Dear Friends of the Kolbe Center,
Christ is risen! Truly He is risen!
As Catholic Christians, our primary mission is to live one life with Our Risen Lord Jesus in the Truth of His Gospel and to share that Life and Truth with everyone we meet. In my travels all over the world for the Kolbe Center, I have tried to do this - although, to my shame, I have not seized every opportunity that Divine Providence has given to me. In this newsletter I would like to share some of my experiences attempting to share the Good News of the Catholic Faith in various parts of the world and identify some of the materials on the Kolbe website that have been helpful for evangelization.
One memorable attempt at evangelization took place on a plane from Assiut, Egypt, to Cairo, Egypt, in late 2015. Dr. Thomas Seiler and I had been invited to give a seminar to the Coptic Catholic Bishop of Assiut, and to a group of priests, religious and laity, at a retreat center near Assiut, a city of a million inhabitants including 300,000 Christians. During our stay in the area, we were taken to an ancient monastery near Assiut where we visited a chapel built in the very place where - according to Tradition - the Holy Family had stayed for six months. Our seminar had a somewhat comical aspect, because the man who had been hired to translate for us was a Jesuit-educated theistic evolutionist, who apparently gave a running modernist commentary on our presentation, whenever he thought our remarks needed to be brought into harmony with the consensus view among Biblical scholars. Nevertheless, a number of the priests in the audience expressed their deep appreciation for the seminar and asked us to do whatever we could to obtain an invitation to the Coptic Catholic seminary in Cairo, since they had all been taught that Genesis 1-11 was not history, but a myth, cobbled together by scribes after the Babylonian Captivity.
We spent the night after the seminar at the Bishop's residence in Assiut, so that we would be close to the airport for our flight to Cairo the next day. In the morning, we left at the time recommended to us by the Bishop only to find ourselves stuck in a terrible traffic jam. With the clock ticking, it seemed absolutely impossible for us to get to the airport on time, when, all of a sudden, a police car pulled in front of us with its lights flashing and led us through the morning rush hour traffic so that we arrived at the airport in the nick of time! (It seems that the local civil authorities were on good terms with the Bishop, and that he had asked them to intervene on behalf of his friends, so that we would not miss our flight.)
We boarded our flight to Cairo, and I was assigned a seat next to a tall Egyptian in his 30's. We introduced ourselves, and I learned that he was an engineer employed by the Siemens Corporation. When he asked me what had brought me to Egypt, I explained that we had originally gone to Europe to attend a symposium on "The Special Creation of Adam and Eve as the Foundation of the Catholic Church's teaching on Holy Marriage" in Rome. I then explained that a friend of ours had arranged for us to be invited to give a seminar by the Coptic Catholic Bishop of Assiut, so that we had arranged to go there after the symposium in Rome. In the conversation that ensued, my neighbor acknowledged - together with all Muslims - that God had created one man (Adam) for one woman (Eve) in the beginning. He also acknowledged that over the centuries, polygamy had developed, but that when Jesus came to Earth he had abolished polygamy and restored marriage back to what it had been in the beginning - a union between one man and one woman for life.
At this point, I thought it remarkable that a Muslim would acknowledge so much, but I was soon disappointed to hear him say, "But when Allah sent the Prophet Mohammed, he allowed a man to have up to four wives" - and here he paused to add "under certain conditions., because," he concluded, "Allah can do whatever he likes." For the rest of the relatively short flight, I thanked God again and again for the Gift of my Catholic Faith, reeling at the realization that my highly intelligent neighbor firmly believed in a god who acts without rhyme or reason. I did not try to continue our conversation, but when we arrived in Cairo, before getting off the plane, I had the definite inspiration to say to my neighbor, in words similar to these, "You are right that God can do whatever He wants - that is why He was able to take a human nature and suffer and die for you and for me!"
This attempt at evangelization was unusual in one respect, since it ended without my offering my neighbor a sacramental or handout of some kind. After almost all of my encounters with fellow passengers on trips all over the world, I offer them a sacramental, or a piece of literature - usually one of the handouts on the Kolbe Center website. To those who are Christian or who are clearly receptive to the things of God, I often give a Divine Mercy holy card. Jesus told St. Faustina Kowalska:
I promise that the soul that will venerate this image will not perish. I also promise victory over [its] enemies already here on earth, especially at the hour of death. I Myself will defend it as My own glory (Diary, 47, 48).
What an amazing promise! And how often it has been confirmed throughout the world, even with miracles! On my first trip to the north island of New Zealand, one of our hosts was driving me somewhere when he pointed out a Catholic church where a remarkable event had taken place a short time before. A man who lived in the area had suffered a series of reverses and had decided to take his own life. Before doing so, however, he decided to take one last drive. Though not a churchgoer, when he passed the church, he felt an urge to go inside. So, he parked his car and entered the empty church. To the right of the tabernacle, near the side entrance to the church, stood a large Divine Mercy Image. The would-be-suicide approached the image and sat down before it. As he sat there, he felt a sense of peace. Then, all of a sudden, Our Lord Himself came out of the Image and embraced him, giving him an unforgettable experience of God's love, and driving away the temptation to suicide.
Besides the Divine Mercy Image, the handout that I offer most often is called "Eternal Life and Common Sense." It has the imprimatur of my former Archbishop and takes the reader from reasons to believe in God, to reasons to believe that Our Lord Jesus Christ is God and Man, to reasons to believe that the Catholic Church is the Church that He founded, before ending with a Catholic "sinner's prayer" and an invitation to contact me for further information. Another pamphlet that I have given out on many occasions is entitled "The Shroud of Turin: Evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus Christ." It summarizes some of the forensic evidence for the authenticity of the Holy Shroud. Then it invites the reader to imagine that Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Man of the Holy Shroud, wants to speak to him, and the Lord then makes an appeal of love to the soul.
After our most recent trip to Uganda, on a flight from Kampala to Brussels, I sat next to a female medical student from Belgium who had just attended a medical conference in Rwanda. After telling me about her studies, she asked me about myself, so I told her about the work of the Kolbe Center, and how the scientists I worked with have found that the Catholic understanding of creation has given us powerful insights into some of the deficiencies of the reductionist thinking that prevails in modern science and medicine. As an example, I explained how the "brain death" criterion for human death has reduced humanity to the functioning of a single organ, with the result that all over the world our fellow human beings are having their organs taken out of their "brain-dead" bodies for transplantation while they continue to have a pulse, a heartbeat, a normal body temperature, passing urine and exchanging gas through their lungs. This she did not deny. I hope and pray that she will receive the grace to realize that when the Catholic understanding of the soul as the form of the body is restored, this holocaust of "brain-dead" victims will come to an end.
I related the reductionist way of thinking to the problem of GMO food, since agrobusiness corporations tout the "substantial equivalence" between their genetically engineered products and the natural plants that they are meant to improve upon or replace. But this "substantial equivalence" is based on an absurdly poor understanding of plants whose composition is a marvel of design, involving a huge number of chemicals, arranged in a unity that far surpasses the sum of its parts. Reducing mother's breast milk or a plant to its "essential components" and manipulating, removing, or adding other components is like reducing the human body to its brain and thinking that one can modify other parts of the body without producing unintended consequences for the whole organism.
When we boarded our flight to Brussels, many international flights were being cancelled because of the Coronavirus, but the United States had not yet closed its borders to foreign nationals when we took off from Kampala. As I prayed about what I might leave with my neighbor, I thought of our pamphlet on the Shroud of Turin. As we were nearing Brussels, I showed her the pamphlet and asked her if she had ever heard of the Holy Shroud. She said she had not. Just then, she got a message that President Trump had cancelled all flights from Europe into the United States, effective the following day. She was furious and began cursing the president in the foulest language, explaining that she had been invited to attend a conference in the U.S. the following week, and now she would not be able to attend. I tried to reassure her that this emergency would pass, and that when it did, my wife and I would be happy to welcome her to the United States. She put the pamphlet in her purse. Please join me in praying that it will be the beginning of her conversion to the Catholic Faith!
Before closing, I will mention one other handout on the Kolbe website that may be useful to give to a person who finds the mystery of the Holy Trinity irrational and unbelievable. From the beginning of the Church, our Fathers in the Faith understood that the mystery of the Holy Trinity can only be truly understood by the baptized. But the pamphlet "The First Cause Is A Trinity: No More No Less," written by one of our members, is the best common-sense introduction to the Mystery of the Holy Trinity that I have ever read. I encourage you to at least read it and to hold it in store in case you run into someone who might benefit from the wisdom it contains.
Through the prayers of the Mother of God, may we resolve to work together more fervently than ever to evangelize the whole world on the foundation of the true doctrine of creation, and so to hasten the Triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, the consecration and conversion of Russia, and an era of peace throughout the world.
Yours in Christ through the Immaculata, in union with St. Joseph,
P.S. If you go to www.foundationsrestored.com and read the unsolicited comments, you will see the great impact that the DVD series is having on souls all over the world. With the Coronavirus restrictions on public meetings and liturgical services, now is a perfect time to encourage friends, family, and other Catholics to watch the DVD series. If finances are a problem for any of your contacts, please encourage them to contact me and we will be glad to make the series available to them for whatever part of the suggested donation they can afford.