Family homes are turning into armed camps. With good reason!

Is there a solution? Yes, if we think in terms of principles.

Is there some basic norm of behavior that is solid whether I like it or not? Is there a standard that obliges everybody: all those who came before me, all those who live now, all those who come after me?

Very often we hear that there are no absolutes, that everything is gray. Everything? Water may be frozen, liquid or steam but it is forever and ever H2O. Cold-blooded murders and frauds are forever and ever evils. There are, then, blacks and whites.

Basically, what is mankind? The characteristics of people are a physical body and a vital force that gives life to the body. For centuries this vital force has been called soul, because "soul" is the English translation of anima, the ancient Latin term. The anima animates the body. This vital force does not depend on matter for its existence. We know this because people can think in general terms. Only men and women can plan individually or collectively, can Monday-morning quarterback to correct their mistakes; only people can plan ahead. They do not depend on instinct. It is evident that people make decisions. They can agree or disagree with somebody or with some proposition or some sales pitch. Unlike animals, people base their decisions on reasoning. I choose (or don't choose) something because.

Our judgment may be faulty, but because is always there even though in minor affairs we may not advert to it. Still, we base our decisions on the reason why-and we usually know, if we decide because of the objective, the real reason why, or if we are making up a reason why.

So, if there is a because in everyday matters, there is a because in morality. We, as rational beings, must acknowledge the existence of a norm that is independent of us, that is superior to our very fallible and weak will. We may choose to disobey that norm, but we cannot deny that it is always present. In human affairs, "the way to go" is not the way we know we should be going if our because and God's because are not on the same wavelength.

Only when we obey that norm though the heavens fall will others understand that law and order and justice and peace depend on obeying God's norm.

"Today I am giving you the choice between a blessing and a curse" (Deuteronomy 11:26).

Father Denis O'Brien, M.M.
Spiritual Director, A.L.L.

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 Nov./Dec. Issue Celebrate Life 1992

 Law professors Laurence Tribe of Harvard and Walter Dellinger of Duke defend the Freedom of Choice Act (Dallas Morning News, May 14, 1992, p. 4A) because Congress has "ample authority" to regulate the abortion business as interstate commerce. At least they're not trying to take the moral high ground to excuse the destruction of innocent persons. They're talking about the abortion business up front.

Speaking of that business, Msgr. Elio Sgreccia, professor of bioethics at the Catholic University in Rome, complained about Italian cosmetics laboratories using placentas obtained from abortion. "Most important," he said, "the fetus must not be sent to the company together with the placenta, as has happened in the past" (Catholic World Report, May 1992, p. 6). Of course, such a desecration could never happen here, right?

As we enter the garden of our soul to atone for such atrocities, we can also thank God for people like Janet E. Smith, Ph.D. She proposes 15 reasons why society is losing the will to protect human life.

1. The world has lost any sense of a life beyond this one.

2. We have forgotten that sacrifice has value and can be ennobling.

3. Christians as well have lost the love of the cross.

4. The sense of sin has nearly disappeared.

5. There is widespread belief that there are no objective truths, no moral absolutes binding on all.

6. We have no sense of the need for freedom from sin or that freedom brings with it immense responsibility.

7. There is great confusion about the meaning and purpose of sexuality and what constitutes responsible sexuality.

8. There is great confusion about sexual identity.

9. The breakdown in family life contributes greatly to the anti-life mentality.

10. The breakdown in the family and certain liberal philosophies have led to an excessive individualism.

11. There is little sense that God is the Lord of Life or that Man is made in the image and likeness of God.

12. There is a justifiable distrust of the medical profession and a sense that doctors are too enamored of technology.

13. Moderns believe the earth is overpopulated and that anything (such as abortion and euthanasia) that reduces the number of humans is good.

14. We have no appreciation of the power of grace.

15. Inertia is not on the side of life: we have become accustomed to abortion, and the practice of euthanasia seems inevitable.

Dr. Smith noted that feminism decidedly influences the present attitude, rejecting motherhood as a role for women because it supposedly keeps women subservient. Feminism mocks fatherhood, saying that husbands can exercise parental authority only in a domineering and selfish way. Yet we do find frequent feminine affirmations of the sources of life and the mothering and nurturing role. We should praise such affirmations, yet point out how those principles are at war with advocacy of acts that destroy life.

Dr. Smith's conclusions deserve to be shouted from the housetops.

Fr. Denis O'Brien, M.M.
A.L.L. Spiritual Director

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 Jan./Feb. Issue Celebrate Life 1993

 The disciples of Jesus once asked Him why they had been laughed at by an unclean spirit. The Lord said to them, "This kind can be cast out only by prayer" (Mark 9:29). Some texts read, ". . . only by prayer and fasting."

Fasting is one way to atone for our sins and for the sins of others. To atone is to express sincere repentance, to make up for, to do penance. Our Lord spoke quite bluntly about penance. On one occasion someone told Him about people "whose blood Pilate had mingled with that of their sacrifices . . . At this He said to them, `Do you suppose that these Galileans were worse sinners than any others?-unless you repent you will all perish as they did!'" (Luke 13:1-3).

We are all poor sinners. We must all repent. Prayer and fasting.

The scriptures tell us that there is more than one way to fast. Jesus literally fasted in the desert forty days and forty nights. We are not called to do this, but we have to admit that restraining our appetites helps us control our emotions and urges. So, making do with less food (if the sawbones says o.k.) or eating things we don't like is a good start. The rebellious cravings that so cleverly persuade us to choose an apparent good instead of a true good begin to understand that they are not running the show any longer. They won't go quietly, but if we persevere we shall live free at last. How happily we would live if only we could control what James calls "a whole wicked world, catching fire itself from hell"-the tongue. Someone who does not trip up in speech has reached perfection and is able to keep the whole body on a tight rein (James 3:2-12).

The Almighty told His people what kind of atonement He wanted: "Is not this the sort of fast that pleases me: to break unjust fetters, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break all yokes? Is it not sharing your food with the hungry and sheltering the homeless poor? If you see someone lacking clothes, to clothe him and not to turn away from your own kin?" (Isaiah 58:6-7).

Difficult? At first. But remember the Chinese proverb "The longest journey begins with a single step." If I feel that some form of atonement is expecting too much of me when I suddenly feel weak, it may help to remember what the voices said to Joan of Arc: "Who, if not you, and when, if not now?" Or better still, Our Lord's seemingly terse reminder to Paul the apostle: "My grace is sufficient for thee."

A lot of abortionists, a lot of unjust rulers, a lot of lukewarm folks, a lot of folks who think the economy is more important than the Ten Commandments can use our prayer and our fasting. Who, if not us? When, if not now? His grace will see us through.

Fr. Denis O'Brien, M.M.
A.L.L. Spiritual Director.

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 March/April Issue celebrate Life 1993

 Some four centuries ago St. Peter Canisius, S.J., the second apostle to Germany and Poland, wrote about the delight of going into a garden and remembering that human life began in a garden. "Where," he mused, "did He appear to Magdalene?" And when He appeared, He, the sower who went forth to sow His seed, was in the guise of a gardener.

In the garden of the soul, we, too, can expect the soft tread of the gentle Master who "walks with me and talks with me and He tells me I am His own."

We begin a new year by the grace of God, who gives us life and who wishes to give us His very self. He, our Father, in whom there is no change or shadow of alteration, wants to prepare us for our true home.

And so we go into our garden, our very own garden. Maybe it is not as well kept as we should like. No matter, if we will go apart and lower our defenses, and say quietly, "Speak, Lord, Thy servant is listening." To understand, we must do more than hear, we must listen, with the heart. And He will come quietly, courteously, with a smile. Are you a broken reed? He will not snap you off the branch. Are you a smoking wick? He will not quench you. He will speak to the depths of your soul that you have not plumbed.

He might say to any of us something like this:

"I give myself to you. Whatever you give me that is not yourself is incomplete. Trust me. Learn to just say yes.

"Live frugally.

"Do you want to put an end to abortion? Adopt, spiritually, an abortionist, a pro-death politician, an employee in a death camp. Pray for them, fast for them, practice self-denial and suffer frustrations and contradictions for them-in silence. And I will listen, with My heart.

"Keep the Commandments. They are the blueprint for a peaceful conscience.

"Whatever you do, offer it to me. Leave success to Me.

"Do not treat others as they sometimes may treat you. Do unto all others as you would want them to do unto you.

"The crosses you bear came from me. I measure them. I make them. I confide in you to collaborate in the salvation of all men. The crosses I send are made with love.

"Listen to my son John of the Cross: `The passageway to the riches of Your wisdom is the narrow door of the cross. Few desire to go through this portal, but everyone would wish to savor the delights which proceed from that wisdom.'"

It is true. As I walk in the garden with Him, "the joys we share as we tarry there none other will ever know."

I know from first hand knowledge that Fr. O loved this song, it was one of his favorites. Denise

Fr. Denis O'Brien, M.M.
Spiritual Director, A.L.L.

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 May/June Issue Celebrate Life 1993

 St. Peter Chrysologus, Bishop of Ravenna, Italy, Doctor of the Church, + c. 450, wrote about self-denial:

"Brethren, there are three things by which faith is maintained, devotion is kept fervent and virtue remains faithful. These three things are prayer, fasting and mercy. That which prayer seeks fasting attains and mercy receives. Prayer, mercy and fasting: three things which are really one thing, which vivify one another.

"Fasting is the soul of prayer, mercy gives life to fasting. Let no one try to separate these things, because they are inseparable. One who practices only one of them or does not practice them at the same time is like one who did nothing. And so, let one who prays fast as well, let one who fasts be at the same time merciful. Let him who desires a prayer to be heard hear everyone who asks of him, because the one who does not make himself deaf to one who asks for help opens God's ears to his own petitions.

"Let everyone who fasts try to understand the meaning of fasting: let him sympathize with the hunger others suffer if he wants God to sympathize with him! If one hopes to obtain mercy let one show mercy! If anyone desires that God listen when he cries, "Take pity on me!" let him first say to all, "I am compassionate." He who would obtain favors from God must be open-handed with others.

"He who denies to others is a poor beggar indeed.

"Oh, man!-be for yourself the measure of mercy; in this way, you will obtain the mercy you seek, in the measure you seek, with the quickness you desire. It is only necessary that you be compassionate toward others with the same promptness and in the same manner.

Well, then, let us make sure that prayer, mercy and fasting together be our advocates before God, that together they be our sole defense, that together they be one prayer in three distinct forms."

(From the Spanish; Office of Readings, Tuesday, 3rd Week of Lent)

Fr. Denis O'Brien, M.M.
A.L.L. Spiritual Director

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 July/Aug. Issue Celebrate Life 1993

 Carla's Cross

 Carla Levati was a 28-year-old waitress who had the simple faith that has withstood the wickedness and snares of the enemy since Jesus founded His Church nearly 2,000 years ago. Her husband, Valeris, 36, plied St. Joseph's craft in the village of Albano Sant'Allesandro, near Bergamo. With their son, Riccardo, they lived in a simple home, and had pictures of John XXIII and Our Lady in a place of honor.

After surgery in 1991 to remove a malignant tumor, Carla became pregnant in 1992. She refused life-prolonging treatment because it would have killed her preborn child. Stefano was delivered by C-section when Carla slipped into a coma, eight hours before she died on January 25, 1993. On February 4 he went to be with her.

"Wisdom is old age," Scripture tells us; by that standard Carla was wise far beyond her years. "Faith has its own eyes," wrote St. Augustine. Some of Carla's family urged her to abort Stefano, but she told her husband, "Many people are with us, but above all God and the Mother of God. They know, even if some others don't. When our child is born, I want him to be baptized in the chapel of the Madonna."

Carla did not seek death, or ask to suffer. The cancer, she knew, was a cross, offered to her by God, an opportunity to make up in her own body what was lacking in the suffering of Christ. God did not ask her to understand, or tell her it would be easy to refuse her relatives' requests.

Carla understood true love: not only to wish what is truly best for the beloved, but to do everything possible to obtain it. If that meant she must die, then so be it. She chose to love her child first. What it cost her is known only to God.

Her husband stood by her. "I know only that Carla suffered, suffered a lot, and never gave up," he said.

Carla was much like Dr. Gianna Beretta Molla, who died on April 28, 1962, after delivering Gianna Emanuela, who survived. Dr. Molla, 39 years old, had refused surgery for a uterine tumor-surgery that would have killed her child. She was beatified in May.

Carla, an Italian newspaper concluded, had died "for nothing." But Carla, even if she is never raised to sainthood, proved for our hedonistic age that no one has greater love than to lay down his life for another.

Professor Jerome Lejeune, who discovered the cause of Down's syndrome, defended the decision made by this heroic woman. "If she had thrown herself into a fire to save a child, no one would have said, `That is wrong, that is abominable, she is leaving an orphan.' She did everything she could do to save her child. That is motherhood, or fatherhood."

Fr. Denis O'Brien, M.M.
Spiritual Director, A.L.L.

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 September/October, 1993 Issue Celebrate Life

 The passion of Christ is not limited only to Christ. Jesus Christ, the Savior of the body, and the members of this body are one; He is the head, we are the members. One and the other are united in one only flesh, one only voice, one and the same sufferings. When the time of wickedness shall have passed, we will be united in one only rest. Thus, the passion of Christ is not limited only to Christ-although the passion of Christ is found exclusively in Christ as well.

In effect, if by the word "Christ" we understand the head and the body, the passion of Christ is found only in Christ. However, if by this word we understand only the head of the body, we have to affirm that the passion of Christ is not limited only to Christ. If the passion of Christ were limited only to Christ the head, what would be the meaning of what one of His members, St. Paul, said, "I complete the tribulations which remain to the sufferings of Christ in my mortal body"?

If you are a member of Christ, whoever you may be who hears these things, or even if you may not be hearing them now (although if you are a member of Christ you do hear them in some way), you must know that everything you suffer for those who are not members of Christ is that which was lacking in the passion of Christ.

You complete it, because it was lacking; you fill the measure, you do not spill it; you suffer to the extent that your own tribulations must add their part to the totality of the passion of Christ, since He who suffered as our head continues even now to suffer in His members, that is to say, in us.

"We have come to resemble a civil society in that everyone contributes according to his assigned quota, each one providing according to his strength, that which we might call his quota of sufferings. The full measure of all the sufferings of everyone will only be complete at the end of the world.

"Brethren, do not think that all the just who have suffered persecution at the hands of the impious, including those who were sent before the coming of the Lord to announce this advent, did not pertain to the members of Christ. Every person who is a citizen of that city whose head is Christ is necessarily a member of Christ.

"That entire city speaks: from the blood of the innocent Abel to the blood of Zacariah. From thence, and after the blood of John, it is the same and only city which speaks through the blood of the Apostles, of the martyrs, through the blood of every Christian."

(From The Commentaries of St. Augustine, bishop, on the Psalms [Psalm 61:4; CCL 99, 773-775.; Roman Breviary, II, Sts. Nereus and Aquileus, martyrs, second reading, from the Spanish].)

Every time you embrace a cross that God measured just for you, every time you say simply, "Yes, Lord," united with Christ, you share in the salvation of all men.

Fr. Denis O'Brien, M.M.
Spiritual Director, A.L.L.

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 November/December 1993 Issue Celebrate Life

 When Europe finally understood that Napoleon was not going to walk on water from St. Helena to Marseille, prominent statesmen began to interview Talleyrand, who had been the Little Corporal's foreign minister. Invariably they asked, "Whatever happened to Napoleon?"

Invariably he answered, "God became bored with him."

We may be tempted to think that the present moral corruption, which is stinking up the whole world, will asphxiate us all. Every man for himself! Do your own thing! Decide for yourself! Right and wrong are relative ideas. Forgive yourself! Too bad about the old, the helpless, the preborn, the homeless, the young, the handicapped-but that's life. Money is divine, even more than hedonism. After all, it takes money to buy what pleasure offers. There are even those who try to tell us that you can serve God and Mammon at the same time. "I'm personally opposed to . . . but I have to make a living," or "Who am I to impose my morality (were you on Mt. Sinai looking down?)," or "If I don't sell those things others will."

Patience. There will be another day. Remember "the Assyyrian [who] came sown like a wolf on the fold?" Remember the Maccabees? Remember Herod Agrippa and the worms? Remember the catacombs? Remember Robespierre and the goddess of reason? Nietzsche's laying God to eternal rest? Remember atheistic communism? Remember Sassenach tyranny?

What to do? The same as always: work as if everything depended on you and pray as if everything depended on God. As we pray we must remember that the Lord God Himself commanded, "Revenge is mine. I will repay." Revenge is God's private property. So, hands off. To the extent that we seek revenge, God will not. He knows who are the whitewashed sepulchers full of dead men's bones.

We are to be cunning as serpents and, at the same time, simple as doves, true Israelites in whom there is no guile. If our enemy is hungry we will feed him; if he is thirsty we will give him drink. In this way we will pour burning coals on his head.

Remember-never fall into the trap of thinking that you can serve God and Mammon. What does He Who sits on high, Who sees all things, Who reads all hearts, Who tests every person and makes His own inscrutable judgment reveal to His children?

"The wicked man plots against the virtuous,
"and grinds his teeth at him;
"But the Lord only laughs at the man,
"knowing his evil is in sight."

Oh, yes, God became bored with Talleyrand as well. Did you know that statues of Lenin are going cheap?

Fr. Denis O'Brien, M.M.
Spiritual Director, A.L.L.

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 March/April, 1994 Issue Celebrate Life

 October 5, 1993, was a very important date. Pope John Paul II published an encyclical (a formal pastoral letter) directed to all the Bishops of the world. In this encyclical, "Veritatis Splendor" ("The Splendor of the Truth"), the Pope rebuts the argument of those who maintain that human freedom is absolute, "a source of values, apart from any dependence on truth." "There is a tendency to grant to the individual conscience the prerogative of independently determining the criteria of good and evil and then acting accordingly" (No. 32).

An example of individual conclusions vs. always rejecting an act that is intrinsically evil, regardless of good intentions or difficult circumstances (Nos. 80, 81) might be found in an interview with a representative of the Catholic Health Assn. ("America" 9/18/93). The interviewer said: "Certain provisions, I suppose, such as for funding of abortion make the C.H.A. uneasy."

The answer was: "Nobody around the country is going to support the funding of services that they believe are objectional. But I do think that we should not be taking an unequivocal stand on something so complicated. To say that if abortion is one of the covered services, we cannot participate is premature, I believe, very shortsighted because there are a number of values that are in conflict. One of the current intolerable evils in this country is that we have somewhere between 37 million and 40 million people with zero health care, and another 30 million with inadequate health care. If that is not the overriding evil, I don't know what is" (p. 15).

The Pope, repeating ancient truths in modern language, said: "The saving power of truth is contested and freedom alone, uprooted from any objectivity, is left to decide by itself what is good and what is evil" (No. 84).

When it is a matter of the moral norms prohibiting intrinsic evil, there are no privileges or exceptions for anyone . . . Before the demands of morality we are all absolutely equal" (No. 96). (Quotes from "Texas Catholic," 10/8/93, p. 7.)

The dissenters were not tardy in expressing their personal opinions. However, Dr. Randall Balmer ("Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory"), who teaches at Barnard College in New York City (to mention only one non-Catholic scholar), said that "Veritatis Splendor" raised some intriguing questions, such as "How do you instill a sense of morality without recourse to religion? . . . Children are growing up with no moral compass, little sense of right and wrong" ("Dallas Morning News," 10/9/93, p. 40A).

No matter how many individual opinions, debates and conclusions try to convince us that when it comes to morality every man who wants to be an island can enisle himself accordingly, there is no dissenting from the objective truth that some day each one of us will leave this earth. Keeping this in mind will help us maintain our moral balance. It will remind us of an old adage-"better safe than sorry." Or as Pascal concluded so logically: it is better to believe in a transcendent God who will demand an account of our lives. If He does not exist, we have lost nothing. If He does, we have gained all.

Is there no God? Don't bet the house on it.

Fr. Denis O'Brien, M.M.
Spiritual Director, A.L.L.

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 May/June Issue Celebrate Life 1994

 he Truth About Sex Education

Debates are futile unless both sides are using words in the same sense. For example, the term "sex" may refer to gender; it may also refer to conjugal union. "Education" means to instruct; it is also used in the sense of training, informing and nurturing (another word with various meanings). The necessity of defining terms is basic if the question of sex education is to be resolved in favor of morality, and thus serving to help set a child's feet on the path to heaven.

True education is not merely imparting information. TV and radio announcers inform. They are trying to sell a product. Educators set their pupils' minds towards learning a specific, concrete subject. The goal is reached by many lessons, which are evaluated and thought about in greater detail over a period of time, so that the students may benefit from an integral formation that will contribute to the general welfare and to their own welfare also. School-based sex clinics neither train nor enlighten nor correct through evaluation. They impart information, generally flawed, e.g., the protective value of a latex condom. They play hide 'n' seek with children's minds-"Here I come, ready or not"-when in fact the children, including teenage children, are not ready. They scream, "Babies are having babies!" True. Permit me to ask two questions: 1. Who called them babies? 2. Who shows them how? Like media hucksters, they are selling something. I ask why the wonder-working pill has surrendered to the latex condom. Interesting.

We would gradually return to sanity if we dropped the term "sex education." A clearer expression is "integral formation of the child." Integral, i.e., according to the child's age, the child's development, and never telling a lie when satisfying a child's curiosity. We answer truthfully, never exaggerating, never going into unnecessary details. Least said, best said. Least said, most said. Children are not stupid. And who must always be the principal educators? The parents. Many parents say, "I don't know how." Really? They begot their children by osmosis? They placed the material elements, but God said, "Let there be life," and raised them to the dignity of parents, collaborators in His plan for mankind. He confided His child to be their child also. They are the ones charged solemnly to raise their children in accordance with the eternal law, and will answer to God. To what lengths would parents go to save their child's life? To what lengths should they go to save their children's soul? They may not wash their hands with the excuse that "Well, the school board says . . ." That's what Pilate did, wash his hands.

"If the object of the concrete action is not in harmony with the true good of the person, the choice of that action makes our will and ourselves morally evil, thus putting us in conflict with our ultimate end, the supreme good, God himself" (John Paul II, "Veritatis Splendor" ["The Splendor of the Truth"]).

Fr. Denis O'Brien, M.M.
Spiritual Director, A.L.L.

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 July/August Issue Celebrate Life 1994

 PERMIT ME TO SUGGEST that we continue our reflection on the integral development of a child through the teen years by recalling the basic principles that must be put into practice if disaster is to be averted in matters relating to sexuality.

1. The purpose of education is to prepare students to live as God wants, not restricting their vision to the passing things of earth.

2. The family has priority of nature and thus of rights over civil society. Children are not born into civil society, they are born into a family. The purpose of civil society is to protect and nourish the unity, the basic prosperity, the loyalty to the fatherland, and right to worship God which is due to every family.

3. Children are an extension of the parents. The parents have the right as well as the strict obligation to educate their offspring and guide them to a balanced development of soul and body and talents-and to show them by example and deed that they must respect the legitimate rights of others and help the disadvantaged.

4. Parents must insure that the education of their children remains under their control and absolutely refuse to send them to any school where there is danger of their children being taught anything that would lead them astray from righteousness.

5. Parents may not accept the decision of any school that they not question the scholastic program. They must be alert to make sure their children are not being told to keep something from their parents. If necessary, the parents have the right to bring charges against any school and let the chips fall where they may. Parents have a right to know what their children are being taught.

What about instruction in sexuality?

"As they [children] grow older they should receive a positive and prudent education in matters relating to sex" (Vatican II "Declaration on Christian Education," No. 1).

"Parents, first of all, and then teachers must try to lead their charges- their children and their pupils-by means of a complete education, to proper mental, affective and moral maturity. Thus, they will teach them about sex prudently and in a manner suited to their age. They will form their wills in accordance with Christian behavior, not only by giving them advice but also by the powerful example of their own lives, supported by God's help, obtained through prayer. They will protect them from the many dangers whose existence the young do not expect" (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, "Declaration on Certain Problems of Sexual Ethics," No. 13).

"Sex education, which is a basic right and duty of parents, must always be carried out under their attentive guidance, whether at home or in educational centers chosen and controlled by them. In this regard, the Church reaffirms the law of subsidiarity, which the school is bound to observe when it cooperates in sex education, by entering into the same spirit that animates the parents.

"In this context education for chastity is absolutely essential, for it is a virtue that develops a person's authentic maturity and makes him or her capable of respecting and fostering the 'nuptial meaning' of the body. Indeed, Christian parents, discerning the signs of God's call, will devote special attention and care to education in virginity and celibacy as the supreme form of that self-giving that constitutes the very meaning of human sexuality" (John Paul II, The Christian Family in the Modern World, No. 37).

Always answer a child's questions truthfully, in accordance with the child's age and development. Be content with answering the question. Avoid details that are not asked. Thousands of parents have been supported and helped by this method of imparting an integral education to their children. More than anyone else, they hold their children's souls in the palm of their hand.

Fr. Denis O'Brien, M.M.
Spiritual Director, A.L.L.

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 Sept./Oct. Issue Celebrate Life 1994

 OH, INEFFABLE GIFT of the Cross! How wonderful is its magnificence! The Cross does not enclose within itself a mixture of good and evil like the tree of Eden. It is altogether beautiful and attractive, as much in appearance as in its form. We are speaking, then, of the wood which begets life, not death, which sheds light without shadows, which introduces us to Eden and not to the occasion of our exile. The Cross is the wood upon which Christ ascended, as a king leaps into his chariot of war, in order to conquer the devil who unjustly held the reins of death, and to free the human race from the slavery of the tyrant.

It is the wood upon which the Lord as a valiant warrior, although His hands, His feet, His side were wounded in the strife, healed the wounds of our evil acts, that is, our nature wounded by the dragon from hell.

First we encountered death on one tree, now on another, we have come back to life. We who had been fooled through one tree have, on the other tree, rejected the wily snake. Certainly a completely new change-and mysterious! Instead of death it gives us life, in lieu of corruption it gives us immortality; far from dishonoring us it fills us with glory.

The Apostle had every reason to exclaim, "As for me, may God free me from any glory that is not the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ; through Him the world is crucified to me and I to the world" (Gal. 6:14). That supreme wisdom which is born of the Cross had made a liar of any boasting which the world calls wisdom. It pulls the mask off that arrogance which is mere stupidity. All the goodness which flows from the Cross has destroyed every seed of malice.

From the beginning of the world all those things which were but figures and announcements that foreshadowed this wood were a sign and an indication of something far more admirable than themselves.

See if this is not true, you who wish to know it. Did not Noah, his wife, his sons and their wives and the animals of every species escape, by God's will, from the flood in a fragile wooden ark?

What did the rod of Moses signify? Was it not a figure of the Cross? When it changed water into blood, when it devoured the false serpents of the magicians, when by its powerful stroke it divided the waters of the sea, when it joined them again and returned them to their flow, drowning in those waters the enemy and saving the chosen people.

The rod of Aaron had a similar power, a figure of the Cross to come, which bloomed in a single day, thus showing that he was indeed a priest.

Abraham likewise announced the Cross beforehand when he placed his only son, bound, upon a pile of wood.

Through the Cross death was destroyed and Adam was restored to life. All the Apostles gloried in the Cross; through it the martyrs received their crowns, the faithful were sanctified. Through the Cross we have put on Christ (Gal. 3:27) and we have divested ourselves of the old man. Through the Cross we, the lambs of Christ, have been gathered together in one flock, having for our rest the heavenly sheepfold.

St. Theodore (759-826), superior of the monastery of Studius, Asia Minor; The Adoration of the Cross; Liturgy of the Hours, Friday, Second Week of Easter, from the Spanish.

Fr. Denis O'Brien, M.M.
Spiritual Director, A.L.L.

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 March/April Issue Celebrate Life1995

 The Cross

 THE CROSS

Whoever possesses the Cross owns a treasure. By treasure I mean that it is the most excellent of all that is good--in name and in fact. Through the Cross our salvation attains its ultimate greatness and our state of original justice is restored. Without the Cross, Christ would not have been crucified. Without the Cross, He who is life would not have been nailed to the wood. If He had not been crucified the blood and the water, fonts of immortality, which purify the world would not have flowed from His side. The lien of the debt which our sins contracted would never have been torn in two, we would not have been released from bondage, we would not have enjoyed the fruit of the tree. Paradise would yet be closed to us. Without the Cross, death would not have been defeated nor the abode of the dead vacated.

Thus, the Cross is a great and glorious thing. Great, because it is the source of countless favors which, like the miracles and sufferings of Christ, play a decisive role in His work of salvation. Precious, because the Cross signifies the suffering and at the same time the victory of God: suffering, because on the Cross He voluntarily tasted death. And victory: through the Cross the devil received a mortal wound, and death, with him, was overcome. On the Cross the gates of the kingdom of death were pulled down and the Cross became the salvation of all men.

The Cross is also called the glory and the exaltation of Christ. It is the chalice overflowing of that which the Psalm speaks to us and the culmination of all the torments which Christ suffered for us. Christ Himself teaches us that the Cross is this glory when He says: the Son of Man has entered into His glory, and God has received His glorification through Him, and God has clothed Him with His own glory (cf. John 13:31-32). Again: Glorify me, Father, with the glory I had before the world existed (John 17:5). And again: Father, glorify Your name. And suddenly there were heard these words from heaven: I have glorified it and I will glorify it again (John 12:2icon_cool.gif--words which referred to the glory which He would obtain on the Cross.

Christ also teaches us that the Cross is this exaltation when He says: I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself (John 12:32-33). It is evident, therefore, that the Cross is the glory and the exaltation of Christ.

--St. Andrew of Crete, Bishop
+ c. A.D. 740
(from the Spanish)

Rev. Denis O'Brien, M.M.
Spiritual Director, A.L.L.

To read about Fr. Denis E. O'Brien please visit the link below

http://www.semperficatholic.com/page4.html

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