Thursday, April 17, 2014

From Courageous Priest: Spiritual Warfare Must Be Preached!

The Consequences Of Sin And Disobedience Are Eternal Death!

Msgr. Charles Pope - Every ancient prayer manual and guide to spirituality until about fifty years ago had at least one large section devoted to what was known as Pugna Spiritualis (spiritual battle or spiritual warfare). In more recent decades, many spiritual books have downplayed or completely deleted references to spiritual battle or spiritual warfare.
Sadly, many modern approaches to faith, religion, and spirituality prefer to emphasize exclusively consoling themes rooted in self-esteem, affirmation, etc. To be sure, the authentic faith can and does offer great consolation, but the truest and deepest consolation often comes after one has persevered along the sometimes-difficult path, along the “narrow way” of the cross.
But too many today, in the name of affirmation and pseudo-self-esteem are ready to excuse, and even affirm grave moral disorders, rather than fight them. Grace and mercy are preached, but without reference to the repentance that opens the door to these gifts. Both the possibility of Hell and any consequences of sin, are absent from many modern conceptions of faith and religious practice.
Some years ago, I was approached by a rather angry woman who, having heard my sermon on the seriousness of certain sins (which were in the readings of the day), expressed great indignation that I would preach on such topics. She said, “I come to church to be consoled and have my spirits lifted, not to hear old-fashioned warnings about judgment and sins.” She felt quite a “righteous indignation,” and was most certain that I had transgressed a fundamental norm, namely, that religion exists to console, and that any challenge to one’s moral stance, (except perhaps caring for the poor), is intolerant and way out of line.
Indeed, many today have this kind of attitude: that it is their birthright not to be troubled or vexed in any way by something people might say, especially a preacher who claims to represent God! The “God they worship” would never trouble them. They will have Jesus for their consoler and best friend, but not their Lord, and certainly not their judge. And never mind the literally thousands of verses from Scripture in which Jesus himself speaks sternly and warns of sin, death, judgment, and Hell. They will have none of it, and are certain that “the Jesus they know,” would never raise his voice at them or challenge them even for a moment. Never mind that the real Jesus says to take up our cross and follow him.
With spiritual battle having been removed from many people’s spiritual landscape, the idea that the Lord would summon us to battle, or ask us to choose sides, seems strangely foreign, intolerant, and uncompassionate.
Even more dangerous, these modern conceptions not only distort Jesus, but they downplay the presence and influence of Satan. This is a very, very bad idea. Even if we cease fighting against Satan, he will never ceases his sometimes very subtle attacks on us.
Jesus called consistently for prayerful, sober vigilance against the powers of evil and sin. Like it or not, we are in a battle. Either we will soberly and vigilantly undertake the battle, or we will be conquered and led off like sheep to the slaughter.
Despite what modern spiritual approaches would like to eliminate, Christianity has been a militant religion since its inception. Jesus was exposed to every kind of danger from the beginning. Herod sought his life; Satan tried to tempt him in the desert; many enemies plotted on all sides as he worked his public ministry, misrepresenting him, levying false charges, and conspiring to sentence him to death, and eventually even succeeding though only for a moment.
And as for Jesus, so also for his mystical Body the Church: Saul, Saul why do you persecute me!?  (Acts 9:4) Jesus warns us that the world would hate us (Luke 21:17; John 15:20); that in this world we would have tribulation (Jn 16:33), and that we should watch and pray lest we give way to temptation (Matt 26:41). He summons us to persevere to the end if we would be saved (Mk 13:13). Jesus rather vividly described the kind of struggle with which we live when he said From the time of John the Baptist until now, the Kingdom of Heaven has suffered violence, and men of violence take it by force (Matthew 11:12). Indeed, no Christian until the time that Jesus returns, can consider himself on leave or dismissed from this great spiritual battle, from this great drama that we exist in, this battle between good and evil.
Popular theme or not, we do well to remember that we are in the midst of a great cosmic and spiritual battle. And in that battle, we must be willing to choose sides and fight with the Lord for the Kingdom of God. Either we will gather with him or we will scatter. We are to fight for our own soul, and the souls of those whom we love.
In the holy week that is about to unfold, we are reminded once again of the great cosmic battle that the Lord waged, and that is still being waged in our time. Though already victorious, in his mystical Body the Church, the Lord in his faithful members still suffers violence, rejection, and ridicule. It is also for us to reclaim territory from the evil one, to take back what the devil stole from us. We are to advance the glory of God’s Kingdom through the fruits of great spiritual struggle, sacrifice, prayer, fasting, preaching, and an extensive missionary campaign to which the Lord has summoned and commissioned us.
The battle is on; the struggle is engaged! To spiritual arms one and all! Fight the good fight for the Lord.
Still not convinced we are at war? Let the Lord pull back the veil just a bit and let you look at what’s really going on. The final words of this article will not be mine; they will be the Lord’s. Here is described the cosmic battle that is responsible for most of the suffering and confusion you experience:
A great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head. She was pregnant and cried out in pain as she was about to give birth. Then another sign appeared in heaven: an enormous red dragon with seven heads and ten horns and seven crowns on its heads. Its tail swept a third of the stars out of the sky and flung them to the earth. The dragon stood in front of the woman who was about to give birth, so that it might devour her child the moment he was born. She gave birth to a son, a male child, who “will rule all the nations with an iron scepter.” And her child was snatched up to God and to his throne. The woman fled into the wilderness to a place prepared for her by God, where she might be taken care of for 1,260 days. Then war broke out in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him. Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say:“Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Messiah. For the accuser of our brothers who accuses them before our God day and night,has been hurled down. They triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death. Therefore rejoice, you heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has gone down to you! He is filled with fury, because he knows that his time is short.” When the dragon saw that he had been hurled to the earth, he pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child. The woman was given the two wings of a great eagle, so that she might fly to the place prepared for her in the wilderness, where she would be taken care of for a time, times and half a time, out of the serpent’s reach. Then from his mouth the serpent spewed water like a river, to overtake the woman and sweep her away with the torrent. But the earth helped the woman by opening its mouth and swallowing the river that the dragon had spewed out of his mouth. Then the dragon was enraged at the woman and went off to wage war against the rest of her offspring—those who keep God’s commands and hold fast their testimony about Jesus. (Rev 12)
Originally posted at:  Archdiocese of Washington
 from Courageous Priest

[Video] Washing of the Feet

  Let It Go


Reflection for 4/17/14


Photos by John Ragai, missionariconsolata, Jorge Bergoglio, dqau01, Steffen Heilfort

Sister Emmanuel's Newsletter from Medjugorje, April 2014

Children of Medjugorje, INC
© Children of Medjugorje 2014
Permission is given to use the text of these reports under two conditions:
1) No words are changed,
2) "Children of Medjugorje" is cited along with our website:

April 15 2014
Dear children of Medjugorje,
Praised be Jesus and Mary! Happy Easter!

1On April 2, 2014 Mirjana received her monthly apparition at the Blue Cross on a lovely sunny spring day! After the apparition she gave the following message:

English: St. James Church in Međugorje. Polski...
English: St. James Church in Međugorje. Polski: Kościół św. Jakuba w Međugorje (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

"Dear children, with a motherly love I desire to help you for your life of prayer and penance to be a sincere attempt of drawing closer to my Son and His divine light - that you may know how to separate yourselves from sin. Every prayer, every Mass and every fasting is an attempt of drawing closer to my Son, a reminder of His glory and a refuge from sin - it is a way to a renewed union of the good Father and His children. Therefore, my dear children, with hearts open and full of love, cry out the name of the Heavenly Father that He may illuminate you with the Holy Spirit. Through the Holy Spirit you will become a spring of God's love. All those who do not know my Son, all those thirsting for the love and peace of my Son, will drink from this spring. Thank you. Pray for your shepherds. I pray for them and I desire that they may always feel the blessing of my motherly hands and the support of my motherly heart. "

2.  Struck by the Holy Spirit! Battistina is definitely an Italian woman of our time. She is a 47-year old internet-based accountant. When her partner invited her to go to Medjugorje, she was not very interested. Then, one morning, on her car radio, she heard the song, often played by Radio Maria that had irritated her so much for years when she was looking for a program. Unexpectedly that song moved her deeply; her tears flowed continuously, without any apparent reason. She understood that the Blessed Mother was calling her. But I will let her tell her own story ...

"Since a pilgrimage to Medjugorje in July 2012, everything has changed in my life, nothing is like before! My conversion happened during the adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. There were thousands of us outside around the Rotunda. Suddenly I found myself on my knees and I had the feeling that I was holding my living heart in my hands. I saw my entire life scroll down before my eyes. I clearly saw the good and the bad, and everything that seemed good at the time was becoming bad. I started to feel a great pain about my divorce.

How could I have broken a promise made in front of God? These words echoed in my mind, 'let no one split apart what God has joined together'. I then understood that my serenity was only in my mind because my heart was ice-cold. I had always felt I was on the side of the "righteous" and that I was a victim. Suddenly I saw how hard my heart was, I saw the suffering of my 4 children, what my father and my in-laws had endured, and I especially saw that I was not at all a victim.  Actually I had never forgiven anyone. When my oldest daughter, 9 year-old and in 4th grade, had insisted on doing her first Holy Communion, I had told her it made no sense; and my last child had not even been baptized! I saw all the New Age books that I had bought over the past 20 years. How could I have spent all that time reading and taking courses on self-development, things that only ended up pushing me away from God and my family?

The pain was getting stronger and stronger and little by little I found myself with my face to the ground.  I told myself, 'Lord, let me die here, because I am not worthy of even lifting my head from the ground'. At that moment I felt something like a huge hug filled with love, and a joy that is not of this world. And I told myself, 'During 18 years I thought I had given my children everything, but actually I had not given them anything because I had not given them this. So if I stay here to pray for them for the rest of my life, would that not be better than anything that I could do if I went back home? If I, as a mother, the soul of the household, had cultivated prayer instead of cultivating useless things, my children would still have a united family today!'

I understood that when you make the decision to shrug off the cross of marriage, you are actually putting it on your children's shoulders.
Then I felt that I had to keep the promise of faithfulness in marriage, so I decided to make a vow of chastity. I offered this to God so that a thousand families would not separate. My life partner felt the same way. He also told me that we should consecrate ourselves completely. Some priests told me that the vow of chastity was not necessary, others that it was just something we had made up, but I was quite certain and determined because it seemed so little in comparison with the infinite mercy that I had received.

My children thought I had become crazy because I was going to church and hung up a crucifix in the living-room. My eldest daughter was very irritated by my enthusiasm, and she told me, 'So what about all the things you've been telling us for the past 18 years?' 'I am sorry,' I told her. 'I was mistaken!'

In November I went back to Medjugorje with my 4 children so that they too would have an understanding and wisdom. I was very hopeful that they would meet the Lord. I was watching them from a distance, and waiting I thought, 'But if I, their mother, with the little love I am capable of, am so happy to see my children pray, how much happier must our Heavenly Mother be? And how unhappy will she be for her children who get lost!

medjugorje (Photo credit: Sean MacEntee)
During the pilgrimage all of my children's hearts were touched. We started studying the Catechism together. Nine months later, the youngest, 10 years old, was baptized, and all my children received Holy Communion during the same celebration. This was the most beautiful day of my life! It was as if I could see them all being reborn at the same time. My partner and I stayed together for a year, living like brother and sister. But every day I was asking God to be able to understand what His will was, whether we should stay close to support one another, or be separated completely. I kept that doubt in my heart for a long time but little by little the Lord led our paths to grow apart because of work.

After my conversion, I contacted my ex-husband again. For nine years every telephone call had ended with yelling on both sides; so for a year we did not talk to each other, and he would communicate with me through the children. When I recognized my mistakes,I looked at his faults as the consequences of my own, and then my resentment disappeared. I was the one who should ask for forgiveness! Little by little I started to feel the deep bond of marriage, sealed by God, and to feel once again a spouse. Yet I did not understand it. I asked a priest if it was all right to feel that I was a spouse, even though my husband was bonded to another person and had a son. The priest answered that the sacrament of marriage was indissoluble before God.  

Now the love that I thought had been cancelled or even had never existed, I found it once again intact in the depths of my heart. I keep it in its purity and I pray every day for the conversion of my ex-husband and for all the families. I thank Jesus and Mary for the infinite grace that my family receives every day and I continue onward on this path of conversion."

3. What Battistina experienced, in concentrated form and in consecutive steps, is what frequently happens for Medjugorje pilgrims: invited by Our Lady without knowing why, Battistina came; and by a special grace, she saw her whole life in the light of the Holy Spirit.  She understood with her heart the mercy of God for her, she regretted her sins (that she did not see before), and she cried over them, renounced them, and confessed them. She could see herself being thoroughly transformed and she took action, making changes in her life according to what pleases God, with the help of a good priest, faithful to the Magisterium of the Church. What a powerful example! Many people just stop at the graces they received, but it is a good thing to take concrete action once you get back home!  This testimony will help us enter fully, together with Jesus, into this time of mercy that is offered to us now as never before!

4.  The Novena to Divine Mercy is an awesome present from God. It begins on Good Friday and ends on the Sunday after Easter which Pope John Paul II declared Mercy Sunday. May this powerful prayer - and the promises attached to it - bring to each one of us a real renewal of love for Christ! May it help us abandon sin and decide for holiness! You can find the Divine Mercy Novena and Chaplet here: 

Dearest Gospa, we are celebrating with joy your divine motherhood of us, because Jesus is telling us again today, "Behold your Mother"! Like John, we are taking you into our home in order to live each minute of our lives with you! Your maternal Heart delights us! In these days of great blessings, please tell us the secrets you have about the Heart of your Son!

                Sister Emmanuel +

Note 1. You can help Sister Emmanuel! She has almost finished writing her book on Peace, it is a follow-up to "The Hidden Child of Medjugorje". Thank you for the testimonies you have already sent her!  If you haven't sent yours yet, don't worry! It's not too late. She will be writing a follow-up to this one. It is also not too late to send good photos from Medj. Think of all those who do not yet know the love of God who will open up to Him by discovering the graces that you will share! Thank you for writing to or contacting us through the "contact us" form at website.

Note 2. The youth festival will take place August 1st - 6th. Why not help a teenager to come, and allow him or her to change their lives?  Doing so, you may save a soul! 

Erratum: On March 15th I wrote that the 6 visionaries had met the members of the Commission in Rome, that is correct, but separately, and not last February. 

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Mary TV Daily Reflection 4/17/2014

(c) Mary TV 2013

April 17, 2014
Holy Thursday

Dear Family of Mary!

We now enter into the Holy Triduum. These most holy days can best be lived in silence and prayer. Tonight at Holy Mass we will witness Jesus washing the feet of His disciples and offering His Body and Blood to them as their heavenly food. This mystery of humble love is beyond our comprehension. We can only receive it with open hearts.

John 13:1-15

Before the feast of Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come
to pass from this world to the Father.
He loved his own in the world and he loved them to the end.
The devil had already induced Judas, son of Simon the Iscariot, to hand him over.
So, during supper,
fully aware that the Father had put everything into his power
and that he had come from God and was returning to God,
he rose from supper and took off his outer garments.
He took a towel and tied it around his waist.
Then he poured water into a basin
and began to wash the disciples' feet
and dry them with the towel around his waist.
He came to Simon Peter, who said to him,
"Master, are you going to wash my feet?"
Jesus answered and said to him,
"What I am doing, you do not understand now,
but you will understand later."
Peter said to him, "You will never wash my feet."
Jesus answered him,
"Unless I wash you, you will have no inheritance with me."
Simon Peter said to him,
"Master, then not only my feet, but my hands and head as well."
Jesus said to him,
"Whoever has bathed has no need except to have his feet washed,
for he is clean all over;
so you are clean, but not all."
For he knew who would betray him;
for this reason, he said, "Not all of you are clean."
So when he had washed their feet
and put his garments back on and reclined at table again,
he said to them, "Do you realize what I have done for you?
You call me 'teacher' and 'master,' and rightly so, for indeed I am.
If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet,
you ought to wash one another's feet.
I have given you a model to follow,
so that as I have done for you, you should also do."

Our Lady speaks to us of humble love in this message:
"Dear children; Today I call you to a humble, my children, humble devotion. Your hearts need to be just. May your crosses be your means in the battle against the sins of the present time. May your weapon be patience and boundless love, a love that knows to wait and which will make you capable of recognizing God's signs, that your life, by humble love, may show the truth to all those who seek it in the darkness of lies. My children, my apostles, help me to open the paths to my Son. Once again I call you to pray for your shepherds. Alongside them, I will triumph. Thank you." (October 2, 2010)

Mother Mary wants us to resemble Jesus, through our humility and loving service. May we follow Jesus, by loving and serving, and carrying our crosses, so that the way will be open for others to find Him.   

We adore You, O Christ, and we bless You, because by Your holy Cross You have redeemed the world.

In Jesus, Mary and Joseph!
Cathy Nolan
©Mary TV 2014

PS. We will begin the Divine Mercy Novena on Good Friday, at 3:00 pm EDT. We will archive the daily Novena prayers so all can join in. Join us at 

PPS. We hope to join St. James Parish as they climb Krizevac doing the Stations of the Cross, Good Friday at 8:00 am EDT as well.

"Medjugorje is the spiritual center of the world."
Blessed John Paul II
Be connected!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

From Opus Bono Sacerdotii: Holy Thursday rerun of "A Priest Behind Bars!"

We are going to air again our show that Opus Bono president Joe Maher did a few weeks ago from a maximum security prison interviewing a priest who is incarcerated.  On this Holy Thursday, in commemoration of the institution of the Holy Catholic Priesthood, we thought it would be fitting to hear once again about the sufferings and dangers of living behind bars as a prisoner priest. But, it is the miracles that will astound you about prison life!
Don’t miss this one-hour interview on Opus Bono Radio at Noon on Holy Thursday, April 17th at Noon EST. 
Click to listen at: 

This show will be archived and available for free on demand listening.
Opus Bono Radio Live at Noon (EST) Tomorrow!
God bless you,
David Schuster
OBS Radio Producer
Opus Bono Sacerdotii
P.O. Box 663, Oxford, MI 48371-0663   P 313.937.6305 

[Video] Happy Birthday Benedict XVI!

These Stone Walls: Holy Week and Easter: Behold the Man, as Pilate Washes His Hands By Fr. Gordon J. MacRae

Behold the Man, as Pilate Washes His Hands s
“Ecce Homo!” An 1871 painting of Christ before Pilate by Antonio Ciseri depicts a moment woven into the fabric of salvation history, and into our very souls.
“So when Pilate saw that he was gaining nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took water and washed his hands before the crowd saying, ‘I am innocent of this righteous man’s blood.’” (Matthew 27: 24)
A now well known Wall Street Journal article, “The Trials of Father MacRae” by Dorothy Rabinowitz (May 10, 2013) had a photograph of me – with hair, no less – being led in chains from my 1994 trial. When I saw that photo, I was drawn back to a vivid scene that I wrote about during Holy Week two years ago in “Dismas, Crucified to the Right: Paradise Lost and Found.” My Holy Week post began with the scene depicted in that photo and all that was to follow on the day I was sent to prison. It was the Feast of Saint Padre Pio, September 23, 1994, but as I stood before Judge Arthur Brennan to hear my condemnation, I was oblivious to that fact.
Had that photo a more panoramic view, you would see two men shuffling in chains ahead of me toward a prison-bound van. They had the misfortune of being surrounded by clicking cameras aimed at me, and reporters jockeying for position to capture the moment to feed “Our Catholic Tabloid Frenzy About Fallen Priests.” That short walk to the prison van seemed so very long. Despite his own chains, one of the two convicts ahead of me joined the small crowd in mockery of me. The other chastised him in my defense.
Writing from prison 18 years later, in Holy Week 2012, I could not help but remember some irony in that scene as I contemplated the fact of “Dismas, Crucified to the Right.” That post ended with the brief exchange between Christ and Dismas from their respective crosses, and the promise of Paradise on the horizon in response to the plea of Dismas: “Remember me when you come into your kingdom.” This conversation from the cross has some surprising meaning beneath its surface. That post might be worth a good Friday visit this year.
But before the declaration to Dismas from the Crucified Christ – “Today, you will be with me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43) – salvation history required a much more ominous declaration. It was that of Pontius Pilate who washed his hands of any responsibility for the Roman execution of the Christ.
Two weeks ago, in “What if the Prodigal Son Had No Father to Return To?”, I wrote of my fascination with etymology, the origins of words and their meanings. There is also a traceable origin for many oft-used phrases such as “I wash my hands of it.” That well known phrase came down to us through the centuries to renounce responsibility for any number of the injustices incurred by others. The phrase is a direct allusion to the words and actions of Pontius Pilate from the Gospel of Saint Matthew (27: 24).
Before Pilate stood an innocent man, Jesus of Nazareth, about to be whipped and beaten, then crowned with thorns in mockery of his kingship. Pilate had no real fear of the crowd. He had no reason to appease them. No amount of hand washing can cleanse from history the stain that Pilate tried to remove from himself by this symbolic washing of his hands.
This scene became the First Station of the Cross. At the Shrine of Lourdes the scene includes a boy standing behind Pilate with a bowl of water to wash away Pilate’s guilt. My friend, Father George David Byers sent me a photo of it, and a post he once wrote after a pilgrimage to Lourdes:
Lourdes Water Boy“Some of you may be familiar with ‘The High Stations’ up on the mountain behind the grotto in Lourdes, France. The larger-than-life bronze statues made vivid the intensity of the injustice that is occurring. In the First Station, Jesus, guarded by Roman soldiers, is depicted as being condemned to death by Pontius Pilate who is about to wash his hands of this unjust judgment. A boy stands at the ready with a bowl and a pitcher of water so as to wash away the guilt from the hands of Pilate . . . Some years ago a terrorist group set off a bomb in front of this scene. The bronze statue of Pontius Pilate was destroyed . . . The water boy is still there, eager to wash our hands of guilt, though such forgiveness is only given from the Cross.”
As that van left me behind these stone walls that day nearly twenty years ago, the other two prisoners with me were sent off to the usual Receiving Unit, but something more special awaited me. I was taken to begin a three month stay in solitary confinement. Every surface of the cell I was in bore the madness of previous occupants. Every square inch of its walls was completely covered in penciled graffiti. At first, it repulsed me. Then, after unending days with nothing to contemplate but my plight and those walls, I began to read. I read every scribbled thought, every scrawled expletive, every plea for mercy and deliverance. I read them a hundred times over before I emerged from that tomb three months later, still sane. Or so I thought.
When I read “I Come to the Catholic Church for Healing and Hope,” Pornchai Maximilian Moontri’s guest post last month, I wondered how he endured solitary confinement that stretched for year upon year. “Today as I look back,” he wrote, “I see that even then in the darkness of solitary confinement, Christ was calling me out of the dark.” It’s an ironic image because one of the most maddening things about solitary confinement is that it’s never dark. Intense overhead lights are on 24/7.
The darkness of solitary confinement he described is only on the inside, the inside of a mind and soul, and it’s a pitch blackness that defies description. My psyche was wounded, at best, after three months. I cannot describe how Pornchai endured this for many years. But he did, and no doubt those who brought it about have since washed their hands of it.
For me, once out of solitary confinement, the writing on the walls took on new meaning. In “Angelic Justice: St Michael the Archangel and the Scales of Hesed” a few years back, I described a section of each cell wall where prisoners are allowed to post the images that give meaning and hope to their lives. One wall in each cell contains two painted rectangles, each barely more than two by four feet, and posted within them are the sole remnant of any individualism in prison. You can learn a lot about a man from that finite space on his wall.
When I was moved into this cell, Pornchai’s wall was empty, and mine remained empty as well. Once These Stone Walls began in 2009, however, readers began to transform our wall without realizing it. Images sent to me made their way onto the wall, and some of the really nice ones somehow mysteriously migrated over to Pornchai’s wall. A very nice Saint Michael icon spread its wings and flew over to his side one day. That now famous photo of Pope Francis with a lamb placed on his shoulders is on Pornchai’s wall, and when I asked him how my Saint Padre Pio icon managed to get over there, he muttered something about bilocation.
Ecce Homo
One powerful image, however, has never left its designated spot in the very center of my wall. It’s a five-by-seven inch card bearing the 1871 painting, “Ecce Homo!” – “Behold the Man!” – by the Swiss-born Italian artist, Antonio Ciseri. It was sent to me by a TSW reader during Holy Week a few years ago. The haunting image went quickly onto my cell wall where it has remained since. The Ciseri painting depicts a scene that both draws me in and repels me at the same time.
On one dark day in prison, I decided to take it down from my wall because it troubles me. But I could not, and it took some time to figure out why. This scene of Christ before Pilate captures an event described vividly in the Gospel of Saint John (19:1-5). Pilate, unable to reason with the crowd has Jesus taken behind the scenes to be stripped and scourged, a mocking crown of thorns thrust upon his head. The image makes me not want to look, but then once I do look, I have a hard time looking away.
When he is returned to Pilate, as the scene depicts, the hands of Christ are bound behind his back, a scarlet garment in further mockery of his kingship is stripped from him down to his waist. His eyes are cast to the floor as Pilate, in fine white robes, gestures to Christ with his left hand to incite the crowd into a final decision that he has the power to overrule, but won’t. “Behold the Man!” Pilate shouts in a last vain gesture that perhaps this beating and public humiliation might be enough for them. It isn’t.
I don’t want to look, and I can’t look away because I once stood in that spot, half naked before Pilate in a trial-by-mob. On that day when I arrived in prison, before I was thrown into solitary confinement for three months, I was unceremoniously doused with a delousing agent, and then forced to stand naked while surrounded by men in riot gear, Pilate’s guards mocking not so much what they thought was my crime, but my priesthood. They pointed at me and laughed, invited me to give them an excuse for my own scourging, and then finally, when the mob was appeased, they left me in the tomb they prepared, the tomb of solitary confinement. Many would today deny that such a scene ever took place, but it did. It was twenty years ago. Most are gone now, collecting state pensions for their years of public service, having long since washed their hands of all that ever happened in prison.
I don’t tell this story because I equate myself with Christ. It’s just the opposite. In each Holy Week post I’ve written, I find that I am some other character in this scene. I’ve been “Simon of Cyrene, Compelled to Carry the Cross.” I’ve been “Dismas, Crucified to the Right.” I tell this story first because it’s the truth, and second because having lived it, I today look upon that scene of Christ before Pilate on my wall, and I see it differently than most of you might. I relate to it perhaps a bit more than I would had I myself never stood before Pilate.
Having stared for three years at this scene fixed upon my cell wall, words cannot describe the sheer force of awe and irony I felt when someone sent me an October 2013 article by Carlos Caso-Rosendi written and published in Buenos Aires, Argentina, the home town of Pope Francis. The article was entitled, “Behold the Man!” and it was about my trial and imprisonment. Having no idea whatsoever of the images upon my cell wall, Carlos Caso-Rosendi’s article began with this very same image: Antonio Ciseri’s 1871 painting, “Ecce Homo!” TSW reader, Bea Pires, printed Carlos’ article and sent it to Pope Francis.
I read the above paragraphs to Pornchai-Maximilian about the power of this scene on my wall. He agrees that he, too, finds this image over on my side of this cell to be vaguely troubling and disconcerting, and for the same reasons I do. He has also lived the humiliation the scene depicts, and because of that he relates to the scene as I do, with both reverence and revulsion. “That’s why it stay on your wall,” he said, “and never found its way over to mine!”
Aha! A confession!