SCOTUS Nominee Studied with Eminent Catholic Philosoper

Last night as the nation watched in expectation President Donald J. Trump

udge Neil M. Gorsuch, President Trump’s nominee to the Supreme Court. Credit Al Drago/The New York Times

Judge Neil Gorsuch, President Trump’s nominee to the Supreme Court. Credit Al Drago/The New York Times

announced from the White House his U.S. Supreme Court nominee. Appearing alongside the president was Judge Neil Gorsuch of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit, accompanied by his wife.

Judge Gorsuch’s impressive academic credentials include doing his undergraduate studies at Columbia University, receiving his J.D. from Harvard Law School, where he was a classmate of President Barack Obama, and receiving a doctorate in legal philosophy from Oxford University.

It is this last academic endeavor that struck me most, as I soon found out that Gorsuch’s doctoral studies at Oxford were supervised by one of the most eminent living Catholic philosophers in the world, John Finnis.

As a moral and legal philosopher, Finnis has done breakthrough work on natural law and natural rights, and is often identified as the godfather of new-natural law theory, a revitalization of Thomistic natural philosophy as an ethical system. He has written widely on such issues as abortion, gay marriage, and sexual ethics, exuding a pro-life perspective and one that defends the dignity of marriage on the basis of a natural law philosophy.

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Professor John Finnis, moral and legal philosopher at Oxford and Notre Dame

One of Finnis’ protégé’s, who also did his doctorate under Finnis at Oxford, is the Princeton professor and public intellectual Robert P. George. George, a Catholic scholar, made public this post on his Facebook page about Judge Gorsuch a week before President Trump nominated him:

“Judge Gorsuch is a friend of mine and someone I greatly admire. He would be a superb Supreme Court justice. He is intellectually extremely gifted and is deeply committed to the (actual) Constitution and the rule of law. He will not manufacture “rights” or read things into the Constitution that aren’t there or read things out of the Constitution that are.”

George’s post continued: “Judge Gorsuch’s excellent book, *The Future of Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia* is published under my general editorship in the Princeton University Press New Forum Books series. He also contributed a fine essay to a collection of writings in honor of John Finnis that I co-edited with Professor John Keown of Georgetown. Professor Finnis, the eminent Oxford legal and moral philosopher who revitalized the study of natural law in Anglo-American analytical philosophy and jurisprudence, was Judge Gorsuch’s doctoral dissertation supervisor.”

FutureofAssistedSuicideandEuthanasiaWhile an Episcopalian, Judge Gorsuch has had a record that should make many Catholics happy. Not only has he opposed assisted suicide and euthanasia, showing respect for the sanctity of human life, but he has also been a supporter of religious liberty.

Writing for America, Michael O’Loughlin explains that Judge Gorsuch has sided with “both Hobby Lobby and the Little Sisters of the Poor in clashes with the Obama administration about provisions of the Affordable Care Act that they argued violated their religious freedom.”

In the same article Judge Gorsuch is quoted as saying, in his book The Future of Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia, that, “All human beings are intrinsically valuable and the intentional taking of human life by private persons is always wrong.”

In an article for The Federalist, Andrew Walker emphasizes that this is Judge Gorsuch’s main thesis, “His main principle—and the thesis of the book—is that human life is intrinsically valuable and that intentional killing is always wrong. He maintains that refusing unwanted and life-sustaining medical treatment is morally acceptable, but that intentional efforts to accelerate death are immoral.”

Robert George wrote an article in the Washington Post today emphasizing that with the nomination of Judge Gorsuch, “President Trump has without question fulfilled his pledge to appoint a justice in the mold of Antonin Scalia — a conservative intellectual leader.”

In addition to writing of his intellectual achievements, George comment on the character and integrity of Judge Gorsuch, “He’s a faithful husband, a good father, a caring neighbor, a generous friend, a man of probity who holds himself to the highest ethical standards.”

Judge Gorsuch wrote his dissertation about the moral and legal issues surrounding euthanasia and assisted-suicide under John Finnis. Many doctoral students who have worked under Finnis have become his intellectual protégés. Among these are Robert George and John Keown, who have done significant scholarship of approaching moral issues from a Catholic natural law perspective. Perhaps Judge Gorsuch, another protégé of Finnis, will be able to bring such a perspective to the Supreme Court.

Speeches from the 44th March for Life

Here are a few of the speeches from yesterday’s March for Life. I have attended the march for years, but there was honestly something different about it yesterday. There was a different energy, a greater sense of hope that real change is coming and that momentum is growing for a deeper respect for the sanctity of human life in this country. Here are some of the highlights:

“I am a wife, a mother, a Catholic, counselor to the president of the United States of America, and yes, I am pro-life….this is a new day, a new dawn for life.” – Kellyanne Conway

“Life is winning again in America. …Compassion is overcoming convenience.” – Vice President Mike Pence

Congresswoman Mia Love (R-UT) gave an inspirational speech that has been called one of the greatest pro-life speeches ever given at the March. She told, in the process, her own story as a child who was spared from being aborted.

 

Shocking Lies that Legalized Abortion: Deceiving the Supreme Court

The affidavit did not happen the way I said it did, pure and simple. I lied! … Yes, the stated reason for my abortion is based upon a lie, a great lie. So the entire abortion industry is based on a lie.

– Norma McCorvey, a.k.a. “Jane Roe” of Roe v. Wade

I am against abortion; I never sought an abortion; I have never had an abortion. Abortion is murder. … The Doe v. Bolton case is based on deceit and fraud.

– Sandra Cano, a.k.a. “Mary Doe” of Doe v. Bolton

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Sandra Cano (“Mary Doe”) and Norma McCorvey (“Jane Roe”) with Fr. Frank Pavone and Fr. Michael Scanlan, T.O.R., at the Tomb of the Unborn Child at the Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio.

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SEE ALSO THIS POWERFUL PRO-LIFE PROCLAMATION BY FRENCH MP 

Recently, the abortion industry has been under a lot of criticism, from earlier investigative videos alleging that Planned Parenthood has sold aborted-body parts to a recent investigative video showing that the abortion-provider has deceived people to believe that it provides prenatal care as part of its [taxpayer funded] services.

The very history around legal abortion is based on lies. Few people know about the shadowy history of how abortion was legalized in the United States. The corruption is centered around two U.S. Supreme Court cases, both of which were passed down on the same day on January 22, 1973: Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton.

Both “Roe” and “Doe” — the plaintiffs for each case — admit that lies were presented to the Supreme Court by their lawyers to sell the case for legal abortion. “Jane Roe” became passionately pro-life. “Mary Doe” was always pro-life. Both women worked for the overturning of the cases that bear their names. Let’s look at their stories.

The Hidden Story of Roe v. Wade

In the late 1960s, two Texas attorneys named Sarah Weddington and Linda Coffee searched for a case to launch—both being recent law school graduates—their careers. Both women knew each other as students at the University of Texas School of Law, where the classmates were only two out of five females in a class of 120 students. Coffee, after law school, a bit more successful than her counterpart, was already working as a law clerk in Dallas for Federal District Judge Sarah T. Hughes.

Weddington, who has proudly proclaimed herself as the “Lawyer who won Roe v. Wade,” was, ironically, the daughter of a Christian minister. She is also someone who has had personal experience with abortion. While in law school, Weddington was impregnated by her boyfriend and, thereafter, decided to get an illegal abortion in Mexico. In Texas, the procedure was legally allowed if the mother’s life was at risk. Since that element played no role for Weddington, she made the effort to cross the border in order to abort the life. In Mexico, though illegal at the time, abortion was performed pervasively through the black market.

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Norma McCorvey, a.k.a. “Jane Roe.”

It is one of the more interesting things to note that when it comes to Roe v. Wade, the person most identified and demonized in the case that has helped to abort millions of lives since its implementation has been Norma McCorvey, the so-called “Jane Roe” of the case, thus the plaintiff. She once explained that many people “see me as a demon. To them I’m a blasphemer and a baby-killer.” In the past this has been the situation even when, in actuality, McCorvey, self-admittedly, was nothing more than a pawn in an ambitious plan orchestrated by her attorneys. “I was nothing to Sarah and Linda, nothing more than just a name on a piece of paper,” she once recalled.

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Today, to the dismay of many supporters of legal abortion, McCorvey is actually a strong pro-life advocate and a passionate supporter of overturning the Supreme Court decision that carries her notorious alias. Believe it or not, the former “Roe” herself never even had an abortion, giving her child up for adoption before the Supreme Court decision was finalized. McCorvey, in reality, has conceived and delivered three children in her lifetime.

After decades of abortion advocacy and many years of working in numerous abortion facilities, on August 8, 1995, in the city of North Garland, Texas, Norma McCorvey was baptized a Christian, abandoning her former identity as “Jane Roe” and gradually becoming a full supporter of the pro-life movement and its humane cause. She has since started the Roe No More Ministry, a ministry through which she has been able to encourage pro-life groups, speak to women about the lies she has personally witnessed within the abortion industry, and support the sanctity of human life.

In April 1996, McCorvey returned to the U.S. Supreme Court with efforts to lobby its justices to overturn Roe v. Wade. She presented to them a video titled Reversing Roe: The Norma McCorvey Story, which had then been recently released. She recalled the event by explaining, “I couldn’t unsign the affidavit the justices had already argued and decided upon, but perhaps I could, through that video, help them see the lies of that fateful decision.”

After her visit, McCorvey quietly remained for a moment before the steps of the Supreme Court building, where she knelt on the sidewalk and offered a personal prayer. Praying to God to help “them see the truth,” about the lies surrounding abortion, McCorvey also declared that one “of the ‘truths’ I wanted people to see involved an admission I had made many years before.” She then explained:

“As Sarah Weddington presented my case, she used the fact that I had claimed to have become pregnant through a gang rape. The public had certain misgivings about abortion in the early seventies, but there was much greater acceptance of abortion in cases of rape. …This means that the abortion case that destroyed every state protecting the unborn was based on a lie.”

The Lies Deepen: the Story Continues – Doe v. Bolton

On January 22, 1973, not one, but two abortion cases were decided by the U.S. Supreme Court in favor of the deadly practice. While Roe legalized abortion during the first two trimesters of a pregnancy,  Roe’s “companion case,” titled Doe v. Bolton, allowed abortion to be performed throughout all three trimesters of pregnancy, from conception to the destined end, on demand. In other words, this was the case that legalized the indisputably murderous procedure known as partial-birth abortion.

The story of Doe shares so many similarities to the story of Roe, especially from the perspective of the utilized plaintiffs—both of whom are strong pro-life advocates today—that the only word to justly define the comparison is uncanny, if not a bit disturbing, in its fateful nature.

The plaintiff herself once stated that being young, “uneducated, and naive, I was taken advantage of by an aggressive self-serving attorney, Margie Pitts Hames, the legal-aid attorney. I never wanted an abortion.” In our current American culture the usage of vulnerable and pregnant women, ironically, has become a lucrative trademark of the abortion industry.

Sandra Cano, a.k.a. "Mary Doe."

Sandra Cano, a.k.a. “Mary Doe.”

Sandra Cano, who may historically be known by her unwanted and undeserving alias as “Mary Doe” of Doe v. Bolton, was seventeen years old when she first met her future husband, a 22 year-old man named Joel Lee Bensing. She grew up in a poor neighborhood in the State of Georgia, the daughter of an Atlanta City sanitation worker.

Sandra already had dropped out of school as a result of her environment, poor grades, relentless classmates making fun of her weight, and also the pains of Bell’s Palsy—which Sandra had, causing for disfiguration in her smile; and, not to mention, she also possessed a learning disorder. Sandra’s domestic life, likewise, did not help her already-present disposition at adolescence. She grew up in a poor family where abuse made its occasional presence, frequenting the helpless girl herself numerous times.

The loneliness, vulnerability, and insecurity that perpetually rotated around young Sandra’s life led her to make one of the early decisions that would prove unfortunate in the long term. She married Bensing, with whom Sandra thought she could find escape from the contemporary tragedy that was life. Bensing, however, only ended up adding to the drama.

A week after the sudden, shotgun wedding, “Sandra found out that her husband was serving probation for molesting two different 5-year-old children,” according to a friend. Notwithstanding this horrific discovery, by no means did it mean that Sandra’s husband solely had a disturbing past—for it never left him. Within years later Bensing, once again, was charged; this time with kidnapping and molestation.

Sandra had three children with Bensing before she finally attempted to file for divorce against him in 1970. At the time, while searching for an attorney, Sandra was pregnant with her fourth child. Going through an emotionally unstable mental stage and having difficulty raising them with a continually absent spouse, Sandra’s other children were put in foster care. Deciding that it was time to place her life back on track, which necessitated the need to regain her children and permanently disband the civil union she had with her husband, Sandra turned to public legal assistance for help.

For a poor young woman in Georgia, Atlanta Legal Aid seemed an ideal, if not—to put it more aptly—a last available, resort. That is where Margie Pitts Hames presented herself, appearing surprisingly eager to help Sandra with her situation.

Hames was the lawyer largely responsible for the legalization of partial-birth abortion—along with seven other lawyers who sat on the Supreme Court when the case came before them. She is Orwellianly known today by many as one of the great civil liberty advocates of our time, in certain Georgian circles at least; as a true pioneer of “women’s rights,” and the right of “choice,”—though seldom do the supporters of the late lawyer ever mention what goes on behind that so-called “choice.” The reality is more troubling than euphemistic language can convey or conceal.

The Catholic author and law professor Helen M. Alvaré, while once making an appearance before Congress on Capitol Hill, gave a frank testimony describing exactly what the partial-birth procedure entails:

“In sum, this procedure is designed such that an abortionist kills a human infant who is pro-lifepartially delivered outside of his or her mother’s womb. The infant is not directly anesthetized to prevent pain… Once so delivered, according to the writings of one prominent practitioner of this method, Dr. Martin Haskell, the infant is killed by inserting a pair of sharp curved scissors into the base of the child’s skull. The scissors are then spread wide enough to insert a catheter to suction out the contents of the skull before the head is collapsed and the infant fully delivered outside of the mother.”

Dealing with the proper litigation for the Doe case first required finding the right plaintiff. “Sandra was kept in the dark and told only that her case had something to do with ‘Women’s Rights,’” reflected Sybil Fletcher Lash, an author and friend of Sandra’s. Though Sandra went to seek help from Margie Pitts Hames in order to get her children back and to divorce her husband, Hames had other plans for the then-pregnant girl and her future role as plaintiff.

Hames’ solution for Sandra’s problems—a “solution” that Sandra herself could never even realistically imagined, as her subsequent actions would show—was to receive an abortion. There was one issue. Sandra did not believe in abortion and would not agree to have the atrocious procedure executed against her own child.

Hames, despite Sandra’s opposition, relentlessly pushed for abortion as the sole option for the young mother, in the course of action involving Sandra’s family in the persuasion process. “Instead of real help, my mother, stepfather and my lawyer persisted in their demands that I have an abortion,” Sandra explained in an affidavit in 2001, attempting to expose the fraud that is the Doe case. “When the demand for an abortion persisted, I fled to Oklahoma and stayed at the home of my ex-husband’s grandmother.”

Notwithstanding this strong dissidence produced by the young mother, Hames took no consideration, deciding, in the end, to push her agenda across with or without Sandra. Without the plaintiff’s presence is the road that the attorney eventually took, which did not mean that Hames did not use Sandra. Hames used Sandra’s name and—therefore—“identity” as “Doe,” distorting and fictionalizing the story of the plaintiff’s needs, wants, and actions in the process; doing so all the way to the United States Supreme Court, where the lies unquestionably helped her win the case.

Sybil Fletcher Lash, a friend of Sandra’s who has traveled across numerous cities and states in the U.S. trying to assist efforts to publicly expose the lies and deceptions behind the Doe case—predominantly through public talks and events—once explained, “Sandra believes that the Supreme Court was deliberately deceived. Things that Sandra had no knowledge of, and never consented to, were presented as actual events.” In other words, “throughout the process, judges were continually told lies and then based their decisions on the lies they were fed.”supremecourtabortion

Let’s carefully examine these lies.

Speaking before the nation’s Supreme Court, according to the transcript, these are the lies that Hames told the justices:

“She [Sandra] applied to the public hospital for an abortion, where she was eligible for free medical care. Her application there was denied. She later applied, through a private physician, to a private hospital abortion committee, where her abortion application was approved. Her – she did not obtain the abortion, however, because she did not have the cash to deposit and pay her hospital bill in advance.”

It’s hard to see how a woman who solely wanted a divorce from her husband and to regain custody of her children could be so manipulatively exploited by a lawyer as to change those needs into the “desire” for an abortion, which Sandra would have never permitted—deciding instead to flee the state rather than to be coerced into killing her own child in the womb. Yet these factors evidently did not stop Hames from pursuing her agenda.

“A number of years ago, I decided that I wanted to see my file in the case so I could see what was said about me,” Sandra explained, recalling the event. Wanting to get her records unsealed to find out the actual details of the case that carried her alias—since the plaintiff, once again, was not even present at the Court hearings—Sandra hired an attorney named Wendell Bird to assist her with the process. This happened many years after the two landmark abortion cases; in 1989, when Sandra’s own socioeconomic situation had improved and, therefore, she was capable to afford the resources necessary to unveil the truth.

Following the immediate discovery of these intentions, Sandra explained that the “attorney who represented me in Doe v. Bolton, Margie Pitts Hames, tried to stop me from getting my own records, and I did not understand why.” After the records were unveiled so was the reason for the cover-up. “It was only when I first saw the opened records in Doe v. Bolton that I understood why Margie didn’t want me to see them.” The evidence was astonishing to the former “Mary Doe.” In Sandra’s own words:

“The records stated that I applied for an abortion, was turned down, and, as a result, sued the state of Georgia. According to the records, I had applied for an abortion through a panel of nine doctors and nurses at a state-funded hospital, Grady Memorial Hospital. That was a false statement. After reading the court records, I contacted the hospital and tried to obtain my records. At first I was told there were records, but when my new attorney sent his legal assistant to review the records, we were told that they did not exist. The hospital said they didn’t have any records. I never sought an abortion there or anywhere else.”

In fact, the search for these alleged records was taken very seriously by Grady Memorial Hospital, which performed a 32-hour search for the records “under every possible name and variation.” Despite all this thorough dedication, time, and work given to the task of finding the elusive information, no such records were ever discovered, validating the fact that they never existed; that Sandra never applied for an abortion; and that—again—one of the landmark decisions used to legitimize the abortion industry in the United States was based on an array of severe fraudulency and deception.

“My lawyer became upset with me because I would never say to anyone that I would have an abortion,” Sandra recalled. She further emphasized how persuasive with her manipulative reasoning Hames attempted to be, connecting the legal right to take unborn life with real women’s issues, such as equality in pay. “I remember Margie debating me. She claimed we were involved in a liberation right. She said women were entitled to equal pay for equal work, and I agreed. I never saw the pleading filed in court.”

Most of the issues that brought Sandra to seek help from legal aid were never filed in court.

The Supreme Court was well deceived with this one. Sandra Cano as a young woman never wanted an abortion, believing any substitute better for her child than death. In fact, Sandra, knowing very well at the time of her fourth pregnancy that she could not provide her child with an ideal or, simply, affordable life, due to her socioeconomic disadvantages, gave her daughter up for adoption after the birth.

Ironically, just like the former Jane Roe of Roe v. Wade, the former Mary Doe of Doe v. Bolton also, in the end, picked life for her child instead of death. Not necessarily the ideal spokeswomen the abortion movement was looking for when pressing its agenda across the country. Sandra poignantly explained the situation regarding her own views and, unquestionably, the views of millions of mothers in our nation who would never consider the luxury of personal convenience a matter justifiable to ending the life of a child.

“But no matter how hard life happens to be, no one has the right to kill a baby – especially the baby’s mother. She is the trustee of her child’s life. She, of all people, has the sacred duty to protect the child. But the child’s interests are not at odds with her own. They are in concert with one another. The mother derives a great benefit from her relationship with her child. It is as beneficial to her as it is the child. It is never in the interest of a mother to terminate the life of her own child.”

On March 23, 1997, the former Mary Doe and the former Jane Roe came together to publicly speak out against abortion and their own tragic roles in the legalization process, formalizing their stances by having plaques installed into the National Memorial for Unborn Children declaring their respect for life.

The location of this national site is in Chattanooga, Tennessee, where a former abortion clinic—responsible for the deaths of 35,000 lives during its years of business—previously resided. The clinic was purchased by pro-life supporters after its co-owners, two middle-aged women, were both diagnosed with, and eventually died of, cancer. The “half of the building, which had contained the abortion chambers, was demolished with a bulldozer. In the ruins the next morning a neatly placed teddy bear was found….” McCorvey explained. “A memorial was built on this site to remember those valuable lost lives, and to recognize the grief carried by millions of living victims of abortion.”

SOURCES:

Sybil Fletcher Lash, Supreme Deception: How an Activist Attorney Manipulated the U.S. Supreme Court and Gave Birth to Partial Birth Abortions (Sentinel Productions 2002).

Norma McCorvey, Won by Love:Jane Roe of Roe v. Wade Speaks Out for the Unborn as She Shares Her New Conviction for Life (Thomas Nelson 1998).

Norma McCorvey, I am Roe: Roe v. Wade and Freedom of Choice (Perennial 1995).

Sarah Weddington, A Question of Choice: By the Lawyer who Won Roe v. Wade (Putnam 1992).

Kellyanne Conway to Attend March for Life

Kellyanne Conway, the first woman to successfully lead a presidential campaign to victory in U.S. history and currently Counselor to President Donald J. Trump, will attend and speak at the 43rd annual March for Life this Friday in Washington, D.C., Lifezette reports.

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Sean Spicer, White House Press Secretary, has confirmed Conway’s attendance at the March and has hinted at the possible involvement of President Trump, commenting on the matter during the second official White House press conference.

“I know Kellyanne is going to attend the event,” he said. “I think we’re still working through the details, but we’ll have further information about the president’s potential participation.”

In less than a week of the Trump administration’s presence in the White House the administration has already taken major steps in implementing a pro-life agenda, counter to the Obama administration. Earlier this week President Trump signed an executive memorandum to reinstate a policy – the Mexico City Policy – that stops taxpayer funding of groups that provide and promote abortions overseas.

Pro-life gains have even come in Congress. Yesterday the House of Representatives voted to permanently ban taxpayer funding of abortion in the U.S., legislation President Trump promises to sign if the Senate approves it.

Meanwhile Planned Parenthood, the biggest abortion-provider in the country that receives tax-payer dollars, has come under heavy criticism as an investigative video has been released, showing that Planned Parenthood has lied about providing prenatal care as part of its services, the Daily Wire reports, concentrating predominantly on abortion. Here is the video exposing Planned Parenthood:

The annual March for Life in Washington, DC, is the biggest demonstration of people marching for the sanctity of human life. The event is held in January in light of the anniversary of Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton, the Supreme Court decisions that legalized abortion nationwide on January 22, 1973.

Bold Christian Prayer at Inauguration Early Sign of Hope

I read that the inauguration of President Donald J. Trump set a record as having the most prayers of any inauguration ceremony before it. I was especially moved by the prayer delivered by President Trump’s pastor Paula White-Cain, pronouncing the truth of the Gospel without shame as she entrusted the nation to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and proclaimed the power of the Name of Jesus as millions watched.

It is an early sign of hope, I feel, after an outgoing administration that, in it’s policies, was one of the most anti-religious administration’s in recent history—to the point that the Obama administration sued a Catholic hospital in Pittsburgh for refusing to perform surgical abortions—that this incoming administration may show much more respect for Christians and the gift of religious liberty.

Merry Christmas!!!

Dear friends, Merry Christmas!!! May our beloved Lord Jesus bless you abundantly on this glorious day, when so many years ago He came down to encounter us in our poverty, humbling Himself so as to save us. May these videos, some of my favorite Christmas carols performed by the Irish group Celtic Woman, assist you in entering into the spirit of this most solemn day. Peace & abundant blessings in the Names of Jesus & Mary most holy!!

Hark the herald angels sing
“Glory to the newborn king”
Peace on earth, and mercy mild
God and sinners reconciled
Joyful all ye nations rise
Join the triumph of the skies
With angelic host proclaim
“Christ is born in Bethlehem”

O come, all ye faithful
Joyful and triumphant
O come ye, oh come ye to Bethlehem
Come and behold him
Born the king of angels
Oh come let us adore him
Oh come let us adore him
Oh come let us adore him
Christ the Lord

Joy to the world! The Lord is come.
Let earth receive her King
Let every heart
Prepare Him room
And heaven and nature sing
And heaven and nature sing
And heaven and heaven and nature sing

Champions of the Rosary: A Powerful Read on a Spiritual Weapon

Earlier this year as I was returning to the friary from my summer assignment I found a championsoftherosarypackage in my mailbox from Fr. Donald Calloway, MIC. It was a signed copy of his new book, Champions of the Rosary: The History and Heroes of a Spiritual Weapon. In a couple of days I would be taking a silent retreat at a Trappist monastery and was in need of some spiritual reading, so the unexpected book could not have come at a better time.

To be honest, so many books have been written about the rosary, that when I first saw this one – although grateful for the gift – I was not expecting to encounter anything special. Was I ever wrong!

Fr. Don Calloway’s book on the rosary is probably the best book written on the topic since St. Louis de Montfort’s classic The Secrets of the Rosary, and – I say this without hesitation – surpasses even de Montfort’s work. It will quickly take its place – a special place – as the greatest book written on the rosary to date. Fr. Calloway should be proud of this achievement.

When one reads his book it becomes evident that a labor of love went into it, finding a beautiful balance between a fascinating and thorough history of the rosary and being a work that captures the spiritual dynamism of this devotion with the saints, mystics, and martyrs who, throughout Church history, have been its greatest advocates.

rosaryThe subtitle of the book – “The History and Heroes of a Spiritual Weapon” – points to a profound reality, one that perhaps too often in our cultural thinking (which falls into secular norms of understanding) we tend to neglect – the reality that life is a battle between two kingdoms: between the Kingdom of Heaven and the kingdom of hell, between God and the devil, between light and darkness. And, what is most urgent not to neglect, is the reality that we are all born into this war and thus called to be soldiers on the battlefield.

Fr. Calloway understands well – as many saints and holy men and women throughout history have known – that in the rosary we have been given a powerful spiritual weapon, a sword in the battle against evil. “The first key is to understand the rosary as a spiritual sword made by God, the Divine Craftsman. This key unlocks the mystery of what the rosary is, why it has so much power, and why the devil constantly seeks to destroy it.”

The first half of the book is probably the most thorough history of the rosary ever written in the English language, including a history of popes, miracles, military battles, Marian confraternities, and various developments in Church history that has led to the promotion (and, at times, suppression) of the most popular devotion in Catholicism. It is so well-researched, and yet beautifully written, that Fr. Calloway admits it took him years to work on.

The second half of Fr. Calloway’s book pertains to 26 holy men and women – saints, blesseds, popes, Servants of God – who had an incredible Marian devotion and were great advocates of the rosary. This section constitutes the spiritual dynamite of the book, giving the stories and Marian spirituality of men and women whose holiness and devotion is contagious. Reading about these souls we are strengthened, edified, and encouraged by their radical witness to become holier, to pick up the rosary each day, and go deeper into prayer and intimacy with Jesus and Mary.

We see a nice combination of very well-known names like Maximilian Kolbe, Padre Pio Josemaria Escriva, John Paul II, Fatima visionary Lucia dos Santos, and lesser-known (but equally important) names like Blessed Bartolo Longo and Servant of God Dolindo Ruotolo.

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St. Josemaria Escriva

The work is so well-researched that often we discover new facts about known lives. For example, there is a section dedicated to St. Josemaria Escriva (1902-1975), the founder of Opus Dei, and his dynamic Marian spirituality. I did not know that, as a child, St. Josemaria was on the verge of death but experienced a miraculous healing saving his life. Fr. Calloway explains:

“At the age of two, St. Josemaria suffered from an unknown illness (most likely epilepsy) and was expected to die. His devout mother took him to the Marian shrine of Torreciudad in Aragon, Spain, and earnestly prayed for him before a statue of Our Lady of the Angels that dates from the 11th century. Miraculously, he recovered. His mother attributed his healing to Our Lady. This event helped to form in him a strong, life-long Marian devotion.” St. Josemaria would encourage members of Opus Dei to make frequent Marian pilgrimages

The less-known names are also spiritual giants to discover. In this sense, the Servant of God Dolindo Ruotolo (1882-1970), someone who Fr. Calloway remarks as being “born in Naples and is almost unknown outside of Italy,” has been a real discovery for me.

“A devout priest and an avid scholar, Dolindo has been called the ‘Scribe of the Holy Spirit.’ He penned a 33-volume commentary on Holy Scripture, as well as many other theological works. He wanted people to read good books on theology and devotion, and so he founded the Apostolato Stampa press in order to publish orthodox theological works. He was an extraordinary musician, a Third Order Franciscan, and slept less than three hours a night due to his intense prayer life.”

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Servant of God Dolindo Ruotolo, priest, scholar, mystic

This was a 20th century priest. When pilgrims traveled to San Giovanni Rotondo to visit Padre Pio, he pointed to Fr. Dolindo, asking why were people visiting him (Padre Pio) when there is a saint in Naples. Fr. Dolindo, with a deeply contemplative prayer life, “regretted that Modernis had reduced the prominence of the rosary in the lives of many Catholics, and emphatically preached that the rosary was not a tedious prayer of repetition, but a method for contemplating the saving mysteries of the life of Christ.”

Fr. Calloway further explains: “Dolindo lived through World War I and World War II. He saw the rosary as a weapon in the spiritual life, referring to the rosary as a sword and a machine gun in our spiritual arsenal. In his homilies, he often informed his listeners that every Hail Mary was a shot fired at Satan and the forces of darkness.”

In Fr. Dolindo’s own words: “The rosary is a powerful prayer against Satan and against the assaults of evil. Our Church brought, and continues to bring, great triumphs because of this prayer. The decades of the rosary, from this point of view, are like the belt of a machine gun: every bead is a shot, every affection of the soul is an explosion of faith that frightens off Satan, and Mary once more crushes his head.”

In such spiritual gems, we see a much deeper understanding behind the reality of the rosary as a central weapon of combat for spiritual warfare.

Fr. Calloway’s book accomplishes a tremendous task, one that is threefold. It is probably the most thorough history of the rosary ever written. It captures the spiritual dynamism of Marian devotion and spirituality, especially conveyed through the lives of the men and women who reached heights of holiness through their Marian spirituality. And it also provides beautiful artwork about the Madonna and the rosary—many depictions of St. Dominic receiving the rosary, and of other saints with the Virgin. These artworks span from classics by baroque artists like Caravaggio to contemporary art commissioned by Fr. Calloway for the theme of the book, capturing a Madonna that is a mighty Queen with the rosary in one hand and a sword binding the devil in the other, surrounded by her army of saints.

The Bible begins with the Book of Genesis, where it is explained that the Woman would stump on the head of the serpent, and finishes with the Book of Revelation, where the Woman with a crown of twelve stars with her child would do battle against the dragon and his angels. Meaning, throughout salvation history, from the beginning to the end, Our Lady’s has been given a pivotal role—even being prefigured—in destroying the works of the devil, leading souls to a deeper intimacy with her divine son Jesus: being chosen by God for a singularly unique mission in salvation history. It is the Queen of Heaven who is leading the armies of light against the kingdom of darkness.

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Fr. Donald Calloway, MIC

Fr. Calloway explains: “I have written Champions of the Rosary to recap and pick up where St. Louis de Montfort left off. Three centuries have gone by since St. Louis de Montfort penned his monumental work, and many things have taken place. Many miracles, victories, conversions, developments, discoveries, and champions of the rosary need to be added to the story of the sword for the people of our times. Trust me: I know firsthand how the rosary can help a soul convert.”

Fr. Calloway, being someone who was saved from a life of sin and ruin as an adolescent—including addiction, crime, and promiscuity—through the intercession of the Virgin Mary, knows very well what it means to be saved from the grip of the enemy by the spiritual sword of the rosary. He has written a book in return that is a gift to the Church, speaking to a multifaceted and rich history of miracles, conversions, military victories, Marian apparitions, and holy lives who owe so much to the Virgin Mary’s intercession. The greatest compliment that a book by a Christian author can receive is that it’s a work that will lead readers to experience God and lead to lives of deeper devotion and conversion. Fr. Calloway’s book, an anointed work, possesses this rare capacity: it is a book informed not only by knowledge but also by the life of prayer.

The Face of Mercy

I highly recommend this new film, The Face of Mercy, which I recently saw at the St. John Paul II National Shrine in Washington, DC. It is easily the best documentary I have seen on the Divine Mercy message and image, one of Catholicism’s most popular devotions based on the visionary experiences of Jesus to the Polish mystic and saint Sr. Faustina Kowalska during the 1930s in Krakow.

The film includes appearances from a number of prominent Catholics, including Cardinal Sean O’Malley, Fr. Donald Calloway, Fr. Michael Gaitley, Scott Hahn, George Weigel, John Allen Jr., and the Rwanda genocide survivor and author Immaculee Ilibagiza, among others, with narration by Jim Caviezel.

Please check out the film’s official Web site for more information. Here is also a link to the DVD. Again, I strongly recommend this moving and edifying film on one of the most important spiritualities of our time.

The Awe-Inspiring Beauty of “Apparition Hill”

By Daniel Maria Klimek, T.O.R.

“Poignant, beautiful, and heart-breaking, Apparition Hill ends where it began, with the mystery of faith and hope shining through the darkest struggles of life, giving them meaning. It is a remarkable movie that takes you on a remarkable journey—a film underscored by a poetic beauty and transformative prowess that can lead to a metamorphosis of the soul, changing the lives of those who see it.”

CLICK HERE FOR THE OFFICIAL WEB SITE OF APPARITION HILL

Seven strangers chosen to take a pilgrimage to a mysterious, Slavic village located between the mountains of Bosnia-Herzegovina where miraculous and supernatural things are said to occur. This is the premise of Apparition Hill, a film by Sean Bloomfield, Cimela Kidonakis, and Jessi Hannapel.

It is not easy for me to write this review. It is not easy because, without an iota of exaggeration, Apparition Hill is one of the most powerful films I have ever watched in my life, and I know that no words – no matter how eloquent or beautiful – would be sufficient to truly capture the awe-inspiring and breathtaking prowess of this movie. I am a film buff, someone who loves the cinema and who studied film in college with a minor in digital cinema. In other words, I have seen hundreds of movies, and Apparition Hill remains on top as one of the most spiritually and emotionally inspiring I have had the privilege of viewing.

ALSO SEE: HELP BRING “APPARITION HILL” TO THE ACADEMY AWARDS

I had the pleasure of giving a short talk at the 2016 Marian Conference at the University of Notre Dame this past summer. Before I got the chance to address the audience, Apparition Hill producers Cimela Kidonakis and Jessi Hannapel came up to speak about the film and show the trailer. It was perfect timing, as I recently saw the movie at a screening in St. Charles, Illinois, and coming up to the podium right after the producers afforded me a brief opportunity to comment on how moving the film was. I emphasized to the crowd that it is such a powerful movie that, when I saw it, there was not one dry eye in the theater.

Again, these were not exaggerations. These were facts, facts that speak to a remarkable documentary about the pilgrimage of life, about suffering, joy, spiritual renewal, and some of the biggest questions surrounding the human condition.

Apparition Hill begins with a contest, a contest seeking video entries from individuals interested in going on a pilgrimage to Medjugorje, a famous site in Bosnia-Herzegovina wherein in 1981 six Croatian children reported experiencing Marian apparitions, supernatural visitations from the Virgin Mary. Three of the six visionaries continue to report daily apparitions of Mary to the present day, 35 years later. Medjugorje has become a popular pilgrimage site visited by an estimated 20 million people.

“It’s either the most important miracle since Jesus walked the earth, or it’s the biggest hoax in the history of mankind,” director Sean Bloomfield remarks during a radio interview in the film. It is a diversity of travelers – nay, pilgrims – on this journey, each bringing with them something they are carrying, some with heavier burdens than others. Each searching for something.

hollyapparitionhillAmongst them there is Holly, a beautiful young mother and wife with four children who has terminal (stage-four) cancer. Holly quips that her son tells people that his mommy is very good at having cancer—that she’s definitely going to beat it, “because she’s already at level four and that’s the hardest level to beat.”

There is Peter, an atheist from Leeds, England, who admits that if God would spell out for him in the heavens that He exists then he (Peter) would be more inclined to think there is something wrong with his perception than believe what he is seeing.

There is Ryan, a young man from Chicago who is struggling with addiction, trying to get his health and life back on track. In his entry video, Ryan solemnly tells the producers, “I hope to hear from you. I hope you can help me save my life.”

James Roose-Evans once poignantly wrote: “Although a pilgrim is an ordinary person, he is proceeding through extraordinary space, en route to his roots.” That is the difference between the pilgrim and the tourist. The latter seeks to have the cultural experience of visiting a place, taking pictures and site-seeing; the former seeks to discover the meaning of his life on the journey.

“To be objective the group had to be as diverse as possible,” Bloomfield tells us in a voice-over. “But they shared one thing in common: they were all searching for something.”

Mirjana Soldo, Medjugorje visionary

A prominent presence in the film is Mirjana Soldo, one of the Medjugorje visionaries who still reports to receive apparitions of Mary. Her mystical experiences are filmed in Apparition Hill. When the group encounters the visionary, the greatest testament to her experiences is her normalcy. The authenticity of Mirjana’s joy, her sense of humor, her wisdom and maternal nature, are all conveyed in this exchange in the most human and natural ways, beyond the grasp that any interview (no matter how thoughtful or sincere) could capture. Few things are as revealing as the sublime intimacy of human beings spontaneously conversing with each other.

Mirjana’s presence in the movie is a delight to watch, the balance between her solemn integrity and her light-heartedness is captured beautifully. At one point Mirjana tells the group, “For example, when I go to confession, they tell me for penance to pray three Our Fathers, three Hail Marys and three Glory Bes. What kind of penance is that,” she laughs. “That is a joy.” You see a spiritual maturity in her witness which, through grace and happiness, exudes the depths of her spiritual life.

Scenes in the movie find a healthy balance between the solemn and the light-hearted. One of the earliest activities that the group partakes in at Medjugorje is visiting the Risen Christ statue, a statue that for years has exuded the mysterious and unexplainable phenomena of dripping a liquid substance. The substance comes from the knee of the Christ statue.

During the day, the group venerates Christ in front of the statue; during the night the tworisenchriststatue skeptics from the group, Peter and Mark, the latter a police officer and family man from a suburb outside of Chicago, come to perform “scientific experiments” on the statue. They bring with them Rich, a devout Catholic, father of nine, and widower who lost his wife to cancer. Rich assists Peter and Mark with their investigations by using his smart phone as a flash-light as they examine the statue. They eventually conclude that their experiments were “somewhat inconclusive.”

Both Peter and Mark, as the skeptics on the pilgrimage, make the decision to change their approach from trying to disprove the phenomenon to allowing themselves to partake in the pilgrimage experience as much as possible: praying rosaries, climbing Cross Mountain, being at Adoration, going to Mass, camping out overnight on Apparition Hill to be present for Mirjana’s apparition in the morning. The result will surprise many.

There is a sublime beauty to this movie which captures some of the deepest and most difficult depths of the human journey. It is a film about dichotomies—faith and doubt, the miraculous and skepticism, healing and suffering—but also about the things that unite believers and skeptics, things that the human condition cannot avoid: finding meaning in life, in suffering, in spirituality, in addiction, in disease, in death, in the afterlife. All of which Apparition Hill touches with grace and impressive affection.

Yet it is an affection that is not sentimental, nor overly pious, but real. Apparition Hill observes the lives of several pilgrims who deal with their crosses with a conviction and strength that speaks wonders to the power of their journey.

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Apparition Hill director Sean Bloomfield

Sean Bloomfield has made many documentary films about religious experiences and Marian apparitions, most recently The Triumph (2013) and If Only We Had Listened (2011), the latter starring the Rwanda Genocide survivor and bestselling author Immaculée Ilibagiza. Cimela Kidonakis and Jessi Hannapel are newcomers, yet both showing to be gifted young talents, as the pace, cinematography, and style of Apparition Hill shows.

Bloomfield and Kidonakis found each other because Kidonakis made a video entry to go to Medjugorje as a pilgrim. Bloomfield saw that the video had something very special to it: it was made by a talented filmmaker. He emailed Kidonakis remarking how well done her video was. Next thing she knew, Kidonakis was joining the crew not as a prospective pilgrim in the film but as producer, director of photography, and editor.

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Cimela Kidonakis, producer & director of photography

Hannapel was a recent graduate of Loyola University Chicago, where she studied filmmaking. Only a few weeks after graduation she became part of the film crew on Apparition Hill, playing a pivotal role as a producer with Kidonakis. In a note that she wrote to one of her film professors, Hannapel explained:

“Working on this film continues to be the greatest experience of my life. If anyone had asked me two years ago what I wanted to do with my film degree, I would have said that I wanted to make a movie that would let people see the world in a different way. Apparition Hill is a story of hope. It shares a message of peace from Medjugorje. It encourages people in their faith. But this film also allows you to connect with the people we followed and see the world from their perspective.”

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Jessi Hannapel, producer

Together these filmmakers and their crew have delivered a powerful work. The power of the film is underscored by a hauntingly beautiful soundtrack, with original music from Michael Nolan.

There is a heart-breaking scene toward the end of Apparition Hill, an event whose emotional gravity pierces straight to the heart. When I saw the film at a screening there was, as previously mentioned, not a dry eye in the theater. In the note that Jessi Hannapel wrote her film professor, she explained: “The most important thing I learned was to always keep the camera rolling and film as much as possible. There was even a time I had to film while I was crying and try to focus the shot through my tears.”

After the film ended the first time I saw it in a theater at St. Charles, Illinois, we – the audience – knew that evening that we had witnessed something special in this movie which spoke to an unavoidable dimension of the human journey—of the deepest struggles, hopes, and joys of being alive. Poignant, beautiful, and heart-breaking, Apparition Hill ends where it began, with the mystery of faith and hope shining through the darkest struggles of life, giving them meaning. It is a remarkable movie that takes you on a remarkable journey–a film underscored by a poetic beauty and transformative prowess that can lead to a metamorphosis of the soul, changing the lives of those who see it.

CLICK HERE FOR INFORMATION ON “APPARITION HILL” – OFFICIAL WEB SITE

ALSO SEE: HELP BRING “APPARITION HILL” TO THE ACADEMY AWARDS