Sunday, March 26, 2017

Freed from a Contract with the Devil

Eutychian, Patriarch of Constantinople, relates the following well-known story of Theophilus (6th century). The Patriarch was an eyewitness of the fact which we relate here, and which is also confirmed by St. Peter Damian, St. Bernard, St. Bonaventure, St. Antoninus, and others.
Theophilus was an archdeacon of the Church of Adanas, a city of Cilicia, and was so well esteemed that the people wished him to become their bishop, but his humility prevented his consent.
Afterwards, some malicious persons slandered him, and he was deposed from his office. Upset and blinded by passion, he went to a magician, who induced him to apply to Satan for help in his misfortunes.
The devil answered that if he wished his assistance, he must renounce Jesus, and Mary his mother, and hand over to him the act of renunciation, written with his own hand.  Theophilus executed the vile document. On the following day the bishop, having heard of the wrong done him by his calumniators, asked his forgiveness, and restored him to his office. 
But Theophilus began to feel so tortured by the pangs of remorse over the great crime he had committed, that he wept continually.
Entering a church, he prostrated himself in tears before an altar of the Blessed Virgin, exclaiming: “O, mother of God, having you who art so merciful, I will not despair of your help.”
Thus he persevered for forty days, weeping and praying to the Holy Virgin.
Behold, one night the mother of mercy appeared to him and said: “O, Theophilus, what have you done? You have renounced my friendship and that of my Son, and for whom, but for the sake of your enemy and mine!”
“O, Lady,” answered Theophilus, “it is in thy hand to pardon me, and to obtain my pardon from thy Son.”
Then, Mary, seeing his confidence, answered, “Take courage and I will pray for thee.”
Theophilus, encouraged by these words, redoubled his tears, his penance, and his prayers, remaining constantly at the foot of the altar. And, behold, Mary appeared to him again, and with a joyful countenance said to him:
“Theophilus, rejoice, I have presented thy tears and thy prayers to God; He hath accepted them, and hath already pardoned thee; henceforth be grateful and faithful.”
“Lady,” replied Theophilus, “this is not sufficient to console me; the enemy still possesses the impious deed, by which I have renounced thee and thy Son; thou canst obtain it for me.”
After three days, Theophilus awoke one night, and found the paper on his breast.
The next day, when the bishop with a large assembly were present in church, Theophilus cast himself at his feet, related the whole story, weeping bitterly, and handed him the infamous writing, which the bishop immediately ordered to be burned in the presence of the congregation. The people wept for joy, praising the goodness of God, and the mercy of Mary towards that miserable sinner.
Theophilus returned to the church of the Virgin, and there, three days later, died happily, with thanksgivings to Jesus and his holy mother on his lips.
References:  Glories of Mary, New Revised Edition of 1888, p.196

Keep it simple

There is no danger
if our prayer is without words or reflection
because the good success of prayer depends neither on words nor on study.
It depends upon the simple raising of our minds to God,
and the more simple and stripped of feeling it is,
the surer it is.

St. Jane Frances de Chantal

St. Braulio of Zaragoza

Braulio was a brilliant scholar and a pupil of St. Isidore, who founded a university in Seville, Spain. He eventually became a mentor to his mentor, and went on to advise not only ecclesiasts but kings.

At the death of his brother, Bishop John of Zaragoza, Braulio was nominated as his successor, a dignity he accepted. As bishop, he labored with zeal for his people, and also to extirpate the last vestiges of Arianism, still festering among them despite the conversion of King Recaredo.

He took part in the Council of Toledo, and was charged by the same council to write a response to Pope Honorius I who had accused the Spanish bishops of pastoral negligence. His defense was both dignified and convincing.

The good bishop spent many a night in prayer in the Church of Our Lady of the Pilar, which houses a miraculous statue delivered to St. James, the first apostle of Spain, by Our Lady herself.

He abhorred luxuries of all kinds, wore a hair shirt beneath the vestments of his office, and led a simple, austere life. An ardent preacher and a keen apologist, Braulio's deep sincerity was as convincing as his clear arguments. His generosity to the poor was only matched by the care he took of his flock.

Towards the end of his life he was afflicted by the loss of his sight, a heavy cross for anyone but especially burdensome to a scholar. As death approached, he gave up his spirit to his Lord while reciting the Psalms.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

How to honor the Annunciation



 by Father Thomas de Saint-Laurent

Out of love for us, the Eternal Word was made flesh in the chaste womb of Mary. His plan was marvelously arranged. From all eternity, He chose a man after His heart who would be the virginal spouse of His divine Mother, His adopted father on earth, and the guardian of His childhood.
While not granting Joseph the same privileges He had granted our Blessed Mother, the Lord adorned his soul with the rarest virtues and raised him to great holiness.
When Our Lady had completed her education in the Temple, she was wed to this humble artisan. Like her, Saint Joseph belonged to the royal race of David, then fallen from its ancient splendor. Also like her, he had consecrated his virginity to God and ardently desired to see with his own eyes the promised Messias, the salvation of Israel.
The Annunciation and Saint Gabriel
The Most High had prepared this excellent union by revealing His will to these humble and obedient souls. Mary accepted Joseph as the guarantor of Divine Providence, while Joseph received Mary as a precious treasure entrusted to him by Heaven. Neither one nor the other suspected what blessings the Lord would lavish on their modest dwelling. The young spouses had lived but a short time in the little house of Nazareth when the scene of the Annunciation took place in all of its divine simplicity.
The last days of March had brought the return of spring to the Galilean countryside. The fig trees had begun to unfold their ample leaves and the doves to build their nests in the hollows of the rocks. Flowers dotted the rejuvenated fields. Soon another flower, infinitely more precious, would blossom from the root of Jesse.
In Heaven, the Holy Ghost acclaimed the spotless conception of the Immaculate Virgin with admiration and seemed impatient for the hour when the work of His infinite charity would be fulfilled. No longer did the Divine Spouse wish to delay. He resolved to send an extraordinary messenger to her whom He called "My Spouse" —Soror mea, sponsa. 1
The Annunciation in Art: A Stunning Comparison
God chose the Archangel Gabriel from among the princes of the celestial court who remained constantly before the throne of the Almighty. He entrusted to him the most important and glorious assignment ever confided to a creature, the mission of announcing to the Virgin the awesome mystery of the Incarnation.
All Heaven now looked upon that simple house of Nazareth, where a profound peace reigned. Joseph probably rested from his hard labor. In the adjoining room, his virgin spouse was praying. The angel appeared and respectfully bowed before his Queen. His countenance resplendent with supernatural joy, he said to her, "Hail, Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women." 2 Saint Gabriel uttered but the strictest truth.
At the moment of Mary's conception, divine grace flooded her magnificent soul. Ever since then, this grace had grown ceaselessly in proportions far surpassing our feeble understanding. Now, at this moment, the adorable Trinity wanted this already extraordinary holiness to shine with even greater brilliance: Our Lady would shelter in her womb the very Author of grace.
Yet, the Archangel's salutation troubled the Immaculate Virgin. By divine enlightenment she had long understood the immensity of God and the nothingness of creatures. In her prodigious humility, she considered herself the lowliest of creatures and thus wondered at receiving such praise. She pondered what hidden meaning could be shrouded in such words.
Seeing this most incomparably perfect of all creatures with such a humble opinion of herself, the celestial ambassador exulted with admiration. "Mary," he said to the trembling Virgin, "fear not, for thou hast found grace with God."3
Then slowly, majestically, in the name of the Eternal God, he communicated his sublime message: "Behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb and shalt bring forth a son, and thou shalt call His name Jesus. He shall be great and shall be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God shall give unto Him the throne of David His father, and He shall reign in the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there shall be no end."4
These words were far too clear to Our Lady for any hesitation in grasping them. She immediately understood the incomparable honor reserved for her. It seems that she experienced no hesitation on account of her virginity. Indeed, it would be a gratuitous insult to her intelligence to suspect her of such ignorance. She was aware of the prophecy of Isaias that the Emmanuel would be born of a virgin.
Rather, she simply sought to know how God, so rich in miracles, would accomplish such a marvel. "How shall this be done," she asked the angel, "for I know not man?"5 "The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Most High shall overshadow thee. Therefore, the child which shall be born of thee shall be called holy, the Son of God. And behold, thy cousin Elizabeth, she also hath conceived a son in her old age; and this is the sixth month with her who is called barren; for nothing shall be impossible with God."6 Profound silence filled that small room in Nazareth, one of those dramatic silences wherein the world's destiny hangs in the balance.
The angel had ceased speaking and Mary was quiet. How many thoughts crowded in upon her! In her mind's eye, she saw the resplendent crown divine motherhood would place on her head, yet she remained too profoundly humble for any complacency about this singular grandeur. She saw the indescribable joys that would surely fill her heart when holding her dear treasure against her bosom, her Jesus, both God and infant. Yet again, her self-mortification would not allow that she be guided by the allure of joy alone, even the most holy of joys.
She also saw the awful martyrdom that would rend her soul. Through Holy Scripture she knew that the Messias would be delivered to His death like a tender lamb to the slaughter. She foresaw and heard the mournful cry: "I am a worm, and no man; the reproach of men, and the outcast of the people."7 Yet, such was her fortitude that she would not allow future sorrow to dishearten her. Above everything, she saw the extremely lofty, fatherly, and holy will of God. She owed obedience to Him; she did not hesitate.
The Annunciation and Saint Gabriel
The Immaculate Virgin at last broke the solemn silence. The angel waited to receive her consent in the name of the Holy Ghost. In accepting, she pronounced one of those sublime expressions that only the genius of humility can find. It was the most simple and modest formula of a soul completely submissive to the will of God: "Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it done unto me according to thy word."8 At that, the grandest of all miracles took place. From the very flesh of the Immaculate Virgin, the Holy Ghost formed a small human body. To this body He joined a human soul; to this body and soul He united the Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity, the Word of God.
Although it is necessary to explain these three facts separately to make clear what took place, the three took place completely simultaneously as a single act. Not even for a second were this small body and soul separated from the Word. From that first instant the Child formed in the womb of Our Lady was the Word Incarnate. Without losing her virginity, Mary became the Mother of God, and in becoming the Mother of Christ, our Head, she also became the Mother of men—our Mother.
In this chapter I have simply followed the Gospel narrative step by step. We will later study the nearly infinite dignity the Immaculate Virgin confers on divine motherhood. We shall see how this privilege should inspire our Christian hearts to great respect, deep gratitude, limitless confidence, and filial devotion. But let us first complete our meditation on this mystery.
Through God's infinite love for us, the Word utterly humbled Himself in the womb of the Virgin. At the same time, other events took place in her soul. When God entrusts a mission to one of His creatures, He also provides the grace to accomplish it fully. Thus, the Most High, having granted a double motherhood to the Blessed Virgin Mary (to be mother of God and of men), conferred upon her a love that was doubly maternal. Such was the splendor in this work of grace that we will never perfectly understand it. Never will we completely understand the ardor of Mary's love for Jesus or the merciful goodness by which the Virgin loves each one of us in particular. Indeed, were we to further reflect upon this mystery, we would pray to her with greater fervor, and serve her with greater zeal. She, in turn, would lavish torrents of grace on us.
The Annunciation in Art: A Stunning Comparison
The Incarnation had just been completed. Our Lady remained in ecstasy. Every theologian agrees that during this thrice-holy moment God raised her to the most sublime contemplation a pure creature can attain upon earth. Perhaps she was even granted a momentary glimpse of the beatific vision. The Archangel Gabriel had fulfilled his mission. Upon his arrival he had respectfully bowed before the Queen of heaven. Before departing, he prostrated himself, for Mary was no longer alone. In true justice, the Child she bore in her womb merited the adoration of the archangel, who adored the God-made-man and then returned to Heaven.
From this mystery, we must draw a stronger and deeper devotion to the Blessed Virgin. The Church, which encourages us to pay special honor to the Immaculate Mother, does not wish to place her on the same level as the Most High. While Mary reigns over all the angels and saints in Heaven, she is still but a simple creature and, accordingly, an infinite distance stands between her and her adorable Son. Nevertheless, God has united Jesus and Mary so intimately that we cannot separate Them. By consenting to the work of the eternal God, Our Lady has become ipso facto the moral cause of our salvation. She is morally necessary for us to go to Jesus.
Souls today are powerfully attracted to the Heart of Jesus. To penetrate this adorable Heart, the sanctuary of the Divinity, more fully, we must go through Mary. Let us ask Our Lady for the sovereign grace of placing us confidently in the arms of Jesus and there, upon His heart, let us rest both in time and in eternity.
Written by Father Thomas de Saint-Laurent

Notes
1. Canticle of Canticles 4:9. [back]
2. Luke 1:28. [back]
3. Luke 1:30. [back]
4. Luke 1:31-33. [back]
5. Luke 1:34. [back]
6. Luke 1:35-37. [back]
7. Psalm 21:7. [back]
8. Luke 1:38. [back]
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Thief

He hung on a cross that day, writhing in pain and discomfort, the infamous highwayman.

On his left hung another man, covered in the matted blood of his wounds. Yet, with the exception of a few intermittent words, there was no sound from him.

As time passed, the thief became more and more engrossed in the silent crucified beside him, and less and less in his own plight.St Dismas Picture

Indeed life is ironic, mused Dismas, this man who had lived in the open, and was acclaimed as a healer and even as a king, now hung beside him who had spent his life lurking and hiding.

And now they were lifted up, both on a high parallel. He could see the roof tops of the city, he could see the highways he had stalked, and he could see the way they had walked. Now he looked down on those gathered around this place of execution, the Roman soldiers, the Pharisees, the curious, the friends of the man beside him…and a young man supporting a lady directly beneath them...

And then he knew her; that upturned face, that maidenly majesty now wracked by sorrow, her tear-filled eyes fastened on the man on his left–Yes, he knew that face.

As the wheels of time rolled back in his mind,  his heart gave a jolt as he remembered that blessed day in the desert, decades ago, when a young family making its way to Egypt, sought refuge for the night in his family’s hovel. The man was strong and kind, the woman was the fairest his child’s eyes had seen, and she carried a golden haired babe, as if nothing in the universe was more precious.

He remembered the lady’s gaze on him, her beautiful eyes full of concern for the leprous sores on his young body. Then she and his mother talked. And next, he was being bathed in the same water the lady had just washed her infant son.

And then the sores were gone.  His mother wept for joy, and kissed the lady’s hands, and the baby’s feet. And even his robber-father was moved, and offered the strong man and his family the best in the house.
Now, in one revealing flash, he knew the identity of the wounded man on his left.  He looked again at the lady, and her eyes, those same sweet eyes of old, were on him once more.
He felt his heart quiver, as the power of gratitude filled his being and softened his criminal soul.  And then came tears, rivers of tears.  When he could speak, he turned to the left,

“Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.”

And the Lord turned his face to him, His divine eyes on him, and he heard the most beautiful voice he had ever heard, a voice at once full of pain and full of strength, full of sweetness and full of majesty, a judge’s voice, and a father’s voice,

“Amen, amen I say to you, today you shall be with me in paradise.”
By Andrea F. Phillips
Based on: A Legend of St. Dismas and Other Poems,
Copyright by P. J. Kenedy and Sons. 1927, p. 18.

The benefits of prayer

Virtues are formed by prayer.
Prayer preserves temperance. Prayer suppresses anger.
Prayer prevents emotions of pride and envy.
Prayer draws into the soul the Holy Ghost,
and raises man to Heaven.

St. Ephrem the Syrian

St. Lucy Filippini

Lucy was born in 1672 in Tarquinia in Tuscany. Orphaned early in life, she was raised by her aristocratic aunt and uncle.

Her early inclination to piety was strengthened by a great seriousness of purpose and her remarkable gifts attracted the attention of the Cardinal-Bishop of the diocese, Marcantonio Barbarigo, who persuaded the young lady to take advantage of an institute for training teachers in Montefiasconi. Lucy excelled in the institute and won all hearts by her modesty and charity, her intense conviction of spiritual things, her common sense and her courage.

At the teachers' institute, Lucy met Blessed Rose Venerini, whose educational experience Cardinal Barbarigo had likewise recruited. In Montefiascone the two holy women trained schoolmistresses and co-founded the Maestre Pie or the Pious Matrons. Together they trained girls in the art of running a good home, weaving, embroidery, reading and Christian doctrine. Their work prospered. Both shared a tremendous gift for effective communication.

In 1707, at the express desire of Pope Clement XI, Lucy went to Rome and founded the first school of the Maestre Pie. The school flourished and children flocked to it from all over the region. Though only able to remain in Rome for six months, when Lucy left the Eternal City she was known as the “Maestra Santa”, the Holy School Mistress.

Unfortunately, the task sapped Lucy’s strength and she became seriously ill in 1726. Though she had good medical care, she never quite regained her health and died a most holy death on March 25, 1732, the day she had predicted.

Friday, March 24, 2017

The Angelus: Honoring the Incarnation Year Round



On March 25th, the Church celebrates the Solemnity of the Annunciation: an important moment for us to pause to recall what suddenly happened in the history of mankind, so that man could be changed profoundly and saved. In order to honor the Annunciation all throughout the year, the Church has given the faithful the Angelus prayer, the name of which is derived from the first word of its Latin form. To say it is to replay the drama of the Annunciation once more, placing it vividly before our eyes and within our hearts.

The Angelus
V. The Angel of the Lord declared unto Mary,
R. And she conceived of the Holy Spirit.
Hail Mary, etc...
V. Behold the handmaid of the Lord.
R. Be it done unto me according to Your Word.
Hail Mary, etc...
V. And the Word was made flesh,
R. And dwelt among us.
Hail Mary, etc...
V. Pray for us, O holy Mother of God.
R. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.
Let us pray:
Pour forth, we beseech You, O Lord,
Your Grace into our hearts;
that as we have known the incarnation of Christ,
your Son by the message of an angel,
so by His passion and cross
we may be brought to the glory of His Resurrection.
Through the same Christ, our Lord. Amen.


Medieval custom of triple Hail Mary in the evening
The Angelus as we know it sprung organically from an even more ancient tradition. The practice of reciting the Hail Mary three times in a row dates at least to the 12th century, and Saint Anthony of Padua (1195-1231) strongly recommended it. This devout practice was a great favorite also of Saint Mechtilde of Helfta (1241-1298) in her Revelations. Saint Bonaventure, in a Chapter of the Order of the Friars Minor in 1269, proposed they recite three Hail Mary's in the evening after Compline, meditating on the mystery of Christ's Incarnation, urging at the same time that the recitation be preceded always by the ringing of a bell so that the brothers and all the faithful nearby would know that it was time for the triple Hail Mary.

The morning Angelus
Shortly after the recital of the three Hail Mary’s at evening had become familiar, a custom established itself of ringing a bell in the morning and of saying the Ave thrice. It was the town bell which was rung in this case, for the preservation of peace, whence it was called "the peace bell." The same designation was also applied elsewhere to the evening bell.
In a culture in which the activities of the Church and those of her children were intertwined, it seems probable enough that this morning bell was also an imitation of the monastic triple peal for the morning prayers. The morning Angelus soon became a familiar custom in all the countries of Europe and was almost as generally observed as that of the evening.

The Angelus Today
In most Franciscan and contemplative monasteries, the Angelus continues to be prayed three times a day. In the United States and Canada, some Catholic radio stations run by laity broadcast the Angelus daily.
In Ireland, the Angelus is currently broadcast every night at 6:00 pm on the main national TV channel, RTÉ One, and on the broadcaster's sister radio station, Radio 1, at noon and 6:00 pm. RTÉ Audience Research finds that a clear majority of Irish viewers still favors keeping the Angelus broadcasts, chimes and all. Its appeal is summarized by one audience member as follows, "To the person of faith, it's a moment of grace; to the person without faith, it's a moment of peace. What's not to like?"
In the Philippines, radio and television stations run by the Catholic Church and some religious orders broadcast the Angelus at 6:00 am, noon, and 6:00 pm. The devotion is also broadcast over the public address system at noon and 6:00 pm in some shopping malls, and in many Catholic educational institutions mostly at noon on schooldays (some only ring bells at 6:00 pm).
Could there be a connection between these two countries continuing to honor the moment when “the Word became Flesh” and the fact that unborn children still find protection in the laws of both Ireland and the Philippines?

Incorporate the Angelus into Your Day
The Angelus should be recited three times a day: as early in the morning as possible (at 6:00 a.m., or upon awakening), again at noon, and once more at 6:00 p.m. It may be said privately, of course, but whenever recited with others, one person leads it by saying aloud the verses and the first half of the Hail Mary—that is, until “blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.” The others make the responses and say the second part of the Hail Mary;—then all join in to say the closing prayer. (see below)
It is common practice that during the recital of the Angelus prayer, for the lines "And the Word was made flesh/And dwelt among us," those reciting the prayer bow or genuflect. Either of these actions draws attention to the moment of the Incarnation of Christ into human flesh.
Jesus loved us enough to die for us so that we might live with Him eternally! When we pray the Angelus with humility and love, we are emulating Mary’s faith in His goodness. We are blessed in that we can ask both God and His Blessed Mother for their assistance on our journey towards Eternal Life!



A MEDITATION

It is 3:00 on the afternoon of March twenty-fifth; it is a Friday. Taking on the appearance of a man, the Archangel Gabriel, whose name means Strength of God, leaves heaven for earth; he has a divine proposal to deliver—and a reply to receive.
His destination? A certain little house on a quiet street in the tiny Galilean town of Nazareth, for there she lives, whose coming God has anticipated from all eternity. She has ravished the Heart of God with her love for Him and her humility before Him, and in her we find the only perfect source of consolation that God has reserved for Him-self on earth-the only perfect refuge of comfort He has allowed Himself. Having remained faultless of any offence against God—never by one thought, word or deed did she fail to measure up to the supreme and consummate perfection of a creature conformed to the Will of God—her purity and sinlessness is beyond utterance. Her vocation was so select and sublime and divine that He created her soul free from Original Sin, the sin of Adam.
Thus at this moment her glorious title is that of the Immaculate Conception—but, kneeling in prayer, she is soon to be offered another…
“And the angel being come in, said unto her: ‘Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women…Behold thou shalt conceive in thy womb and shalt bring forth a Son: and thou shalt call his name Jesus.’
The Virgin of virgins asks, “How shall this be done, because I know not man?”
“And the angel answering said to her: ‘The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee and the power of the Most High shall overshadow thee. And therefore the Holy which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.’
Having thus made known to her His desire-and only after receiving her sweet and meek consent:
V. Behold the handmaid of the Lord:
R. Be it done to me according to thy word.”—did God effect an event greater than that of the creation of the universe and the dawn of time. For within the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary was conceived a God-Man—the Savior of the human race.
V. And the Word was made flesh,
R. And dwelt among us.
Lo! Eternity and time have met, the Word has been made flesh! The Lord has become Our Lord—Jesus Christ. This holiest of names, Jesus, means Savior, Christ means the Anointed One; and now indeed the Redemption of the world is at hand. Oh, can we not feel the very trembling of the angels? It is the Incarnation that has finally come to pass! Although 2,017 years old, It is a Beauty ever new. Jesus said: “Abraham rejoiced that he might see My day;”—even the holy ones of the Old Law may now rest, satiated—”he saw it and was glad.” (John 8:56) Emmanuel—God—is with us, and He shall not be taken away.
Now may we say:
V. Pray for us, O holy Mother of God,
R. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.



Why do we seek knowledge?

Some seek knowledge for the sake of knowledge:
that is curiosity.
Others seek knowledge that they may themselves be known:
that is vanity.
But there are still others who seek knowledge in order to serve and edify others,
and that is charity.

St. Bernard of Clairvaux

St. Irenaeus of Sirmium

Sirmium, then the capital of Pannonia, is in present-day Serbia. Apart from his position as bishop, Irenaeus seems to have been a man of local importance. Arrested during the terrible persecution of Diocletian, Irenaeus was brought before the governor, and commanded to offer sacrifice to the gods. At his refusal, he was stretched on the rack, but did not relent. His mother, wife (at that time the laws of celibacy were different) and children hung about his neck begging him to save himself and not to abandon them.

Steeling himself against their entreaties, the holy prelate maintained silence, and was again imprisoned, willingly submitting himself to the cruelty of the torments by which the pagans hoped to shake him. Publicly interrogated a second time – once more without effect – Bishop Irenaeus was sentenced to death by drowning for disobedience to the imperial edict.

At his protest that death by drowning was unworthy of a confessor of Christ, he begged to face the cruelest torments. He was finally beheaded.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

How do we touch the most responsive chord in the Sacred Heart of Christ?

When we appeal to the throne of grace
we do so through Mary,
honoring God by honoring His Mother,
imitating Him by exalting her,
touching the most responsive chord in the Sacred Heart of Christ
with the sweet name of Mary.

St. Robert Bellarmine

St. Toribio of Mogrovejo

Born in Mayorga de Campos near Valladolid of a noble Spanish family, and named for the fifth-century saint, Turibius of Astorga, Toribio did not intend to be a priest though his family was notably religious. For his professional career he chose the law in the practice of which he shone. As professor of law at the University of Salamanca, he attracted the attention of King Phillip II who appointed him General Inquisitor.

As the seat for the Archbishopric of Lima in Peru, became vacant, the king turned to Judge Toribio de Mogrovejo as the only man with enough strength of character to rein in the scandals in the colony. Shocked at the prospect, he prayed, and in writing to the king pleaded his own incapacity and other canonical impediments, among them the canon forbidding laymen from being promoted to such dignities. Finally, compelled by obedience, Toribio accepted the charge. After a suitable time of preparation, he was ordained to the priesthood, consecrated bishop, and immediately nominated for the Archdiocese of Lima. He was forty-three years of age.

Arriving in the Peruvian capital in 1581, he soon took in the arduous nature of the task thrust upon him by Divine Providence. The attitude of the Spanish conquerors toward the natives was abusive, and the clergy were often the most notorious offenders.

His first initiative was to restore ecclesiastical discipline, proving himself inflexible in regard to clerical scandals. Without respect to persons or rank, Toribio reproved vice and injustice and championed the cause of the natives. He succeeded in eradicating some of the worst abuses, and founded many churches, convents and hospitals as well as the first seminary in the New World.

Learning the local dialects, he traveled throughout his enormous diocese (170,000 sq. miles), often on foot and alone, traversing the difficult Andes, facing all sorts of obstacles from nature and men. He baptized and confirmed half a million souls including St. Rose of Lima, St. Martin de Porres and St. John Massias.

From 1590 onwards he had the great help of another zealous missionary, St. Francis Solano.

Years before he died, he had predicted his own death. In Pacasmayo he contracted fever but labored to the very end. Dragging himself to the sanctuary in Sana, he received Holy Viaticum and died soon after on March 23, as those around him sang the psalm, “I rejoiced at the things that were said to me: We shall go into the house of the Lord".

Stories of Mary 16: Mary And The Nun-Prostitute



 
Oh, Mary, defend thou me,
or tell me to whom I shall have recourse,
and who can protect me better than thou.
DISCOURSE:
Our advocate has shown how great is her kindness towards sinners by her mercy to Beatrice, a nun in the monastery of Fontebraldo, as related by Cesarius, and by Father Rho.

This unhappy religious, having contracted a passion for a certain youth, agreed to flee with him from the convent; and, in fact, she went one day before a statue of the blessed Virgin, and there deposited the keys of the monastery, for she was portress, and boldly departed.
Arrived in another country, she led the miserable life of a prostitute for fifteen years. It happened that she met, one day, the agent of the monastery in the city where she was living, and asked of him, thinking he would not recognize her again, if he knew sister Beatrice?
“I knew her well,” he said. “She is a holy nun, and at present is mistress of novices.”
At this intelligence she was confounded and amazed, not knowing how to understand it. In order to ascertain the truth, she put on another dress and went to the monastery.
She asked for sister Beatrice, and behold, the most holy Virgin appeared before her in the form of that same image to which at parting she had committed her keys, and her dress.
The divine mother thus spoke to her: “Beatrice, be it known to thee that, in order to prevent thy disgrace, I assumed thy form, and have filled thy office for the fifteen years that thou hast lived far from the monastery and from God. My child, return, and do penance, for my Son is still waiting for thee; and strive by thy holy life to preserve the good name I have gained thee.” She spoke thus and disappeared.
Beatrice re-entered the monastery, resumed the habit of a religious, and, grateful for the mercy of Mary, led the life of a saint. At her death she made known the foregoing incident, to the glory of this great queen.
PRAYER: 
Oh great mother of my Lord, I now see that the ingratitude shown by me, for so many years to God and to thee, would justly merit that thou shouldst abandon all care of me, for the ungrateful are no more worthy of favors.
But, oh Lady, I have a great idea of thy goodness; I believe it to be far greater than my ingratitude; continue, then, oh Refuge of Sinners, to help a miserable sinner who confides in thee. Oh mother of mercy, extend thy hand to raise a poor fallen creature who implores thy mercy.
Oh, Mary, defend thou me, or tell me to whom I shall have recourse, and who can protect me better than thou.
Can I find an advocate with God more merciful and more powerful than thou, who art His mother? Thou, having been created for the Mother of the Savior, art destined to save sinners, and hast been given me for my salvation.
Oh, Mary, save him who has recourse to thee. I do not merit thy love, but the desire thou hast to save the lost gives me the hope that thou dost love me; and if thou lovest me, how can I be lost?
Oh my beloved mother, if, as I hope, I am saved by thee, I will no longer be ungrateful; I will make amends by perpetual praises and by all the affection of my soul for my past ingratitude, and will make some return for the love thou bearest me.
In heaven, where thou reignest and wilt reign forever, I will always joyfully sing thy mercies, and forever I will kiss those loving hands that have freed me from hell as often as I have deserved it for my sins.
Oh Mary, my liberator, my hope, my queen, my advocate, my mother, I love thee, I wish thee well, and will always love thee.
Amen, amen; thus I hope, so may it be.


This “Stories of Mary – Stories of the Rosary” is taken from the Glories of Mary, translated from the Italian of St. Alphonsus Liguori; New Revised Edition, P.J. Kennedy & Sons. Copyright 1888 by P.J

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Secret of Mary

Considering Our Lady’s action upon the three Fatima children in a broader sense, the changes she brought about in them was something extraordinary — something far beyond their capacity. From this, we gather that Our Lady suddenly and suavely transformed them through her repeated apparitions.
   
    Bl. Francisco Marto     Bl. Jacinta Marto
Here we discover something akin to the “Secret of Mary,” of which Saint Louis de Montfort speaks. We see grace working profoundly in souls, and we see how it works silently, without the person perceiving it. As a result, the person feels truly free. More than ever, the person feels inspired to practice virtue and reject the evil chains of sin; consequently, their love of God blossoms.
Their desire to serve Him increases, and so does their hatred of sin. This marvelous transformation of soul occurs in such a way that the person does not experience the systematic uphill struggle of those who follow the classical system of the spiritual life to obtain virtue, sanctity, and Heaven. Much to the contrary, Our Lady changes them suddenly.
The changes in the two children Our Lady called to Heaven, Jacinta and Francisco, was particularly striking. What does this mean? Does this mean Our Lady will perform the same transformation upon us?
Is it a foretaste of how Our Lady intends to change Humanity when she fulfills her Fatima promises?
Can I say that the transformation in the souls of Jacinta and Francisco are the beginning of Our Lady’s reign? Is this not her triumph over the souls of Jacinta and Francisco, heralds of Our Lady’s message, who helped others accept the Fatima message through their prayers and sacrifices? And who still help us today through their prayers in Heaven?
If this is true, it is logical that Jacinta and Francisco be our intercessors before Our Lady and obtain the coming of her reign in our hearts. Is this not the mysterious transformation that we call the “Secret of Mary”?
I firmly believe that we must ask Jacinta and Francisco to transform us, to grant us the same gifts they received, and to guide us, whose mission it is to live and to preach the Fatima message.
Adapted from a lecture of Prof. Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira on October 13, 1971.

How to breathe the spirit of divine grace

Those who open their mouth
to confess their faith
breathe the spirit of divine grace,
which is the life of the soul.

St. Anthony of Padua

St. Nicholas Owen

Perhaps no single person did more for the preservation of the Catholic Faith when its practice was forbidden in England than Nicholas Owen.

A “diminutive man” according to one report, and called “Little John” on that account, Nicholas Owen was possibly a builder by trade. He worked for eighteen years with the clandestine Jesuit missionaries Fathers Henry Garnet and John Gerard and built expertly concealed hiding places for priests and Catholic fugitives.

In an age of license, Nicholas led a singularly innocent life, untainted by the allurements of the world. His confessor affirms that he preserved his baptismal innocence unto death.

Every time Nicholas was about to design a hiding place, he began the work by receiving the Holy Eucharist, accompanied the project by continuous prayer and offered the completion of the work to God alone. No wonder his hiding places were nearly impossible to discover.

After working in this fashion for some years, he was received into the Society of Jesus by Father Garnet as one of England’s first lay brothers. For reasons of concealment, his association with the Jesuits was kept a secret.

He was arrested with Father John Gerard on St. George’s day in 1584. Despite terrible torture, he never revealed the least information about the whereabouts of other Catholics. He was released on a ransom paid by a Catholic gentleman, as his services in contriving hiding places were indispensable.

The unique and successful escape of Father Gerard from the Tower of London was most certainly planned by Owen, although the escape itself was carried out by two others.

Finally, on January 27, 1606, after a faithful service of twenty years, Nicholas Owen fell once more into the hands of his enemies. Closely pursued by government officials, he and three other Jesuits successfully avoided detection for eight days, hidden in a couple of priest holes at Hindlip Hall in Worcester- shire. Concealed in the two small cramped spaces in which they could neither stand upright nor stretch their legs, they received nourishment through small drinking straws hidden in the building’s own structure. Attempting to protect the two priests by drawing attention to himself, Owen left his hiding place first. His fellow lay brother was arrested with him as soon as he emerged from hiding; Fathers Garnet and Oldcorne were seized soon after.

His enemies exulted when they realized they finally had their hands on the great builder of hiding places. Father Gerard wrote of him: "I verily think no man can be said to have done more good of all those who labored in the English vineyard. He was the immediate occasion of saving the lives of many hundreds of persons, both ecclesiastical and secular.”

Brother Nicholas was hung upon a wall; during “interrogation” periods, iron gauntlets were fastened about his wrists from which he hung for hours on end, day after day. When this torture proved insufficient to make him talk, weights were added to his feet. Finally, the pressure caused his entrails to burst forth, causing his death. He revealed nothing.
First Photo by: Quodvultdeus

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Virtue is nothing without this

Virtue is nothing
without the trial of temptation, for
there is no conflict without an enemy,
no victory without strife.

Pope St. Leo the Great

St. Enda of Aran

In the land evangelized by St. Patrick, there emerged in subsequent centuries a number of saints, who by the sanctity of their lives firmly established Christianity in Ireland. Among these is to be numbered the great St. Enda of Aran.

Enda was born in the sixth century to Oriel of Ulster, son of Conall Derg of Ergall, to whose principality he succeeded upon his death. One of his sisters was married to Oengus the king of Munster; another, the holy Fanchea, was abbess of a monastery. It was the pious exhortations of the latter that compelled him to leave the world and embrace the monastic life. He embarked on a pilgrimage to Rome to venerate the relics of the Apostles and was there ordained a priest.

Upon his return to Ireland, he built a church in Drogheda along the River Boyne and founded a religious community. From his brother-in-law, King Oengus of Munster, he obtained the grant of the wild and barren isle of Aran (Aranmore) in the Bay of Galway, where he founded the famous Monastery of Killeaney. Such was the fame acquired by this monastery and its abbot, that the island was called “Aran of the Saints”. Many of the great Irish saints had some connection with Aran and St. Enda: St. Brendan the Voyager, St. Kiaran of Clonmacnoise, St. Columba of Iona, St. Finnian of Clonard and others. So numerous were the pilgrims to Aran that St. Columba called it “The Rome of Pilgrims”.

Enda divided the island into ten parts, in each of which he built a monastery and over which he set superiors. His monastic settlement was known for its austerity, holiness and learning, and became a burning light of sanctity for centuries in Western Europe.

This father of Irish monasticism died in advanced old age and was buried on Aran Mor.

Stories of Mary 15: Of Convicts And Rosaries

What I’m about to tell you will back up
everything you believe about the
Blessed Mother and her rosary. 

Dear Mr. Ritchie,
What I’m about to tell you will back up everything you believe about the Blessed Mother and her rosary.
I am a volunteer in the sheriff’s department detention ministry program here in [name of city deleted], California. One afternoon, when I was done with Catholic services held for six pods (6 very large cells), I said ‘goodnight’ to the officers and began making my way toward the elevator to exit the jail.
I was wondering if we were really making a difference with the inmates. Were they learning anything? Were they paying attention? Were they praying only during the sessions together?
Just as I was getting ready to enter the elevator [to exit], two police officers came running, calling me back. I thought: what now?
They approached me and said, “We are really glad to see you when you come here for services.” He was talking to me and John C., my assistant.
“When those convicts come out of your services, they actually come out tranquilized. There is no fuss; they go to their pods and relax at the tables or their bunks.”
Continuing, he said: “One day, we saw the inmates starting to gather around the beds. We thought that something was about to happen for that’s what they do when a fight is about to break out. We alerted other officers and the group [of inmates] kept growing.”
“We got ready and just as we were about to go in to break it up, all of a sudden they pulled out their rosaries from their pockets, dropped to their knees bowing their heads, and began their prayer. We were so surprised....astounded! We stayed away and just watched.”
“We never have problems with the Catholics that go to your services. We want you to know that you guys make a difference here.”
We (John and I) thanked them for the info and left very gratified knowing that our questions were answered in the only way they could have been answered…by our Blessed Mother. She had control there where normally only Satan has control, and she wanted us to know it!
In my thirteen years there I have seen many things that have rocked me to the bone. This is only one of them.
Mr. Ritchie, if I could help with more dollars I would, but even some of us are hard pressed at times. I make it the best way I can and even then God does not let me go broke.
He reminds me when I pick up a penny, nickel, dime, quarters, and, yes, even dollar bills laying on the sidewalk or parking lot. He has a great way of saying, ‘Don’t worry, Sal, I got you covered.’
Mr. Ritchie, you are doing very great things on a very great scale. Don’t worry, God has your back, too.
Yours truly in Christ,
Salvador

P.S. Note to Salvador and all of our dear America Needs Fatima members:
YOU all, after Our Lady, are what keeps us pushing ahead. We can only do the things we do because of your prayers and financial generosity, and Our Lady’s kindness. Please never forget that. You are responsible for what we do and share in it all.
And thank you for your letter and may Our Lady reward you for such an important spiritual work of mercy.
Our Lady showed that she wants such apostolate done with unfortunate prisoners (and all people) when she allowed her very innocent and tender Fatima seers be thrown in jail with hardened criminals and, by the time they were released, the innocent ones had all those prisoners praying a rosary together!
She is a friend and mother of repentant prisoners.
Refugium peccatorum, ora pro nobis! (Refuge of sinners, pray for us!)

The above unsolicited Story of Mary is taken from a recent letter from a member of America Needs Fatima to Mr. Robert Ritchie, Executive Director of America Needs Fatima.

Monday, March 20, 2017

St. Joseph, Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary

As a direct descendant of King David, Joseph was of royal lineage. Although of noble birth and ancestry, this heir of the throne of David was circumstantially poor and a carpenter by trade.

Chosen by God as the husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and the protector of her honor, Joseph respected her vow of virginity as evidenced in the Virgin’s response to the Archangel Gabriel when he announced that she was to bear a son, “How shall this be done, because I know not man?”(Luke 1:34)

Though the Gospels reveal little about Joseph, the simple eulogy of the Holy Scriptures, “being a just man,” (Matt. 1:19) encompasses his greatness.

It was this “just man” who perceiving the expectant state of his wife, and knowing not the origin, trusting in her holiness against the evidence of his eyes, refused to denounce her. God rewarded his heroic faith: an angel appeared to Joseph in the night and revealed to him that his holy spouse had conceived “the expectation of nations” (Gen. 49:10) by the power of the Holy Spirit.

We next read of this “just man,” now in the role of protector of both the mother and the divine Son in Bethlehem, looking for suitable lodgings for the birth of the incarnate Word, and being systematically refused. We read of him offering two turtle doves, again evidence of his poverty, as a ransom for the Child at the Temple. Then, again, an angel appears in his dream and warns him of the envy of King Herod. Immediately taking to the dusty road, this “just man” braves the frightful desert on foot, leading a donkey bearing the Creator of the Universe and His mother to safety in Egypt.

Though there is no scriptural record of Saint Joseph’s death, we know he was absent at Jesus’ crucifixion, which points to his having died before.

The Roman Martyrology commemorates March 19 as the feast of St. Joseph.  Blessed Pope Pius IX, acceding to the universal desire and prayers of the Catholic world declared the holy patriarch Patron of the Universal Church. It is only fitting that he who protected the mother and the Son, also protect the bride.

Love of Creator; Love of Neighbor

He alone loves the Creator perfectly
who manifests a pure love for his neighbor.

St. Bede the Venerable

St. Cuthbert of Lindisfarne

Orphaned early in life, Cuthbert was brought up by a widow who loved him like a son. According to St. Bede, he was a Briton. One night, while working as a shepherd, he had a marvelous vision of angels carrying the soul of St. Aidan to heaven. This occurrence seems to have impressed him deeply, though he went on to soldiering and possibly fought against the Mercians.

It was as a soldier that he knocked at the gate of Melrose Abbey. As a monk, he went on to become prior of the abbeys of Melrose and Lindisfarne. After some years at Lindisfarne, wishing to grow even closer to God, he retired as a hermit first to Holy Island, today named after him, and then to an even more remote location among the Farne Islands. Still, people persisted in following him even to this isolated place, and he graciously built a guest house near the landing stage of the isle to accommodate them.

Illustrations taken from the Venerable St. Bede’s Life of Cuthbert
Later, at the insistence of the Abbess St. Elfleda, a daughter of King Oswiu, he reluctantly accepted a bishopric and was consecrated Bishop of Lindisfarne. The two years of his episcopate were spent visiting his diocese preaching, teaching, distributing alms and working so many miraculous cures that during his lifetime he was known as the Wonderworker of Britain.

Weakened by his labors and austerities, Cuthbert sensed death approaching and again retired to his beloved retreat in the Farne Islands. He received the last sacraments and died peacefully, seated, his hands uplifted and his eyes raised heavenward. The Venerable St. Bede also records in his life of the saint that when Cuthbert's sarcophagus was opened nine years after his death, his body was found to have been perfectly preserved or incorrupt.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Miraculous Staircase of St. Joseph

Miraculous Staircase Header

The early history of the American Southwest is marked by sublime and truly heroic adventures of ardent souls seeking to expand the Kingdom of Christ. The intensity of their faith and efforts is made manifest in the convents, chapels, and schools they founded—and sometimes in miracles God worked on their behalf. One such miracle, a permanent one, took place in what is now the state of New Mexico.

Miraculous Stairs built by St Joseph
WOC Devotional Set Flag

The Sisters of Loretto and their chapel
After three grueling months of travel by river and rail from Kentucky, four religious of the congregation of the Sisters of Loretto at the Foot of Cross reached Santa Fe in 1853. There, at the request of the bishop of Sante Fe, John Baptiste Lamy, they opened a school for girls. This seed, sprouting and flourishing, exerted a great influence on the life and history of the city.
By 1873, to better accommodate their community, the sisters undertook construction of a new chapel, dedicated to Our Lady of Light. With its lancet arches and stained glass windows, it was to be reminiscent of the luminous Gothic splendor that arose in medieval Europe under the inspiration of the same Catholic Faith that the nuns were fostering in New Mexico.
But as construction neared completion, the sisters faced a problem.
Relative to its length of 75 ft. and breath of the 25ft., the chapel was high at 85 ft, so a staircase to the choir-loft could not be built according to the customary patterns. One of the architects directing the project had died, and the original plans could not be found. Various carpenters and other building specialists consulted for a solution did not know what to propose.
There was even talk of pulling down the choir loft. But nuns are known for their dauntless faith and trusting recourse to heaven when natural means fail. They decided to make a novena to Saint Joseph, the carpenter of Nazareth.

St Joseph StatueA carpenter knocks
No sooner was the novena completed than a man knocked at the convent door. He had heard of their predicament, he explained, and, being a carpenter, came to offer his help.
The sisters immediately accepted his offer.
With the few primitive tools, a saw, a hammer and a T-square, which he brought with him on his donkey, he set to work. Some sisters also remembered some tubs of water to soak the wood to make it pliable.
Laboring quietly and diligently, the unknown carpenter soon completed a beautiful spiral staircase. Made entirely of wood held together with wooden pegs, having neither nails nor screws, it ascends to the choir loft in two complete 360-degree turns with no central axis for support.
When he had finished the essential part of the staircase—everything except a handrail—the carpenter departed before the sisters could pay him, and never returned. The Mother Superior tried to locate him in the area, but looked and inquired in vain. No one knew him at all. She visited the local lumber yard to pay for the wood but they knew nothing of such an order. The grateful sisters, though disappointed that the carpenter had slipped away, were not surprised; had they not prayed to Saint Joseph?

Puzzled ExpertsBut architects, carpenters, and the like were certainly mystified. They came in increasing numbers to examine the technique that allowed such a tall staircase, with two complete turns, to stand with no central axis! They marveled further on hearing that the stairs were being regularly used by the sisters and pupils. According to the professionals, the spiral should have collapsed the minute the first person tried to climb it! And so the stairway continued to be used for a century.
The experts also admired the geometric perfection of its design, obtained solely with manual skill and rudimentary tools. They were no less perplexed at the wood used, unknown to them and the area.
One aspect of the staircase may have added to the musings of the specialists or may have been overlooked, but the sisters noticed and understood it completely. The staircase has 33 steps, significantly corresponding to the “perfect age” at which Our Lord expired on the cross for our redemption.

Silent Witness to this DayIn 1968, due in part to the crisis occasioned by progressivism, then already taking a serious toll on the Church’s religious communities, the Sisters of Loretto reduced their activities in Santa Fe. The School of Our Lady of Light closed its doors. Its building, sold three years later, was remodeled and opened as a hotel.
The chapel remains intact, but now a museum. Visitors, who must purchase tickets to enter the chapel, can listen to a recorded history as they contemplate its interior. While curiosity and analysis lead many to admiration and piety, skeptics are left in silent perplexity.
In 1984 Professor Mary J. Straw published a comprehensive study on the chapel entitled, Loretto, the Sisters, and their Santa Fe Chapel. And tourist guides still point to the chapel as the site of a miraculous staircase.
Whatever the present status of the chapel, the staircase stands in silent and admirable witness to the faith and efforts of those pioneering sisters who dedicated their lives to raising hearts and minds to God.

When sinners come to Jesus

When sinners come to Him, Jesus hurries to meet them.
Like the father of the prodigal son,
He is waiting for the return of the ungrateful ones.
Like the good shepherd, He seeks after the lost sheep; and
when He finds it, He places it on His divine shoulders and
restores it to the fold.

The Book of Confidence – Fr. Thomas de Saint-Laurent

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Three reasons to work

The first end I propose in our daily work is
to do the will of God;
secondly, to do it in the manner He wills it; and
thirdly to do it because it is His will.

St. Elizabeth Ann Seton

St. Cyril of Jerusalem

Though Cyril’s birthplace is unknown, he was certainly brought up in Jerusalem. His parents, very probably Christians, gave him an excellent education.

St. Jerome relates that Cyril was ordained to the priesthood by St. Maximus, the Bishop of Jerusalem, who thought so highly of Cyril's teaching that he was charged with the important duty of instructing the catechumens. Nineteen of these catechetical discourses, delivered without a book, have come down to us. These are invaluable as an exposition of the teaching and ritual of the Church in the fourth century.

Upon the death of St. Maximus, Cyril was elected to his episcopal see. Not long after his consecration as Bishop of Jerusalem, however, misunderstandings arose between Cyril and Bishop Acacius because of the latter’s leanings to Arianism – a heresy that denied the divinity of Christ. He was summoned before a council convened by Acacius but refused to appear. Accused of rebellion, and of distributing Church goods to the poor – which he justifiably did – Cyril entered a crucible of suffering through persecution.

His life as bishop was plagued with charges by the Arians and consequent exiles by Arian-supporting emperors. Sixteen of the thirty-five years of his episcopate were spent in exile. With the accession of Emperor Theodosius he was recalled and ruled undisturbed for the last eight years of his life.

Cyril participated in the great Council of Constantinople, when the Nicene Creed was promulgated in its amended form. He is thought to have died in 386 around the age of seventy. He was declared a Doctor of the Church in 1882.

Friday, March 17, 2017

How much does Our Lady love us?

Our Lady of Mercy!
It is thus that the faithful people call upon Our Lady when they contemplate her seated
with the divine corpse of her Son on her lap.
Mercy, because her whole being is nothing but compassion:
compassion for her Son, and compassion for her children, because she has not only one son.
His Mother became the Mother of all men, and she has compassion
not only on her Son, but also on her children.
She sees our pains, our sufferings and our struggles. She smiles upon us in danger;
she weeps with us in sorrow. She relieves our sadness and sanctifies our joy.
Proper to the heart of a mother is the intimate participation in everything that stirs the hearts of her children.
Our Lady is our Mother.
She loves each of us individually even the most miserable and sinful  much more
than the combined love of all the mothers of the world.

Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira

St. Patrick of Ireland


Patrick of Irish fame was born in Kilpatrick, Scotland in 387 to Christian parents of means and position. At the age of sixteen Patrick was abducted and sold into slavery. In Ireland he worked as a shepherd in the service of the chieftain Milchu of Dalriada, who was also a Druid high priest. Alone with the sheep, young Patrick developed a deep prayer life. Referring to this period of his life in his “Confessio” he writes: “… and the faith grew in me, and the spirit was roused …”

Patrick became acquainted with the Celtic language, and with the ways of the Druids, a knowledge that was to be crucial to his effectiveness in ridding Ireland of pagan Druidism.

Led by an angel, after six years Patrick fled captivity, walked 200 miles to the sea and boarded a ship, ultimately returning to his people.  They begged him to remain, but Patrick felt the call to dedicate his life to God. He spent time in the monastery of St. Martin de Tours and on the island sanctuary of Lérins and was ordained a priest by his mentor, the great St. Germain.

But the “voices” of Ireland called out to Patrick to return. Commended to Pope St. Celestine by St. Germain, Patrick received the commission to bring the green isle into the fold of Christ.

Returning to Ireland, Patrick proceeded to win over the pagan chieftains, druids and ultimately the king by his daring, meekness, miracles and inspired teaching. The tradition of a three-leafed shamrock originated in  the fact that he held the shamrock up before the Irish chieftains as he explained the doctrine of the Holy Trinity of three divine Persons in one God.

Before the apostle’s faith, ardent fervor and miracles, druid magic melted away and druid strongholds succumbed. As Patrick and his companions announced the glad tidings of Redemption, Ireland was cloaked in the green mantle of new hope and faith.

After wrestling with paganism, Patrick wrestled with God in prayer and penance, obtaining from Him great blessings for Ireland and was granted to be the judge of Ireland on the Last Day. Before his death, he was also granted a vision in which he saw the light of the Catholic faith shining in Ireland for many centuries, then dimming to the point of only prevailing in certain areas, then growing and glowing again.

Patrick died on March 17 having spent forty years in preaching the Gospel in Ireland.
First Photo by: Andreas F. Borchert
Shamrock Emblem by: Setanta Saki

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Stories of Mary 14: “Forced” To Confess

  
She Could Find No Peace, And Was Forced,
As It Were, To Go To Confession.
No sinner need ever fear that he shall be rejected by Mary, if he has recourse to her mercy. No, for she is mother of mercy; and as such, desires to save the most miserable.
Mary is that happy ark in which he who takes refuge will never suffer the shipwreck of eternal ruin.
Even the brutes were saved in the time of the deluge in the ark of Noe; so, under the mantle of Mary, even sinners are saved.
St. Gertrude one day saw Mary with her mantle extended, beneath which many wild beasts, lions, bears, and tigers had sheltered themselves; and Mary not only did not cast them from her, but received them with pity and caressed them. 
And by this the saint understood, that the vilest sinners, when they flee to Mary, are not cast out, but welcomed and saved from eternal death. Let us enter, then, into this ark, and seek refuge under the mantle of Mary; for she certainly will not reject us, and will surely save us.
It is narrated by Father Bevius, of a very sinful person named Helen, that having gone to church; she accidentally heard a sermon on the rosary.
As she went out she bought one but carried it hidden, so that it should not be seen. Afterwards, she began to recite it; and although she recited it without devotion, the most holy Virgin infused into her heart such consolation and sweetness in it, that she could not cease repeating it.
And by this she was inspired with such a horror of her evil life, that she could find no peace, and was forced, as it were, to go to confession. She confessed with so much contrition, that the confessor was amazed.
Having finished her confession, she went immediately before an altar of the blessed Virgin, to thank her advocate; she recited her rosary, and the divine mother spoke to her from her image, and said, “Helen, you have too long offended God and me; henceforth change your life, and I will bestow upon you many of my favors.”
The poor sinner, in confusion, answered: “Ah, most holy Virgin, it is true that hitherto I have been very sinful, but thou, who art all-powerful, assist me; I give myself to thee, and will pass the remainder of my life in doing penance for my sins.”
Assisted by Mary, Helen bestowed all her goods upon the poor, and commenced a rigorous penance. She was tormented by dreadful temptations, but she continued to recommend herself to the mother of God; and always, with her aid, came off victorious.
She was favored also with many supernatural graces, as visions, revelations, and prophecies. At last, before her death, of which she had been warned a few days previously by Mary, the Virgin herself came with her Son to visit her; and in death, the soul of this sinner was seen, in the form of a beautiful dove, ascending to heaven.
PRAYER:
Behold, oh mother of my God, Mary, my only hope, behold at thy feet a miserable sinner, who implores thy mercy. Thou art proclaimed and called by the whole Church, and by all the faithful, the Refuge of Sinners; thou then art my refuge; it is thine to save me. Thou knowest how much thy Son desires our salvation. Thou, too, knowest what Jesus Christ suffered to save me.
I offer to thee, oh my mother, the sufferings of Jesus; the cold which He endured in the stable, the steps of His long journey into Egypt, His toils, His sweat, the blood that He shed, the torments which caused His death before thy eyes upon the cross; show thy love for this Son, whilst I, for the love of him, beg thee to aid me.
Extend thy hand to a fallen creature, who asks pity of thee. If I were a saint, I would not ask for mercy; but because I am a sinner, I have recourse to thee, who art the mother of mercies. I know that thy compassionate heart finds consolation in succoring the wretched, when thou canst aid them, and dost not find them obstinate in their sins.
Console then, today, thy own compassionate heart, and console me; for thou hast a chance to save me, a poor wretch condemned to hell; and thou canst aid me, for I will not be obstinate.
I place myself in thy hands; tell me what I must do, and obtain for me strength to do it, and I will do all I can to return to a state of grace.
I take refuge beneath thy mantle. Jesus Christ wishes me to have recourse to thee, that, for thy glory and His, since thou art His mother, not only His blood, but also thy prayers, may aid me to obtain salvation.
He sends me to thee that thou mayest assist me. Oh Mary, I hasten to thee, and in thee I trust. Thou dost pray for so many others, pray, and say also one word for me. Say to God, that thou desirest my salvation, and God certainly will save me. Tell Him that I am thine; this is all I ask from thee. Amen.

“Stories of Mary” are taken from the Glories of Mary, translated from the Italian of St. Alphonsus Liguori; New Revised Edition, P.J. Kennedy & Sons. Copyright 1888 by P.J. Kennedy

Only the first step is painful

On the Way of the Cross, you see, my children,
only the first step is painful.
Our greatest cross is the fear of crosses …
We have not the courage to carry our cross, and we are very much mistaken;
for, whatever we do,
the cross holds us tight  we cannot escape from it.
What, then, have we to lose?
Why not love our crosses, and
make use of them to take us to heaven?

St. John Vianney

St. Abraham Kidunaia

Abraham was born near Edessa in Mesopotamia, in present-day Iraq, into an extremely wealthy family. Though he preferred the celibate life, his parents chose a bride for him but on the seventh day of the customary festivities preceding the marriage, Abraham disappeared.

After searching for seventeen days the family found the fugitive groom in the desert, leading a life of intense prayer. Oblivious to threats and entreaties, he built a cell and walled himself in with only an orifice through which food could be passed. After his parents’ death, Abraham commissioned a friend to distribute his wealth among the poor.

As people began to flock to Abraham for council and guidance, the Bishop of Edessa ordained him a priest against his humble protests. He then asked him to leave his hermitage to preach to the nearby colony of Beth-Kiduna, a seat of idolaters who had resisted every attempt at evangelization.

Reluctant but obedient, the hermit settled in Beth-Kiduna where he built a church and, after earnest prayer, set out to destroy pagan altars and topple idols. Needless to say, the infuriated villagers beat him and expelled him from their midst. In the morning he was back praying in his church and from there went out to harangue the people urging them to give up their superstitions and abominations. This time he was stoned and left for dead, but recovering, again returned and bearing insults, isolation and mistreatment, he persevered.

After three years, the inhabitants of Beth-Kiduna realized that there was something to this man’s meekness and patience, and began to listen to him.  After baptizing and confirming the many converts in the region, Abraham passed his apostolic work onto another and returned to the desert where he lived for many years until his death at the age of seventy.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Stories of Mary 13: She thought Our Lady had not kept her promise, but then this happened!

A True Story…
Three months after her husband had been buried,
a priest knocked on her door and asked,
"Are you Mrs. Donna E.?"
America Needs Fatima has 8 to 11 full-time teams of Fatima Custodians crisscrossing America all year long. Each team carries a replica of the miraculous Pilgrim Virgin statue of Our Lady of Fatima that wept 13 times. Her most recent weeping–photographed, investigated, and ecclesiastically approved–was in a church in New Orleans, USA, during the evening of July 17, 1972. (story and photo here)
Along with taking the statue of Our Lady of Fatima into their hosts’ homes, our Fatima Custodians show an audio-visual presentation on Mary’s apparitions in Fatima, Portugal in 1917, and speak about her prophetic message to the world.
Kenneth Murphy, one of our Custodians, relays the following true story from a Fatima home visit:
“Hosting the Fatima Visit was Mrs. Donna E., in Arlington, VA.
While explaining how to fulfill the Five First Saturdays devotion I asked, ‘Does anyone know Our Lady’s promise to those who make this devotion?’
Donna replied, "Those making the Five First Saturdays will receive all the graces they need for salvation before they die." (see note in P.S.)
She then said that her husband had loved making the Five First Saturdays devotion. However, when he died, it seemed that Our Lady hadn't kept her promise… He passed away suddenly.

Here’s what happened
One day Donna’s husband was traveling through snow-covered roads. Suddenly, he suffered a heart attack, lost control, and crashed.
The ambulance promptly arrived but, unfortunately, her husband passed away on the way to the hospital.
When Donna arrived at the hospital, she was told that he had died, and, unfortunately, without the benefits of the Church’s Sacraments…Besides the obvious grief at such news, she was anxious as to the state of his soul at that last moment.

Apparently, Our Lady hadn't kept her promise
Three months after Donna’s husband had been buried, a priest knocked on her door and asked, "Are you Mrs. Donna E.?"
The priest then related how, three months earlier, he had been driving behind her husband and saw him lose control of his car.
He said, "I knew right away that he had experienced a heart attack and was in danger of dying." The priest stopped, ran over and asked, "Are you a Catholic?" Mr. E. responded in the affirmative.
He was in a lot of pain but was able to make a full confession to the priest. The priest heard his confession and gave him Last Rites before the ambulance arrived.
Because the priest had been on his way to say Mass, when the ambulance arrived, he left for the Church.
After hearing that Mr. E. had passed on the way to the hospital, the priest felt that it was important to let the family know that he had had the Last Rites. The medical facility, however, would not give him the family's information.
Only after three months did someone at the hospital give him an address.
Indeed, Our Lady had kept her promise!  


P.S. OUR LADY’S EXACT WORDS: On December 10, 1925, Our Lady promised to Sister Lucia (the oldest Fatima seer) that she would “…assist at the hour of death, with the graces necessary for salvation, all those who on the first Saturdays of five consecutive months confess, receive Holy Communion, pray a Rosary, and keep me company for a quarter of an hour meditating on the fifteen mysteries with the intention of offering me reparation.”