Category Archives: Saints

Your grateful Black Robe, in the Sonoran Desert, surrounded by Indians, all friendly – by Deacon Marty McIndoe

Aztec Dancers in front of San Xavier del Bac on the Tohono O’odham San Xavier Indian Reservation

If anyone looks in to the plight of the Native Americans, you can’t help but to see that they were treated very poorly by our people and our government. Even today many of them live in abject poverty. Fortunately the Catholic Church has reached out to help in so many different ways. One of the Catholic organizations that does this is Trinity Missions. My wife and I have supported Trinity Missions for many years. We receive their correspondence and keep up with what they do. They basically go out to the poor and abandoned (not just Native Americans) in 7 different countries. They have 39 permanent missions with about 120 priests, deacons, novices and brothers ministering to people in their need. They always go at the invitation of the local bishop and try to train the people they serve to be filled with apostolic zeal to help spread the good news. Over the years I have become good friends with one of their priests and I would like to share a few things about him so you can get a personal idea of what Trinity Missions does.
I first met Father Abram Dono in a strange, but providential way. In the early 80’s I began attending the Catholic Charismatic Priests and Deacons Conference held at the Franciscan University of Steubenville. At one of these meetings, I was in a break out group of about 12 men. Most of them were priests, one was an Abbot and one was a Bishop. I was the only deacon in the group. We began by introducing our selves by name and the diocese we were from. Fr. Abram was in the group and he was one of the first to introduce himself. When he did, I was happy to hear that he was a Trinity Missionary since I had been a benefactor of Trinity Missions. I was also intrigued to hear that he was working with the poor and Indians in Mississippi . I introduced myself as deacon Marty from the Diocese of Rockville Centre. At that point Fr. Abram asked me if I was, by any chance, the deacon Marty from Patchogue. When I told him that I was, he said to me that he had heard that I was a great preacher. This really floored me. The other Priests and Bishop in the room looked surprised. I asked myself how some missionary living in the Deep South could possibly hear about me. I couldn’t wait for the group to end so I could talk to Father Abram.
It turned out that Father Abram had grown up in my parish of St. Francis de Sales in Patchogue and that his mom and dad and brother and sister still lived there. He told me that they had written him mentioning the new deacon and how they enjoyed my homilies. I couldn’t help to smile about how God had put Father Abram and I together in a group of 12 from about 1200 priests and deacons at this conference. God is so good. This started a great friendship that we have right up through today. Father Abram visits our parish for a couple of weeks each summer and I so look forward to seeing him. He also sends regular letters telling about what goes on at his mission in Indian territory in Arizona. His letters are always informative and fun to read, filled with corny jokes.
In 2016 my wife and I went to visit Father Abram at his mission in Arizona. He actually services about 7 different parishes in different Indian reservations. He took us to each reservation. There is no doubt that the Native Americans there live in poverty. I was so very impressed with their faith and their welcoming spirit. When I watched Father Abram interact with them, I could see the great love he had for his people. Most of the churches were primarily open air with dirt floors. There weren’t any fancy decorations or statues, but what was there was faith building. The people went out of their way to welcome us. In the midst of the Sonora desert, near Tucson Arizona, you could feel the strength of the Church at work. Father Abram took us to San Xavier del Bac, and old church built by the Spanish on the Tohono O’odham San Xavier Indian Reservation. The original mission was founded by Jesuits in 1692. The current structure was started in 1756. Due to political reasons, the Jesuits were forced to leave this territory in 1767 by the King of Spain. In 1776 Franciscans came to run the mission. They left around 1843 and the area suffered from a loss of clergy for many years. The Franciscans told the Indians that since priests were not there they would not have the Eucharist, but would still have the Saints with them. These Native Americans embraced the Saints and there is a great devotion to them to this present day (see the picture below). Trinity Missions have been ministering to the Native Americans with all the Sacraments and education that most parishes would have. Father Abram lives with two other Trinity Missionaries in a very simple home on one of the reservations. Our stay with him (we stayed in a nearby motel) was most enjoyable. His main parish near his home is St. Kateri Tekawitha.
It is so important for us to realize that the Church does a tremendous job of reaching out to the poor and marginalized. Trinity Missions does this so very well. Please check them out at their website, www.trinitymissions.org. If you wish to make donations directly to Fr. Abram’s mission with 7 Indian Reservations, send to: Father Abram Dono, S.T., St. Kateri Tekakwitha, 101 W. 31st St., Tucson AZ 85713. If you do this, you too can receive his interesting letters filled with corny jokes.
Father Abram always signs his letters, “Your grateful Black Robe, in the Sonoran Desert, surrounded by Indians, all friendly”. He is gift from God.

Martha and I and Fr. Abram Dono at one of the reservation churches.  You can see how much they love the Saints and love to dress them up.

Our Lady of Fatima at the United Nations –  by Deacon Marty McIndoe

The United Nations in New York City

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.

The Dais for the speakers.  The statue of Fatima is to the right.

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.

The Statue of Our Lady of Fatima at the Dais.

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.

This sculpture is in the United Nations plaza.

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.   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

 

THE BENEFITS OF DAILY MASS by Deacon Marty McIndoe

               Attending daily mass is so important to me, and I have been reaping the benefits of it for several decades.  I am retired now and it is easy for me to attend the 9:00am mass, right after I am finished with the gym.  When I was working, I had to attend the 7:00am mass and then go to the gym and then to work.  Either way, I made the decision to go to daily mass and to go to the gym.  I figured I needed to be healthy both spiritually and physically.  It is hard to separate the two.  I would like to share with you some of the benefits I have seen by going to daily mass in hopes that you too will try to attend daily mass or that if you already do, you may find support for what you are doing.

1 – Being in the Presence of the Lord.  I try to get to mass about 20 minutes early so that I can just sit in His presence.  I offer Him praise and sit quietly listening for any Word he may give me.  So often I have grown in my love of Him and grown in my ability to learn to trust Him in all things.  Our God is an awesome God and His love for us knows no limits.  It is so good to be in His presence.  It is unbelievable how a short time alone before the Lord in the tabernacle can improve your prayer life all day long.

2 – Listening to His Word.  Every day at mass we have two readings and a responsorial psalm.  The first reading is usually from the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) and the second reading is from the Gospels.  The Church does a wonderful job of presenting cycles of readings so that you basically go through all of the important parts of the whole bible in three years.  Sundays are set on a three year cycle and weekday readings are set on a two year cycle.  If you only attend Sunday mass, you do not get the fullness of the readings cycle.  Beginning each day listening to God’s Word and the homily about it can really impact you all day long.  The Church also follows different Liturgical Seasons such as Advent, Lent, Easter, Pentecost and Ordinary time.  The weekday readings emphasize the importance of these Seasons on a daily basis.  Immersing yourself in God’s Word is power giving.

3 – Receiving the Body and Blood of Jesus.  Jesus made it extremely clear that if we want to be filled with the fullness of life, we need to eat His body and drink His blood (Read John Chapter 6).  I would have to say that His Body and His Blood fill me with graces constantly.   Sometimes there is a reason that I cannot attend the morning mass (snow, Doctor, etc) and when that happens, I feel such a loss.  We are used to taking daily multi-vitamins and daily coffee etc. to pick us up, but to me, nothing picks me up better that receiving Him at daily mass.  The strength given to me by that lasts all day and affects every part of the person that I am.  I believe that I have an abundant life because I receive my Lord every day in the Eucharist.

4 – Experiencing Community.   Daily mass has less people in it than does Sunday mass.  Because of this, you get to meet these people and share your lives with them.  I know this can be true of Sunday mass, but daily mass emphasizes it.  You learn of your fellow parishioners ups and downs and you share a better level of community.  In our parish, every Wednesday we go over to our parish center and share with each other what the readings of the day have meant to us.  We usually have about 20 attend and it is a wonderful experience.  Also, at daily mass you get to know the things that are happening as they happen, not one week later like at Sunday mass.  We always have people who are struggling with health and life issues and daily mass allows us to be more supportive, especially on the days that they need it the most.  Community is a very important gift.

5 – Know your Priests and Deacons.  Daily mass gives us more of an opportunity to know the clergy that support our parishes.  They also get to know you better.  There is usually more time for meeting with the clergy.  You can also get to appreciate the homilies that they give.  You can bring support to them, and they can bring support to you.

               In closing, I cannot emphasize enough how important daily mass is to me.  I feel that I am a much stronger Christian because of it.  I know that I am closer to the Lord, and hear His voice better because of it.  It is also wonderful to know that people all over the world are hearing the same scriptures and receiving the same Lord at the same time I do.  You certainly get a fuller appreciation of the gift that the Church is to the world.  There are so many great books on the mass, but one that really touched me is Scott Hahn’s “The Lamb’s Supper: The Mass as Heaven on Earth”.  In it we see that we are really sharing in a little bit of heaven every time we attend mass.  I personally want to do that every day.

               I will end with some quotes that Dr. Taylor Marshall found about the Eucharist.  They say so much.  He says: These quotes remind me of the hidden mystery of the Holy Mass. I plan to review them before Mass during Lent. I’d encourage you to do the same if you also struggle with distractions. I may print them out on a card and put them in my missal:

  1. When the Eucharist is being celebrated, the sanctuary is filled with countless angels who adore the divine victim immolated on the altar. ~ St. John Chrysostom
  2. The angels surround and help the priest when he is celebrating Mass. ~ St. Augustine
  3. If we really understood the Mass, we would die of joy. ~ Saint Jean Vianney
  4. The celebration of Holy Mass is as valuable as the death of Jesus on the cross. ~ Saint Thomas Aquinas
  5. Once, St. Teresa was overwhelmed with God’s Goodness and asked Our Lord “How can I thank you?” Our Lord replied, “ATTEND ONE MASS.”
  6. “My Son so loves those who assist at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass that, if it were necessary He would die for them as many times as they’ve heard Masses.” Our Lady to Blessed Alan.
  7. When we receive Holy Communion, we experience something extraordinary – a joy, a fragrance, a well-being that thrills the whole body and causes it to exalt. ~ Saint Jean Vianney
  8. There is nothing so great as the Eucharist. If God had something more precious, He would have given it to us. ~ Saint Jean Vianney
  9. When we have been to Holy Communion, the balm of love envelops the soul as the flower envelops the bee. ~ Saint Jean Vianney
  10. It would be easier for the world to survive without the sun than to do without Holy Mass. ~ St. Pio of Pietrelcina

That last quote from Saint Pio is profound. The entire cosmos is sustained by the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass…

 

 

The Power of God Working at Lourdes by Deacon Marty McIndoe

A Lourdes procession at night.

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.

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!

 

 

 

St. John the Apostle and Evangelist by Deacon Marty McIndoe

Today we celebrate St. John, the Apostle and Evangelist.  He is the man referred to in the Gospels as “the beloved disciple”.  He is also the one who stood at the foot of the cross with Mary and to whom Jesus said to Mary, “here is your son”.  Jesus then said to John, “here is your mother”.  There is no doubt that there is something very special about John and his relationship to Jesus and Mary.   When you compare the four Gospels, the Gospel of St. John stands out for his deep theological wonders.   John starts his Gospel by saying:   “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.”  John reveals the true nature of Jesus, long before the incarnation.  I thought that since we have just celebrated Christmas, God becoming man, we could look at St. John’s reflection on the Word made flesh.  To do this please read over 1 John 1:1-2:3 and then read the following written by St. Augustine.

A treatise by St Augustine on the epistle of John – The flesh revealed Life itself

 

We announce what existed from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our own eyes, what we have touched with our own hands. Who could touch the Word with his hands unless the Word was made flesh and lived among us?

Now this Word, whose flesh was so real that he could be touched by human hands, began to be flesh in the Virgin Mary’s womb; but he did not begin to exist at that moment. We know this from what John says: What existed from the beginning. Notice how John’s letter bears witness to his Gospel, which you just heard a moment ago: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God.

Someone might interpret the phrase the Word of life to mean a word about Christ, rather than Christ’s body itself which was touched by human hands. But consider what comes next: and life itself was revealed. Christ therefore is himself the Word of life.

And how was this life revealed? It existed from the beginning, but was not revealed to men, only to angels, who looked upon it and feasted upon it as their own spiritual bread. But what does Scripture say? Mankind ate the bread of angels.

Life itself was therefore revealed in the flesh. In this way what was visible to the heart alone could become visible also to the eye, and so heal men’s hearts. For the Word is visible to the heart alone, while flesh is visible to bodily eyes as well. We already possessed the means to see the flesh, but we had no means of seeing the Word. The Word was made flesh so that we could see it, to heal the part of us by which we could see the Word.

John continues: And we are witnesses and we proclaim to you that eternal life which was with the Father and has been revealed among us – one might say more simply “revealed to us.”

We proclaim to you what we have heard and seen. Make sure that you grasp the meaning of these words. The disciples saw our Lord in the flesh, face to face; they heard the words he spoke, and in turn they proclaimed the message to us. So we also have heard, although we have not seen.

Are we then less favoured than those who both saw and heard? If that were so, why should John add: so that you too may have fellowship with us? They saw, and we have not seen; yet we have fellowship with them, because we and they share the same faith.

And our fellowship is with God the Father and Jesus Christ his Son. And we write this to you to make your joy complete – complete in that fellowship, in that love and in that unity.

 

Lord Jesus, thank you for giving us the gift of St. John.  May we always read his Gospel in wonder and awe.  May we also be as fervent in spreading the Good News, as he was.

 

Advent Saints – St. Peter Canisius by Deacon Marty McIndoe

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. John of the Cross by Deacon Marty McIndoe

St John of the Cross

               St. John of the Cross was born in 1542 in Spain.  He learned self sacrificial love from a very young age.  His father came from rich Nobility but fell in love with a commoner.  His father married this common young daughter of a seamstress and in doing so gave up all of his wealth and titles of nobility.  Unfortunately, his father died when John was quite young, and John’s mother had to work hard and sacrifice a great deal in order to feed her family.  They lived a very poor existence.  

               John did well in school, but when sent to an apprenticeship, he didn’t do well.  He then began working in a hospital for the poor and cared for patients with incurable illnesses and mental health problems.  He ministered to these patients learning that from poverty and suffering he could find the beauty of God.

               John joined the Carmelite order but desired a more prayerful place then they had.  He desired to reform the order to its previous rules.  He met St. Teresa of Avila and together they worked to reform the order.  Unfortunately, some of his brother Carmelites felt threatened by this reform and they locked St. John in a cell and beat him regularly.  There was only one tiny window in the cell but even in that unbearable dark, cold and desolation, his love and faith of God brought him comfort.  He composed many poems in this cell.  After some time, he finally escaped and went on to another monastery.  Because of all the sufferings he had during his lifetime, he began calling himself John of the Cross.  His love for Jesus and the Cross gave him the power to write many poems and books and other writings.    Today the Church considers him a Mystic, and his writings reflect his mysticism.  Some of his writings are, “The Ascent of Mount Carmel”; “The Dark Night of the Soul”; “The Spiritual Canticle”; “O Living Flame of Love”;”A Collection of Spiritual Maxims” and several letters and poems.  All of these are considered spiritual classics.

               I have put together some of his quotes:

“Strive to preserve your heart in peace; let no event of this world disturb it.”

“The endurance of darkness is the preparation for great light.”

“The soul that is quick to turn to speaking and conversing is slow to turn to God.”

“It is best to learn to silence the faculties and to cause them to be still so that God may speak.”

“Who teaches the soul if not God?”

“What we need most in order to make progress is to be silent before this great God with our appetite and with our tongue, for the language he best hears is silent love.”

Faith “is like the feet wherewith the soul journeys to God, and love is the guide that directs it.”

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

“Take God for your spouse and friend and walk with him continually, and you will not sin and will learn to love, and the things you must do will work out prosperously for you.”

  

Advent Saints – St. Lucy by Deacon Marty McIndoe

lucy

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

 

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.”

Advent Saints – Mary, The Immaculate Conception by Deacon Marty McIndoe

immaculate-conception-virgin-mary-blessed

The Blessed Virgin Mary is the greatest of all Saints and is venerated with a special cult.  She is called by St. Thomas Aquinas, hyperdulia, as the holiest of all creatures.  Her Feast Day on December 8th celebrates her Immaculate Conception.  Many people think that this refers to the conception of Jesus, but it is all about the conception of Mary by Saint Anne.  The conception of Jesus is celebrated as the Annunciation of the Lord on March 25th, exactly nine months before Jesus’ birthday on December 25th.  The birthday of Mary is celebrated exactly nine months after the Immaculate Conception, on September 8th.  When you think about it, these dates make a lot of sense.

So what is the Immaculate Conception?  Very simply it tells us that by a special grace from God Mary was conceived without original sin.  This was to make her ready to receive the God made Man, Jesus.  She was to be the New Ark of the Covenant, the very dwelling place of God.  Sin could not be present where God was present.  Although the doctrine was promulgated fairly recently, in 1854 by Pope Pius IX , it dates back to the very earliest days of the Church.   Many of the early Church fathers reflected on it and many scripture passages hint at it, but it took a long time for Theologians to deal with it.  Two Franciscans, William of Ware and Blessed John Duns Scotus, helped develop the theology. They pointed out that Mary’s Immaculate Conception enhances Jesus’ redemptive work. Other members of the human race are cleansed from original sin after birth by baptism. In Mary, Jesus’ work was so powerful as to prevent original sin at the moment of conception.

Even though there was no official promulgation until 1854, and even though theologians were late in defining it, the Church and its peoples celebrated it.  There are indications the Feast was celebrated as early as the 600’s.  Initially it was known as the Conception of Saint Anne.  By the 11th century it bore its present name, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception of Mary.  For those who would like some further information on the Feast, I would recommend going to Catholic Answers.  I am giving you the link to the page where it shows Scriptural references for the Feast.  Just click here:  http://www.catholic.com/blog/tim-staples/the-immaculate-conception-in-scripture.

 

Here are some quotes from early Church fathers about the Immaculate Conception:

“She was the ark formed of incorruptible wood. For by this is signified that His tabernacle was exempt from putridity and corruption.” – St. Hippolytus (circa 235 A.D.)

“This Virgin Mother of the Only begotten of God is called Mary, worthy of God, immaculate of the immaculate, one of the one.” – Origen (244)

“Thou alone and Thy Mother are in all things fair; there is no flaw in Thee and no stain in Thy Mother.” – St. Ephraim (370)

“Mary, a virgin not only undefiled but a virgin whom grace has made inviolate, free of every stain of sin.” – St. Ambrose (388)

“A Virgin, innocent, spotless, free of all defect, untouched, unsullied, holy in soul and body, like a lily sprouting among thorns.” – Theodotus of Ancrya (446)

“The very fact that God has elected her proves that none was ever holier than Mary; if any stain had disfigured her soul, if any other virgin had been purer and holier, God would have selected her and rejected Mary.” – Jacob of Sarug (521)

“In the womb of the her mother now begins to blossom the earth which will be the dwelling place of the Creator of the earth, the holy scepter, the new ark, the vessel of manna, … the bush which was not consumed by fire, the golden candelabrum, the living bridal room  of the Lord God.” – Hymn for the feast of the Conception of St. Anne (seventh century)

“She is born like the cherubim, she who is of a pure, immaculate clay.” – Theotoknos of Livias (650)

“Today humanity, in all the radiance of her immaculate nobility, receives its ancient beauty.  The shame of sin had darkened the splendor and attraction of human nature; but when the Mother of the Fair One par excellence is born, this nature again regains in her person its ancient privileges and is fashioned according to a perfect model truly worthy of God…. The reform of our nature begins today, and the aged world, subjected to a wholly divine transformation, receives the first fruits of the second creation.” – Andrew of Crete (733)

Advent Saints – St. Ambrose by Deacon Marty McIndoe

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The Basilica of St. Ambrose in Milan.  This was originally built by St. Ambrose and when he died he was entombed here.

               By the time he was 33 years old, Ambrose was a very successful man.  He owned a large estate, was a successful lawyer, was Governor of Milan and was a good friend of the Roman Emperor.   He was just a catechumen in the Catholic faith, but loved God and loved peace.  He lived at a time and in an area where there was great division in the Church over the heresy of Arianism.   In 374 the Bishop of Milan died and those who were for Arianism and those who saw Arianism as a heresy met in the Cathedral to try to determine who the next Bishop would be.  There was so much unrest over this that a riot began to break out between both sides.  Ambrose, as governor, stepped in to try to bring about peace by making a passionate speech, not favoring either side but seeking peace between the two sides.  It was at this time that someone shouted out that Ambrose should be made the Bishop.  The people all seemed to consent and Ambrose said that he couldn’t be, because he was just a catechumen and not even baptized.  Truthfully, it appears that Ambrose was quite happy with his life and did not want to change it.  Now the other Bishops of the Province saw this as a way to avoid making a difficult decision that would certainly upset a large number of people.  They too wanted Ambrose and decided to make him Bishop.  Ambrose quickly ran away trying to avoid this new vocation.

               Ambrose ran to the Emperor trying to get the Emperor to vacate that decision.  The Emperor refused to vacate the decision and told Ambrose that he would make a good Bishop.  Ambrose then went for instructions in Scripture and the Church studying under Saint Simplician.  Ambrose embraced the new vocation fully and was baptized and ordained as Bishop of Milan.  He sold his estate and holdings and gave to the poor.  Ambrose used his skills as a lawyer and orator to fight the Arians in church, court, senate, and even the Emperor’s own family. The same stubbornness that had made him refuse the position in the first place was now his weapon in fighting heresy and pursuing sanctity.

               Besides fighting heresy, Ambrose had to go up against the Goths who were invading the weakened Roman Empire.  The Goths often captured the Christians and offered them up for ransom.  Ambrose said, “It is a better thing to save souls for the Lord than to save treasures. He who sent forth his apostles without gold had not need of gold to form his Church. The Church possesses gold, not to hoard, but to scatter abroad and come to the aid of the unfortunate.  Would not the Lord say to us: ‘Why have you let so many needy perish of hunger? Since you had gold, you should provide for their needs’…Could we say: ‘I feared to leave the temple of God without ornament.’ But that which can’t be bought with gold does not take its value from gold. The best way to use the gold of the Redeemer is for the redemption of those in peril.”

               Not only did Ambrose have to deal with the Goths, but when his friend the Emperor died, the new Emperor tried to take Ambrose’s Church away from him and hand it over to the Arians.  Ambrose refused and was sentenced to death.  Fortunately the people sided with Ambrose and filled his Church.  Roman soldiers were surrounding the Church and the people inside stayed there for days singing songs (this is one of the first written accounts of songs being sung in Church).  They were so loud and filled with faith that even the soldiers outside began singing the songs.  The soldiers were called out for other duties in protecting the Empire.  Ambrose kept control of his Church.  It is interesting to note that later Ambrose helped out the Emperor who was against him.  He showed true forgiveness.

               Ambrose is also known for his work with another great Saint, Saint Augustine.  It was Ambrose who helped Augustine convert to the faith.  Augustine was one of the greatest Saints and impacted the Church tremendously.  Saint Ambrose was certainly a great man who changed history and the Church for the better.

There are many quotes from St. Ambrose.  I share a few of them here.

The fraternity of Christ, is closer than the fraternity of blood.        

Prayer is the wing wherewith the soul flies to heaven, and meditation the eye wherewith we see God.

If it is “daily bread,” why do you take it once a year? . . . Take daily what is to profit you daily. Live in such a way that you may deserve to receive it daily. He who does not deserve to receive it daily, does not deserve to receive it once a year. 

By Christ’s Passion our weakness was cured. By His Resurrection death was conquered. Still we have to be sorrowful for the world, as well as joyful in the Lord, sorrowful in penance, joyful in gratitude.

It is not the ambassador, it is not the messenger, but the Lord Himself that saves His people. The Lord remains alone, for no man can be partner with God in forgiving sins; this office belongs solely to Christ, who takes away the sins of the world. 

True repentance is to cease from sin. 

Our own evil inclinations are far more dangerous than any external enemies.

The rich man who gives to the poor does not bestow alms but pays a debt.

When we speak about wisdom, we are speaking of Christ. When we speak about virtue, we are speaking of Christ. When we speak about justice, we are speaking of Christ. When we speak about peace, we are speaking of Christ. When we speak about truth and life and redemption, we are speaking of Christ.

No duty is more urgent than that of returning thanks.

The Devil tempts that he may ruin and destroy; God tests that He may crown. 

He took what is mine in order that He might impart to me what is His. He took it not to overturn it but to fill it. 

The Lord was Baptized, not to be cleansed Himself, but to cleanse the waters, so that those waters, cleansed by the flesh of Christ which knew no sin, might have the power of Baptism.  

God by nature is uncompounded, joined to nothing, composed of nothing, to whom nothing happens by accident; but only possessing in His own nature that which is divine, enclosing all things, Himself closed out of nothing, penetrating all things, Himself never penetrable, everywhere complete, everywhere present at the same time, whether in heaven or on earth or in the depths of the sea, incapable of being seen or measured by our senses, to be followed only by faith and venerated in our religion.

The Church of the Lord is built upon the rock of the apostles among so many dangers in the world; it therefore remains unmoved. The Church’s foundation is unshakable and firm against assaults of the raging sea. Waves lash at the Church but do not shatter it. Although the elements of this world constantly beat upon the Church with crashing sounds, the Church possesses the safest harbor of salvation for all in distress. There is a stream which flows down on God’s saints like a torrent. There is also a rushing river giving joy to the heart that is at peace and makes for peace. 

 

 

 

              

Advent Saints – St. Nicholas by Deacon Marty McIndoe

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The altar above the tomb of St. Nicholas in Bari, Italy

Saint Nicholas is one of our very popular Saints.  There are many churches named in his honor and he is the Patron Saint of more causes than any other Saint.  He is the Patron Saint of mariners, merchants, bakers, travelers, brides, prisoners, archers, students and especially of children.   He is the Patron Saint of many countries and towns and cities, including New York City.   His popularity goes from east to west around the world.  So who was this man, Saint Nicholas?  He certainly was a lot more than the popular Santa Claus.

Saint Nicholas was the bishop of Myra which is in modern day Turkey.  He lived in the early 300’s and was known to be a very Holy, devout, loving man.  It is difficult to think of Saint Nicholas without thinking of all the legends that surrounded him.  However, most of these legends just emphasize the great person that he truly was.  We do know that he was the son of wealthy parents who raised him as a devout Christian.  His uncle was the local bishop.   Nicholas’s parents died when he was quite young.  They left him a significant estate.  Throughout his life Nicholas used that estate to help the poor.  After his parents died, Nicholas was raised by his uncle, the Bishop of Patara.  During the Roman Diocletian persecution, St. Nicholas was seized, tortured, and imprisoned.  After his release, he continued his many works of charity and served the people of Myra as their bishop.

Nicholas was known for fighting the heresy of Arius.  Nicholas attended the Council of Nicea in 325 where Arius tried to push his heresy.  Nicholas became so angered at Arius that he slapped him in the face.  The other bishops censored Nicholas for this, but later he regained his good status.  The love of Jesus and the love of the Church and the love of the poor consumed Nicholas.   Bishop Nicholas died on December 6, 343 in Myra and he was buried in his Cathedral of Myra.  In later centuries, the area fell in to the hands of non Christians and in the year 1087 a group of Italians took his body and moved it to Bari, Italy where it is today.

There are only a few quotes from St. Nicholas in existence today so I will share two of those, as well as a few quotes from others about him.  The last quote is from Anne Frank during the Nazi holocaust.

“The giver of every good and perfect gift has called upon us to mimic Gods giving, by grace, through faith, and this is not of ourselves.”  St. Nicholas of Myra

“Children, I beseech you to correct your hearts and thoughts, so that you may be pleasing to God. Consider that although we may reckon ourselves to be righteous and frequently succeed in deceiving men, we can conceal nothing from God. Let us therefore strive to preserve the holiness of our souls and to guard the purity of our bodies with all fervor. Ye are the temple of God, says the divine Apostle Paul; If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy.”    St. Nicholas of Myra

“Everybody loves St Nicholas, because St. Nicholas loves everybody.”   Fr Andrew Phillips

“Alas! How dreary would be the world if there was no Santa Claus! There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence.”   Francis P. Church

“Once again St. Nicholas Day Has even come to our hideaway; It won’t be quite as fun, I fear, As the happy day we had last year. Then we were hopeful, no reason to doubt That optimism would win the bout, And by the time this year came round, We’d all be free, and safe and sound. Still, let’s not forget it’s St. Nicholas Day, Though we’ve nothing left to give away. We’ll have to find something else to do: So everyone please look in their shoe!” – Anne Frank, The Diary of a Young Girl

 

Advent Saints – Saint Francis Xavier by Deacon Marty McIndoe

Indian Christians carry the remains of Saint Francis Xavier towards the Se Cathedral during a procession in Goa on November 22, 2014. The 17th exposition of the body of St Francis Xavier will be held from November 22 to January 4, 2015 in Goa, for veneration by pilgrims.  AFP PHOTO/ PUNIT PARANJPE
Indian Christians carry the remains of Saint Francis Xavier towards the Se Cathedral during a procession in Goa on November 22, 2014. AFP PHOTO/ PUNIT PARANJPE

               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.

“That they all might be one” – Our big failure by Deacon Marty McIndoe

Even though Jesus repeatedly calls His people to be united, in practice we are quite divided.  Presently, and tragically, the divisions in Christendom, which is 64 percent Roman Catholic, 13 percent Eastern Churches (mostly Orthodox) and 23 percent Protestant (with an estimate of over 33,000 denominations), speaks very poorly about the unity that Jesus calls us to.

The divisions started in the 400’s and again in 1054 when the Roman Church and Eastern Church split, with the largest split in the 1500’s with the beginning of Protestantism.  Check out the timeline below:

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There is no doubt that the division of the Church is not what Jesus had in mind when he said, “that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be one in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me” John 17:21.

Throughout the ages, there have been many men and women who have worked to bring the Church back together.  One of them is Saint Josaphat.  We celebrate his feast on November 12th.  I thought it would be beneficial for us to take a look at this Saint, who fought hard for, and gave his life for, unifying the Roman and Eastern Churches.

Saint Josaphat was born in Lithuania in 1580 in to an Eastern Catholic family.  The country was divided between Catholics and Orthodox.  When Saint Josaphat was 15, the bishops of the Ukrainian and Byelorussian Churches who lived within the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth held a Ruthenian Synod in 1595 and voted to unite with Rome under Pope Clement VIII.   The churches were united and those who followed the Byzantine rites were allowed to continue doing that.  In 1604 Saint Josaphat entered the Byzantine monastery of The Holy Trinity.  In 1614 he was ordained the Catholic Archbishop of Polotsk.  He always held firm to unity with Rome, but did not like that some Roman Catholics wanted to replace the Byzantine rites with Roman rites.  He believed that unity with Rome was important but that unity did not mean giving up the Byzantine traditions of his people.  Many of the other Catholic bishops of his country did not like Josaphat because he refused to “Latinize” his churches.  Saint Josaphat worked hard to maintain unity with Rome, while maintaining their Byzantine traditions.  He saw no problem with doing that.  Rome certainly agreed, but many of the people in his country did not.

There was considerable political friction between the Catholics and the Orthodox.  The Orthodox ordained their own Archbishop of Polotsk and the frictions reached the point that violence erupted.  While Josaphat was visiting Vitebsk (Belarus), he was cruelly hacked to death on November 12, 1623. He was about forty-five years old.

Josaphat had said before his martyrdom, “I rejoice to offer my life for my holy Catholic faith.” He had prayed, “Grant that I be found worthy, Lord, to shed my blood for the union and obedience to the Apostolic See.”  All that Saint Josaphat did, was done for the sake of Unity of the Church.

In May 1643, twenty years after his death, Pope Urban VIII declared him “Blessed.” But it was not until June 29, 1867, that Pope Pius IX canonized him “Saint.” He was the first saint of the Eastern Church to be formally canonized by Rome.  On November 12, 1923, the tercentenary of Josaphat’s martyrdom, Pope Pius XI declared him the heavenly Patron of Reunion between Orthodox and Catholics. During the Second Vatican Council, at the express wish of Pope John XXIII, who himself was most interested in reunion, the body of St. Josaphat was finally laid to rest at the magnificent altar of St. Basil in St. Peter’s Basilica. This took place on November 25, 1963.  In 1964, newspaper photos of Pope Paul VI embracing Athenagoras I, the Orthodox patriarch of Constantinople, marked a significant step toward the healing of a division in Christendom that has spanned more than nine centuries.  The Church is still working on that unity today.

So what does that mean for us today?  It has been only a few days since the election of our new President.  Newscasters keep telling us that the country is much divided.  Even within families there is a great deal of separation.  Some family members don’t even talk to each other.  The Churches themselves are still much divided and Unity seems almost unreachable.  It appears that we are a people who like to separate ourselves into different camps.  There is no doubt that Jesus called for unity, especially in His Church.  We need to have a certain amount of unity in our country.  Unity within our families is much needed.  Unity is definitely something we must strive for at so many levels.  I know that it is difficult.    However, with a great deal of prayer, and with hard work, I hope someday we can.  May Saint Josaphat pray to help us achieve that unity.

 

 

 

Why We Venerate Relics by Matt Nelson

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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

 

ASSISI, THE HOME OF ST. FRANCIS by Deacon Marty McIndoe

Back in 2004 I was blessed to be able to make a retreat in the beautiful, and old, city of Assisi in Italy.  It was wonderful.  Assisi has the charm of being unchanged since the middle ages.  It also has a true sense of PEACE about it, unlike I have seen anywhere else.  It is certainly a most wonderful place to visit.  I want to share with you some pictures I took there.  God bless you and may St. Francis always lead you to Jesus and the true PEACE that only He can give.

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A statue of St. Francis found in the grounds of nearby La Verna, a place he loved to retreat to.

 

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Looking from the top of the mountain down on to the city of Assisi.  This old section of Assisi was never developed over because the new city was built below it.

 

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Assisi was actually originally a Roman city.  Here is a Roman temple built before the birth of Jesus.  This is in the town square and was a temple to Minerva.  In the 300’s the Christians made  it in to a church now called Mary over Minerva.  I was blessed to assist at mass inside here.

 

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The Church of Mary over Minerva with the middle aged church tower built next to it.  This tower was present at the time of Francis.

 

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One of the city gates built by the Romans

 

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The Church of St. Claire.  This church contains the remains of St. Claire as well as the original cross of San Damiano that spoke to Francis telling him to “Rebuild my Church”.

 

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One of the many small, but beautiful streets of Assisi.

 

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A bell tower of St. Stephen’s church.  A place that Francis loved to visit.

 

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Another quaint street of Assisi.  Great food throughout the city (typical of Italy).  One restaurant that we ate in existed in the time of Francis.  It had a Plexiglas floor that allowed you to see the Roman ruins it was built upon.

 

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Since Assisi is built on a mountain side, many of its streets consist of stairs.

 

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The large Church built over the grave of St. Francis.  It is absolutely beautiful inside.

 

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The outside lawn shows the Franciscan Tau symbol as well as the PAX symbol.  St. Francis was all about the cross and peace.

 

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The actual grave of St. Francis.  The front wall was removed to be able to see his stone coffin.  We had mass here.

 

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Another quaint street of Assisi.

 

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We walked down from Assisi to the Church of San Damiano, as Francis so often did.

 

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On the walk down, we saw the beautiful olive groves with a farmer burning off clippings.

 

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The Church of San Damiano.  It was originally built in the 900’s but had fallen in to ruin by the time of St. Francis.  He loved to go there to pray.  One day the cross inside spoke to him telling him to rebuild the church.  Originally, Francis took this to mean physically rebuilding and he started that.  Later he realized that he was told to rebuild (spiritually) the whole Church.

 

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The cloisters of San Damiano.

 

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Looking up to Assisi from the Church of San Damiano.   Beauty and Peace and God’s Spirit fill all around here.

I hope that this pictorial view of Assisi has helped you to appreciate the beauty of the place St. Francis called home.  If you haven’t been there yet, I hope you get a chance to go.  May our good Lord bless you with His peace.

Saint Jerome, Our Bible Hero by Deacon Marty McIndoe

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Inside the Cave in Bethlehem , next to where Jesus was born, where Saint Jerome lived and translated the Bible.

Saint Jerome was a very learned man who loved the scriptures.  He is the one who said, “Ignorance of the scriptures is ignorance of Christ”.  We celebrate his memorial on September 30th every year.  Let us take a look at this very interesting man.

St. Jerome, was born Eusebius Hieronymous Sophronius in the year 342, in the small town of Stridonius at the head of the Adriatic Sea.  His father was a Christian and made sure that Jerome received the best education possible, both in classical studies and in religion.  His father eventually sent him to Rome to study under some of the best teachers available.  Jerome became fluent in Latin and Greek.  Initially he was overtaken with the hedonistic pleasures offered by the city, but in the year 360 he was baptized by Pope Liberius.  Saint Jerome said, “it was my custom on Sundays to visit, with friends of my own age and tastes, the tombs of the martyrs and Apostles, going down into those subterranean galleries whose walls on both sides preserve the relics of the dead.” Here he enjoyed deciphering the inscriptions that were found on the walls.

Jerome spent about three years in Rome and then set out to see other parts of the world.  He continued to be an avid reader and intellectual and lover of scripture.  There really were no uniform selections of the scriptures then.  During his travels Jerome made a whole hearted decision to dedicate himself to God.  Because of his intellect, and love of reading, he started assembling a library of Christian writings.  After several years of scholarly study, Jerome decided to head to Syria for solitude and prayer.  Even in this solitude and prayer, his hedonistic desires that were set off in Rome began to surface again.  He said, “In the remotest part of a wild and stony desert, burnt up with the heat of the sun, so scorching that it frightens even the monks who live there, I seemed to myself to be in the midst of the delights and crowds of Rome…. In this exile and prison to which through fear of Hell I had voluntarily condemned myself, with no other company but scorpions and wild beasts, I many times imagined myself watching the dancing of Roman maidens as if I had been in the midst of them. My face was pallid with fasting, yet my will felt the assaults of desire. In my cold body and my parched flesh, which seemed dead before its death, passion was still able to live. Alone with the enemy, I threw myself in spirit at the feet of Jesus, watering them with my tears, and tamed my flesh by fasting whole weeks. I am not ashamed to disclose my temptations, though I grieve that I am not now what I then was.”

To help with his growth away from passion and towards Jesus, Jerome began to study Hebrew.  He said, “When my soul was on fire with wicked thoughts, as a last resort, I became a pupil to a monk who had been a Jew, in order to learn the Hebrew alphabet.  What labor it cost me, what difficulties I went through, how often I despaired and abandoned it.  I thank our Lord that I now gather such sweet fruit from the bitter sowing of those studies.”  This new knowledge of Hebrew allowed him to later translate the Hebrew Scriptures.

Jerome moved to Bethlehem where he opened a free school and also a hospice for pilgrims.  Now Jerome had some years of peaceful activity. He describes Bethlehem as a place of peace where travelers come from all over the world.  He said, “They come in throngs and set us examples of every virtue. The languages differ but the religion is the same; as many different choirs chant the psalms as there are nations…. Here bread and herbs, planted with our own hands, and milk, all country fare, furnish us plain and healthy food. In summer the trees give us shade. In autumn the air is cool and the falling leaves restful. In spring our psalmody is sweeter for the singing of the birds. We have plenty of wood when winter snow and cold are upon us. Let Rome keep its crowds, let its arenas run with blood, its circuses go mad, its theaters wallow in sensuality….”

While in Bethlehem, living in a cave right next to where Jesus was born, Jerome began translating the Hebrew Scriptures in to Latin.  He also had to learn a new language, Chaldaic, because parts of the Old Testament were written in that.  He strived to have the most authentic translation that was possible.  He also worked with many Church leaders and scholars to put together the full text of the Bible as we have it today.  It should be noted that in the sixteenth century, the Council of Trent, affirmed St. Jerome’s Vulgate Bible as the most authentic and authoritative Latin text of the Church.  Besides his translation of the Bible, St. Jerome produced many biblical commentaries.  He was a great preacher and fought many heresies that were springing up.  St. Jerome’s love for scripture has given all of us a gift that we must give thanks to God for.  He did so much to bring the Word of God to Life, so that people could read and understand it.  May he always help us to love and devour God’s Word.
 

 

12 Facts about Saint Padre Pio by Deacon Marty McIndoe

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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

 

 

 

The Church, from the very Beginning…was Catholic! By Kenneth Henderson – Part 2 of 3

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The Synagogue in Capernaum where Jesus and His disciples visited many times.

We can see by the year A.D. 110, in the writings of Saint Ignatius of Antioch, a disciple of Saint John, yes “that” John, that the Church had bishops that had authority. That they were to obey the clergy and deacons, just as they would the apostles. They were also supposed to regard the bishop as a “type” of the Father. (…hmmm, sound familiar?) Also note that the Eucharist was only valid if the bishop or by a person authorized by the bishop were to celebrate it. They had a council and a college of apostles and without these it could not be called a church. Why? Because Jesus provided an authoritative teaching body in the Church to maintain the Truth, guided by the Holy Spirit. Ignatius even calls the Church, the Catholic Church! Sounds like what we refer to today as the Magisterium of the Catholic Church. Read for yourself.

Ignatius of Antioch

Follow your bishop, every one of you, as obediently as Jesus Christ followed the Father. Obey your clergy too as you would the apostles; give your deacons the same reverence that you would to a command of God. Make sure that no step affecting the Church is ever taken by anyone without the bishop’s sanction. The sole Eucharist you should consider valid is one that is celebrated by the bishop himself, or by some person authorized by him. Where the bishop is to be seen, there let all his people be; just as, wherever Jesus Christ is present, there is the Catholic Church (Letter to the Smyrneans 8:2 [A.D. 110]). –> Read online in its entirety here

For, since you are subject to the bishop as to Jesus Christ, you appear to me to live not after the manner of men, but according to Jesus Christ, who died for us, in order, by believing in His death, you may escape from death. It is therefore necessary that, as you indeed do, so without the bishop you should do nothing, but should also be subject to the presbytery 1, as to the apostle of Jesus Christ, who is our hope, in whom, if we live, we shall [at last] be found. It is fitting also that the deacons, as being [the ministers] of the mysteries 2 of Jesus Christ, should in every respect be pleasing to all. For they are not ministers of meat and drink, but servants of the Church of God. They are bound, therefore, to avoid all grounds of accusation [against them], as they would do fire.

Be you subject to the bishop as to the Lord, for “he watches for your souls, as one that shall give account to God.” (Heb 13:17) Wherefore also, you appear to me to live not after the manner of men, but according to Jesus Christ, who died for us, in order that, by believing in His death, you may by baptism be made partakers of His resurrection. It is therefore necessary, whatsoever things you do, to do nothing without the bishop. And be you subject also to the presbytery, as to the apostles of Jesus Christ, who is our hope, in whom, if we live, we shall be found in Him. It behooves you also, in every way, to please the deacons, who are [ministers] of the mysteries of Christ Jesus; for they are not ministers of meat and drink, but servants of the Church of God. They are bound, therefore, to avoid all grounds of accusation [against them], as they would a burning fire. Let them, then, prove themselves to be such. (Letter to the Trallians 2:1-2 [A. D. 110]). –> Read online in its entirety here

1- presbytery translates in English as priest, ministers.
2- Mysteries of Christ, also translated as Sacraments 

In like manner let everyone respect the deacons as they would respect Jesus Christ, and just as they respect the bishop as a type of the Father, and the presbyters as the council of God and college of the apostles. Without these, it cannot be called a Church. I am confident that you accept this, for I have received the exemplar of your love and have it with me in the person of your bishop. His very demeanor is a great lesson and his meekness is his strength. I believe that even the godless do respect him (Letter to the Trallians 3:1-2 [A. D. 110]). –> Read online in its entirety here

The early church was NOT an unorganized band of Christian followers, but a very organized group, even though they were most of the time practicing their faith “underground” due to persecution. There were no factions or splinter groups that were allowed to stay in operation, but as Ignatius points out, if you were not in union with and under the authority of the bishops, then you were not following the Church that Jesus Christ established.

In the Martyrdom of Saint Polycarp, also a disciple of John the Apostle, written around A.D. 160 we can see that the Church at the time was Catholic and shows that the church was seen as a unified Church.

The Martyrdom of Polycarp

When finally he concluded his prayer, after remembering all who had at any time come his way – small folk and great folk, distinguished and undistinguished, and the whole Catholic Church throughout the world – the time for departure came. So they placed him on an ass, and brought him into the city on a great Sabbath (The Martyrdom of Polycarp 8 [A.D. 160]). –> Read online in its entirety here

We also see in the writings of Saint Irenaeus in A.D. 189 that he refers to a unified Church. Of important note, this writing comes from his Letter Against Heresies. He is pointing out in the letter that any who teach a gospel outside of the unity of the Catholic Church are teaching heresy.

Irenaeus

The Catholic Church possesses one and the same faith throughout the whole world, as we have already said (Against Heresies 1:10 [A.D. 189]). –> Read online in its entirety here

Since therefore we have such proofs, it is not necessary to seek the truth among others which it is easy to obtain from the Church; since the apostles, like a rich man [depositing his money] in a bank, lodged in her hands most copiously all things pertaining to the truth: so that every man, whosoever will, can draw from her the water of life. For she is the entrance to life; all others are thieves and robbers. On this account we are bound to avoid them, but to make choice of the things pertaining to the Church with the utmost diligence, and to lay hold of the tradition of the truth. For how stands the case? Suppose there should arise a dispute relative to some important question among us. Should we not have recourse to the most ancient churches with which the apostles held constant intercourse, and learn from them what is certain and clear in regard to the present question? For how should it be if the apostles themselves had not left us writings? Would it not be necessary [in that case] to follow the course of the tradition which they handed down to those to whom they did commit the church? (ibid. 3:4). –> Read online in its entirety here

Did he say that we are to lay hold of the tradition of the truth? Yes, he did. And how did he say we should solve disputes and questions about what we should believe? We should have recourse to the ancient churches, which at this point in history were only around 200 years old. Still, that is a long time. Yet, here we are 2000 years later, and yet those outside of the Catholic Church, do not follow his advice.

 

LOOK FOR PART 3 ON WEDNESDAY