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Thursday 26 June 2014

When I Am Old

I sincerely hope to be full of grace in the way God intended me. I pray daily to live in God's Perfect Will.

This may mean absolutely doing what I do not want to do.

On the other hand, if we love God and are trying to live in His Perfect Will, our prayers and desires reflect His Will for us.


I have had prayers answered because I was praying in God's Will. I have seen things blocked in my life, as this was His Will.

But, sometimes, God's Will involves His allowing great suffering, such as persecution and martyrdom.

Think on this. We do not have much time for freedom. It is eluding us, fading away quickly.

Greater good can come out of intense suffering, and therefore Divine Providence allows this.

But, we are always, always in the palm of His Hand.

Some do not experience suffering as intensely as others. This is also His Will.

Do not bring down suffering on yourself unless it is God's Will. That could be simply the sin of pride.

We do not redeem ourselves through suffering but have been redeemed through Christ's sufferings.

Be patient, be peaceful, do not "sweat the small stuff."

And, I hope when I am very old, that I am more full of grace than I am now-and revealing the gifts. May God grant me time...

On Confusion Again

Confusion comes from evil, period. I see more and more confusion among people in the States regarding even common things. We have come from being a nation of pioneers, and independent workers, who knew how to do things, to a people who rely on others for so-called truth.

There is a mental laziness among many, which means that people do not compare news sources, do not find out information for themselves, do not do research before buying things, accept what governments tell them about education, and even believe falsified polls.

How did this happen? One reason why people are mentally lazy is that they do not pray. They do not take time daily to reflect. Their lives are full of addictions, to food, drink, entertainment.

When I was a teen, we went out once a week on a Friday with my friends. Now, young people and old people seek entertainment daily. I am amazed at how much people seek out entertainment. It is mind-numbing.

I have written on the evils of American entertainment before, but British entertainment is, if anything, worse. More of the capital sins are shown as ok on British sitcoms than one would hope to see.

But, the confusion is absolutely caused by the bombardment of the imagination by outside stimuli. Remember, everything you see and hear and touch goes into your imagination forever, unless you beg God to cleanse you of memory. See my other posts on this theme.

Confusion is caused by satan. He wants our minds to be scrambled by trivia, by nonsense. He does not want us to think on the last four things, or on our eternal destiny, so he feeds the imaginations of the world with useless information and entertainment.

I am very concerned, as this phenomenon is more than material; it is psychological and it is spiritual. When a people no longer reflect, they become stressed, and when stressed, people make wrong, even evil decisions.

Righteous Anger

Why is it that no one allows righteous anger? We have an example of God Himself showing anger several times against the Pharisees and the Sadducees. So, if a Catholic becomes angry at abortion or contraception or same-sex marriage, all serious sins which offend God, or becomes angry serious injustice or the killing of Christians across the world, why is the Catholic condemned?

Righteous anger comes from purity of heart, and not being caught up in egotism.

Righteous anger comes from seeing events and people with the eyes of God.

Too often, people assume all anger is sin. But, it is not. “Be angry, but sin not.”

Without the fire of righteous anger, the West would still have slavery. Without the fire of righteous anger, abortion continues to kill millions of babies a year.

We shall see the wrath of God and understand that we did not allow God to purify us enough to feel righteous anger.

God forgive us. But, we shall not be spared.

The Two Brothers of Malta Part Eleven

July was coming to a close, with a few odd encounters with the enemy. The Muslims were encircling the peninsula with cannons for a huge assault on Birgu and Senglea. In the Fort of St. Michael, an encounter occurred which changed the lives of several people.

Isabella and Rebecca had been escorted out of the camp near the harbor to St. Michael’s Fort. Immanuel accompanied them to the fort, before he returned to the interior to help some of the Maltese, who were beginning to starve, or who lacked water. Many goats had been stolen and eaten by the invaders. Little food was left in the catecombs, as so many people had to be fed. The cutting down of the unripe grain had caused a bread shortage and no supply ships from Italy or Sicily could break through the clogged harbours. In addition, some of the Suleiman’s ships sailed into St. Paul’s Bay, causing interruptions in trade.

Immanuel, Rebecca and Isabella were accompanied by the Bishop of Malta, a Knight of Malta, and by the servants of the Chevalier. Because Isabella was dying, the Bishop gave her the Last Rites and absolution, including a special blessing from the Pope. Immanuel stayed by her bedside in a small villa near the Fort, while the Bishop and the servants went on to the Fort.

It was the Feast of St. Anne, the Mother of Mary and Grandmother of Christ. During normal times, there would have been processions in Mdina and other towns honoring this beloved saint. Now, on this day, which was overcast and grey, the Catholics could only remember days of festivities.

Rebecca fanned Isabella in the oppressive heat. The clouds pressed the heat onto the island like a giant’s hands. Some said the heat was a sign of defeat. Immanuel was thinking of his thirsting, dying people of Malta. He and the Bishop went back to the chamber in the fort.

The first surprise was the arrival of Frederico. He had heard that Immanuel and his mother were in the camp area, hidden away for safety. He had met the Bishop himself. And thanked him for his kindness is bringing a sad soul to some peace.

“She is not a bad women, Your Excellency. She was young and weak. Personally, I believe she has suffered more than enough for her sins.”

The Bishop answered quickly, “I am inclined to agree with you, Frederico. She will have a peaceful death. Her confession was that of a child.”

Just then, Rebecca burst into the chamber. “Frederico, Your Excellency, please come back to the villa. Isabella is dying, I am sure.” The three men walked quickly down a small street to the house, but just as they were going to enter the dark, cool room, they heard a voice in the street. “Frederico, may I come in?”

It was Tomas. He had heard that his brother, son, and former mistress had gathered in this place. He looked strange, almost feverish. “Are you ill, my brother?” Frederico spoke first.

“I am better than I have been in years. Do you think she would see me?”

The Bishop walked over to Tomas and whispered in his ear. Tomas realized the closeness of death. “Then, I have no time. Bishop, listen to me. Take this.’

Frederico and Immanuel could not see what Tomas handed to the Bishop, but the Bishop looked for a long time at the object. “This is good, Tomas, this is very good. Come.”

All walked into the sick room. Rebecca respectfully stood by a back door. The Bishop approached Isabella who looked pale, very pale.

“My daughter, there is someone here who wants to see you. He wants to ask your forgiveness, and he wants to ask you something else. Will you see Tomas?”

Isabella tried to sit up. “Yes, yes, I shall. I will.” She looked over the Bishop’s shoulder as Tomas stepped forward.

“Will you forgive me, a pig, a stubborn, selfish man, Isabella? I took your son from you and I see God restored him behind my back. But, I am content, except for one thing.”

Isabella pressed her thin hand on the brown strong hand of Tomas. “Please know you were forgiven a long time ago. I have harbored no hatred or unforgiveness. I, too, was selfish and irresponsible. But, we have a beautiful son.”

Tomas looked at the worn face, but Isabella’s eyes glowed with love and joy. “Isabella, will you marry me, now, here?”

She turned to the wall for a moment. “You have taken a long time to ask this, Tomas. Yes, for the few days I have left, I can be restored to society, as will your son.”

The Bishop suggested that Tomas first make a general confession. In the next room, Tomas made the first confession he had made in almost thirty years before receiving the sacrament of marriage. All left Tomas and the Bishop alone for about a half-hour. Isabella was given some water. She glowed with an odd light, but she was breathing normally. Tomas and the Bishop returned to the sick room.

The Bishop came forward with his prayer book, and a small package. In it was the ring which had belonged to the noble mother of Tomas and Frederico. Immanuel choked. The ring was made of four emeralds and four diamonds in the shape of the Maltese Cross. Tomas knelt by the bed and the Bishop began the Nuptial Blessing.

A great silence enveloped all who were there. Frederico noticed tears in his brother’s eyes, but Isabella’s eyes shone with love. They said their vows quietly, serenely.

Then, the Bishop pronounced them man and left the room, indicating to Immanuel and Frederico to follow him.

“She does not have much time, perhaps hours, or a day. We can only pray.”

Immanuel hung his head but Frederico said, “You realize what a miracle this is, Your Excellency. Something has happened to my brother. This is a miracle, indeed.”

A few minutes passed and Tomas came out of the room. “She fell asleep, smiling. I had forgotten the charm of her smile. Rebecca will care for her and I shall come back after she rests, but I need some care.”  He opened his shirt and there on his side was a huge bandage, with blood beginning to seep through. “Father, we need to get the surgeon, now.” Immanuel almost shouted, but remembered the woman in the next room and lowered his voice.

“It is too late, my son. Look, I have blood poisoning and gangrene. I came here to die and to make you my son in the law and in the eyes of God. My son, no longer a bastard-the Bishop restores you as well to your rightful place. Can you forgive me?”

Immanuel led his father to a chair. “This is a day of forgiveness, Father. Of course. And as I love my mother as I love you, I am forever grateful that you made her your wife. Father…” But, Immanuel could not speak, for Tomas slid over and laid his head on the table. He took three or four deep breaths. “Your Excellency, give me the Last Rites. Please.”  Then, the Bishop began the prayers as the brother and son walked outside as Immanuel was trembling. It was now dark. In a few moments, the brother and son returned to watch Tomas receive the Body and Blood of Christ, His Lord, Whom he had avoided for years. Now, God and he were united again.

Then, after receiving the Eucharist peacefully, he fell into a fever and then, later, a coma. By midnight, he was dead.

Frederico discovered that his brother had been ambushed by Turks on the way to St. Michael’s Fort. He had killed two, but had received this blow from the third. This encounter happened four days ago.

“He may have been poisoned by the swords as well,” remarked Frederico. Some find mountebanks to buy poisons. He would not have died so soon. He was a strong man.”

Early the next morning, while the sun rose over the sea, Isabella passed away.  Immanuel asked permission for them to be buried in Mdina, in the Cathedral. The Bishop heartily gave permission, and if you visit there today, you will see a white tomb, embellished with stars, with the dust of Tomas and Isabella resting together.

The son took a carriage and escorted the two caskets, made hastily by soldiers, with Frederico and the Bishop back to Mdina.

Rebecca came as well, but did not stay in the house with the Knights. She had someone else to find. After the twin funeral in the Cathedral, she sought out Salim.

But, that is another story for another day.

July limped into August and the battering of the last two forts began. The siege was not over for Immanuel and Frederico.

But, the two old lovers rested away from the din, in a place for those who die in love and not in hate, who die in forgiveness and not in rancor, who die in humility and not in pride.

To be continued…

The Two Brothers of Malta Part Ten

A tall, thin man from Ephesus sat in his tent. His tent-mate had been killed in the assault on St. Elmo’s. Salim was twenty-four, and from an ancient family. But, tonight, days before the attack on Fort St. Michael’s and the landing parties crossing Mt. Sciberras, Salim lay on his bed in torment. No one knew that he had been conscripted years ago into the army of Suleiman. He had been taken from his town because he was a noted horseman, but he had only seen duty as an  arquebusiers. No one knew his mother was a Christian, and that he was a Christian. He had avoided detection because of a illustrious connection in the court, his uncle, a pious Muslim. All thought Salim was pious as well. He was, but his piety was to a different God, a Trinitarian God of his mother.

Salim knew of the new plans to avoid the Knights guns, and new ships in the Harbour. He had to decide to either stand up for his faith, finally, risking horrible torture and death, and defect to the other side, or remain in shame, for fighting on the wrong side.

His torture was compounded by the thought of a beautiful servant who lived in a small house north of the camp. This young girl, had met him by accident, when Salim was carrying messages from Mustafa to Piyale concerning the movement of small boats to the area around Senglea. He was on his way back to St. Elmo’s camp when he had a strange and haunting meeting.

In the dark of night, Salim had stumbled across a small party, two men and two women, one of whom was on a horse, wrapped in shawls and obviously unwell. The other woman, the young one, walked alongside the older woman, while the two soldiers went ahead a bit. About five hundred feet separated the servants of de la Cassiere from Isabella and Rebecca, when Salim practically ran into the small horse. Rebecca looked at the young man in the dark and the servants turned back to hold him, and most likely, kill him. It was obvious he was a Turk. Rebecca spoke quickly, “I know you. You are the horse-trainer from Ephesus.” The servants had drawn their swords to kill Salim. Rebecca held out her arms. “Wait, I know this man. His mother is a Christian. Wait.”

Salim felt ashamed to be saved by a young girl, but he now remembered her. “Rebecca, why are you here?”

The young girl asked the servants to move out of hearing and they obeyed. The servant of Isabella, once paramour of Sir Tomas should be obeyed, for now.

“I ran away from a marriage, like my mistress, and found shelter with a good Knight in Mdina. He was uncle to a young man, who asked me to take care of his mother, and pays for me to do so. He is the son of a Knight.”

“Rebecca, you are a Christian as well? I did not know this. Now, I understand why you left and disappeared.”

“I shall save you this time, but you must come back to us, you must. Pray, Salim. Be who you are.”

Rebecca walked up to the servants. They spoke with each other quietly. Then they came back to where Salim sat, still on his horse.

“If we let you go, false Christian, think that you owe the Knights a favor. Now, go, and be glad you know this good woman.”

Salim said nothing but turned his horse south and made his way back to the camp near St. Elmo’s ruins. Now, he tossed and turned his tent, unable to sleep. Finally, he knew what he had to do-be true to himself and his religion.

Just before dawn, Salim slipped out of his tent and into the horse yard. There, he chose the fastest and wisest of the Arabians, and managing to keep all of them quiet, he rode out of the camp and around the harbour. If he was caught, he knew he would suffer the worst tortures a man could bear. He rode on.

Finally, he found a camp and a guard. “Take me to Vallette.” The guard looked at the youth and then, Salim produced an ancient cross made of brass from under his tunic. The guard nodded and led the young man across the camp to Vallette’s tent. Salim spoke quickly, “Have mercy on me, a Christian youth, who was conscripted and has no heart to fight the Knights of Malta. There is coming a two-fold attack on the Senglea. As many as 100 boats have been brought across the mountain, and there will be sea fight with the last of the Janissaries. Corsairs have been sent up to Fort St. Michael’s to attack there from the land. Have mercy and let me help you.”

Vallette stood up and examined Salim’s face. “Why should I believe you?”

Salim looked at the ground. “Rebecca, servant of Isabella, mother of Immanuel, believes in me.”

Vallette almost laughed out loud. So, this young man smote the heart of the young girl. He became serious again, forcing himself not to smile.

“If I let you stay with us, will you help me against these Turks?”

Salim looked up, “Yes, I shall do what I can do.”

Vallette poured water with lemon for them both. “What can you do?”

“I train horses and I am a horse master.”

Vallette looked carefully at Salim. “Then, I send you to Mdina, to train some of our peasants to ride and care for horses. There are a few there in the city. Now, go, quickly, and take this.” Vallette gave Salim a sword and knife, as he had left with no weapons. On the handles were the Maltese Cross, the sign of the Order.

Salim took the weapons, but turned back and kissed the hands of Vallette. In minutes, he was travelling west to the holy city.

Vallette turned to his advisors. “I want a palisade built immediately across the peninsula, at the promontory. I want word to be sent to St. Angelo’s for preparation for a sea attack. I know that de Guiral has cannons there. Tell him to be on the alert.”

It was the middle of July, and the weeks of the siege had cost the Turks more men than the Suleiman had anticipated. He had to think of his last attempts to crush Malta.

One more time, Our Lady had changed the game plan of the war. The battle would be won by the Knights, as the cannons sunk all the boats, except one. And, over 800 of the Turks died in this attack.

The attack on St. Michael’s failed as well, as extra reinforcements arrived in time on an invention, a floating bridge. Salim’s return to himself had won him a place of honor in Malta, and, eventually, a Christian wife named Rebecca.

To be continued…

The Two Brothers of Malta Part Nine

Frederico awoke early to join the monks in prayer. He was falling into his monastic life too easily. It was difficult being both a warrior and a priest. His priesthood was hidden at this time, as he did not want any shame to be brought against the Order in case he failed his duty as a commander. Unlike many of his priestly peers, however, Frederico had found his vocation naturally, as an answer to the deepest desires of his heart of hearts. His only wish was to end his day in the simplicity and silence of this monastery in Mdina. He prayed that the war, the siege would end in a time of peace so that he could pursue contemplative prayer.

Today, in prayer, he seemed to find a great peace and a greater joy concerning his own possible death. The death of Paulo had reminded Frederico how close he was daily to the reality of eternity.

His small army gathered in the Cathedral for a Mass for the dead Paulo. The bishop then blessed all the men and gave them general absolution-a gift from the Pope in Rome.         

Afterwards, Frederico called his military advisors for a meeting. But, first, he ordered twelve lookouts on the walls of the small city. They each had a grand view of the surrounding area and could warn of danger quickly.

The city on the hill provided a temporary safe-haven for the soldiers and for many inhabitants. Daily, farmers, merchants, fishermen came with their children and wives into the walls. People slept outside on the streets, and in doorways. The nuns and monks fed the displaced families as best they could with soup made of grass and seaweed, while eggs were given to the mothers nursing their babies and the very old.

Frederico brought up the question of the day. “Do you think the Turks will attack?” The advisors disagreed, and just as a decision as to defense was made, a messenger from Vallette rushed into the meeting.

“Pardon, but read this. There is need for great haste.” The young man sat down and was given wine.

Frederico opened the scroll. He read and then spoke. “Vallette is asking for the army to leave Mdina immediately and moved both arms and men to St. Michael’s and St. Angelo’s. Elmo’s’ has fallen.”

Frederico bowed his head. He feared for the holy city, but more men were needed near the promontory and the peninsula.  Vallette was busy building defenses on the peninsula and Vallette had asked the Spanish in Sicily to send more men to Birgu, and they were, apparently, on their way, while the Turkish fleet was in three places.

“We, of course, will obey the command. I shall leave a few men here, and hand armaments only. The army shall march tonight, under cover of darkness. Our decision has been made for us. We shall take the large cannons”

More ships sailed into Marsamxett, now that Fort St. Elmo was a ruin, while the army of Frederico left Mdina to a handful of his men and a few armed farmers. The ships waited for more orders from Piyale or Mustafa. Suleiman had decided on continuing the attacks on the forts. Perhaps he thought the loss of the forts would undermine the confidence of the Knights and the bravery of the Maltese inhabitants. The other orders from Suleiman, to attack overland, did not come until too late. At Marsamxett, one third of the Turkish fleet languished. The decision to take St. Elmo’s at all costs, a decision of mere pride and arrogance, and the decision to split the fleet into three would prove to be decisions of wasted opportunities and carnage. But, the Lady who watched over the Maltese was in charge, not the three Turkish commanders.

Frederico and his small company of men traveled as quickly as they could in the night. Clouds covered the moon, and no sound of cannons or gunfire from the Senglea. But, an attack would come in two days, an attack from both sides of the peninsula. The history of the war would include battles at the remaining forts, with both soldiers and inhabitants suffering losses. However, the Corsairs and Turks found the locals capable of fighting one of the most experienced and trained armies in the world, if necessary, to the death of all.

Both brothers were moving towards the east. One with his entire group of dedicated and relatively fresh men, one with a small body guard of two men made their way in darkness. Both would meet up in unusual circumstances.

To be continued…