Saturday, February 28, 2009

The Nativity of the Virgin Mary

Many days passed before God finally completed the masterpiece of His creation. For nine months, the soul of Mary had given form to her virginal body, and the hour of her happy birth approached.


Saint Anne and the Blessed Virgin Mary as Child.

As the suffocating Palestinian summer neared its end, the mellowing sun poured abundant torrents of golden light on the opulent plain of Samaria, ripening the rich orchards of autumn fruit. On a magnificent September day, with nature adorned in radiant beauty, the most Holy Virgin came into the world in the white-walled city of Nazareth.

She was probably born in the same house where the great mystery of the Incarnation later took place and where Jesus spent most of His childhood and youth in work and prayer. The angels did not acclaim the coming of the glorious Queen with hymns of joy as they later did the birth of the Savior. Invisible to the eyes of mortal men, the angels considered it an honor to mount guard around the humble crib over which Saints Joachim and Anne lovingly watched. The prophecy of Isaias had come to pass. The root of Jesse, ten centuries removed, had sprouted a new branch. On this same branch in but a few years more would blossom the eternal Flower, the Incarnate Word.

Her divine Son would soon appear representing a new dawn of hope upon a world plunged for four thousand years into the darkness of pain and death.

The day the Queen of Heaven was born ranks as one of the most beautiful in history since it announced to condemned mankind the long-awaited time of liberation. In commemorating this great event, the Church bursts forth in its enthusiasm: “Thy nativity, O Virgin Mother of God,” sings the Church in its liturgy, “has announced joy to the whole world”—Nativitas tua, Dei Genitrix Virgo, gaudium annuntiavit universo mundo.[9]

Indeed, we seem to forget in what horrible distress the world lay prostrate before the coming of Christ.

The sin of our first parents had borne the fruit of death. Until the coming of the Savior, the curse of the Almighty lay heavily upon sinful humanity. Adam had eaten of the forbidden fruit in the wild hope of becoming like God. With terrible irony, God stripped him of his magnificent privileges and reduced him to extreme misery. Thus, the ancient world was founded upon oppression of the weak and disregard for human dignity. The greater part of mankind was subject to the torments of slavery. Even Rome, the proud bearer of civilization, considered the multitude of its slaves as but an immense herd destined for slaughter. Indeed, masters had the power to send their slaves to their deaths solely to amuse themselves. The refined patricians of the Imperial City would sometimes use these poor souls as fodder for the salt-water eels they raised. Nothing satisfied their gluttony more than these delicious marine eels, fattened on human blood.

The distress of souls was even more acute. Adam had supposed that he could do without God. He unappreciatively spurned his Sovereign Benefactor. God, in return, withdrew from His creature. He did not abandon mankind altogether, however, but spoke to him at rare intervals, announcing the future coming of a virgin who would crush the head of the serpent under her immaculate heel. He raised up prophets from among the people, yet He hid Himself within His inaccessible light.

Moreover, the Lord had not allowed the source of grace to cease entirely. He did not refuse His pardon to the repentant sinner, granting it under the sole condition of a perfect contrition. Even so, amid the temptations of the flesh and deprived of the abundant spiritual help now available to us, the weakest souls fell by the thousands into the infernal pit.

Poor men of ancient times! They keenly sensed their weakness and vulnerability, and they searched in intense anguish for some way to gain supernatural assistance in their necessity. God, a spiritual Being, escapes man’s rude senses, so men made idols in which to place their utmost hope. Alas, these statues were deaf and did not hear the heartrending cries arising from forty centuries of distress.

Yet, this terrible nightmare wherein mankind struggles dissipates like a dense nocturnal fog before the sweet morning light. The quadrant of eternity marks the hour of its infinite mercy. The birth of Mary begins the work of Redemption. In her crib, the mother of the Savior illuminates the desolate earth with the grace of her first smiles. Jesus will soon appear and, with His precious blood, will erase the sentence of our condemnation. The world which has suffered so, will finally delight in the joy of liberty and peace. Slavery will everywhere be abolished, and human dignity will henceforth be respected. Like a flowing stream, graces will spring forth in abundance from the sacraments. We have but to approach and draw from them—without limit—pardon, courage, and life everlasting.

The God who hid in Paradise will descend to earth and never abandon mankind. After His Ascension, Our Lord will remain among us under the Eucharistic veil until the end of time, when the Real Presence will leave the destroyed tabernacles. Christ will then visibly reign over the glorious souls of the resurrected elect. Such are the great joys the birth of Mary announces. “Thy nativity, O Virgin Mother of God has announced joy to the whole world.”

The birth of the Blessed Virgin was, then, one of the foremost events of history. Let us now examine how the birth was received and draw lessons from this meditation that will benefit our interior lives. The holy Fathers of the Church express the impact of the birth of the Immaculate Virgin on the invisible world by describing the heavens overwhelmed with wondrous admiration. The angels were at a loss to find adequate praises for acclaiming the adorable Trinity for having created her who was the beloved Daughter of the Father, and who would become the Mother of the Word Incarnate and the Spouse of the Holy Ghost. Nor did they weary of admiring the beauties of their queen. The blessed spirits, who rejoice at the conversion of a single soul, rejoiced upon seeing the appearance of the sure Refuge of sinners. They knew that Mary would one day be the Gate of Heaven who would never refuse entry into the eternal kingdom to those who invoked her with confidence. The Fathers also note the immense sigh of relief of the just in limbo, those who had died since the beginnings of the world, as well as the furor of the demons in Hell, who saw the approaching end of their tyrannical reign.

How was the birth of Mary, which delighted heaven and terrified the fallen angels, received on earth? The birth of Saint John the Baptist several years later was accompanied by miracles that vividly impressed the popular imagination. The inhabitants of Judea asked themselves with admiration: “What will become of this child whose arrival in this world is hailed by so many prodigies? What, then, will this child be?”[10] The sublime mission of Mary far surpassed that of the Precursor. Yet, nothing extraordinary indicated to the multitudes that she who was promised to sinful man immediately after the fall and whom the prophets had announced throughout the centuries was born. In fact, the Immaculate Virgin was born amid universal indifference.

According to certain traditions, no one in the small town of Nazareth where Saints Joachim and Anne lived paid heed to the new arrival. Although the blood of David flowed in her veins, her family had fallen from its ancient splendor. Who noticed these impoverished people?

Anne and Joachim had been childless for many years, but the Lord had at last answered their prayers. They saw their daughter Mary as the measure of His celestial goodness to them. Little did they suspect, however, the veritable treasures the Most High had instilled in the soul of their child. They could not have imagined the wonder of her Immaculate Conception. They did not realize that the Mother of the Redeemer lay in their loving arms.

The Jews of the time were plunged in discouragement. The voice of the prophets had not been heard for years. Having lost their political freedom, they believed Providence had abandoned them. It was then that the hidden work of infinite Mercy began to be accomplished in their midst.

These facts speak for themselves and teach us an obvious lesson. Would that the obscurity of Our Lady’s birth teach us to make little of human greatness! Let us keep a Christian perspective of indifference toward the fleeting vanities that Christ Himself shunned in His Mother’s birth. Were these important, surely He would not have refused them to His mother.

This great mystery also teaches us never to lose heart. The Immaculate Mother came into the world at a time when the Jews had lost hope. Indeed, they thought all was lost. Let us reap the benefit of this lesson. We often become discouraged when, calling on heaven to assist us, our request is not immediately granted. Sometimes God waits until we are on the brink of the abyss before extending His hand of mercy. So, let us not become discouraged and cease praying! The Almighty will intervene at the very moment when we believe ourselves completely abandoned. If we have confidence—an unlimited supply of confidence—we will be greatly rewarded!

Saint Thomas of Villanova explained in a sermon that Mary is the heavenly dawn, not only for the world, but especially for each individual soul. He recalled the great truth taught by Catholic tradition that a soul imbued with devotion to the Blessed Virgin carries within it the sign of predestination. Do you firmly desire to be saved from final damnation? Then faithfully honor Mary. Do you wish to guarantee the salvation of those who are dear to you? Obtain from them the promise that they not fail to recite some prayer to Mary every day. Catholic Tradition states that a servant of Our Lady cannot perish: Servus Mariae non peribit. He will forever sing the mercy of Jesus and of His holy Mother.

"10 Reasons Why Abortion Is Evil"

1. Abortion Offends God
Abortion is never a mere personal choice but a grave offense against God and His creation. The anti-abortion struggle has always been a religious battle and foremost in its ranks have been Catholics across the country. This is because Church teaching on abortion is clear and unequivocal: Abortion is murder. There are no exceptions allowed, no compromises possible.

2. The Unnoticed War
The continuing war on terror has lead to a renewed national consciousness of the high price of war, and, for many, a heightened desire for peace. Yet, despite all this concern, the most horrible war of all has gone all but unnoticed. This is a war going on within our own borders, and it has claimed 42 million American lives in the last 31 years.

This scourge is as horrible as anything terrorists can fathom, because it strikes at the very core of humanity and our country: the family. By destroying the most basic human bond of all—that between mother and child—abortion dissolves the precious glue that binds our nation together.

While mother and child are the first victims, there is not a single element of society that is not affected by abortion. Mother, child, father, husband, aunt, uncle, friend, sibling and grandparent alike suffer the scars of the abortionist’s scalpel. Peace abroad is meaningless without peace at home.

3. Life starts at the moment of conception
This is the definition given in any respectable medical textbook. To declare a beginning of life at any point after the fusing of a wife’s egg and a husband’s contribution is irrational and an exercise in sophistical chicanery. Only machines such as clocks and cars come into existence part by part. Living beings come into existence all at once and gradually unfold their world of innate potential. A living human begins to exist at the moment of conception, even though only as a cell. What is important is not the accident of size or weight but the essence – which is fully human. The unborn baby has a distinct, unchanging and unrepeatable genetic code, unique in all of history, from the moment of conception till death. Nothing is added except nutrition and oxygen.1

4. Mankind must protect life whenever possible
The first and foremost instinct of humans is preservation of life. This begins with self-preservation, and extends to all humanity through domestic bonds and realization of a like nature. "Pregnancy termination" stops the beating heart of a growing human being and is in direct contradiction to this most basic premise of human nature. It forsakes natural law, and has left America as a country unable to repopulate itself without the aid of mass immigration.

5. Abortion is an unsafe procedure
Compared with other medical procedures, the abortion industry is largely unregulated. Although there are no exact statistics for the number of women who die from botched procedures, compiled a list of 347 women killed by legal abortions since 1973.2 Furthermore, according to the National Cancer Institute, an induced abortion raises a woman's chance of getting cancer before age 45, by 50%. If the abortion is performed after age 30, it increases 110%; if before age 18, it goes up 150%.

The Coalition on Abortion/Breast Cancer reports: "28 out of 37 worldwide studies have independently linked induced abortion with breast cancer. Thirteen out of fifteen studies conducted on American women report increased risk. Seventeen studies are statistically significant, sixteen of which found increased risk. Most of the studies have been conducted by abortion supporters."3

6. Embryonic stem-cell and human cloning research: a biogenetic Tower of Babel
In a cynical but logical progression, the culture of death is now bent on engendering human life so as to destroy it. Its new frontier is embryonic stem-cell and human cloning research. In the name of science and health, human life is destroyed at its very inception and "limited" cloning is used to produce usable cells that can be manipulated and harvested to aid the living. In short, the remaining ethical barriers that preserve human dignity and God's rights in Creation are steadily coming down. The biotech revolution has as its avowed goal not just curing disease but the construction of a "brave new world" of genetic engineering, changing the very makeup and design of man himself. We cannot permit the completion of this challenge to God, a new Tower of Babel, which will be like another Pandora's box, unleashing untold ethical and moral havoc on our nation.

7. Breaking the abortion cycle
Abortion is evil because it created a horrific abortion cycle that perpetuates this sin. The abortion mentality destroys the family by making it more difficult for new Americans who survive beyond the womb to find the family welded together by the indissoluble bond of marriage solely between a man and a woman. Children need families that will nurture them, guard their innocence and develop their personalities. In particular, all children must find within their homes the Faith that enables them to know, love and serve God in this world and be happy with Him forever in the next. As long as the traditional family remains in crisis, we will never sever the power lines that supply the abortion mills. As long as the Faith remains dead in souls, we will never wipe out the moral rot of sexual immorality, which is the contaminated soil where the abortion movement grows and flourishes.

8. Roe v. Wade: 31 Years of Lies
The 31st anniversary of the Supreme Court’s infamous Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion-on-demand calls to mind the biggest pack of lies ever set in motion - lies that have cost the lives of more than 42 million innocent babies cruelly torn from their mothers' wombs. How can such slaughter, numerically on par with Hitler's Germany or Stalin’s Russia, be tolerated by the present United States of America, a republic purportedly based on moral values and human rights?

9. Addressing an abortionist
Once you were an enchanting child, as all babies are. Today you are an abortionist, a killer of babies. Do you not regret your wicked deeds? Do you not see the innocent blood of our children that stains your hands and cries out to God? Have you no shame as did our first parents when they sinned against God? Why do you not turn to Him today, seek His forgiveness and His strength never again to murder the innocent? Would you not rather bring children into the world than destroy them? Children you could raise with respect for life to take the place of those you robbed from God?

10. The dangerous slippery slope
Yesterday it was contraception. Today it's abortion, the murder of unborn children, and same-sex "marriage." Will it be euthanasia tomorrow? Then what...? Once abortion is universally accepted, what logical arguments will stop euthanasia and other forms of murder?

Other helpful tidbits
- The unborn baby"s heart starts beating at 20 days4 and the brain gives off brainwaves at 40 days.5 If these factors are used by the law to determine death, why can't they be used to determine life?
- Babies can survive outside the womb at 21 weeks.6
- By 14 weeks, the entire body surface, except the back and top of the head, are sensitive to pain.7
- The embryo is not a blueprint that becomes a human being, any more than a paper blueprint becomes a house.8

Note: Geoffrey Mull and James Bascom contributed to this compilation.

"Jesus, Mary, Get Me There!"

The True Story of an American War Hero

Colonel John W. Ripley

When a society no longer respects and honors the fighting men willing to shed their blood for its principles, the fault lies not with the fighting men but with society itself. 

I post this article about Col. John Ripley who passed away last year, in gratitude for his heroic service to the country and to his example as a model Catholic fighting man.

Ingratitude is a subtle vice, but a vice nevertheless. Saint Thomas Aquinas says that a debt of gratitude is a moral debt required by virtue. In recent decades, the American view of moral justice has been sadly lacking.

Civil society has not always been so callous. Ever since the rise of Christian culture, Christendom has held its warrior-knights in high esteem. Not only that, they were a basic, creative force that molded Western civilization, as a study of the Crusades will attest.

A knight of the Middle Ages went to war in a spirit of self-immolation for the glorification of the Church or the common good of temporal society.

Through the centuries, the admiration and appreciation for the fighting man survived a series of revolutionary and philosophical setbacks that severely affected Christendom; that is, until the arrival of communism. As the latter evil gained in influence, a commensurate decline in the will to fight followed. Time and again, the communists won victories because sufficient support from the printed page and the movie and television screens had effectively disarmed the American and Western fighting spirit.

Yet the Pattons and MacArthurs of the world continue to step forward, ready to face death rather than betray the ancient ideals of the warrior. The following story represents our part in honoring that crusading spirit.


At the end of World War II, the United States and its allies began a series of appeasements to communism that virtually insured more armed conflict. In China a civil war broke out between the communists and the government of China under Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek, who had been our staunch ally against the Japanese. Under the guise of unity, the United States insisted that the communists be brought into the government. When Chiang refused, George C. Marshall, initially ambassador to China, then secretary of state, cut off all aid to him despite the fact that the communists were being amply supplied by the Russians. As a result, the communists took over all of China.

This proved to be disastrous for future Pacific engagements, for the Reds now had a large reservoir of trained, well-armed men to draw upon. As a result of World War II treaties, Korea was divided between the communist North and the American-supported South. In 1950 the North Korean Army stormed over the border and was on the verge of throwing all Free World troops into the sea when General Douglas MacArthur personally took charge. In a brilliant and carefully concealed maneuver, he made a surprise amphibious landing at the port of Inchon under extremely difficult circumstances and eventually drove the North Koreans all the way to China. When the Chinese communists moved into position to counterattack, MacArthur was flatly told not to make any bombing runs against their staging areas or in any way hinder their lines of supply and communication. President Truman subsequently fired the "Old Soldier" for publicly declaring that in warfare there is no substitute for victory. His replacement was succeeded by General Mark Clark, who signed an armistice in 1953 with the original borders restored. General Clark lamented that he was the first United States Army commander in history to sign an armistice without victory.

During the early 1960s, the communists moved against South Vietnam, which was also divided between the communist North and the anticommunist South. The scenario was roughly the same. By March 1969, the United States had a troop strength in South Vietnam of 541,500. At no time did the American forces make any determined effort to destroy the enemy's capacity for making war. When Richard Nixon entered the White House in January of 1969, he was principally concerned with withdrawing American troops and getting North Vietnam to the peace table. North Vietnam was principally concerned with crushing its enemy.

In studying the peace negotiations of this period, one could easily be lulled into accepting the sophism that to save lives was worth a compromise with the communists. That may seem reasonable only when we forget the famous and oft-quoted warning of Pius XI: "We cannot contemplate without sorrow the heedlessness of those who seem to make light of these imminent dangers, and with solid indifference allow the propagation far and wide of those doctrines that seek by violence and bloodshed the destruction of all society." The enemies of Christendom never stop; they continue to forge ahead peacefully or otherwise. During the Easter Offensive in 1972, Colonel (at the time Captain) John Ripley and the Third Vietnamese Marine Battalion decided to step into the process and bar the way.

The Attack

By the Spring of 1972, the North Vietnamese Army (NVA) had completed its buildup and was ready to mount a largescale attack on South Vietnam. As part of the assault, two infantry divisions, 30,000 soldiers with tanks and artillery support, began to cross the boundary between the two countries and attack south along Highway 1, the main north-south artery. They would first have to seize a highway bridge over the major water obstacle, the Cua Viet River just north of the town Dong Ha. Only the Third South Vietnamese Marine Battalion was in a position to block the critical avenue of attack and buy some valuable time. To the 700-man battalion was entrusted the awesome task of stopping, or at least hindering, 30,000 North Vietnamese.

Colonel Ripley in Vietnam, 1972

The small number of remaining Americans now in ground combat were assigned to South Vietnamese units as advisers. Few men were better qualified to provide assistance in this nearly impossible assignment than Captain John Ripley of Radford, Virginia. A graduate of the Naval Academy at Annapolis, he led a rifle company through a year of intense combat in 1967. Ripley then served an exchange tour with the British Royal Marines. After returning to U.S. forces, he graduated from both the Army's Airborne and Ranger schools and trained with the Navy's frog men in underwater demolition teams.

Having trained in four elite units, Ripley now joined one of the finest units in the Vietnamese Marine Corps, itself an elite division. Major Le Ba Binh commanded the Third Battalion and had a record every bit as impressive as his American adviser. Wounded on a dozen occasions and decorated many times, he was noted for leading his men from the front as would be expected from a member of the aristocratic warrior class.

The Third Battalion was composed of four rifle companies. Two of them and Captain Ripley spent the night before Easter Sunday at an abandoned combat base just west of Dong Ha. The NVA knew they were there, for they pounded the compound all night long with heavy artillery fire. The rounds came screaming in four or five a minute. The Vietnamese got little sleep; Ripley none.

As the day dawned with an overcast sky, Ripley went out and examined the shell craters. The artillery fire was being directed away from the camp toward Dong Ha. He called his radio man to give a report to his own headquarters. Nha, the young baby-faced Vietnamese, approached with long-range whip antenna waving back and forth. In the months they had fought together, the two had become inseparable. Neither knew the other' s language well, but facial expressions and a common danger made words unnecessary. By that time Nha could read Ripley's mind.

Ripley grabbed the handset. Headquarters relayed the orders, "Fall back on Dong Ha and defend the bridge. I'll give you more information when I can." Binh's bodyguard, a powerfully built, rough individual who was known as "Three-fingered Jack," appeared and told Ripley that Binh wanted him at his command post. Jack was one of those quiet, alert veterans that command respect, a fearful enemy and a welcome ally.

Binh had decided to deploy the two immediately available companies along the south bank of the Cua Viet River. One company would cover the main bridge used by the north-south traffic along Highway 1. It had been built by the Sea Bees five years earlier to carry the heaviest American weapons and equipment, including tanks. The other company would cover a much older bridge just upstream that could only carry light equipment. Binh told his Marines to dig their holes deep. There would be no fall back positions. They had to hold the riverbank.

The two companies formed a column with Binh and Ripley leading the way and headed for the bridge. Another radio message warned, "No time for questions, expect enemy tanks. Out." When they reached Highway 9, which ran along the south riverbank and intersected with Highway 1 at Dong Ha, it was clogged with thousands of refugees and, what was worse, deserters by the hundreds. All of them had only one thought in mind: to get as far away as quickly as possible.

Binh's radio contact informed him that the rest of his battalion plus a regular Army of The Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) tank battalion of about 40 tanks would rendezvous with them one mile west of the town. The medium tanks would be somewhat outgunned by the heavier Soviet T-54s, but they were certainly better than no tank support at all. The tank battalion commander, an ARVN lieutenant colonel, was waiting at the rendezvous point with his American adviser, Major James Smock. The former was less than enthusiastic about staying around and required constant urging to cooperate.

Nha approached Ripley. It was headquarters again: "Our outposts can hear the tanks coming. They are traveling in the scrub terrain just off the roadway, but sooner or later they are going to have to get back on Highway 1 to cross the bridge."

"Don't we have any air up, to tell how many?" Ripley asked.

"None yet. Low ceiling."

"Come on. We must have a thousand feet here."

"Believe me, pal, we are doing all we can. Every fire base up there is catching it and some have gone under. You have to hold the bridge and you have to do it alone. There is nothing here to back you up with."

Ripley's American adviser contact continued to give him bad news. Practically all resistance north of the bridge had been wiped out, which was probably the source of the ARVN deserters clogging the road along with the refugees. Then came the final blow: "We finally got a spotter plane in the air. They have tanks and armored personnel carriers stretched along Highway 1 for miles. Must be at least two hundred."

Ripley shouted back, "We can't stop that many. We have to blow the bridge at Dong Ha." At first his superior on the radio hesitated. The top brass back in Saigon wanted to save the bridge. In the end, Ripley's logic prevailed. A weary voice responded: "You are right. We can't authorize it, but you have to blow that bridge. Get moving that way and we will send some demo up to you."

As they approached Dong Ha, they saw the results of the destructive firepower of the enemy's heavy artillery. Corpses lay dismembered and forgotten along the roadside. Dead livestock and overturned carts were strewn in all directions. Then the artillery started again, countless guns firing together and shells exploding all over the town but only the town. It was being blasted off the map. Everything came to a halt along the highway.

The tank column could not go forward and it could not stay where it was. They backed off to the west and swung around to the southeast and entered what was left of the town from the south. The shelling alternately intensified and then thinned out. At the outskirts, the tank commander refused to go any further but after more arguments agreed to let two tanks accompany the dynamiters. As a parting remark, Binh told Ripley to send a message to his superiors: "There are Vietnamese Marines in Dong Ha. We will fight in Dong Ha. We will die in Dong Ha. As long as one Marine draws a breath of life, Dong Ha will belong to us." A hundred yards from the south end of the bridge, Ripley, Smock and Nha prepared to go on alone.

Colonel Ripley under the bridge (Detail of a diorama at the U.S. Naval Adademy, Annapolis)

The Bridge

Captain Ripley studied the bridge through his binoculars. It was built simply but massively. The bridge's basic strength lay in its steel I-beam girders that held up the superstructure. They ran longitudinally, that is, in the direction that the traffic would flow. Each girder stood three feet high, and the flanges extended three to four inches on either side of the vertical member. There were six of them across with about three feet between them. With all that steel, Ripley thought to himself, the Sea Bees could have built a battleship.

These hundred-foot long girders sat on top of massive, steel-reinforced concrete piers (intermediate supports) that rose 20 or 30 feet out of the river. At both sides of the river, the hundred-foot spans connected with the abutments (end supports). In thickness, the piers ran between five and six feet. They would easily have withstood any explosive power then available. The trick was to set the explosives in such a way as to knock one set of girders off the piers, thus dropping a hundred-foot span into the river - no small task but possible by a soldier with the proper training. Fortunately, Captain Ripley had received the necessary training at Ranger School.

Ripley surveyed the scene directly in front of him. Along the near river bank, two companies of Binh's Marines were dug in. Across the river on the north side, there had to be thousands of NVA troops infesting the area. Halfway down his slope, sat a bunker built up with sand bags left over from some previous battle.

The three stood up and made a dash for the bunker. As they ran, the fire from the north side increased in intensity and accuracy. They dove for the bunker just in time. Several shots thudded into the sand bags right in front of them. Ripley decided to leave Nha here, where he could make reports to headquarters just as easily, and not expose him to any more danger than necessary.

The girders of the Dong Ha bridge were three feet high and about three feet apart.

He then attracted the attention of a squad leader at the river bank. Through sign language, he asked him to provide cover for the last leg of the journey to the bridge abutment. In a short period of time, Binh's Marines had a steady base of fire hitting NVA positions on the north bank.

The two officers broke from cover and ran straight for the bridge. Again the fire increased as they neared their objective. A heavy, tank machine gun kicked a spray of dirt in front of them. Ripley drove himself harder and harder. When he safely reached the bridge abutment, he almost collapsed from the exertion. He wondered how much longer he would have to keep going.

The Demolition

The explosives were waiting for them, about a dozen pine boxes and an equal number of canvas haversacks. Ripley read the stencil on the three-foot boxes: DEMOLITION-TNT. Each box contained 150 blocks that looked like gray industrial soap. The haversacks contained plastic explosives to be used in conjunction with the TNT.

Ripley decided to cut the girders loose at the first pier, a hundred feet from the abutment. His problems began immediately. The Sea Bees, to prevent sabotage to the under section of the bridge had constructed a chain-link fence on the river side of the abutment topped with three coils of razor wire. Ripley had to crawl over the razor wire.

He chose to work on the downstream side of the bridge. Most of the infantrymen on both banks had dug in upstream, where they had more open space. The Marine captain climbed the fence and grabbed the bottom flanges of the I-beam. He then swung his feet up and hooked his feet on the flange.

He began to inch himself along the beam. His legs took a beating. The razor wire sliced numerous cuts into his legs which bled profusely. Through the wire he went. He was sweating heavily. The sweat rolled into his cuts and they began to burn. At last, he was through the wire.

With 90 feet to go, Ripley let his feet drop free and proceeded by hand-walking down the girder, swinging forward hand to hand. Arriving at the pier, he made an attempt to catapult himself up into the space between the outboard girder and the next one upstream. His legs would not cooperate. His energy was gone. Hanging only from his hands, they began to ache. Either he flipped up between the two beams soon or he would fall into the river. Once again; he almost made it that time. On the third try the heels caught the flanges. Then he twisted around until his body was spread-eagled between the two beams. He set the two haversacks of satchel charges and crawled on his elbows and knees back to Major Smock and the fence.

The major passed the first two boxes of TNT and two more haversacks through the razor wire, which cut the major's hands and arms. Spread-eagled between the two girders, Ripley placed the boxes on the flanges and dragged the load, which weighed more than 180 pounds, back to the pier, where he set the charges to the first boxes of explosives.

Once more he dropped down, holding onto the bottom flanges with only his hands. Swing back and forth, build momentum, leap, grab, catch the heels and then muscle into the channel opening between the next two girders. When his legs and lower body fell below the beams, the communist riflemen fired up into the steel girders, with rounds ricocheting all over. Nothing hit him. Once up into the channel he was safe.

For the next two hours, Ripley worked his way back and forth setting the charges. When he finished, he crawled back through the razor wire, dropped to the ground and lay there for a while gasping for breath. Yet he had only accomplished the first part of the heroic undertaking. The exhausted Marine had to go out there again and set the detonators.

Ripley would have preferred to use electrical blasting caps and wire, but none were to be found, only the old-fashioned percussion caps and primer cord. To make things more difficult, they could not find any crimpers. Ripley had to crimp the caps onto the cord with his teeth. Since the shiny cylinders would explode if gripped too hard in the wrong place, a slight miscalculation would blow his skull apart. He remembered that back in Ranger School an instructor had placed a detonator inside a softball and set it off. The explosion blew the cover, stuffing and string all over the place.

Carefully he placed the cap into his mouth, open end out and put the primer cord in the open end. He slowly bit down. It worked. The second time would be easier, but he had to fight off overconfidence, so he remembered the softball. Now the Marine captain was ready to go back out again.

This time the enemy was waiting for him. He crawled through the razor wire and dropped below the girder. The communists immediately opened fire, far heavier than before with hundreds of rounds bouncing off the girders. Over and over, he prayed to Our Lord Jesus Christ and His Blessed Mother, "Jesus and Mary, get me there! Jesus and Mary, get me there..."

Just as he reached the upstream box of TNT, a tank shell hit the girder about two feet away. The angle was too flat and it bounced off and exploded on the south bank with a violent crash. The vibrations almost knocked him into the river. He set the detonator into the plastic explosive and lit the other end of the cord with a match. He had measured enough cord to allow about thirty minutes.

The girders of the Dong Ha bridge were three feet high and about three feet apart.

Ripley worked his way over to the downstream side and repeated the process and then hand-walked back to the fence. He realized that he had exceeded all normal human endurance, so again turned to God and His Mother: "Jesus and Mary, get me there! Jesus and Mary, get me there..." He climbed back through the razor wire once more and fell to the ground near the abutment in a bloody heap. He was so tired that he could hardly lift his arm.

The major tapped him on the back. "Look what I found. But you won't need them now." He pointed to a box of electrical detonators. Ripley looked at the caps and realized that he had to go through the ordeal under the bridge once again. He had always been taught to rig up a backup charge if one was available, At this point, the substance of a man takes over. His moral integrity triumphs. In fact, throughout the entire ordeal, it was the guiding principle. So he returned again simply because to do the job right demanded it.

While Ripley was again risking his life crawling around underneath the Dong Ha Bridge setting up the backup charges, Smock ran a couple of boxes of TNT down to the smaller bridge and ran back again. Ripley had completed the wiring and lay on the ground next to the abutment, too tired to move. Painfully, he pulled himself up and, with a roll of detonating wire hung over his shoulder, staggered along with Smock back to the bunker where Nha was waiting. The South Vietnamese Marines unleashed a barrage of fire to cover them, yelling encouragement as they went, "Dau-uy Dien! Dau- uy Dien!" (Captain Crazy! Captain Crazy!)

At the bunker Ripley was glad to be reunited with Nha. He looked around for a way to trigger the explosion since they had no blasting box. Nearby was a burned-out truck, but the battery appeared to be in good condition. Ripley tried several combinations to set off the explosives. Nothing worked. The terrible thought of failure came over him.

The captain would have to warn headquarters to give time to others to regroup farther south. He would stay with the Third Marine Battalion. Binh would never pull back. He had already made that clear. The battle-scarred warrior would die at his post with no forethought of death. From across the river, Ripley heard the tanks starting up. The massive assault was ready to begin.

Then the bridge blew. The shock waves came before the noise. The noise arrived, growing louder and louder in a series of explosions that became one huge roar. The entire hundred- foot span dropped into the river, leaving a huge gap in the bridge. The time fuses had done their job after all.

The Aftermath

The battle continued to rage around Dong Ha for days after, but the overwhelming forces of the NVA soon began to wear out the defenders. Most areas in the north and south had crumbled. A large group of communists were pressing down on Dong Ha from the west. Binh's Marines were still dug in and holding, with some of Smock's tanks and armored personnel carriers lending support. Ripley was making desperate calls for artillery support when a barrage of mortar fire raked the area, signaling an all-out attack.

At that moment, a vehicle carrying seven journalists and cameramen raced up. Completely oblivious to what was going on, they jumped out and surrounded Captain Ripley with microphones, asking one silly question after another. Ripley yelled at them, "Get out of here; the NVA are attacking." A mortar round exploded, throwing all of them into a pile on the ground. Ripley crawled out from underneath the bodies. Some were dead; others lay groaning and bleeding.

He looked around; then his heart fell. Nha lay dead with a mortar fragment in his head. Major Smock was severely wounded. All the South Vietnamese vehicles were pulling out. Ripley was able to pile the wounded on them only with difficulty. Nobody was staying around now.

When he went to load Nha's body on the last tank, it moved away and disappeared. The beleaguered captain looked up and saw the point men of several NVA rifle squads approaching. He was going to die, but he was taking his dead radio man with him. He put Nha's body over his shoulders and started walking, fully expecting to catch a bullet any minute.

He heard rifle fire and looked up. Three-fingered Jack and another Marine were firing away at his assailants. More South Vietnamese Marines came over the embankment directly in front of him and kept the enemy pinned down until he climbed up behind them. Captain Ripley was safe.

A few days later the Third Marine Battalion received orders to break through the encircling enemy and a few weeks after that it was pulled out of action. Of the original 700 men, only 52 survived. By then Smock, Nha and Jack were dead. However, they had succeeded magnificently in their task.

The ARVN regrouped and held a defensive line ten miles south of Dong Ha. Thus the Easter Offensive was stopped because the NVA failed to cross the bridge at Dong Ha. One cannot but wonder that, if a few more men like Captain Ripley, Major Binh, Major Smock, Three-fingered Jack and Nha, the radio man, had dedicated themselves like the Crusaders of old, the communists could have been stopped entirely. As it was, they were stopped for three years.

Related Article:
A Story of Exceptional Valor and Faith

Friday, February 27, 2009

Being truly polite puts us on the road to fulfill one of Our Lord’s sublime commands

Pam Ryan


Some years ago I held a part-time office job. “Good morning, Joe!” was my customary greeting to my co-worker, a middle-aged, good, but incredibly grumpy man.

For the first three months of our acquaintance, his invariable reply was, “What’s so good about it?”

The first time he said it, it was like a slap in the face. Something right around the region of my heart actually hurt. “How utterly
rude, ruthless, and uncouth,” I thought.

Nevertheless, I resolved to continue trumpeting my “Good morning!” every day with the same cheery intonation.

One day I faced him: “Listen, Joe, when I say ‘Good morning,’ I mean it. You know, I truly, really wish you a good morning.”

He began to mellow after that, and one day, behold! the incredible happened: He actually returned my good wishes.

Yes, the problem and I had met before.

Many a time, I had come across people in the work force who were by no means bad, ruthless, or uncouth, but whose deep-rooted philosophy regarding manners was:

“If you don’t feel like saying it, you are faking it. Well, I’m
not a phony, so I won’t say it.”

Incredibly enough, a large sector of our society today, especially among the young, seems pervaded by this outlook. To be polite,
to exercise good manners, to be attentive to others, is deemed prudish, unreal, “out of touch, fake.

Let’s go back to a time when manners were considered essential for good interaction with our fellow human beings.

From the time we were about five years old, mother was always there to make sure we said “hello” when we met someone, that
we rose and offered our seat to elderly ladies on the bus, that we said “happy birthday” at a party to the person whose birthday it was, that we said “thank you” when receiving a favor, and so on.

Later, as we grew a little older, we had to learn to begin and maintain conversations at the table, to greet people a little more extensively, to write acknowledgements and thank-you notes.

Believe me, the first time I had to say “happy birthday” to someone, I didn’t feel like saying it one bit. Every time I had to
stand up and let an old lady sit in my seat, I wished that she hadn’t come in at all, and many a time I felt rather like sticking my
tongue out at someone rather than saying the sweetest possible “Hello, how are you today?”

I certainly didn’t care what the answer to that question might be either.

But I had a good, old-fashioned mother, and she kept making me do it and correcting me when I failed to do so. And you know
what happened?

After about fifteen years on this earth, a habit began to form.

And once the habit was formed, it came easily. And once if became easy, it was actually a pleasure...and I felt civilized!

One day, reading a story of a lady who, having had a very hard childhood, had developed several problems, I found the formula
for the problem.

She recounted her turbulent life and then described how she tried to truly start anew.

She only really began to feel that she was mending when she decided to help others even less fortunate than herself. It was hard at first, because she simply didn’t “feel” like doing it.

But she found that even if she did not feel like anything, she must at least “fake it,” and then, slowly but surely, she began to
feel that it was becoming part of her and that she was “making it.”

Yes, the fostering of good manners takes exactly this formula:
“Fake it till you make it.”

Once I asked Mother, “Mom, what are manners, anyway?” I shall never forget her simple, wisdom-filled answer: “Manners is
thinking of others.”

The reality that we are born a little bit on the barbarian side, far from having inborn good manners, does not justify our ignoring
or mistreating any human being.

Yes, we must be polite, even at the risk of “faking it.” And politeness must be taught, like mathematics, grammar, or music, from a very early age.

Still, a little skeptical voice somewhere inside of us may whisper: “Is all this “faking it” worth it? And, even if I “make it” and become a model citizen, what is the real advantage?”

The great advantage of “making it” is that, to begin, we will cease to feel like islands. No one likes a rude and impolite person.

Therefore, a rude person is automatically isolated.

If we are truly polite, there are a number of untold doors that will open before us. This world, even the most technologically sophisticated environments, is still made up of human beings.

Gas may move a vehicle, electronics may move a computer, but it is kindness that moves a human being.

It is but a short step from politeness to kindness. And from kindness to real caring is only another. And here is the greatest advantage of all: by becoming truly polite we will be well on the road to fulfilling Our Lord’s sublime command: “Love one another as I have loved you” (John 13:34). And we will be on our way to being like Him.

Some letters and comments from America Needs Fatima members...

May God Bless you for your work and for letting people know what’s going on.  If I didn’t belong to America Needs Fatima, I wouldn’t know anything.

Sacred Statue - Christmas OLGS (116)

I had the Fatima statue at my house.  I can’t explain what an honor and happy occasion it was.  My niece came. She was very ill with cancer.  She passed away a month later.  Our Blessed Mother helped her and her family by her visit to my house.

Please pray for her (Suzanne).  She left behind three children.
Suzanne’s family is grieving now, but Our Lady of Fatima helped so much. Her visit was timely.
— J.G., New Haven, Conn.


I found Crusade Magazine very interesting, unlike other Catholic magazines which can get so lost in technical theology, such as
“Catholic Apologetics.”

After glancing at the blasphemy article by Robert Ritchie, I mailed in a second donation. It’s so fashionable to ridicule Christians, whereas if it were minorities or Jews, the
politically correct would not dare for fear of being labeled racist or anti-Semitic.

I also glanced at “The Enemy Within.” I was one of those who saw the collapsing of the WTC as a display of God’s anger against us for
polluting the world with Hollywood’s garbage.

— T.D., Milwaukee


I am a sixteen-year-old high school student who wishes to grow as a Catholic, help out my community, and have something to
do. Can you please send me a letter on what I can do as a Catholic to fulfill these needs.

— S.N., New York, N.Y.


I appreciate your timely reply. I subscribe to your magazine and always look forward to receiving it, and that’s where I first read of
you. I also receive e-mail from your organization on a regular basis. Your work is of tremendous benefit to America. Please continue your great work.
— M.R., by email

Thank you for the lovely pictures I received of our Blessed Mother enclosed in your mailing and especially the latest titled
“Look Into These Maternal Eyes,” which is truly inspiring.
— J.S., Lawrence, Ma.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------I was very impressed on receiving the Prince of Peace in my home. How beautiful He is. He inspires me with more faith, peace,
and love. Every one in the family loves Him and asks His Blessings.
— A.D., Flushing, N.Y.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Thank you for addressing this issue. I have stopped buying Disney products a year ago when I first became aware of their stand
on homosexuality.

— L.E., Mico, Tex.


Thank you so much for the beautiful calendar you sent me last year. I am hoping you can send another this year. Your letters and inspirational messages mean so much to me.

There is a book called “The Book of Confidence” that you published. I would greatly appreciate it if you would send it to me.
— P.H., Miami


Please Pray This Touching Way of the Cross










Opening Prayer

O Sorrowful Mother, in these times wherein the immense majority of men flee from the sacrifice inherent to the perfect fulfillment of all the commandments and counsels of thy Divine Son, obtain for all those who meditate on this Way of the Cross the necessary strength for each to carry his cross to the heights of Calvary.


First Station
Jesus is Condemned to Death











V.  We adore Thee, O Christ, and we bless Thee.
R.  Because by Thy holy Cross Thou hast redeemed the world.

The judge who committed the most monstrous professional crime in all history was not impelled to do so by the excitement of any burning passion. Nor was he blinded by ideological hatred, by craving for new riches, or by the desire to please some great potentate. He was moved to condemn the Just One by fear—fear of losing his position for apparent lack of zeal for the prerogatives of Caesar; fear of causing himself political complications by having displeased the Jewish mob; and the instinctive fear of saying no, of doing the opposite of what has been asked of one, of facing the crowd with attitudes and opinions different from those that prevail there.

For a long time, O Lord, Thou didst fix him with that look which in one instant worked the salvation of Peter. It was a look through which one could see Thy supreme moral perfection, Thine infinite innocence. But he condemned Thee anyway.

O Lord, how many times have I imitated Pilate! How many times, out of ambition for personal advancement, have I permitted orthodoxy to be persecuted in my presence without saying a word. How many times have I stood by with my arms crossed at the fight and martyrdom of those who defend the Church! I did not have the courage to give them even a word of support because of an abominable slothfulness to face those who surrounded me, to say no to those around me, for fear of being “different from the others.” As if Thou hadst created me, Lord, not to imitate Thee, but to slavishly imitate my companions.

In that painful moment of condemnation, Thou didst suffer for all cowards, for all weaklings, for all the lukewarm…for me, Lord.

My Jesus, pardon and mercy. By the fortitude Thou didst show me in braving unpopularity and facing the sentence of the Roman magistrate, cure the weakness of my soul.

Our Father. Hail Mary. Glory Be.
V. Have mercy on us, Lord.
R. Have mercy on us.
V. May the souls of the faithful departed through the mercy of God, rest in peace.
R. Amen.

Second Station
Jesus Carries the Cross










V.  We adore Thee, O Christ, and we bless Thee.
R.  Because by Thy holy Cross Thou hast redeemed the world.

Thus began, my adorable Lord, Thy walk to the place of immolation. It was not the wish of the Heavenly Father that Thou shouldst die by one fulminating blow. In Thy Passion, Thou hadst to teach us not only to die, but to face death. Facing it with serenity, with neither hesitation nor weakness, walking toward it, even with the resolute pace of a warrior advancing to combat—behold the admirable lesson Thou givest me.

In the face of pain, my God, how great is my cowardice. Sometimes I temporize before taking up my cross; sometimes I shrink back, neglecting an obligation. Finally I accept it, but so irksomely, so halfheartedly, that I seem to hate the burden that Thy will hast placed on my shoulders.

How often, on other occasions, do I close my eyes in order not to see the pain. I voluntarily blind myself with stupid optimism because I have not the courage to face the trial. And so I lie to myself: It is not true that the renunciation of a certain pleasure is an obligation for me in order not to fall into sin; it is not true that I must overcome a certain habit which favors my most deep-rooted passions; it is not true that I must abandon a certain group, a friendship which undermines and ruins my whole spiritual life. No, none of this is not true at all…I close my eyes, and I cast aside my cross.

My Jesus, pardon me so much sloth. By the wound which the Cross opened in thy shoulder, cure, O Father of Mercies, the horrible wound I have opened in my soul through entire years lived in interior dissipation and self-indulgence!

Our Father. Hail Mary. Glory Be.
V. Have mercy on us, Lord.
R. Have mercy on us.
V. May the souls of the faithful departed through the mercy of God, rest in peace.
R. Amen.

Third Station
Jesus Carries the Cross










V.  We adore Thee, O Christ, and we bless Thee.
R.  Because by Thy holy Cross Thou hast redeemed the world.

What then, Lord? Was it not justifiable for Thee to abandon Thy cross? By carrying it until all Thy strength was exhausted, until the insupportable weight of the wood hurled Thee to the ground, hadst Thou not clearly proved that it was impossible for Thee to continue? Thine obligation was fulfilled. Let the angels of heaven carry Thy cross for thee now. Thou hast suffered in full measure all that was possible. What more wouldst Thou have to give?

Nevertheless, by acting in another way, Thou didst give my cowardice a sublime lesson. With Thy strength exhausted, Thou didst not renounce the burden but askest for yet more strength to carry the Cross once again. And Thou didst obtain it.

The life of a Christian is difficult today. To be obligated to struggle unremittingly against oneself in order to keep the Commandments seems to be an extravagant exception in a world that flaunts the joy of life in licentiousness and opulence. Heavy on our shoulders weighs the cross of fidelity to Thy Law, O Lord. At times, we seem to be out of breath.

In these moments of trial, we rationalize. We have already done all that we can. After all, a man’s strength is so limited! God will take this into account. Come, let us drop the cross here by the roadside and sink cozily into a life of pleasure. Ah, many are the crosses abandoned alongside our ways, perhaps along my tracks!

Grant me, Jesus, the grace to continue to embrace my cross, even when I collapse under its weight. Grant me the grace to rise up again whenever I grow faint. Grant me, Lord, the supreme grace of never departing from the way by which I must reach the height of my own Calvary.

Our Father. Hail Mary. Glory Be.
V. Have mercy on us, Lord.
R. Have mercy on us.
V. May the souls of the faithful departed through the mercy of God, rest in peace.
R. Amen.

Fourth Station
Jesus Meets His Mother










V.  We adore Thee, O Christ, and we bless Thee.
R.  Because by Thy holy Cross Thou hast redeemed the world.

Who, my Lady, seeing thee shed such tears would dare to ask thee why thou weepest? Neither the earth, nor the sea, nor all the heavens can serve as a term of comparison to thy sorrow. Grant me, my Mother, at least a little of that sorrow. Grant me the grace to weep for Jesus with tears of sincere and profound compunction. Thou didst suffer in union with Jesus. Grant me the grace to suffer as He and thou didst suffer.

Thy greatest sorrow arose not from contemplating the inexpressible bodily sufferings of thy Divine Son. What are bodily evils in comparison with those of the spirit? If Jesus had suffered all of those torments while having at His side compassionate hearts! If His Sacred Heart had not been wounded enormously more by the most senseless, unjust, and blatant hatred than by the weight of the Cross and the brutalities that wounded His Body! Rather, He was assailed by the tumultuous manifestations of hatred and ingratitude of those whom He had loved: Two steps away was a leper whom He had healed; a little farther, a blind man to whom He had restored sight; farther along, a tormented soul to whom He had restored peace. All of them called for His death; all of them hated Him; all of them insulted Him. These caused Jesus immensely more suffering than did the inexpressible pains that weighed upon His Body.

Yet, there was worse. There was the worst of evils. There was sin: avowed sin, obtrusive sin, atrocious sin. If all those acts of ingratitude had been committed against the best of men but by some absurdity had not offended God … but they were committed against the Godman, and thus they constituted a supreme sin against all three Persons of the Blessed Trinity. This was the greatest evil of the injustice and the ingratitude.

This evil lies not so much in the offense against the rights of a benefactor but in the offense against God. Amidst so many and such great causes of sorrow, what caused Thee the most suffering, my Divine Redeemer, and thee, Blessed Mother, was certainly sin.

And I? Am I mindful of my sins? Do I remember, for example, my first sin, or my most recent sin? What of the hour when I committed it, of the place, of the persons who surrounded me, the motives which led me to sin? If I had thought of the magnitude of the offense which a sin causes Thee, would I have dared to disobey Thee, my Lord?

O my Mother, by the sorrow of that holy meeting, obtain for me the grace to have always before my eyes Jesus suffering and wounded, exactly as thou seest Him in this step of the Passion.

Our Father. Hail Mary. Glory Be.
V. Have mercy on us, Lord.
R. Have mercy on us.
V. May the souls of the faithful departed through the mercy of God, rest in peace.
R. Amen.

Fifth Station
Jesus is Helped by the Cyrenian
to Carry the Cross










V.  We adore Thee, O Christ, and we bless Thee.
R.  Because by Thy holy Cross Thou hast redeemed the world.

Who was Simon? What is known of him, except that he was of Cyrene? And what do most men know of Cyrene other than it was the land of Simon? Both the city and the man emerged from obscurity and entered into glory, the most exalted glory, sacred glory, at a moment when the thoughts of the Cyrenian were far from all this.

He was walking carelessly along the road. He was thinking only about those petty problems and petty interests that make up the trivial lives of the majority of men. But Thou, Lord, didst cross his path with Thy wounds, Thy Cross, Thy immense sorrow. Simon had to take a position in regard to Thee. The soldiers forced him to carry the Cross with Thee. He could carry it with bad humor, indifferent to Thee, trying to please the people by means of some new way of increasing the torments Thou didst suffer in soul and body; or he could carry it with love, with compassion, scorning the mob, trying to relieve Thy suffering, taking some of it on himself so that Thou wouldst suffer a little less. The Cyrenian preferred to suffer with Thee. For this reason his name has been repeated with love, with gratitude, with holy envy, for two thousand years, by all men of faith, all over the face of the earth, and so it will continue until the end of time.

Thou hast passed also along my path, my Jesus. Thou didst pass when Thou called me out of the darkness of paganism and into the bosom of Thy Church through Holy Baptism, Thou didst pass also when my parents taught me to pray. Thou didst pass again when in the Catechism class I began to open my soul to the true doctrine, Catholic and orthodox. Thou didst pass in my first Confession, in my First Communion, in all of the moments when I vacillated and Thou didst help me, in all of the moments when I fell and Thou didst pick me up, in all the moments when I asked and Thou didst hear me.

And I, Lord? Even now Thou passest by me in this exercise of the Way of the Cross. And what do I do when Thou passest by me?

Our Father. Hail Mary. Glory Be.
V. Have mercy on us, Lord.
R. Have mercy on us.
V. May the souls of the faithful departed through the mercy of God, rest in peace.
R. Amen.

Sixth Station
Veronic Wipes the Face of Jesus










V.  We adore Thee, O Christ, and we bless Thee.
R.  Because by Thy holy Cross Thou hast redeemed the world.

One would say at first glance that never was there a greater reward in all of history. Indeed, what king ever held in his hands a cloth more precious than that veil? What general, a more august banner? What gesture of courage and dedication was recompensed with a more extraordinary favor?

But there is a grace which is more valuable than having the Holy Face of the Savior stamped on a veil. The representation of the Divine Face was made on the veil as in a painting. In the Holy Roman Catholic and Apostolic Church, His Face is reflected as in a mirror.

In her institutions, in her doctrine, in her laws, in her unity, in her universality, in her unsurpassable catholicity, the Church is a true mirror in which our Divine Savior is reflected.

And we, all of us, have the grace of belonging to the Church, of being living stones of the Church!
How we ought to give thanks for this favor! Let us not forget, however, that noblesse oblige. Belonging to the Church is a very great and very demanding thing. We must think as the Church thinks, have the Mind of the Church, proceed as the Church wishes in all the circumstances of our lives. This supposes a real Catholic sense, an authentic and complete purity of customs, and a profound and sincere piety. In other words it supposes the sacrifice of an entire lifetime.

And what is the reward? “Christianus alter Christus.”
I will be in an eminent way a reproduction of Christ Himself. The likeness of Christ, vivid and sacred, will be imprinted, on my own soul.

Ah, Lord, if the grace granted to Veronica is great, how much greater is the favor that Thou dost promise me!

I ask of Thee strength and resoluteness so that I may obtain this favor by being faithful in every trial.

Our Father. Hail Mary. Glory Be.
V. Have mercy on us, Lord.
R. Have mercy on us.
V. May the souls of the faithful departed through the mercy of God, rest in peace.
R. Amen.

Seventh Station
Jesus Falls the Second Time









V.  We adore Thee, O Christ, and we bless Thee.
R.  Because by Thy holy Cross Thou hast redeemed the world.

To fall, to be stretched out flat on the ground, to be at the feet of all in order to publicly manifest that now Thou hast no more strength; to these humiliations Thou didst choose to subject Thyself, Lord, as a lesson for me. No one felt sorrow for Thee. Rather, they redoubled their insults and abuses. All the while, Thy grace sought in vain in the interior of those hardened hearts for a movement of pity.

Even at that moment, Thou didst desire to continue Thy Passion for the salvation of men. What men? All men, including those who were doing everything possible to increase Thy suffering.

And so, Lord, I must continue my apostolate, even when all my works have tumbled to the ground, even when all have joined together to attack me, even when the ingratitude and perversity of those to whom I have wished to do good have turned against me.

I will not be so weak as to change my path to please them. My ways can be only Thy ways, the ways of orthodoxy, of purity, of austerity. Following Thy ways I shall suffer for them. With my imperfect sorrows united to Thy perfect sorrow, Thine infinitely precious sorrow, I shall continue to do good for them so that they may save themselves, or so that the rejected graces may accumulate over them like burning coals clamoring for punishment. Thus Thou didst with the nation which committed the deicide and so also wilt Thou do with those who will reject Thee until the end of time.

Our Father. Hail Mary. Glory Be.
V. Have mercy on us, Lord.
R. Have mercy on us.
V. May the souls of the faithful departed through the mercy of God, rest in peace.
R. Amen.

Eighth Station
Jesus Consoles the Daughters
of Jerusalem









V.  We adore Thee, O Christ, and we bless Thee.
R.  Because by Thy holy Cross Thou hast redeemed the world.

There were at that time good souls, who, realizing the enormity of the sin being committed, feared the divine justice.

Am I not witness to a certain sin like that? Is it not true that today Our Lord Jesus Christ and His Holy Church are disobeyed, abandoned, betrayed? Is it not true that the laws, institutions, morals, and ways of the people are more and more hostile to Jesus Christ? Is it not true that Our Lady spoke at Fatima, pointing out all of these sins and asking for penance?

But where is that penance? How many are there who really see these sins and who try to point them out, denounce them, fight them, dispute every inch of their advance, raise up against them a whole crusade of ideas, of acts, of force if it be necessary? And how many are there who are capable of unfurling the standard of absolute and flawless orthodoxy in the very places where impiety or false piety struts? How many are they who live in union with the Church during this moment that is tragic as the Passion was tragic, this crucial moment of history when all mankind is choosing to be for Christ or against Christ?

Oh, my God, how many myopic ones there are who prefer neither to see nor to foresee the reality which lies plainly before their eyes! How much false peacefulness, how much trifling well-being, how many petty routine pleasures! How many tasty dishes of pottage to be eaten!

Grant us, Jesus, the grace not to be of that number. Grant us the grace to follow Thy counsel, that is, to weep for ourselves and for our own. Give us not just a few sterile tears, but grant us a flood of tears, which, poured out at Thy feet and made fertile by Thee, may become for us forgiveness, strength for the apostolate, for the fight, and for acts of intrepidity.

Our Father. Hail Mary. Glory Be.
V. Have mercy on us, Lord.
R. Have mercy on us.
V. May the souls of the faithful departed through the mercy of God, rest in peace.
R. Amen.

Ninth Station
Jesus Falls the Third Time









V.  We adore Thee, O Christ, and we bless Thee.
R.  Because by Thy holy Cross Thou hast redeemed the world.

Thou art now, my Lord, more tired, more drained, more wounded, more bloodless than ever. What awaits Thee? Hast Thou reached the end? No. Precisely the worst is yet to come. The most atrocious crime is still to be perpetrated. The worst sorrows still must be suffered. Thou art on the ground a third time but, nonetheless, all that is behind Thee is no more than a preface. And, behold, Thou once again movest that Body which is but one wound. The seemingly impossible is being achieved, once more Thou slowly riseth to Thy feet, even though every movement increases Thy pain. There Thou art, Lord, standing once again…. with Thy Cross. Thou didst know how to find new strength, new energy, and Thou didst continue. Three falls, three equal lessons in perseverance, each more poignant and more expressive that the last.

Why so much insistence? Because our cowardice is insistent. We resolve to take up our crosses, but cowardice always comes charging back. So that cowardice might find no pretext in our weakness, Thou didst desire to repeat the lesson three times Thyself.

Yes, it is true: our weakness cannot serve us as a pretext. Grace, which God never refuses, can do that which mere natural strength would never be able to do.

God wishes to be served to the last breath, to the exhaustion of the last drop of strength, and He multiplies our capacities for suffering and doing so that our dedication may reach the extreme limit of the unforeseeable, the improbable, the miraculous. The measure of the love of God is to love Him without measure, said Saint Francis de Sales. The measure of fighting for God consists in fighting without measure, it may be said.

But, I, how quickly I tire! In my works of apostolate the least sacrifice holds me back, the least effort terrifies me, the slightest combat puts me to flight. I like the apostolate, it is true. The apostolate I like is one entirely in accordance with my likings and fancies, to which I give myself when I wish, as I wish, and because I wish. After that I consider I have done a great almsdeed for God.

But God is not satisfied with this. For the Church He wants my whole life, He wants organization, He wants sagacity, He wants intrepidity, He wants the innocence of the dove and the cunning of the serpent, the sweetness of the sheep and the irresistible and overwhelming wrath of the lion. If it be necessary to sacrifice my career, friendship, family ties, petty vanities, and inveterate habits, to serve Our Lord, I must do so. For this step of the Passion teaches me that we must give everything to God, absolutely everything, and after having given everything we ought to give our very lives as well.

Our Father. Hail Mary. Glory Be.
V. Have mercy on us, Lord.
R. Have mercy on us.
V. May the souls of the faithful departed through the mercy of God, rest in peace.
R. Amen.

Tenth Station
Jesus Is Stripped of His Garments









V.  We adore Thee, O Christ, and we bless Thee.
R.  Because by Thy holy Cross Thou hast redeemed the world.

Everything, yes absolutely everything. We must suffer even shame for the love of God and for the Salvation of souls.

The proof of this: He who is Purity par excellence was stripped, and the impure mocked Him in His purity. Our Lord endured these jests of impurity.

Does it not appear insignificant for Him—having already endured so many torments—to endure these jests as well? But this lesson, like the others, was necessary for us. Because of the scorn of a maidservant, Saint Peter denied Our Lord. How many men have forsaken Our Lord for fear of ridicule! If men go to war and face gunfire and death to avoid being mocked as cowards, is it not perfectly true that certain men fear laughter more than anything?
The Divine Master faced ridicule. He taught us that nothing is ridiculous when it is in the line of virtue and goodness.

Teach me, Lord, to reflect in myself the majesty of Thy countenance and the strength of Thy perseverance when the wicked wish to use the arm of ridicule against me.

Our Father. Hail Mary. Glory Be.
V. Have mercy on us, Lord.
R. Have mercy on us.
V. May the souls of the faithful departed through the mercy of God, rest in peace.
R. Amen.

Eleventh Station
Jesus Is Nailed to the Cross









V.  We adore Thee, O Christ, and we bless Thee.
R.  Because by Thy holy Cross Thou hast redeemed the world.

For Thee, my Lord, impiety chose the worst of final torments. The worst, yes, because it is that which causes one to die slowly, that which produces the greatest sufferings, and that which, being reserved for the most abject criminals, was the most infamous. Everything was prepared by hell to make Thee suffer in body and soul. Does this immense hatred not have some lesson for me? Woe betide me—who never will understand it sufficiently—if I do not become holy.

Between Thee and the devil, between good and evil, between truth and error, there is a profound, irreconcilable, eternal hatred. Darkness hates the light, the children of darkness hate the children of light; the fight between the two sides will endure until the consummation of the ages, and there will never be peace between the race of the Woman and the race of the Serpent.

In order to understand the immeasurable extension and immensity of this hatred, it is necessary to contemplate all that it dared to do. There is the Son of God, transformed, in the words of Scripture, into a leper in whom nothing is sound; a being who writhes like a worm under the effect of the pain; detested, abandoned, nailed to a cross between two common thieves. The Son of God: what grandeur—infinite, unimaginable, absolute—is contained in those words! Behold, in spite of all, what hatred has dared to do against the Son of God!

The whole history of the world, the whole history of the Church is nothing but this inexorable struggle between those who are of God and those who are of the devil, between those who are of the Virgin and those who are of the Serpent. It is a struggle in which there are not merely mistakes of the intellect nor only weakness in the angelic and human hosts which follow Satan, but also malice—deliberate, culpable, sinful

Behold that which needs to be said, commented on, remembered, emphasized, proclaimed, and once more remembered at the foot of the Cross. For we are such, and liberalism has disfigured us to such a point that we are always inclined to forget this truth absolutely inseparable from the contemplation of the Passion.

Well did the Virgin of virgins, the Mother of Sorrows, know this, she who participated in the Passion along with her Son. Well did the virgin apostle know this, he who at the foot of the Cross received Mary as his Mother, thus receiving the greatest legacy ever given a man to receive because there are certain truths which God has reserved for the pure and which He denies to the impure.

My Mother, in the moment in which even the good thief merited forgiveness, I ask that Jesus forgive me for all the blindness with which I have considered all the works of darkness being plotted around me.

Our Father. Hail Mary. Glory Be.
V. Have mercy on us, Lord.
R. Have mercy on us.
V. May the souls of the faithful departed through the mercy of God, rest in peace.
R. Amen.

Twelfth Station
Jesus Dies on the Cross










V.  We adore Thee, O Christ, and we bless Thee.
R.  Because by Thy holy Cross Thou hast redeemed the world.

Finally the apex of all pains is reached. It is a summit so high that it is lost in the clouds of mystery. The physical pains having reached their limits, the moral sufferings having attained their zenith, a mysterious torment must be the climax of such an inexpressible pain: “My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?” In a certain mysterious way, the Word Incarnate Himself was afflicted by that spiritual torture of abandonment in which the soul receives no consolations from God. Such was this torment that He of Whom the Evangelists record not a single word of pain uttered that piercing cry: “My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?”

Yes, why? Why did this happen if He was Innocence itself? This terrible abandonment was followed by death and the perturbation of all of nature. The sun was darkened. The sky lost its splendor. The earth quaked. The veil of the temple was rent in two. Desolation covered the whole universe.

Why? To redeem man. To destroy sin. To open the gates of heaven. The height of suffering was the height of victory. Death was put to death. The purified earth was like a great field which had been cleared so that the Church might be built on it.

All of this, then, was to save, to save men, to save this man who I am. My salvation was purchased at such a price. I will spare myself no sacrifice to secure that salvation so precious. By the water and the Blood that came forth from Thy divine Side, by the wound of Thy Heart, by the sorrows of Mary Most Holy, grant me O Jesus, the strength to detach myself from the persons and things that can separate me from Thee. Today they die, nailed to the Cross, all the friendships, all the affections, all the ambitions, all the delights that have separated me from Thee.

Our Father. Hail Mary. Glory Be.
V. Have mercy on us, Lord.
R. Have mercy on us.
V. May the souls of the faithful departed through the mercy of God, rest in peace.
R. Amen.

Thirteenth Station
Jesus Is Taken down from the Cross










V.  We adore Thee, O Christ, and we bless Thee.
R.  Because by Thy holy Cross Thou hast redeemed the world.

The repose of the sepulcher awaits Thee, Lord. In the shadows of death, Thou dost open heaven to the just in limbo, while on earth around Thy Mother, a few faithful ones gather to give Thee funeral honors. In the silence of those moments, there is the first glimmer of an aborning hope. Those first acts of homage being offered to Thee mark the inauguration of a series of acts of love by redeemed mankind that will continue until the end of time.

It is a scene of sorrow and desolation, yet of great peace as well. It is a scene wherein something of the triumph is presaged in the ineffable cares with which Thy Divine Body is treated.

Yes, those pious souls condole with one another, but there is something about them that makes one foresee in Thee the glorious Victor.

May I also, Lord, in the great desolations of the Church, be always faithful; may I be present in the saddest hours, unshakably preserving the certainty that Thy Spouse will triumph by the fidelity of the good because Thy protection assists her.

Our Father. Hail Mary. Glory Be.
V. Have mercy on us, Lord.
R. Have mercy on us.
V. May the souls of the faithful departed through the mercy of God, rest in peace.
R. Amen.

Fourteenth Station
Jesus Is Laid in the Sepulcher










V.  We adore Thee, O Christ, and we bless Thee.
R.  Because by Thy holy Cross Thou hast redeemed the world.

The stone is rolled into place. Everything seems to have ended. But, it is the moment when everything begins. It is the regrouping of the Apostles. It is the rebirth of dedication, of hope. Easter draws near.

At the same time, the hatred of Thine enemies surrounds the sepulcher, Mary Most Holy, and the Apostles.
But they do not fear. In a little while the dawn of the Resurrection will break.

Let me not fear either, Lord Jesus, not fear when everything seems irremediably lost, not fear when all the power on earth appears to be in the hands of Thine enemies. Let me not fear because I am at the feet of Our Lady where the true followers of Thy Church always regroup, for new victories.

Our Father. Hail Mary. Glory Be.
V. Have mercy on us, Lord.
R. Have mercy on us.
V. May the souls of the faithful departed through the mercy of God, rest in peace.
R. Amen.

Chaiten volcano erupts again...


Last week, the Chaiten volcano erupted again.

According to Wikopedia:

"On February 19 2009, a partial dome collapse caused pyroclastic flows to descend through the Chaitén river valley reaching down to approximately 5 kilometres (3.1 mi) from the town of Chaitén.[23] The ash once again reached Futaleufú and parts of Chubut province in neighboring Argentina. The approximately 160 people that were in Chaitén were strongly urged to leave, and all but 25 people who refused to leave were evacuated that day."

However, I was surprised to read this in yesterday's Mercurio: 

"SANTIAGO.- The presidential delegate in Chaitén, Paul Narváez, stated today that the government hopes to have basic facilities available within three months at the city's new location, in the Santa Bárbara sector."

So, the Chilean government wants to rebuild the town of Chaiten 6 miles away from the volcano, in an area away from the danger zone of the volcano.

Is that safe?


Photo from: macha chile / Javier Rubilar "Cortesía de mi Viejo Carlitos".

This file is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 License.

Amazing: Mom comes home after nearly dying in labor

updated 3:48 p.m. ET, Thurs., Feb. 26, 2009

CINCINNATI - A Morrow woman was able to leave the hospital Wednesday, nearly two months after giving birth to her fourth child, an experience that nearly killed her.

Lori Smith, 38, gave birth to Delilah Grace on New Year's Day. But things went horribly wrong an hour after delivery. Her body shut down. Blood clots formed in her brain, liver and kidneys. Her heart stopped ... twice.

For the full story, please go here:

As Lent Begins, 3 Prominent Catholic Universities Celebrate Sex, Pornography

As Christians worldwide kneel in prayer to begin the holy season of Lent, students at three Jesuit Catholic universities are busy celebrating extramarital sex, homosexuality, cross-dressing and pornography.

For the full story, please visit the Cardinal Newman Society web site.

New eruption of Chaiten volcano recalls sorrowful sacrilege in Chile


Remember the Sacrilegious Burning of the Statue of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Chile?

On April 18, 2008, a man dressed in black burned a statue of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in the Cathedral chapel of Santiago, Chile.
The Chilean newspaper La Segunda showed the burnt statue of Our Lady of Mount Carmel.

Before. (Foto: El Mercurio)

(Foto: Michael Gálvez, La Segunda)

Soon after the sacrilegious burning the Chaiten volcano in South Chile erupted.

This week, the volcano started erupting again, causing great concern in Chile.


Nasa photo of the Chaiten volcano.

Please pray the novena below to Our Lady for two intentions:

a) in reparation for this terrible blasphemy;

b) for the indifference of the Chilean people to this insult to their Patroness.

Novena to Our Lady of Mount Carmel

Oh, most beautiful flower of Mount Carmel, fruitful vine, splendor of Heaven.  Blessed Mother of the Son of God; Immaculate Virgin, assist me in my necessity.  Oh, Star of the Sea, help me and show me you are my Mother.

Oh, Holy Mary, Mother of God, Queen of Heaven and Earth, I humbly beseech you from the bottom of my heart to succor me in my necessity. (Mention your request here).

There are none that can withstand your power.

Oh, Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee. (3x).

Holy Mary, I place this prayer in your hands. (3x). Amen.

Say this prayer and then you must publish it and it will be granted to you.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Looking for a good academy for boys? Consider St. Louis de Montfort Academy. Click here to read more.

Wholesome education is a rare thing today.  The good days of St. John Bosco are mere memories. 

But if you allow me to brag a bit, from time to time, I visit the St. Louis de Montfort Academy for boys, a boarding school in Herndon, Pennsylvania, staffed by TFP members.  It's always encouraging when I go there and see firsthand how these boys are being formed into a fine cadre of Catholic gentlemen.

Many homeschooling parents are pleased with the results they see in their sons who attend the Academy.  If you would like to receive more information about our St. Louis de Montfort Academy, please contact Mr. Ted Huerena at and visit their website by clicking here.

"The Sabbatine Privilege: Free of Purgatory on the First Saturday After Death..."


I've been about the Sabbatine Privilege.

In addition to the special grace of eternal salvation, connected with the Scapular, Our Lady gave another, which became
known as the Sabbatine Privilege.

On March 3, 1322, she appeared to Pope John XXII, communicating to those who wear her scapular, “As a tender mother, I will descend into Purgatory on the Saturday after their death and will deliver them and bring them to the holy mountain, into the happy sojourn of life everlasting.”4

What are, then, the specific promises of Our Lady?

1. Whoever dies clothed with the  Scapular, will not suffer the fire of Hell.

What did Our Lady mean with these words?

First, on making this promise, Mary does not mean that a person who dies in mortal sin will be saved. Death in mortal sin and condemnation are the same thing. Mary’s promise undoubtedly
translates into these words, “Whoever dies clothed in this Scapular, will not die in mortal sin.”

To make that clear, the Church often adds the word “piously” to the pledge, “He who dies piously will not suffer the fire of Hell.”5

2. Our Lady will free from Purgatory the person wearing her Scapular on the first Saturday after his or her death.

Although this privilege is often interpreted literally, that is, the person will be freed from Purgatory on the first Saturday after his or her death, “everything that the Church has officially
stated on several occasions to explain these words, is that those who fulfill the conditions of the Sabbatine Privilege, through the
intercession of Our Lady, will be freed from Purgatory shortly after death, and especially on Saturday.”6

In any case, if we are faithful in observing the words of the Blessed Mother, she will be much more faithful in observing her own, as
shown in the following example:

During the preaching of some missions, a young man who was touched by grace decided to quit his life of sin and receive the Scapular.

Some time later he lapsed again into disorderly passions and became even worse. Nevertheless, he kept wearing the holy Scapular.

Being the mother that she is, the Most Holy Virgin struck him down with a serious illness. During his illness the young man dreamed that he found himself before the most just tribunal
of God, Who condemned him to eternal damnation for his perfidy and his wretched life.

In vain did the hapless young man argue with the Supreme Judge that he was wearing the Scapular of His Holy Mother.

“And where are the customs that match this Scapular?” God asked him.

Not knowing what to answer, the unfortunate young man turned to Our Lady.

“I cannot undo what my Son has done,” she answered.

“But, Madam!” The young man exclaimed, “I will change!”

“Do you promise?”


“Live then.”

At that point the patient awakened frightened to death by what he had seen and heard, and resolved thenceforth to wear Mary’s Scapular with greater seriousness. Indeed, he was healed and joined the Order of Premonstratensians.

And after an edifying life, he surrendered his soul to God, as the chronicles of the Order narrate.7