Saturday, June 30, 2012

St. John Bosco's First Dream

When St. John Bosco was only 9 years old he had a dream that would prove to be prophetic! It was a dream that recurred frequently in his life and one that he came to understand fully only late in life. One of our young Salesians from India put together this short film of the dream. He did a great job! Enjoy!

Friday, June 29, 2012

Religious Liberty: A Commentary by Fr. Robert Barron

Charles Chaput, William Lori and Samuel Aquila, receive the pallium from the Pope

Five Positive Ways for Catholics to Rebel against the World

The following comes from the Integrated Catholic Life blog:

  1. Avoid Cafeteria Catholicism – We can’t pick and choose what we believe and still be authentically Catholic.  Follow the Magisterium and authentically practice our faith, trusting that two millennia of Church history and teaching are far superior to what we may come up with on our own.  ‎”Be Catholic, really, faithfully, unapologetically Catholic, and the future will have the kind of articulate and morally mature leaders it needs.” (Archbishop Charles Chaput)
  2. Put our Pride aside and Surrender – “Few souls understand what God would accomplish in them if they were to abandon themselves unreservedly to Him and if they were to allow His grace to mold them accordingly.”(St. Ignatius of Loyola)  It must take a pretty big ego to say no to Christ and His Church! What we need is more humility, total surrender and a sincere commitment to put Christ’s will before our own.  I know from personal experience that doing it my way has never really worked out well.
  3. Practice Personal Holiness – “The call to holiness is rooted in Baptism and proposed anew in the other Sacraments, principally in the Eucharist. Since Christians are reclothed in Christ Jesus and refreshed by his Spirit, they are ‘holy’. They therefore have the ability to manifest this holiness and the responsibility to bear witness to it in all that they do. The apostle Paul never tires of admonishing all Christians to live ‘as is fitting among saints’ (Eph 5:3).  (Blessed John Paul II, Christifideles Laici 16)
  4. Be Joyful! – It is so easy to get lost in our problems and forget to be joyful-it happens to me and just about everyone else I know.  But, remember that we are surrounded by people who are watching us.  They may be seeking Him and looking for someone, anyone, to show them the way to Christ.  They could learn from our good example, be inspired by our joy and be encouraged by our faith journey if we will only remember that we are called to share the Good News.  If we are gloomy, frustrated, inward-focused and critical of the Church we will never be able to help anyone and may put our own salvation at risk.
  5. Pursue Heaven, Reject the World – Heaven is our ultimate destination and not this place called Earth.  Will our critics help us get to heaven?  Will they stand up for us during tough times?  No, they will pull us into a secular way of life which has little room for God and where materialism and popularity are the fashionable idols of the day.  Doing what is right is not always easy, but in the long run it is clearly the most beneficial.  Why would we not choose Heaven?
There is still another way to be a true Catholic rebel in today’s world that is the thread which runs through all the other acts I mentioned: pray faithfully every day.  Start the day with a prayer of thanks to God for the blessings in our lives.  Pray for help and courage to face the trials the world throws at us.  Make the sign of the cross and pray over every meal, public or private.  Pray a daily Rosary and ask for the help and intercession of our Blessed Mother and pray with our families every night.  I can’t envision anyone seriously rebelling against the Church if they are faithfully committed to daily prayer.


Heavenly Father, source of all holiness, You raise up within the Church in every age men and women who serve with heroic love and dedication. You have blessed Your Church through the life and ministry of Your faithful servant, Archbishop Fulton J Sheen. He has written and spoken well of Your Divine Son, Jesus Christ, and was a true instrument of the Holy Spirit in touching the hearts of countless people.
If it be according to Your Will, for the honor and glory of the Most Holy Trinity and for the salvation of souls, we ask You to move the Church to proclaim him a saint. We ask this prayer through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Fr. Robert Barron: The Meaning of Vatican II

Archbishop Fulton Sheen Becomes "Venerable"

The following comes from NCR:

Servant of God Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen is now “Venerable” after the Vatican announced today that Benedict XVI had signed a decree recognising that the archbishop heroically lived Christian virtues.

The announcement  of the decree marks a significant step in the canonization cause of Peoria, Ill.-born Archbishop Sheen (1895-1979), the Emmy award-winning televangelist whose program, "Life is Worth Living," was broadcast from 1951 to 1957.

The Vatican now has to recognise a miracle has occurred through his intercession for him to be beatified, the penultimate step to canonization.  Alleged miracles have been reported, which are now being assessed by experts in Rome.

For little over a year, the Congregation for the Causes of Saints has been examining his cause based on volumes of Archbishop Sheen’s life gathered in his home diocese of Peoria. The Congregation will have first examined if the archbishop had shown evidence of the three theological virtues of faith, hope and charity, and then the four cardinal virtues of prudence, justice, fortitude and temperance.

Theologians and cardinals will then have confirmed that he did indeed practice heroic virtue, leading the Holy Father, with the aid of the Consulters from the Congregation, to declare him "Venerable". Now that the Pope promulgated the decree of heroic virtue, the former bishop of Rochester, NY, may now be 
venerated by all the faithful.

The Vatican also announced today that the Pope had promulgated a decree recognizing that Alvaro del Portillo y Diez de Sollano, a former prelate of Opus Dei, also showed a life of heroic Christian virtue. Don Alvaro (1914-1994) was the first prelate to succeed the founder of Opus Dei, St. Josemaria Escriva.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Monday, June 25, 2012

Pope Benedict: Nothing is impossible with God

.- Pope Benedict XVI says the Church's celebration of the birth of John the Baptist should be a reminder that for God, all things are possible.

“From his mother’s womb, in fact, John is the forerunner of Jesus: his miraculous conception is announced from the Angel to Mary as a sign that 'nothing is impossible to God,'” he said to pilgrims in St. Peters Square during his midday Angelus address June 24.

The Pope was marking today’s Solemn Feast of The Nativity of St. John the Baptist. He noted that apart from Our Lady, St. John is the only saint to have their birthday celebrated as a liturgical feast “because it is closely connected to the mystery of the Incarnation of the Son of God.”

He explained that St. John is emphasized by all four Gospel writers as the prophet who concluded the Old Testament by preparing the way for the Christ and the New Covenant.

“Truly I tell you, among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet whoever is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he,” said Jesus in the Gospel of St. Matthew.

St. John’s father, Zechariah, was “a priest of the cult of the Old Testament,” and yet “he did not immediately believe the announcement of an unexpected fatherhood,” said the Pope.

And so Zechariah was silenced until the child’s circumcision when “animated by the Holy Spirit” he proclaimed his son’s mission;

“And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High; for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him.”

“All this was manifested 30 years later,” said the Pope, when St. John started to baptize in the River Jordan “calling the people to prepare, through the act of repentance, the imminent coming of the Messiah.”

St. John then fulfilled his mission by both baptizing the Messiah in the River Jordan and, explained Pope Benedict, in being “asked to precede Jesus even in violent death.”

Thus in being beheaded by King Herod, St. John “bore full witness to the Lamb of God, whom he had first recognized and announced publically.”

“Dear friends, the Virgin Mary helped her elderly cousin Elizabeth to carry to term the pregnancy of John,” the Pope concluded.

Elderly Monk on Prayer

Orthodox Elder Cleopa - On prayer from this_is_ortodoxy on Vimeo.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Archbishop Lori kicks-off Fortnight for Freedom with call to action

.- Catholics must fight against forces seeking to remove the influence of religion from American culture, Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore told over 1,000 Catholics at a Mass beginning a 14-day campaign for religious freedom.

“In differing ways, both the Church’s teaching and our nation’s founding documents acknowledge that the Creator has endowed individuals with freedom of conscience,” said Archbishop Lori. “Such freedom goes to the heart of the dignity of the human person.”

The archbishop delivered the opening homily for the Fortnight for Freedom, the two-week period leading up to the Fourth of July that the bishops have dedicated as a time for prayer, education and advocacy for religious liberty.

The June 21 Mass took place at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption in Baltimore, the nation’s first Catholic cathedral.

Archbishop Lori, who leads the U.S. bishops’ religious freedom committee, was met with standing applause when he entered the overflowing cathedral, as well as after the homily and at the conclusion of Mass.

In his homily, he observed that the date chosen to kick off the fortnight was the eve of the feast day of St. Thomas More and St. John Fisher, 16th century English martyrs who were beheaded because they would not comply with a law that made King Henry VIII the head of the Church and broke communion with the Pope.  

He explained that these two saints symbolize the “two aspects of religious freedom” that the Fortnight for Freedom is striving to protect and foster.

An accomplished lawyer who served as the Chancellor of England, St. Thomas More was willing to accept martyrdom courageously rather than “to betray his principles and his conscience.”

Archbishop Lori said that More represents the conscientious private employers and employees who simply seek to “go about their daily work in accord with their faith” and the demands of social justice, while avoiding “doing or facilitating moral evil in course of daily work.”

While perhaps less well-know, St. John Fisher also witnessed courageously as the Bishop of Rochester in Kent, he added.

Fisher helped renew the Church from within while opposing external state interference. After his martyrdom, royal forces seized churches, monasteries and learning centers, either destroying them or forcing them to break ties with the Catholic Church.

The archbishop explained that St. John Fisher symbolizes for us the “struggle to maintain religious freedom for church institutions and ministries such as our schools and charities.”

While we are not met with the “dire brutality” that these two saints faced, the U.S. Church today is in “perilous waters,” he said.

He pointed to a federal mandate that will require employers to offer health insurance plans that cover contraception, sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs. While the mandate includes a religious exemption, it applies only to non-profit organizations that exist to inculcate religious values and that primarily serve and employ members of their own faiths.

Religious organizations such as Catholic hospitals, inner-city schools and charitable agencies do not qualify for the exemption because they are committed to serving all in need, regardless of their faith.

Thus, the Church is only “religious enough” for a religious exemption if it “confines itself to the sacristy,” but not if it attempts to reach out “by hiring those of other faiths and by serving the common good,” Archbishop Lori observed.

He warned that this very narrow definition of church and religion that is embedded in the mandate “is likely to spread throughout federal law” if not swiftly removed.

With the mandate scheduled to go into effect on August 1, private employers will be forced to “violate their consciences” in less than six weeks, he said.

Recalling how religious freedom – in both private worship and public life – drew many people to America from its very beginning as a nation, the archbishop called on the faithful to “defend the Church’s freedom to fulfill her mission” through proclaiming the Gospel and manifesting God’s love in organized works of education and charity.

He stressed the need to defend the religious freedom of both individuals and church institutions, which find both their identity and their mission in firmly-held religious convictions. It is important to protect both, because the two are “inseparably linked,” and a threat to one poses a risk to the other as well, he said.

Even if the mandate is overturned, Archbishop Lori cautioned, Catholics must still fight forces of secularism that are seeking to prevent religious faith from having any impact on culture.

He urged the faithful to act courageously “throughout this Fortnight and beyond,” to defend freedom and bear witness to the moral values and truths that serve as the foundation for “a society that is just, peaceful and charitable.”

Give Up Yer Aul Sins - Birth of John Baptist

He Must Increase: Reflections on the Birth of John the Baptist

The following comes from Scott Hahn:
The people in this week’s Gospel are frightened and amazed by the mysterious events surrounding the birth of John.
Only his mother and father, Elizabeth and Zechariah, know what this child will be.
John the Baptist was fashioned in secret, knit by God in his mother’s womb, as we sing in this Sunday’s Psalm. From the womb he was set apart, formed to be God’s servant, as Isaiah declares in this week’s First Reading.
The whole story of John’s birth is thick with Old Testament echoes, especially echoes of the story of Abraham. God appeared to Abraham, promising that his wife would bear him a son; He announced the son’s name and the role Isaac would play in salvation history (see Genesis 17:11619).
The same thing happened to Zechariah and Elizabeth. Through his angel, God announced John’s birth to this righteous yet barren couple. He made them call John a special name—and told them the special part John would play in fulfilling His plan for history (see Luke 1:5–17).
Isaiah 49: 1–6
Psalm 139: 1–213–15
Acts 13:22–26
Luke 1:57–6680
As Paul says in today’s Second Reading, John was to herald the fulfillment of all God’s promises to the children of Abraham (Luke 1:5573). John was to bring the word of salvation to all the people of Israel. More than that, he was to be a light to the nations—to all those groping in the dark for God. 
We often associate John with his fiery preaching (seeMatthew 3:7–12). But there was a deep humility at the heart of his mission. Paul alludes to that when he quotes John’s words about not being worthy to unfasten the sandals of Christ’s feet.
John said, “[Christ] must increase. I must decrease” (John 3:30).
We must have that same attitude as we seek to follow Jesus. The repentance John preached was a turning away from sin and selfishness and a turning of our whole hearts to the Father.
We must decrease so that like John we can grow strong in the Spirit, until Christ is made manifest in each of us.

Monastic Gregorian Chant " De Pacem Domine "

Saturday, June 23, 2012

St. Cyril of Jerusalem articulated teaching on the Eucharist

The following comes from the CNA:

We live in a time of confusion and controversy over what it means to be a Catholic Christian. Many diverse and dissonant voices tell us that our faith is old-fashioned and out of touch. Especially on matters involving human sexuality and the dignity of human life, Church teaching often is portrayed as repressive or intolerant. At best, our culture tends to regard religious teaching and practice as optional. At worst, those who take their faith seriously are regarded as a threat to ideologies that define the status quo.

It was not so different 1,600 years ago. Controversies raged over the divinity of Christ, about the meaning of the sacraments and over the lifestyles of former pagans who had embraced Christianity and been baptized.

St. Cyril of Jerusalem (315-387) was a bishop who wrote extensively on what it means to be a faithful follower of Jesus Christ in uncertain times. He was not always understood or accepted. He was accused of heresy, and he was exiled three times over the course of 20 years.

We are blessed to have nearly two dozen "catecheses" of St. Cyril of Jerusalem. These contain his reflections on the prerequisites for baptism, conversion from pagan morals, the Sacrament of Baptism, the dogmatic truths contained in the creed, the Body and Blood of Christ and the eucharistic liturgy. All are intended to serve as a form of systematic catechesis in the Christian faith. Taken as a whole, these instructions seek to overcome the controversies of Cyril's time and clear up any confusion about what it means to live an authentic Christian life in the fourth century (and the 21st century as well).

It's fascinating to read what St. Cyril had to say in the early years of Christian history about the principal doctrines of our faith. His writing is clear and uncomplicated and has become a model for all catechisms, including the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

The truths that are the foundations of Church teachings do not change. We may come to understand things better (in a new light), or we can mature in our ability to express what we believe, but as the catecheses of St. Cyril make clear, the teaching we received from the apostles remains constant and unchanging even as new questions and controversies arise to challenge our most cherished beliefs and traditions.

Catholic teaching on the holy Eucharist is an excellent example. What Cyril taught the catechumens, elect and newly baptized in the fourth century is exactly what we teach today. Before the invocation of the Blessed Trinity in the Eucharistic Prayer, the bread and wine are simply bread and wine. But after the celebrant invokes the Trinity, the elements are transformed into the Body and Blood of Christ: "Take this, all of you, and eat it: This is my body which will be given up for you...Take this, all of you, and drink from it: this is the cup of my blood..." The technical term "transubstantiation" was not known in the fourth century. That was a later development -- a fuller understanding -- of the doctrine. But the foundational teaching is clearly articulated by St. Cyril of Jerusalem in his catechetical instruction.

How clearly do we present this teaching today? Is it understood -- in spite of all confusion and controversy -- that the Lord is truly present in the Eucharist? (See Matthew 26:26-28; Mark 14:22-24; Luke 22:19-20; John 6:53-56; 1 Corinthians 11:24-25.) The Real Presence of Christ in the form of bread and wine is one of the most powerful truths of our faith. We should teach this with unqualified clarity and we should meditate on this great mystery in our daily prayers and especially in our adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.

From the very beginning of Christian history, holy men and women have reflected on Christ's presence in the Eucharist and have taught that the sacred transformation that occurs in the eucharistic liturgy is a sign and a cause of the transformation that should occur in the lives of all those who receive this great sacrament of Christ's love.

Let's cut through all the confusion and controversy to the heart of the matter. In the Eucharist, Christ gives Himself to us really and truly. He enters into our world once again and becomes one with us -- body and soul, mind and heart -- in a perfect communion of divine love.

One thing is clear. There can be no greater gift.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Defense of Church requires revival of faith, Archbishop Chaput says

The following comes from the CNA:

While defending their freedom in public life, Catholics must also renew the Church spiritually, starting in their own lives, Philadelphia Archbishop Charles J. Chaput said in a June 20 address to journalists.
“Politics and the courts are important. But our religious freedom ultimately depends on the vividness of our own Christian faith – in other words, how deeply we believe it, and how honestly we live it,” the archbishop told attendees of the 2012 Catholic Media Conference in downtown Indianapolis.

In his remarks to reporters and other Catholic media professionals, the Philadelphia Church leader observed that religious freedom “is an empty shell if the spiritual core of a people is weak.”

“The worst enemies of religious freedom aren’t 'out there' among the legion of critics who hate Christ or the Gospel or the Church, or all three. The worst enemies are in here, with us – all of us, clergy, religious and lay – when we live our faith with tepidness, routine and hypocrisy.”

Archbishop Chaput delivered his address on the eve of the U.S. bishops' “Fortnight for Freedom” campaign of prayer and advocacy, inspired by the HHS contraception mandate and other threats to the free exercise of religion.

His remarks touched on the mandate, along with related areas of concern – including efforts to drive the Church out of adoption and foster care, and the government's attempt to control a religious school's self-governance in the Hosanna-Tabor Supreme Court case.

Such threats, he warned, could push the U.S. in the direction of Canada and Britain, where the Church's freedom of speech and action is already compromised.

The U.S. Constitution would prove to be nothing more than “an elegant piece of paper,” if Catholics and other citizens were not willing to stand up for their rights, he said.

But the Church's most serious challenges, the Philadelphia archbishop observed, are internal and spiritual in nature. He urged the faithful to “look honestly at the arc of Catholic history” in the U.S., as a guide to the deeper problems facing the Church at present.

“American Catholics began as an unwelcome minority,” he recalled. “The Church built her credibility by defending and serving her people. She developed her influence with the resources her people entrusted to her. A vast amount of good was done in the process.”

“But two other things also happened. The Church in the United States became powerful and secure.  And Catholics became less and less invested in the Church that their own parents and grandparents helped to build.”

Success and stability allowed many clergy to fall “out of touch with reality,” while some lay Catholics grew eager “to lose themselves in America’s culture of consumerism and success.”

“These problems kill a Christian love of poverty and zeal. They choke off a real life of faith. They create the shadows that hide institutional and personal sins. And they encourage a paralysis that can burrow itself into every heart and every layer of the Church,” the archbishop reflected.

It is partly due to these problems, he suggested, that his own Archdiocese of Philadelphia “is now really mission territory – again, for the second time.” And so, too, is “much of the Church in the rest of our country.”

The way forward, meanwhile, lies in the rediscovery of Jesus' true person and message – as the basis for a faith that can stand against assaults, both from outside, and from within.

“We live in a world of illusions when we lose sight of who Jesus Christ really is, and what he asks from each of us as disciples,” the archbishop said, pointing out that the “real Jesus” continues to call the faithful to a “life of honesty, heroism and sacrifice.”

Only by obeying this call, will Catholics “become people worthy of” the religious freedom they are called to defend.

“We work best for religious freedom by first opening our hearts to God’s will instead of our own; and loving our country and our Church; and renewing the witness of the Church with the zeal and purity and obedience of our own lives,” Archbishop Chaput said.

“That freedom, that joy, no one can ever take from us.”

Thursday, June 21, 2012


O God our Creator,

Through the power and working of your Holy Spirit,
you call us to live out our faith in the midst of the world,
bringing the light and the saving truth of the Gospel
to every corner of society.
We ask you to bless us
in our vigilance for the gift of religious liberty.
Give us the strength of mind and heart
to readily defend our freedoms when they are threatened;
give us courage in making our voices heard
on behalf of the rights of your Church
and the freedom of conscience of all people of faith.
Grant, we pray, O heavenly Father,
a clear and united voice to all your sons and daughters
gathered in your Church
in this decisive hour in the history of our nation,
so that, with every trial withstood
and every danger overcome—
for the sake of our children, our grandchildren,
and all who come after us—
this great land will always be "one nation, under God,
indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."
We ask this through Christ our Lord.

USCCB Fortnight for Freedom. Litany for Liberty

Christ the Lord has called us out of darkness into His marvelous light.
Let us turn to Him in humble but fervent petition,
seeking the grace to root out from our hearts all trace of darkness,
and all that holds us back
from walking in the full freedom of the children of God.
As Christ is our great Model for that inner freedom,
which enables us to do the right,
let us turn to Him with confidence
that we, too, may follow Him to the fullness of spiritual freedom.

V/. Lord, have mercy; R/. Lord, have mercy.
V/. Christ, have mercy; R/. Christ, have mercy.
V/. Lord, have mercy; R/. Lord, have mercy.
V/. R/.
Jesus, victor over sin and death… Free our hearts.
Jesus, source of light and hope… Free our hearts.
Jesus, fullness of truth and mystery… Free our hearts.
Jesus, teacher of seeking hearts… Free our hearts.
Jesus, healer of body and soul… Free our hearts.
Jesus, bringer of mercy and justice… Free our hearts.
Jesus, who humble the heart and mind… Free our hearts.
Jesus, release of captives… Free our hearts.
Jesus, voice against violence… Free our hearts.
Jesus, courage for the lowly/downtrodden… Free our hearts.
Jesus, origin of all authority and power… Free our hearts.
Jesus, true lawgiver… Free our hearts.
Jesus, unity of order and passion… Free our hearts.
Jesus, freedom of the Spirit… Free our hearts.
Jesus, obedient Son of the Father… Free our hearts.
V/. R/.
For the freedom to love… Give us your grace.
For the freedom to believe… Give us your grace.
For the freedom to hope… Give us your grace.
For the freedom to worship… Give us your grace.
For the freedom to serve in charity… Give us your grace.
For the freedom to care for the suffering… Give us your grace.
For the freedom to comfort the sick… Give us your grace.
For the freedom to feed the hungry… Give us your grace.
For the freedom to shelter the homeless… Give us your grace.
For the freedom to proclaim the Gospel… Give us your grace.
For the freedom to walk in chastity… Give us your grace.
For the freedom to live in peace… Give us your grace.
For the freedom to work in good conscience… Give us your grace.
For the freedom to stand in solidarity… Give us your grace.
For the freedom to seek justice… Give us your grace.
V/. R/.
For the freedom to reject sin… Give us your grace.
For the freedom to reject coercion… Give us your grace.
For the freedom to reject falsehood… Give us your grace.
For the freedom to reject evil temptations… Give us your grace.
For the freedom to reject injustice… Give us your grace.

O God, who gave one origin to all peoples
and willed to gather from them one family for Yourself,
fill all hearts, we pray, with the fire of Your Love
and kindle in them a desire
for the just advancement of their neighbor,
that, through the good things which You richly bestow upon all,
each human person may be brought to perfection,
every division may be removed,
and equity and justice may be established in human society.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son,
who lives and reigns with You in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God for ever and ever.
R/. Amen.

Fortnight for Freedom

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Traveling Song by The Avett Brothers

"For Greater Glory": A movie review by Fr. Robert Barron

The following comes from the CNA:

The new feature film “For Greater Glory” tells the story of the Mexican Cristero war, which broke out in the 1920’s when the secularist government, under the leadership of President Plutarco Elias Calles, decided to enforce the strict anti-clerical laws embedded in the Mexican constitution of 1917. All religious ceremonies – Masses, baptisms, confirmations, weddings, etc. – were banned, bishops were forced to leave the country, and priests were forbidden to wear clerical garb in public. Priests who resisted were imprisoned, tortured, and in some cases, killed outright. One of the most affective scenes in the film is the execution of Padre Christopher, an old priest played by the great Peter O’Toole. As the federales arrived in his small town, the priest refused to hide or flee. Instead, he sat quietly in his church, robed in Mass vestments, and accepted his fate as an act of witness. Others also resolved to resist through nonviolent means, most notably Anacleto Gonzalez Flores (played by Eduardo Verastegui), a magazine editor and activist, who rallied Mexican youth through his speeches and writings.

But given the intensity and violence of the attack on Catholicism – which Graham Greene called the most thorough persecution of a religion since the time of Elizabeth I – it was practically inevitable that an armed resistance would emerge. The bulk of “For Greater Glory” concerns this “Cristero” rebellion, which began with small and disorganized bands of guerilla fighters, but grew, under the leadership of General Enrique Gorostieta (Andy Garcia), into an efficient military operation. The emotional heart of the film is the relationship between the General and a 14-year-old boy named Jose, who had been a friend of Padre Christopher and witnessed the priest’s murder. Despite his youth, Jose joined the Cristero army, serving as standard-bearer and aide-de-camp to Gorostieta. In the course of a particularly brutal battle, Jose was captured by the federales, who then tortured him mercilessly, hoping to compel him to renounce the ideals of the Cristeros and accept the decisions of the government. Even in the face of this horrendous attack, Jose refused to give in, stubbornly repeating the motto of the resistance: Viva el Cristo Rey! (Long live Christ the King).

I won't give away any more of the story, but I would like to reflect on that motto, which is heard throughout the film on the lips of dozens of characters. Viva Cristo Rey! is the hinge on which this entire Cristero episode turns and is, indeed, the central teaching of the New Testament. The great Scriptural scholar N.T. Wright has argued that the four Gospels are fundamentally the story of how Yahweh, the God of Israel, through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth, established himself as king. On the Biblical reading, the world had long been governed by various “kings” who ruled through violence and cruelty: Pharaoh, the Amalekites, the Philistines, the Assyrians, the Babylonians, the Greeks and the Romans. But Yahweh had promised that one day, through his anointed servant, he would deal with these tyrants, and would himself come to shepherd and to reign. It is of enormous significance that when Jesus first appeared as a preacher in the hills of Galilee, his theme was “the kingdom of God is at hand!” In other words, in his own person; an entirely new way of ordering things is on offer. Then, in his love and non-violence, in his open-table fellowship, in his outreach to prostitutes and tax collectors, in his mocking of the Pharisees and religious establishment, in his healing and teaching, Jesus was demonstrating precisely what the reign of the God of Israel looks like.

This way of life inevitably awakened the opposition of the powers that be. At the climax of his ministry, Jesus faced down the resistance of “the world,” to use the typical New Testament term, meaning that whole congeries of cruelty, betrayal, denial, violence, corruption, and hatred by which human affairs are typically ordered. He permitted all of that darkness to wash over him, to crush him and snuff him out. But then, on the third day, he rose again from the dead in the power of the Holy Spirit and thereby outflanked, out-maneuvered and swallowed up the darkness. In a delicious irony, it was Pontius Pilate who anticipated the significance of this victory over the cross of Jesus, the Roman governor had placed a sign written in the three great languages of that time and place, which read “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.” In the light of the resurrection, the first Christians knew that, in Jesus, the God of Israel had become king, and that the world was now under new management. They saw their mission as the declaration of that kingship to everyone. This did not imply at all that they were advocating “theocracy” in the crude sense. (Indeed, both Peter and Paul urge their readers to show deference to the properly instituted Roman authority.) But they were insisting that Jesus is the one to whom final allegiance is due and that he is more powerful than any of the “kings,” – political, economic, military or cultural who tend to dominate human affairs. They reveled in the fact that Jesus’ kingly power was exercised, not through violence and domination, but through the non-violence of the cross. They gladly announced to anyone who would listen that the true king wore a crown of thorns and reigned from a throne that was a Roman instrument of torture.

At the very close of “For Greater Glory,” we see a listing of those figures from the film that the Catholic Church beatified or canonized as saints. Without exception, they were those who chose the path of non-violent resistance. As I said, I certainly understand why an armed rebellion sprang up in the Mexico of that time, and I wouldn't dream of questioning the motives of those who participated in it. But I would indeed say that those who advocate the kingship of Jesus should fight the way he did: invading the darkness by light and swallowing up hatred through love. Viva Cristo Rey!