Friday, August 31, 2012

In my quest to distance more friends ...

So I went against my desire to be liked and commented on a friend's Facebook post.  She's a wonderful young woman; her father is a Protestant minister, and she has always been a passionate follower of Jesus.  It has been several years since we went to college together or have seen each other face-to-face for a conversation. I've seen her FB posts supporting President Obama who, given his history of supporting abortion and his attack on the religious freedom of Catholics, I am not a fan of; but I haven't said anything.  Her post this evening was different though.

She shared a link to a blogpost, 7 Things Every Christian Should Know About Politics, along with the statement that she both loves Jesus and is a Democrat and how those two things are not mutually exclusive.  Now, I am most definitely not saying that they are; BUT I do believe that it's morally wrong to vote for a candidate who works to keep abortion legal in the U.S. and/or export it to other countries.  Also, my stomach turns when I read a political platform that includes working to keep abortion legal.  I do not belong to either of the two main political parties in the United States, but it is clear to me the way I need to vote.  Sorry for the tirade.  Let me get back to that blogpost, 7 Things.  The points, in and of themselves, are quite good (although I disagreed with one or two of the author's explanatory comments).  Here they are:

1. Democrats go to church too.
2. Political talk radio and cable "news" only want ratings.
3. Those who argue over politics don't love their country more than others.
4. Thinking your party's platform is unflawed is a mistake.
5. Scripture tells us to pray for our governing leaders (2 Tim.2:1-4) and to respect those in authority (Rom.13:1-7).
6. Don't be paranoid.
7. When you promise to leave the country if your party loses, follow through.  (People will respect you.)

See, nothing there for a Catholic-Christian to be upset by.  But then the gentleman added a bonus point, with commentary:

8.  Stop saying, “This is the most important election in the history of our nation.”  It’s not. The most important election in the history of our nation was when Abraham Lincoln was elected President. Before that, we thought it was okay to own people.

I bet you know what my mind went to.  At the risk of offending my friend, I had to comment below her FB  link to the blog article:

I think he was doing fairly well until he threw in the bonus with #8. By bringing up the election of Lincoln and the subsequent reversal of the Supreme Court's decision in Dred Scott v. Sandford he brings to mind the parallel decision in Roe v. Wade and the 53 million Americans since then who were denied their fundamental right to life. With a president's power to appoint members of the Court, every election since that time is extremely important - as are Congressional elections. I don't belong to either party, but my vote must go to the candidates and party that will bring us closer to overturning legal abortion - just as if I lived at the time of Lincoln's election my love for Jesus would have bound me, despite every other issue at stake in that election, to cast my vote for the candidate and party moving toward freeing people of African descent from slavery (their recognition as human beings with fundamental rights). There is room for legitimate disagreement among Christians regarding political policies and budgets, etc.; but the lives of a million children a year is not one of them. Until that fundamental issue is resolved, there does seem to be a very clear choice between party platforms. 

Will it bear good fruit?  Please ask the Lord that it does.

Give us this day our "epiousios" bread?

When we pray the Our Father we say, "Give us this day our daily bread."  Jesus taught us to ask the Father for all that we need to live the present day.  You've probably read a book in which one of the great saints is quoted, pointing to Jesus, our Eucharistic Bread,  as the ultimate realization of the petition.  It takes only a nanosecond of reflection to see how that makes sense.

What I only learned a few years back was the solid ground such an interpretation has in the biblical text.  The Greek word that we translate as “daily” is epiousios.  If we divide the word differently however, epi-ousios, then it can be translated “super-essential” or “super-substantial” (CCC 2837).  What makes translation of this adjective so intriguing is how it occurs nowhere else in all of Greek literature.[1]  Because of that, the Fathers of the Church were almost unanimous in understanding the Our Father as asking for the “super-substantial” Bread of the Eucharist.

[1] Hahn, Scott, Understanding “Our Father”: Biblical Reflections on the Lord’s Prayer, (Steubenville, OH: Emmaus Road Publishing, 2002), p.46.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Just Read It!

A couple of years ago I had the honor of interviewing Bert Ghezzi about his new book, Adventures in Daily Prayer; and he shared something about his pastor.  Week after week his priest drove the importance of  Bible reading home to his parishioners: "No Bible, no breakfast!  No Bible, no bed!"  I have to admit though, I slacked off.  I reference the Bible constantly when I'm writing, and I have the gospel reading for each day delivered electronically to my in-box; but I haven't been nourishing myself with God's word the way I did earlier in my life.  Two things have helped to change that:  1) a good reminder from my friend Gary Zimack that I passed along here on the blog, and 2) starting my son on a study of the Matthew.

All of these things have caused me to renew a practice from my teen years:  reading the Bible when I climb into bed at night.  And it is awesome.  I'm not reading to research or to learn something new.  I'm just "looking at" and listening to Jesus, and I can't help but stand awe of Him, and fall more deeply in love with Him.  It's so easy to do too.  Grab your Bible, a book light, and end the day in the best way possible.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The Mass: Did You Know ... ?

Did you know how early in history the Mass was recorded?  Of course we have the institution of the Eucharist there in the Last Supper narratives.  And we have the account from later in the day that first Easter, when Jesus (appearing incognito) met two disciples on the road to Emmaus and explained the Scripture to them (the first half of the Mass, the Liturgy of the Word) and then revealed Himself in the "breaking of the bread" (the second half of the Mass, the Liturgy of the Eucharist).  But when do we first read of the Mass we know today with its Gospel reading and homily, petitions, monetary collection, etc.?  Would you believe 150 A.D.?  It's true.

St. Justin Martyr (writing from Rome) recorded it in his Apology to the Emporer Antoninus Pius:

On the day which is dedicated to the sun ... the day on which Jesus Christ our Savior rose from the dead ... all those who live in the cities or who dwell in the countryside gather in a common meeting, and for as long as there is time the Memoirs of the Apostles or the writings of the prophets are read. Then, when the reader has finished, the president verbally gives a warning and appeal for the imitation of these good examples.
Then we all rise together and offer prayers *in common and heartily for ourselves ... and for all others everywhere, so that we may be accounted worthy, now that we have learned the truth, to be found keepers of the commandments, so that we may be saved with an eternal salvation. Having concluded we greet one another with a kiss*[1]
... Bread is brought forward along with wine and water, and the president likewise gives thanks to the best of his ability, and the people call out their assent, saying the Amen. Then there is the distribution to each and the participation in the Eucharistic elements, which also are sent with the deacons to those who are absent. Those who are wealthy and who wish to do so, contribute whatever they themselves care to give; and the collection is placed with the president, who aids orphans and the widows, and those who through sickness or any other cause are in need…(Apology to the Emperor Antoninus Pius, Chp.67).[2]

[1] Material within asterik is inserted from Chapter 65 of Justin’s Apology to the Emporer Antoninus Pius in Jurgens, William A., The Faith of the Early Fathers, Volume 1 (Collegeville, Minnesota: The Liturgical Press, 1970), p.55.
[2] Ibid, p.55-56.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

More on "Why You Can't Surpass the Mass"

There is such a variety of ways to pray:  reading Scripture, praying portions of Scripture such as the Psalms aloud, singing, praying silently, kneeling, sitting, standing, the Rosary, Eucharistic Adoration, the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, novenas, rote prayers, spontaneous prayer, communal prayer, etc.  All of these are good and beneficial, but they aren't the Mass.

It took several years, but I finally arrived at a realization:  Jesus said, "This is My Body ... This is My Blood.  Do THIS"  

I repeat those words to myself on the Sunday mornings when, for whatever reason, I want to stay home.  (I'm not the only one who has those Sundays, am I?) I can do all the singing and Bible study in the world right from my recliner, but what is that compared to the act of loving obedience Jesus showed to the Father by going to the Cross?  And Jesus' offering is what the Eucharist unites me to!  The Eucharist is the way God has told me to worship Him; how and why would I ever try to substitute something else?  My private prayer is nourished by the Sunday Eucharist ... and my private prayer disposes me to better participate in the Eucharist.  (I call it the "golden spiral" - in contrast to the "vicious circle" I encounter in so many other areas of life.)

More thoughts on the Mass tomorrow.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Why You Can't Surpass the Mass

With I title like that I must give a disclaimer:  This post does not pretend to be an exhaustive account as to why the Mass is the pinnacle of human prayer; it's simply a brief reflection sparked by a message I received from a close friend.  She visited an Assembly of God church over the weekend and wrote to tell me,  "There was definitely a feeling of community in the building. However, as much as I've thought about checking out other churches, something just seemed to be missing. I realize a church is so much more than the building. But, even though the service was nice and the contemporary music and interpretations of scripture into songs, it just wasn't the same. I found myself missing my Catholic heritage and the comfort I have found in our church. It certainly wasn't a bad experience, but it was eye opening."

First thing I should tell you is that my friend is very deep.  I spent time in a non-denominational, charismatic church as a teen; and it took quite awhile for me to realize that I received "something" at Mass that I couldn't get anywhere else, no matter how sincere the worship. What was that?

In the Mass we enter into Jesus' offering to the Father, the pinnacle of human prayer.  When we receive Him in Communion we are united to Him in His death, resurrection, and ascension.  With Him, we enter into the bosom of the Father, pouring ourselves out in grateful love.  

In the non-denominational church I attended for a time the focus was upon the proclamation of God's word.  And the preaching was exciting and I profited from it a great deal.  But that was the height of the service.  We heard the word - live as images of Christ Jesus, in the power of the Holy Spirit; but we didn't take that next step that we do at Mass - entering into the Passover of Christ.  We didn't receive the Word Made Flesh in Eucharistic Communion!

In Mass there are two movements, not just one.  We have the Liturgy of the Word, where we hear the Word proclaimed in Scripture and take it into ourselves.  But then in the Liturgy of the Eucharist we respond to the Word, we unite ourselves to Jesus and pour ourselves out to the Father in a return of love - and in the process we're filled again with the Flesh and Blood of the God-Man.  We're participating in the Trinitarian Life - by the grace of God simultaneously giving and receiving.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Going Back to the Sources

I've never shared how I homeschool my two kids in PSR.  For the kids to receive "credit" I have to return the books given me by my parish, completed, at the end of the year.  Last year was our first year doing this.  The books from the parish were good.  They were modeled after the four sections of the Catechism and handed on solid information.  My son, who was in fifth grade, had only one complaint - having to regularly complete assignments such as "Draw a banner demonstrating how you feel about . . ."  He felt it was just busy work.

This year I am doing things differently.  My daughter is now in second grade and in preparation for First Reconciliation and First Communion, we will have to complete the book sanctioned by our parish.  And that works for my daughter - she loves the coloring and banners, etc., etc.  My son's next Sacrament of Initiation is of course Confirmation, three years from now.  It is a two year program, so we have one year when, instead of being required to complete the materials from the parish we can do our own study.  He won't receive "credit" for it, but he and I are excited nonetheless.  

Here is our plan:
1) The first few pages of George Martin's Reading God's Word Today: A Practical and Faith-filled Approach to Scripture to introduce him Catholic principles of reading Scripture and the need to develop a regular reading schedule
2) We start our study of Scripture with Jesus, the Word Made Flesh.  We want to read the Gospel of Matthew while making use of Dr. Edward Sri's commentary Mystery of the Kingdom (Kingdom Studies)
3) After getting an initial grasp on the ministry of Jesus, we're going to turn back to the OT; and try to take in the "big picture" of salvation history by reading Dr. Scott Hahn's A Father Who Keeps His Promises: God's Covenant Love in Scripture
4)  After looking at the OT in the light of Jesus we want to return to the NT and look at Jesus' life again, in light of the OT.  We're going to read Luke's Gospel, making use of the Ignatius Catholic Study Bible: New Testament
5)  Then we're continuing with Luke's story of the early Church, Acts of the Apostles.  For commentary I plan to use Stephen Pimentel's Witnesses of the Messiah (Kingdom Studies)

So that's the plan.  I'm curious what you think.  Have you started doing Bible study with your kids and have some tips you can pass along?

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Eucharist and the Assumption

The kids and I came back from celebrating Our Lady's Assumption at Mass a few minutes ago, and I had to share a thought that passed through my mind after receiving Jesus in the Eucharist.  I was thinking about the way Jesus shared the glory of His resurrection with Mary when I remembered these words from John Paul II's encyclical Ecclesia De Eucharistia:
Those who feed on Christ in the Eucharist need not wait until the hereafter to receive eternal life: they already possess it on earth, as the first-fruits of a future fullness which will embrace man in his totality. For in the Eucharist we also receive the pledge of our bodily resurrection at the end of the world: “He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day” (Jn 6:54). This pledge of the future resurrection comes from the fact that the flesh of the Son of Man, given as food, is His body in its glorious state after the resurrection. With the Eucharist we digest, as it were, the “secret” of the resurrection.
Mary is the first member of the Church to experience the full unfolding of Jesus' resurrected life within her, but the Lord intends it for every one of us who receives Him as the Bread of Life!  No matter what condition our bodies are in at the moment, how much pain or illness they carry, we have already received the Seed that will renew our bodies and introduce us into the life of glory.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

"Whoever humbles himself like this child"

Today's gospel has the familiar verse where the apostles argue over who is the greatest in the kingdom, and Jesus tells them that they need to become more childlike.  It's so familiar to me that I usually fly by it, "Oh yes, I need to be humble and childlike; I know that."  The Church does us a real favor in breaking off small morsels of the gospel for us to chew on each day; it forces us to mine each word of Jesus, again and again.  Allow me to give a quote from today's text, and I'll highlight what caught my eye today. 
Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.  Whoever humbles himself like this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven."  
The question that came to my mind was, "What does it mean to humble yourself like this child?  How do children show humility?"  I have two kids, and I work with children daily, so I started to think about the way children interact and what it says about them.  I recalled how excited kids get when telling me about their heroes and their special talents.  They don't resent their heroes because of their abilities; they want to emulate them, copy them.  They have no problem telling you who is "the best" at something - whether the topic is sports or riding a two-wheeler .  When one of their friends answers correctly or scores a point, they cheer.  (Although I've also met a few who sulk.)  

Most of the time kids seem to lack self-consciousness when it comes to praising others; they don't feel bad saying that someone is better at something than they are. They take joy in the success, never minding that it isn't "theirs."  It's enough to aspire to reach that height; and besides that, it seems to be theirs simply by participation, by their love and admiration for the one succeeding.

That's how it's meant to be in the Body of Christ. "If one member of the body is honored, all rejoice together" (1 Cor.12:26).  And all members of the body are necessary and of value:  "the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indespensible ... that there may be no discord in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another" (1 Cor.12:22,26).  The only competition we should concern ourselves with is to "love one another with brotherly affection; outdo one another in showing honor" (Rom.12:10).

Just my thoughts.  I would like to hear yours.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Mary's Assumption - the QUINTESSENTIAL Catholic Feast

It really is, just think about it.  By defining the dogma of Mary's Assumption and celebrating it as a Holy Day of Obligation, the Church draws together all the most magnificent elements of our Faith:

The Trinity - into whose life Mary was bodily inserted
Jesus' Resurrection - shared with His Blessed Mother, and eventually with all of us
Salvation - begun in us purely by the grace of God, and brought to perfection through our lifelong cooperation
The Goodness of the Body - that it is not at odds with living a "spiritual life," but is destined for glory
Sacred Tradition - by which we have explicit knowledge of Mary's assumption
Sacred Scripture - by which we have implicit knowledge of her assumption (the image of Rev.12:1-2)
Papal Infallibility - which cemented our knowledge of it
The Communion of Saints - Mary being its most magnificent member and interceding for the Church on earth and in purgatory
The Eucharist - by which we give thanks to God and unite ourselves to Jesus' death, resurrection, and ascension, just like Mary.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Jesus, Suffering, and Prayer

I was thinking about Jesus' prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane again and saw something that made me feel better about my own prayer.  

Like everyone, when faced with a difficulty, I ask the Lord to grant a certain outcome - the one that appears to hold the least amount of discomfort for me.  I realize that my desire may not match up with God's however, so I follow Jesus' example and pray, "but Thy will be done."  When I pray those words I feel inadequate.  I expect myself to feel detached from the outcome, as if I should no longer desire that God answer me one way instead of another.  But that's not what Jesus did in Gethsemane.  After He prayed "Thy will be done," He still petitioned the Father two more times to remove the cup of suffering from Him (Mk.14:41).  And His prayer to the Father was anything but dispassionate - "he fell on the ground" (Mk.14:35), and "offered up prayers and supplications with loud cries and tears to him who was able to save him from death" (Heb.5:7).  Ending His petitions with "yet not what I will, but what you will," did not extinguish Jesus' desire to be spared the cup of suffering.  If that was true of the Master then it is absolutely ridiculous for me or you to beat ourselves up for continuing to desire what we perceive as the "positive outcome."

Detachment is called for as soon as the Lord makes His will known.  Once Jesus saw Judas leading the party to arrest Him, He had the Father's answer and detached Himself from crying out to be spared.  We no longer see Him "sorrowful unto death" (Mk.14:34), but instead perfectly composed.  So it's alright for us to cry out and petition the Lord to spare us from a bad outcome; it's natural to do so.  But if the Father says "no" - if makes us share in Jesus' suffering (Col.1:24) - then we place ourselves in His hands and pray for the grace to endure.  That is practicing detachment - not by being void of emotion, but by accepting God's decision and maintaining faith in His love for us.  That is when we love the Lord's will more than our own.

Look at the life of Jesus. "Although he was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered; and being made perfect he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him" (Heb.5:8);  and consider the promise made to us, "if we died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him" (2 Tim.2:11-12).

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Earnest Desire

Have you ever truly longed for, pined for, something or someone?  There's an ache in your heart until your desire it met.  Knowing that feeling, I am always taken aback by Jesus' words at the Last Supper, "I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover meal with you before I suffer" (Lk.22:15).  Jesus desired that meal, earnestly desired that moment when He would give Himself to the Apostles in the Eucharist, even though it coincided with His death.

Do I earnestly desire to eat that Supper, to receive Jesus in the Eucharist?  No.  I don't respond with anywhere near the intensity with which Jesus comes to the Supper; and that came home to me recently.  It's not easy for me to share this, but if it can be of encouragement to anyone else out there; it's well worth it.   

A couple of weeks back I needed to go to Confession.  I had planned to go on Saturday afternoon but chickened out at the last minute.  That's right, after 25 years of going to Confession - and confessing things much more serious than I now had on my plate - I still chickened out!  I didn't feel right going to Communion the next morning, so I remained in my pew.  

What moved me to confess my sins the following Saturday was meditating on Jesus' institution of the Eucharist.  If the Lord's desire to share His Passover with us outweighed the horror of death, then my desire to share His Passover meal had to outweigh my fear of owning up to my sins! I was ashamed.  I asked for the grace to make a good confession, and I received it . . . and then I received Him in the Eucharist.

Bottom line:  If you are staying away from the Eucharist because you have some sin that you're afraid of owning up to, please let it go.  Look to the example of Jesus.  Do what you need to do, and then celebrate this Holy Meal and the union it gives you with Jesus. He prized it more than life.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Lessons in Humility from M.J.

No, not from Michael Jackson; I thought my deceptive ploys to grab your attention were common knowledge by now. This post is about the humility of Mary and Joseph (The M.J. in J.M.J.).

Following Saturday's show about approved Marian apparitions I received a call from a woman desperate for the bishops to acknowledge that she had received a message from God.  (30 seconds into the conversation, she had already conveyed enough side details to indicate why the bishops are unable to do so.  My heart went out to her though; please pray for her peace and that she is able to find good medical treatment.)  She was desperate to be acknowledged; for people to know that God had spoken to her.  The only advice I could give her was to put everything into God's hands and to be at peace.  If He wanted this private revelation known then He would open the doors for it to be known.

She came back to me this morning while praying the Joyful Mysteries, and it brought Mary's humility into stark relief.  Mary had received the greatest revelation in all of human history; she was going to be the mother of the Messiah.  Gabriel referred to her by a title, "Full of Grace;" she stood head and shoulders above the rest of humanity.  

But notice how God communicated His will to Mary over those next few years - through Joseph.   God sent his angel to Joseph, and Joseph appraised Mary of their need to flee to Egypt, as well as their eventual need to return to Nazareth.  Now it was probably very evident to Mary and Joseph who had the brains in the family; preserved from original sin, Mary's mind undoubtedly processed information and arrived at conclusions much more quickly than Joseph's.  Joseph had to marvel at the pearls of wisdom that fell from Mary's lips and be in awe of the acts of love that flowed from her.  Even though Mary's holiness and intelligence surpassed Joseph's, God had still entrusted her to his care.  Mary recognized that the superabundant graces God poured out upon her did not excuse her from following the order he had established within the Holy Family.  And to Mary's praise, she was completely at peace with it!  Now that's humility, and there is peace in humility.

Many times we may feel like God has given us some great task to carry out in the Church, but the doors don't seem to open.  Perhaps our parish priests, diocesan officials, or even the bishop do not seem to have much interest in the plans we share.  God wants us to practice humility and place ourselves in His hands.  If this work is of God, then the doors will eventually open; and if the work is not of God, it is better they stay closed.  In any case, it is an opportunity to grow in humility, to submit ourselves to the order God has established for His Family on earth.  That's where the peace is.  (I know, it's hard to practice; growing up isn't easy.)  Look to Mary; she's a model worth imitating!


Friday, August 3, 2012

Links to Resources on Marian Apparitions

Lets start with the free stuff!  Give these websites a try:

Apparitions and Shrines of the Blessed Virgin Mary (that have been approved by legitimate Church authority), and 
Theotokos Books' page, Nine Major Approved Apparitions - click on each for good summaries

I would also invite you to scroll back through my blog posts over the past few days for information on how the Church approves Marian apparitions and my summaries of apparitions.

Now, if you're in the mood to fork out some dough, I recommend:
1) The Catholic Book Publishing Company's Dictionary of Mary
 (Revised, Expanded Edition)

2) Donal Anthony Foley's Marian Apparitions, the Bible, and the Modern World

Mary's appearances in Champion, WI & Knock, Ireland

The most most recently approved Marian apparition comes from right here in the U.S. - Champion, WI.  On Dec.8, 2010 the Bishop of Green Bay issued his statement that after careful investigation, he believed the apparition experienced by Adele Brise on Oct.9, 1859, were of supernatural origin.

Mary's appearance to Adele came only a year and a half after the apparitions at Lourdes.  Mary appeared to Adele as she was traveling home from Mass.  It was an eleven mile walk!  Mary appeared beside the path, standing between trees, dressed in a white gown with a golden sash and a crown of stars. (According to the Shrine website) She said,  

“ I am the Queen of Heaven, who prays for the conversion of sinners, and I wish you to do the same. You received Holy Communion this morning, and that is well. But you must do more. Make a general confession, and offer Communion for the conversion of sinners. If they do not convert and do penance, my Son will be obliged to punish them ...
What are you doing here in idleness ... while your companions are working in the vineyard of my Son?"
“What more can I do, dear Lady?" said Adele, weeping.
“Gather the children in this wild country and teach them what they should know for salvation"
“But how shall I teach them who know so little myself?" replied Adele.
“Teach them their catechism, how to sign themselves with the sign of the Cross, and how to approach the sacraments; that is what I wish you to do. Go and fear nothing. I will help you.’ "
Those final words to Adele were the reason this apparition became known as Our Lady of Good Help. Adele did exactly as she was asked.  Throughout the rest of her life she traveled the mostly unsettled state of Wisconsin, often on foot, instructing children in the Faith and talking with their parents about how they were living it out.

Knock was a quiet, remote village in County Mayo, in west Ireland. Our Lady was seen there, in front of the south wall of the parish church, on the night of Aug.21, 1879, by fifteen witness ranging in age from five to seventy-five.  This apparition stands out in two respects:  1)  No messages was given, verbal or written, and 2) A number of other figures were seen.

At Knock Our Lady appeared in a white robe, with a golden crown having a gold rose where it touched her forehead.  She was in prayer, her raised to the level of her shoulders and her eyes directed toward heaven.  All of the figures with Mary were clothed in white too.  On her right was St. Joseph, he slightly gray head bowed slightly in deference to her.  On her left was St. John the evangelist, wearing the short miter of an eastern bishop, a book in his left hand and the index and middle finger of his right hand pointed upward as if he were making a point while preaching.  Slightly behind the three, closer to the wall of the church was an altar, surrounded by adoring angels, with the Lamb of God and a cross laying across it.  The angels' eyes never left the Lamb.  The light emanating from the apparition was observed by one man half a mile away.  

While the observers stood in a downpour, no rain was seen to fall on the figures in the apparition.  When any of the by-standers tried to approach the apparition seemed to retreat slightly toward the church.  The apparition,which began when the sun was low in the sky, was visible for almost four hours.

Although there was no verbal or written message there is so much to be meditated upon - the inestimable value of the Mass, our Lord's Eucharistic Sacrifice and how it unites heaven and earth, the preaching of Jesus' words from the Gospel, and the Magisterium of the Church, the intercession of the saints, the maternal love of our Queen, Mary, and the paternal love of Joseph!

Mary at La Salette and Pontmain

Two children (Maximin Giraud, age 11, and Melanie Calvat, 14) pasturing cattle near La Salette, France, received an apparition of the Blessed Mother on Sept.19th, 1846.  A glowing woman sat on a stone, her head in her hands, weeping.  She wore a long white gown and a tiara on her head.  Around her neck was a large crucifix adorned with a small hammer and pincers.

"If my people do not obey, I shall be compelled to loose my Son's arm. It is so heavy I can no longer restrain it. How long have I suffered for you! If my son is not to abandon you, I am obliged to entreat Him without ceasing ... I have given you six days to work. The seventh I have reserved for myself, yet no one will give it to me. This is what causes the weight of my Son's arm to be so crushing. The cart drivers cannot swear without bringing in my Son's name. These are the two things which make my son's arm so heavy."

The italicized portion of the above texts are a paraphrase of Leviticus 23:3.  Our Blessed Mother was speaking in the first person, delivering God's word just like Moses and the prophets!  She then told the children, who admitted to praying very little, to at least say their morning and night prayers.  The Blessed Mother bemoaned the way that in the summer time the only people attending Mass were the elderly women, as everyone else worked in the fields.  In the winter people came to Mass but they mocked it.  No one practiced the Lenten fasting and abstinence.  Before disappearing she told the children to make her message known to all her children.  They did and it sparked a religious revival in France.
The apparitions over Pontmain, France took place about 25 years later.  France was fighting the War of 1870, and Prussian forces controlled 2/3 of France.  The district containing the city of Pontmain was in the northwestern part of the country, and it expected to be overrun next. 

Mary was seen in the sky over a family farm in Pontmain by four children (Joseph and Eugene Barbedette, and two young girls, Jeanne-Marie Lebosse and Francois Richer) on Jan.17,1871, for over two hours.  The parish priest was called and he led the children and their parents, unable to see the apparition, in prayer.  The children saw the Blessed Mother dressed in a dark-blue robe covered in stars, a smile upon her face, with her hands extended downward toward them.  A blue oval with four candles encircles her and as the crowd prayed Mary and the oval increased in size and more stars seemed to sweep in and cover her dress.  A broad white streamer slowly unrolled beneath her feet with gold letters, reading "Pray, my children.  God will answer before long.  My Son lets Himself be moved."  As the parish priest led them in singing "Gentle Jesus, pardon now our penitent hearts" Mary's face showed sadness.  A large red cross then formed, with a placard at the top reading "Jesus Christ" in red.  Mary offered the cross to the children.  The cross vanished after a few minutes and Mary returned to her initial posture, but now with a white cross on each shoulder.  A large white veil appeared at her feet, slowly rose in front of her, and the apparition ceased.

The Prussians that the visionaries and their neighbors feared were soon unexpectedly turned back and an armistice signed.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Apparitions at Banneux and Beauraing

Beauraing (which I believe is pronounced Bo-reen) and Banneux (pronounced Bah-neh) are Marian apparitions you don't hear much about. Both took place after the much more well known apparition at Fatima.

Thirty-three apparitions took place in Beauraing, Belgium, between Nov.1932 and Jan.1933.  The apparitions were granted to five children, (Gilberte, Fernande, and Albert Voisin and Andree and Gilberte Degeimbreand) aged nine to fourteen, in the garden of a convent.  The Blessed Mother appeared to them clothed in a white dress and veil, a Rosary hanging from her right arm, and her garments emitting a soft blue light.  Sharp rays of golden light radiated from her face.  On multiple occasions her heart was manifested to the children - a golden heart and pouring forth golden rays of light.  (Our Lady of Beauraing is also known as Our Lady of the Golden Heart.)  Mary identified herself as, "the Mother of God, the Queen of Heaven."  She told them instructed them to "Pray always" and "sacrifice" for the conversion of sinners.  (This was only six years before the onslaught of WWII.)  She also requested that a chapel be built at that spot. The annual pilgrimage day to Beauraing is Aug.22nd.

Apparitions began taking place at Banneux, also in Belgium, not even two weeks after those in Beauraing.  Eight apparitions occurred in Banneux between January and March 1933 to an eleven year old girl, Mariette Beco.  Mary identified herself as the "Mother of the Savior, Mother of God," as well as "the Virgin of the Poor."  Mary assured Mariette of her prayers on behalf of her children and instructed Mariette to "pray ... pray much ... pray very much" and repeatedly beckoned her to a spring near Mariette's home.  The Blessed Mother said "This spring is reserved for all the nations - to relieve the sick," and she asked that a small chapel be built there. 

What's truly amazing is that Mary was appearing in Banneux at the exact time that elections were being held in Germany and Hitler was being voted in as chancellor.  The Blessed Mother's message of a spring of healing "for all the nations" flew in the face of the Nazi conception of the master race and its coming policy of extermination (see Foley's Marian Apparitions, p.297)

Guadalupe - Things We Don't Often Hear

Still prepping for Saturday:

A couple of years back, I read Donal Anthony Flew's Marian Apparitions, the Bible, and the Modern World, and was surprised by the background information it contained on Mary's appearance outside Mexico City.  I had heard before how the Aztecs were looking for the return of their pale-faced god, Quetzalcoatl, and his reclamation of their empire, and how the Aztecs thought Cortes was either Quatzalcoatl's emissary, or the god himself.  What I had never come across before was how ten years before Cortes arrival, Princess Papantzin, sister of the Aztec ruler Montezuma, fell into a coma and was buried.  She revived in the tomb and recounted for her brother the dream she had had.  Dolan narrates, "In it she was taken by a shining being with a black cross on his forehead to the shore of the ocean to see a number of ships with black crosses on their sails approaching.  She was told that these were the future conquerors of the country, who would also bring knowledge of the true God" (p.8).

The Aztecs expected Quatzalcoatl to return on his personal name day according to their calendar and to be wearing black when he did so.  It just so happened that Cortes arrived in the New World in ships with black crosses on the sails and stepped ashore wearing black due to the date on the Christian calendar, Good Friday (April 22, 1519).

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Properly Assessing Private Revelations

Thought I would do some of my preparation for this Saturday's radio show (EWTN, 1-2 p.m. Eastern) about approved Marian apparitions, here online.  (Please feel free to comment and help me get shipshape!)

Colin Donovan, Vice President for Theology at EWTN, has written a great article, summarizing how the Church evaluates reports of private revelation, such as Marian apparitions, and how prudent Catholics should react to such phenomena.  You can also visit the Vatican website to read the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith's normative guidelines (1978) for evaluation claims of apparitions, as well as Jimmy Akin's helpful commentary here.  Because I know that many of you are pressed for time, I've tried to summarize the relevant features:

First, we really need to keep straight the difference between Public Revelation and private revelations (CCC 66-67).  The latter, such as the Blessed Mother's request to Catherine LabourĂ© to create the "Miraculous Medal", can never be regarded as necessary for salvation.  They are not elements of the Faith handed on by Christ to the Apostles (Public Revelation).  Rather, authentic private revelations, are encouragements that God has sent, in particular times and places, to help us better live the Public Revelation. 

We Catholics do not consider private revelations as matters of "divine and Catholic faith" the way we do Jesus' Real Presence in the Eucharist.  The Church speaks of private revelations as "giving evidence of supernatural intervention."  To use Pope Benedict's words, they are considered "worthy of pious credence" and are judged worthy of a prudent "human faith."

So what makes for an approved private revelation?  First and foremost, it cannot contradict or claim to correct Public Revelation (Scripture & Tradition).  It is investigated by the local bishop.   What specific things does he consider?
a) the visionary - their psychological work-up, morality, and obedience to Church authority, whether he/she has sought to profit materially from the apparition
b) whether or not the revelations contradict Public Revelation
c) the presence of constant and abundant fruits - has the apparition led to increased prayer and displays of love of God and man

After looking at all of this the bishop, exercising prudent human judgment, issues one of three conclusions:
1) it is supernatural
2) it is definitely not of supernatural origin,
3) at the present time, although there are positive signs, there is insufficient evidence to declare it supernatural in origin. 

In most cases the judgment is #2 - definitely not supernatural.  In some rare cases the bishop deems #3 appropriate and gives approval for his flock to practice the devotions associated with the apparition as he and subsequent bishops continue to study the details of the apparition and watch for "constant and abundant" fruits.  (A current example of this is devotion to Our Lady of America - see Jimmy Akin's blog.)  In the case of the first approved apparition of Our Lady in the United States, Our Lady of Good Help (Champion, WI), devotions were approved for practice for well over a century before the Bishop of Green Bay issued his judgment that the apparition was of supernatural origin (#1 above).

The bottom line in all of these cases is that Mother Church expects us to abide by the local bishop's decision.  When it has been positive the Pope will sometimes signal his own approval of the apparition by granting a liturgical feast to the apparition, canonizing the visionary, granting favors to the apparition site, or making a personal pilgrimage there.