Wednesday, April 6, 2016

The Age of Mary and the Lost Meaning of Conversion

An excerpt from "Fatima: The Signs and Secrets" (available through Amazon in both paperback and Kindle).
-Bracketed numbers indicate the paperback's footnote.
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In these latter days of the Modern Age, Our Lady has appeared on earth more than in any other time in history.[565] As the spiritual war between good and evil intensifies, the Mediatrix of All Graces pleas with us to pray and do penance, even as She continues to intercede for us before the throne of God. In the ongoing epic battle for souls, each true Marian apparition in modern history is another chapter intended to remind all peoples – from practicing Catholics to those separated from God in diverse ways - of the lost meaning of conversion.

Just over one hundred years ago, the Catholic Encyclopedia provided four definitions to conversion, as follows: “a moral change, a turning or returning to God and to the true religion, in which sense it has passed into our modern languages. (For example, the "conversions" of St. Paul, of Constantine the Great, and of St. Augustine.) In the Middle Ages, the word conversion was often used in the sense of forsaking the world to enter the religious state. Thus St. Bernard speaks of his conversion. The return of the sinner to a life of virtue is also called a conversion. More commonly do we speak of the conversion of an infidel to the true religion, and most commonly of the conversion of a schismatic or heretic to the Catholic Church.” [566]
 

Already lost was the fifth and most crucial definition of conversion: the three ages of the interior life. Dom Jean-Baptiste Chautard, author of The Soul of the Apostolate, defined the interior life as “the state of activity of a soul who strives against its natural inclinations in order to regulate them and endeavors to acquire the habit of judging and directing its movements in all things according to the light of the Gospel and the example of Our Lord.” [567]

---Continued in "Fatima: The Signs and Secrets" (available through Amazon in both paperback and Kindle).

Fatima: The Signs and the Traces of Hidden Things


Below is an excerpt from Part 11 in my book, "Fatima: The Signs and Secrets" (available through Amazon in both paperback and Kindle readers). Numbers within brackets indicate the paperback book's footnote number.
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At Fatima, Our Lady’s distinct words provided counsel and admonition, while the accompanying signs and symbols fulfilled all seven purposes that authentic prodigies may hold. While scholars examine all the text from and about Fatima in regard to the Third Secret and the collegial consecration, we must also study the Fatima signs. That God wills the elect to understand His signs, at the proper time, is supported by inerrant Scripture: “For the Lord knoweth all knowledge, and hath beheld the signs of the world, he declareth the things that are past, and the things that are to come, and revealeth the traces of hidden things.”[364]

The Purposes of Signs 

Part 3 of this book stated, "Throughout salvation history, the signs of God indicate various purposes. A true sign can possess any one or more of the following seven functions: It confirms God’s Word, His goodness, authenticates prophesy, verifies God’s blessings and His intervention for the sake of the elect, strengthens the faithful with hope, insures or testifies to God’s Presence, or declares His judgment upon sin. [365] The signs of the world oppose the Catholic City, both in her human and eternal nature, leading souls to revolt against God, mimicking but falsifying God’s Word, undermining true prophecy, weakening or destroying the virtues by employing their imitators as replacements, and working contrary to God’s Will. [366] In sum, God’s signs and the world’s signs contradict each other. This explains why “the whole truth about Fatima,” [367] specific to the salvation of souls living in this era, remains contradicted by the world.

Fatima follows the pattern of Scriptural prophecy, which is given by visions, words, types and signs. In regard to Scripture, the usual course is to first study the text of its prophecy. As most Catholic biblical exegetes agree, “When the generations for whom it was chiefly intended would come into being, the true author of all true prophecy, the Holy Spirit, would in his own ways allow his elect to take from the text the knowledge that had from the beginning been concealed therein. In this, then, is to be found the reason why the magisterium of the Church, which is based directly on tradition in all matters of faith and morals, must depend largely on experience and the interpretation of signs when there is a question of unfulfilled or only partially fulfilled prophecy.”
[368]

What St. Justin the Martyr said in relation to the Old Testament which prophesied Jesus as the Son of God can also be applied to the public revelation and prophecies of Fatima: We are “compelled to belief by those who prophesied before the events. With our own eyes, we are witness to things that have happened and are happening, just as they were predicted. And this, we think, will appear to you as the strongest and surest proof.”
[369]

Fatima, judged by the Church as “worthy of belief,”
[370] prophesied “things that have happened and are happening.” Above all, Fatima has proven to be in perfect accord with Church dogma and doctrine, which is the supreme test of any revelation. The validity of the Virgin’s merciful message and apocalyptic warnings – and, principally, the solution to avert the latter - was authenticated by miraculous signs, from the seemingly small to the stupendous.

The Mother of God vs. Modernism
The Virgin Herself is a sign: “Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign. Behold a virgin shall conceive and bear a son and his name shall be called Emmanuel.”
[371] Our Lady is the same Woman foretold in Genesis who will crush the serpent and his plots: “I will put enmities between thee and the woman, and thy seed and her seed: she shall crush thy head, and thou shalt lie in wait for her heel.” [372]

This same Virgin, who came to Fatima, subtlely underscored dogma, doctrine, sacred history and Scriptural prophecy in the dates She appeared, the place She chose, the distinct dress and adornments She wore, the succinct words She uttered, the visions and secrets She revealed, and the many signs She gave. Together they form a consistent whole, fortifying the Secret given in three parts which concern the following: first, the salvation of souls; second, the salvation of the nations and of Christendom, the peace of the world; and third, the preservation of the Catholic Faith and the salvation of the Church. “These three themes, which are joined by an indissoluble bond, reveal to us the extraordinary mystical, moral, political, ecclesial, and dogmatic implications of the Secret of Fatima.”
[373]

Not long before the first Fatima apparition, Pope St. Pius X had issued Pascendi Dominici Gregis (1907) against the modernists and Our Apostolic Mandate (1910), in which the latter declared:

We must repeat with the utmost energy in these times of social and intellectual anarchy when everyone takes it upon himself to teach as a teacher and lawmaker - the City cannot be built otherwise than as God has built it; society cannot be set up unless the Church lays the foundations and supervises the work; no, civilization is not something yet to be found, nor is the New City to be built on hazy notions; it has been in existence and still is: it is Christian civilization, it is the Catholic City. It has only to be set up and restored continually against the unremitting attacks of insane dreamers, rebels and miscreants. Omnia instaurare in Christo. (To restore all things in Christ.)”
[374]

Because Modernism is insubordinate to Tradition and Scripture, it redefines everything pertaining to sacred dogma and doctrine, leaving no stone of the Catholic City unturned. It is especially defiant against Vatican I, which affirmed the “sacred dogmas must be perpetually maintained, which Holy Mother Church has once declared; and there must never be a recession from that meaning under the pretext of a deeper understanding."
[375] As the prophetic Pascendi expounded, modernism pretends that dogmas are merely symbols instead of absolute truths. “Thus the way is open to the intrinsic evolution of dogma. Here we have an immense structure of sophisms [false reasoning] which ruin and wreck all religion.” [376]

Modernism, the “synthesis of all heresies,”
[377] is an insidious sign of apostasy that lives in the souls of men, wherein should reside the kingdom of God. [378] It is the heresy of inversion, spawned by the same evil entity behind liberalism, which brought forth the “Enlightenment,” the French Revolution, and “The Age of Reason.” However, throughout salvation history, when the elect are (or soon shall be) insidiously besieged, God manifests His Divine Intervention in diverse ways – as did the Sacred Heart in the visions of Paray-le-Monial before liberalism and rationalism began to sweep Christian Europe.

The year 1830 initiated the prelude to “The Age of Mary,” in which the Virgin Mother of God herself began to earnestly entreat Her children, giving us a repeated message of prayer and penance, and sacramentals like the Medal of the Immaculate Conception, the Badge of the Immaculate Heart (the Green Scapular), and the miraculous water at Lourdes. Yet Fatima is the crown of all, with its message and its signs to the world, culminating in the Miracle of the Sun.

The First Sign: Immaculate Spouse of the Holy Ghost,
Figure of Israel and the Church


The smallest of the Fatima signs are two adornments of the Virgin. The ornaments, however, speak for themselves, if only we have the eyes to see: “For it is good to hide the secret of a king, but honourable to reveal and confess the works of God.”
[379]

The first symbol was a waist-length yellow necklace, from which hung a luminous orb or ball of light; the orb shone even brighter than the radiating light of Our Lady’s risen and glorious body.
[380] The second ornament was a small yellow star, suspended on Our Lady’s long gown between knee and hem. [381] There is no extant record that Our Lady or Sr. Lucia, the last surviving visionary who died in 2005, ever commented upon these two adornments.

Of the necklace and the shining orb, Fatima historian and expert Frére Michel of the Holy Trinity wrote, “… in the light of the liturgy, itself completely saturated with Holy Scripture, it seems to us that we can easily guess the symbolic meaning of this ornament. Does it not remind us of the ‘jewels,’ the traditional attribute of the spouse? Sicut sponsam ornatum monilibus suis – ‘As a bride adorned with her jewels,’ continues the canticle of Isaiah, which the Church places on the lips of the Immaculate One.”

Is it not in this sense that we must look for the most profound significance of this mysterious jewel described by Lucy? Several verses of the Canticle seem to invite us to do so; thus the divine Spouse [is] speaking to the Bride, the figure of Israel and of the Church, personified in the Blessed Virgin: ‘You have ravished my heart, my sister, my bride, you have ravished my heart with a glance of your eyes, with one jewel of your necklace. How sweet is your love, my sister, my bride!’ (Cant. 4:9-10)”
[382]

The Second Sign: The Mediatrix of All Graces
The meaning of the jewel and necklace is intertwined with the little yellow star. Known as “The Star of Esther,” it “points to a particular Old Testament history called The Book of Esther, which relates the story of a Hebrew queen whose intercession saved her people from annihilation…Just as the star adorning Our Lady of Fatima points to The Book of Esther, so does The Book of Esther point to all of the Fatima revelations. Esther’s theme centers on secrets and revelations, suggesting [it] is a figure type for The Apocalypse (Greek for Revelations)…The Book of Esther appears to encapsulate what Fatima highlights about both the Virgin’s and the Church’s singular office in salvation history.”


Centuries ago, St. Albert noted Queen Esther
[383] as a figure type of the Virgin Mary. Since the Star of Esther was one of the Fatima Virgin’s adornments, it is clear that The Book of Esther calls for a thoroughly traditional, theological study. That said, it must also be noted that no Church Doctor ever attempted a complete examination of this canonical, historical book. For those of us living in the Fatima era, the proper interpretation of Esther is vital. The interpretation must be in accord with Church dogma and doctrine, the constitution of the Church, apostolic tradition, and study of history with a “Catholic conscience.” [384] Such a venture includes “studies into the spiritual, moral, social, political, educational, economic and cultural conditions of the times,” [385] employing the Scholastic method of faith and reason.

Both of the Virgin’s adornments reveal the “secrets” of Mary and about Mary, which are carefully hidden in the Old Testament and apocalyptic figure types. As to the method prescribed for the interpretation of Scripture (which, with Tradition, is one of the two sources of Revelation), Pope Pius IX clarified that “the rules which the holy Synod of Trent salutarily decreed concerning the interpretation of Divine Scripture in order to retrain impetuous minds, are wrongly explained by certain men. We, renewing the same decree, declare this to be its intention: that, in matters of faith and morals pertaining to the instruction of Christian Doctrine, that must be considered as the true sense of Sacred Scripture which Holy Mother Church has held and holds, whose office it is to judge concerning the true understanding and interpretation of the Sacred Scriptures; and, for that reason, no one is permitted to interpret Sacred Scripture itself contrary to the sense, or even contrary to the unanimous agreement of the Fathers…”
[386] (All emphasis mine) In regard to the literal and mystical sense of Scripture, Pope Pius XII taught, “In this work, let interpreters keep in mind that their greatest care should be to discern and define what the so-called literal sense of the Bible is.” [387] In obedience to Trent’s decree, this examination of The Book of Esther will hold to the sense held by the Church and the Fathers, for as St. Augustine noted: "What lies hidden in the Old Testament, is made manifest in the New."  [388]

The Central Figures in Esther
Almost five hundred years before Christ, God raised up a Hebrew virgin, an orphan adopted and educated by her uncle Mardochai, to save the Israelites from annihilation. Through an unusual series of events, she became the queen of ancient Persia, living in its capital city of Susan.

The very name of this Hebrew queen, who was loved by the king above all others, refers to “hidden things.” She was “named Edissa, ‘who by another name was called Esther.’” In the Old Testament of the Hebrew text, her name was Hádássah - meaning myrtle, a white, five-pointed, star-shaped flower. The Hebrew texts [also] relate that she gave her name as Hester (in Persian, Esther – which means ‘star’)…The alteration from Hádássah to Hester refers to a secret, because Hester translates to ‘hidden [meaning of the] star.’” In addition, the “Hebrew name for the Book of Esther is Megillat Esther – e.g., "revelation [of that which is] hidden.”

Intriguing as a figure type is Assuerus, Esther’s spouse, the Persian monarch apparently serving as a figure type of God. Modern-day Iran is the heart of ancient Persia, even to the city of Susan (Susa). Is it not possible that Our Lady’s choices to appear at Fatima, a village named after a Mohammedan woman who converted to Catholicism, and Her display of Esther’s Star provide many traces of the Third Secret’s hidden things? For The Book of Esther centers on secrets and revelations, a plot among nations against one kingdom and the elect, prayer and sacrifice, and the final triumph of the Queen.

 ---Continued in "Fatima: The Signs and Secrets"

Saturday, May 30, 2015

The Rosica Factor: When Priests Threaten to Sue Faithful Catholics

Looks like a new trend is arising amongst priests who threaten lawsuits against any Catholic lady or gent of the laity who call them on their error(s). If this keeps up, the trend may well be called "The Rosica Factor" (see a bit of the Fr. Rosica story-background here).

 The Rosica controversy reached such a height that
"American Cardinal Raymond Burke, who formerly served as the head of the Vatican’s high court until Pope Francis appointed him patron of the Order of Malta, joined the discussion to defend the blogger," according to the article linked above. This time, however, the one being threatened by a Catholic priest is a Catholic wife and mother of three children.


My initial thought was to wonder at the coincidence (or is it one?) that this story came out on the Feast of the Virgin-Martyr, St. Joan of Arc. Anyone familiar with the life of St. Joan should recognize the implicit reference to the abuse she suffered under the hand of Church prelates. It went so far that she was martyred---while in the custody of Catholic bishops who abused their authority. It was they who martyred the saint. History has proven who was on the side of God---the great Saint Joan---and who was on the side of politics and religious respect----the bishops of England. And lest we forget, the imprisonment, maltreatment, and martyrdom of St. Joan (at the hands of the Catholic clergy who proved themselves guilty of human respect) occurred before the Protestant Revolt.
 
To return to the incident with the Catholic blogger (who also happens to be a wife and mother), she includes screenshots as proof: Catholic Priest Threatens Mum of 3 with legal action, because she told him off for saying that the Holy Spirit is female, and then he lies on Twitter about her!

Your thoughts?

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Why Saturday is Our Lady's Day


 An excerpt from my book, "Fatima: The Signs and Secrets" (available through Amazon in both paperback and Kindle readers).
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“To you it is given to know the mystery of the Kingdom of God,” [985] revealed Our Lord to His Apostles, but how much more do His words apply to Our Lady, whose singular office surpasses that of the disciples. Theologians are accustomed to point out that when God calls a human being to any office, He gives that person all the graces needed to fulfill its obligations.[986] Naturally, that teaching applies to Our Lady and never was it truer than on the first Holy Saturday, when the grieving Blessed Mother alone remained constant in faith.[987] It is for this reason that Saturday, especially Holy Saturday, is considered by the Church as Our Lady’s Day.

When the Jewish Sabbath began at sunset on Good Friday and all through Saturday, Our Lady and Jesus’ disciples, including the Holy Women, were prostrate with sorrow. Amongst all of them, only the Virgin Mary fully understood Her Son’s promise of His Resurrection, keeping its unwavering hope in her Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart.

Think of all that must have transpired in the Heart and Soul of the Virgin Mother as She remembered those most dreadful hours of Her Son’s Passion. The mere thought of a beloved child, enduring such suffering and abuse, would bring to the heart of any other human mother deep pangs of grief. Imagine the sorrow of the Immaculate Heart of the Mother of God! How much Our Lady endured – for us!

Throughout the Sabbath, the Blessed Mother recalled the betrayal, saw again the most grievous Passion, and once more heard the mocking words that insulted and blasphemed Our Lord. Tortured and mocked from all sides, Jesus was never given a moment’s peace from the moment His Passion began. God is not mocked [988], but He allowed Himself to be mocked as a prophet who said that He could raise the destroyed temple in three days, mocked in His quality of Son of God, mocked as a miracle-worker who healed others but could not help Himself, mocked for His sanctity and confidence in God, mocked as the Messiah and mocked as the King of the Jews.[989]

Loving and grieving witnesses of the Passion, Our Lady and the few who had been with Her at the Foot of the Cross must have later told the other apostles Our Lord’s last words:

To God the Father: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” [990]
To the Good Thief: “Amen, I say to thee: This day thou shalt be with me in Paradise.”[991]

To His Virgin Mother and St. John: “Woman, behold thy son… son, behold thy Mother.”
[992]
To Heaven: Eli, Eli, lamma sabacthani? That is, My God, my God, why has thou forsaken me?” [993]
Through parched lips: “I thirst.” [994]
For all to hear: “It is consummated.” [995]
To His Father once more: Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit. And saying this, he gave up the ghost.” [996]


As if Jesus’ cruel sufferings and Death were not enough to remember, they saw again Our Lord’s side not only pierced but opened wide by a lance, His Sacred Heart laid bare and gushing forth blood and water. For Our Lady, witnessing this last and vicious sacrilege of Her beloved Son’s Body, Simeon’s prophecy came to pass: And thy own soul a sword shall pierce that, out of many hearts, thoughts shall be revealed. [997]

---Continued in "Fatima: The Signs and Secrets" (available through Amazon in both paperback and Kindle).

Saturday, March 7, 2015

A New Holy League for Catholic Men



For the convenience of those who don’t have the Internet bandwith to watch videos, I’ve transcribed the text of the video (embedded at the bottom of this post). If you’d like to share my transcription on your own blog, website, FB page (etc.), kindly link back to this post.
My transcription now follows:

[OPENING]

“Hi, I'm Doug Barry, founder and director of Radix and Battle Ready.

“March 7, 2015 is the 440th anniversary of the formation of the Holy League, called for by Pope St. Pius V. This movement of prayer and solidarity united Catholics throughout Europe in defense of Christendom. On this anniversary, we announce to you the launching of a new Holy League.

“And now, a very important message from the spiritual head of the Holy League, His Eminence Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke.”

[CARDINAL BURKE NEXT SPEAKS]

I want to commend to you in a very particular way a spiritual activity of the Holy League. It draws its name from the historic Holy League which was an activity of intense activity and prayer during the time of the threat and the overtaking of Europe by Islam, and through prayer and especially through Eucharistic adoration and through the praying of the Holy Rosary, a great victory was won at the Battle of Lepanto, a victory that we recall every year on October 7, the Feast of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary.

“The Holy League is a very simple and tremendously powerful movement in the Church, founded in 2014—last year—and it is basically one thrust, and that is that WE AS MEN to be in the state of grace, being the state of friendship with God, through the confessions of our sins and the even greater welcoming of those graces which God gave to us by our Baptism and Confirmation, and the actual graces that He gives us every day to live faithfully as Christians, and, out of the Holy League, propose to help us to be in the state of grace and to remain in the state of grace so we can be a source of strength for the Church in these very troubled times. It is by way of the Holy Hour, a monthly Holy Hour, during which the Sacrament of Confession is available, a Holy Hour concentrating on our relationship with Our Lord, Jesus Christ, growing in our closeness to Him so that He can help us to be strong and holy men for our time.

“And so I want, in my message today, to say how important you are to the Church and to the world in our time. The Church and our world has always depended upon strong Catholic men.

I want to encourage you in all that you are doing to be strong Catholic men of our time, for the transformation of our culture, for the building up of the Body of Christ, to be that leaven in the world which transforms it and prepares the world for Our Lord’s final coming—for that Final Consummation of His saving work.

So please be of good courage. I ask you in a very particular way to consider becoming a part of the Holy League-giving your time once a month to the Holy Hour and time also for a very sincere and humble celebration of the Sacrament of Confession and a time to be reinforced in your daily prayers and devotions.

May God bless you all and, in blessing you, may He make you a blessing for the Church today and for our work." 

[MR. DOUGLAS BARRY speaks again, below]

“What more needs to be said? Every Catholic man can be a part of this work. There is a great need in our world today for unity and support of this movement.

“The goal of the Holy League is nothing short of establishing a network of monthly Holy Hours for men with Confession and fraternity in every parish throughout the world.

“This is building on the call of Pope St. John Paul II to establish Eucharistic Adoration in every parish, as well as the call of Pope Francis who called for 24 hours of Eucharistic Adoration with Confession for March 13-14.

“This is a call to all men, to all Catholic apostolates, to every man involved in Catholic ministry of any kind, to join this alliance, this Holy League.”

“For more information, visit Holy League.com

“You [will] need to join the Holy League Information Network by texting the word EPIC to 84576.

Ephesians 6:12 reminds us that our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the principalities of darkness.

“We need to remember the words of St. Paul: ‘Put on the armor of God.’

Gentlemen, the Holy League needs you. God bless and strengthen you.”


Tuesday, February 17, 2015

The Secret of Lent



The young and old may not be bound by the fast, but they are bound by the spirit, each according to his capacity. If we feel that it is unnatural to ask penances of children while they are still very  young—penances within their reach—we forget that self-denial must be learned very young, that it is the forming of character, that the very grace of their Baptism flows from the Cross.

The end (that is, the ultimate reason) of the penitential seasons imposed by the Church is not mere performance. The Church is a wise mother, who knows that the cutting away of self-will frees our souls for a more radiant love affair with Christ. If we think of the penance without pondering the effect, we misunderstand it. It is not over and done with the doing, but will bear fruit, if it is done with the right spirit; not alone by the piling up of treasure in Heaven but by an increase in our taste for God; a change in the habits of our souls.

Our Lord tells us how to behave during Lent when He speaks to us in the Ash Wednesday Gospel (Matt: 6:16-21): 

“When you fast, be not as the hypocrites, sad. For they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Amen I say to thee, they have received their reward. But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thy head and wash thy face, that thou appear not to men to fast, but to thy Father who is in secret; and thy Father who seeth in secret will repay thee. Lay not up to yourselves treasures on earth; where the rust and moth consume, and where thieves break through and steal. But lay up to yourselves treasures in heaven; where neither the rust nor moth doth consume, and where thieves do not break through nor steal. For where thy treasure is, there is thy heart also.” 

So let us remember, when we choose something to give up: no moaning and groaning! Hypocrites (Our Lord was talking about the Pharisees) make much of their performances because they want attention. That being their motives, He says, they already have their reward: attention. There will be opportunities, before Lent is over, for us to attract attention, but so long as this is not our motive, we can accept and use whatever God permits to come to us.

A father will be asked by business associates why he, too, doesn’t order steak for lunch. One mother will be asked by fellow club-members why she doesn’t eat sandwiches and cake after their evening business  meeting. Some children will be asked why they say “No, thank you,” to proffered candies at school, to decline and invitation to a Lenten movie, to not join with others to watch a television show. These are the opportunities, with many more, to give reasons “for the faith that is in you.” (1)

The Main Tips: We know that, if pressed or if asked why we refuse certain activities or foods, we need not say, “Because I’m fasting” or “Because I gave that up for Lent.” If, however, someone continues to urge us, we can say (with a smile!), “Thank you for offering, but at the moment I don’t care for any or something to that effect, so that we don't (1) shame the person who is urging us and (2) give the impression of being a bit of a braggart, a "holier-than-thou." Otherwise, we have found another way to draw attention to ourselves. 

“Anoint thy head; wash thy face…” Show your happiest face, because Lent is a time of making grateful reparation to God for our sins and that of others. Do not groan or moan or find a way to complain. Be careful not to inadvertently brag. Our Lord teaches us to hide our sacrifices, and to keep them secretwith God.





~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~+
(1) Mary Reed Newland, The Year and Our Children

Thursday, April 17, 2014

St. Bernadette: A Life of the Beatitudes, Part 2

Bernadette, the Little Maiden of Lourdes:
A Life of the Beatitudes (Part II)


“I must become a saint. My Jesus wants it.”
– St. Bernadette

by Marianna Bartold


 “At fourteen, not knowing how to read or write, a complete stranger to the French language and ignorant of the Catechism, Bernadette looked upon herself as the most worthless child of her years.” [1]  On Thursday, January 28, 1858, the 14 year-old Bernadette returned to her parents, joyfully exclaiming, “Now at least I shall be able to go to school and Catechism! That’s why I’ve come back.” [2]
 
Circumstances were no better for the Soubirous family, but her parents gave their promise. The next day, Bernadette was in school. Upon hearing the child’s motive and determination, the Sisters enrolled her as a future communicant.
Coincidentally, on Thursday, February 11, 1858 – exactly two weeks after her return because she greatly desired her First Holy Communion - the humble girl was graced to see a “most beautiful Lady.” Bernadette would see this Lady a total of 18 times, the last vision occurring on July 16, 1858.

 
That particular Thursday was a school holiday, so Bernadette was home with her family. Although a bitterly cold day, the air was still and there was no wind under the sunless sky. Shortly after 11 a.m., Bernadette set out on a necessary, tiresome task, accompanying her sister Toinette and a younger, impulsive classmate, Jeanne Abadie. The trio went in search of two things: fallen branches and twigs that they could rightfully take and use in the Soubirous’ fireplace and old bones to sell to the rag-and-bone man. [3] Their expedition led them into a forest and then over a foot-bridge to the Lafitte family’s property, which formed an island. One side was enclosed by a bend in the Gave River, the other by a canal which powered a saw-mill and flour-mill, called the Savy. The extreme point of the triangle was a tall, rocky formation known as “Massabielle” (Old Hump).


Massabielle was “naturally shaped into an arch from which a cave ran backwards, and to the right, about fourteen feet up, there was a small niche where a wild rosebush was growing.” [4]   In the spring season, the bush was “ablaze with white blooms.” This wild outgrowth of rock, with its little oval niche, was also called “the grotto.” In the small space before the grotto, Bernadette was forced to wait, as her healthier companions decided to remove their shoes and stockings, cross the freezing cold stream, and continue their search for dead branches and discarded bones.


They were already on the stream’s other side when, anxious to help, Bernadette resolved to join them. She removed her shoes in anticipation of walking through the water. “I had hardly begun to take off my stocking when I heard the sound of wind, as in a storm.” [5]  (Two days later, Fr. Pomian – an assistant priest to Fr. Peyramele, the parish priest at Lourdes – was particularly struck by Bernadette’s mention of the “sound of wind, as in a storm.” It reminded him of Acts 2:2, when the Holy Ghost descended upon the Virgin and the Apostles: “And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a mighty wind coming, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting.”)


Although the trees across the way were not moving at all, Bernadette said, “I had half-noticed, but without paying any particular heed, that the branches and brambles were waving beside the grotto.” She returned to removing her stockings and was already putting one foot into the water when she again heard the same sound of wind, this time in front of her. She looked up and saw the branches and brambles “underneath the topmost opening in the grotto tossing and swaying to and fro, though nothing else stirred around.”

The Lady at the Grotto
It was within the oval niche that Bernadette saw a “golden cloud” and then a beautiful light, instantly followed by “a girl in white, no bigger than myself, who greeted me with a slight bow of the head; at the same time, she stretched out her arms slightly away from her body, opening her hands, as in pictures of Our Lady; over her arms hung a Rosary.” Bernadette described that the Lady was “smiling at me most graciously and seemed to invite me to come nearer. But I was still afraid. It was not, however, a fear such as I have had at other times, for I would have stayed there forever looking at her; whereas, when you are afraid, you run away very quickly.”


The Lady wore “a white dress reaching down to her feet, of which only the toes appeared. The dress was gathered very high at the neck by a hem from which hung a white cord. A white veil covered her head and came down over her shoulders and arms almost to the bottom of her dress. On each foot, I saw a golden rose. The sash of the dress was blue and hung down below her knees. The chain of the Rosary was yellow; the beads white, big, and widely spaced. The girl was alive, very young, and surrounded with light.” [6]
 
When asked for additional details, Bernadette would also describe the girl’s face as oval in shape and of “an incomparable grace.” The Lady’s eyes were blue, and her voice, “Oh, so sweet!” The Rosary held by the Lady was not the usual length for the Psalter of all 15 decades but a five-decade Rosary. As Bernadette prayed the Rosary, the Lady let Her own Rosary slip through Her fingers, silently counting the beads with Bernadette. The Lady, however, did not pray the Our Father or the Hail Mary, but She did pray the Glory Be.

Abbé Trochu, her foremost biographer, noted: “This last detail, which the little one in her ignorance could not have invented, reveals an accurate and deep theological truth. The Gloria, which is a hymn of praise to the Adorable Trinity, and is Heaven’s Canticle, is indeed the only part of the Rosary suitable for Her, whose name Bernadette would not learn for another month. The Pater is the prayer of needy mortals, tempted and sinful, on their journey to the Fatherland; as for the Ave, the Angel’s greeting (to the Virgin Mary), this could be used only by the visionary, as the Apparition had no need to greet Her own self.” [7]

In the first two apparitions, the Lady did not speak to Bernadette, although She greeted the girl with a noble, yet inviting, bow of the head. During the third apparition, the Lady spoke for the first time, asking Bernadette, “Will you do me the favour of coming here for a fortnight?” [8] Bernadette said, “After asking permission from my parents, I will come,” to which the Lady replied, “I do not promise to make you happy in this world, but in the other” (a literal French-to-English translation).

As Bernadette would soon understand, the Lady did not state that She herself would always appear. Rather, the request applied only to Bernadette.  A brief summary provided by the first inquiry of the ecclesiastical Commission which later investigated the Lourdes apparitions thus states: “Bernadette was faithful to her appointment: she went most punctually to the grotto for a fortnight.  She always obtained the same favours there, except on two days when the Apparitions did not appear.” It was from this time forward that the young Bernadette was “accompanied by an ever increasing crowd. When she had the happiness of seeing the Vision, she forgot everything: she no longer noticed what was taking place around her: she was entirely absorbed.” [9]
 
This World and the Other
As for the Lady saying, “I do not promise you happiness in this world, only in the other,” her words quickly became self-evident. From the first day of the Apparition and until the end of her brief life, Bernadette would suffer misunderstandings, humiliations, false accusations, open derision, and many other trying circumstances.

For example, when her mother, Louise, first heard the story from the younger sister, Toinette, she questioned Bernadette and then took a rod to discipline both girls. At school, a much younger student slapped Bernadette across the face, while some of the teaching sisters taunted her to learn her catechism from the Lady. For many hours, the secular authorities would discourteously treat her, not even offering her a chair while they interrogated her. Even Fr. Peyramele was, at the first, very gruff with Bernadette.

Throughout her life, Bernadette was many times cross-examined about the Apparitions. In fact, she “wrote and signed numerous accounts of her visions In addition, she underwent repeated interrogations by both ecclesial and civil authorities, during which her testimony was transcribed. In none of these accounts did she contradict herself; on the other hand, there is no one single version that includes every detail.” [10]

What is consistent is Bernadette’s fidelity to testifying to the Virgin’s message and in living it. In the total of 18 apparitions, the Blessed Mother only spoke a handful of times. Once, She delivered three secrets that were for Bernadette alone – “a commission which, on her deathbed, she [Bernadette] declared she had carried out.” [11] For the public, however, the main message was one of penance, prayer for the conversion of sinners, and a request that the priests build a chapel and that processions come to the grotto. There was also the Lady’s gift, through the hands of Bernadette, of a hidden spring of water where graces of spiritual and bodily healing are to this day bestowed.

When the fortnight ended, the Lady had still not identified herself. During that interim, Bernadette had, at Father Peyramale's insistence, requested two things of the heavenly visitor – Her name, as well as a sign to confirm that the Apparition’s request for a chapel was truly from God.  On Thursday, February 25, 1858, the Lady had already instructed Bernadette, “Go and drink at the spring and wash yourself in it.” From young girl’s hand, the miraculous spring of Lourdes would come forth.  To the request for Her name, however, the Lady only gave Bernadette a gentle smile.

After March 4, Bernadette felt no inner call to return to the grotto until March 25, the Feast of the Annunciation. When she arrived, she found the Lady was already waiting for her. On this day, Bernadette thrice implored the Lady for Her name.  Then came the final confirmation of Lourdes, for the Lady raised Her eyes to Heaven as She joined Her hands, brought them close to Her heart, and said, “I am the Immaculate Conception.” After the briefest moment, She then smiled at Bernadette and disappeared.

Life after Lourdes
The Holy Communion so ardently desired by Bernadette was received on the Feast of Corpus Christi. Then, on July 16, the Feast of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, the Lady appeared to Bernadette one last and unexpected time. To deter pilgrims, civil authorities placed boards around the grotto, including the spring. Bernadette was by the Gave River when suddenly the Lady appeared: “I saw neither the boards nor the Grave. It seemed to me that I was in the grotto, no more distance than the other times. I saw only the Holy Virgin. I had never seen her so beautiful.” [12]

Bernadette’s actions during the apparitions emphasized both the Rosary and humiliating penance for sinners, but the Vision’s requests also tested her humble piety, fortitude, spirit of penance, and perseverance. Thus her coming years were foreshadowed, for she would continue to practice and interiorly grow in these and many other virtues.


The future saint was well aware that the grace of seeing the Mother of God did not grant her automatic access to Heaven. She would later write in her spiritual diary: “Often remind yourself of this word that the Most Holy Virgin said to you: Penance! Penance! You should be the first to put it into practice. For this intention, suffer trials in silence so that Jesus and Mary may be glorified…” [13]
  
Bernadette learned to read, write, embroider and sew. She became a Sister of Charity and Christian Instruction at Nevers, France, and was given the name of Sister Marie-Bernard. She worked in the infirmary as a nurse’s aide, and was later given the lighter task of altar sacristan. In the convent, she lived a life of both interior and physical suffering. She was often ill and frequently misunderstood and humiliated by her superiors and, on occasion, her fellow sisters. Abbé Trochu noted that “for the space of eleven years – much as she was esteemed and loved by her companions – she had been subjected to an undeserved coldness by those in authority over her. She always refused to speak of her suffering, which was a mixture of bewilderment and pain. She put up submissively with being reprimanded in public and more frequently than was her share.” [14]

Due to Bernadette’s lack of higher education and her frequent illnesses, to cite just two examples, she was called a “good for nothing” and “a lazy lie-abed.” Deeply hurt by such uncharitable comments, Bernadette never retaliated, although on occasion she might respond with a brief, appropriate remark. Once, when a passing superior flung a quick jest that the ailing Bernadette needed to arise and get about her business, the saint calmly replied, “It is my business to be ill.”

St. Bernadette understood that hers was an apostolate of suffering. A brief glimpse into her diary reveals the hidden gem of her interior life: “My divine Spouse has made me desire a humble and hidden life. Jesus has often told me that I will not die until I have sacrificed all to Him. And to convince me, He has often told me that when it is over, He alone, Jesus crucified, will console me.” [15]

At the young age of 35 years, on April 16, 1879, St. Bernadette died an agonizing death from tuberculosis of the bone. She was canonized by Pope Pius XI on December 8, 1933.  Enclosed in a glass casket in the convent chapel in Nevers, France, her incorrupt body sleeps, as it awaits its reunion with her holy soul at the final Resurrection.

What was the secret of Bernadette? She tells us in her own words: “To love what God wills always, to will it always, to desire it always, to do it always: this is the great secret of perfection, the key to paradise, the foretaste of the peace of the saints!” [16]

---In case you missed it, you can also read St. Bernadette: A Life of the Beatitudes, Part I

Notes
   [1] Trochu, Abbé Francois. St. Bernadette Soubirous: 1844-1879 [Rockford, IL: TAN Books and Publishers, 1985. Translated and adapted by John Joyce, S.J. First published in France under the same title by Librairier Catholique Emmanuel Vitte, Paris, 1954. English edition copyright 1957 by Longmans, Green and Co. Ltd., London. Published by TAN in arrangement with Longman Group Limited, London. Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur, June 21, 1957): p. 36.
  [2] Ibid.
  [3] Bones were used “for knife handles, toys and ornaments, and when treated, for chemistry. The grease extracted from them was also useful for soap-making.” Rag-and-bone man, Wikipedia [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rag-and-bone_man]
  [4] Foley, Donal Anthony. Marian Apparitions, the Bible, and the Modern World. [Herefordshire, England: Gracewing, 2002. Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur]: p . 159.
  [5] Trochu, loc. cit., p. 42.
  [6] Loc. cit., pp. 42-43.
  [7] Loc. cit., p. 44.
  [8] A fortnight is 15 consecutive days.
  [9] Trochu, op. cit., p. 63.
  [10] McEachern, Ph.D., Patricia A. A Holy Life: The Writings of St. Bernadette of Lourdes [San Francisco, CA: Ignatius Press, 2005. Kindle Edition]:  Loc. 116.
  [11] Foley, op. cit., p. 160.
  [12] McEachern, op. cit., Loc. 2354.
  [13] Ibid., Loc. 573.
  [14] Op. cit., Loc. 284.
  [15] Op. cit., Loc. 330.
  [16] Op cit., Loc. 542.