One of the greatest dangers with new age thinking on the angels is actually as old as the oldest stories in the world. It is the confusion of earthly things with heavenly things; it is the confusion of the things that are below with the things that properly find their home above. And so one finds in the ancient world men bowing their heads and bending the knee to the very things that were beneath their feet. The soil, the stone, the wood taken from the tree; these very earthly items could and often did become idols because we mistook and misunderstood their participation in creation. And the more the thing from below seemed to participate in God’s beauty or power or knowledge, the more this confusion embedded itself in our common experience.
On May 12th, the day before the 100th anniversary of the first apparitions at Fatima, my wife and I had the privilege of attending a special gathering at the United Nations in NYC entitled, THE CENTENARY OF FATIMA AND THE ENDURING RELEVANCE OF IT’S MESSAGE OF PEACE. It was a most rewarding experience. The Fatima apparitions have been the beginning of so many changes in the 20th century. They began on May 13, 1917 just as Europe was immersed in WWI, a very devastating war and supposedly the “war to end all wars”. It was also the year of the Bolshevik Revolution and the beginning of the Communist threats to the world. The Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to three young shepherd children in a remote region of Portugal and gave a message of the need to turn to Jesus, do penance, and pray in order to keep further horrendous wars away. Her message was filled with Hope and Love but also quite disturbing in showing the way the world was headed. She was concerned with bringing Peace and Hope and Eternal Life to all of the peoples of the world by having them follow Jesus.
The conference itself looked at the message of Fatima and what had occurred since then. There is still a great need for peace in our war torn world. The threat of communism seems to be gone, but there are many other threats to world peace. The conference had five speakers and lasted about two hours. I would like to give a brief synopsis of what each speaker said. There is no doubt that this 100 year old message from the Blessed Virgin Mary is still very relevant to us today. All of the speakers were excellent in their content and in the emotional attachment to what they were saying. Tears flowed from both men and women as they spoke. I was impressed by the dedication of each speaker.
Archbishop Bernadito C. Auza opened the conference and was the mediator. He is the Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations. His topic was “The Lessons of the Fatima Message of Peace for the Cause of Peace Today”. The Archbishop recounted what had happened at Fatima and how it had led to many changes in the world. He told the story of Pope John Paul II’s dedication to Fatima and how the Pope was very instrumental in the collapse of communism in Europe and in Communist Russia itself. The Archbishop reflected the call for hope but also the need for continued conversion. He was very pastoral in his tone, and appears to be an excellent representative of the Church to the United Nations.
Johnnette Benkovic was the second speaker. Johnnette is the foundress and president of Women of Grace. She is also an author and TV and radio host. She is an excellent speaker and her topic was, ‘Mary and the Dignity of Women’s role in a Culture of Peace”. Johnnette did an excellent job of reminding us how women, who by their very nature are life giving and protecting, must work hard for peace. She did say that women are not always fulfilling this role of working for peace and must step up to do so. She definitely believes that women can be very instrumental in helping bring about peace.
Dr. Andrea Bartoli was the third speaker. He is currently the Dean of the Seton Hall School of Diplomacy and International Relations. His topic was “The Importance of Religious Leaders Serving as Examples of Peace, Tolerance, Solidarity and Justice”. Dr. Bartoli shared several stories from his work in various nations to deal with the ravages of war. He was quite emotional in sharing some of the things that happened to the people he was trying to help. There was no doubt that this man is a man of faith and compassion who has worked hard to foster peace (he is an expert in conflict resolution) and to help those who suffer because of a lack of peace. He challenged all, especially those who are religious leaders, to work hard for peace and to help those who are suffering from a lack of it. His call was basically to be like Jesus. We need more diplomats like him.
Dr. Maria Santos Pais was the fourth speaker. She is the Special Representative of the Secretary General on Violence Against Children. Her topic was, “Children as a Zone of Peace”. Dr. Pais is from Portugal and it was apparent that she was well aware of the Fatima story. She also seemed well aware of the terrible things that are happening to children throughout the world today. Some of the statistics that she gave us were quite disturbing. Dr. Pais was very clear in showing us that children are peacemakers, but unfortunately are often victims of the lack of peace. She gave a very emotional talk. Please pray for the children of the world.
The Shepherd Children of Fatima to whom Mary appeared. Pope Francis proclaimed Francisco and Jacinta Marto Saints as he celebrated the 100th anniversary mass in Fatima. Lucia only died in 2005 and her cause is pending.
Dr. Anna Halpine was the fifth and last speaker. She is the Foundress and CEO of the World Youth Alliance. Her topic was, ‘The Fatima Shepherd Children: the Role of Children in the Cause of Peace”. Dr. Hapline did an excellent job of showing how these poor shepherd children responded so well to the call of the Blessed Virgin Mary. She continued talking about children of the world living in such difficult situations. Her talk was very complementary to the previous talk given by Dr. Pais. The last two speakers helped us all to focus on those who suffer so much from a lack of peace, the children. It is so sad to think that we have created a world where children suffer so much.
In review, the conference was very much like the original message of Fatima. It is disturbing in pointing out what mankind has done by war and by a lack of peace. It also pointed out that we must work hard to accomplish peace. There is hope, but we must actively seek it and work for it. Â The message of Our Lady is very appropriate today. We must seek Jesus, pray and do penance and work hard for peace. Having this conference take place at the United Nations was quite encouraging. The Statue of Fatima was brought there for this conference and then brought over to the Church of the Holy Family nearby. This is the second visit of this statue to the United Nations. It first came to the UN in 1952. The Blessed Virgin Mary is most definitely the Queen of Peace. May peace come forth to this world and may all peoples receive the gift of heavenly peace. I end with the prayer that Mary taught at Fatima; O my Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of hell, lead all souls to Heaven, especially those most in need of Thy mercy. Amen…
The Statue at Holy Family Church near the United Nations
On February 11th we will be remembering the Appearance of the Blessed Virgin Mary at Lourdes, France, in 1858. Since then the shrine there has been overflowing with miraculous healings and conversions. It is one of the most popular and visited shrines in the world. It all began on February 11th, 1858 when a little 14 year old girl, Bernadette Soubiroux went out to gather wood along with her younger sister, Toilette and a friend, Jeanne Abadie . This was a Thursday evening right before Ash Wednesday. Bernadette saw a very beautiful lady above a rose bush in a grotto called Massabielle. Only Bernadette saw this woman. There was a golden cloud around her. Bernadette was frightened until she saw the smile on the woman’s face. The woman motioned to Bernadette to come towards her and she did, falling on her knees to pray the rosary. The woman was later described by Bernadette as the most beautiful lady she has ever seen. She was dressed in white with a blue sash and carried a rosary. Bernadette tried to begin the rosary with the sign of the cross, but was unable to move her arms until the lady did so first. They prayed the rosary together with Bernadette saying all the prayers, but the lady saying only the Glory be’s. When they finished the rosary, the lady disappeared back in to the cave and the golden cloud disappeared. Bernadette told her sister what had happened and they decided to keep it secret.
Later that evening, at the family prayer time, Bernadette began to cry and when her mother asked her what was wrong, her sister told the mother what had happened. The mother told Bernadette that these were just illusions and that she was not to return to Massabielle. Bernadette couldn’t keep the thoughts of this beautiful woman out of her mind. Bernadette knew that this woman was kind and gracious and talked about her to her mother. Bernadette described the woman as “She has the appearance of a young girl of sixteen or seventeen. She is dressed in a white robe, girdled at the waist with a blue ribbon which flows down all around it. A yoke closes it in graceful pleats at the base of the neck. The sleeves are long and tight-fitting. She wears upon her head a veil which is also white. This veil gives just a glimpse of her hair and then falls down at the back below her waist. Her feet are bare but covered by the last folds of her robe except at the point where a yellow rose shines upon each of them. She holds on her right arm a rosary of white beads with a chain of gold shinning like the two roses on her feet.” On Sunday, Bernadette’s mother allowed her to return to the grotto.
Bernadette’s parents and most of the town and even the Chief of Police were very concerned and worried about what was happening. They made it difficult for Bernadette, but she persevered, going to the site for a total of eighteen apparitions. People would often accompany her and they saw her face transfigured and illuminated and knew something was happening but did not see it. Bernadette was promised by the lady that she would have happiness in heaven. She also called Bernadette to pray for sinners and call people to repent and turn to Jesus. The lady also gave her a private prayer to pray every day and told her to bring a blessed candle with her whenever she visited the grotto. This tradition is kept to this very day.
During the ninth apparition the lady told Bernadette to drink from the fountain. Bernadette was confused as there was no fountain there. She began scratching the dirt where the lady pointed and water started coming out. This spring is still flowing today and delivers about four to five liters per minute. At the eleventh apparition, the lady told Bernadette to tell the priests to build a church on the spot of the grotto. When Bernadette went to the local pastor, he was not very receptive. At the fourteenth apparitions, the lady again told Bernadette to tell the local priests to build a chapel there. Bernadette was afraid of the local pastor because of the way he reacted to her first request, but decided to go back to him. He told her to tell the lady that he would not follow the dictates of a stranger and that if she wanted anything from him, she would have to identify herself. During the sixteenth apparition Mary identified herself as “The Immaculate Conception”. Bernadette had no idea what this meant. Although our early Church fathers talked about the Immaculate Conception, and theologians debated it for centuries, it was never defined as a dogma until 1854, just four years prior to the apparitions.
During the seventeenth apparition, when Bernadette went in to ecstasy, she unconsciously passed her hand on top of the candle and did not move it. She didn’t appear to feel it and did not hear the screams of the people around her as they watched the flame shoot through her hand. After the apparition, they took her to the doctor who could not see any burns at all. He even touched a lit candle to her and she screamed. It was at this point the local Prefect closed down the sight. Bernadette would make one more visit to say goodbye to Mary.
Bernadette joined the Sisters of Charity and remained sickly. She kept up with her duties and prayers and died on April 16, 1879 at the age of 34. She was buried at Nevers, France. Thirty years later, in the presence of two doctors and several nuns, she was exhumed and her coffin was opened. There was no odor and her body had suffered no decay. Ten years later, she was again exhumed and found in the same condition. Her body is now at rest in a gold and glass coffin in the Chapel of Saint Bernadette at the motherhouse in Nevers, France.
Ever since the apparitions, people have been coming to Lourdes to bathe in the Healing waters. There have been thousands of healings and Saint Pope John Paul II declared February 11th, the memorial of Our Lady of Lourdes, as World Day of the Sick. John Paul II loved Lourdes and made three pilgrimages there during his Pontificate. Pope Benedict was also close to Lourdes. He was born on the Feast day of St. Bernadette and then on February 11th the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, he announced his stepping down from the papacy. Pope Benedict also told us, “The message that Our Lady continues to spread in Lourdes recalls the words that Jesus spoke at the very beginning of his public mission, which we hear several times during these days of Lent: ‘Repent, and believe in the Gospel,’ pray and do penance. Let us accept Mary’s invitation which echoes Christ’s and ask her to obtain for us that we may ‘enter’ Lent with faith, to live this season of grace with inner joy and generous commitment.”
There are so many stories about the miracles and life changing events that occurred at Lourdes. I would like to leave you one that I find very interesting. We all have probably seen the movie, “The Song of Bernadette”. That is based upon a book written by a famous German Jewish writer, Franz Werfel. He was trying to escape the Nazi holocaust and landed in Lourdes while he was trying to escape to Portugal. Several Catholic families took him and his wife in to hide them from the Nazis and he kept hearing the stories about Bernadette and all the miracles that happened at Lourdes. He was so moved by these miracles that he swore that if he and his wife escaped, he would write all about Bernadette. As soon as he came to the United States, he kept his promise and wrote “The Song of Bernadette”. This became so popular that they made it in to a movie. The interesting thing is that in creating this book Werfel honored the Rosary by making the book in five sections with ten chapters to each section, following the structure of the Rosary. Truly the Blessed Virgin Mary has brought about many healings and miracles as well as leading people away from sin and towards Jesus.
Here is a beautiful Lourdes prayer by Saint Pope John Paul II:
Hail Mary, poor and humble Woman, Blessed by the Most High! Virgin of hope, dawn of a new era, We join in your song of praise, to celebrate the Lord’s mercy, to proclaim the coming of the Kingdom and the full liberation of humanity.
Hail Mary, lowly handmaid of the Lord, Glorious Mother of Christ! Faithful Virgin, holy dwelling-place of the Word, Teach us to persevere in listening to the Word, and to be docile to the voice of the Spirit, attentive to his promptings in the depths of our conscience and to his manifestations in the events of history.
Hail Mary, Woman of sorrows, Mother of the living! Virgin spouse beneath the Cross, the new Eve, Be our guide along the paths of the world. Teach us to experience and to spread the love of Christ, to stand with you before the innumerable crosses on which your Son is still crucified.
Hail Mary, woman of faith, First of the disciples! Virgin Mother of the Church, help us always to account for the hope that is in us, with trust in human goodness and the Father’s love. Teach us to build up the world beginning from within: in the depths of silence and prayer, in the joy of fraternal love, in the unique fruitfulness of the Cross.
Holy Mary, Mother of believers, Our Lady of Lourdes, pray for us. Amen.
Detective Steven McDonald and his son, NYPD Officer Conor McDonald.
In a previous post I talked about miraculous healings that have occurred in the scriptures and throughout history in to this present day. I even shared some that I personally witnessed; but what about the person that doesn’t seem to receive a miraculous healing? Does that mean that God has ignored him or her or that God is not at work? First of all I think that God is at work in all things. Secondly, what we see as a lack of healing, or lack of a miracle, is just another way that God has chosen to work. Often the real miracles are those that are not apparent. I would like to give you an example of this in the Life of Detective Steven McDonald of the New York Police Department.
On July 12, 1986, New York Police Officer Steven McDonald went in to Central Park with Sergeant Peter King as part of their normal, everyday duties. They were on alert for petty crimes as well as looking for clues to a recent string of bicycle thefts in that area. They saw a group of suspicious looking teens who began to run as soon as they saw the police. The police officers chased them, Steven McDonald going in one direction, and his partner in another direction.
Steven McDonald stopped several of the boys to question them. He tells us that he spotted a bulge in the sock of one of the youngest boys and believed it to be a gun. He bent over to examine it and a tall 15 year old boy came and pointed a gun at the police officer’s head. Officer McDonald said that he then heard a deafening explosion, saw a muzzle flash and felt the bullet strike him just above his right eye. He immediately fell flat and the boy shot him a second time hitting him in the throat. Then, while still lying on the ground, the boy shot him a third time. Officer McDonald recalled, “I was in pain; I was numb; I knew I was dying, and I didn’t want to die. It was terrifying. My partner was yelling into his police radio: “Ten Thirteen Central! Ten Thirteen!” and when I heard that code, I knew I was in a very bad way. Then I closed my eyes…”
When the first officers to respond arrived on the scene, they found Sergeant King on the ground, covered in Steven’s blood, cradling him in his arms. Sergeant King was crying. They knew that every second counted so they carried Steven into the back of their vehicle and rushed him to Harlem’s Metropolitan Hospital, twenty blocks away. There the medical staff saw the severity of the shooting and worked hard to stabilize him. They did not expect him to live. The Chief Surgeon told the Police Commissioner, “He’s not going to make it. Call the family. Tell them to come say goodbye.” But Steven’s will to live stood firm. His survival is a miracle itself, but his injuries left him completely paralyzed from the neck down. He couldn’t even breathe on his own.
Officer McDonald had been married just eight months to his 23 year old wife, Patti Ann. She was three months pregnant. Together they would have to face the unbelievable changes that being paralyzed causes. Not quite fair for a young married couple. It would be very easy for them both to be filled with self pity, hatred and spite. But these two practicing Catholics decided to choose another course. At Detective Steven McDonald’s funeral, 30 years after his attack, Mayor Bill de Blasio said that Steven McDonald inspired New York City by choosing a spiritual journey over self-pity and spite. He inspired not only NYC, but the world. To me, Steven McDonald exemplifies how God can work, even in the worst of situations. I know it was a miracle that he survived, but there was no miracle to bring him healing of his paralysis. Perhaps the biggest miracle is what Steven did with his life.
About six months after being brutally assaulted with gunfire by Shavod “Budda” Jones, Officer Steven McDonald made a statement, through his wife, saying, “I forgive him and hope he can find peace and purpose in his life”. This defined the rest of McDonald’s life. Jones was sentenced to ten years in prison for attempted murder. McDonald said, “Strangely we became friends. It began with my writing to him. At first he didn’t answer my letters, but then he wrote back. Then one night a year or two later, he called my home from prison and apologized to my wife, my son, and me. We accepted his apology, and I told him I hoped he and I could work together in the future. I hoped that one day we might travel around the country together sharing how this act of violence had changed both our lives, and how it had given us an understanding of what is most important in life.” However, three days after his release from jail, Jones died in a motorcycle accident. That hope was never realized, but McDonald continued his crusade for forgiveness and peace.
The New York City Police Department kept McDonald on their roster in a special position. He was eventually promoted to the rank of Detective. Pat Lynch, president of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association called McDonald “a true American hero.” At his funeral Lynch said, “Steven McDonald was the most courageous and forgiving man I have ever known. Despite the tremendous pain in his life, both physical and emotional, his concern for his fellow police officers and for the people of New York City never wavered. Since that fateful day in 1986, Steven dedicated his life to fighting hate and encouraging forgiveness through his actions. He was a powerful force for all that is good and is an inspiration to all of us. His, was a life well lived. We join his family, a true New York City police family, his friends and fellow officers in prayer and mourning the loss of a truly special man.”
The influence of Detective McDonald was felt not only in New York, but worldwide. He took his message of forgiveness and peace to Northern Ireland, Bosnia and Israel. He met with world leaders such as Pope John Paul II and Nelson Mandela. He spoke at two Republican National Conventions. He was interviewed by Barbara Walters on TV and attended many civil and religious functions in his area. I was fortunate to see and hear him and can attest to the fact that he was a man of deep faith, and love of God and His people. He was a die-hard hockey fan of the New York Rangers. His relationship over the years with them has been a source of real blessing to so many. The Rangers named an award in his honor.
About six months after the shooting, Steven’s son Conor was born. Conor followed in the footsteps of his father and grandfather and great-grandfather in becoming a NYC Police Officer. I have a good friend who is a NYC Police Officer who worked with Conor and praised him for being such a good person and good Police Officer. A family of faith and desire to serve keeps bringing forth good men. In an article by Johann Christoph Arnold, he states,
“When visiting Steven in his Long Island home (since meeting in 1997, we have become close friends), I am often struck by the extent of his incapacitation. Life in a wheelchair is hard enough for an elderly person to accept, but to be plucked out of an active, fun-loving life in your prime is devastating. Add to that a tracheotomy to breathe through and total dependence on a nurse and other caregivers, and life can seem pretty confining at times. Steven is matter-of fact about this:
“There’s nothing easy about being paralyzed. I have not been able to hold my wife in my arms for two decades. Conor is now a young man, and I’ve never been able to have a catch with him. It’s frustrating – difficult – ugly – at times.”
So why did he forgive? Again, he himself says it best:
“I forgave Shavod because I believe the only thing worse than receiving a bullet in my spine would have been to nurture revenge in my heart. Such an attitude would have extended my injury to my soul, hurting my wife, son, and others even more. It’s bad enough that the physical effects are permanent, but at least I can choose to prevent spiritual injury.”
” When I was a very young kid, Dr. King came to my town in New York. My mother went to hear him speak, and she was very impressed by what she heard. I hope you can be inspired by his words too. Dr. King said that there’s some good in the worst of us, and some evil in the best of us, and that when we learn this, we’ll be more loving and forgiving. He also said, “Forgiveness is not an occasional act, it’s a permanent attitude.” In other words, it is something you have to work for. Just like you have to work to keep your body fit and your mind alert, you’ve got to work on your heart too. Forgiving is not just a one-time decision. You’ve got to live forgiveness, every day.”
This is a lesson that the world needs to take in. Steven McDonald spoke and lived out that lesson. Sure, it was a miracle that he lived through the gunshots and it would have been a great miracle if he could have been freed from his paralysis, but to me the greatest miracle is what Steven did for so many other people working through his disabilities. His faith and desire to spread the message of forgiveness and peace resounds throughout the world.
Detective Stephen King, New York City Police Officer, husband, father, devout Catholic and ambassador of forgiveness and peace died of a heart attack on January 10, 2017 in his Long Island home. His life continues to touch many.
Saint Peter Canisius was born on May 8, 1521 in the Netherlands. His father was the mayor of their town and his mother died shortly after his birth. Peter’s father arranged for him to have an excellent education studying the arts, civil law and theology. Although his father wanted him to marry a wealthy woman, Peter swore a vow of celibacy in 1540. He studied with Saint Peter Faber and in 1543 entered the Society of Jesus. He loved the Jesuits and considered his entrance date in to the order as his second birthday. He loved the Church and was very concerned with what was happening in Germany in the Protestant Reformation.
Saint Peter spent a great deal of his time in trying to call Protestants back in to the Church. He did this in a very loving and gentle manner. He wrote to one of his Jesuit leaders, “It is plainly wrong to meet non-Catholics with bitterness or to treat them with discourtesy. For this is nothing else than the reverse of Christ’s example because it breaks the bruised reed and quenches the smoking flax. We ought to instruct with meekness those whom heresy has made bitter and suspicious, and has estranged from orthodox Catholics, especially from our fellow Jesuits. Thus, by whole-hearted charity and good will we may win them over to us in the Lord.” His gentle manner and great preaching helped bring many Protestants back to the Church.
Saint Peter Canisius loved education and learning and was responsible for revitalizing many Universities. He even founded new ones at Prague and Fribourg. He was also very active in trying to publish Catholic writings. He wrote and published a Catechism that was so popular that it was translated in to 200 languages and helped to launch the Catholic press. Saint Peter was so regarded as a Theologian that he spoke twice at the Ecclesiastical Council at Trent.
Saint Peter Canisius was also a man of the people. He traveled around preaching and teaching and converting many souls. He has been called the 2nd Apostle of Germany. He ministered to many who were sick with the plague. Before his death in 1597, it is estimated that he covered over 20,000 miles on foot or horseback. After his death, there were many reports of miracles attributed to those who prayed for his intercession.
Quotes from St. Peter Canisius:
Let my eyes take their sleep, but may my heart always keep watch for you. May your right hand bless your servants who love you.
May I be united with the praise that flows from you, Lord Jesus, to all your saints; united with the gratitude drawn from your heart, good Jesus, that causes your saints to thank you; united with your passion, good Jesus, by which you took away our guilt; united with the divine longing that you had on earth for our salvation; united with every prayer that welled from your divine heart, good Jesus, and flowed into the hearts of your saints.
For the sake of obtaining that eternal life no works of piety ought to seem too hard to a true believer, no toil too heavy, no pain too bitter, no time spent in labor and suffering too long or too wearisome. For if nothing is sweeter or more desirable than this present life which is so full of calamities, how much more desirable must that other life be deemed which is so far removed from all sense of evil or fear of it, which will in every conceivable way always abound in the unspeakable and unending joys, delight and happiness of heaven.
Better that only a few Catholics should be left, staunch and sincere in their religion, than that they should, remaining many, desire as it were, to be in collusion with the Church’s enemies and in conformity with the open foes of our faith.
We are to pray as though everything depended on God, but work as though everything depended on us, we do have a free will.
If you have too much to do, with God’s help, you will find time to do it all.
Advent Saints – St. Lucy by Deacon Marty McIndoe
During this Advent season we see that each day gets shorter until we reach the Winter Solstice. There is more darkness and less light. During Advent we celebrate light, by lighting the Advent candles and awaiting Jesus, the Light of the World. December 13th we celebrate the Advent Saint of Light, St. Lucy. She was born in the late 200’s and died in 304 as a Martyr. There are many legends about her and it is difficult to know exactly how true they all are, but at the very least, she was a young Sicilian girl who gave herself to Jesus as a Virgin. She was killed for her decision to follow Jesus.
It appears that St. Lucy had a mother who arranged a marriage for her to a pagan man, but St. Lucy said that she wanted to remain a Virgin and give herself completely to Jesus. Since her mother was very stubborn about this and pushed Lucy towards marriage, Lucy turned in prayer to St. Agatha for assistance. St. Agatha appeared to Lucy and told her that she could persuade her mother by showing her the power of Jesus. St. Agatha said that Lucy’s mother would be healed from a serious illness that plagued her. Lucy’s mother was healed and she committed her life to Jesus. She stopped forcing the marriage and allowed St. Lucy to give her marriage dowry to the poor.
The man that Lucy was to marry was upset by this and told the governor, Paschalis, that Lucy was a Christian (illegal at that time). The governor then wanted to defile Lucy and sent troops to her home to carry her off to a brothel. Lucy refused to go and the troops were unable to move her. They even hitched a team of oxen to her, but she could not be moved. At that point they piled wood around her to burn her, but the wood refused to burn. They finally resorted to using their swords and initially gouged out her eyes and then killed her. Later, when her body was being prepared for burial, they noticed that her eyes had been restored.
Lucy was venerated from the very early days of the Church. Her body remained in Sicily for about 400 years before being transferred to Abruzzi, Italy. In 972 her body was moved to St. Vincent’s Church in Metz and divided up and several pieces of her body can be found in Rome, Naples, Verona, Lisbon, Milan, Germany, France and Sweden. Her name is mentioned in Eucharistic Prayer I, the oldest of our Eucharistic prayers. St. Lucy is the Patron Saint of the Blind and all eye diseases.
I have found only one quote that is attributed to Lucy. It is, “No one’s body is polluted so as to endanger the soul if it has not pleased the mind. If you were to lift my hand to your idol and so make me offer against my will, I would still be guiltless in the sight of the true God, who judges according to the will and knows all things. If now, against my will, you cause me to be polluted, a twofold purity will be gloriously imputed to me. You cannot bend my will to your purpose; whatever you do to my body, that cannot happen to me.”
— Saint Lucy of Syracuse
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.”
Saint Francis Xavier is known as the greatest evangelizer since the Apostles. His zeal for spreading the Gospel seemed to know no boundaries. He was a man who performed many miracles and converted a large number of unbelievers to the Church. He visited many countries and is known for his missionary work in Portugal, India, Goa, Malacca and the Maluku Islands and Japan. In the islands he converted the first Japanese man to the faith. He went to Japan to continue spreading the good news. He also wanted to convert China and headed there reaching one of its islands. He died from disease before he could make the Chinese mainland. He did all of this in just ten years.
Francis was born in the Kingdom of Navarre (Basque, between Spain and France) on April 7, 1506. He attended the University of Paris where he roomed with his good friend, Peter Favre. Francis met Saint Ignatius Loyola at the University and was heavily influence d by him. St. Ignatius urged Francis to become a priest. On August 15, 1534, Francis Xavier along with Peter Favre, and several other friends, made vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. Francis was ordained a priest on June 24, 1537. Francis, and his friends formed a new order named the Society of Jesus and Pope Paul III approved the order in 1540. The order is commonly known as the Jesuits. The Pope immediately put the order to work as missionaries. Francis was made Papal Nuncio of the East in 1541, on Francis’ birthday, the same day he left for India. Francis was 35 years old. In India he built over 40 churches along the Pearl Fishery Coast.
It is miraculous that in the short space of ten years (6 May, 1542 – 2 December, 1552) Francis could have visited so many countries, traversed so many seas, preached the Gospel to so many nations, and converted so many unbelievers and built so many churches. His zeal for the Gospel and his great accomplishments led him to be beatified by Pope Paul V on Oct. 25, 1619, and canonized by Gregory XV on March 12, 1622 at the same ceremony as Ignatius of Loyola. He is the patron of Catholic missions and his feast day is on December 3. Here are some of his quotes:
- I will go anywhere and do anything in order to communicate the love of Jesus to those who do not know Him or have forgotten Him.
- We must pray without tiring, for the salvation of mankind does not depend upon material success . . . but on Jesus alone.
- Prayer is powerful! It fills the earth with mercy; it makes the Divine clemency pass from generation to generation; right along the course of the centuries wonderful works have been achieved through prayer.
- If you are in danger, if your hearts are confused, turn to Mary; she is our comfort, our help; turn towards her and you will be saved.
- Did a Magdalene, a Paul, a Constantine, an Augustine become mountains of ice after their conversion? Quite the contrary. We should never have had these prodigies of conversion and marvelous holiness if they had not changed the flames of human passion into volcanoes of immense love of God.
- The world is poisoned with erroneous theories, and needs to be taught sane doctrines, but it is difficult to straighten what has become crooked.
- They who pray with faith have fervour and fervour is the fire of prayer. This mysterious fire has the power of consuming all our faults and imperfections, and of giving to our actions, vitality, beauty and merit.
The veneration of the mortal remains of loved ones is nothing new. Nor can it be said to be distinctly Catholic; for it is a distinctly human practice that spans all ages, cultures, and religious inclinations.
Veneration simply means “to give great respect.” Thus, at its most basic understanding, to venerate the relics of loved ones is to give great respect to those things that one’s loved ones have left behind; including their bodies.
Every time an agnostic visits the grave (and thus the bones) of his deceased relative, for example, or an Evangelical Christian clings to the shirt of her dearly beloved grandmother, the veneration of relics—though not necessarily as an act of religious piety—takes place. The veneration of the material remains of loved ones seems to be a universal impulse of the human person; and the Catholic Church takes this natural human impulse and—as she does so often—elevates the custom to a supernatural level and dignity.
Christian relics are the material remains—and not always the bodily remains—of the saints or even Christ himself. They are typically organized into three classes. Third class relics are material items that have been touched to the saints, or to their bodies or personal possessions. Second class relics were personal possessions of the saints. First class relics are the actual body or fragments of the body of the holy ones.
The seven sacraments of the Church are visible signs that reveal and effect invisible realities. They are also the seven primary ways through which God communicates grace; that is, the free gift of his life and the power to be holy. But of course God is not bound by the sacraments for he is the omnipotent creator and curator of them. He can give grace in other ways if he so wishes. Relics are sacramentals (as are, for example, crucifixes and statues of the saints). By virtue of them being sacramentals, they are not sacraments. Rather they exist to prepare us to receive the sacraments (see CCC 1677). Thus sacramentals are not be looked at; they are to be looked along.
At the fullness of time God did the unthinkable and took on flesh; and he sanctified matter by becoming man. Ancient testimonies, both Christian and non-Christian, tell us that the carpenter from Nazareth was a walking wonder worker; and it was often through matter—whether through mud, loaves, fish, water, or human touch—that the Maker of all matter worked those supernatural deeds. The Christ had a soft spot for matter; and apparently he still does.
Now just as God works directly through his sons and daughters on earth, he also works through other things that have been made.
As I have said, the veneration of relics is not a distinctly religious thing; nor is it a distinctly Catholic thing; nor is it a distinctly Christian thing. Neither are the working of miracles through relics a distinctly Christian thing. In the Old Testament the coat of Elijah (after he had ascended to heaven) is tossed into a raging river only to part the waters and allow safe crossing (see 2 Kings 2). A few chapters later the bones of the prophet Elisha contact another man’s mortal remains at the bottom of a pit—and the man returns to life (2 Kings 13:20-21).
In the New Testament the examples of God working miracles through lowly material things are multiplied. St. Peter’s shadow (a privation rather than a positive thing, and yet still a fitting vessel of grace) in Luke’s Acts Of The Apostles serves as a blanket of healing—and the hopeful and faith-filled sick line the streets that they might touch God’s grace through the shadow of Peter (see Ch. 5:12-15).
When the handkerchiefs and aprons of St. Paul are touched to the sick and demon-stricken, healing flows from the hand of God through these (presumably used) handkerchiefs of the apostle (Acts 19:11-12). And of course, there is the example of our Lord’s cloak—that even at the touch of the hem (and not directly his body) a woman is cured of her hemorrhage by the power of God (Matt 9:20-22). ““If I only touch his garment, I shall be made well,” believed the woman; and she was right.
Religious relics are not magic items that hold power in and of themselves; they are vessels. The power of God is not contained in the saints’ relics—be they bones, books, or badly damaged running shoes—but rather, the power of God works along the relics, just as our veneration (and adoration) runs along them in the other direction. Relics are vehicles empowered by the grace of God.
For the Protestant and skeptic, the greatest difficulty in this matter of relics lies in the use of human remains for religious rites. Although the beautifully tear-jerking Martyrdom of Polycarp of the mid-second century does, in fact, mention the prayerful possession of the deceased St. Polycarp’s bones for the purpose of Christian veneration, it is true that the New Testament does not mention the veneration of bones, hair, and the like.
But the key to understanding this ancient aspect of Christian practice—and the way to make something so disagreeable agreeable—is to look to the center of the Gospel. At the center of the Gospel lies the resurrection of Christ; and the resurrection of Christ is only the beginning of a great rising that will take center stage at the end of time when all men and women are reunited with their long-corrupted bodies. Although our resurrected bodies will be radiantly beautiful, incorruptible, and unrestricted by the laws of physics, as St. Thomas suggested after prayerfully drawing from the Scriptures, our bodies will still be our bodies. Our resurrected bodies will be new; but they will not be different. They will not be different in the sense that they will still be our own, but more fully alive; fully alive, in fact.
The resurrection is the key to understanding the Christian practice of venerating relics; for we have the promise of a new heaven and a new earth when God will finally reconcile all things—material and immaterial—to Himself. And because the resurrection of the body is our real and promised destiny there remains an interminable, though mysterious, link between our corruptible bodies in this life and the souls that, only for a time, are separated from our body at death.
Relics are, in the end, perhaps just one more way for God to remind us that He is not finished with us; we are a work in progress even after death. One’s bodily death is final in the sense that what dies no longer lives; but it is not the Grande Finale where all humans will be reunited with their bodies once for all.
Yes, God raised Adam from the dust; and like Adam, to dust we will also return. But that’s not where our story ends. If our bodies are really and truly to be “temples of the Holy Spirit”, as St. Paul tells us, how fitting is it that God would make our bodies incorruptible; and work through bodily relics to remind us of that final state of bodily reality.
We believe in the resurrection of the body and life everlasting; we just all-too-often forget that we believe it. After all that has been said, it might be imagined that God’s willingness to work through the relics of the saints is one more way for God to remind those of us who forget the dignity and destiny of our now-imperfect and corrupting bodies: “I’m not finished with you yet.”
For more on relics visit my friend Fr. Carlos Martins’ website, TreasuresOfTheChurch.com.
visit Matt Nelson at his website: reasonablecatholic.com
The course of world history was dramatically changed in 1571. On October 7th, about 30,000 Muslim men and 300 Muslim ships gathered off the coast of Corinth, Greece, ready to make their attack on Europe. A Christian army of about the same size with about 100 fewer ships went to stop them. Europe was threatened and the Muslims had already taken over the Byzantine Empire by 1453. An increasingly divided Christian world was being governed by Islamic law. Even some parts of Europe, right up in to the Danube River Valley, were under Islamic rule. In 1570 Cyprus had been overtaken. Now the Muslim armies were attacking Greece and Italy with the intention of capturing Rome and the Church. The future of western Christian civilization was hanging on this battle.
Pope St. Pius V knew that something had to be done, and that the future of the Church depended upon it. He also knew that even though the Christian and Muslim armies were about equal in size, the Muslims were fierce and determined fighters and they had 100 more ships. He knew that God’s intervention was needed to assure a victory. He was also aware that the Rosary was a very powerful method of prayer and he asked everyone to pray the Rosary asking for a Christian victory. Pope Pius V asked all of the religious convents and priories throughout Europe to pray. He also had all of the armies and fleet crew members praying the Rosary. On the day of the battle of Lepanto, October 7, 1571, the Pope left a meeting with his cardinals to go to the window and pray the Rosary. He had no way of actually knowing that this was the day of the battle. He returned to the meeting and told the Cardinals that the Catholic fleet had been victorious. Mary had assured him of that, long before any conventional news methods could reach him.
The victory had been quite miraculous. Even though they were outnumbered, the Christian fleet lost only 17 ships and about 7,500 men, while the Muslim fleet was totally destroyed or captured and the Muslims lost almost all of their 30,000 men. The Christians also set free over 2,000 slaves that the Muslims had on their ships. There was no doubt that a miracle had occurred. Europe was saved. St. Pius V immediately attributed the Victory to the prayers said in the Rosary. He instituted the feast of Our Lady Of the Rosary, which we still celebrate today.
It is interesting to note that not only the prayers of Mary through the Rosary were present, but a little bit of the New World was there too. In 1531 when Mary appeared to Juan Diego in Central Mexico, she gave him a special image of herself that is still in existence today. The local Archbishop of Mexico had an exact copy of this image made and sent it to King Philip II of Spain. When the king was sending his fleet to fight at Lepanto, he gave Andrea Doria, one of the three principal admirals of the fleet, the copy of the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe. The admiral placed it in his ship and led the fleet in to battle. They also flew the blue flag of Our Lady of Guadalupe on their masthead.
The Rosary has been, and still is, a powerful spiritual weapon for all of us. When reciting the scriptural prayers of the Rosary and when meditating on the various mysteries of the Life of Jesus we draw ourselves in to the very message of the Gospel. It lifts us to new spiritual heights. All of us have various “battles” that we fight in our own lives. The Rosary can help us be victorious over them. I also think that it is important to mention that the Rosary lifts us in to the arms of Jesus, who is the Prince of Peace. Although this article pays special attention to the military battle of Lepanto, we must remember that the primary goal of Jesus is to bring peace. Let us continue to pray the Rosary asking God to lift us up and grant us the Peace that only He can give.
The incorrupt body of Saint Padre Pio.
1 – BIRTH AND FAMILY: Padre Pio was born Francesco Forgione in Pietrelcina, Italy on May 25, 1887. He was the fourth of eight children of Grazio Maria Forgione and his wife, Maria Giuseppa De Nunzio. His family was very religious and attended daily mass.
2 – SHEPHERD AND CAPUCHIN PREPARATION: In his youth, Padre Pio tended a handful of sheep. At the age of ten he contracted typhoid fever and nearly died. After his recovery he wished to become a Capuchin friar, and his father thereafter spent several years in sailing back and forth to America (a common practice at that time) to obtain work in order to finance more schooling for Padre Pio, in preparation for the priesthood.
3 – CHILDHOOD VISIONS AND VICTIM OF DIVINE LOVE: In childhood Padre Pio experienced paranormal visions with such frequency that he took the episodes for granted and assumed that others experienced similar phenomena. He confided this information only later in life to a priest and was surprised to learn that such occurrence is rare. Padre Pio also suffered from a desire to be a “victim of divine love,” a religious concept whereby a person wishes intensely to endure constant and severe suffering, to atone for the failings of mankind.
4 – BECOMES A FRANCISCAN (CAPUCHIN): On January 6, 1903 at the age of 16, he departed to the town of Morcone to join the friary of Saints Philip and James of the Capuchin Order of the Friars Minor, a “mendicant” order. (Capuchins live in poverty by design; they own nothing and live essentially as beggars in the world.) To symbolize their poverty Capuchins never shave their faces and never wear shoes—only open leather sandals. They never wear hats but attach brown woolen hoods to their garments. They spend a significant portion of each day in prayer, maintain long periods of silence, and always travel in pairs. At the friary, Padre Pio lived in a cell furnished with a table, chair, washstand, and water jug; he slept on a cornhusk mattress. He received the Capuchin garments in a ceremony on January 22, 1903. On that day the former Francesco Forgione adopted the name of Padre Pio of Pietrelcina. As a symbol of austerity, Capuchin friars never used surnames, thus for legal purposes Padre Pio signed his name as “Padre Pio of Pietrelcina al secolo Francesco Forgione.” He took the name of “Pio” in honor of Pope Pius I, whose relic he often saw at his local chapel.
5 – SUFFERING SERVANT ORDAINED A PRIEST: Throughout his lifetime Padre Pio suffered from a severe but undiagnosed stomach disorder that caused persistent pain and vomiting. Beginning in December of 1908 his superiors sent him home on numerous occasions. Inexplicably the symptoms disappeared each time he departed the friary; transfers to friaries at other locations failed to alleviate the symptoms. At the age of 23 he traveled from his hometown of Pietrelcina to the cathedral of Benevento in Morcone. There Archbishop Paolo Schinosi ordained Padre Pio as a Roman Catholic priest on August 10, 1910.
6 – RECIEVES STIGMATA: Padre Pio developed marks of stigmata initially in 1910 at San Nicandro. A doctor examined Padre Pio and diagnosed tuberculosis of the skin. Following the medical diagnosis Padre Pio returned to his hometown for a time. On October 28, 1911, he moved to the friary of San Nicandro at Venafro, where Padre Agostino was vicar. Padre Pio was personally humiliated by the painful markings and kept his hands hidden at all times. The wounds disappeared for a time, only to reappear more acutely nearly a decade later. The Stigmata reflects the wounds of Jesus on the cross. The hands and feet and side all bleed. Padre Pio was the first Priest to receive the Stigmata (St. Francis of Assisi was a Deacon).
7 – VISIONS AND BI-LOCATION AND LEVITATION: Padre Pio received visitations from the Virgin Mary, Jesus, and angels. In addition to the visitations and stigmata, Padre Pio was reportedly prone to bi-location phenomena, appearing in two locations simultaneously. The most remarkable of these reported incidents occurred on January 18, 1905 shortly before midnight. Padre Pio was in the choir at the friary when, according to his description, his mind traveled to a location in Udine where a child was being born prematurely just moments before the death of her father. In 1923 he met the girl and “recognized” her. The girl’s mother recalled very clearly the death of her husband and the vision of a Capuchin monk in Udine on the night when the girl was born. Also, Padre Pio had been observed levitating during a period of prayerful ecstasy.
8 – PADRE PIO AS AN ARMY PRIVATE: With the outbreak of World War I in November 1914, many Capuchins were drafted into the Italian army. Padre Pio was drafted into the 10th Company of the Italian Medical Corps in Naples, under the name of Private Francesco Forgione. His stomach discomfort continued, and army doctors diagnosed chronic bronchitis. They granted him a medical leave of absence, and he returned to Pietrelcina.
9 – STIGMATA FOR LIFE: Beginning in August 1918, Padre Pio developed permanent, painful stigmata that bled intermittently for the next 50 years and disappeared only a few days before his death. A series of doctors examined the wounds of Padre Pio and verified the existence of the condition, but left no written comment or explanation. Luigi Romanelli, chief physician of the City Hospital of Barletta, examined the priest’s wounds five times over the course of one year. Professor Giuseppe Bastianelli, physician to Pope Benedict XV agreed that the wounds indeed existed but made no other comment. Angelo Maria Merla of San Giovanni Rotondo noted that the wounds were not tubercular in origin. The wounds bled severely at times, although medical examiners reported no fever, nor anemia or change of blood pressure associated with the condition. According to witnesses the wounds of Padre Pio emitted a distinctively fragrant odor, and all other abrasions to Padre Pio’s body healed normally during those years, including an incision to repair a hernia. As with the earlier incident, Padre Pio felt humiliation at the visible stigmata, but stated nevertheless that he welcomed the pain for all mankind; his greatest wish was to die.
10 – POPULARITY, VATICAN INTERVENTION AND PROPHECY OF A FUTURE POPE: Padre Pio became very popular with the people he encountered. They began to see that he was capable of performing miracles. Many healings were attributed to him. His popularity became a source of concern for the Church and the Vatican began to restrict his activities to minimize public interaction. Padre Pio himself was uncomfortable with his newfound popularity and the attention he received because of his stigmata. A Church investigation into his stigmata concluded that his condition was not faked. By 1934, the Vatican began to change its attitude towards Padre Pio and he was again allowed to perform public duties. He was allowed to preach, despite never being officially licensed by the Church to do so. Pope Pius XI encouraged people to visit him. In 1947, Fr. Karol Wojtyla visited Padre Pio who prophetically told him he would rise to the highest post in the Church.” Fr. Karol Wojtyla became Pope John Paul II in 1978.
11- INTERNATIONAL FAME: Padre Pio became internationally famous. He was known for his piety, charity and the quality of his preaching. He famously advised, “Pray, hope and don’t worry.” Besides his stomach problems and stigmata, he had other illnesses as well, including cancer which was miraculously healed after just two treatments. However his arthritis, which plagued him in his later years, never went away.
12 – DEATH AND SAINTHOOD: Padre Pio died of an apparent heart attack at the friary of Our Lady of Grace in the Italian village of San Giovanni Rotondo on the morning of September 23, 1968. Over 100,000 people attended his funeral. After his death, the friars and other associates were eager to begin the lengthy process of canonization, whereby the mystic might be named a saint of the Catholic Church. Pope John Paul II beatified the memory of Padre Pio at a Mass on May 2, 1999 in St. Peter’s Square in Vatican City, as a final step in preparation for sainthood. Pope John Paul II recognized Padre Pio as a Saint on June 16, 2002. Over 300,000 people attended. His feast day is September 23. He is the patron of civil defense volunteers, adolescents, and the village of Pietrelcina.
Based on information from encyclopedia.com and Catholic.org. Photo by Doug Lawrence
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.
The Pool of Bethesda (with the five porticoes) where Jesus healed a man who had been infirm for 38 years. It is interesting that the Romans built their own temple right next to it that was for their god of healing, Aesculapius.
I believe very strongly in the power of prayer. When anyone asks me to pray for them, or for a loved one, I immediately tell them that I will. So often these prayers are for some kind of healing to take place. Since my own real conversion to the Lord in 1972, I have seen so many of these prayers answered; but I have also seen so many that seem to be unanswered. It often appears to be quite a confusing process. If we pray for someone, and they are healed, it is fantastic. If we pray for someone and they are not healed, it seems so sad. A big question to ask is, do we give someone false hope in saying that they may receive a healing? Another question is what do they think of God who sometimes seems to heal people and sometimes seems to ignore them? The Church tells us that God wants us to pray to Him for help in every situation. Scriptures are full of examples of miraculous healings at the hands of Jesus and at the hands of the Apostles and other members of the early Church. Throughout the ages we have had so many accounts of Saints who have brought healings to people. It seems that every place where there has been a Marian Apparition, healings abound. There is no doubt that miraculous healings do occur, but certainly not apparently in every case.
In my own life I have seen miraculous healing occur in me, as a result of prayer. Around 1980, I went for an annual checkup. This was done in a clinic where they did all of the body fluid tests, and X-rays and then sent a report to my personal physician. A few days after the tests, my physician called me and told me he wanted to see me in his office as soon as possible. I went in and he told me that the chest X-ray that they took showed a mass growing between my heart and my lung. He also told me that since this report came from a clinic where a lot of people were treated at the same time, a mistake could have been made. He had me go for a new chest X-ray. The new X-ray confirmed that there was a sizeable mass growing between my heart and my lung. My doctor then referred me to a thoracic surgeon. By now I was quite concerned and I asked my local parish charismatic prayer group to pray for me. They all gathered around me and laid hands upon me and prayed for a healing. I went to the thoracic surgeon and he did another X-ray, this time in his own office. He examined the X-ray and confirmed again the mass being there and said he wanted to schedule me for surgery. I asked him if it was cancerous and he told me that he really wouldn’t know until a biopsy was done on the removed mass. I was scheduled for surgery about two weeks away. I again went to the weekly Charismatic prayer meeting and again they laid hands on me and prayed over me. A few days before the surgery was scheduled, the surgeon sent me to an X-ray facility for what they called a triangulation X-ray. He said he needed this to determine the exact depth and location of the mass so he could operate properly. This was before MRI’s. After that X-ray was taken, he called me back to his office and told me that somehow the mass had totally disappeared. He was dumbfounded as to why, but I told him that I had been prayed over for a healing. He said that was the only explanation he could offer. He scheduled me for follow up X-rays (I figured that all these X-rays would cause cancer, but I had to do it) and none of the follow ups, to this very day, have shown the mass re-appearing. I felt very strongly that it was the Lord who had healed me because of the prayers I went through. God is so good. I have had other healings in my life too, but this was the most dramatic, and best documented.
I have also witnessed many miraculous healings of others. In 1982, I was attending a Priest’s and Deacon’s Conference at the Franciscan University of Steubenville. Although this was open only to Priests and Deacons and Seminarians, on Thursday evening they had a Healing Mass and opened it to the general public. Several priests, known for healing ministries, were there and concelebrated the mass. Fr. Ralph DiOrio was one of those priests and he came down walking among the people sprinkling them with Holy Water while prayers for healing were being said. I was sitting in a row with several priests and deacons and some laypeople. One nearby man, who came in with sunglasses and a red tipped walking cane, was helped to his seat by his wife. It was obvious that he was totally blind. When the Holy Water landed upon him, he let out a large cry and immediately took off his glasses and started looking around. He kept exclaiming, “I can see, I can see”. He and his wife were overjoyed and their eyes were filled with tears of joy. Throughout the rest of the evening the man kept looking all around in wonder. I especially remember him looking through his wife’s pocketbook and looking at various items and pictures. I am not sure if he had ever seen during his lifetime. He acted as if this was the first time he had vision. It was a very wonderful evening with many healings being attested to.
Another time my wife and I were on a retreat at Mount Saint Augustine in Staten Island. Fr. Francis MacNutt was leading the weekend. He was known for the many healings that occurred when he prayed with people. There was a young woman in her early twenties that was there who had difficulty in walking. She had one normal shoe and one shoe that had about a six inch lift on it. She shared that she had been in a bad auto accident and that her leg bone was so damaged that they had to remove six inches from it. She also suffered from some hip injuries. She walked on her own with the lift shoe, but not very well. Fr. MacNutt prayed over her and as hard as it is to believe, her leg started extending. By the time the prayers were over, she had to remove the lift and her regular shoe and walk around barefoot. She not only walked, she ran around leaping and jumping for joy. I remember that for the rest of the weekend she had to go around barefoot because her legs were now the same length. At the end of the weekend, her mom came to pick her up and the minute she saw her daughter leaping and running around in bare feet, she completely broke down in pure joy. If I hadn’t been there to see the whole thing, I probably wouldn’t have believed it. But it HAPPENED! God is good.
I have worked on many healing prayer teams over the last 40 plus years and I have seen many other healings. I have visited Marian Shrines and have seen healings and the evidence of healings. I have been at other conventions and retreats and seen healings. I know, without any doubt, that they do exist. BUT, I have also prayed with many people who have not been healed. I find it so difficult to understand why. Shortly after the healing of the woman with the shortened leg, I came home and went to pray with the teenage son of a member of our prayer group. This young boy had advanced bone cancer. I felt for sure that if we kept praying over him, he would be healed. Unfortunately, he never was, and he died at seventeen. I kept asking the big WHY? I don’t pretend to have the answer to that. Why does healing occur in some people, and not in others? I really dislike it when people say that it is because they do not have enough faith. In my experience, this is not true. Many people with very strong faith have not been healed. We can only answer the question by stating the obvious….we cannot understand the plans of God. We can only trust in Him. We also limit ourselves to what we experience. Our experience is the limited life span that we as humans normally have. However, our God has given us the gift of unlimited life for all of eternity. A child, who dies young, even though we see it as very tragic, is going to live forever. Our own lifespan now, whether it is only a few hours or over one hundred years, is miniscule compared to all of eternity. That person who is “taken away” from us will be reunited with us for all eternity. That is what the Good News is all about. We have LIFE now, so we can LIVE forever.
So where does that leave us when we need healing or when we are asked to pray for healing? First of all, we should depend upon the medical profession to help us. God has given many gifts to the doctors and nurses and others who care for us. Secondly, when there is serious illness, we should go to our local priest and ask to be given the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick. In addition to these we should pray and ask others to pray for us. One of the people that we should ask to pray for us is the Blessed Virgin Mary. She loves her children so very much and wants the best for them. Her prayers for us are so powerful. We should also realize that when we don’t see an apparent miracle, God, through our prayers, has been at work in the situation. Sometimes the healing is more on the spiritual side then on the physical side. Our prayers work, but not always the way we think that they should.
I believe that we are always called to be filled with the HOPE of a MIRACLE and always continue on in praying for those who need it. We should pray for the fullness of life and pray for the best of life. But, we should also know that God has a plan that is much better than we can imagine. We need to be able to say, “Jesus, I trust in you”. His plan for us is for all of us to live together with Him forever and forever and forever. God is good!
“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” Albert Einstein
My wife and I just saw the movie, “Miracles from Heaven” starring Jennifer Garner, Kylie Rogers, Martin Henderson and Queen Latifah. It was certainly a movie that I would recommend to anyone. It is based on a true story about an initially happy Christian family living in Texas. When the movie opens, everything seems as it should be. There is good family communication, a beautiful farm that they live on, and every Sunday they attend an active Evangelical Church with good music and worship. The father even says to the mother, “this is the good life”. Then, the ten year old daughter, Anna, becomes ill. She has a rare, incurable, digestive disorder where her body cannot handle food. This disorder causes her severe pain, and there doesn’t seem any hope from the medical world.
The girl’s mother, played extremely well by Jennifer Garner, will do anything to help her daughter. She struggles with doctors until she finally forces herself upon a specialist in this field at Boston Children’s Hospital. Even this specialist doesn’t give her much hope. The mother never gives up on her daughter, but does give up on her faith in God. The family exhausts all of their financial resources trying to bring comfort to their daughter. The scenes where she is suffering so badly, while the family cannot do anything to help her, are quite intense and you certainly feel the mother’s anguish.
Then, something happens. The daughter is climbing a tall dead tree in their yard in Texas. A branch breaks and Anna plummets thirty feet in to the hollow tree. It takes rescuers many hours to get her out. When they do, she is brought unconscious to the hospital. When Anna awakens, the symptoms of the incurable disease are gone. Anna shares with her mom how God spoke to her in heaven about how he was healing her. I don’t want to get in to too much detail because I don’t want to spoil the story for you, but her healing is seen as a real miracle by all involved, including the doctors. This miracle brings back the faith of her mom as well as the faith of many involved.
At the very end, the mother speaks to their church and says some things that are very important. She recognizes the miraculous healing of her daughter, but also shows how she saw miracles happen throughout the whole journey involving many different people in what would be seen as doing ordinary things. There is a lot of power there, especially when they flash back on these things. After the movie ends, they have pictures and videos of the real family. Make sure you stay for those.
As Catholics, we believe strongly in miracles. Our history is full of them. We also know that miracles don’t always happen in the way we want them. To me, the strength of this movie is not just the actual miraculous healing, but in the family and friends and what they did during the difficult times. God works miracles in so many ways. More often than not, he works them through every day, ordinary actions of love. I would really suggest you take the time to see this movie. It is so much better than so many movies we are exposed to. The faith, love, and gift of family and friendship that this movie offers is so refreshing. God bless.