Category Archives: Converts

The Real First Thanksgiving – by Deacon Marty McIndoe

The Great Cross marks the spot where the Spanish first landed in St. Augustine, Florida on September 8, 1565.  The statue of  Father Francisco Lopez marks the spot where the first THANKSGIVING mass was celebrated.

We always think that the first Thanksgiving happened in 1621 with the Pilgrims who settled in Massachusetts. In this Thanksgiving the local Indians came to the Pilgrims and brought them native food. There is no doubt that this really happened, but was it really the first Thanksgiving in the Americas? History says no. The first Thanksgiving occurred about 56 years before that in 1565. This one, like the Pilgrim Thanksgiving also involved European settlers and American Indians.
On September 8th, 1565 (the day the Church celebrates the birthday of the Blessed Virgin Mary), Spanish settlers landed at what is now St. Augustine, Florida. The first person to come on land was Father Francisco Lopez, the chaplain of the expedition. He came on land holding a cross. The leader of the exposition, Pedro Menéndez de Avilés, then came on land while Father Francisco was holding the cross. The leader then kneeled down in front of the cross and kissed it. The rest of the exposition came on land and did some preliminary set up and then gathered to celebrate mass in thanksgiving for the safe passage they had been given. Catholic’s know the mass as the celebration of the Eucharist. Eucharist in Greek means Thanksgiving.
Immediately following the mass, Father Francisco, now the first pastor of the first settlement in the Americas, declared that they would celebrate a fraternal meal by inviting the Timucua Indians to dine with the settlers. The landing site of the Spanish was right next to a large Timucua village. The two peoples celebrated a Thanksgiving feast together. This was certainly the first Thanksgiving meal celebrated in the Americas.
Our traditional Thanksgiving dinner usually consists of roasted turkey, potatoes and vegetables that were probably used at the Pilgrim’s Thanksgiving in Massachusetts. The Indians provided these foods to be shared with the settlers. The Spanish Thanksgiving in St. Augustine, Florida was quite different. Historical records show that it consisted of food brought by the Spanish settlers. This food was salted pork, garbanzo beans, ship’s bread and red wine. It also, most likely, consisted of some foods gathered by the Spanish settlers when they stopped in the Caribbean Islands. The Timucua Indians probably provided corn, fresh fish, berries, or beans.
The two Thanksgiving dinners had much in common. They both included the European Settlers and the Native Americans. They both were done in Thanksgiving to God for all that He had done. They both included food that was shared by all. They both had a sense of Thanksgiving to God as well as a sense of fraternal gathering. The main difference is that the Catholic Thanksgiving began with a Thanksgiving meal that goes all the way back to the Apostles and the early Church and has been celebrated every day since then by the Church.
The Pilgrims came to the America to escape from governmental persecution of their Puritan religion. The Spanish came to America with direction from their government and with a twofold mission; first to bring the message of Jesus’ salvation, and second to gain new lands for Spain. It is interesting that the first thing done is to have the Chaplain of the exposition bring a cross on to the new land and then, almost immediately after, to celebrate the Eucharist. The fraternal dinner with the Native Americans was to follow the mass. This is very much like the early Church which first had the celebration of the Eucharist followed by the Agape fraternal meal. Even today, in many families, we go first to mass on Sunday and then have a family Sunday dinner. The real first Thanksgiving gets the order right: first give thanks to God and then celebrate our fraternal love with each other. This is something we should do every day, not just once per year.

RCIA – A Journey of New Life – by Deacon Marty McIndoe

Many Catholics have heard the initials RCIA used within their church but often do not fully understand what this program is. It is important for all Catholics to know about this program since all Catholics have a place within the program. I would like to take some time to briefly talk about what the program is and then give some reflections on it. I came in to the Church through the RCIA program about 44 years ago and today, as a Deacon, I run our parish RCIA program. I see it as a source of real life to me and to so many others. RCIA simply stands for Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults. The program is the way that adult members learn about Jesus and His Church and then come in to it.
One of the principal ways that all Catholics are involved in RCIA is through their witness. Hopefully the life we lead and the faith we share make others interested in our Lord Jesus and in His Church. When we touch others through our own lived out faith it makes them want to learn more about the faith. RCIA is a way that they can do that. We often have people that were never baptized and never lived out the Christian faith. We also have people who have been baptized and have lived out the faith in a Protestant Church. Some of our RCIA people were baptized Catholic but never received Confirmation and Holy Communion. Some have received all the sacraments and have left the Church but have now returned. RCIA is for all of them.
It is impossible to put a time limit on the RCIA process. How much time we need is based upon the needs of each member in the group. For some, several years may be involved. For others it may be less than one year. We divide the RCIA program in to four distinct groups. Let us take a look at these four groups:
1 – INQUIRER: This is often known as the Period of Evangelization and Precatechumenate. Here we preach the basic Christian message and explain the role of the Church in living out the Christian life. We use this time to try to teach and inspire. We also use this time to discern whether the person is ready to make the formal step of becoming a full Catechumen.
2 – CATECHUMEN: When the RCIA team discerns that the inquirer is ready to make a faith commitment, we have a ceremony in front of the Church community at a Sunday mass where the inquirers make a decision to become a full Catechumen. The inquirer declares their intentions to the community and the community welcomes them. The process of further teaching continues by the RCIA team and the Church community continues to pray for them.
3 – ELECT: On the first Sunday of Lent, the Catechumens attend a special diocesan celebration where the Catechumens publically express their desire for baptism to the diocesan bishop. Their names are recorded in the Book of the Elect. Instructions continue during the days of Lent. There is usually additional prayer and spiritual direction given to the Elect leading them up to the Easter Vigil service. At the Easter Vigil the Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and Holy Eucharist are given to the Elect in front of the Church community. The Elect are now fully initiated in to the Catholic Church. However, their training continues.
4 – NEOPHYTES: The newly initiated Catholics continue their training with RCIA during the Easter season. This is known as a time of MYSTAGOGY. It continues to the Feast of Pentecost. The neophytes share their experiences of the Easter Vigil and continue to learn more about the Catholic faith.
As I mentioned earlier, some people come in to the program already baptized and with different levels of faith experience. Some need Confirmation and Holy Eucharist; some need just confession and a profession of faith. Depending upon the circumstances, these people can also receive these at the Easter Vigil or at a later date. Pentecost is often used.
The RCIA program tries to deal with each individual’s needs. Some people may need more time than others and some may need to straighten out difficulties like previous marriages. The good RCIA leader and team learn to deal with the various needs of the person apart from the training within the program. It is a program that calls people to follow Jesus within His Church community. The Church community has to realize that they too are part of this process. They help the Inquirer, the Catechumen, the Elect and the Neophyte through prayer and example. I have seen that the community itself grows in a positive direction due to their contact with the RCIA people. It is truly a program that brings life, not only to the individual, but also to the community.
When I did my RCIA process, it was quite different from ours today. I (my wife came also), and another candidate, met weekly with our parish pastor and he taught us. It was good for me, and I became very close to the pastor through it. Today we have a team of several individuals and during our sessions we take turn doing the instructions and we emphasize group discussions. We also spend time reflecting on the Sunday reading. One thing that we added is to discuss where we have seen the Lord working in our lives during this last week. This has proved quite fruitful. RCIA must help its people come in to a relationship with Jesus, as well as His Church.
As a person who has taught in the RCIA program for many years, I can tell you that the program continues to help me grow in my own faith. It is very heartwarming to see people grow in their faith and in their love for Jesus and His Church. Please make sure that you pray for all those who are part of the RCIA program. It is a real blessing to the Church.

 

What Every Protestant Can’t Not Know – by Matt Nelson (Reasonable Catholic blog)


I have never met an insincere Protestant.
And if I have, either I don’t recall it or I was fooled. But as far as I can tell, every Protestant I’ve ever mingled with has truly believed with all sincerity that the Catholic Church is not the Church founded by Christ; not one has believed that the Catholic Church is indeed what she claims to be – the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Christian Church.
I believe every Protestant has chosen to “protest” because he believes that his non-Catholic tradition is true, and that the Catholic tradition isn’t. Out of reverence for the truth (as he believes it to be) he cannot go where he does not believe true religion is being taught. If he does not believe that the Catholic Church is what she claims to be, he’s not going to be Catholic; and that’s fair and commonsensical.
But what if we could show our Protestant brothers and sisters that there are good reasons to believe that Catholicism is true? What if we could demonstrate that Catholicism is the truest and most complete form of biblical Christianity? If we could do that, who knows what good would come of it. Then, perhaps, the world would be less scandalized by Christian disunity and bickering; perhaps Christians could be more united on the moral and ethical fronts of society; perhaps more lives and souls would be saved; perhaps God’s will would be done.
I am certain that if Protestants saw the Catholic Church as she really is, most would enter the Catholic Church at any cost; not as a “change of denomination” but as a perfection – a completion – of the faith they’ve held previously as a non-Catholic Christian.
If the Catholic Church really is “the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets” and the “pillar and bulwark of the truth” then what Christian would not want to be in it (see Eph 2:20; 1 Tim 3:15). Indeed, if Christ really did establish a Church on earth as the Scriptures clearly reveal – one that “the powers of death shall not prevail against” – then where is it? This is the question that every Christian must ask; and if he seriously desires to be in it, he must not stop asking “where is it?” until he is certain he has found it.
G.K. Chesterton, a convert to Catholicism, remarked that a convert’s first step towards conversion is when he decides to be fair to the Catholic Church. Once the convert-in-the-making (who often doesn’t know he’s going to be a convert) decides to be fair to the Church, he soon becomes fond of her:
“It is impossible to be just to the Catholic Church. The moment a man ceases to pull against it he feels a tug towards it. The moment he ceases to shout it down he begins to listen to it with pleasure. The moment he tries to be fair to it he begins to be fond of it.” (from Catholic Church and Conversion)
Catholicism makes sense; she is beautiful and wise. And everybody loves beauty and wisdom. Thus everybody loves the Church once she is seen for what she truly is.
How, then, can we draw our dear Protestant friends into relationship with “the whole Christ” (see CCC 795)? How can we show them that Catholicism is true? There are many ways (some of which are not intellectual in nature). But here is a way that I believe has proven itself to have great power and potential for conviction:
What exactly is it that every Protestant can’t not know? That the earliest Christian Church was Catholic, through and through.
The fact of the matter is that most Protestants just don’t know these things. I dare assume most barely think about (if at all) the historical details of the 16th century Reformation, not to mention the historical details of the, say, second century Church. The early Church is off most Protestants’ radar. But it shouldn’t be.
Discovering the writings of the early Church Fathers has been, for many converts from Protestantism, the “straw that breaks the camel’s back”. Adding fuel to the wavering Protestant’s fire – in addition to the discovery of those “elusive” biblical texts that support Catholic doctrine – are often the early Church writings as they emerge from obscurity. And there are a lot of them.
Marcus Grodi is a former Evangelical pastor, and now the founder and president of The Coming Home Network International, an organization that helps new converts make the transition (especially former non-Catholic clergy). He writes:
“Certainly an amazing majority of converts mention how reading the Early Church Fathers, either for the first time or for the first time with awareness, convinced them that the early Church was amazingly Catholic and certainly not Protestant!” (from “The Early Church Fathers I Never Saw”)
Now where’s the evidence? Are there really good sources that show the early Church was Catholic; and Catholic in the sense that we mean today? Let’s take a look.
‘Catholic’ can be said to mean “according to the whole” or “universal”. That’s what it has always meant in a Christian context. There is one Church founded by Christ, and everyone is invited to be part of it. It is the one, universal Church.
The earliest recorded use of this term is found the early second century from St. Ignatius of Antioch:
“Wherever the bishop shall appear, there let the multitude of the people also be; even as wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church.” [Letter to the Smyrnaeans, 8]
St. Ignatius does not explain what “Catholic” means here. He just uses it without qualification, suggesting that it was already a familiar term in the wider Church community.
And what about the ranks in the Church conferred by the sacrament of Holy Orders: bishop, priest and deacon. It’s clear that these designations existed from St. Paul’s epistles (see especially 1 Tim, 2 Tim, Titus and Acts). But what about the early Church writings?
Consider this passage from St. Ignatius’ Letter to the Magnesians in A.D. 110:
“Take care to do all things in harmony with God, with the bishop presiding in the place of God, and with the presbyters [priests] in the place of the council of the apostles, and with the deacons, who are most dear to me, entrusted with the business of Jesus Christ…” [6.1]
There was a succession of the apostles; and this succession – called apostolic succession – has continued to present day. Every bishop in the Catholic Church today has been ordained in a direct line from the original twelve apostles of Christ (see Acts 1:20) .
St. Clement of Rome, one of the Church’s first popes and a disciple of Peter the apostle, writes around A.D. 80:
“Our apostles knew through our Lord Jesus Christ that there would be strife for the office of bishop. For this reason, therefore, having received perfect foreknowledge, they appointed those who have already been mentioned and afterwards added the further provision that, if they should die, other approved men should succeed to their ministry” (Letter to the Corinthians 42:4–5, 44:1–3 [A.D. 80]).
An early record of the line of successive popes (and bishops of Rome), beginning with St. Peter, is provided by St. Irenaeus at the tail end of the second century (see Against Heresies 3.3.3). From the beginning, it was understood that the bishop of Rome was the “chief” bishop – the one who held “the keys to the kingdom of heaven” (see Matt 16:18-20).
Here is a later excerpt from the early Church (there are earlier examples that confirm the bishop of Rome’s primacy within the college of bishops). St. Cyprian of Carthage writes in A.D. 251:
“Indeed, the others were also what Peter was [apostles], but a primacy is given to Peter, whereby it is made clear that there is but one Church and one chair….If someone does not hold fast to this unity of Peter, can he imagine that he still holds the faith? If he [should] desert the chair of Peter upon whom the Church was built, can he still be confident that he is in the Church?” (The Unity of the Catholic Church 4).
Now when you read the New Testament, here’s what you’ll find regarding St. Peter:
1. Every time the apostles are listed, Peter is the first to be mentioned (Matt 10:2; Luke Luke 6:13-16; Acts 1:3).
2. Peter is called the chief apostle (see Matt 10:2)
3. Peter is always listed before James and John, when Jesus’ inner three is listed (Mt 17:1; Mk 5:37; 9:2; 14:33; Lk 8:51; 9:28).
4. On several occasions Peter is the only name mentioned when referring to the group of disciples. St. Paul does this (1 Cor 9:5; 1 Cor 15:5). St. Luke does this (Acts 2:37), as does St. Mark (Mk 16:7).
5. Peter’s name (in the forms of Peter, Kepha and Cephas) is mentioned in the New Testament more than all of the other apostles’ names put together.
This is why the Church has remained so rock-solid through the ages. That the people of God would heed His prayer that “they may be one”, Jesus, in His infinite wisdom, built His house upon the rock (see Matt 7:25; 16:18). Peter (from “Petros” meaning rock) was given the strength to uphold the integrity of the Church (see Luke 22:32). The apostles and their successors are established guardians of the deposit of faith – fallible men with a special gift from God to help them do the job (1 Tm 4:14; 2 Tim 1:6) – lead by a chief guardian who represents God as His prime minister until He returns once and for all (see Isaiah 22).
God’s Word, which the bishops protect, has been handed down both in written and oral forms to the Church (see 1 Thess 2:15; 1 Pet 1:25). The Bible was never considered the sole authority in the early Church. The Bible (1 Tim 3:16), along with Tradition (1 Thess 2:13; 2 Thess 2:15; 1 Cor 11:2) and the teaching authority of the Church (Matt 16:18; 18:18) served as a tripod – as they do today – holding the Church steady in faith and morals.
Now what about the Mass, Sacraments, and in particular, the Eucharist? Can these key components of the Catholic faith also be found in the writings of the early Christians?
Catholics believe we are saved by grace (Eph 2:8) through faith (Rom 3:26) working in love (Gal 5:6; 1 Cor 13) and believe, along with the unanimous testimony of the early Church Fathers, that the Sacrament of Baptism is the way that initial regeneration by “saving grace” comes to the Christian. This is why babies aren’t excluded. Salvation is free; though bought at a price.
From baptism onwards, “salvation is worked out in fear and trembling” (Phil 2:12) and “he who endures to the end will be saved” (Matt 10:22).
Our first pope writes in 1 Peter 3:21, “Baptism…now saves you.” This was the belief from the beginning: that baptism cleanses the baptized of all sin – a free gift of sanctifying grace by means of water – and as a result the baptized were born again into new life (see John 3:5).
Tertullian writes:
“Happy is our sacrament of water, in that, by washing away the sins of our early blindness, we are set free and admitted into eternal life. . . .” (Baptism 1 [A.D. 203])
But Christians are likely to commit wrongdoings again due to the wounds of previous sin. Jesus said to the apostles, “Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them” (John 20:21-23) so that we might experience forgiveness “in the presence of Christ” through the priests and bishops (2 Cor 2:10). This is why we have confession or the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
St. Basil the Great writes:
“It is necessary to confess our sins to those to whom the dispensation of God’s mysteries is entrusted. Those doing penance of old are found to have done it before the saints. It is written in the Gospel that they confessed their sins to John the Baptist [Matt. 3:6], but in Acts [19:18] they confessed to the apostles” (Rules Briefly Treated 288 [A.D. 374])
The Eucharist – which comes to us in the Holy Mass when bread and wine is mysteriously changes in substance but not in physical appearance to Christ’s body and blood at the blessing of the priest – was at the center of Christian worship even in the earliest stages of Christianity.
Why? Because the Eucharist is Christ (see 1 Cor. 10:16–17, 11:23–29; John 6:32–71 and all the Last Supper accounts).
St Ignatius of Antioch, who was a disciple of John the apostle, writes at the turn of the second century:
“Take note of those who hold heterodox opinions on the grace of Jesus Christ which has come to us, and see how contrary their opinions are to the mind of God. . . . They abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer because they do not confess that the Eucharist is the flesh of our Savior Jesus Christ… They who deny the gift of God are perishing in their disputes” (Letter to the Smyrnaeans 6:2–7:1 [A.D. 110]).
St. Justin Martyr wrote:
“We call this food Eucharist…..For not as common bread nor common drink do we receive these; but since Jesus Christ our Savior was made incarnate by the word of God and had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so too, as we have been taught, the food which has been made into the Eucharist by the Eucharistic prayer set down by him, and by the change of which our blood and flesh is nurtured, is both the flesh and the blood of that incarnated Jesus” (First Apology 66 [A.D. 151]).
Finally, what about Mary and the saints in the early Church?
St. Ambrose, the mentor of St. Augustine, in the 4th century writes this regarding Mary who is “blessed among women”:
“The first thing which kindles ardor in learning is the greatness of the teacher. What is greater than the Mother of God? What more glorious than she whom Glory Itself chose?” (The Virgins 2:2[7] [A.D. 377]).
And Ephraim the Syrian writes in the fourth century:
“You victorious martyrs who endured torments gladly for the sake of the God and Savior, you who have boldness of speech toward the Lord himself, you saints, intercede for us who are timid and sinful men, full of sloth, that the grace of Christ may come upon us, and enlighten the hearts of all of us so that we may love him” (Commentary on Mark [A.D. 370]).
Final Thoughts
This post doesn’t even begin to touch all of the writings of the early Church available to us today. I’ve only provided a small sample of excerpts; but I recommend that you go and read the writings for yourself. Many of them aren’t long (although another many of them are!). If you and I hope to help our Protestant brothers and sisters see the Catholic Church as she really is, the testimony of the early Church will be indispensable in helping them arrive at that affirmation.
The goal is to lead our separated brethren to “the whole Christ”, which resides ultimately in the Eucharistic Church (see Catechism of the Catholic Church 795).
Indeed one of the greatest affirmations I’ve experienced personally in my decision to be Catholic (in addition to discovering the rich biblical basis for Catholic beliefs) has been my discovery of the writings of the early Church. “To be deep in history is to cease to be Protestant”, wrote the great convert from Anglicanism, Blessed John Henry Newman. Indeed.
I believe what the Catholic Church teaches because I have every reason to believe the Catholic Church of today is the same Church founded by Christ in the first century. Along with St. Augustine and the rest of the early church Fathers:
“We believe also in the holy Church, that is, the Catholic Church” (Faith and the Creed 10:21 [A.D. 393]).

***All the early church quotations in this article were obtained from Catholic.com

Check out Matt Nelson’s blog at Reasonable Catholic
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Recommended Reading:
The Fathers Know Best by Jimmy Akin
The Mass Of The Early Christians by Mike Aquilina (anything by Dr. Aquilina, really)
The Apostasy That Wasn’t by Rod Bennett

 

Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton and How She Personally Brought a Miracle to My Family by Deacon Marty McIndoe

               January 4th is the feast day of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton.  She is the first native born American to be canonized the Church.  She is a convert, was married with children, and the woman who started the first Catholic School in the United States.  She was a prolific reader and loved the scriptures and the Eucharist and the Blessed Virgin Mary.  She also gave me the gift of my daughter (see below).

               Elizabeth was born two years before the American Revolution and was from the upper class of New York City.  She married a wealthy man and was extremely happy for many years.  Unfortunately, her husband became quite ill and lost his import business.  She cared for him and his younger siblings when his parents died.  Elizabeth brought her sick husband to Italy to help his health, and they stayed with friends, but he finally died there from tuberculosis.  While in Italy she was influenced by their friend’s Catholic faith and converted to Catholicism.  She returned to the United States to settle in Baltimore.  There, at the suggestion of the president of St. Mary’s College, Elizabeth started a secular school.  It didn’t take long for Elizabeth to decide to change it to a Catholic School.  She started an order of sisters known as the “Sisters of Charity” (following closely the rule of St. Vincent de Paul in France) who helped children by establishing schools and orphanages.  Even though Mother Seton contracted tuberculosis herself, she worked tirelessly guiding the order.  Mother Seton died in 1821 at the age of 46, only sixteen years after becoming Catholic.  She was beatified by Pope John XXIII in 1963 and canonized by Pope Paul VI on September 14th, 1975.

               Mother Elizabeth Ann Seton is very special to me.  I attribute the gift of our daughter to her.  My wife and I desperately wanted children but after many years of trying and then going to doctors, we decided that God wanted us to adopt.  The doctors never found anything wrong with either of us, but we were never able to conceive.  Back in the 70’s it was very difficult to adopt.  I didn’t have the money to go through a private adoption and I was worried if we would ever have any children.  One day, both my wife and I felt, through prayer, that the time was right for us to go through an agency to try to adopt a baby.  We really wanted a newborn, but most agencies just laughed when we told them.  However, we felt inspired to not give up and to keep trying.  We called the Long Island Adoption Services number and they told us to give a call to New York Foundling Hospital in Manhattan.  They said that this hospital offered classes twice a month on ways to adopt.

               When we called NY Foundling Hospital, the woman on the phone seemed so excited.  She told us to come in to the next meeting that they were having on September 14th, 1975.  We signed up for that and drove in that day.  We found ourselves in a room with eleven other couples and one single person.  The social worker came in and said she would explain different ways to go about adopting.   She first said that she would show us pictures of some older children that were awaiting adoption.  Most of them were special needs children that really tugged on your heart.  They were also older children.  She then explained ways that you could adopt younger, normal (I really don’t like that word, but that is what she used) children.   At that time, Korean children were popular and she explained how to get them.  She also told us that there were a number of black American children available and how to get them.  She then paused for a moment, quite dramatically, and said that she had something very important to tell us.  Both Martha and I were sitting there a little stunned by all that had been presented to us.  We were quite curious what was left to tell.

               The social worker said to us that for the first time in about eight years, their “white infant” list was growing short.  Their adoption committee decided that they could not advertise that they were taking new names for this list because too many would apply.  Since they placed only two or three babies per year, they decided to open the list only to the people who showed up at the next adoption class, the one we were attending.  Martha and I both looked at each other, recognizing that this was no coincidence that we were here.   We knew God was at work.  We immediately put our names in and were told that we would be contacted in within 30 days by a social worker.  Martha and I walked out of the class and went downstairs and went in to the chapel to thank God.  We knew we were there as part of His plan.   I remember a large statue of Elizabeth Ann Seton just outside the chapel.   If I didn’t know better, I would have thought that she winked and smiled at us.  We later found out that New York Foundling Hospital was operated and founded by the Sisters of Charity who were founded by Elizabeth Ann Seton.   We were told that the process could take several years, first we had to be checked out, and then we had to wait until we were next on the list and a baby arrived.  Martha and I drove home to Long Island praising and thanking God.

               A little before Christmas in 1976 we were called and told we were next up.  It was a great Christmas for us.  On January 4th, 1977, we were called and told that our daughter was born the day before and we could pick her up at New York Foundling Hospital on January 7th.  I looked on the calendar and we were called on the Feast of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton.  We had remembered that when we were driving in to the initial session in September 1975 at New York Foundling, the radio was covering the news that Elizabeth Ann Seton was just canonized that day.  We had received our daughter through the Sisters of Charity, the order she founded.  We saw the hand of God at work in all of this and felt that St. Elizabeth Ann Seton was an integral part of his plan, and knew we had to name her Elizabeth Ann McIndoe.  Our social worker told us that she had been doing this for many years and had never seen a baby go to a couple that shared so much of the same ethnic background as the child.   Not only was our daughter from basically the same Irish, English and a little Italian background, but her mother was Catholic and her father protestant, just as Martha and I had been.  Our social worker told us that Elizabeth’s birth mother became pregnant in High School and would not abort her baby due to her Catholic faith.  I thank God that her birth mother saved her life and offered her for adoption.  She was a very strong, faith filled young woman.  Our social worker told us that many of the babies that they placed were born to drug addicted mothers and needed special medical help.  Elizabeth was born from a drug free mother and in perfect health.   God is so good. 

               The evening before we had to pick our daughter up in Manhattan a winter storm was brewing.  We woke up to find about 11 plus inches of snow on the ground.  The roads were not good and we had to drive almost 60 miles in to the city.   I called the hospital and told them that we planned on coming no matter what the weather.  It was a slow trek in to the city, but we made it.  Nothing was going to stop us from getting our daughter.  A last worry was parking near the hospital.  If anyone has been to NYC, they know that parking is always a problem.   When you have a snow storm, it becomes much worse as there is no place to put the plowed snow.  I remember coming up to the hospital, praying that God would get us a parking spot close to the hospital.  Just as we pulled up to the entrance we needed, a parked car pulled out and gave us a place.  God answers prayer, even for parking spots.

               We drove home with our little miracle adopted baby.  We were so very happy.   To this very day, exactly 40 years later, our daughter has brought us so much joy.  She has also given us three wonderful grandsons who light up our life.  There has never been a time that I haven’t thanked God for the precious gift he gave us, through adoption, of our daughter, Elizabeth Ann.

               Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton, we thank you for your role in bringing us our FANTASTIC daughter.  God works through His Saints.  God is so good!

 

 

 

Advent Saints – Mary, as Our Lady of Guadalupe by Deacon Marty McIndoe

nican_mopohua

Early, Aztec Language writings about Our Lady of Guadalupe

               Mary appeared as Our Lady of Guadalupe on December 12th,1531 near Mexico City.  Her appearance forever changed the makeup of the Americas.  I wanted to share some information about her and would highly suggest you research her more.  I start with two noted sources and then give you excerpts from Don Antonio Valeriano’s Nican Mopohua written in 1545, fourteen years after the appearance.  Our Lady of Guadalupe is the Patron of the Americas.

               From “Evangelizer of the Americas” by Elizondo Morenito:  The news of the appearance of the Indian mother who left her imprint on the tilma spread like wildfire! Three points were appreciated by the native population. First, the lady was Indian, spoke Náhuatl, the Aztec language, and appeared to an Indian, not a Spaniard! Second, Juan Diego explained that she appeared at Tepeyac, the place of Tonantzin, the mother god, sending a clear message that the Virgin Mary was the mother of the true God, and that the Christian religion was to replace the Aztec religion. And third, the Indians, who learned through pictures and symbols in their culture of the image, grasped the meaning of the tilma, which revealed the beautiful message of Christianity: the true God sacrificed himself for mankind, instead of the horrendous life they had endured sacrificing humans to appease the frightful gods! It is no wonder that over the next seven years, from 1531 to 1538, eight million natives of Mexico converted to Catholicism!

               From “Our Lady of Guadalupe: Mother of the Civilization of Love” by Carl Anderson and Msgr. Eduardo Chavez:  The imprint of Mary on the tilma is striking, and the symbolism was primarily directed to Juan Diego and the Aztecs. Mary appears as a beautiful young Indian maiden with a look of love, compassion, and humility, her hands folded in prayer in reverence to the Almighty God. Her face is also not unlike that of a Jewish maiden. Her rose dress, adorned with a jasmine flower, eight petal flowers, and nine heart flowers symbolic to the Aztec culture, is that of an Aztec princess. Her blue mantle symbolized the royalty of the gods, and the blue color symbolized life and unity. The stars on the mantle signified the beginning of a new civilization. La Morenita appeared on the day of the winter solstice, considered the day of the sun’s birth; the Virgin’s mantle accurately represents the 1531 winter solstice! Mary stands in front of and hides the sun, but the rays of the sun still appear around her, signifying she is greater than the sun god, the greatest of the native divinities, but the rays of the sun still bring light. Twelve rays of the sun surround her face and head. She stands on the moon, supported by an angel with wings like an eagle: to the Aztec, this indicated her superiority to the moon god, the god of night, and her divine, regal nature.   Most important are the black maternity band, a jasmine flower, and a cross that are present in the image. Mary wore a black maternity band, signifying she was with child. At the center of the picture, overlying her womb, is a jasmine flower in the shape of an Indian cross, which is the sign of the Divine and the center of the cosmic order to the Aztec. This symbol indicated that the baby Mary carried within her, Jesus Christ, the Word made Flesh, is Divine and the new center of the universe. On the brooch around her neck was a black Christian cross, indicating she is both a bearer and follower of Christ, the Son of God, our Savior, who died on the Cross to save mankind.  In summary, the image signified Mary bringing her Son Christ to the New World through one of their own!   As Father Miguel Sanchez noted in 1648, one cannot help but identify Our Lady of Guadalupe with the Woman of the Apocalypse, recorded in the Bible in Revelation 12:

From a report by Don Antonio Valeriano, a Native American author of the sixteenth century
(Nicon Mopohua, 12th ed., 3-9, 21)

The Voice of the Turtledove has been heard in our land

At daybreak one Saturday morning in 1531, on the very first days of the month of December, an Indian named Juan Diego was going from the village where he lived to Tlatelolco in order to take part in divine worship and listen to God’s commandments. When he came near the hill called Tepeyac, dawn had already come, and Juan Diego heard someone calling him from the very top of the hill: “Juanito, Juan Dieguito.”

He went up the hill and caught sight of a lady of unearthly grandeur whose clothing was as radiant as the sun. She said to him in words both gentle and courteous: “Juanito, the humblest of my children, know and understand that I am the ever virgin Mary, Mother of the true God through whom all things live. It is my ardent desire that a church be erected here so that in it I can show and bestow my love, compassion, help, and protection to all who inhabit this land and to those others who love me, that they might call upon and confide in me. Go to the Bishop of Mexico to make known to him what I greatly desire. Go and put all your efforts into this.”

When Juan Diego arrived in the presence of the Bishop, Fray Juan de Zumarraga, a Franciscan, the latter did not seem to believe Juan Diego and answered: “Come another time, and I will listen at leisure.”

Juan Diego returned to the hilltop where the Heavenly Lady was waiting, and he said to her: “My Lady, my maiden, I presented your message to the Bishop, but it seemed that he did not think it was the truth. For this reason I beg you to entrust your message to someone more illustrious who might convey it in order that they may believe it, for I am only an insignificant man.”

She answered him: “Humblest of my sons, I ask that tomorrow you again go to see the Bishop and tell him that I, the ever virgin holy Mary, Mother of God, am the one who personally sent you.”

But on the following day, Sunday, the Bishop again did not believe Juan Diego and told him that some sign was necessary so that he could believe that it was the Heavenly Lady herself who sent him. And then he dismissed Juan Diego.

On Monday Juan Diego did not return. His uncle, Juan Bernardino, became very ill, and at night asked Juan to go to Tlatelolco at daybreak to call a priest to hear his confession.

Juan Diego set out on Tuesday, but he went around the hill and passed on the other side, toward the east, so as to arrive quickly in Mexico City and to avoid being detained by the Heavenly Lady. But she came out to meet him on that side of the hill and said to him: “Listen and understand, my humblest son. There is nothing to frighten and distress you. Do not let your heart be troubled, and let nothing upset you. Is it not I, your Mother, who is here? Are you not under my protection? Are you not, fortunately, in my care? Do not let your uncle’s illness distress you. It is certain that he has already been cured. Go up to the hilltop, my son, where you will find flowers of various kinds. Cut them, and bring them into my presence.”

When Juan Diego reached the peak, he was astonished that so many Castilian roses had burst forth at a time when the frost was severe. He carried the roses in the folds of his tilma (mantle) to the Heavenly Lady. She said to him: “My son, this is the proof and the sign which you will bring to the Bishop so that he will see my will in it. You are my ambassador, very worthy of trust.”

Juan Diego set out on his way, now content and sure of succeeding. On arriving in the Bishop’s presence, he told him: “My lord, I did what you asked. The Heavenly Lady complied with your request and fulfilled it. She sent me to the hilltop to cut some Castilian roses and told me to bring them to you in person. And this I am doing, so that you can see in them the sign you seek in order to carry out her will. Here they are; receive them.”

He immediately opened up his white mantle, and as all the different Castilian roses scattered to the ground, there was drawn on the cloak and suddenly appeared the precious image of the ever virgin Mary, Mother of God, in the same manner as it is today and is kept in her shrine of Tepeyac.

The whole city was stirred and came to see and admire her venerable image and to offer prayers to her; and following the command which the same Heavenly Lady gave to Juan Bernardino when she restored him to health, they called her by the name that she herself had used: “the ever virgin holy Mary of Guadalupe.”

The Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross by Deacon Marty McIndoe

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In the very center of the picture, under the altar, is a hole where you can reach down and touch the rock of Calvary where the Cross of Jesus was placed.

The Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross

               On September 14th we celebrate the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross.  This remembers that St. Helena, the mother of the Emperor Constantine, discovered the True Cross in the year 326.  We must remember that shortly after Jesus was crucified, the Romans destroyed the city of Jerusalem.  They wanted to remove all access to the holy sites.  The early Christians venerated the Holy Sites, especially Calvary and the Tomb.  To eradicate the influence of Christianity, Hadrian leveled the top of Mount Calvary and erected a temple to the pagan goddess Venus. He also cut away and leveled the hillside where Jesus tomb stood and built a temple to the pagan god Jupiter Capitolinus.  Ironically, this destruction actually preserved the sacred sites.

               In 312 the Emperor Constantine issued the edict of Milan making Christianity legal.  His mother, Helena was a convert and was given permission to go to the Holy Lands to try to locate the original holy places.  Christian zeal motivated St. Helena.  The historian, Eusebius described her as follows: “Especially abundant were the gifts she bestowed on the naked and unprotected poor. To some she gave money, to others an ample supply of clothing; she liberated some from imprisonment, or from the bitter servitude of the mines; others she delivered from unjust oppression, and others again, she restored from exile. While, however, her character derived luster from such deeds … , she was far from neglecting personal piety toward God. She might be seen continually frequenting His Church, while at the same time she adorned the houses of prayer with splendid offerings, not overlooking the churches of the smallest cities. In short, this admirable woman was to be seen, in simple and modest attire, mingling with the crowd of worshipers, and testifying her devotion to God by a uniform course of pious conduct” (The Life of Constantine, XLIV, XLV).

               With the help of the local bishop, St. Macarius, and a learned Jew named Judas, they discovered three crosses hidden together in a cistern.  The plaque (titulus) which said, “Jesus Nazaranus Rex Iudaeorum” was found with the three crosses.  Surely one of those three had to be the true cross.  The three crosses and the titulus were removed from the cistern.  A woman, dying from a terminal disease, was brought to the spot by St. Helena.  She touched the crosses, one by one. After she touched the third cross, she was cured, thereby identifying the true cross.  Most importantly, St. Ambrose preached that when St. Helena found the true cross, “she worshiped not the wood, but the King, Him who hung on the wood. She burned with an earnest desire of touching the guarantee of immortality.”

               Constantine then built a large shrine to mark the place of Calvary and the tomb of Jesus.  It has been modified over the ages, but the current structure dates back to the time of the Crusaders.  Thanks to the Romans for building temples over the exact places of Calvary and the Tomb, we today know their actual location.  Thanks to the Holy Spirit leading St. Helena, we have the True Cross.

               St. Paul said “but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles” 1 Corinthians 1:23.  We continue to preach Christ crucified.  We honor and exalt the cross of Christ because it is through the cross that we have been redeemed.  Jesus was highly exalted upon the cross by God and continues to be by His Church.  Let us all lift high the cross of Jesus.

One Mistake We Make When We Want to Make a Difference as Catholics by Shaun McAfee

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Do you have Catholic heroes?

When I converted to the Catholic faith I was on fire to make a mark. Having been into blogging before I converted, my conversion gave me a deep zeal and the new information I had learned was quickly converted into content. But it ran out quickly. The more I wanted to be like my heroes, the more impossible that became, and the more frustrated I ended up.

Perhaps you didn’t notice, but there are many Catholics who are just crazy about Catholics. I mean it. I mean it like I mean I absolutely love thick cut, applewood smoked, crisp and greasy bacon. There’s a serious error many commit and I’m guilty of it, too. And I’m not talking about the bacon.

It all began when…

No, it didn’t ever really begin. It’s sort of ingrained into us. We have a problem with being innovators sometimes. We see something that entertains us, and we want to replicate it. We grow to look up to someone, and we want to be just like them. We create this picture in our mind of what a successful Catholic looks like, and we convince ourselves that we cannot be good Catholics or fulfil our purpose until we achieve X, Y, Z.

Imagine the pressure!

Imagine the pressure of the ambitious seeker who read Tim Staples just once, had to convert, converted and the whole nine yards, then felt the call to convert other souls—cause after all that’s what the Bible says we’re called to do—and got started. This person read every book, listened to Catholic Answers Live every day, and was determined to make their mark. Then, just a few months later, the blog this person started wasn’t getting traffic. There was an initial spike, but the ideas were running out, too. The zeal was not converting to numbers as quickly as his/her conscience had. Suddenly, it all seemed like a waste of time. How was this person ever going to replace Scott Hahn?

For real, that’s the idea some people create in their mind. Especially bloggers; but it happens to so many Catholics. The zeal sometimes creates tunnel vision for us, and we create one single lane that we must follow in order to feel like we’re making a difference.

It makes sense, really. But don’t fall into this trap! It’s terribly attractive to look at our Catholic heroes and want to be just like them. While it’s healthy to follow their example, it’s not healthy to narrow our vision on God’s will. Doing that only suffocates our openness to the Holy Spirit and deafens His voice.

I think the pressure people put on themselves when they gain their newfound zeal caused tunnel vision in many people. To avoid this, here’s a couple things to keep in mind:

First, you must focus on personal holiness before you step out and attempt to education and evangelize others. I’m not talking about being a hypocrite, because removing the log in your own eye is much more about clear vision than about hypocrisy. There are nine fruits of the spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). Interestingly, God chose the dove to represent the Holy Spirit, whose wings are made up of nine main feather stems. You must develop the fruits of the spirit in order to truly take fight.

Second, after developing your personal holiness and taking flight, you’re able to use the corresponding gifts of the Holy Spirit. But be conscious of the temptation of that tunnel vision. God has a unique plan for you. What would the world look like if we were all Scott Hahn? There would be a lot of Bible knowledge and handsome beards. No, seriously: remember that Martha’s revelation was understanding that there is something more important that impressing ourselves (and others) with our works. What really matters is how we spend our time with God. Mother Angelica didn’t get into the art of media until her later years. She was able to be so effective because she made priority of the Mary duties, then the Martha.

Third, be yourself. The world will tell you that you need to go out into the world and find yourself. But what you really need to do is find the One who already knows who you are. When you get to know God, whose depth of closeness and relationship is endless, you’ll really get to know who you are.

Hero worship can create a false sense of duty and achievement, contentment and virtue. There’s so many ways to be Catholic. It might not be apologetics or writing. It might be having a certain amount of children. It might be a degree you have to get or a teaching job you have to have. It could even be the priesthood or cloistered life. Whatever it is, don’t be over-eager. The only thing you need to be eager about is knowing and developing your relationship with the One who is eager about you. The rest falls into place.

Check out this article and others at Shaun’s home at the National Catholic Register – http://www.ncregister.com/blog/smcafee/