The Spirits Around Us, by Michael H. Brown, a brand new book on the supernatural realities around us -- around every person. Read of current encounters on deathbeds, in hospitals, in everyday life, in 'haunted' settings that finally get a Catholic explanation (as even St. Augustine spoke of their effect, and saints like Padre Pio saw them). Demons, angels, spirits of the deceased, purgatorial souls, often affecting us in unseen, unsuspected ways and dispelled through deep prayer in the Name of Jesus when we know how to do so and approach them with Catholic faith, prayer, and love!  ( here Kindle or Nook )  for paperback: click here 



Call this "windswept house": visiting St. Peter's Basilica had a feeling of emptiness, during the recent canonizations, and in a visit a few months before. Perhaps it was simply how many barricades were inside, and the absence of a sense of prayer: the atmosphere of a museum, with thousands filing through talking and nearly everyone taking pictures, now that we are in the midst of the explosion in iPads, other notebooks, digital cameras, and especially cell phones. One fears halting to pray in front of an altar or statue, lest a photo is spoiled for someone behind. The same is true at churches such as Saint Mary Major, Saint John Lateran, and Scala Sancta, where praying was next to impossible the week of the recent historic canonizations. While pictures are something that we can all treasure, and are not an inherent evil, and while seeing the throngs was great, the excessive use of photography at sacred sites is devaluing the experience. It's something also noted at holy places in Israel and at famous apparition sites: folks spending as much or even more time on photography than on prayer -- photos that for the most part will sit on a memory card, perhaps never to be seen again, or simply be glanced at once, while the opportunity for strong permanent grace has been missed. The best way to see and remember a holy place is not through a digital peephole but the expansive lens of the heart, which is a gateway to the spirit.

The "windswept" feeling may have other implications as well. The Church is being challenged -- swept -- from within. No one is quite sure how much more sweeping there will be. Change is good, depending on what kind of change there is. Saint John XXIII opened the "windows" of the church and a worldly wind blew in, along with the beneficial change. We are also windswept from the scandals of abuse, which above all else indicate the extreme end of clerical pride. When -- as Pope Francis seems to be attempting -- the Church moves away from exaltation of clergy, and reserves adoration solely for Jesus, instilling the sort of humility evidenced with John Paul I and John Paul II, as well as John XXIII, matters will improve on their own. People are drawn to humility. Liturgies should not be interrupted by unduly long sermons nor the histrionic interjection of personality.

A wind is blowing in Rome but we remain unsure of its next direction.

The Spirit should guide, more than diocesan committees.

In church, or at holy sites, it pays to walk in silence, in solemn prayer, perhaps with a Rosary.

In a state of prayer we take "pictures" with the soul, where they bear fruit and hold memories forever.

[Note also: Michael Brown retreats: Philadelphia-New Jersey]

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