“Touch the Sky” – Hillsong United

Here’s a great video of the Australian Christian band Hillsong United performing their recent single “Touch the Sky” on the Today Show.

Two years ago I had a chance to see Hillsong United perform live in Pittsburgh. They are a phenomenal group who have brought the message of faith and hope in Christ to millions of people throughout the world with their music.

The Story of Anneliese Michel: Exorcism, Mysticism, and Redemptive Love

Here’s a very interesting story about Anneliese Michel, the German girl whom the film The Exorcism of Emily Rose is based on. Anneliese conveyed various symptoms of possession in the 1970s, had a series of exorcisms performed, and unfortunately died in 1976 of what the autopsy revealed was malnutrition.

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What is less known about Anneliese is that she may have very well been a victim soul, chosen by God for great suffering for the redemption of sinners. Reading this story about her I also found out that she kept a diary in which she recorded conversations with Jesus and Mary—experiencing various mystical phenomena in addition to the possession. According to her diary, Jesus apparently said to Anneliese: “You will become a great saint.” A reality that, out of humility, Anneliese did not want to believe, but wept with tears — feeling the truth of the Lord’s words when they were spoken.

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I was also glad to find out that the eminent Spanish exorcist, Father Jose Antonio Fortea — in my opinion, perhaps the most knowledgeable person in the world on the topic of demonology and exorcism — has co-authored a book on Anneliese’s case: Anneliese Michel: A True Story of a Case of Demonic Possession. I have been reading the book the past couple of days, and recommend it highly, having gained a lot in recognizing the purity of Anneliese Michel, as a young woman in love with God, and the sincerity of her family, friends, and priests who performed the exorcisms to try to help and heal Anneliese.

It is a fascinating story that speaks not only to the reality of the demonic but also the gift of sacred love, portraying a young woman who could’ve been healed and set free from her condition, but was given the option to suffer for the redemption of sinners: out of love for God and for her brothers and sisters, throughout the world, Anneliese chose the Cross. May we learn from her selfless and courageous witness.

Flannery’s Stamp

The other day I received, in a large envelope from June Klins, three copies of June’s newsletter The Spirit of Medjugorje. In addition to enjoying the content of the newsletter, which included a section on the recent ordination of a friend of mine, I noticed that the envelope used the new stamp—which just came out last month—of Catholic writer Flannery O’Connor. Flannery has been issued a beautiful stamp to commemorate her contributions to Arts and Letters. Here is an image:FlanneryStamp

A few years ago, when I was doing my master’s at Yale, I took a short-story class at the Divinity School. We read almost all of Flannery O’Connor’s short-stories, and it was my first exposure to the writings of this famous, Southern Catholic novelist, experiencing her sharp, gothic prose and witty sense of humor. I ended up writing an academic paper on the theme of mysticism in Flannery’s writings, and an article on her pilgrimage to Lourdes and her meeting with Pope Pius XII.

Recently I came across this video of Flannery reading one of her short stories, you really get a great sense of her thick Southern accent!

Sister Miriam James, S.O.L.T.: “What is the Deepest Desire of Your Heart?”

Sister Miriam James, S.O.L.T.I love Sister Miriam James Heidland of the Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity (S.O.L.T.). She is a dynamic speaker, evangelist, author—and, most importantly, a woman of deep faith who is able to communicate the Catholic faith in a beautiful, authentic way that does not compromise the Truth, the truth of Jesus Christ and His Church, but presents its power and beauty in a full and genuine Way.

Below are two videos (Part 1 and Part 2) of Sr. Miriam James sharing her conversion story: going from a college athlete and a worldly party-girl, suffering with addiction and existential emptiness, to a religious sister on fire with the Holy Spirit.

Sr. Miriam James is very gifted at passionately invoking the deepest questions, about the meaning of our lives, about the deepest desires of our souls: conveying the Augustinian cry for meaning that leads to the Source of all meaning: God. By finding Him, we find ourselves: “who we really are and what are destinies are, and where we come from.”

When you consider some of the most gifted evangelists of our culture, persons who Pope Benedict XVI once called “creative minorities”—to my mind, I think of Fr. Robert Barron, Christopher West, Fr. Don Calloway—you realize that these are individuals who are able to convey beauty effectively, understanding that God constitutes the Source of all Beauty. Dostoevsky once famously proclaimed that it is beauty that will save the world. I count Sr. Miriam James among these Catholics, who are able to convey the beauty of the faith in a way that is deeper, and pierces one’s heart in a manner that allows one to discern an encounter with something higher: the Holy Spirit.

For more check out Sr. Miriam James’ twitter page, and her book Loved as I Am: An Invitation to Conversion, Healing, and Freedom through Jesus.

His Peace be with You!

With my former spiritual director, Fr. Stephen Shin, after my profession ceremony

Dear Friends, may the peace of Our Lord Jesus Christ be with you! This is my first blog post in over a year, since I’ve entered religious life as a Franciscan novice. Exactly one month ago, my Franciscan classmates and I became professed friars, professing vows of chastity, poverty, and obedience to God, to His holy Church, and to our Franciscan order.

I thank immensely all those who have prayed for me during this time, as I took the radical vocational path of pursuing the priesthood within the Franciscan charism. I thank also those who have come back to the Web site regularly—even when I wasn’t able to blog this past year. I was happy to see a consistent number of visitors returning to the site daily. I will now return to making regular blog posts.

You’ll notice from the blog title that my name has changed. Having the option of taking a religious name, I decided to add Our Lady’s name, in its most universal form — Maria  — to my name, both as thanksgiving for her closeness to me, for the vocation she has led me to through her Son, and also because many of my favorite saints, my brothers and sisters in Christ, have had variations of Our Lady’s name in theirs, reminding me of the Communion of Saints that I (and everyone!) am called to: among these are (my favorite Franciscan) St. Maximilian Maria Kolbe, St. John Marie Vianney, St. Maria Faustina Kowalska, St. Josemaria Escriva, even St. Gemma Galgani (whose full name is Maria Gemma Umberta Pia Galgani). Therefore, in religious life I am known as Brother Daniel Maria, hopefully one day Father Daniel Maria!

Professing vows with my Franciscan brothers.

Professing vows with my Franciscan brothers at the Immaculate Conception Chapel of St. Francis University in Loretto, PA. I’m at the far end.

If you’d like to see some pictures from the day of my profession ceremony (like the one here)—and from religious life, in general—click here to go to the Photo Gallery, where I added new pics. Above is also a picture of myself with Capuchin friar, Fr. Stephen Shin, great friend and former spiritual director of mine who has journeyed with me from the time I was a discerning lay person, helping me to discern a vocation with the Franciscan friars of the Third Order Regular. It was a great grace to have Fr. Stephen at the profession ceremony, concelebrating at Mass with the priests of my community.

It is good to return to writing. So much is happening in our culture and world right now; great turmoil and unrest, deep confusion about sexual morality, the definition of marriage, violence, racism, and global terrorism, that authentic Christian voices are necessary to rise up and proclaim the greatness and beauty of the Truth in light of so much confusion. I encourage you, friends, to remain optimistic and hopeful, united as a Church founded not by men, but by the Son of the living God, Jesus the Christ, against Whom the gates of hell cannot prevail.

Let us give our lives, our concerns, our culture, our country, and our world to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary: in deeper prayer, sacrifice, love, unconditional Gospel love that is so radical and revolutionary — selfless — that it becomes a living testimony of the truth of the Church, of lives given to (and transformed by) Christ Jesus. With the Rosary in our hands, with the Scriptures in our minds and hearts, weapons of the Spirit, let us go forward, advance against Satan, showing that we belong to Jesus and Mary, entrusting our lives and all that surrounds us to our Heavenly Father, all-powerful and merciful. Let us stand united in a firm faith, bold and unapologetic, unshakable in Christ and His Church, our royal inheritance, courageously moving forward with the Cross.