#60: A Better Memory, A Better Life—Harry Lorayne

#60: A Better Memory, A Better Life—Harry Lorayne

Here’s an easy one for you: would you like to meet someone, say, at a business meeting or barbeque and actually remember his or her name for more than a nanosecond? Would you like to remember a list of grocery items even if you don’t have a pen and paper with which to write it down?

Meet Harry Lorayne.

I get a lot of compliments about my memory, and I like to give credit where it’s due. Harry Lorayne’s first book, How To Develop a Super Power Memory (1957) is still, for my money, the best way to learn his system. His later book Ageless Memory: The Memory Expert’s Prescription For a Razor-Sharp Mind  (1957) incorporates many additional insights for memory improvement.

Lorayne became nationally known for his many television appearances through the years, having “done” all the television biggies, from Ed Sullivan to Jack Paar, to Johnny Carson (24 times!), to Mike Douglas to Merv Griffin, et al. His showcase piece is to meet hundreds of strangers, one after the other, and then recite everyone’s name later with perfect accuracy.

Hale and hearty at 92, Mr. Lorayne epitomizes line from Psalm 92:14, “They will still yield fruit in old age; they shall be full of sap and very green.” It’s always a thrill to interview a long-time mentor, and I found myself smiling throughout the entire interview with the great man.

The personal obstacles he overcame growing up on the mean streets of the Lower East Side would flatten most people. His childhood family experiences and his early days breaking into the world of magic (and memory) performance are straight out of the Damon Runyon school of hard knocks. He lost his beloved wife Renee three years ago after 70 years of marriage. (Ponder that level of loss the next time you’re feeling sorry for yourself.)

But Harry Lorayne keeps putting one foot up, one foot down, all the way to Londontown, as the saying goes. He has at least one more book in the creative pipeline, and he still does the occasional convention lecture to magicians and others for whom he is a living legend. Not bad for someone who grew up with undiagnosed dyslexia and crippling boyhood shyness.

I have a half dozen of his books, but few more interesting than his autobiography, Before I Forget which his long-time pal Mel Brooks calls “a rememoir.” Talk about funny and insightful anecdotes – couples’ trips around the world with Brooks and his wife the late Anne Bancroft; things going terribly wrong during shows, and his big television break on The Jack Paar Show, thanks to writer Moss Hart, then a very big name.  (Mr. Lorayne, a self-described crier, barely manages to hold it together when recalling Hart’s kindness.)

Lorayne speaks the way he writes – quickly, crisply, clearly. His teaching style is at once compressed (he never wastes a word) and conversational (he never sounds “professorial”).

Harry Lorayne is an American original. I know you’ll enjoy this audio only conversation.

Ad multos annos, Mr. Lorayne.

 

Resources mentioned in this episode

Join the Conversation

Question of the week:

Lorayne says that memory is just a synonym for understanding. Do you agree?

 

Comment below.

 

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#59: Catholicism, Ecumenism, and Offensiveness—Tim Staples

#59: Catholicism, Ecumenism, and Offensiveness—Tim Staples

In most social circles today, if you announce that you’re a Buddhist, that’s cool; you’re like a celebrity. If you say you’re into yoga retreats, that’s wonderful. Even if you say you’re a Christian (understood as Protestant) everything is still more or less groovy, unless you’re one of those fundamentalist types that believes Jesus really rose from the dead.

But announce you’re Catholic? Better get ready for the inquisition. Tim Staples knows all about it. Tim was raised Southern Baptist, later became an Assemblies of God youth pastor, and is now the director of apologetics and evangelization at Catholic Answers.

In this interview, Tim goes off-road to talk about life as a Catholic in a post-modern culture. How has the papacy of Pope Francis been a game changer? Some have implied or accused Pope Francis of being a heretic. Tim weighs in with his take.

Last year was the commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the revolt now called the Protestant Reformation. How can Catholics talk about about the breakaway that had led to constant, and predictable, splinterization of so many different denominations, each contradicting the others is various ways?

And what is ecumenism, anyway? What should the endgame be for our prayers “for Christian unity”? Tim Staples has been debating, writing about, and pondering all these questions for 30 years. Listen and learn.

 

In this episode you will learn:

  • Specific examples of how to interact with people who disagree
  • How life as a Catholic is, in a certain sense, different under the unpredictable papacy of Pope Francis
  • Why ecumenism can’t possibly mean merely being nice and collaborating on projects
  • How to recover from an awkward start to an interview!
  • That Jesus Christ founded one Church

Much more!

Recommended Reading

Behold Your Mother: A Biblical and Historical Defense of the Marian Doctrines   by Tim Staples

Catechism of the Catholic Church 

 

Join the Conversation

Question of the week:

Why is it important to get the definition of ecumenism right?

 

Comment below.

 

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58: The Truth About Medjugorje: Part II—Q&A With Donal Foley

58: The Truth About Medjugorje: Part II—Q&A With Donal Foley

As promised, I posed the questions solicited from Facebook about Medjugorje to my guest, historian Donal Foley, author of Medjugorje Revisited: 30 Years of Visions or Religious Fraud?  and Marian Apparitions, the Bible, and the Modern World 

Please understand that the number of questions exceeded the time limit of the show, but I did my best to compress together the ones that either asked the same basic thing or were already answered in the first episode. Be assured that none were skipped or censored.

In this episode you will learn:

  • The occultic undertones to the manner and mode of the Medjugorje visions and how closely they resemble condemned apparitions
  • If the visions are not of God, and yet so many good fruits have resulted in the shorter term, what the longer term endgame might be from Satan’s perspective
  • Why the fallen or suspended priests who have been closely allied with the seers provide a serious reason to be skeptical
  • Whether there have been any verified medical healings as a result of the apparitions

Much more!

 

Resources mentioned in this episode

Medjugorje Revisited: 30 Years of Visions or Religious Fraud?  

Marian Apparitions, the Bible, and the Modern World 

 

Join the Conversation

Question of the week:

In practical terms, what does a devotion to the Blessed Mother mean in the life of a Christian?

 

Comment below.

 

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57: The Truth About Medjugorje, Part I—Donal Foley

57: The Truth About Medjugorje, Part I—Donal Foley

On June 24, 1981, a clear Wednesday afternoon, some young people went up Podbrdo Hill near the small hamlet of Medjugorje in then Yugoslavia. When they came down, they told people they saw “the Gospa,” (Croatian for “Our Lady”). A few more joined them, and it happened again.

And again. And again.

Today, three decades later, the six teen-aged seers are middle-aged adults and are still getting these visitations along with alleged secrets, signs, and warnings. A global movement supporting these visions has been selling the phenomenon as real, quite in opposition to the official stance of the Catholic Church.

What is the official stance? What is the truth about Medjugorje? I spoke with British historian and researcher Donal Foley about the whole story behind the visions, about the assessment by the local bishops (and every official commission that ever investigated the seers’ claims), and about the criteria the Church uses to approve or condemn private apparitions.

There are undoubtedly good fruits associated with the phenomenon, there are many more in the bad category.

Foley’s book Medjugorje Revisited: 30 Years of Visions or Religious Fraud? is a must-read for anyone interested in the most popular unapproved apparition in history. It is the definitive account. (Full disclosure: I wrote the Preface).

There are three groups of people on the Medjugorje spectrum: 1) true believer zealots for whom not even an angel from heaven will convince them otherwise; 2) sarcastic naysayers; and 3) the much larger group in the middle—people who are either on the fence, ignorant of the details, or who don’t care one way or the other. This two-part series is for the benefit of that much larger middle group.

One American theologian told me privately, “Medjugorje is not only unapprovable; it’s a giant tar baby. Whoever touches it gets sticky tar all over himself.” So why am I doing it? Clickbait? Attention? No, I’m covering it because I’m tired of seeing ordinary Catholics (including busy priests) getting hectored and lectured by aggressive followers of Medjugorje. It’s all too much.

The Medjugorje Movement dominates the publishing and internet world, fleeces good people of millions of dollars based on half-truths and outright lies, and—the main point—people have a right to know the full story. One searches in vain among the scores of books and websites peddling the phenomenon for descriptions of its serious problems. Most pilgrims are kept largely in the dark.

This is a problem.

I have dear friends whom I love and respect who believe the Blessed Virgin Mary continues to appear to the seers. I hope they’re not too upset with me. Even before this episode aired, my Facebook page was jammed with angry devotees accusing me of “hurting people,” of “turning people from God,” of “going on some kind of crusade,” and the like. Very strange. If I did a program about why I think no Catholics don’t really need to believe in Fatima or Lourdes or our Lady of Guadalupe to be saved — no one would melt down or lash out (pick your metaphor). Raise one eyebrow of reserved concern about Medjugorje? Duck!

Apparently, there’s no soft way to say in public that the Church has never wavered in the official judgment, starting with the late Bishop Pavao Zanic, and now Bishop Ratko Peric of the Diocese of Mostar-Duvno/Trebinje-Mrkan (to whom the Church gives the right and duty to judge apparitions). The Latin phrase is non constat de supernaturalitate, meaning, “it is not established that anything supernatural is happening.” It’s a negative judgment, and the Church has never wavered from it.

Medjugorje enthusiasts are quick to say that it’s not negative, per se, that it simply means something like, “Wait and see the final approval—in the meantime, go there so you, too, can discover that the Blessed Mother is appearing.” That logic won’t work, for the same reason that if a man asks a woman to marry him and she says, “Let me get back to you” — that’s a no. It’s only yes if she accepts.

Despite the harassment and weird guilt trips (“Mother is calling — what are you afraid of?”) employed by the enthusiasts, it is perfectly fine for Catholics to disbelieve the claims of Medjugorje. Even approved apparitions like Fatima and Lourdes are not binding on the faithful.

The results of the final investigative Ruini Commission (initiated by Pope Benedict XVI in 2009 and chaired by Cardinal Camillo Ruini of Rome) have been on the desk of Pope Francis for two years now. A rumor floated around the internet last year that the Commission was set to approve “the first seven” apparitions—a rumor based on information leaked to a pro-Medjugorje Italian journalist). We simply don’t know what Pope Francis will ultimately say. His public statements, off-the-cuff and unofficial as they are, do not look favorable.

In addition to my interview this week with Donal Foley, interested readers will want to read the summary regarding that first week in late June, 1981, compiled by Bishop Ratko Peric (see bottom.) The summary is based on the taped interviews with the seers, and provide strong evidence against the claims, particularly the first seven apparitions. If only 10% of it is accurate, Medjugorje has about the same chances of approval as I do of winning gold in the giant slalom.

Please note that this is not an “anti-Medjugorje” position. It’s a pro-Catholic, pro-Marian one. As with most disputes in the Church, this one is ultimately about authority. The legitimate authority of the local bishop, His Excellency Ratko Peric, has been rejected, derided, and been the object of non-stop calumny.

I pray that this conversation with Mr. Foley will be of great value to you and I highly recommend his comprehensive book on the matter, and also his Marian Apparitions, the Bible, and the Modern World.

After this episode, you will know:

  • The long history of disobedience by the Franciscans serving in the local diocese
  • The official judgment of the Church, what it means, and why it is so
  • The disturbing, occultic elements of the visions of Medjugorje you won’t read about in pro-Medjugorje websites and books
  • Why ex-Franciscan friar Tomislav Vlasic, one of the original self-described spiritual directors of the seers (and the man of whom “the Gospa” told the seers, “Thank Tomislav very much for he is guiding you very well. Go in the peace of God, my angels!”—February 28, 1982) was defrocked in 2009 by Pope Benedict XVI
  • Why the Church doesn’t bind the faithful even to approved private apparitions

 

Resources mentioned in this episode

Marian Apparitions, the Bible, and the Modern World by Donal Foley 

Medjugorje Revisited: 30 Years of Visions or Religious Fraud? By Donal Foley 

The Medjugorje Deception: Queen of Peace, Ethnic Cleansing, Ruined Lives by Dr. E. Michael Jones

VERY IMPORTANT: Bishop Ratko Peric, the local Ordinary, has compiled the following summary of the first week of apparitions here:

http://md-tm.ba/clanci/first-seven-days-apparitions-medjugorje

 

Join the Conversation

Question of the week:

With the embarrassment of riches we already have—the Blessed Trinity, the sacraments, the papacy, the magisterium, the Holy Bible, approved apparitions—why do some people still attach themselves to unapproved apparitions?

Next week’s episode, Part 2, where questions solicited from Facebook cheerfully answered! Don’t miss it. Share this episode.

 

Comment below.

 

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#56: The Cost of Being Pro-Life In Public—Katie Ascough

#56: The Cost of Being Pro-Life In Public—Katie Ascough

Ask Katie Ascough (pronounced azkoe) if she ever dreamed a year ago that she would be elected president of the Student Union of the 32,000 strong University College in Dublin (UCD), only to be impeached eight months later for following the law regarding advertising abortion services. Ouch, to say the least.

The third year medicinal chemistry major won the election hands down and disclosed from the start that she is pro-life, although she was not the “pro-life candidate” as the Irish press labeled her. She just wanted to make some real improvements for UCD students, like healthier cafeteria food, better living conditions, and open discourse among disparate groups.

In this interview, she shared with me what she did that induced so many of her fellow UCD students to impeach her (the first time in UCD history). The reality behind the misleading headlines is maddening and provides both a snapshot of post-Christian Ireland and an example of media manipulation. It turns out that my guest was found guilty of EWPL (existing while pro-life).

 

In this episode you will learn

  • Why Katie Ascough represents the best of public pro-life witness: intelligent, honest, and consistent.
  • What it was like to have her own team of officers turn on her, one by one.
  • How the Irish media, and contemporary college settings generally, reflect a wall-to-wall animus against Catholics who are willing to serve in public office.
  • A great example of how to endure pushback and persecution with grace and grit.

 

Resources mentioned in this episode

Target Africa by Obianuju Ekeocha

Love Unleashes Life by Stephanie Gray

 

Join the Conversation

Question of the week: How much does the fear of human respect stop me from becoming more actively pro-life?

 

 

Comment below.

 

Don’t forget to Subscribe to the show in YouTube, as well as the podcast so you can get the weekly show updates. Check the podcast in iTunes and other podcast directories, please leave an honest review.

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