Saturday, December 31, 2011

World Day of Peace, 2012

The Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God and World Day of Peace, 2011

Mary, Majors Basilica at Christmas


It is so fitting that the Church will celebrate this glorious feast as the New Year begins.  Eight days after the feast of the birth of Christ, we remember Mary by celebrating her divine Motherhood.  Mary is known as Theotokus, meaning the God-bearer.  By honoring Mary, as Mother of God, we are also honoring Our Lord who choose to become flesh of the Virgin's womb. 

Christmas honors Jesus as the "Prince of Peace," the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God honors Mary as the "Queen of Peace.  This feast celebrated on January 1st, is also designated the World Day of Peace.  The theme chosen by Pope Benedict XVI is Educating Young People in Justice and Peace.

The Holy Father has asked all parents and teachers to be more attentive to the hopes and fears of young people and to their search for true values.  He asked governments to put more resources into education and job creation.
The Pope went on to call all young people to take their schooling seriously and to be open to the example and knowledge their elders have to share.  He said "be patient and persevering in seeking justice and peace, in cultivating the taste for what is just and true, even when it involves sacrifice and swimming against the tide."

As adults we must be living examples of what it means to live lives marked by the joy of faith, charity and respect for others.  We must be authentic witnesses of the love of Christ and the life of the gospel.  "Educating young people in justice and peace has to begin in the family where they learn to value the gift of life, solidarity, respect for rules, forgiveness and hospitality."  Peace is not simply a gift to be received from God, it is a task people of good will must undertake.  Let us all remember this in our prayers and adoration before Our Lord in the Eucharist.  He, the Prince of Peace, dwelling among us, will help us all to do what is good, to avoid evil, to be examples of love, to grow in compassion and generosity, promoting that peace which He brought to the earth on that first Christmas day.

Happy New Year to all and a blessed feast of the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Truth has arisen from the earth, and justice looked down from heaven!

Blessings this Christmas season from the Sisters of Our Mother of Divine Grace!  If you pray the Liturgy of the Hours, you would have read the sermon from Saint Augustine, during the Office of the Readings on Christmas Eve.  It is one of my favorite readings during this special season. 

Saint Augustine reminds us that we must awaken ourselves and realize that for our sake God has become man.  We would have been lost had God not hastened to our aid.  Each one of us can echo these sentiments.  He goes on to tell us that Christ has become our justice, our sanctification, and our redemption, so; Let him who glories glory in the Lord.  Christ is our Truth who has risen from the earth, He who was born of a Virgin.  And believing in this new born Child, man is justified not by himself but by God.

Truth has arisen from the earth, and justice has looked down from heaven!  The Word took on our flesh, and from Him all good gifts, every perfect gift flows.  So justified by faith, let us be at peace with God! Justice and peace have embraced one another.  We glory not of ourselves but in the Truth who this day has come among us!  With the angelic voices we should cry: Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to people of good will. Christ is our peace "who made the two into one: that we might be men of good will, sweetly linked by the bond of unity."

This is our prayer today for all.  Rejoice and celebrate the love of so good a God who was born to unite us to Himself, now and throughout eternity.  Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

O Emmanuel


December 23: O Emmanuel, our king and our lawgiver, the hope of the nations and their Saviour: Come and save us, O Lord our God.
"Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, a virgin will be with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Emmanuel." Is. 7:14
♫ O come, O come, Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear. (Refrain)

O King of the Gentiles


December 22: O King of the nations, and their desire, the cornerstone making both one: Come and save the human race, which you fashioned from clay.
"For a child has been born for us, a son given us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." Is. 9: 6
♫ O come, Desire of nations, bind
In one the hearts of all mankind;
Bid Thou our sad divisions cease,
And be Thyself our King of Peace. (Refrain)

Dawn of the East


December 21: O Dawn of the East splendour of light eternal and sun of righteousness: Come and enlighten those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death.
"The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness—on them light has shone." Is. 9: 2
♫ O come, Thou Day-Spring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night
And death's dark shadows put to flight. (Refrain)

O Key of David


December 20: O Key of David and sceptre of the House of Israel; you open and no one can shut; you shut and no one can open: Come and lead the captives from their prison, those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death.
"I will place on his shoulder the key of the house of David; he shall open, and no one shall shut; he shall shut, and no one shall open." Is. 22: 22
"...To open the blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the prison, and them that sit in darkness out of the prison." Is. 42: 7
♫ O come, Thou Key of David, come,
And open wide our heavenly home;
Make safe the way that leads on high,
And close the path to misery. (Refrain)

O Root of Jesse


December 19: O Root of Jesse, standing as a sign among the peoples; before you kings will keep silence, to you the nations will make their prayer: Come and deliver us, and delay no longer.
"A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his root." Is. 11: 1
"On that day the root of Jesse shall stand as a signal to the peoples; the nations shall inquire of him, and his dwelling shall be glorious." Is. 11: 10

♫ O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free
Thine own from Satan's tyranny
From depths of Hell Thy people save
And give them victory o'er the grave. (Refrain)

O Adonai

December 18: O Lord and Ruler of the House of Israel, who appeared to Moses in the fire of the burning bush and gave him the law on Sinai: Come and redeem us with an outstretched arm.
"For the Lord is our judge, the Lord is our ruler, the Lord is our king; he will save us." Is. 33: 22
♫ O come, O come, Thou Lord of might,
Who to Thy tribes, on Sinai's height,
In ancient times did'st give the Law,
In cloud, and majesty and awe. (Refrain)

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Fourth Week of Preparation for Christ's Birth

“O Antiphons”
The theme of the Advent season has been one of joyous expectancy as the Church, in vigilant preparation, waited and watched for the first signs of the coming of the Lord.  The very name Advent, and the Masses of the season with their urgent plea to Christ to “hasten and delay not” have reminded us that we are awaiting His coming in grace at Christmas, and in glory at the end of time.
The last and most intense phase of Advent preparations begins on the evening of December 17.  The “O Antiphons” are seven liturgical prayers, sung or recited at Evening Prayer on each day from December 17 through December 23.  They seem to sum up all our Advent longing as they paint in vivid terms the condition of mankind and the need for a Savior. 
Addressing Christ with seven magnificent titles, the antiphons ask Him to come and save His people.  Each refers to a Messianic prophecy of  Isaiah and can be sung to the familiar melody of “O Come, O Come Emmanuel.”.

December 17:  O Wisdom, coming forth from the mouth of the Most High, reaching from one end to the other mightily, and sweetly ordering all things: Come and teach us the way of prudence.
"The spirit of the Lord shall rest on him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord. His delight shall be in the fear of the Lord." Is. 11: 2-3
♫ O come, Thou Wisdom from on high,
Who orderest all things mightily;
To us the path of knowledge show,
And teach us in her ways to go. (Refrain)

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Journey to Bethlehem

During this third week of Advent, follow Mary on her journey to Bethlehem, where with trust and faith in the providence of God, she knew all would be done according to His Will.  Mary knew that this time was but the beginning of God's new favors to men. That this moment was to bring us a new and special source of grace. All generations had been waiting through the centuries for this manifestation.  How long O Lord, how long?, had been their cry. 
Let us unite with Mary in her expectation, as she and St. Joseph travelled to Bethlehem.  We know what scripture tells us about their arrival.  There was no room in the Inn, no acceptance of the Gift that would be theirs.    As we make this journey these last couple weeks of Advent, let us concentrate on preparing a room in our heart for the Promised One.  This room will be adorned with finest gold: the love in our hearts.  The furnishings will be our small acts of self-denial, the loving kindness shown to a friend, the cheerful acceptance of the trails and sufferings of our daily lives, quiet time spent in contemplating the infinite love of a God, who would come save us.  And on Christmas, with Mary, we can then behold His face, and respond yes to all that He has planned for our lives.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Look to the Star!

During this second week of our preparation for Christmas, let us recall the gospel for today, the Second Sunday of Advent.  St. John the Baptist calls us to repentance to prepare for the coming of Our Lord "because he will save His people from their sins." (Matt 1:21)  Have we lost the realization of sin?  If we have, then the coming of Christ will be meaningless. This season calls us to rediscover our own need for redemption and forgiveness. 

Let us look to the first Star of Bethlehem, Mary, the Virgin Mother.  She will point the way to her Divine Son, Jesus.  The rays of light that issue from this bright Star are her virtues; the golden rays of her humble obedience, the silver rays of her immaculate purity, the azure rays of her self-effacement which will provide us with fruitful meditation. Call upon her, look to her, the Morning Star.  She can help us realize the need we have for the saving, healing and restoring intervention of Her Son, Jesus, our Emmanuel. 

O Mary, sweet Star of the Sea, shine upon the horizon of my soul and dispel the darkness of self-seeking and sin, that I may prepare with you for the birth of the Divine Child in my heart.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Season of Preparation

Advent is a time of preparation for the coming of Our Savior.  He comes to be born anew by His grace and love in the hearts of all men, but alas, few recognize in Him their Divine Redeemer, or love Him as their God-made man.  During this season let us give witness to how God reigns in our lives and in the world.  Let us make this journey to Bethlehem with Mary, and ask her to show us more fully, “the fruit of her womb, Jesus!”  As we hear the gospels reflect those tremendous moments of our salvation at each Sacrifice of the Mass, let us devote ourselves to bringing the joy of the Savior's birth to others, through our smiles, wishes of a “Merry Christmas” and those hidden acts of charity for the poor and unfortunate.

First Week of Advent
Let us recall the longings of the Patriarchs and Prophets, the holy souls of those four thousand years before the coming of the Messiah.  With what intense yearning they desired but a glimpse of that blessed Light of the World, Who now gives Himself daily to us in the Eucharist.  In praying the Liturgy of the Hours, we read a passage from St. Charles Borromeo that shed light on this intense longing of the people of God, and how we can today experience this in our lives:

“...Each year, as the Church recalls this mystery, she urges us to renew the memory of the great love God has shown us.  This holy season teaches us that Christ's coming was not only for the benefit of his contemporaries; his power has still to be communicated to us all.  We shall share his power, if, through holy faith and the sacraments, we willingly accept the grace Christ earned for us, and live by that grace and in obedience to Christ.”
“The Church asks us to understand that Christ, who came once in the flesh, is prepared to come again.  When we remove all obstacles to his presence he will come, at any hour and moment, to dwell spiritually in our hearts, bringing with him the riches of his grace.”

Proclaim the good news, let it be heard....Our God and Savior is coming.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Medal of the Immaculate Conception

The apparition of Our Lady to St. Catherine Laboure in 1830 on the 27th of November, is a special feast in our community and has an important message for all.

“Come to the foot of this altar.  There graces will be poured out on all those, rich or poor, who ask for them with confidence and fervor....”

Life is filled with difficulties, trials, hardships, heartaches and stress.  Do we seek our remedies in front of the Altar.  Our Lord is always there waiting and longing for us.

During the apparition Our Lady was holding a globe and from the rings on her fingers, rays were emitted.  Catherine understood that these rays represented the graces that were shed upon those who asked for them.  In Luke we are told: 
“So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.  (Luke 11: 9-10)
 Our Lady was gently reminding us of the need for prayer, intercession and petition.

“Behold the symbol of the graces I shed upon those who ask me for them.”
Then St. Catherine beheld the form of the Medal and written in letters of gold “O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to Thee.”
“Have a medal struck upon this model.  All those who wear it, when it is blessed, will receive great graces especially if they wear it round the neck.  Those who repeat this prayer with devotion will be in a special manner under the protection of the Mother of God. Graces will be abundantly bestowed upon those who have confidence.”

On this feast of the Miraculous Medal, the Medal of the Immaculate Conception, let us pray with confidence for our needs, for our loved ones, for the Holy Father and the Church.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

An Apostle for Unity

Altar of St. Basil inside the Vatican
This feast of St. Josephat is very special in the life of our small community.  Having come into full communion in the Catholic Church in June of 2007, we were privileged to spend a year in the Eternal City bonding with the Holy Father, the Church, the Italian culture, and assisting in the apostolate of the Religious Sisters of Mercy of Alma.
Upon our arrival in Rome, we were instructed that the Vatican opens it doors at 7:00 am to those who wish to attend Mass.  Not yet familiar with the Italian language, we were hoping to find a priest who spoke English.  We were instructed to stand at the sacristy door and as the priests come out vested, simply say "English".  Soon we found a priest willing to offer the Mass in English, but he needed an English Missal. Spotting our "Magnificat" prayer books, the problem was solved. We followed Father to his assigned altar and to our surprise, it was the Altar of St. Basil, that houses the mortal remains of St. Josephat.  Why was this significant?  Having been so long separated from the Church, the Holy Spirit was directing us to work for the fulfillment of Our Lord's prayer at the Last Supper, "that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you....." (John 17:21)........... St. Josephat died promoting this same cause of Christ.

St. Josephat, known as John Kuncevic,  was a young man at the time of Ruthenian Synod in 1595, which voted to unite with Rome under Pope Clement VIII.  In 1598 seven bishops signed the Union of Brest, which allowed them to retain their Eastern Rites while in full communion with the Pope. John made his profession of Faith and then entered the Basilian Monastery of the Holy Trinity in Vilno and took the name Josaphat.  He was ordained a priest and subsequently an Archbishop.  Among the many works he engaged in, he compiled texts from the Eastern Fathers and Doctors under the title "A Defense of Church Unity" and worked for reunion with Rome. 
Josaphat had said before his martyrdom, "I rejoice to offer my life for my holy Catholic faith." He had prayed, "Grant that I be found worthy, Lord, to shed my blood for the union and obedience to the Apostolic See."  He was cruelly hacked to death on November 12, 1623.

Tomb of St. Josephat
We all believe that it was in God's providence that we were able to attend our first Mass at the Vatican at the altar of St. Josephat.  We decided to adopt St. Josephat as a special patron of our community, asking him to help us fulfill the particular charism that the Holy Spirit has given us.  We are truly grateful for the gifts that God has bestowed upon us.  "Oh, give thanks to God, for He is good.  For His mercy endures forever!" (1 Chronicles 16:34)



If you wish to read more about St. Josaphat follow this link: http://www.thebasilica.org/stjosaphat.php

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Pray for the faithful departed!

Often we will see pictures of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel extending the Brown Scapular releasing souls from Purgatory. When Our Lady gave the scapular to St. Simon Stock, she said:  "Take, beloved son this scapular of thy order as a badge of my confraternity and for thee and all Carmelites a special sign of grace; whoever dies in this garment, will not suffer everlasting fire. It is the sign of salvation, a safeguard in dangers, a pledge of peace and of the covenant." 

Wearing the brown scapular was extended by the Church to all the faithful.  The scapular is a sign of one's consecration to Mary, and of her protection in return.  It is also a reminder of the reality of Purgatory.  As we enter the Month of November, the Church recalls to our minds the way we can be of assistance to those who have died. 

What is Purgatory and how can we help the faithful departed?   

The Catechism for Adults published by the USCCB (United States Conference of Catholic Bishops) tells us:    “The Church gives the name of Purgatory to the final purification of the elect, which is entirely different from the punishment of the damned” (CCC, 1031).  Those who die in the state of friendship with God but who are not fully purified and perfected are assured of their eternal salvation.  However, they must undergo a purification to obtain the perfection of love and holiness needed to enter heaven, where they have a heart that is totally open to Him.  This process is called Purgatory.

It is impossible for us to imagine what Purgatory is.  Traditionally, it has been described as a purifying fire.  Since the human soul cannot be touched by earthly flames, the image serves to recall that perfect love is achieved by a gradual and painful spiritual detachment from selfishness and self-centeredness.”

One of the most effective ways to help those undergoing this purification is to receive the Eucharist and have Mass offered for them. The Enchiridion of Indulgences tells us the Church grants a special indulgence to the faithful, applicable only to the Souls in Purgatory, “to those who devoutly visit a cemetery and pray, even if only mentally, for the departed. The indulgence is plenary each day from the 1st to the 8th of November; on other days of the year it is partial.” 

“To obtain the plenary indulgence on November 1-November 8, we must receive Communion and sacramental Confession (and have no attachment to sin, even venial). Communion must be received each day we wish to gain the indulgence, but we only need to go to Confession once during the period. And, as with all plenary indulgences, we must pray for the intentions of the Holy Father (one Our Father and one Hail Mary) each day we perform the work of the indulgence.”

The holy souls can no longer help themselves, so they rely upon our prayers and works of charity. However, they will be powerful intercessors for us in return. St. John Vianney said: "If one knew what we may obtain from God by the intercession of the Poor Souls, they would not be so much abandoned.  Let us pray a great deal for them, they will pray for us." 

Monday, October 31, 2011

"Come, thou blessed of my Father!"

On this Feast of All Saints we come together as Church to honor not only the Saints that we know, but also all those known only to God, who no matter what their station or state in life, have lived manfully the gospel of Christ and now enjoy the blissful vision of God for ever in Heaven. It is certainly a day to rejoice and thank God for the many graces and crowns given to these holy men and women. To move ourselves to strive after the virtues that they expressed by their lives and to implore mercy from God through their powerful intercessions.
This solemn commemoration is an image of that eternal great feast which is continually celebrated in Heaven, where all the blessed praise and adore God's goodness and mercy. The perfection and greatness of these saints are entirely the work of His spirit within them.

We too, are called to this heavenly banquet, to one day, after a faithful life, be called blessed by God and given that name known only to Him alone.

We are reminded in the document Lumen Gentium, Chapter 5, the Universal Call to Holiness:

Thus it is evident to everyone, that all the faithful of Christ of whatever rank or status, are called to the fullness of the Christian life and to the perfection of charity; by this holiness as such a more human manner of living is promoted in this earthly society. In order that the faithful may reach this perfection, they must use their strength accordingly as they have received it, as a gift from Christ. They must follow in His footsteps and conform themselves to His image seeking the will of the Father in all things. They must devote themselves with all their being to the glory of God and the service of their neighbor. In this way, the holiness of the People of God will grow into an abundant harvest of good, as is admirably shown by the life of so many saints in Church history.”

As we attend Mass on this great Feast, let us be thankful for the praise offered to God by the lives of His saints, and pray that we too may one day join them forever seeing God face to face.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

THE HOLY SEE AND LIBYA AFTER THE DEATH OF COLONEL GADAFFI

Considering the events of the past week regarding the death of Colonel Gadaffi and all of the secular publicity, I thought it would be helpful to post this message from the Vatican, in case you have not seen this.

Let us pray for all the people of Libya!

"VATICAN CITY, 21 OCT 2011 (VIS) -  Given below is the text of an English-language note published yesterday  afternoon by the Holy See Press Office on the subject of the Holy See and  Libya following the death of Colonel Gadaffi.

  "The news of the death  of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi marks the end of a much too long and tragic phase  of a brutal struggle to bring down a harsh and oppressive regime.

  "This dramatic event  obliges us yet again to reflect on the immense toll of human suffering which  accompanies the affirmation and collapse of any system which is not based on  the respect and dignity of the human person, but rather on the prevailing  affirmation of power.

  "It is hoped now that  the Libyan people might be spared further violence due to a spirit of  revenge, and that the new leaders can undertake as soon possible efforts  necessary for bringing peace and rebuilding in a spirit of solidarity, based  on justice and the rule of law. May the international community also be  committed to generously helping in the rebuilding of the nation.

  "For its own part, the  small Catholic community will continue to offer its own witness and service  to all people, especially in the charitable and health fields. The Holy See  will assist the Libyan people with the instruments available to it in the  field of international relations with a spirit of promoting justice and  peace.

  "In this regard, it is  necessary to keep in mind that it is a constant practice that when the Holy  See establishes diplomatic relations, it recognises States and not  governments. For this reason the Holy See has not proceeded in establishing a  formal recognition of the National Transitional Council (CNT) as the  government of Libya.  Given that the CNT is now acting effectively as the government in Tripoli, the Holy See  considers it the legitimate representative of the Libyan people, in  conformity with international law.

  "The Holy See has  already had contacts with the new Libyan authorities. Firstly, the  Secretariat of State, which has the responsibility for the diplomatic  relations of the Holy See, has been in contact with the Libyan Embassy to the  Holy See following the political changes in Tripoli. During his recent participation at  the General Assembly of the United Nations, Archbishop Dominique Mamberti,  secretary for Relations with States, had the opportunity to speak to  Abdurrahman M. Shalgham, permanent representative of Libya to the  United Nations. More recently, Archbishop Tommaso Caputo, apostolic nuncio to  Libya, who is based in Malta, travelled to Tripoli for a three-day visit (from 2-4  October) in which he met Mahmoud Jibril, prime minister of the CNT. Archbishop  Caputo was also received by the minister for foreign affairs.

  "During these various  meetings the importance of diplomatic relations between the Holy See and Libya was  affirmed by both sides. The Holy See renewed its support for the Libyan  people and for the transition. The Holy See wished the new authorities every  success in their rebuilding the country. On their own behalf, the leaders of  the new Libya expressed their appreciation for the Holy Father's humanitarian  appeals and the efforts of the Church in Libya through its services in  hospitals and help centres run by thirteen religious communities (six in  Tripolitania and seven in Cirenaica)".

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Windows define St. Therese

Saint Therese of Lisieux is a model for us, that it is not necessary to achieve greater things in order to have a successful life, or to become a saint. She led a simple and obscure life in Carmel. She did not free her country from the enemy like St. Joan of Arc; neither did she convert people in droves, as did St. John Mary Vianney. It was enough for her to pour her love into the lowly and ordinary tasks given to her. “All is grace” she said, a few months before she died. Therese firmly believed, like St. Paul that that nothing can separate us from the boundless love God bestows on us. She allowed herself to be drawn towards the Fountain of Love. “My vocation is love,” she said, and “It is Love alone that attracts me.”
Pope Pius XI who had canonized Therese on May 17, 1925, referred to her as the Star of his pontificate. It was the pope's wish that the basilica in Lisieux be built “very large, very beautiful and as quickly as possible!” By July 11, 1937 the shrine to St. Therese was ready for Pope Pius XI's envoy, Cardinal Pacelli (the future Pius XII) to give his solemn blessing to the basilica.

Pierre Gaudin, the artist of the stained glass windows in the basilica, aimed to create a figurative work which would portray the essence of St. Therese's message. Her response to Divine Love was one of trust and love.

The north transept window, dominated by deep blues catches the atmosphere of trust in which Therese lived. Each verse of Psalm 22 is pictured by a theme from the Gospel: the Good Shepherd, the Samaritan woman at the well, the parable of the good Samaritan, Jesus quieting the storm, the miracle of the loaves, the wedding feast of Cana, the visit of Jesus to Zacheus. In the rose-windows above, flowers and plants are depicted to symbolize Divine Providence in all living things. The lower windows have Scriptural references of the hen gathering her chickens, of which Therese was so fond, the eagle carrying and protecting her young, the pure water in which the stag comes to drink, and the pelican feeding its little ones with its own blood.

The south transept window, which rests above the reliquary of Therese, is a blaze of red. This color was chosen to reflect the way St. Therese responded with her own love to the gift of Divine Love. Therese is kneeling, and offering herself to the flames of love which pour forth from the pierced heart of Jesus. Consumed by this fire, she would have liked to do a thousand and one things to “capture” God's love. She felt called to be an apostle, priest, and martyr. However, she knew that it was enough to pour her love into her simple life in Carmel in order to be useful to the entire world. “Yes, I found my place in the Church, I shall be Love itself! And so I shall be everything!” she said.

On the left side another scene from the Bible depicts the disciples being sent off to teach the Gospel to all nations. This refers to her deep aspiration to become a missionary. On the right side the martyrdom of the holy innocents refers to her wish to be made a martyr. The lower panels of the window show Therese's favorite saints: the chaste St. Cecilia and St. Teresa of Avila, the soldier-saints Louis and Joan of Arc, the priests St. Vincent de Paul and St. John Vianney, the apostles Francis Xavier and Theophane Venard, the doctors John of the Cross and Francis de Sales, and the martyrs St. Stephen and Agnes. These are the saints whose particular vocation Therese would have liked to follow “whose lives and deaths proclaimed the name of Jesus on the highways and byways of the world.”

St. Therese has truly inspired both men and women, children and adults, rich and poor, religious and laity with her message of trust and love. “One day, my Beloved Eagle, you will come to take this little bird, and fly with it to the Source of where you will plunge it forever in the blazing gulf of love that is there.” (from the final page of her second manuscript)








Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Angelic Spirits, Michael, Gabriel, Raphael

In early Judaism, St. Michael was considered a powerful symbol of divine assistance. He appears three times in the Old Testament, particularly in the book of Daniel. (Dan 10, 13-21; 12, 1) where he is hailed as a defender of the Hebrew people and the head of the heavenly army defending the weak and the persecuted.

The most ancient and famous shrine of the Latin Church dedicated to St. Michael is on Monte Gargano, in the town of Monte Sant'Angelo, situated 850 meters above sea level. (Apulia, Italy) I was privileged to make a pilgrimage there in 2003. Learning the story of these miraculous events, which led St. Michael to chose and consecrate this cave left me with a sense of awe and mystery.

“I am Michael and I am always in the presence of God. The cave is sacred to me. I have chosen it; I myself am its watchful custodian....There where the rock opens wide the sins of men can be forgiven....What is asked for here in prayer will be granted. Therefore, go to the mountain and dedicate the grotto to the Christian religion.”
(To the Bishop of Siponto, dated 490)

St. Michael, special protector of the people of God, defend God's Holy Church now, and lead us all to the possession of the glory of God.

St. Gabriel is “God's Ambassador”, the voice who announced to Mary, that she was to be the Mother of the Lord. It was he who adored with Mary the Word made flesh in her womb. He was the first adorer of the Precious Blood on earth and the first to pronounce the name of “Jesus”.

St. Raphael is the angel of peace, of health, of joy and happy meetings. The “medicine of God” who can cure our infirmities of soul by virtue of the Divine Blood, shed for our salvation. The angel sent my God's providence, he will forever typify the watchfulness, tenderness and helpful affection of our own guardian angels.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Our Mother of Sorrows

From the Basilica di Santo Stefano Rotondo
Maria dei Sette Dolori, Antonio Tempesta (1555-1630)
When I was in Rome in 2010, the Pontifical North American College in Rome during Lent leads a pilgrimage to each of the Stational Churches.  We were able to attend Mass each day, venerate the sacred relics preserved in these Churches and spiritually encounter the saints and faithful who preceded us in these holy places.
The Basilica of Santo Stefano Rotondo in Monte Celio is one of these Stational Churches.  This particular circular church was inspired by the shrine built by the Emperor Constantine over the tomb of Christ in Jerusalem.  Circular plans were often used for shrines built over the tombs of martyrs, particularly in the Eastern Roman Empire. Although this basilica is not built over a tomb, it depicts in mosaic the different kinds of martyrdom of many early christian saints.  It is dedicated to St. Stephen, the first Christian martyr and has a beautiful art piece of Mary, Queen of Martyrs, identifying her seven sorrows.
St. Alphonsus, in speaking of the dolors of Mary describes her as the Queen of Martyrs because her martyrdom was longer and greater than that of all the martyrs.  St. Thomas Aquinas says that "to have the glory of martyrdom, it is sufficient to exercise obedience in its highest degree, that is to say, to be obedient unto death" (2.2,q.124, a.3)  And St. Bernard tells us that the passion of Jesus began with his birth and therefore Mary, in all things like unto her Son, endured her martyrdom throughout her life. 
Let us ask Mary on this feast of her sorrows for the grace to accept peacefully our own sorrows in this life by uniting with the sufferings of Our Lord and her own pierced soul as she faithfully followed her Son to Calvary.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Mary is Queen!

"Today He transports from her earthly dwelling, as Queen of the human race, His ever-Virgin Mother, from whose womb He, the living God, took on human form."

St. Andrew of Crete

At the Annunciation, the Archangel Gabriel was the first to herald Mary's royal office as Queen when he announced that her Son “...will reign over the house of Jacob forever; and of this kingdom there will be no end.” (Luke 1:33)

Pope Benedict XVI beautiful explains that “The Virgin Mary was associated in a very special way with Christ’s kingship. God asked her, a humble young woman of Nazareth, to become Mother of the Messiah and Mary responded to this request with her whole self, joining her unconditional ‘yes’ to that of her Son, Jesus, and making herself obedient with him even in his sacrifice. This is why God exalted her above every other creature and Christ crowned her Queen of Heaven and earth.” (Angelus Message – Nov. 2006)

Theologians of the Church have called Mary the Queen of all creatures, the Queen of the world, and the Ruler of all. In reference to Mary's Queenship, St. Germanus wrote eloquently of the Virgin Mary, "Be enthroned, Lady, for it is fitting that you should sit in an exalted place since you are a Queen and glorious above all kings." St. John Damascene exclaimed,  "When she became Mother of the Creator, she truly became Queen of every creature." In the book The Glories of Mary, St. Alphonsus Ligouri writes, "Because the virgin Mary was raised to such a lofty dignity as to be the mother of the King of kings, it is deservedly and by every right that the Church has honored her with the title of 'Queen'."

The fifth glorious mystery of the rosary is devoted to the Queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary. After Mary's Assumption, she was solemnly crowned by her Divine Son and received by the heavenly court as Queen. This divine mystery of the ruling power of Mary, has been called the mystical crown of the heavenly Queen.

Pope Pius XII established the feast of the Queenship of Mary during the close of the 1954 Marian Year. In the Pope's encyclical letter, AD CAELI REGINAM, Pius XII instituted the feast of the Queenship to be celebrated throughout the world on May 31st. (In 1969 it was transferred to August 22nd to coincide with the feast of the Assumption.) The Pope stated that the purpose of this Feast was “... that all may recognize more clearly and venerate more devoutly the merciful and maternal sway of the Mother of God.” (Ad Caeli Reginam 51)
The Holy Father assuredly hoped that this feast would help bring about peace among nations through the intercession of the Queen of Heaven. “Is she not a rainbow in the clouds reaching towards God, the pledge of a covenant of peace?[Cf. Gen. IX, 13.] "Look upon the rainbow, and bless Him that made it; surely it is beautiful in its brightness. It encompasses the heaven about with the circle of its glory, the hands of the Most High have displayed it."[Eccl. XLIII, 12-13] Whoever, therefore, reverences the Queen of heaven and earth - and let no one consider himself exempt from this tribute of a grateful and loving soul - let him invoke the most effective of Queens, the Mediatrix of peace; let him respect and preserve peace, which is not wickedness unpunished nor freedom without restraint, but a well-ordered harmony under the rule of the will of God; to its safeguarding and growth the gentle urgings and commands of the Virgin Mary impel us. “ (Ad Caeli Reginam 51)

On this beautiful feast we are encouraged to recognize Mary's Queenship by enthroning her in our homes, consecrating ourselves to her, and asking her to reign in our hearts.

Let all, therefore, try to approach with greater trust the throne of grace and mercy of our Queen and Mother, and beg for strength in adversity, light in darkness, consolation in sorrow; above all let them strive to free themselves from the slavery of sin and offer an unceasing homage, filled with filial loyalty, to their Queenly Mother.” (Ad Caeli Reginam 48)

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Why do you doubt?

The Gospel reading for Sunday, August 7th, was a story that has always fascinated me.  I ran across this passage from Father Augustine Stock in his commentary on this particular reading from Matthew.  I always thought that St. Peter was a bit presumptuous to tell the Lord, if it is really you, bid me come.  This commentary was a good reflection, so I thought I would post it. 

   Peter is presented as one in whom the emotions of courage and doubt lie close together.  The hesitant expression, “if it is you” does not spring from a lack recognition, but makes explicit the “little faith” with which Jesus reproaches Peter in verse 31.  The initiative to be allowed to walk on the water must be sanctioned (“command me!” with following infinitive); only then Peter hears the imperative “come!”  A typical disciple, Peter wants to have an order to follow.
    In the Peter scene the water is mentioned explicitly (no longer the sea as earlier) which perhaps underlines Peter’s fear and helplessness.  Peter’s noticing (feeling) the strong wind suffices to revive the first fear; cosmic powers shape the hard-won trust in Jesus, who can save him from going under.  Peter’s outcry, “Lord, save me” is the culmination of Matthew’s insertion.  Ultimately, this urgency wins out in Peter that Jesus alone can help.  Jesus reaches out his hand to save.  But the reproach continues: Peter’s “little faith” (not his unbelief) is upbraided; in temptation situations “little faith” manifests itself in doubt.


How often in life's little trials do we start to doubt in the goodness of God, His love for us, and His providential care for us.  Doubting is usually a result of fear, and if we allow fear to get the upper hand it can block our faith.  Let us all cry out with St. Peter: "Lord, save me" and believe that Jesus is the source of all of our strength, and will give us the courage to walk the path that He has chosen for us. Have a great day!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Assumption of Mary

The Assumption brings to mind the "woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and on her head a crown of twelve stars" (Rev. 12: 1).  St. Cyril of Alexandria calls Mary "an everlasting light,...a symbol of orthodoxy [by whom] the fallen race of man is taken up on high."  This solemnity reflects the glory in the world to come which we may hope for since, as St. John Damascene says, "our faces shine with Mary's radiance."  Let us, after her example, diligently conform ourselves to the image of Christ on earth that we may come to our eternal home where our Mother Mary has already gone to prepare a place for us.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

St. Clare of Assisi

There is a beautiful section about St. Clare in a book entitled Clothed with Gladness that ties in with the Marian spirit of our community.  Reflecting on the prayer and contemplation of St. Clare, the author Sister Mary St. Paul wrote of  Saint Clare’s intimate relationship with Mary, the Mother of God.

“They lived heart-to-heart.  Together they ‘treasured all these things and reflected on them.’  Just as Spirit-filled prayer and reflection changes that person truly docile to their transforming power, so the prayer of Clare opened out into an entire mode of being in identification with the Virgin Mary, even in her unique divine motherhood.  In a letter to Saint Agnes of Prague, Saint Clare opened this potential to her, and to all of us, recalling that the glorious Virgin of virgins carried Christ within here – materially, physically.  Those who follow in her footsteps, by humility and especially by poverty, also carry him spiritually in their chaste and virginal bodies.
This ‘possession,’ more secure than any earthly gain, becomes a veritable life. In the ‘form of life’ which Saint Francis gave Saint Clare and her sisters, he described their Trinitarian call in terms of relationship: ‘By divine inspiration you have made yourselves daughters and handmaids of the…heavenly Father, and have espoused yourselves to the Holy Spirit…’
These are precisely Marian positions.”

As we celebrate the feastday of St. Clare, we pray that she may inspire in us a great love for Our Blessed Mother and thereby bring us closer to Our Lord Jesus Christ.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Dedication of Mary Major Basilica


Altar of the Icon


Having lived in Rome for over a year, St. Mary Major Basilica was certainly one of my favorite places to attend Mass, especially on a major feast day.

Those who attend the Vespers Service on August 5th are given a grand surprise.  Two of our Sisters were able to be present last year and recounted the occasion:

The evening ceremonies began with the recitation of the Rosary, followed by the chanting of Evening Prayer presided by Cardinal Law and ended with the celebration of the feast day Mass. The Basilica was crowded with pilgrims and the "locals." We managed to find seats in the side section in front of the chapel of Our Lady of the Snows. This positioned us for the perfect view of the "snow shower" during the Evening Prayer Magnificat. Throughout the entire chanting of this hymn white flower petals gently fell from an opening in the ceiling of the basilica. Truly it was magnificent and the Italians clapped enthusiastically. Afterward they pushed their way into the area where they could gather flower petals. It was delightful to watch these dear Italian ladies walk back with arms loaded with flower petals, stuffing them in their purses and handing them out to others. Our Lady must have smiled...

This particular display represents the snow fall on August 5th, which marked the spot for the Basilica. If you have ever been in Rome during August, you would understand why this event was such a great miracle. The local Italians leave the city every August due to the unbearable heat. So a snowfall that time of the year was a sure sign of a heavenly visitation.

According to tradition, a Roman patrician named John owned some property on the Esquiline hill, one of the 7 main hills in Rome. After marriage, this pious couple decided to dedicate their wealth to Mary and ask Our Lady what she would like done with the property. She appeared in a dream to each separately expressing her wish for a Church and said they would know the spot the next morning. During the same night, Pope Liberius, was also informed in a dream of Our Lady's wishes. The next morning, the Holy Father, met the pious couple on the Esquiline hill and there in snow lay the outline of the Church. Wishing to comply with Our Lady's desires, the basilica was begun and complete in the year 360. The “Liberian basilica” was rebuilt by Pope Sixtus III shortly after the Council of Ephesus affirmed Mary’s title as Mother of God in 431. Then the Basilica was rededicated to her under that title.

Whether legend or fact, the important point is that this Basilica is the Mother of all Churches. The largest Church dedicated to the Mother of God. It celebrates the famous icon of the Virgin Mary, sometimes referred to as Our Lady of the Snows, but better known as Salus Populi Romani, or Health of the Roman People because through her intercession a miracle stopped a plague from reaching the city. In the Crypt of the Nativity, below the main altar, the Basilica houses the relic of the Holy Crib of the Nativity of Our Lord. If you are ever able to travel to Rome, I would suggest that you go during the Christmas season. Christmas in Rome is absolutely fantastic!

From the Homily of Pope Benedict, Feast of Mary, Mother of God, 2010

“Among the many typologies of icons of the Virgin Mary in the Byzantine tradition is the one called "of tenderness" that portrays the Child Jesus with his face resting, cheek to cheek, against his Mother's. The Child gazes at the Mother and she is looking at us, almost as if to mirror for those who are observing and praying the tenderness of God who came down to her from Heaven and was incarnate in the Son of man, whom she holds in her arms. We can contemplate in this Marian image something of God himself: a sign of the ineffable love that impelled him "to give his Only Son" (cf. Jn 3: 16). But that same icon also shows us, in Mary, the face of the Church which reflects Christ's light upon us and upon the whole world, the Church through which the Good News reaches every person: "You are no longer a slave but a son" (Gal 4: 7), as once again we read in St Paul.”

Basilica at Christmas.


 

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

From the Vatican Infomation Service

At Mass the other day the reading was about Solomon.  It struck me that if we all prayed the same prayer as King Solomon, desiring true wisdom and an understanding heart, then most of the difficulties in our world would be solved.  Is it not true, that conversion must begin in the hearts of each one of us?  I was delighted to find in my ebox Pope Benedict's Angelus address speaking about this topic.  I thought you all would enjoy reading it.

MORAL RESPONSIBILITY OF THOSE IN GOVERNMENT

VATICAN CITY, 24 JUL 2011 (VIS) -  In his remarks before praying the Angelus this morning, Benedict XVI  commented on the first reading from today's liturgy, a passage from the Book  of Kings in which Solomon, ascending the throne, asks God for an  understanding heart to serve His people with justice and to distinguish  between good and evil.

Addressing the faithful  gathered in the inner courtyard of the Apostolic Palace  at Castelgandolfo, the Pope explained the meaning of Solomon's prayer. "We  know that 'heart' in the Bible indicates not just a part of the body but the  core of the individual, the seat of his intentions and judgments; in other  words, his conscience. An 'understanding heart' means, then, a conscience  capable of listening, sensitive to the voice of truth and thus able to  distinguish good from evil. In Solomon's case the request is motivated by his  responsibility for guiding a nation, Israel, the people whom God chose  to reveal His plan of salvation to the world. The king of Israel must,  then, seek constant harmony with God and listen to His Word, in order to  guide the people along the ways of the Lord, the way of justice and peace.
"However", the  Holy Father added, "the example of Solomon applies to us all. Each of us  has a conscience which makes us, in a certain sense, 'king'; in other words,  which enables us to exercise the supreme human dignity of acting according to  right conscience, doing good and avoiding evil. Moral conscience presupposes  a capacity to listen to the voice of truth, humbly to follow its guidance. People  called to play a role in government naturally have a further responsibility  and, as Solomon teaches, have even greater need of God's help.

"But everyone has  their part to play in their own particular situation. An erroneous mentality  suggests that we should ask God for favours or favourable conditions. Yet the  truth is that the real quality of our lives, and of social life in general,  depends on the sound conscience of each individual, on the capacity of each  person to recognise what is good, distinguish it from evil and patiently seek  to put it into effect".

Pope Benedict concluded:  "May the Virgin Mary help us, with God's grace, to make out own  consciences open to truth and sensitive to justice, in order to serve the Kingdom of God".

Friday, July 1, 2011

Feast of the Sacred Heart and Immaculate Heart

Much can be said about the tradition in the Church to the Heart of Christ and His Immaculate Mother. In her wisdom, the Church has placed these two feasts side by side, during the liturgical year. How appropriate because Mary who is always concerned for the eternal salvation of mankind, showed on Calvary that her maternal heart was one with the pierced Heart of Christ.

Pope John Paul II in a homily at Fatima on May 13, 1982, tells us: “When Jesus said on the Cross, 'Woman, behold your son,' he opened his Mother's heart in a new way, he showed her the Immaculate Heart and revealed the new dimension and the new significance of love, to which she was called in the Holy Spirit with the power of the sacrifice of the Cross.....”

“The Immaculate Heart of Mary, was open to the word, “Woman, behold your son.” It went to meet spiritually the heart of the Son opened by the soldier's lance. The Heart of Mary was opened by the same love for man and for the world with which Christ loved man and the world, offering himself even on the cross, even to that stroke from the soldier...”

“The solicitude of the Mother of the Savior is solicitude for the work of salvation, the work of her Son. It is concern for salvation, for the eternal salvation of mankind.....”

So remember to consecrate oneself to the Immaculate Heart of Mary means to bring back mankind to the pierced Heart of Jesus, the very source of our Redemption. These two Hearts are one!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

What is Freedom?

As we prepare to celebrate the 4th of July here in the United States, our minds are filled with verses from God bless America, or the Star spangled Banner. We savor the barbeques, cook-outs, going to the lake, gathering as family, fireworks, parades, and the list goes on. We also recall the sacrifice of the many military members through the years who have fought bravely so that we could continue to call ourselves “a free people”. There is a sense of pride to be an American on this day marking the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

Although a controversy ensues regarding some Christian expressions from the Founding Fathers when forming our great nation, we can nevertheless understand that these men came from a background based on the values of Western Civilization which finds its roots in Christianity. John Adams once stated: “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” And Noah Webster recalled: "The religion which has introduced civil liberty is the religion of Christ and His apostles...to this we owe our free constitutions of government." So perhaps today we could ask ourselves: What the true meaning of liberty and freedom?

Archbishop Fulton Sheen can shed some light on this question. In his book: “Go to Heaven” he tells us: “ Freedom is not in liberation from truth, but in the acceptance of truth. I am free to draw a triangle only on condition that I accept the truth of the triangle, and give it three sides, and not in a stroke of broadmindedness give it thirty-three sides. This is what Our Lord meant when He said: “The truth will set you free” (John 8:32) And he continues: “Faith will preserve your freedom. You still live in a world in which you are free to ask questions. Turning Our Blessed Lord's words around, they mean that if you do not know the Truth, you will be enslaved. If you do not know the truth about addition or subtraction, you will not be free to do your bookkeeping; if you do not know that zebras have stripes, you will not be free to draw them. If you do not know the truth of the nature of man, you will not be free to act as a man.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us: 1731 “Freedom is the power, rooted in reason and will, to act or not to act, to do this or that, and so to perform deliberate actions on one's own responsibility. By free will one shapes one's own life. Human freedom is a force for growth and maturity in truth and goodness; it attains its perfection when directed toward God, our beatitude.

1732 As long as freedom has not bound itself definitively to its ultimate good which is God, there is the possibility of choosing between good and evil, and thus of growing in perfection or of failing and sinning. This freedom characterizes properly human acts. It is the basis of praise or blame, merit or reproach.
1733 The more one does what is good, the freer one becomes. There is no true freedom except in the service of what is good and just. The choice to disobey and do evil is an abuse of freedom and leads to "the slavery of sin."28
1734 Freedom makes man responsible for his acts to the extent that they are voluntary. Progress in virtue, knowledge of the good, and ascesis enhance the mastery of the will over its acts.

As we celebrate this great American holiday, let us be grateful to God for our country and realize that in directing our lives toward Him and acting responsibly, we contribute to the building up of our nation. God bless America

Monday, June 13, 2011

St. Anthony, Helper in Need!

Taken at the Bascilica of St. Anthony, Rome, Italy

Today, June 13th is celebrated as the Feast of St. Anthony of Padua. Originally entering the Augustian order and becoming a priest, St. Anthony was inspired by the martrydom of the Francisian friars who were struggling to promote the Faith in Morocco. Desiring to shed his blood for Christ, he transferred to the Order of St. Francis to live out the rest of his life teaching the gospel of Jesus Christ. St. Anthony, known as the “hammer of heretics” was so eloquent but simple in professing his faith to the poor and ignorant that he was later named a “Doctor of the Church” by Pope Pius XII. (For more on his life.) 


St. Anthony is often invoked to find lost stolen items. It is a beautiful read.
I wanted to relate my own personal experience of the intercession of St. Anthony. I hope that this true story with bring inspiration to others to imitate the lives of the saints, especially in their faith and total commitment to Christ.

In 2003 I accompanied a few of my students on a trip to Europe. It was one of those Educational tours for high school students. I was chosen to chaperon. Conducted for young people, this tour took us on a whirl wind tour from England through Paris, to Florence and then to Rome in 10 days. Due to the distance to be covered, it was necessary to take a night train from Paris, with a morning tour of Florence, and then a late afternoon bus ride to Rome, before day was over. I realized then, that this trip was set up for the young among us!

Needless to say, I did not get much rest on the train. The train pulled in early in Florence. We toured the Duomo in Florence, Santa Maria de Fiori, went to a mandatory tour in a leather shop (Florence is famous for their leather work) and then we were free to visit other sites, or tour the famous Uffizi Gallery. As another sister and I wandered off from the larger group, tired and hot, we decided to stop for a refreshing gelato (Italian ice cream). Florence is also the gelato capital of Italy. When I dug in my bag to pay for the gelato, I noticed that the zipper was slightly opened. And low and behold, my passport pouch was missing. It contained my passport, debit card, and a $20 American bill. Thankfully, the euro cash was hidden in my habit pocket. Immediately panic struck! I knew that I could not fly back to the US without a passport. It was then that I felt very far from home. Blessed Mother, help, all the saints in heaven intercede for me. Frantically retracing my steps, I went in search of my missing passport and debit card.

Realizing that the only possible place I could have been robbed was in the leather shop, Sister and I found our way back there. Asking the attendants if someone had turned in a missing passport, they just shook their heads hopelessly. If it was stolen, it would not be turned in, they explained in dismay. Having heard stories of pic pockets in Italy, I should have been more careful. I was left with little encouragement in my search.

It was an agonizing two hours before we were to meet up with our tour group. In my desperation, I had forgotten that it was June 13th, the Feast of St. Anthony. St. Anthony has been a dear friend of mine for years, so I turned to his intercession to help me in this time of need. It would indeed be a miracle at this point, if I could recover my passport.

After checking with the leather shop, I decided to call the convent in the US to have then cancel out the debit card which was given to me to make this trip. Sister and I were directed across the street to a cafe shop to make the international call.

After meeting up with our group in the Duomo Piazza, I explained to the tour guide that I had been robbed and my passport was taken. She quickly told me not to tell her here, but wait until we get to Rome because she would have to leave me alone in Florence, and there would be no one to assist. Of course, I felt my hopes were even further dashed. In Rome, she continued, you can go to the American embassy to apply for another passport. You will need it to return to the US. Very distraught, I boarded the bus. Now St. Anthony, I told him, I really need that miracle!! I asked my students to pray and with me promise to have a Mass offered in thanksgiving if St. Anthony would come through. Rome was to be our last stop and we were only going to be there for one full day.

There is a special responsory prayer in honor of St. Anthony that I had learned when I was young. We all sang this prayer to St. Anthony, and a sense of confidence came over me that somehow he would come through.
Whilst treasures lost are found again
When young or old thine aid implore.
All dangers vanish at thy prayer,
And direst need doth quickly flee

I began to doze a bit on the bus.

Soon I felt a tap on my shoulder and realized that the tour guide was shouting in her English accent: “Sister, Sister, you will never believe this!!!!” She continued, I just received a phone call from my friend at the leather shop in Florence. (Apparently, she was quite familiar with the family because she often took her tours there to support their business.) He told me that you had come back asking about a stolen passport, and he sent you over to the cafe shop to make your call to the US. Well, the attendant at the cafe shop remembered seeing you at the telephone. About an hour after you left, he was summoned to the back of the cafe shop to repair the WC (toilet in Europe!) It was plugged and he was trying to fix it when he discovered a pouch in the tank. (The water tanks are high on the wall because the gravity helps to flush the WC.) Apparently, whoever stole it, discovered that there was only a $20 bill in cash, took it and threw the rest into the water tank. Waterlogged but readable the passport was found, he recognized the picture, and went over to the leather shop to inquire if anyone remembered the nuns in blue habits. The attendant there, said yes, and I am a good friend with the tour guide. I will call her.

It just so happened, (of course, by God's providence) that our tour guide was meeting another friend in Rome that evening who was also conducting a tour through Florence to Rome. They had “by chance” run into each other and had not visited for years, so they made plans to meet in Rome that evening. She called her tour guide friend and asked him to pick up my passport at the leather shop before he left Florence. “Sister”, she said, “I know you have been praying but this is unbelievable! Your passport will be returned to you in Rome this evening.” I was just as shocked as she was! But was I not asking for a miracle. O “me” of little faith!! I told our guide that I had asked St. Anthony whose feastday is celebrated today for a miracle. And I believe he answered my request.

And I learned my lesson. Have confidence in the intercession of the saints, and miracle will occur. After all, did not Our Lord say: “Ask and you will receive!” It was a good reflection. Do I pray with confidence? Perhaps the answers to our prayers do not always come as we would like, but if you have faith in Our Lord's promise to give, you will be able to see that He always knows best. Sometimes he sweeps us off our feet granting us blessings, as in this case, but other times, He desires our faith and trust in His all loving providence. God watches over us all each and every day of our lives, always eager to protect, and guide us and to hear us ask for our needs. He only wishes our love and gratitude as a response.

If you have a St. Anthony miracle, please share it. God is glorified in His saints and it may serve to be an inspiration to others to persevere in a trusting attitude of prayer! May the Lord grant many blessings upon all of you!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Mary and Pentecost

The scene is set for the descent of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost.

The Eleven Apostles were gathered in the Upper Room where they had eaten the Last Supper with the Master. Afraid and worried about their future, they continued to marvel at the death and Resurection of Jesus.  Jesus was no longer with them; He had ascended into heaven.  But Mary "assiduous in prayer alongside the Apostles, taught perseverance in the faith.  By her own attitude she convinced them that the Holy Spirit, in His wisdom, knew well the path on which He was leading them, and that consequently they could place their confidence in God, giving themselves to Him unreservedly with their talents, their limitations and their future.  (Address by Pope Benedict, 5-26-2006)

When the Holy Spirit descends He gives the Word of God and brings life.  "From the overshadowing of the Spirit, Christ is conceived; from the Pentecostal outpouring of the Spirit, Christ is born in His members who are the Church.  Mary, the great mother figure for the Church, is present not only at the Annunciation, but praying with Her Son's disciples before Pentecost."  (Woman of Faith, 79)

It should not surprise us that Mary was present at Pentecost.  St. Louis de Montfort tell us that when the Holy Spirit finds Mary, his dear and inseparable Spouse, He flies there.  He enters in with the plenitude of His graces and gifts.  Let us, then, draw near to Mary and persevere in faith so that from the Holy Spirit pouring into our hearts the Word of God, Christ will be born anew in us.

Friday, April 22, 2011

The Resurrection, Our Blessed Mother and Mary Magdalen

Where does Mary, the Mother of Jesus fit into the Mystery of the Resurrection? Sacred Scripture does not record Our Lord's Resurrection in detail. The fact is mentioned that Mary Magdalene found the tomb empty. Mary Magdalen was the first character in the Resurrection drama. She stirred the other women to visit the sepulcher; she first discovered the tomb empty, and in her distress Jesus appeared to her to comfort her. She did not recognize Him until He said her name, then He entrusted her with a mission. “Go to my brethren and say to them I ascend to my Father and to your Father, to my God and your God.” (John 20:18)  Mary Magdalen is recognized for her profound devoted love of Our Lord. Many sins were forgiven her because she loved much. Indeed, she had chosen the better part!
So why did not Mary Magdalene also run to tell Mary, the Mother of Jesus the wonderful news? Pope John Paul II in a Wednesday General Audience taught that it is wholly reasonable to believe Our Lord appeared first to the Blessed Virgin Mary, even though Scripture does not record this intimate moment between them. This is the official Vatican news release May 21, 1997, on Mary and the Resurrection:
VATICAN CITY, MAY 21, 1997 (VIS) - The Holy Father focused the catechesis of today's general audience in St. Peter's Square on "Mary and the Resurrection of Christ," and recalled that "the Gospels narrate different apparitions of the Risen One, but not the meeting between Jesus and his Mother."

"From this silence," he continued, "one must not deduce that Christ, after his Resurrection, did not appear to Mary." This omission might be attributed to the fact that "what is necessary for our saving knowledge is entrusted to the word of those 'who were chosen by God as witnesses,' that is, the Apostles," he said, citing the Acts of the Apostles.

John Paul II asked how the Blessed Virgin, who was "present in the first community of the disciples, could have been excluded from the number of those who encountered her divine Son risen from among the dead. On the contrary, it is legitimate to think that the Mother may really have been the first person to whom the risen Jesus appeared. Could not the absence of Mary from the group of women who approached the tomb at dawn constitute an indication that she had already met Jesus?"

"The unique and special nature of the presence of the Virgin at Calvary," added the Pope, "and her perfect union with the Son in his suffering on the Cross, seem to postulate a very particular participation on her part in the mystery of the Resurrection."

The Blessed Virgin, who was present at Calvary and at the Cenacle, "was probably also a privileged witness to the Resurrection of Christ, in this way completing her participation in all the essential moments of the paschal mystery. Embracing the risen Jesus, Mary is, in addition, a sign and anticipation of humanity, which hopes to reach its fulfillment in the resurrection of the dead."

Monday, April 11, 2011

Mary, Woman of the Eucharist

Pope John Paul II, in his encyclical "Ecclesia de Eucharistia" called Mary, the Woman of the Eucharist.  "The Church, which looks to Mary as a model, is also called to imitate her in her relationship with this most holy mystery.”  He also reminded us that among the Mysteries of Light of the Rosary, he included the institution of the Eucharist. Mary can guide us towards this most holy sacrament, because she herself has a profound relationship with it.

He goes on to tell us that Mary lived her Eucharistic faith even before the Institution of the Eucharist. She conceived the Son of God in her womb physically, and thus anticipated “within herself what to some degree happens sacramentally in every believer who receives, under the signs of bread and wine, the Lord's body and blood.” (55)

He spoke about the analogy between Mary's Fiat and the Amen, we pronounce at the reception of Holy Communion. We are asked to believe that the same Jesus Christ, Son of God, Son of Mary, becomes fully present body, blood, soul and divinity under the signs of bread and wine.

Mary anticipated in the mystery of the incarnation, the Church's Eucharistic faith. “In her daily preparation for Calvary, Mary experienced a kind of “anticipated Eucharist” – one might say a “spiritual communion” – of desire and of oblation, which would culminate in her union with her Son in his passion, and then find expression after Easter by her partaking in the Eucharist which the Apostles celebrated as the memorial of that passion.”

Let us ask Mary to help us prepare for the coming of Our Lord into our hearts each time that we receive Holy Communion.  To share in her faith, love and reverence for this special time of union with Christ.