Our Lady of Victory

Blessed Ash Wednesday!

First, I would like to thank very much the lovely and talented Miss Gwyneth Holston, the artist responsible for the latest Holy Smack holy card featuring this painting:

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Our Lady of Victory is the first work I ever had the chance to commission, and if you are interested in commissioning something, please know that my experience working with Miss Holston was an absolute blessing (not to mention she gives generous discounts to seminarians, priests and consecrated religious!).

The original inspiration for this painting originated from this pulpit in the Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula in Brussels, Belgium, carved of wood by Hendrik Frans Verbruggen in 1699 (yep, they don’t make them like they used to). When I first saw this photograph, I knew immediately it had to be expressed anew in a painting, and smacked onto a holy card. I mean, just look at it! EPIC PULPIT:

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The image of the sculpture and painting are referencing Genesis 3:15, when God promises the protoevangelium (the first gospel) that the woman and her seed would crush the serpent. And I love how Mary and Young Jesus are making very light of it, even though they’re standing over a crocodile of a serpent.

Here’s more about the protoevangelium from Blessed Pope Pius IX:

The Fathers and writers of the Church, well versed in the heavenly Scriptures, had nothing more at heart than to vie with one another in preaching and teaching in many wonderful ways the Virgin’s supreme sanctity, dignity, and immunity from all stain of sin, and her renowned victory over the most foul enemy of the human race. This they did in the books they wrote to explain the Scriptures, to vindicate the dogmas, and to instruct the faithful. These ecclesiastical writers in quoting the words by which at the beginning of the world God announced his merciful remedies prepared for the regeneration of mankind — words by which he crushed the audacity of the deceitful serpent and wondrously raised up the hope of our race, saying, “I will put enmities between you and the woman, between your seed and her seed”[13] — taught that by this divine prophecy the merciful Redeemer of mankind, Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God, was clearly foretold: That his most Blessed Mother, the Virgin Mary, was prophetically indicated; and, at the same time, the very enmity of both against the evil one was significantly expressed. [Hence, just as Christ, the Mediator between God and man, assumed human nature, blotted the handwriting of the decree that stood against us, and fastened it triumphantly to the cross, so the most holy Virgin, united with him by a most intimate and indissoluble bond, was, with him and through him, eternally at enmity with the evil serpent, and most completely triumphed over him, and thus crushed his head with her immaculate foot.[14] ]

And why did I name this image and card “Our Lady of Victory”? Well, seeing that ISIS and other militant Muslims, and other anti-Christians are raising their swords against the Church again, it reminded me of the Battle of Lepanto (which would have lost Europe to Islam if our Lady did not give us a miracle from Jesus, detailed here):

To save Christendom, Pope St. Pius V organized a fleet under the command of Don Juan of Austria, the half-brother of King Philip II of Spain. The forces of Spain, Venice and other Italian city states, and the Sovereign Order of Malta formed an alliance against Turkey. Note: “Catholic” France refused, and the Judas King Francis I financed the Muslim Turks so as to weaken his long time rival, Germany-Austria.

While preparations were underway, the Holy Father asked all of the faithful to say the rosary and to implore Our Blessed Mother’s prayers, under the title “Our Lady of Victory,” begging Our Lord to grant victory to the Christians.

Although the Muslim fleet outnumbered that of the Christians in both vessels and sailors, the forces were ready to meet in battle. The Christian vessels flew blue banners to honor Our Lady and depicted Christ crucified, while the Muslim flags had excerpts from the Quran calling for jihad and death to the infidels.

On Sunday, Oct. 7, 1571, at 11 a.m., the Battle of Lepanto began. At the end of five hours, the Muslims were defeated. Later, while Pope St. Pius V was in an afternoon meeting, he suddenly stood up, went over to the window, stared outside in the direction of the battle many miles away, and said, “Let us no longer occupy ourselves with business, but let us go to thank the Lord. The Christian fleet has obtained victory.”

The following year, Pope St. Pius V established the Feast of the Holy Rosary on Oct. 7 so the faithful would remember not only this victory, but also the powerful intercession of Our Blessed Mother. His Holiness also officially bestowed the title, “Auxilium Christianorum” or “Help of Christians,” upon her. The Venetian Senate had painted on a panel in their meeting chamber, “Non virtus, non arma, non duces, sed Maria Rosari, victores nos fecit,” i.e. “It was not courage, not arms, not leaders, but Mary of the Rosary that made us victors.”

So there you have it. Pray on! Our Lady of Victory! Give us the victory of your Son, Jesus!

*If you’re wondering why Islam is so hostile to Christianity, please see this for starters, as well as stop by Jihad Watch.

**And here’s how Our Lady of Guadalupe is our secret weapon against Islam.

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What Kind of God Do You Want?

Even if you don’t know if God exists, even if you don’t believe God exists, you can at least think about what kind of God you would like to exist, right? It’s like daydreaming: even though I’m no billionaire, I can at least fantasize about what kind of billionaire life I would like to live…

So play along and think about this: what kind of God would you want?

A powerful God? A God who is master of all?

Don’t misunderstand me, I do want God to be powerful and masterful. By definition, God is Power itself and Master itself. But think about it: if God was first merely Power, then what’s keeping Him from using that power to intimidate, to manipulate, to oppress and dominate us? Same with God if He was first merely our Master — what’s stopping Him from being a tyrant, a slave-driver, an abuser?

There are religions out there (I’m thinking specifically Islam) that believe God is Power and Master first, before He is anything else. But like we saw above, if God is first merely those things, or anything else along those lines, then what’s keeping Him from abusing His almighty authority, power, omniscience and etc.?

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Because God is first, before all else, a father… Our Father.

Not the kind of father you and I have, because human fathers, earthly fathers can make mistakes, can be selfish, can be ignorant and even evil. But the Father in Heaven — the Father who all other lower fathers are meant to imitate and symbolize — is Love. Our Father is Love.

And as Father, as Love, God will not abuse his authority, not enslave us nor intimidate nor manipulate us. As loving Father, He will not use omniscience, wisdom, or anything to hurt us. Instead, He will use all that He is to love us and help us…

He even sent His Son to be a man and die for us.

So I don’t know about you, but I’d want a God who is Father, who is Love. And I’m grateful this God is ours — the one and only.

For more, check out Dr. Scott Hahn’s excellent discussion on who God is to us:

Blasphemy with Breakfast

Abba or Allah?

Slaves and Sons

The Forbidden Christian

Last week we saw Yuna Kim’s Catholic faith fearless on the world stage.

This week, a research organization has once again named North Korea as “the worst country in the world for Christians.”

If you didn’t know the drama: North Korea and South Korea (where Miss Kim calls home) share the same border. They are one country divided by bombs and barbed wire. They are now neighbors, each with soldiers staring down the other side, fingers on their triggers — just waiting. It’s been this way since the end of the Korean conflict in the 1950s. And the South’s capital — Seoul — is only 120 miles from the North’s: Pyongyang. That’s right, those two cities are closer together than Detroit is to Chicago.

Many of us know that North Korea is probably the worst country in the world for anyone, but the paradox here is jarring. Let me help you see it: Christians are forbidden on the north side, and on the south side are Christians free and flourishing. North: Christians are hunted and sent to prison camps. South: Christians are winning Olympic gold medals. And South Korea is home to probably the fastest growing Catholic community in the world.

Zooming out, here’s the big picture:

The map details the 50 nations openly hostile to faithful Christians (I say faithful because a Christian in-name-only is no Christian at all, and I say openly hostile because there are plenty of regimes and nations that persecute us indirectly and in secret.). From my own ethnic background, I see Vietnam at #18, and China at #37. You can click on the map to download the full report, or here to see country by country profiles of persecution.

So please, remember that “often completely unaddressed in the West is the fact that Christians are the largest persecuted minority in the world.” We — faithful Christians — always have been the most persecuted, and always will be. Why? And why so many?

Why? Because Jesus is offensive. He tells us we must become perfect. He tells us we must sacrifice. He tells us we must not lust. He tells us we must carry a cross just like He did. In a world that says individualism and license-to-do-anything-without-consequence is supreme, He tells us we must be less us and more Him. And He tells us that this world is not our home, that we are made for better, and the world is insulted by that. The world does not want us to be better than it. It wants us to worship it, to die with it, sleep with it and rot with it.

And why so many? Because committed Christians are among the most convinced of their Faith. Nobody dies for what they know is a lie, or for a hobby, or a social club, or a free time fellowship. But if what they believe is True… and if they are convinced, convinced absolutely by reason and faith that Jesus rose from the dead, if so! then there is no force in the universe that can sway them to admit that the Truth is a hoax. They would die and disown the world rather than lie and disown Christ.

And those Christians among us who refuse the world?

What else should we expect from the world that even dared to butcher God Himself?

So the persecution will continue, and probably worsen. And that’s when the courageous and faithful Christians rise. And some have already rose. They live and died in those hostile and forbidden nations. They are more renown in Heaven than we are. They are the saints and martyrs.

May those saints pray for us Christians who are too busy being comfortable to seek greatness.

Made for Greatness

P.S. It is in honor of these persecuted Christians that I named my publishing entity Banned Books Press. And the most banned book of all: the Holy Bible.