Saturday, December 15, 2018

To reach the height of grace without this is impossible

Without the burden of afflictions
it is impossible to reach the height of grace.
The gift of grace increases as the struggle increases.
St. Rose of Lima

St. Mary di Rosa

Mother Maria Crocifissa was born Paolina Francesca di Rosa, the sixth of nine children of Clement di Rosa and the Countess Camilla Albani. The di Rosas were a wealthy family of Brescia, Italy.

Losing her mother to a terminal illness at age eleven, her education was entrusted to the Visitation Sisters. At seventeen Paolina left school to assist in the running of her father’s estate and household. To these duties she soon added the care and spiritual welfare of the girls working at her father’s mills and other factories in the city. She also founded a woman’s guild and arranged retreats and special missions. When the cholera epidemic devastated Brescia in 1836, she and a widow, Gabriela Bornati, served the victims in the hospital with such dedication that Paolina was next asked to undertake the supervision of a workhouse for penniless girls, which she did for two years.

She continued to engage in social work, always giving signs of ability and a perspicacious intelligence with a surprising grasp of theology. In 1840, with Gabriela Bornati, she started a congregation with the purpose of serving the ill and suffering in hospitals. Taking the name of Handmaids of Charity, they started with four members and soon grew to number twenty-two.

The name she took upon her profession of religious vows was a synthesis of her whole life: Maria Crocifissa. Her spiritual life was firmly grounded on the imitation of Christ’s suffering on the Cross. This was the foundation of her life, her teaching and her contemplation. Her love for Christ Crucified was reflected in her unstinting and total dedication to the suffering members of his Mystical Body.

As the community expanded, Clemente di Rosa provided a commodious house in Brescia, and their rule of life was provisionally approved by the bishop in 1843. Anticipating Florence Nightingale by several years, the Handmaids of Charity ministered to the wounded in the war which ravaged the region in 1848. After a meeting with Blessed Pope Pius IX in 1850, the constitutions of the Handmaids of Charity of Brescia were approved.

A second cholera epidemic hit northern Italy and pushed the growing order to its limit. After a flurry of foundations in Spalato, Dalmatia and Verona, Mother Maria collapsed, and was brought home to Brescia to die. She passed away peacefully on December 15, 1855 at the age of forty-two.

Friday, December 14, 2018

Secret, peaceful, and loving

Contemplation is nothing else than a secret, peaceful, and loving
infusion of God, which
if admitted,
will set the soul on fire with the Spirit of love.


St. John of the Cross

St. John of the Cross

John’s father, Gonzalo de Yepes, was of a prominent family in Toledo, Spain. At his marriage to a poor girl, Catherine Alvarez, he was disinherited, and tried his hand at the silk-weaving trade. When Gonzalo died young, Catherine was left destitute with three young sons, John being the youngest.

Sent to a poor school in Medina, John found work at the city’s hospital, and there labored for seven years.

Already given to the practice of prayer, and to bodily austerities, he studied with the Jesuits. It was revealed to him that he was to serve God in an Order, the ancient perfection of which he would help to renew.

At twenty-one he took the Carmelite habit as John of St. Matthias. Though meaning to be a lay brother, he excelled in theology and was ordained in 1567. Early on, he obtained permission to follow the original Carmelite rule, without the mitigations allowed by various popes.

When St. Teresa of Avila, the great reformer of Carmel, met John in Medina-del-Campo, she knew he was the man for the reform of the male branch of the order.  Though John was small in stature, Teresa sensed his courage and commitment. With all the proper backing and credentials, she and John proceeded to found reformed branches of the Carmelite Order in Duruelo, Pastrana, Mancera and Alcalá. As a reformed Carmelite, John took the name of John of the Cross, indeed a prophetic title.

Around this time in his life, after tasting the joys of contemplation, John entered a period of aridity, scruples, and interior desolation. While assaulted with terrible temptations, he was also persecuted with calumnies. His book, Dark Night of the Soul is the child of these trials. But in the calm that followed the storm, St. John became a great mystic, writer, and is deemed one of the best poets that ever lived.

He later, along with St. Teresa, suffered much by confusions generated within their order, as a result of the reforms. He was imprisoned by his own brothers, as he was pressured to abandon the reform. He also suffered a severe beating at the hands of the Vicar General, which marks he bore until his death. After nine months of incarceration, he managed to escape, and fled to a reformed friary.

In 1579 he became head of the college at Baeza, and in 1581 was chosen prior at Granada. It is around this time that he began the writings on mystical theology that made him a Doctor of the Church.

But troubles within the order followed him. At one point he was stripped of all status and was sent to a remote friary. Another time there was a threat of expulsion of the holy reformer from the order. Ultimately, he died in a friary whose superior was hostile to him though, ultimately, repentant.

But John of the Cross had reached that level of sanctity where crosses were welcomed and gladly embraced in union with his crucified Lord. After suffering acutely for three months, he rendered his sterling soul to God on December 14, 1591.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Ask Our Lady to put an end to so much suffering

The more somber circumstances become
and the more excruciating sundry pains grow,
the more we should ask Our Lady to put an end to so much suffering — not merely
for our own relief, but for the greater benefit of our souls.
Sacred theology says that Our Lady's prayers
anticipated the moment of the world's redemption by the Messiah.
At this anguished moment in history, let us turn our eyes to Our Lady with confidence,
asking her to hasten the great moment we all await,
when a new Pentecost will kindle beacons of light and hope in this darkness and
restore the kingdom of Our Lord Jesus Christ on earth.
Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira

St. Lucy

Lucy is one of the martyrs mentioned in the Canon of the Mass, and she is regarded as the glory of the island of Sicily.  A native of Syracuse, she was the daughter of wealthy Christian parents. Her father died when she was a child, and her mother, Eutychia, raised her with the utmost care, teaching her the path of Christian virtue. Lucy so took to the path of virtue that, wishing to belong to God alone, she vowed her virginity to Him.

Her mother, unaware of this vow and afflicted with an unrelenting illness, betrothed Lucy to a wealthy young pagan.

As Eutychia’s illness persisted, they visited the shrine of St. Agatha at Catania, close to Syracuse. There, St. Agatha, who had been martyred about fifty years earlier, appeared to Lucy granting her mother’s cure and predicting that she, Lucy, would be the glory of Syracuse as she, Agatha, was of Catania.

After this experience, Lucy revealed her plans to her mother and convinced her to distribute their fortune to the poor.

Furious at this turn of events, Lucy’s fiancé, now certain she was a Christian, denounced her to Paschasius, the Governor of Syracuse. Lucy was ordered to offer incense to the idols, but at her refusal, her enemies tried to take her to a brothel for defilement. This proved impossible as she became so heavy she could not be moved.

They then tried to burn her, but the flames parted leaving the maiden untouched. She finally met her death by the sword.

She is portrayed holding a pair of eyes on a platter. Some accounts say that her eyes were tortured, others that she gouged them out to discourage her suitor. In any case, she is particularly invoked for ailments of the eyes, or eyesight problems.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

She Who Smashes the Serpent





Pope Pius XII gave Our Lady of Guadalupe the title of “Empress of the Americas” in 1945. Since December 12 is the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, it seems like a propitious moment to recall how she reigns over our nation from Heaven, protecting and guiding us with motherly solicitude and tenderness. The constant miracle memorialized on Saint Juan Diego’s tilma and the context of the apparitions remind us that Our Lady is victorious over the serpent, she intervenes in history and is eager to intercede for those who seek her intersession in this vale of tears.

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How Our Lady Intervened in History
The oldest reliable source of the apparitions of the Mother of God to Saint Juan Diego was written in Náhuatl by Antonio Valeriano. He was a contemporary of Juan Diego and Bishop Frey Juan de Zumárraga. Mr. Valeriano’s account was published in 1649 and is known as the Nican Mopohua.
On December 9, 1531, Juan Diego was on his way to attend Mass in what is today Mexico City. It was dawn as he approached Tepeyac Hill, a few miles from his destination. Juan Diego was no ordinary Indian, but the grandson of King Netzahualcoyotl,1 and the son to King Netzahualpilic and Queen Tlacayehuatzin, who was a descendant of Moctezuma I.
As Juan Diego neared the hill’s summit, something extraordinary happened. Unseen birds began to sing in a supernatural way. The birds would pause while others responded, forming a heavenly duet. He thought he was perhaps dreaming and pondered how unworthy he was to witness something so extraordinary.
The AuthorThe heavenly symphony stopped and a sweet voice called him from the hilltop, “Juanito. Juan Diegito.” Hearing this, he happily ascended the hill. What he found upon reaching the source of the voice changed his life forever. There, on a rock, stood a beautiful lady. Everything around her was transformed. Her clothing was radiant as the sun. The rock she stood on seemed to emit rays of light. She was surrounded with the splendors of the rainbow. Cacti and other plant life nearby looked like emeralds. Their leaves were like fine turquoise and their thorns sparkled like gold.
Juan Diego bowed before her in ceremonious respect. A tender dialogue between Our Lady and Juan Diego followed, “Listen, xocoyote2mio, Juan, where are you going?”
Rejoicing, he happily responded, “My Holy One, my Lady, my Damsel, I am on my way to your house at Mexico-Tlatilulco; I go in pursuit of the holy things that our priests teach us.”
The celestial lady revealed to him that she was indeed the Mother of God, telling him of her desire to have a church built, where she might bestow all her love, mercy, help and protection. She showed overflowing love to Juan Diego, “and to all the other people dear to me who call upon me, who search for me, who confide in me; here I will hear their sorrow, their words, so that I may make perfect and cure their illnesses, their labors and theirs calamities.”
Then Our Beloved Lady, respecting the authority established by God, sends the noble Juan Diego with this message to the bishop Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupeelect of Mexico. She tells him to accomplish the mission diligently, promising to reward his services. He bows, telling her that he will go straightaway to fulfill her wishes, and departs.
Frey Juan de Zumárraga was one of the first twelve Franciscan missionaries to go to Mexico and the first bishop of that new land. When Juan Diego reached the bishop’s palace, he promptly announced he wished to deliver a message for the bishop. The servants made Juan Diego wait before allowing the audience. Obediently, and with great enthusiasm, he told the bishop what he had seen and heard. Bishop Zumarraga listened attentively, but told Juan Diego to return when they could discuss the matter at greater length. After all, how did he know the story was true?
Juan Diego returned to Tepeyac Hill. As he approached the hill, Our Lady was waiting for him. He drew near and knelt. With sadness, he told Our Lady that he failed in his mission. The marvelous dialogue continues, “My Holy One, most noble of persons, my Lady, my xocoyota, my Damsel . . . .”
Juan Diego explained why he failed, how unworthy he was for such a mission and how the bishop was suspicious. Our Lady listened tenderly and patiently as he suggested she send one of the well-known and respected lords of the land. Then, he thought, her message would be believed.
Our Lady was not persuaded. She wanted him to accomplish the mission, and said, “I pray you, my xocoyote, and advise you with much care, that you go again tomorrow to see the bishop and represent me; give him an understanding of my desire, my will, that he build the church that I ask . . . .”
View from hill of the BasilicaJuan Diego did not fear the difficulties of the mission, he was only afraid the mission would not be accomplished. However, he told Our Lady he would fulfill her command and return the following evening with the bishop’s reply.
“And now I leave you, my xocoyota, my Damsel, my Lady; meanwhile, you rest.” Juan Diego suggested that Our Lady rest a little! It is impressive that she not only allowed him to treat her this way, but also loved his candidness.
The next day, he traveled to Mexico for Mass. Afterwards, he went directly to the bishop’s palace, fell on his knees and repeated all that Our Lady had told him to the bishop, who asked questions about the lady. Not entirely convinced, however, the bishop told Juan Diego that he could not affirm that the apparition was Our Lady and asked for a sign of reassurance from Our Lady to build a church.
Juan Diego confidently stated he would ask Our Lady for a sign. The bishop agreed, and sent a few servants to follow Juan Diego and report on everything he did. But they lost him and could not find him. They returned annoyed, speaking poorly of him to the bishop. They even resolved to seize and punish Juan Diego when he appeared again.
Juan Diego should have returned with the sign on Monday, but when he returned home, his uncle Juan Bernadino was seriously ill. His health worsened throughout Monday night, and on early Tuesday asked Juan Diego to call a priest. The nephew obediently went, making sure his route did not pass near Tepeyac Hill as he feared Our Lady would see him and persuade him to continue the mission she entrusted to him. So he took a shortcut he thought concealed him from Our Lady.
Stealthily advancing along, he was discovered by Our Lady, who descended the slope and asked, “Xocoyote mio, where are you going? What road is this you are taking?”
Caught red-handed, Juan Diego replied diplomatically, “My daughter, my xocoyota, God keep you, Lady. How did you waken? And is your most pure body well, perchance?” Then he explained his predicament, “My Virgin, my Lady, forgive me, be patient with me until I do my duty, and then tomorrow I will come back to you.” One cannot help but smile while imagining Juan Diego, in his simplicity, asking Our Lady to wait until he returned the next day after helping his dying uncle.
The Mother of God responded affectionately, “Do not be frightened or grieve, or let your heart be dismayed; however great the illness may be that you speak of, am I not here, I who am your mother, and is not my help a refuge?”

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She told him his uncle was already cured. Juan Diego rejoiced, and asked her to give him the sign that the bishop wanted. She told him to go to the hilltop and cut the Painting in the Basilicaflowers he would find. Then, he was to bring them back to her. It was December, and only cacti and a few other sparse plants grew on the hill. However, Juan Diego found Castilian roses in abundance there and delighted in their fragrance. He carefully cut several, wrapping them in his tilma or cloak made of cactus fiber. He returned to Our Lady and she tenderly arranged them inside his tilma with her own hands, and commanded him to go to the bishop and show him the sign he was waiting for. She also told him not to open his tilma for anyone but the bishop.
He made haste to Bishop Zumárraga, confident now that he would accomplish Our Lady’s designs. Along the way, the wonderful fragrance of the roses pleased him. At the bishop’s palace, he was left waiting for a long time. The servants saw him as a nuisance and made him wait until it was very late, and even demanded to see what was in his tilma. Because he refused to show them, they pushed and knocked him about. When he perceived he would not see the bishop unless he showed them something, he let them peek in the tilma. Seeing and smelling the celestial roses, the servants made three attempts to take some. At each attempt, the roses miraculously became part of the tilma as if they were painted. With this, they ushered Our Lady’s ambassador in to see the bishop. Juan Diego knelt down and began to explain all he saw and heard from Our Lady. The bishop listened intently. To prove what he said was true, he untied his tilma and let the roses fall to the ground. Those watching fell to their knees in silent amazement. Miraculously imprinted on the tilma was Our Lady’s perfect image. Recalling their disbelief and mistreatment of the Blessed Mother’s ambassador, the servants were filled with shame.
Bishop Zumarraga tearfully took the tilma from Juan Diego, placed it in his private chapel, and entreated the saint to stay with him for the night in the palace. The next day, with a crowd following behind them, the two went to the site where Our Lady wanted her church built. Juan Diego gave a detailed account of the apparitions. Then they went to see Juan Bernadino and check on the state of his health.

She Who Smashes the Serpent
Juan Bernadino was surprised to see his nephew accompanied by the bishop and a crowd of admirers. Naturally, he asked what was happening. The miracle was told again and Uncle Juan acknowledged that he was cured. Our Lady appeared to him and cured him. She told him of her desire to be called Santa María de Guadalupe. Guadalupe in Spanish corresponds phonetically to Coatlaxopeuh in Náhuatl, which means “I smashed the serpent with the foot.”
The bishop then displayed the tilma in the Cathedral of Mexico for public veneration and called on all to help in the construction of the new church, which was completed on December 26, 1531. On that day, a great procession was made from the cathedral to the new church. Spaniards and Indians, ecclesiastical and imperial officials alike accompanied Our Lady of Guadalupe to her new shrine. The Indians performed war dances in her honor, and covered the whole path to Tepeyac Hill with flowers.
Amid the festive rejoicing, an overzealous Indian fired an arrow, mortally piercing the throat of another Indian. There were cries and sobs over the dead Indian. Then, inspired by grace, all began to ask that his lifeless body be placed in front of the tilma. As everyone began to invoke Our Lady of Guadalupe’s help, the dead Indian came back to life, his throat instantly healed. Everyone cheered as he rose to his feet. Strengthened by the miracle, the procession resumed and the image was placed in the new shrine.

Miracles That Defy Science
Since the tilma is made of cactus fiber, it should have disintegrated after twenty years. However, it has survived from 1531 until the present day without cracking or fading. Scientists cannot explain how this is possible. In the 18th century, Dr. José Ignácio Bartolache had two copies of the image made and placed where the original was. After several years, the two copies deteriorated.
Over time, the faithful have tried to “embellish” the tilma. A crown was painted on Our Lady’s head and angels in the clouds. However, unlike the tilma, these additions have worn away and are no longer visible. The rays of the sun, for example, were coated with gold and the moon plated with silver. These embellishments also faded away. In fact, the silver-plated moon turned black.
Scientists are baffled how the image was imprinted on the tilma. There are no brush strokes or sketch marks on it. Richard Kuhn, a Nobel Prize winner in chemistry, ascertained that Our Lady of Guadalupe’s image does not contain natural, animal, or mineral pigments. The tilma defies natural explanation.
If one were to go to the Guadalupe shrine in Mexico City, a stone sail ship monument is visible near the chapel on the hill. The landmark commemorates a miracle that took place in 1565 when General Miguel López de Legazpi was returning from the Philippines and his ship was engulfed by a tempest. On the verge of sinking, the crew in desperation made a vow to Our Lady of Guadalupe; if she saved them, they would carry their last remaining sail to her on pilgrimage. The storm abated and they fulfilled their promise.
Our Lady of GuadalupeThe greatest miracle was that eight million Indians converted in only seven years following the apparitions. The early Franciscan and Dominican missionaries were busy night and day baptizing and administering the Sacraments. On average, over three thousand Indians a day were baptized for the duration of seven years.

Symbolism of the Tilma
The miraculous tilma is like a catechism class for the Mexican Indians. Our Lady, as she appears, eclipses the sun, showing her superiority over the Aztec sun god. She stands on the moon, trampling the Aztec moon god under foot. She is surrounded by clouds and attended by an angel, showing that she is not of this earth. Yet her hands are folded in supplication and her head is tilted in a position of humility, thus showing that while she tramples the pagan gods, she is not God. Around her neck, she wears a brooch with a cross, leading mankind to the Supreme Being, the God of the Christians.
May the goodness and tenderness Our Lady showed Saint Juan Diego encourage our readers to have more devotion to her. Like every good mother, she is also the implacable foe against those who inflict harm on her children. Therefore, she is our special aid in the struggle against evil today. Let our battle cry be “¡Viva la Virgen de Guadalupe!” (Long live Our Lady of Guadalupe!)



Footnotes
1. Netzhaulcoyotl is famous in mexican history as a warrior, philosopher and poet. Analyzing the order of nature, he deduced the existence of only one, invisible God, the Creator of all things. Whom he adored by burning incense and in Whose honor he composed sixty psalms of praise similar to those by King David. He disliked human sacrifice and the worship of pagan gods. (cfr. JUAN ANTONIO MONTALVO, “Plática sobre la Virgen de Guadalupe,”, in HISTORICA, órgano del Centro de Estudios Guadalupanos, AC, Colección II, México, Editorial Hombre S. de R.L., 1983, pp. 7, 8. )
2. This Náhuatl word means “smallest of my sons.” Xocoyota is the form for daughter.

Bibliography
Demarest & Taylor, The Dark Virgen: The Book of Our Lady of Guadalupe
Carl Anderson and Monsignor Eduardo Chavez, Our Lady of Guadalupe: Mother of a Civilization of Love (Doubleday Religion, August 4, 2009)
Joan Carroll Cruz, Miraculous Images of Our Lady (TAN Books and Publishers, May 1, 2009)
Sister Mary Amatora, O.S.F., The Queen’s Portrait: The Story of Guadalupe (Exposition Press, 4th ed., 1972)


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