Pope St. Leo the Great…father of the church, doctor of the church, and so much more – Discerning Hearts

No one, however weak, is denied a share in the victory of the cross.
No one is beyond the help of the prayer of Christ.
– St. Leo the Great

How do you stop a barbarian invader like Attila from sacking your town?  Pray, pray, pray…just ask St. Leo the Great.

Take a listen to Mike Aquilina (the “great” son of the Fathers) talk about St. Leo the Great:

CNAPope Leo the Great is the first Pope whose sermons and letters, many of which were on faith and charity, were preserved in extensive collections. He served as pontiff from 440 until his death in 461. His writing on the Incarnation was acclaimed at the Council of Chalcedon in 451.

Prior to his pontificate, Leo was a deacon and active as a peacemaker in the Roman Empire. He is most remembered for having successfully persuaded Attila the Hun not to plunder Rome. He was not as successful during another attack three years later, however. Nevertheless, he managed to save the city from being burnt. He stayed on to help the people rebuild Rome.

He was made a Doctor of the Church in 1754-CNA

This is the chapel/altar area with the tomb of St. Leo in St. Peter’s in Rome.  It was restricted to the public for some reason. But I was able to get close, because I went to confession in that area (a very interesting story I’ll share some day).

  Here is the “great” painting by Raphael that is in the Vatican Museum of St. Leo imploring Attilia to back off and change his ways (and he did, go figure)

Spiritual Writings –

 – Sermons
– Letters

Pope Benedict on Prayer 13 – Psalm 119: “Open to hope and permeated with faith”


In his general audience this morning Benedict XVI focused his catechesis on Psalm 119, the longest of the Psalms, constructed as an acrostic in which each stanza begins with one of the twenty-two letters of the Hebrew alphabet. Its subject matter is “the Torah of the Lord; that is, His Law, a term which in its broadest and most complete definition comprehends teaching, instruction and life guidance. The Torah is revelation, it is the Word of God which is addressed to man and which arouses his response of faithful obedience and generous love”, the Pope said.

“The Psalmist’s faithfulness arises from listening to the Word, from keeping it in his heart, meditating upon it and loving it, like Mary who ‘treasured in her heart’ the words addressed to her, the marvellous events in which God revealed Himself and asked for her response of faith”, he explained. The Psalmist describes those who walk in the Law of the Lord as blessed, and indeed “Mary is blessed because she bore the Saviour in her womb, but above all because she accepted God’s annunciation and treasured His Word attentively and lovingly”.
Psalm 119 is constructed around this Word of life and blessing. Its central theme is the Word and the Law, and its verses are replete with synonyms thereof such as “precepts, decrees, promises”, associated with verbs such as “to know, to love, to meditate, to live”, the Holy Father explained. “The entire alphabet features in the twenty-two verses of the Psalm, as does the entire vocabulary of the believer’s relationship of trust with God. We find praise, thanksgiving and trust, but also supplication and lamentation; however, all of them are pervaded by the certainty of divine grace and the power of the Word of God. Even those verses most marked by suffering and darkness remain open to hope and are permeated with faith”.

The Law of God, which is “the centre of life”, must be “listened to with obedience but not servility, with filial trust and awareness. To listen to the Word is to have a personal encounter with the Lord of life. … The fulfilment of the Law is to follow Jesus”. Thus Psalm 119 “guides us towards the Gospel”, the Pope explained.

In this context he focused particularly on verse 57: “The Lord is my portion; I promise to keep your words”.

“The term ‘portion'”, he explained, “evokes the partition of the Promised Land among the tribes of Israel, when the Levites were given no part of the territory because their ‘portion’ was the Lord Himself. … These verses are also important for us today, especially for priests, who are called to live from the Lord and from His Word alone, with no other guarantees, no other wealth, and having Him as their one source of true life. It is in this light that we can understand the free choice of celibacy for the Kingdom of heaven, which must be rediscovered in all its beauty and power.
“These verses are also important for the faithful, the People of God who belong only to Him”, the Pope added in conclusion. “They are called to experience the radical nature of the Gospel, to be witnesses of the life brought by Christ, the new and definitive ‘High Priest’ Who offered Himself in sacrifice for the salvation of the world. The Lord and His Word are our ‘land’ in which to live in communion and joy”.

YFFC Show 9 – The Truth About Contraception part 3 w/ Dr. Thomas Hilgers – Discerning Hearts

Show 9 – The Truth About Contraception part 3

Condoms – a barrier in more ways than one…and the myth of “safe” sex

“Your Fertility Care Consult”
with Dr. Thomas Hilgers, founder of the Pope Paul VI Institute
for The Study of Human Reproduction
hosted by Kris McGregor

listen to the entire series at Dr. Hilger’s Discerning Hearts Page

The Pope Paul VI Institute, founded in 1985 by Thomas W. Hilgers, MD, is internationally recognized for its outstanding achievements in the field of natural fertility regulation and reproductive medicine — 30 years of scientific research and educational program development; allied health professional education programs for couples and professionals; professional, caring, and morally acceptable patient services. The Pope Paul VI Institute for the Study of Human Reproduction is building a culture of life in women’s health care through its major developments — Creighton Model FertilityCare System and NaProTechnology.


IP#119 Dr. Brennan Pursell – History in His Hands on Inside the Pages

“History in His Hands -A Christian Narrative” …What a phenomonal book!  Not since “The Fulfillment of All Desires” have I been this excited about a work.  Brennan Pursell has brought the head to the heart and he’s done it with human history…outstanding!  More than even a history of mankind,  it is a history of  LOVE;  God is LOVE and our response to Him throughout time is what shapes our past, our present, and provides us a tentative direction for our future…where will our choices lead us? Dr. Brennan Pursell is one of my new heroes.  Do not let this one pass you by!

  “A refreshing tour through familiar territory from an unfamiliar perspective. Dr. Pursell allows a convert’s vibrancy of faith to inform his historical analysis without oversimplifying it.”  —Fr. John Bartunek, author, The Better Part

Check out the book here

RC#9 – The Resilient Church with Mike Aquilina – The World Goes Mad

Episode 9– The World Goes Mad

The Resilient Church with Mike Aquilina, offers a fascinating look at the trials and triumphs of the Catholic Church over the past two thousand years. Fast-paced sketches of critical periods in church history give readers perspective on the challenges faced by the church today. Mike Aquilina does not shrink from the realities of the past, including badly behaved leaders and those who betrayed the Lord. Yet he also leaves us all with well-founded hope for the future: God remains faithful in every circumstance and fulfills his promise to remain with his church always. Hosted by Kris McGregor

Pick up a copy of Mke’s book. You’ll find so much more and invaluable references and resoources, as well

Also visit Mike’s “Discerning Hearts” page for more audio downloads and information!

ST9- Seeking Truth with Sharon Doran – “Do You Want to be Healed?” John Chapter 5

Episode 9 – Seeking Truth with Sharon Doran, hosted by Bruce McGregor.   Ep 9- “Do you want to be healed?”, John Chapter 5

Sharon Doran serves as the teaching director of “Seeking Truth.” An experienced Bible Study teacher, Sharon has a passion forscripture that will motivate and challenge you to immerse yourself in God’s Word and apply His message to your every day life.

Episode 9- John Chapter 5 Sharon and Bruce discuss the pool of Bethesda and the healing of the paralytic. Jesus is announcing a great blessing for all the world.

“Seeking Truth” is an in depth Catholic Bible Study, commissioned by the Archdiocese of Omaha in response to John Paul II’s call to the New Evangelization as well as Pope Benedict XVI’s exhortation for all Catholics to study scripture. To learn more go to: www.seekingtruth.net

Cardinal Arinze on the Sacred Liturgy and the changes in the English translation

Cardinal Arinze, on September 21, 2011, spoke with priests of the Archdiocese of Omaha on the Sacred Liturgy of the Church and the changes in the English language translation.  

Francis Cardinal Arinze discussed the Sacred Liturgy and the history of the new English translation.  Why is it necessary?  The importance of the text and flaws currently in place.

This is a very important prospective for all the members of the Church to hear!

Event sponsored by the Pro Sanctity Movement



Poor Souls, Purgatory, Praying for the Dead…Yes, Virginia, there is a Purgatory – Discerning Hearts

OK, First…Purgatory, it’s a good thing. While no one knows exactly (though various mystics have attempted to convey what they experienced by way of their prayer) what will happen there, we do know that if we end up in Purgatory we should be extremely happy since we are most definitely headed for heaven. No one in Purgatory is sent to hell (Yeah!).

First Stop in this exploration is to listen to Deacon James Keating of Institute for Priestly Foramtion with one of the best discussions Bruce and I ever had on the Poor Souls and Purgatory.

So what about praying for the Dead and what does the Church say about the Poor Souls?
What is Purgatory?

The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines Purgatory as follows:

1031 The Church gives the name Purgatory to this final purification of the elect, which is entirely different from the punishment of the damned. The Church formulated her doctrine of faith on Purgatory especially at the Councils of Florence and Trent. The tradition of the Church, by reference to certain texts of Scripture, speaks of a cleansing fire: As for certain lesser faults, we must believe that, before the Final Judgment, there is a purifying fire. He who is truth says that whoever utters blasphemy against the Holy Spirit will be pardoned neither in this age nor in the age to come. From this sentence we understand that certain offenses can be forgiven in this age, but certain others in the age to come (St. Gregory the Great, Dial. 4,39:PL 77,396; cf. Mt 12:31)..

.A “final purification” , hmm, sounds like suffering to me, The kind of interior suffering where we have to deal with the painful results of sin inflicted on us by others, but we also with the pain we have inflicted on others…and boy does that hurt. But in this “final purification” (it means just that…final) final healing occurs…an eternal, forever and forever amen, type of healing so we can be  “happy with God forever in Heaven” (to paraphrase the Baltimore Catechism).

The gift of this life here and now on earth is that we can enter into that “purification” now, so that when that moment comes (which we call…death), we can go right to the “pearly gates” and to heaven OR we can go to Purgatory to get cleaned up for the beatific vision. St. Teresa of Avila exhorts us to (to paraphrase again) “DO IT NOW, DON’T WAIT”. OK, here are accurate quotes:


There are clear references to Purgatory in both the the Old and the New Testaments. In the Old Testament in 2 Machabees X11 43,46 the Jewish practice of praying for the dead is clearly set out it the following words – ‘It is therefore a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead that they may he loosed from their sins.

In the New Testament Our Blessed Lord in Matthew V 26 refers to the prison from which no one is released before his debts are repaid to the last farthing. St. Paul in Cor. 1,3 15 mentions that there are souls who can only be saved ‘yet so as by fire’. It is also stated in Apocalypse XXI, 27 in reference to heaven – ‘There shall in no way enter into it anything defiled”. St. Augustine says that these words clearly indicate that there must be forgiveness of some sins in the world to come, which cannot be in heaven as nothing defiled shall enter therein. Therefore Our Blessed Lord is clearly referring to a place which is neither heaven nor hell and which we call Purgatory.

The learned Protestant, Dr. Jeremy Taylor, writes thus about this matter. ‘We find by the history of the Machabees, that the Jews did pray and make offerings for the dead which appears by other testimonies, and by their form of prayer, still extant, which they used in the captivity. Now it is very considerable that since Our Blessed Saviour did reprove all the evil doctrines of the Scribes and Pharisees, and did argue concerning the dead and the resurrection, yet he spoke no word against this public practice but left it as he found it which he who came to declare to us all the will of His Father, would not have done, if it had not been innocent, pious and full of charity. The practice of it was at first, and was universal; it being plain in TertulIian and St. Cyprian.”


“We pray for all among us who are departed believing that this will be the greatest relief for them while the holy and tremendous victim lies present ” – St. Cyril Of Jerusalem

“We make yearly offerings for the dead” – Tertullian

“….. by long punishment for sin to be cleansed a long time by fire and to have purges away all sin by suffering” – St. Cyprian.

‘That you purify me in this life and render me such that 1 may not stand in need of that purging fire” – St. Augustine.

‘No day shall pass you over in silence, no prayer of mine shall ever be closed without remembering you. No night shall pass you over without some vows of my supplications. You shall have share in all my sacrifices. If I forget you (now that you are dead) let my own right hand be forgotten” – St. Ambrose.

St. Chrysostom in his eighth homily on the Phillipians says that to pray for the faithful departed in the Mass was decreed by the Apostles themselves.

St. Clement of Alexandria says that by punishment after death men must expiate every least sin before they can enter heaven.

Origen in many places and Lactantius teach at large that all souls are purged by the punishment of fire before they enter heaven unless they are so pure as not to stand in need of it.

St. Epiphanius, St. Ephrem, St. Athanasius, Eusebius, St. Paulinus all teach the same.


“No tongue can express, no mind can understand, how dreadful is Purgatory…And be assured that the souls have to pay what they owe even to the last farthing. This is God’s decree to satisfy the demands of justice” –St. Catherine of Genoa.

“Purgatory fire will be more intolerable than all the torments that can be felt or conceived in this life” – Venerable Bede.

“A person may say, I am not much concerned how long I remain in Purgatory, provided I may come to eternal life. Let no one reason thus. Purgatory fire will more dreadful than whatever torment can be seen, imagined or endured in this world.” – St. Caesarius of Arles.


The same fire torments the damned in hell and the just in Purgatory. The least pain in Purgatory exceeds the greatest in this life.” – St. Thomas Aquinas.

“My God, what soul would be sufficiently just to enter heaven without passing through the avenging flames’ – St. Teresa of Avila.

‘If we were thoroughly convinced of the torments of Purgatory, could we then so easily forget our parents……. if God would permit them to show themselves we would we would see them cast themselves down at our feet “My children”, they would cry out, “have mercy on us! Oh, do not forsake us!’. – St. John Vianney.


“When I was praying before the Blessed Sacrament on the Feast of Corpus Christi a person enveloped in fire suddenly stood before me. From the pitiable state the soul was in I knew it was in Purgatory and I wept bitterly” – St. Margaret Mary Alacoque.

At FATIMA in 1917 Our Blessed Lady appeared to three children – Lucy, Jacinta and Francesco. The series of appearances by Our Lady to these three children is approved by the Church. Shortly before they took place a young girl from the village had died. She was about fourteen years old. The children asked Our Blessed Mother whether or not she had been saved. The Blessed Virgin advised them that indeed she had been saved but that she would be in Purgatory until the end of the world. (As a result of this revelation many prayers were offered up for her soul and we can only pray that because of this her souls has now been released into eternal glory). From this most authoritative account we can learn three things:

(i) the reality of Purgatory

(ii) great length of time many souls have to stay there

(iii) the tremendous importance of praying for the souls of the departed

Here's some more places you can go if you are still having trouble....

The Burning Truth about Purgatory
How to Explain Purgatory to Protestants (James Akin)
The Roots of Purgatory

All Souls Day – the day I pull out “The Dream of Gerontius”

Blessed John Newman’s poem “The Dream of Gerontius” tells the story of a soul’s journey through death, and provides a meditation on the unseen world of Roman Catholic theology.

Click here for the full text of the poem

Gerontius (a name derived from the Greek word geron, “old man”) is a devout Everyman.Elgar’s setting uses most of the text of the first part of the poem, which takes place on Earth, but omits many of the more meditative sections of the much longer, otherworldly second part, tightening the narrative flow.

In the first part, we hear Gerontius as a dying man of faith, by turns fearful and hopeful, but always confident. A group of friends (also called “assistants” in the text) joins him in prayer and meditation. He passes in peace, and a priest, with the assistants, sends him on his way with a valediction. In the second part, Gerontius, now referred to as “The Soul”, awakes in a place apparently without space or time, and becomes aware of the presence of his guardian angel, who expresses joy at the culmination of her task (Newman conceived the Angel as male, but Elgar gives the part to a female singer). After a long dialogue, they journey towards the judgment throne.

They safely pass a group of demons, and encounter choirs of angels, eternally praising God for His grace and forgiveness. The Angel of the Agony pleads with Jesus to spare the souls of the faithful. Finally Gerontius glimpses God and is judged in a single moment. The Guardian Angel lowers Gerontius into the soothing lake of Purgatory, with a final benediction and promise of a re-awakening to glory. –wiki

Here is mezzo-soprano Sarah Connelly as the angel offering a beautiful version of “Softly and Gently” (which is the last passage of Edward Elgar’s musical oration of the “Dream of Gerontius”) as he is peacefully being placed into the lake of Purgatory.  A stunning work and meditation for this or any day


SOFTLY and gently, dearly-ransomed soul,
In my most loving arms I now enfold thee,
And, o’er the penal waters, as they roll
I poise thee, and I lower thee, and hold thee.

And carefully I dip thee in the lake,
And thou, without a sob or a resistance,
Dost through the flood thy rapid passage take,
Sinking deep, deeper, into the dim distance.
Angels, to whom the willing task is given,
Shall tend, and nurse, and lull thee, as thou liest;
And Masses on the earth and prayers in heaven,
Shall aid thee at the Throne of the most Highest

Farewell, but not forever! Brother dear,
Be brave and patient on thy bed of sorrow;
Swiftly shall pass thy night of trial here,
And I will come and wake thee on the morrow.


Pray for the Holy Father’s Intentions for November 2011 – Discerning Hearts

November 2011


General Intention: For the eastern Churches, that their venerable tradition may be known and appreciated as a spiritual treasure for the entire Church.

Missionary Intention: That the African continent may find in Christ the strength to fulfill the path of reconciliation and justice, indicated in the second Synod of Bishops for Africa.