Thursday, March 9, 2017

squadIn my talk Swimming Upstream I usually tell the story of 40 Roman soldiers who chose to freeze naked on a frozen lake in 320 AD rather than deny Jesus Christ.

St. Basil, Doctor of the Church, told of the heroic martyrdom of 40 soldiers in a homily. They had been executed fifty years before his episcopate. They died a heroic martyrdom in Armenia around AD 320.

They had been executed by Emperor Licinius. There have been churches built in their honor — even a chapel in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem.

Here is how I tell the story in my talk:

The Twelfth Legion — nicknamed “Armed with Lightning” —  was the best and the bravest warriors of the Roman Empire.

RomanLegion2When the great Roman army was sent to fight in far-away Armenia, no soldiers were braver or more loyal than this band of soldiers. But news reached Emperor Licinius that many Roman soldiers had accepted the Christian faith.

A decree was dispatched: “If there be any among your soldiers who cling to the faith of the Christian, they must die!”

The Prefect called the soldiers together and asked: “Are any of you Christians? The 40 soldiers stepped forward and stood at attention. The Prefect had not expected so many, nor such select ones.

He demanded they deny their Christ and offer sacrifices to the pagan gods. They refused. Not a single man would deny his Lord.

Finally the Prefect said, “The decree of the emperor must be obeyed. I order you to strip and march out upon the lake of ice.”

I40-martyrs-of-sebasten the meantime fires were built along the shore with tubs of warm water to entice the men to recant their faith.

The 40 soldiers were stripped and marched on the ice to the center of the lake. They broke into their chant: “Forty soldiers, fighting for Thee, O Christ, to win for Thee the victory and the victor’s crown!” 

In the night, overcome by cold, one soldier caved in and crept toward the fire, renouncing his Lord.

f1From the darkness their chant echoed in the cold: “Thirty-nine soldiers, fighting for Thee, O Christ, to win for Thee the victory and the victor’s crown!”

One of the guards keeping watch over the freezing men was amazed when he saw a brilliant supernatural light overshadowing the Christian soldiers on the ice.

At once he announced “I too am now a Christian, threw off his uniform, cast aside his sword. He disappeared into the darkness to join the thirty-nine. 

Shivering beside the thirty-nine soldiers of Christ he joined their cry, “Forty soldiers, fighting for Thee, O Christ, to win for Thee the victory and from Thee, the victor’s crown!” 

230628.bAt daybreak most were dead, the stiffened bodies of the confessors who still showed signs of life, were killed. They were all burned and their ashes tossed over the ice.

(Picture: Church marking the place of their martyrdom)

For more information read Taylor Marshall’s blog and the Wikipedia entry.

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The Plot Against the Pope

by Steve Ray on March 9, 2017

By Damian Thompson    March 11, 2017 in The Spectator Magazine

It is no secret in Rome that several cardinal want Francis to step down

On the first Saturday in February, the people of Rome awoke to find the city covered in peculiar posters depicting a scowling Pope Francis. Underneath were written the words:

Ah, Francis, you have intervened in Congregations, removed priests, decapitated the Order of Malta and the Franciscans of the Immaculate, ignored Cardinals… but where is your mercy?

Screen Shot 2017-03-09 at 11.02.44 AMThe reference to mercy was a jibe that any Catholic could understand. Francis had just concluded his ‘Year of Mercy’, during which the church was instructed to reach out to sinners in a spirit of radical forgiveness. But it was also a year in which the Argentinian pontiff continued his policy of squashing his critics with theatrical contempt…

In any case, it is not anonymous mockery that should worry the Pope: it is the public silence of cardinals and bishops who, in the early days of his pontificate, missed no opportunity to cheer him on.

The silence is ominous because it comes amid suspicion that influential cardinals are plotting against Francis — motivated not by partisan malice, but by fear that the integrity and authority of the papacy is at stake.

For the full article, click HERE.

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Eloquent Thanks for Holy Land Pilgrimage

by Steve Ray on March 9, 2017

Steve and Janet,

IMG_8280We would like to thank you and Janet for a once in a lifetime experience in the Holy Land. From day one, this journey has been the work of God.  Our last minute addition to the trip was no accident and truly the work of God. The trip itself was well organized and it shows that both of you put a lot of time and effort into making it a memorable and unforgettable experience for all the pilgrims. The food selection was delicious. 

Amer did a fantastic job of the historical background of each of the sites we visited. He gives us a perspective we could never find in a guidebook. He was a true treasure on our pilgrimage. Also David’s navigating us safely through the streets to all the destinations so very impressive.   We know it is a challenging task getting us around in each city.

Special thanks to Janet for bringing up the rear, ensuring no-one gets left behind, pointing out washrooms and keeping Steve honest.  I will always treasure our moments in the Church of the Nativity!

It is amazing how everyone bonded as a group and people we didn’t know a couple of weeks ago, have become good friends.  The Ann Arbor folks made us feel welcomed even though we were from Chicago. It was a great honor and I greatly appreciate you for inviting me to share our testimony with the group. We know it touched many souls. It definitely has encouraged us.

IMG_8351We greatly appreciate you allowing our former pastor Fr. Edward Pelrine to assist in the celebration of Mass with Fr. James. It was his suggestion that we join your group on this pilgrimage to the Holy Land.

Thanks again for your great work to help keep Christians in the Holy Land. We saw how they live out the Gospel each and every day under tremendous pressure.

Finally, we would like to thank Corporate Travel and their team for making the arrangements. They did a great job on such short notice.

God bless you and your ministry in service to our Lord. All of you are in our prayers. Someday we hope and pray to see you and Janet again on another pilgrimage.

Have a blessed Lent and a Happy Easter!

Alex and Audrey Cuatchon

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Bishops Should Not Play into the Hands of Immigration Hysteria

March 9, 2017

From The Christian Review (when it was still seven countries banned): The troubling, knee-jerk reactions to the recent presidential executive order temporarily suspending the issuance of visas to nationals of seven “countries of particular concern” seem to have preempted the steady moral reasoning that characterizes the best of Catholic analysis. Unfortunately, members of the U.S. […]

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