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By Andrea F. Phillips

 

A voice was heard in Rama, lamentation and great mourning;

Rachel bewailing her children, and would not be comforted... Matt 2:18

 

Watching a pro-life documentary the other day, I was deeply moved as girl after girl, woman after woman, and professional after professional gave heart-wrenching testimonies of the emotional, spiritual and psychological devastation our women, our modern “Rachels,” undergo in this culture of abortion.

How did we get here? Why in the name of freedom, liberation, rights and choice are girls and women so battered?

 

“It Wasn’t My Choice”

One professional said, “Women are offered abortion in the name of ‘choice,’ yet the overwhelming answer to the question, “Why did you do it?” is, “It wasn’t my choice.”

And another young woman, her face a torrent of tears said, “Everyone pushed me. And, in the end, I killed my child so everyone else could feel free.”

 

What We Have Lost

As a young girl, Dad took me out to the garden bench one morning. It wasn’t every day that I got to have a private interview with my father, so I fixed my brown eyes on his face, and missed nothing of what he said. He spoke of young womanhood, and of beauty as something proceeding from the soul, rather than from a lot of make-up, clothes and trinkets. He spoke of the Blessed Mother as a model for girls, a woman true to her inner star, contrary to what the world promoted.

Child that I was, I only captured fragments of his meaning, except that I knew that some things in my life were about to go the way of the TV–out the window. But I wasn’t worried. Dad knew best.

As it turned out, my sisters and I were homeschooled. We painted paper dolls, studied art and music, learned cooking and baking, raised a garden, loved the library, read lots of books, put on marionette shows, watched select movies, played with friends, learned our Catholic Faith inside out, and frequented the Sacraments–a life-style the world called “restrictive.”

 

Meeting the World

And then the time came to start driving and working.

At my first job, I worked with women who wore little, swore plenty, and headed for bars after work. There were the stories of boyfriends, and sex, and cheating, and divorce, and drugs and alcohol, and hangovers.

Then little sister came home one day wide-eyed from nursing school.

“We studied STDs today, and you will not believe the amount of such diseases every single one of those girls have had. I felt like an angel.”

And then there was another sister taking English in college. One day the professor showed the class pictures of obscene sculptures claiming that these were the artist’s way of dealing with the “Catholic Church’s obsession with sex.” Up shot her hand, “Sorry, Sir, but it seems to me that you are, rather, talking of the artist’s obsession with the subject?”

 

Thanks, Mother Church!

In our “sheltered” Catholic home, while we were taught about the “birds and the bees,” the subject was only one among many. Though in our “restrictive” lifestyle we learned the moral code that regulated sexual behavior, we handled rising hormones by steering our thoughts and desires to positive, engaging activities, prayer and the Sacraments.

Interaction with boys was always in familial, communal settings, and while marriage was a great, exciting ideal, we were taught that it was the most serious commitment we’d ever make–and thus we must prepare.

We dressed modestly not out of prudishness but because there was nothing more precious than a girl’s body, latent seat of life–and what was sacred was veiled. Yet mother, in her common sense and good taste, taught us style, and to use make-up to enhance, rather than to cover; jewelry to add, rather than to glare.

Far from “sheltered” or “restricted,” I remember at fifteen feeling cherished, respected – free. To arrive at my wedding aisle anything but a virgin was unthinkable. I had a mind full of ideals, a heart full of God’s life-giving principles, and a soul on fire with idealism. I wanted to be an asset to the world, to use my talents to help build something beautiful.

 

An Anti-Woman Culture

Unfortunately, “beautiful” is not what awaited the majority of my gender, for the culture of “emancipation” is, ultimately, battering to women.

As my life went on, with everything “free,” from free love to women’s lib, I witnessed the breakdown of the last vestiges of modesty and dignity in fashions; the destruction of the last ethical barricades. With these trends came teen pregnancy, failed contraception, abortion, STDs, anorexia, bulimia, substance abuse, and suicide.

As a result of all this “liberation,” countless girls became the sad victims of the “culture of emancipation” turned “culture of death”–many as young as eleven or twelve–about the age I was when Dad talked to me on that garden bench.

Generous souls started organizations such as Rachel’s Vineyard and countless other institutions. Their goal: to either convince single moms to have their babies, or to provide support for them, after family, friends or boyfriends dropped them off at abortion clinics, and the psychological, emotional trauma of the aftermath threatened to engulf them.

Gently, with heart-warming charity, these organizations seek to pick up the crushed, crumpled, tear-stained forms and, speaking to them of love and forgiveness, endeavor to return them to their beautiful, confident, glowing selves.

 

Woman’s Nature v. Lies of the Culture

A woman is made amazing. Hers is a nature so lofty that she instinctively understands that love is nurturing, and is, therefore, sacrificial. All she asks is to love and be loved so she can love forever. And what is greater, more selfless, stronger, more inspiring and propulsive than sacrificial love?

Hers is a mind so quick and intuitive, that she perceives things way before they’ve been spelled out. A true woman has the natural combination that is the spark of genius: heart and intuition.

But the culture lies to today’s growing girl. The culture tells her she must be ashamed of her femininity, and of her maternal instinct. She is told that compared to men, her femininity is weakness, and in light of the culture, her maternal instincts misguided. Unless she succeeds in the corporate world, she is a failure, and homes and children are only for the under-achieved woman.

Logically thus, since her body is not necessarily or primarily made to give life, but for pleasure and sexual satisfaction, she is told to show it off, to use it to her maximum “advantage”– out with the blushing bride, in with the voyeur.

But what the culture never tells the growing girl today is that the blushing bride calls man to his noblest; the “voyeur” to his basest. As Archbishop Fulton Sheen said, “So goes the dignity of women, so goes the dignity of a nation.”

My mother’s version was, “Girls, sit on your mountain top and if he is worth his salt, he will climb it.”

What has more power–the ability to command or the ability to influence? Dr. Alice Von Hildebrand, eminent Catholic philosopher and lady, answers genially: “Command changes actions. Influence changes beings.”

And what is a woman’s greatest genius but that of influence? And what is the greatest secret of that genius but true, disinterested, sacrificial love that doesn’t care for recognition but for results: the good of those she loves.

 

To Dry Rachel’s Tears

It is time fathers again become teachers, guides and protectors of their daughters and give them the religious/philosophical principles that will aid them to choose husbands wisely. It is time fathers take their daughters to the garden bench; better still, on occasional dates to show how a gentleman treats a lady. It is time fathers take the initiative of countering the culture of death with the life-giving culture of Christ.

This Christ-centered enculturation must be done intelligently, insightfully, with common sense, but also with strength. Above all, it is time fathers give their daughters the supreme example of faith and virtue, first by example and then by doctrine. To a girl, a godly father is indeed, next to God. Brown, blue or green eyes will be raised to his face unflinchingly seeking to be convinced by his conviction.

It’s time mothers teach their girls modesty, purity, culture, manners, the arts of the home, and their priceless worth as the pearls of great price of society. It’s time the “lady” (layman’s term for “princess”) returns. It’s time that again a nation follows the dignity of its women. It’s time that knights again climb mountain tops to meet their ladies.

It’s time that we teach our daughters and sons how to prepare for founding Christian homes, homes where every baby is welcomed, cherished and raised, and yes, then yes, no child will be left behind.

It’s time that we stand in the gap for the preciousness of our young women, and teach our girls to see through the great LIE, and then, only then will our Rachels no longer cry.

 


 

 

Quote of the day

DAILY QUOTE for November 22, 2019

There is no one, O Most Holy Mary, who can know God except t...

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November 22

 

There is no one, O Most Holy Mary, who can know God except through thee;
no one who can be saved or redeemed but through thee, O Mother of God;
no one who can be delivered from dangers but through thee, O Virgin Mother;
no one who obtains mercy but through thee, O Filled-With-All-Grace!”

Saint Germanus of Constantinople


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Saint of the day

SAINT OF THE DAY

St. Cecilia

Skeptical of his new wife and her religion, Valerian demande...

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St. Cecilia

Cecilia was a devout Christian maiden of noble Roman birth who lived during the early part of the third century. At a very young age, she secretly dedicated herself to God, resolving to remain a virgin to her death. She fasted and prayed often, and wore a coarse shift under her clothes as a perpetual penance.

Although she had consecrated her body to the Lord, Cecilia’s father wished her to marry. She obeyed and married Valerian, the man her father had chosen for her. However, on the night they were married, Cecilia said to her new husband, “I have a secret to tell you. You must know that I have an angel of God watching over me. If you touch me in the way of marriage, he will be angry and you will suffer; but if you respect my maidenhood he will love you as he loves me.”

Skeptical of his new wife and her religion, Valerian demanded to be shown the angel. “If you believe in the living and one true God and receive the water of baptism,” Cecilia told him, “then you shall see the angel.” The young man agreed, and sought out Bishop Urban who baptized him. Upon his return, Valerian found Cecilia in prayer with a crown of roses and lilies on her head. He saw that beside her stood an angel, who immediately crowned him as well.

Soon after, Valerian’s brother, Tiburtius, found them praying in the chapel. He saw the crowns of flowers on their heads and the angel standing near and he, too, converted. From that time, the two brothers devoted themselves to the work of God. They were arrested and after refusing to pay homage to false idols, were tortured and killed.

Knowing that the two were married, officials visited Cecilia and tried to persuade her to worship the false idols. Instead, her holiness converted the officials who came to her door, and she was instead ordered to appear before Almachius, the provost of Rome. The provost entreated her to denounce Christ, and when she refused, condemned her to death. They barred her in her home and fed her furnace seven times the normal amount, an act that would have suffocated any other. However, after a day and a night spent in the fatal conditions, Cecilia still lived.

Almachius then sent a soldier to her house to behead her. The executioner struck her three times on the neck and still could not smite her head from her body. By law he could not do so a fourth time and he left her to die. During the three days of her agony, Cecilia gave all that she had to the poor, continually preached the faith, and all those who were converted by her words and example she sent to Pope Urban to be baptized.
St. Urban and his deacons buried her among the bishops in the catacomb of St. Callixtus along the Apian Way. As she had requested, her house was transformed into a church by the Holy Pontiff and it has remained in the service of the Church until this day.

St. Cecilia is known as the patroness of musicians because it is said that during the three days in which she lay dying, the crowd that had gathered could hear angels singing.

Second Photo by: Claude Valette

Weekly Story

WEEKLY STORY

In the midst of this splendor, the Virgin Mary appeared stan...

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The Conversion of Alphonse Ratisbonne

Born in 1814, Alphonse Ratisbonne was from a family of wealthy, well-known Jewish bankers in Strasbourg, France. In 1827, Alphonse’s older brother, Thèodore, converted to Catholicism and entered the priesthood, thus breaking with his anti-Catholic family whose hopes now lay in the young Alphonse. At 27, Alphonse was intelligent and well mannered. He had already finished his law degree, and decided to travel to Italy before marrying and assuming his responsibilities in the family business. However, God had other plans for him.

While in Rome, Alphonse visited works of art, and strictly out of cultural curiosity, a few Catholic churches. These visits hardened his anti-Catholic stance, and nourished his profound hatred for the Church. He also called on an old schoolmate and close friend, Gustave de Bussières.

Gustave was a Protestant and several times had tried, in vain, to win Alphonse over to his religious convictions. Alphonse was introduced to Gustave’s brother, Baron de Bussières, who had recently converted to Catholicism and become a close friend of Father Thèodore Ratisbonne. Because of the Baron’s Catholicism and closeness with his turncoat brother, Alphonse greatly disliked him.

On the eve of his departure, Alphonse reluctantly fulfilled his social obligation to leave his calling card at the Baron’s house as a farewell gesture.

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Hoping to avoid a meeting, Alphonse intended to leave his card discreetly and depart straight away, but was instead shown into the house. The Baron greeted the young Jew warmly, and before long, had persuaded him to remain a few more days in Rome. Inspired by grace, the Baron insisted Alphonse accept a Miraculous Medal and copy down a beautiful prayer: the Memorare. Alphonse could hardly contain his anger at his host’s boldness of proposing these things to him, but decided to take everything good-heartedly, planning to later describe the Baron as an eccentric.

During Alphonse’s stay, the Baron’s close friend, Count de La Ferronays, former French ambassador to the Holy See and a man of great virtue and piety, died quite suddenly. On the eve of his death, the Baron had asked the Count to pray the Memorare one hundred times for Alphonse’s conversion. It is possible that he offered his life to God for the conversion of the young Jewish banker.

A few days later, the Baron went to the church of Sant’Andrea delle Fratte to arrange for his friend’s funeral. Alphonse reluctantly went with him, all the while making violent criticisms of the Church and mocking Catholic practices. When they arrived, the Baron entered the sacristy to arrange the funeral while Alphonse remained in the church.

When the Baron returned just a few minutes later, the young man was gone. He searched the church, and soon discovered his young friend kneeling close to an altar, weeping.  Alphonse himself tells us what happened in those few minutes he waited for the Baron: “I had only been in the church a short while when, all of a sudden, I felt totally uneasy for no apparent reason. I raised my eyes and saw that the whole building had disappeared. Only one side chapel had, so to say, gathered all the light. In the midst of this splendor, the Virgin Mary appeared standing on the altar. She was grandiose, brilliant, full of majesty and sweetness, just as she is in the Miraculous Medal. An irresistible force attracted me to her. The Virgin made a gesture with her hand indicating I was to kneel.”

When de Bussières talked to Alphonse, he no longer found a Jew, but a convert who ardently desired baptism. The news of such an unexpected conversion immediately spread and caused a great commotion throughout Europe, and Pope Gregory XVI received the young convert, paternally. He ordered a detailed investigation with the rigor required by canon law, and concluded that the occurrence was a truly authentic miracle. 

Alphonse took the name Maria Alphonse at baptism, and, wishing to become a priest, was ordained a Jesuit in 1847. After some time, and at the suggestion of Pope Pius IX, he left the Jesuits and joined his brother Thèodore in founding the Congregation of Our Lady of Sion, dedicated to the conversion of the Jews. Father Theodore spread his congregation throughout France and England, while Father Maria Alphonse went to the Holy Land. In Jerusalem, he established a house of the congregation on the plot of land where the praetorium of Pilate had formerly stood.

The two brothers died in 1884, both famed and well-loved for their exceptional virtues.  

By Armando Santos  

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In the midst of this splendor, the Virgin Mary appeared standing on the altar"

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