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Saints

John Paul II – Henceforth Shall Be Called Blessed


My Pope’s a Blessed!

I remember seeing pictures of Bl. John XXIII in old relative’s houses, have vague recollections of Pope Paul VI, but I will never forget Sr. Mary announcing over the PA system that Pope John Paul died suddenly after only a 33 day reign.  I was in second grade when the whole class-the whole school-at St. Mary’s was glued to the TV waiting for the white smoke.  It was a beehive as the Filippini sisters kept making announcements and scurrying in and out of classrooms.  That’s when I first met my Pope.  We 20…30…errr…40-somethings can say that since JPII was pope for most of our lives.

For all the critics out there who think the pope is santo too subito, was too conservative, too liberal, mishandled the sex abuse response, etc., one thing is indisputable:  Karol Wojtyla lived a life animated by the Gospel…and that is a definition of a saint.  From his childhood struggles, his witness of the horrors and cruelty man can perpetrate against man, his underground pursuit of a priestly vocation, Karol Wojtyla centered his life on Christ and used his extraordinary gifts to preach what he lived.  This man left a mark on history that will be analyzed for decades, theological and philosophical writings that will be read for centuries with the likes of Augustine and Leo, but most importantly, he inspired generations of young people not to be afraid to follow Jesus.

Although I missed a small audience I was invited to attend due to the fact I was arrested by the Caribineiri (a story for another post) I did get to walk in a procession at Mass and sit a short distance from JPII (I have a coffee table book of the Pope’s Italian Marian Shrine tour and I’m clearly in a picture).  I’m overjoyed to see my Pope beatified, and will pray to him to intercede on my behalf that I may keep Christ as the center of my life,  use my talents to make the Gospel known, and live a life of courage to follow Jesus.

O God, who are rich in mercy
and who willed that the Blessed John Paul II
should preside as Pope over your universal Church,
grant, we pray, that instructed by his teaching,
we may open our hearts to the saving grace of Christ,
the sole Redeemer of mankind.
Who lives and reigns for ever and ever.  Amen.

John Paul II, Pray for us

Some links…

Vatican Video – Watch Everything Here
Pope John Paul II’s Tomb Opened
JPII Official Facebook Page
Fr. Barron on What Makes a Saint
Abp. Dolan on Pope John Paul’s Heroic Sanctity
Fr. Martin, SJ on Why a Liberal Catholic Likes JPII
Pope’s Biographer, George Weigel, on Remembering JPII
Bishop Tobin Reflects on the Beatification
Abp. Dolan on JPII Priests


St. Catherine of Siena – Doctor of Unity

St. Catherine of Siena as Spiritual Mother of the Second and Third Orders of St. Dominic, Cosimo Roselli  c.1499

Today, April 29, is the feast day of the great Dominican saint and Doctor of the Church, Catherine of Siena.  Her amazing life and spirituality has been well documented–which even began during her lifetime .  Catherine Benincasa was born in Siena on Palm Sunday, March 5, 1347, the 23rd of 25 children.  She is the patroness of large families!  At a very young age she began to show signs of her mystical spirituality.  At the age of 5 she would recite a “Hail Mary” for each step she climbed up the staircase of her home, and at age 6 she had the first of many visions:
“So it happened that Catherine, being arrived at the age of six, went one day with her brother Stephen, who was a little older than herself, to the house of their sister Bonaventura, who was married to one Niccol, as has been mentioned above, in order to carry something or give some message from their mother Lapa. Their mother’s errand accomplished, while they were on the way back from their sister’s house to their own and were passing along a certain valley, called by the people Valle Piatta, the holy child, lifting her eyes, saw on the opposite side above the Church of the Preaching Friars a most beautiful room, adorned with regal magnificence, in which was seated, on an imperial throne, Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world, clothed in pontifical vestments, and wearing on His head a papal tiara; with Him were the princes of the Apostles, Peter and Paul, and the holy evangelist John. Astounded at such a sight, Catherine stood still, and with fixed and immovable look, gazed, full of love, on her Savior, who, appearing in so marvelous a manner, in order sweetly to gain her love to Himself, fixed on her the eyes of His Majesty, and, with a tender smile, lifted over her His right hand, and, making the sign of the Holy Cross in the manner of a bishop, left with her the gift of His eternal benediction. The grace of this gift was so efficacious, that Catherine, beside herself, and transformed into Him upon whom she gazed with such love, forgetting not only the road she was on, but also herself, although naturally a timid child, stood still for a space with lifted and immovable eyes in the public road, where men and beasts were continually passing, and would certainly have continued to stand there as long as the vision lasted, had she not been violently diverted by others. But while the Lord was working these marvels, the child Stephen, leaving her standing still, continued his way down hill, thinking that she was following, but, seeing her immovable in the distance and paying no heed to his calls, he returned and pulled her with his hands, saying: ‘What are you doing here? why do you not come?’ Then Catherine, as if waking from a heavy sleep, lowered her eyes and said: ‘Oh, if you had seen what I see, you would not distract me from so sweet a vision!’ and lifted her eyes again on high; but the vision had entirely disappeared, according to the will of Him who had granted it, and she, not being able to endure this without pain, began with tears to reproach herself for having turned her eyes to earth.” Such was the “call” of St. Catherine of Siena, and, to a mind intent on mystical significance, the appearance of Christ, in the semblance of His Vicar, may fitly appear to symbolize the great mission of her after-life to the Holy See.
As one writer put it, “Such was the ‘call’ of Saint Catherine of Siena … and the appearance of Christ, in the semblance of His Vicar [the pope], may fitly appear to symbolize the great mission of her later life to the Holy See”.  For the pope was not in Rome but in Avignon, France, the so-called “Babylonian Captivity” of the papacy, where for political reasons the papal court had moved — and Catherine, years later, would attempt to persuade the pope to return to Rome, the See of Peter.  Pope Paul VI remarked at a general audience (April 30, 1969):
We must always remember that it was she, Catherine, who convinced the young French Pope (he was forty) Gregory XI, weak in health and faint-hearted, to leave Avignon, whither the Apostolic See had moved with Pope Clement V, after the sudden death of Benedict XI, and to return in 1376 to Italy, still rent by bitter divisions, to Rome, though it was turbulent and in very bad conditions. And it was Catherine who, immediately after the death of Gregory XI, supported his successor Urban VI in the first critical events of the famous “Western schism”, which began with the election of the anti-pope Clement VII.
At age 16 she took the Dominican habit and after three years of visions she experienced the famous vision known as her “mystical marriage to Christ”.  Catherine then dedicated herself to the poor, the sick and the conversation of sinners. In the summer of 1370 she received visions of Hell, Purgatory and Heaven and a Divine command to enter the public life of the world.
She began to dictate and write over 400 letters to popes, princes, religious and lay people alike, was consulted by the papal legates about the affairs of the Church, and inserted herself into the most contentious of political affairs of the day.  She implored Pope Gregory XI to reform the notoriously corrupt clergy and the administration of the Papal States. Catherine was not afraid to write in the strongest of terms as this statement to three cardinals supporting the anti-pope:  “what made you do this? You are flowers who shed no perfume, but stench that makes the whole world reek.”  Through her influence, the pope left Avignon and returned to Rome.
On the fourth Sunday of Lent in 1375 she received the stigmata, that is, the wounds of Christ.  In about 1378 Catherine composed her “Dialogue”, said to have been dictated while she was in ecstasy, a book of meditations and reflections on the Creed and teachings of the Church, and on the sinfulness of man and the mercy of God.  Catherine died April 29, 1380 of a sudden and painful illness.
In 1970 Pope Paul VI proclaimed Saint Catherine of Siena a Doctor of the Church, a title given to certain ecclesiastical writers because of the benefit the whole Church has derived from their teaching and witness.  She was the first woman to get such a distinction, followed by St. Theresa of Avila and St. Therese of Lisieux.
Father,
in meditating on the sufferings of Your Son
and in serving your Church,
Saint Catherine was filled with the fervor of Your love.
By her prayers, may we share in the mystery of Christ’s death
and rejoice in the revelation of His glory, for He lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.
+Amen.

St. Patrick’s Breastplate

I bind unto myself today
The strong Name of the Trinity,
By invocation of the same,
The Three in One and One in Three.

I bind this day to me for ever.
By power of faith, Christ’s incarnation;
His baptism in the Jordan river;
His death on Cross for my salvation;
His bursting from the spicèd tomb;
His riding up the heavenly way;
His coming at the day of doom;*
I bind unto myself today.

I bind unto myself the power
Of the great love of the cherubim;
The sweet ‘well done’ in judgment hour,
The service of the seraphim,
Confessors’ faith, Apostles’ word,
The Patriarchs’ prayers, the Prophets’ scrolls,
All good deeds done unto the Lord,
And purity of virgin souls.

I bind unto myself today
The virtues of the starlit heaven,
The glorious sun’s life-giving ray,
The whiteness of the moon at even,
The flashing of the lightning free,
The whirling wind’s tempestuous shocks,
The stable earth, the deep salt sea,
Around the old eternal rocks.



I bind unto myself today
The power of God to hold and lead,
His eye to watch, His might to stay,
His ear to hearken to my need.
The wisdom of my God to teach,
His hand to guide, His shield to ward,
The word of God to give me speech,
His heavenly host to be my guard.

Against the demon snares of sin,
The vice that gives temptation force,
The natural lusts that war within,
The hostile men that mar my course;
Or few or many, far or nigh,
In every place and in all hours,
Against their fierce hostility,
I bind to me these holy powers.

Against all Satan’s spells and wiles,
Against false words of heresy,
Against the knowledge that defiles,
Against the heart’s idolatry,
Against the wizard’s evil craft,
Against the death wound and the burning,
The choking wave and the poisoned shaft,
Protect me, Christ, till Thy returning.

Christ be with me, Christ within me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me.
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.

I bind unto myself the Name,
The strong Name of the Trinity;
By invocation of the same.
The Three in One, and One in Three,
Of Whom all nature hath creation,
Eternal Father, Spirit, Word:
Praise to the Lord of my salvation,
Salvation is of Christ the Lord.

Pope John Paul II to be Beatified May 1

Vatican Information Service announced this morning that Pope Benedict will indeed beatify his predecessor, Karol Wojtyla, on May 1, 2011.  George Weigel writes in the NRO:

Re: John Paul II
By George Weigel
January 14, 2011 10:00 A.M.The Vatican’s Congregation for the Causes of Saints has certified a miraculous cure through the intercession of Pope John Paul II, thus clearing the way for the late pontiff’s beatification on May 1. Using the word “miracle” in a broad sense, however, the greatest miracle of John Paul II was to restore a sense of Christian possibility in a world that had consigned Christian conviction to the margins of history.

In 1978, no one expected that the leading figure of the last quarter of the 20th century would be a priest from Poland. Christianity was finished as a world-shaping force, according to the opinion-leaders of the time; it might endure as a vehicle for personal piety, but would play no role in shaping the world of the 21st century. Yet within six months of his election, John Paul II had demonstrated the dramatic capacity of Christianity to create a revolution of conscience that, in turn, created a new and powerful form of politics — the politics that eventually led to the Revolution of 1989 and the liberation of central and eastern Europe.

Beyond that, John Paul II made Christianity compelling and interesting in a world that imagined that humanity had outgrown its “need” for God, Christ, and faith. In virtually every part of the world, John Paul II’s courageous preaching of Jesus Christ as the answer to the question that is every human life drew a positive response, and millions of lives were changed as a result. This was simply not supposed to happen — but it did, through the miracle of conviction wedded to courage.

Then there was John Paul’s social doctrine which, against all expectations, put the Catholic Church at the center of the world’s conversation about the post-Communist future. In 1978, did anyone really expect that papal encyclicals would be debated on the pages of the Wall Street Journal, or that a pope would rivet the world’s attention in two dramatic defenses of the universality of human rights before the United Nations? No one expected that. But it happened.

To make Christianity plausible, compelling, and attractive by preaching the fullness of Christian truth and demonstrating its importance to the human future — that was perhaps the greatest miracle of John Paul II, and his greatest gift to the Church and the world.

— George Weigel is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center and biographer of John Paul II. His second volume on the life of the pontiff, The End and the Beginning: Pope John Paul II — The Victory of Freedom, the Last Years, the Legacy, was released this fall.


"Good morning, my intercessor and my very faithful friend"

A significant part of the “vetting” process the Church prosecutes before declaring a person a Venerable, Blessed or Saint is the proving of a miracle through the person’s intercession. Impartial physicians’ testimony and scientific evidence is gathered to assure the miraculous event was in fact miraculous.  Read this past post for more information on the process.

Deacon Jack Sullivan
Blessed Newman
Such was the case for the cause of Cardinal John Henry Newman when Deacon Jack Sullivan of Massachusetts prayed for his intercession and was cured of chronic, debilitating back pain. This miraculous healing, defying any medical logic, paved the way for Newman’s beatification this past September. Deacon Sullivan proclaimed the Gospel at the beatification Mass.
A second miracle is required before a Blessed is declared a Saint. Though not yet verified, there are several reports of miraculous healings after praying to Blessed Newman.  Deacon Sullivan was asked by the mother of a young girl suffering from incurable reflex sympathetic dystrophy syndrome, a disease characterised by continuous and intense pain that worsens over time.  While watching the beatification ceremony from her hospital bed, the girl’s pain stopped.  Sullivan also reports miraculous happenings at healing ceremonies in which a relic of Blessed Newman is venerated:  a teenage boy was healed from a brain injury sustained in an auto accident and a Detroit man’s liver cancer vanished.  Full story here.  Deacon Sullivan begins his day with, “Good morning, Cardinal Newman, my intercessor and my very faithful friend”.


Sr. Marie Simon-Pierre
Pope John Paul II
Cries for Karol Wojtyla’s canonization were heard as early as during his funeral Mass, “Santo Subito”.  Pope Benedict waived the customary five year waiting period after death and proceeded to fast track his predecessor’s cause.  Declared Venerable in December of 2009, it appears as though JPII will be beatified as early as this year.  Reports have surfaced that the miracle required for beatification has been approved. 
The case involves the healing of a French religious sister from Parkinson’s disease. Sr. Marie Simon-Pierre was diagnosed with an aggressive form of the disease in 2001. Her order prayed to John Paul II after his death for help. After writing the Pope’s name on a piece of paper one night in June 2005, she reportedly awoke the next morning cured and was able to resume her work as a maternity nurse.
Blessed John Henry Newman and Venerable John Paul II, pray for us!

For the Feast of St. Thomas a’ Becket

For his feast day…one of the all time great movies:


Feast of the Holy Innocents

‘Massacre of the Innocents’, Matteo di Giovanni, 1482, Sant’Agostino, Siena, Italy

Reading A sermon of St Quodvultdeus
Even before they learn to speak, they proclaim Christ

A tiny child is born, who is a great king. Wise men are led to him from afar. They come to adore one who lies in a manger and yet reigns in heaven and on earth. When they tell of one who is born a king, Herod is disturbed. To save his kingdom he resolves to kill him, though if he would have faith in the child, he himself would reign in peace in this life and for ever in the life to come.
  Why are you afraid, Herod, when you hear of the birth of a king? He does not come to drive you out, but to conquer the devil. But because you do not understand this you are disturbed and in a rage, and to destroy one child whom you seek, you show your cruelty in the death of so many children.
  You are not restrained by the love of weeping mothers or fathers mourning the deaths of their sons, nor by the cries and sobs of the children. You destroy those who are tiny in body because fear is destroying your heart. You imagine that if you accomplish your desire you can prolong your own life, though you are seeking to kill Life himself.
  Yet your throne is threatened by the source of grace, so small, yet so great, who is lying in the manger. He is using you, all unaware of it, to work out his own purposes freeing souls from captivity to the devil. He has taken up the sons of the enemy into the ranks of God’s adopted children.
  The children die for Christ, though they do not know it. The parents mourn for the death of martyrs. The child makes of those as yet unable to speak fit witnesses to himself. See the kind of kingdom that is his, coming as he did in order to be this kind of king. See how the deliverer is already working deliverance, the saviour already working salvation.
  But you, Herod, do not know this and are disturbed and furious. While you vent your fury against the child, you are already paying him homage, and do not know it.
  How great a gift of grace is here! To what merits of their own do the children owe this kind of victory? They cannot speak, yet they bear witness to Christ. They cannot use their limbs to engage in battle, yet already they bear off the palm of victory.
Responsory
They worshipped him who lives for ever and ever, and laid their crowns before the throne of the Lord their God.
They fell on their faces before the throne, and blessed him who lives for ever and ever, and laid their crowns before the throne of the Lord their God

Saint Bonaventure: "Seek the Answer in God’s Grace"

From the Office of Readings

From the Journey of the Mind to God by St. Bonaventure
Mystical wisdom is revealed by the Holy Spirit
Christ is both the way and the door. Christ is the staircase and the vehicle, like the throne of mercy over the Ark of the Covenant, and the mystery hidden from the ages. A man should turn his full attention to this throne of mercy, and should gaze at him hanging on the cross, full of faith, hope and charity, devoted, full of wonder and joy, marked by gratitude, and open to praise and jubilation. Then such a man will make with Christ a pasch, that is, a passing-over. Through the branches of the cross he will pass over the Red Sea, leaving Egypt and entering the desert. There he will taste the hidden manna, and rest with Christ in the sepulchre, as if he were dead to things outside. He will experience, as much as is possible for one who is still living, what was promised to the thief who hung beside Christ: Today you will be with me in paradise.
For this passover to be perfect, we must suspend all the operations of the mind and we must transform the peak of our affections, directing them to God alone. This is a sacred mystical experience. It cannot be comprehended by anyone unless he surrenders himself to it; nor can he surrender himself to it unless he longs for it; nor can he long for it unless the Holy Spirit, whom Christ sent into the world, should come and inflame his innermost soul. Hence the Apostle says that this mystical wisdom is revealed by the Holy Spirit.
If you ask how such things can occur, seek the answer in God’s grace, not in doctrine; in the longing of the will, not in the understanding; in the sighs of prayer, not in research; seek the bridegroom not the teacher; God and not man; darkness not daylight; and look not to the light but rather to the raging fire that carries the soul to God with intense fervour and glowing love. The fire is God, and the furnace is in Jerusalem, fired by Christ in the ardour of his loving passion. Only he understood this who said: My soul chose hanging and my bones death. Anyone who cherishes this kind of death can see God, for it is certainly true that: No man can look upon me and live.
Let us die, then, and enter into the darkness, silencing our anxieties, our passions and all the fantasies of our imagination. Let us pass over with the crucified Christ from this world to the Father, so that, when the Father has shown himself to us, we can say with Philip: It is enough. We may hear with Paul: My grace is sufficient for you; and we can rejoice with David, saying: My flesh and my heart fail me, but God is the strength of my heart and my heritage for ever. Blessed be the Lord for ever, and let all the people say: Amen. Amen!

Saint Pius V

from Friar BlogBelow is an English translation of the homily then Fr. Augustine DiNoia, O.P., preached to the members of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on their patronal feast in 2004. The Mass celebrated by then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the Prefect of the Congregation.

Imagine the scene: A cold January day in 1566, one saint kneeling at the feet of another in the Sistine Chapel. St. Charles Boromeo begging Michele Ghislieri to accept election as the successor to Pope Pius IV. The normally strong and self-controlled Cardinal Alessandrino (as Ghislieri was known) had burst into tears when St. Charles commanded: “In the name of the Church, pronounce your acceptance, most Holy Father!” “I cannot! I am not worthy,” he kept repeating. At last, Cardinal Boromeo’s ear caught the barely audible words of acceptance, and the Dominican Cardinal Alessandrino became Pope Pius V.

Since arriving in Rome over a decade earlier, the saint had wanted nothing more than to return to the beloved Dominican Friars with whom he had spent his life. At the suggestion of Cardinal Carlo Carafa, Pope Julius III had brought him to Rome to become Commissary General of the Inquisition. When a few years later, Carafa became Pope Paul IV, and Fr. Michele implored the new pope to allow him to return to his convent so that he could “live and die as a Dominican,” Carafa responded by making him a bishop and then a cardinal, saying: “I will bind you with so strong a chain that, even after my death, you will never be free to return to your cloister.” It is no surprise that, as a cardinal and even as pope, Michele Ghislieri strove to be faithful to the Dominican vocation he had first embraced when he was twelve years old.

The young Michele had startled two Dominican Friars who were passing through Bosco (the town of his birth) by asking if he could become one of them. They were so impressed by his answers to their questions that, with the blessing of his parents, they allowed him to travel with them to the priory of Voghera in Lombardy where his vocation could be tested. From the start, the Friars loved the boy. They called him a treasure, for his progress in the spiritual life outstripped his rapid advance in his studies. As a novice in Vegevano, his fellow novices looked upon him as one already far advanced on the road to sanctity – silent, recollected, prudent, yet docile, humble, reverent towards his superiors, and jealously observant of the Dominican rule.

There is no time this morning to recount his activities in his long life as a Dominican, most of it spent in studies, teaching, preaching, and governance. Ordained a priest in Genoa at the age of twenty four, Father Michele was known by his brethren to be the first to kneel before the Blessed Sacrament in the morning, and the last to say farewell at night. As a young professor, he used to say to his students: “The most powerful aid we can bring to this study is the practice of earnest prayer. The more closely the mind is united to God, the richer the stores of light and wisdom that will follow its researches.” His brilliant defense of the faith during the Dominican provincial chapter at Parma in 1543 brought him to the attention of the College of Cardinals, and he was subsequently appointed to the difficult and thankless post of Inquisitor at Como. A few years later, he would be called to Rome to head the Inquisition, and here he remained for the rest of his life.

We cannot enter into the many achievements of his pontificate: his implementation of the reforms of the Council of Trent, especially in the liturgy; his promotion of devotion to the Rosary; and his successful efforts to mobilize the leaders of the nations against the threat of the Turks (of whom it was said that they feared the prayers of the pope more than they feared all the armies of Europe).

Although St. Pius was never able to return to his Dominican cloister, the legacy of St. Dominic remained with him in at least one important respect that is also significant for us and for our work in the Congregation: love of the truth and zeal for souls. His intellectual formation as a Dominican, combined with his long experience as a champion of the faith, gave him a profound awareness of the power of error to contribute to unhappiness and disorder in human life, and thus of the authentically pastoral necessity of proclaiming the full truth of the Catholic faith without compromise. In imitation of this great saint, we must pray for the love and the zeal that form the deepest wellspring for the proclamation of the doctrine of the faith.

The election of Cardinal Alessandrino had not been greeted with much enthusiasm by the people of Rome on that cold January day in 1566 because he was regarded as too severe. At the time, he had prayed: “God grant me the grace to act so that they may grieve more for my death than for my election.” Such was indeed the case when St. Pius V died peacefully in the early hours of the morning on the 1st of May 1572.


Happy St. Patrick’s Day


For Kids: Curb Violence on TV-Stick to the Roman Martyrology

My wife and I are very conscious of what our young children watch on television and pretty much stick to commercial-free, rated-G programming.  We don’t subscribe to the thought that adult content goes ‘over their heads’.  So what captivates their attention and thirst for action?  The Lives of the Saints.  The last several days have presented us with some greats:  St. Agatha, St. Paul Miki and companions, St. Apolonia, St. Scholastica, Our Lady of Lourdes and St. Eulalia.

After reading to my children the accounts of the early Christian Martyrs Agatha, Appolonia and Eulalia, they were enthralled and even told their friends and teachers.  Harsh interrogations, burned with hot irons and torches, flesh torn with hooks, rolled in burning coals and broken glass, teeth smashed out: all signify greater purpose, supreme love of God above all, and teach us virtue.  The Lives of the Saints are a treasure trove for all of us which captivates our attention, inspires us toward virtue and love of God.

Such graphic tales (and pleasant ones as well) elicit great questions from children and offer a unique opportunity to teach them about our Faith.  Why did these young women undergo such torture and death?  Upon hearing the account of St. Benedict’s vision of his twin sister’s (St. Scholastica) soul turning into a dove and flying heavenward: What is a soul?  Why is it invisible? Oh, that’s what lives forever with God in Heaven after our body dies!

The very reason the Church honors men and women with Sainthood is to provide us with examples of how to live a Christian life, how to love God, and ways to grow in virtue.  Who are our heroes?  Who do our children seek to emulate?  Ditch Sponge Bob and Hanna Montana and pick up Butler’s Lives of the Saints!


Fireworks for Our Lady of Lourdes

Today is the Memorial of Our Lady of Lourdes.

In 1858, in the grotto of Massabielle, near Lourdes in southern France, Our Lady appeared 18 times to Bernadette Soubirous, a young peasant girl.

She revealed herself as the Immaculate Conception, asked that a chapel be built on the site of the vision, and told the girl to drink from a fountain in the grotto.  No fountain was to be seen, but when Bernadette dug at a spot designated by the apparition, a spring began to flow. The water from this still flowing spring has shown remarkable healing power, though it contains no curative property that science can identify.

Lourdes has become the most famous modern shrine of Our Lady and has as many as 6 million pilgrims every year. 67 miraculous cures have been officially recognized and confirmed and one miraculous healing is reported every week.  For more info click  here and here.  Below is a clip from the fireworks display in honor of the Memorial.


The Japanese Martyrs

From an account of the martyrdom of Saint Paul Miki and his companions, by a contemporary writer (Office of Readings)

The crosses were set in place.  Father Pasio and Father Rodriguez took turns encouraging the victims. Their steadfast behaviour was wonderful to see.  The Father Bursar stood motionless, his eyes turned heavenward.  Brother Martin gave thanks to God’s goodness by singing psalms.  Again and again he repeated: “Into your hands, Lord, I entrust my life.”  Brother Francis Branco also thanked God in a loud voice.  Brother Gonsalvo in a very loud voice kept saying the Our Father and Hail Mary.

Our brother, Paul Miki, saw himself standing now in the noblest pulpit he had ever filled.  To his “congregation” he began by proclaiming himself a Japanese and a Jesuit.  He was dying for the Gospel he preached.  He gave thanks to God for this wonderful blessing and he ended his “sermon” with these words: “As I come to this supreme moment of my life, I am sure none of you would suppose I want to deceive you.  And so I tell you plainly: there is no way to be saved except the Christian way.  My religion teaches me to pardon my enemies and all who have offended me.  I do gladly pardon the Emperor and all who have sought my death.  I beg them to seek baptism and be Christians themselves.” 

Then he looked at his comrades and began to encourage them in their final struggle.  Joy glowed in all their faces, and in Louis’ most of all.  When a Christian in the crowd cried out to him that he would soon be in heaven, his hands, his whole body strained upward with such joy that every eye was fixed on him.
 
Anthony, hanging at Louis’ side, looked toward heaven and called upon the holy names – “Jesus, Mary!” He began to sing a psalm: “Praise the Lord, you children!” (He learned it in catechism class in Nagasaki.  They take care there to teach the children some psalms to help them learn their catechism).
 
Others kept repeating “Jesus, Mary!” Their faces were serene.  Some of them even took to urging the people standing by to live worthy Christian lives.  In these and other ways they showed their readiness to die.
 
Then, according to Japanese custom, the four executioners began to unsheathe their spears.  At this dreadful sight, all the Christians cried out, “Jesus, Mary!” And the storm of anguished weeping then rose to batter the very skies.  The executioners killed them one by one.  One thrust of the spear, then a second blow.  It was over in a very short time.

Hear our prayer, O Lord our God:
  fill our minds with veneration of you
  and make us love all men as we ought.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
  who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
  God for ever and ever.
Amen.

St. Agatha: Patron Saint of Breast Cancer

Saint Agatha has been venerated as a virgin and martyr since the time of her death in AD 251.  Besides the Blessed Virgin Mary, she is only one of seven women saints commemorated in the Roman Canon (Eucharistic Prayer 1) and as early as the fifth century had two churches in Rome dedicated to her.  Born in Sicily to a noble family, Agatha was a devout Christian who dedicated her virginity to God.  Pursued by Quintianus, a prefect or governor, she rebuffed his advances.  He had Agatha arrested for being a Christian and forced her to renounce Christ.

Her documented legend speaks of the brutal interrogations and torture she endured at his hand.  When she refused she was imprisoned in a brothel, then a prison, stretched on the rack, burned with red hot irons and had her breasts cut off.  She had a apparition of St. Peter as a physician and was miraculously healed of her wounds.  Four days later upon further interrogation and to the surprise of her torturers, she was condemned to death by rolling her naked body in broken glass and hot coals.  At the very moment of her final torture a great earthquake struck the region.  Immediately before her death Saint Agatha was heard praying, “O Lord Jesus Christ, good Master, I give You thanks that You granted me victory over the executioners’ tortures.  Grant now that I may happily dwell in Your never-ending glory”.   
For more reading, go here and here.
Saint Agatha is the patron saint of breast cancer and victims of sexual assault.
 

Prayer to Saint Agatha

O Heavenly Father,
Who raised Agatha
to the dignity of Sainthood,
we implore Your Divine Majesty
by her intercession
to give us health of mind,
body and soul.
Free us from all those things
which hold us bound to this earth,
and let our spirit, like hers,
rise to your heavenly courts.
Through Jesus Christ,
Your Son, our Lord,
Who lives and reigns
with You, forever. Amen
.

The Mendicant Friars Necessary Today

Pope Benedict has dedicated these past Wednesday Audiences to teaching about the great mendicant friars, St. Francis and St. Dominic.  These two pillars of renewal were called by the Spirit to transform the “dramatic and disquieting situation of the Church at that time, with her superficial faith that neither formed nor transformed life, her clergy little committed to its duties,…and the interior decay of her unity due to the rise of heretical movements”.

At last week’s Wednesday Audience Pope Benedict dedicated his catechesis to St. Francis of Assisi, referring to him as “a true giant of sanctity who continues to enthrall many people of all ages and religious beliefs”.  The Holy Father mentioned Pope Innocent III’s dream in which he saw the Basilica of St. John Lateran about to collapse, but a ‘small insignificant friar’ held it up to prevent its fall.  Pope Innocent recognized the friar to be Francis.  “Innocent III was a powerful Pontiff, who possessed profound theological culture as well as great political power, but it was not he who renewed the Church.  It was the ‘small and insignificant’ friar, it was Francis, called by God.  Yet important to recall that Francis did not renew the Church without the Pope or against the Pope, but in communion with him.  The two things went together: Peter’s Successor, the bishops and the Church founded on apostolic succession, and the new charism that the Spirit had created at that moment to renew the Church”.

At today’s audience Pope Benedict heralded the life and legacy of Saint Dominic, founder of the Order of Preachers.  Shortly before his birth in Caleruega, Spain in 1170, his mother, Bl. Juana of Osma, dreamed that a dog leapt from her womb carrying a torch in its mouth and seemed to set the world ablaze.  Dominic “distinguished himself for his interest in the study of Sacred Scriptures and his love for the poor”.  After his ordiantion to the priesthood and election as a canon of the cathedral of Osma “he did not consider this as a personal privilege, nor as the first step in a brilliant ecclesiastical career; rather, as a service to be rendered with dedication and humility.  Do not career and power represent a temptation to which even those who have roles of leadership and government in the Church are not immune?” the pope asked.

Upon traveling on diplomatic missions St. Dominic became aware of “the existence of peoples still un-evangelized,…and of the religious divides that weakened Christian life in the South of France, where activity of certain heretical groups created disturbance and distanced people from the truth of the faith”.  Dominic was asked by Pope Honorius III “to dedicate himself to preaching to the Albigensians” and he “enthusiastically accepted the mission, which he undertook through the example of his own life of poverty and austerity, through preaching the Gospel and through public discussions”. 

It was Dominic’s itinerant apostolic life, rooted in “solid theological formation”, “founded on Holy Scripture but respectful of the questions raised by reason” that sparked renewal in the Church.  Pope Benedict teaches that “Christ is the most precious treasure that men and women of all times and places have the right to know and love!  It is consoling to see how also in today’s Church there are many people (pastors and lay faithful, members of ancient religious orders and of new ecclesial movements) who joyfully give their lives for the supreme ideal of announcing and bearing witness to the Gospel”.  He encouraged everyone, “pastors and lay people, to cultivate this ‘cultural dimension’ of the faith, that the beauty of Christian truth may be better understood and the faith truly nourished, strengthened and defended.  In this Year for Priests, I invite seminarians and priests to respect the spiritual value of study.  The quality of priestly ministry also depends on the generosity with which we apply ourselves to studying revealed truths”.

Pope Benedict concluded, “With his sanctity, he shows us two indispensable means for making apostolic activity more incisive; firstly Marian Devotion, especially the praying of the Rosary which his spiritual children had the great merit of popularizing, and secondly, the value of prayers of intercession for the success of apostolic work”.

Pray for all Franciscans and Dominicans, an increase in vocations to their consecrated life, and a renewed fidelity to their great founders’ calling to make the most precious Treasure known, loved and defended.

Saint Francis and Saint Dominic pray for us!


Pope John Paul II Closer to Sainthood

CNS reports that the cardinal and bishop members of the Congregation for Causes of Saints unanimously recommended that Pope Benedict XVI formally recognize that Pope John Paul II heroically lived the Christian virtues.  The Holy Father approves such requests three times a year and is expected to declare his predecessor “Venerable” this December.  This is the next ‘official’ step in declaring John Paul II a saint, and considering a miracle has already been attributed to him, beatification should be right around the corner.

John Paul the Great.  Pray for us.