Thursday, May 24, 2018

Feast of Our Lady Help of Christians



The invocation "Help of the Christians" is very old, having been included in the Litany of Loreto by Pope Saint Pius V in 1571, as a token of gratitude to the Most Holy Virgin. After having recourse to the Most Holy Rosary, the pope learned of Christendom’s victory over Muslim forces in the famous Battle of Lepanto. Attributing the naval victory to Our Lady’s intercession, the Holy Father wished to make her power known throughout the world. To learn more of this amazing event in history, please click here.

But that was not to be the last intervention of Mary under that glorious title. Several centuries later, she came to the aid of another Holy Father, this time Pope Pius the VII.
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Pope Pius VII's Captivity
During five years of captivity, Pius VII appealed continuously to Our Lady under the invocation of "Help of Christians." From 1809 to 1812, the Pontiff remained imprisoned in the Italian city of Savona, then making a vow to crown an image of the Mother of Mercy existing there, should he be granted his freedom.
In 1812, the Pope was taken to Paris, remaining a prisoner in Fontainebleau, where he suffered terrible humiliations inflicted by the French tyrant.
But in the course of time, Divine Providence intervened, overturning the good fortune of the despotic ruler, Napoleon.
In 1814, weakened by losses suffered on several fronts and pressured by public opinion, Napoleon permitted his august prisoner to return to Rome. The Supreme Pontiff took advantage of the journey to honor in a special way the Mother of God, crowning her image in Ancona under the invocation of Queen of All Saints. And, fulfilling the vow that he made when still prisoner in Savona, he adorned the forehead of the image of the Mother of Mercy with a golden frond as he passed by that city.
The journey continued amid glorious displays of reverence on the part of the common people in all the localities where Pius VII passed. And on May 24th, he made a triumphant entrance in Rome, being received by the population at large.
As the carriage that transported the Supreme Pontiff advanced with difficulty amid the crowd along the Flavian way, a group of faithful, earning the applause of all onlookers, unharnessed the horses and went on to pull the vehicle up to the Vatican Basilica themselves.
Pius VII, attributing this great victory of the Church over the Revolution to the powerful intercession of Mary Most Holy, wanted to show his gratitude by means of establishing a feast day of universal scope dedicated to the beautiful Marian invocation, Our Lady Help of Christians. Therefore, May the 24th became her feast day, in thanksgiving for the Holy Father’s happy return to Rome.

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Saint John Bosco
Such invocation took a new turn in the Catholic world due to the action of one of the greatest saints of modern times: Saint John Bosco, founder of the Society of Saint Francis of Sales (Salesians) and of the Institute of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians.
The companions of Saint John Bosco noticed that, from 1860, he began to invoke the Most Holy Virgin under the title of Mary Help of Christians, Maria Auxilium Christianorum.
In December of 1862, the Saint made a resolution to build a church dedicated to that invocation. And he declared, on that occasion:
"To the Virgin Most Holy whom we desire to honor with the title of 'Help of Christians'; the times we are in are so sad that we truly need the Most Holy Virgin to help us in preserving and defending the Christian Faith as in Lepanto, as in Vienna, as in Savona and Rome.... and it will be the mother church of our future Society and the center from where all our works will radiate in behalf of the youth."
Six years after, on May 21, 1868, the magnificent Church of Mary Help of Christians was solemnly consecrated in Turin by the Archbishop of the city. The dream of Saint Bosco became a reality. Since then, this special devotion to Our Lady Help of Christians has spread throughout the Catholic world, owing in great measure to the work of the Salesian Congregation.



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Modernism

Modernism leads to
the annihilation of all religion.
The first step in this direction was taken by Protestantism;
the second is made by Modernism;
the next will plunge headlong into atheism.

Pope St. Pius X

St. Vincent of Lérins

St. Eucherius of Lyons, describes St. Vincent of Lérins as “a man pre-eminent in eloquence and learning”. Little is known of his early life, though it seems that he was a soldier before taking the religious habit on the Mediterranean island of Lérins, now St. Honorat Island, after its founder.

His fame rests on his work, Commonitorium Against Heresies, which he wrote three years after the Council of Ephesus. Because of the many heresiarchs, each proposing a different heresy in the first centuries of the life of the Catholic Church, St. Vincent felt the need and the calling to define what constitutes heresy.

From the writings of the Church Fathers, he recorded certain principles for distinguishing Christian Truth from falsehood. These notes expanded into his Commonitorium, a serious treatise of forty-two short chapters, from which an immense body of literature has emerged.

He asks why, Scripture being complete, we need to guide ourselves by the interpretation of the Church: “For this reason,” St. Vincent explains, “…owing to the depth of Holy Scripture, all do not accept it in one and the same sense, but one understands its words in one way, another in another, so that it (Scriptures) seems to be capable of as many interpretations as there are interpreters. For Novatian expounds in one way, Sabellius in another, Donatus in another, Arius, Eunomius and Macedonius in another, Photinus, Apollinaris and Priscillian in another, Jovinian, Pelagius and Caelestius in another, and lastly Nestorius in another. Therefore, it is very necessary, on account of so great intricacies of such various errors, that the rule for the right understanding of the prophets and apostles should be framed in accordance with the standard of Ecclesiastical and Catholic interpretation. “ (The Vincentian Canon, Commonitorium)

In this book St. Vincent goes on to enunciate for the first time the axiom that for a dogma to be regarded as Catholic Truth it must have been held always, everywhere, and by all.

The exact date of St. Vincent’s death is uncertain, but is believed to have been in the year 445.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

The Immaculate Heart of Mary: Core of the Fatima Message



Devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary permeates the whole story and message of Fatima. One may well say that it is the very core of the message, as well as the solution presented for the problems of today’s world.

Jesus Wants Devotion to the Immaculate Heart:
In 1916, the angel1 who came to prepare the three shepherd children for the apparitions of the Blessed Virgin said to them, “The Hearts of Jesus and Mary are attentive to the voice of your supplications.”2
In another apparition, the angel repeated the message: “Pray, pray a lot. The Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary have designs of mercy upon you.”3
And the Mother of God herself, in the second apparition, told Lúcia:
“Jesus wants to use you to make me known and loved. He wants to establish devotion to my Immaculate Heart in the world. To those who accept it, I promise salvation and those souls will be loved by God as flowers I have placed to embellish His Throne.”4 
Upon learning that she was going to be alone on earth after the death of her cousins, Lúcia was distressed. The Blessed Virgin consoled her, saying:
“I will never leave you. My Immaculate Heart will be your refuge and the way that will lead you to God.”5
These two statements—that Jesus wants to establish devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary in the world, and that her Immaculate Heart is the refuge of suffering souls and the path that leads to heaven—summarize Fatima spirituality.

Symbolism of the Heart

Symbolic Language:
Man expresses his ideas not only through concepts and words, but also through symbols.
Symbols are sensible signs that evoke or represent a higher and more abstract reality. For example, the national flag represents the homeland; the lily evokes purity; the scepter and crown represent royal power.
Of all symbols, the human heart is perhaps the most common and universal.
Closely linked to emotions that alter one’s heartbeat, the heart symbolizes one’s preference, and especially one’s love.
A mother’s heart, for example, is a symbol of selfless love, full of affection and unconditionally capable of the greatest sacrifices.
On the other hand, the epithet of Richard I of England (1157-1199), “the Lion-Hearted,” expresses his fearlessness, courage, indomitable prowess, and indefatigable combativeness.

Biblical Texts:
Several examples of the various symbolic meanings of the word "heart" are found in both the Old and New Testaments:
  • “With all watchfulness keep thy heart, because life issued out from it.” (Prov. 4:23)
  • “I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh." (Ezech. 36:26-27)
  • “Blessed are the clean of heart: for they shall see God.” (Matt. 5:8)
  • “That Christ may dwell by faith in your hearts.” (Eph. 3:17)
  • "Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me." (Ps. 50:10)

The Immaculate Heart of Mary
Just as devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus is essential, for it highlights the redeeming love of the Incarnate Word, so also is devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, since it emphasizes the co-redeeming love of the Mother of God.
Unlike the Heart of Jesus, the Heart of Mary does not participate in the hypostatic union and is, therefore, a purely human heart. It is the heart of the most perfect of creatures who took the love of God to the highest point possible and was closely united to the Heart of Jesus in a maternal and filial intimacy. This intimacy began with the Incarnation of the Word in her most pure womb, culminated with her final offering on Calvary—where She offered her Son for our salvation—and continues now in Heaven.
By the Heart of Mary, as Fr. José Maria Canal, CMF explains, “we understand her intimacy, maternal feelings, mercy and tenderness toward sinners.”6 For Pope Pius XII it is “a symbol of all interior life, whose moral perfection, merits and virtues are beyond all human understanding!”7
Pius XII also emphasizes this maternal Heart’s compassion: “The Most Pure Heart of the Virgin [is the] seat of that love, compassion and all most lofty affections that participated so much in our redemption, especially when She ‘stabat iuxta Crucem,’ stood vigilantly next to the Cross." (cf. John 19:25)8 

Therefore, Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Heart of Mary Must Go Together:
“In order that favors in greater abundance may flow on all Christians, nay, on the whole human race, from the devotion to the most Sacred Heart of Jesus, let the faithful see to it that to this devotion the Immaculate Heart of the Mother of God is closely joined.... It is, then, entirely fitting that the Christian people—who received the divine life from Christ through Mary—after they have paid their debt of honor to the Sacred Heart of Jesus should also offer to the most loving Heart of their heavenly Mother the corresponding acts of piety, affection, gratitude and expiation. Entirely in keeping with this most sweet and wise disposition of divine Providence is the memorable act of consecration by which We Ourselves solemnly dedicated Holy Church and the whole world to the spotless Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary.”9


1 It was the “Angel of Peace” or “Angel of Portugal.” [return to text]
2 Solimeo, Fatima, 25. [return to text]
3 Ibid., 26. [return to text]
4 Ibid., 41. [return to text]
5 Ibid. [return to text]
6 Jose Maria Canal, CMF, La Consagracion a la Virgen y a su Corazon, I, 250. (Our translation.) [return to text]
7 Pius XII, Radio Message to the National Marian Congress in Spain, Oct. 12, 1954, in Discorsi e Radiomessasaggi, t. XVI, 197. (Our translation.) [return to text]
8 Ibid. [return to text]
9 Pius XII, Enc. Haurietis Aquas, nn. 63, 72, 124. [return to text]


Why obedience is such an excellent virtue

Obedience is a virtue
of so excellent a nature, that
Our Lord was pleased to mark its observance
upon the whole course of His life; thus
He often says, He did not come to do His Own will,
but that of His Heavenly Father.

St. Francis de Sales

St. John Baptist de Rossi

Giovanni Battista de Rossi was born in the Piedmontese village of Voltaggio, in the diocese of Genoa, and was one of four children. His parents, of modest means, were devout and well esteemed.

A nobleman and his wife vacationing in Voltaggio, and impressed with the ten-year-old John Baptist, obtained permission from his parents to take him to live with them and be trained in their house in Genoa.

After three years, hearing of his virtues, John’s cousin, Lorenzo Rossi, Canon of Santa Maria in Cosmedin, invited him to join him in Rome. Thus John Baptist entered the Roman Jesuit College at thirteen. Despite episodes of epilepsy, brought on by excessive zeal in imposing harsh penances upon himself, he was granted a dispensation and was ordained at the age of twenty-three.

From his student days he loved visiting hospitals. Now, as a priest there was much more he could offer suffering souls. He particularly loved the Hospice of St. Galla, a night shelter for paupers. There he labored for forty years. He also worked at the hospital of Trinita dei Pellegrini and extended his assistance to other poor such as cattlemen who came to market at the Roman forum. He had a great pity for homeless women and girls and from the little that he made in Mass stipends, and the 400 scudi sent to him by the Pope, he rented a refuge for them.

John Baptist was also selected by Pope Benedict XIV to deliver courses of instruction to prison officials and other state servants. Among his penitents was the public hangman.

In 1731 Canon Rossi obtained for his cousin a post of assistant priest at St. Maria in Cosmedin. He was a great confessor to whom penitents flocked, and as a preacher, the saint was also in demand for missions and retreats.

On the death of Canon Rossi, Fr. John inherited his canonry, but applied the money attached to the post to buy an organ, and hire an organist. As to the house, he gave it to the chapter and went to live in the attic.

In 1763 St. John Baptist’s health began to fail, and he was obliged to take up residence in the hospital of Trinita dei Pellegrini. He expired after a couple of strokes on May 23, 1764 at sixty- six years of age. He died so poor that the hospital prepared to pay for his burial. But the Church took over and he was given a triumphant funeral with numerous clergy and religious, and the Papal choir, in attendance.

Visiting a Muslim Family

Fatima custodians often meet people who know little or nothing about the Catholic faith.  A few years ago I had such an experience in Florida. 
Upon arrival at the home, an elderly grandmother with a group of young children and teens met me at the door. The group was sullen as I brought in the statue, set up the projector and began the introduction.  Unknown to me, I was speaking to a Muslim family.
At a certain point, one of the teens vehemently objected to the phrase “Mother of God” and accused me of blasphemy since Jesus was not God. Quickly the visit became an interesting defense of the Catholic faith. After answering several more objections to the best of my ability, my Islamic hosts allowed me to explain the Rosary, with an attentive audience, I proceeded to pray alone.
After reciting the Rosary, the attendants and I listened to the hostess, who explained why she had assembled the family for the visit.
Several weeks ago, she was hospitalized for a serious illness. She felt alone and abandoned until one day a stranger walked in with a bouquet of flowers, placed it by the bedside and stayed to listen to all of her concerns. The stranger returned repeatedly to renew her flowers, fix her pillows and talk to her. Then the Muslim mother questioned the stranger’s motives, explaining that her own family wasn’t visiting her. The stranger replied that she was a Catholic and Catholics are encouraged to visit the sick.
Requesting more information about the Catholic faith, the mother was told that it was against hospital policy to discuss religion and therefore she would have to search for information on her own.
Upon her release from the hospital, my hostess entered a nearby Catholic church and encountered an America Needs Fatima flier about Our Lady of Fatima. She called the number and set up a home visit to which she then invited her family.
I may never know what has happened to the family, but I regularly pray that their interest in Catholicism has brought them into the folds of the Catholic Church. Of one thing I am certain: Our Lady will never abandon those who invite her into their homes.
By Michael Chad Shibler