Phil 4: 4-8

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Getting Right with Our Creator

In a few days, Pope Francis will be visiting Philadelphia.  Nearly forty years ago, Pope St. John Paul II told us during his visit to Philadelphia, “We are now standing in the face of the greatest historical confrontation humanity has ever experienced.  I do not think the wide circle of the American Society, or the wide circle of the Christian Community realize this fully.  We are now facing the final confrontation between the Church and the anti-church, between the Gospel and the anti-gospel, between Christ and the antichrist.  This confrontation lies within the plans of Divine Providence.  It is, therefore, in God’s Plan, and it must be a trial which the Church must take up, and face courageously…We must prepare ourselves to suffer great trials before long, such as will demand of us a disposition to give up even life, and a total dedication to Christ and for Christ.  With your and my prayers, it is possible to mitigate the coming tribulation, but it is no longer possible to avert it, because only thus can the Church be effectually renewed.  How many times has the renewal of the Church sprung from the shedding of blood?  This time too, it will not be otherwise.  We must be strong and prepared and trust in Christ and in his Holy Mother and be very, very assiduous in praying the holy rosary.” (1)

In recent months and weeks some of us have heard of or actually read reports from several experts who are predicting a variety of occurrences which could play out as major catastrophes here in the U.S.  These predictions range from further stock market devaluations, to a major recession or depression, to an all-out global economic meltdown.  There also has been some talk of possible natural disasters which could cripple communication, transportation and economic infrastructure.  And there seems to be an increase in reported “locutions” (2) or private revelations where individuals are receiving warnings of an impending period of dark times during which God’s Divine Mercy will be available to all who wish to avail themselves of it.

Whether or not you believe in any of the negative economic, societal or geopolitical forecasts, and whether or not you believe there’s any substance to any or all of the reported locutions, consider for a moment, “What if…
  • What if everything we’ve known and taken for granted about daily life were to be changed nearly overnight?  Is our relationship with our Lord strong enough to see us through it—have we consecrated ourselves to Him, with a total surrender to His will, or are we still bargaining with Him to do it our way?
  • What if key people and things of the here and now, of this world, were to disappear suddenly from one’s life?  How might that impact us, and to reiterate, is our relationship with our Lord strong enough to see us through it?
  • What if we ourselves were to perish before our previously “estimated time of departure”?  Do we still have some reconciling to do with Him before that happens?
  • None of us knows the day or time of our departure from this life, whether it’s facilitated by old age and natural causes or by something unexpected happening.  But—what if—as we say in the succession management business—“What if the beer truck ran over you today?”

Indeed, what can we do to get closer to our Creator, starting right now?  Numerous Catholic authors, including priests, have suggested what we ought to be doing in order to live in the present moment, taking full advantage of God’s grace in our lives.  The following is a synopsis of multiple Catholic authors’ suggestions for creating or strengthening our prayer and spiritual routines.

Prayer routine—start and end the day with some brief prayers of adoration, thanksgiving and supplication—it doesn’t have to be more than a few minutes if that’s all the time you have available. The morning offering prayer is a great way to start the day.
Scripture reading and meditation—(A/K/A Lectio Divina) spend a little time each day reading the Word of God, pondering, meditating on it and what it means to you, asking for the Holy Spirit’s guidance for you.
Rosary—Carry a Rosary with you, and pray one full Rosary of five decades a day.
Divine Mercy chaplet—pray one a day—this only takes about seven to ten minutes.
End of day examination of conscience—in the evening, review what your day has been like, where you’ve fallen short and ask for God’s forgiveness and the grace to avoid doing it again.

At Least Weekly:
Mass and reception of Holy Communion—we are SO blessed in the       U. S. Catholic Church to have routine access to the Holy Eucharist!  While we will meet our minimum obligations by attending weekly Mass, if it’s at all possible, we ought to look at more frequent reception of Communion. 
Eucharistic Adoration—an hour a week with our Lord’s physical presence—his body and blood, soul and divinity.  Fr. Lou Guardiola, CPM characterizes it aptly—“In like a lion, out like a lamb.”  Spend some quiet time with Jesus—he’s our friend.  Don’t we try to spend quality time with our friends?

At Least Monthly:
Confession—this is another blessing we have in our Church.  Most spiritual directors and authors recommend taking advantage of this sacrament at least once a month.  But, of course, if we have committed a sin that’s been particularly hurtful to our Lord, we don’t need to wait for the passage of time to attend confession again.  In most communities there are a number of parishes with different times for regularly scheduled confession, but one can make an appointment to see a priest outside of scheduled confessions as well.  To be clear, if we’re in need of reconciliation at any time, we need to get to confession ASAP—remove the stain of sin and open ours souls to God’s grace. 

The State of Grace
Our goal should be to stay in a state of grace, which means avoiding sin, and confessing and repenting it when we don’t avoid it.  Fr. Pierre Garrigou-Lagrange, OP a theological advisor to four popes, tells us that even venial sin is an infinite offense against God, because God is an infinite being; it is an outrage and serious ingratitude toward God.  Sin, even venial sin, deprives us of the precious grace of God.  And once we deprive ourselves of that grace, we can never get the time back during which we wasted the potential access to the grace—never.  Venial sin, according to Garrigou-Lagrange, hinders our exercise and demonstration of charity.  It can lead us to mortal sin through its creation of a spiritually tepid state in us.  Fr. Pierre suggests that we always should take advantage of the opportunity to pray, because even when our souls are in a tepid state, we still have the grace to pray.  So, as St. Paul exhorts us, in 1 Thessalonians 5:17, "Pray without ceasing."

Sounds like good advice to me.  We never know the day or the time…

  1.         Magnificat October 22nd, 2013 on the Memorial of Blessed Pope John Paul II, quoting his statement made in Philadelphia, 1976; blog post at Quartermaster of the Barque,
  2.             From Catholic Answers: “A locution is a form of private revelation, similar to an apparition, but rather than being seen a locution is heard or received internally. As with all claims of private revelation it is important to be certain that a locution is authentic before any recognition or significance is determined.”

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Devotion to the Holy Rosary

On numerous occasions, Our Lady has asked us to pray, and more particularly, to pray the Rosary.   You can ask anyone who routinely prays the Rosary and they will tell you how much it means to them, to their prayer life, and to their general consolation and sense of peace in their life.  It is a great gift to us, commended by many saints, including Pope St. John Paul II, who wrote, in in his Apostolic Letter, Rosarium Virginis Mariae:

“The Rosary, though clearly Marian in character, is at heart a Christocentric prayer. In the sobriety of its elements, it has all the depth of the Gospel message in its entirety, of which it can be said to be a compendium. (1)  It is an echo of the prayer of Mary, her perennial Magnificat for the work of the redemptive Incarnation which began in her virginal womb. With the Rosary, the Christian people sits at the school of Mary and is led to contemplate the beauty on the face of Christ and to experience the depths of his love. Through the Rosary the faithful receive abundant grace, as though from the very hands of the Mother of the Redeemer…. she continually brings to birth children for the mystical Body of her Son. She does so through her intercession, imploring upon them the inexhaustible outpouring of the Spirit. Mary is the perfect icon of the motherhood of the Church.

… [it] mystically transports us to Mary's side as she is busy watching over the human growth of Christ in the home of Nazareth. This enables her to train us and to mold us with the same care, until Christ is “fully formed” in us (cf. Gal 4:19). This role of Mary, totally grounded in that of Christ and radically subordinated to it, “in no way obscures or diminishes the unique mediation of Christ, but rather shows its power… (2)

Dear brothers and sisters! A prayer so easy and yet so rich truly deserves to be rediscovered by the Christian community…I look to all of you, brothers and sisters of every state of life, to you, Christian families, to you, the sick and elderly, and to you, young people: confidently take up the Rosary once again. Rediscover the Rosary in the light of Scripture, in harmony with the Liturgy, and in the context of your daily lives…”

The Rosary is what’s known in the Church as a “sacramental,” something that is “…instituted for the sanctification of certain ministries of the Church, certain states of life, a great variety of circumstances in Christian life, and the use of many things helpful to man…  (CCC 1668).  “Sacramentals do not confer the grace of the Holy Spirit in the way that the sacraments do, but by the Church’s prayer, they prepare us to receive grace and dispose us to cooperate with it. For well-disposed members of the faithful, the liturgy of the sacraments and sacramentals sanctifies almost every event of their lives with the divine grace…” [Emphasis added] (CCC 1670)

Rosaries are composed of 59 beads, a crucifix and often, a center piece.  An interesting fact: the word “bead” comes from the old English word “bede,” which meant “prayer.”  In the middle ages, most lay people, including lay members of religious orders usually had neither the education to read, nor access to, the psalters that were used by the religious in monasteries for daily prayers.  Consequently, they ended up using a string of beads, originally called “Pater Nosters,” (Latin for “Our Father”), to count the Hail Marys and Our Fathers as they prayed.  Between the 12th and 15th centuries, the Rosary evolved to the point that 50 Hail Marys were recited with it. (3)  In 1569, under Pope St. Pius V, the Rosary came into the general form with which most of us are familiar, ultimately with three sets (Joyful, Glorious and Sorrowful) of five mysteries each.  Later, in 2002, Pope St. John Paul II added the five Luminous Mysteries.  (Actually, according to the Magnificat Rosary Companion, he restored these mysteries which had existed in an earlier version predating the fifteen mysteries we were familiar with.)

So how about it, brothers and sisters, isn’t it time for all of us to rediscover the Rosary?  Or if we have rediscovered it, to spend more time with it, perhaps?  If anyone you know needs a refresher on praying the Rosary, there are abundant resources available to help.  Most parish gift shops have some sort of pamphlet covering how to pray the Rosary.  Some online resources include the following, which are rated highly for fidelity to Catholic teaching by the Catholic Culture website (click on the name to be taken there):

And what if you or someone you know needs a Rosary?  Rosaries are available in prices ranging from less than a dollar apiece to a few hundred or more, depending on what they’re made of.  You can find them at parish gift shops, Catholic religious supply stores and online.  No matter where you get them, make sure you get them blessed.  Following are links to some online Rosary purveyors:

Tradition holds that Our Lady made fifteen promises to those who pray the Rosary.  You can find the 15 Promises of The Blessed Virgin for Praying the Rosary online.  For a great summary on the Rosary and how to pray it, as well as information on the Confraternity of the Most Holy Rosary, click here.

Enjoy your special time with Our Lady and Our Lord Jesus in your praying of the Holy Rosary!

1 - Pope Paul VI, Apostolic Exhortation Marialis Cultus (2 February 1974), 42: AAS 66 (1974), 153.
2 - Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen Gentium, 60.
3 -  St. Dominic, founder of the Order of Preachers (Dominicans), had been given credit, erroneously, for devising the Rosary, due in part to the writings of Alan de la Roche, who was not a contemporary of St. Dominic.  However, St. Dominic is reported to have fostered a devotion to it, using it in his missionary work.

Monday, September 7, 2015

True Devotion to Our Lady

In previous posts, we covered a few of the many documented miracles attributed to a devotion to Our Lady and related to sites of her appearances, or apparitions, (and there have been numerous approved instances of Our Lady’ apparitions).  There are many, many more accounts of miracles and apparitions that have not been vetted or officially approved.  These facts alone are strong evidence of the salutary effects of a devotion to Our Lady.  But, as the infomercials say, “Wait!  There’s more!”

St. Louis-Marie Grignon de Montfort really nailed down the whole concept of devotion to Our Lady and to Our Lord Jesus through Our Lady in his classic work, True Devotion to Mary.  This book stayed virtually undiscovered until after his death and the end of the French Revolution.  Since its discovery in 1842, it has been recognized as the greatest book on Our Lady.  It has been recommended and practiced by eight Popes.  In fact, Pope St. John Paul II said that this book,

“…was a decisive turning point in my life.  I say ‘turning point,’ but in fact it was a long inner journey… [it] is indispensable to anyone who means to give himself without reserve to Christ…It is from Montfort that I have taken my motto, ‘Totus Tuus’ (I am all thine).”

Here’s the bottom line according to St. Louis de Montfort:  The greatest thing we can strive for is to be conformed to, and united totally with, Christ.  That being the case, then any devotion that will help us the most to conform ourselves to and unite us with Jesus would be the ideal form of devotion to follow.  That makes sense, right?  Well then, St. Louis says, who was more conformed to and united with Christ in their lifetime than the Blessed Virgin Mary?  From the moment she gave her Fiat at the annunciation, to the time she received Jesus’ body from the cross, Our Lady was totally united with, consecrated to, and an instrument of God’s will. 

Is that powerful, or what?  Think about it—who is a better role model for following God’s will and being united to Him than Our Blessed Mother?  St. Louis de Montfort provides a method of consecrating ourselves to Our Lady and to Our Lord through Our Lady over a period of 33 days.  It’s all laid out in his book.  But don’t let the 33 days of preparation frighten you away from it.  The regimen over the month or so of time simply involves daily prayers and reflections—something we probably already are doing in one form or another anyway. 

In the last few years, another approach to Marian consecration has been developed and explained in his book, 33 Days to Morning Glory, by Fr. Michael Gaitley, MIC.  In his book, Fr. Gaitley draws upon St. Louis de Montfort’s approach to consecration, as well as the lives and Marian devotional practices two other saints, St. Maximillian Kolbe and Pope St. John Paul II, together with those of Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta, to formulate his method of consecration.  Fr. Gaitley, whose order, the Marians of the Immaculate Conception have a great love and zeal for Mary Immaculate, believes that this formula of consecration can help anyone jump start or rekindle a strong devotion to Our Lady, and to Jesus through her.  Fr. Gaitley’s approach, written in the current time for Catholics of our day, although spanning 33 days like St. Louis’ uses what some might perceive to be a less demanding daily schedule of prayers and reflections. 

We first read and used Fr. Gaitley’s approach for our consecration to Our Lady.  It was a great experience, and I’d commend it to anyone who wants to ramp up their prayer life and devotion to Our Lord and Our Lady.  Absolutely anyone can take a little time each day to prayerfully work through this method of consecration, and it will yield great spiritual benefits.  In the interest of full disclosure, I will also tell you that I subsequently did a re-consecration using St. Louis de Montfort’s True Devotion to Mary and it was incredibly rewarding as well.  So which one is best for you?  Consider getting a copy of each and scan through them, then pick the one you’d like to use.  You can get a Kindle version of each for about $3 - $7 or used paperbacks from about $5 + $3.99 shipping, so it shouldn’t break the bank if you want to take a look at both of them. 

You can get much deeper into the scriptural basis for all of this by actually reading True Devotion to Mary, and/or 33Days to Morning Glory.   As well, for inquiring minds who want to delve more deeply into the scriptural basis for Mary as Mother of God and related issues, Patrick Madrid’s book, Where Is That in the Bible has an easy-to-read chapter on the topic, and Fr. Mitch Pacwa has written a great little book on the subject, Mary—Virgin,Mother and Queen.   (You can never have too many devotional books, although I am attempting to maintain a personal book-buying moratorium right now, just to prove to myself that I can stop buying books.  J )  

And please keep in mind that Our Lady, Our Blessed Mother, is watching over us and wants to help us.  We should not only pray to Jesus, Our Heavenly Father and the Holy Spirit, but we should also ask Our Blessed Mother for her intercession.  As the Queen Mother, she will perfect our requests and present them to Jesus, advocating our causes for us, (and who can resist a mother’s insistent request, right?) 

Our Blessed Mother loves us and won’t let us down: 


Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to thy protection, implored thy help, or sought thine intercession was left unaided.

Inspired by this confidence,     I fly unto thee, O Virgin of virgins, my mother; to thee do I come, before thee I stand, sinful and sorrowful. O Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not my petitions, but in thy mercy hear and answer me. 


To be continued...

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Why Should We Be Devoted to Our Lady and the Rosary?

In my last post, I suggested that we may want to ramp up our prayer life, and in particular, our prayers for the intercession of Our Blessed Mother, through and with the Holy Rosary.  But other than the messages noted from the major apparitions mentioned in that post, what other reasons might we have for a strong pursuit of the Rosary as a routine form of prayer?  Through Our Lady, big things can happen.  Her magnanimity, coupled with our humility, can make an incredible difference in our lives.  Consider the examples below:

St. Juan Diego’s Tilma
Nearly 500 years after Our Lady appeared to St. Juan Diego in 1531, on a knoll near Mexico City, the tilma of St. Juan Diego has been preserved from decay.  The image on the tilma cannot be explained by any scientific means.  This, of course, is on top of the fact that after our Lady’s appearance, over about a ten-year period of time, some 8 to 9 million people in Mexico became Catholic.

Battle of LePanto
In 1571, Pope St. Pius V called on all Catholics to pray the Rosary for the fleet of the Holy League as it entered into battle with the Ottoman navy.  As the battle began, the wind shifted and the badly outnumbered and outgunned Holy League won the battle, preserving Europe from a Muslim conquest.  (This is where the Feast of Our Lady of Victory, later changed to Our Lady of the Rosary originated.)

St. Catherine Laboure
Our Lady appeared to St. Catherine in 1830 and gave to her the image for the Miraculous Medal—a sacramental that is virtually universally known throughout the Catholic faith.  Now, nearly 200 years later, St. Catherine’s body remains incorruptible.  It has not been artificially preserved and yet it shows no decay.

Fr. Ratisbone
While wearing the Miraculous Medal to humor a Catholic friend, a Jewish convert, who later became Fr. Marie-Alphonse Ratisbone, was converted in 1842 after seeing a vision of the Virgin of the Miraculous Medal. After that occurred, he devoted his life to the conversion of the Jews,  even building the Ecce Homo Convent of the Sisters of Zion, located on the Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem.

St. Bernadette Soubirous
Our Lady appeared in 1858 to St. Bernadette, a 14-year old French peasant girl, who by all accounts was a very ordinary person.  Since that time, approximately 7,000 recorded miraculous healings have occurred at Lourdes.  About 70 of these have been verified officially as totally inexplicable by any scientific means, but the recipients of the healing in the rest of those miracles know what occurred for them as well.

Champion, Wisconsin
In 1859 Our Lady appeared to Adele Brise at a site which lies about 30 minutes by car from present day Green Bay, as Our Lady of Good Help.  Numerous healings have occurred at that shrine as well, one of which was for the baby grandchild of a personal acquaintance of ours a few years ago. Additionally, in 1871 the largest and deadliest fire in American history burned 2,400 square miles of woodlands in the area, incinerated a dozen communities, and killed 2,500 people.  Although the surrounding area was burned and the outside of the picket fence around the property was charred, the compound at the chapel of Our Lady of Good Help was saved from the fire after Sister Adele led local citizens in prayer at the church.

Fatima, Portugal
At Fatima Our Lady appeared to three children six times over five months.  In addition to the messages she gave them for the world, a miracle, referred to as that of the dancing sun was witnessed by 60,000 to 70,000 people at the final apparition.

Other Marian Miracles and Apparitions
In addition to the apparitions and miracles recorded with respect to each of the above sites, there are other apparitions that have been noted, some of which have been approved by the bishops in whose dioceses they occurred.  As well, in a recent, informal discussion among a small group of Catholic men, including priests and laity, recorded at a home in Birmingham, one priest, an expert on Middle East religion and culture, noted that in the last few years, numerous Muslims (hundreds of thousands if I recall correctly) have been called to conversion by apparitions or locutions from the Blessed Mother and/or Jesus.

But there are many, many more personal Marian miracles and examples of guidance and graces obtained through Our Lady among the faithful.  Father Larry Richards of The Reason for Our Hope Foundation has mentioned Our Lady’s guidance for him with respect to his vocation, as have other priests we’ve known or known of over the years.  In our own lives, Our Lady has played a major role in our spirituality through her intercessions for us.  She can do the same for each and every one of us—if we ask for her intercession. 

To be continued…