Wednesday, April 16, 2014

St. Bernadette of Lourdes: A Life of the Beatitudes

Bernadette, the Little Maiden of Lourdes:
A Life of the Beatitudes


 Humility is the secret of God’s glory.”

– St. Bernadette Soubirous

by Marianna Bartold

In reading the lives of the saints, St. Bernadette once mused, ““I think that they ought to point out the faults the Saints had and indicate the means they employed to correct them. That would be helpful to us. We would learn how to set about it. But all that is mentioned is their revelations or the wonders they performed. They cannot serve our advancement.” [1]

However, her most famous biographer, Abbé Trochu, did not quite agree. “She failed to add that, even so, these imperfect authors are to be commended for raising the pre-eminent qualities of the Saints, and that she found in them examples to imitate. The Church in its infallible decisions was one day to adopt the well-founded verdict of a Superior General of Saint-Gildard: ‘It is my own opinion that during her life Sister Marie-Bernarde [the saint’s name in religious life] put into practice the virtues that constitute sanctity.” [2]

 
What is sanctity? It is the “state of Christian perfection,” which is the result of a “fervent surrender of one’s self to God and the practice of virtue. It does not require extraordinary works. The Blessed Mother of God, the most holy of mortals, never performed any extraordinary works to excite worldly admiration.  ‘Love is fulfilling of the law.’ ” [3] 

A saint is a person who “fulfills all the demands of the law” (Rom. 13:10) which is accomplished by charity, the virtue by which we love God above all things for His own sake, and our neighbors as ourselves. Charity is considered the queen of all virtues, since it is the one virtue that will always exist in Heaven. In the Beatific Vision, souls will no longer possess any need for the other virtues. Charity, however, will remain, since it perfectly unites God and man, just as it perfectly unites man to man. [4]  Those souls who are canonized as saints by the Catholic Church are those who were known to practice all of the virtues to a heroic degree – i.e., heroic virtue.

What is meant by heroic virtue? Pope Benedict XIV, “whose chapters on heroic virtue are classical,” thus describes it: “In order to be heroic, a Christian virtue must enable its owner to perform virtuous actions with uncommon promptitude, ease, and pleasure, from supernatural motives and without human reasoning, with self-abnegation and full control over his natural inclinations.” The 1910 Catholic Encyclopedia comments,  “A heroic virtue, then, is a habit of good conduct that has become a second nature, a new motive power [that is] stronger than all corresponding inborn inclinations, capable of rendering easy a series of acts each of which, for the ordinary man, would be beset with very great, if not insurmountable, difficulties.” [5]
 
In reading the lives of the saints, time and prayer are needed to assess, study, and contemplate in them the supernatural virtues and the gifts and fruits of the Holy Ghost. In addition, “the Holy Ghost also grants certain extraordinary gifts, which are given only on rare occasions and to selected persons. Such extraordinary graces are granted principally not only for the benefit of the recipient, but of others.” Among these graces are included the gift of visions, of miracles, and of prophecy.

In St. Bernadette – handmaiden of the Lord’s Handmaiden, the Blessed Virgin Mary - we will discover all of these things: the three theological virtues (faith, hope, and charity); the four cardinal virtues (prudence, justice, temperance, and fortitude); the seven Gifts of the Holy Ghost (wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord), the twelve Fruits of the Holy Ghost (charity, joy, peace, patience, benignity, goodness, long-suffering, mildness, faith, modesty, continency, and chastity) and the extraordinary graces of visions, miracles, and prophecy. Of St. Bernadette’s many virtues and gifts, space will permit that only a few examples can be spotlighted – especially her fortitude and long-suffering.

The Saint’s Early Years
Bernadette Soubirous, the firstborn of her parents, was born about two o’clock in the afternoon, as the bell was ringing for Vespers on Sunday, January 7, 1844 in Lourdes, France, a small market town near the Pyrenees in the country’s southwest.  Her parents had named her Bernarde Marie, but the priest who baptized her kept referring to her and registered the name as Marie Bernarde. Her father reminded the priest that the child’s name was already registered at the Town Hall as Bernarde-Marie, but history shows that the priest never did change the register. Her family, however, considered her first name to be Bernarde, although she was called by the diminutive of Bernadette.

As for the parents, neither had ever gone to school but they were known to be good Catholics who faithfully carried out their religious duties and respectable people of irreproachable integrity. Of the nine children born of the marriage between Louise Castérot and Francois Soubirous, not all lived to adulthood.
 
In Bernadette’s sixth year, she began to suffer from asthma, which afflicted her until the end of her life. She was small for her age but she was a happy and lovable child with a sweet smile. She easily took to caring for her younger siblings so her parents could work. She, like her parents, received no education.
 
By her tenth year, 1854, the family was in serious financial straits. For various reasons, their mill was lacking customers and so the father sought odd jobs, as did her mother. Bernadette remained at home, taking care of her younger siblings. (On an important and related note, it was in this same year that Pope Pius IX defined as a dogma the Immaculate Conception.)

In the saint’s 11th year of life, Bernadette became one of many children who were stricken by a cholera epidemic. Since cholera is usually fatal, her recovery truly must have been a miraculous one. In her 12th year, her godmother Aunt Bernarde took her home, where she was fed well but also became nurse-maid to her younger cousins.  Once again, her education was neglected. Her aunt would later say that Bernadette knew the Our Father, the Hail Mary, and the Credo. However, she had never been taught to read, so her only prayer book was a small Rosary.

By the winter of 1856, Bernadette insisted on returning to her family. By this time, the Soubirous became so impoverished that they were forced to accept the free lodging of a cold, damp room known as Le Cachot (The Dungeon), once used to hold prisoners. Everyone in the town knew the family’s situation, but this “was an age of scant help for the poor. For example, no conference of St. Vincent de Paul was established in Lourdes till 1874 (three years before Bernadette’s death). It was a harsh age when too many of the wealthy, lacking pity because they lacked the Gospel, exploited the labour of the poor; and mothers of large families received only ten sous for a whole day’s work!” [6]
 
Bernadette’s father found work from day to day with the baker or the horse-and-coach service, while her mother worked in the fields, or gathered wood in the forest and later sold it to buy bread, or did the washing and housework for people in town. Previously, Bernadette and her sister Toinette stayed at home, caring for the younger brothers. Now, however, Toinette at age ten was able to attend school with the Sisters of Charity of Nevers, who had come to Lourdes in 1834.

For her part, the 13 year old Bernadette would often say that books were not meant for her, that the Sisters did not know in which class to put her since she could not read and could hardly scratch out a few letters. There was also her asthma and the fact that she was needed at home. Her only real desire for herself was the reception of her First Holy Communion.

Little Shepherdess of Bartres
Louise Soubirous thought of what seemed to be a good solution. In June of 1857, Bernadette was sent to Bartres, to the household of Marie Lagües, who had been Bernadette’s wet-nurse after Louise suffered an unfortunate accident with a candle. As a baby of 10 months of age, Bernadette was brought to live with the Lagües and there she stayed until her 20th month of life. Considering Marie’s supposed affection for the child, as well as her home’s proximity to church and school, Louise had thought it would be easier for Bernadette to attend school and Catechism at Bartres.


In reality, however, Bernadette again became a nursemaid, this time to her former “foster mother’s” four young children. By August, she was also entrusted with the care of the family’s lambs, and so she became a shepherdess. When school opened in September, she was not sent to class. Instead, she was given the additional care of the sheep.

What this meant was that the young girl worked from sunup to sundown, caring for children in the early morning and spending the rest of the day outside, in good weather or bad, with the sheep and lambs. At first, she was allowed to attend some catechism classes and the Sunday Masses and holy days. However, her inability to read and her legitimate exhaustion made it difficult for her to memorize the catechism.

Bernadette was a responsible worker, she never complained, she asked for nothing, and she gratefully accepted whatever was given to her. This made it easy to treat her as an unpaid servant, working for her bed and board. The true purpose for which she was sent to her former wet-nurse was neglected. A priest, the brother-in-law of Mr. Lagües, did intervene on Bernadette’s behalf, telling his sister’s husband that he was not treating Bernadette as one of the family. The reproach had little effect. Rarely was she seen at catechism, and never was she seen in school.

It was during these solitary days as a shepherdess that Bernadette made a stone altar at the foot of an old chestnut tree, setting on top of it a picture of the Blessed Virgin Mary. There she would kneel, praying the Rosary with a gift given to her by her mother – a set of poor black beads, threaded on plain string.  She would play with the flock of lambs and then, resting, her eyes would fall on the valley; her ears heard the rustling of the trees, the occasional bird song and the other sounds of nature. “God made all that,” she would think to herself. She did not know she was in the very early stages of meditation or that God was already preparing her soul. She was to be another handmaiden of the Immaculate Mother of God.

In early January of 1858, Bernadette’s 14th birthday found her still at the house of the Lagües. Circumstances continued as they had since August – she still helped with the children, she still retained the entire responsibility of the flock, and she still was not receiving any form of proper catechesis and education.
 
In humility, Bernadette did all that was asked of her, and she did it well - but eventually her ardent longing for her First Holy Communion began to manifest itself. At least three times, she asked to be brought home, through verbal messages given to her visiting Aunt Bernarde, a neighbor from Lourdes who was passing through the area, and the Lagües servant who one day took a trip to Lourdes. For the Soubirous, however, the situation was no better, so their daughter’s entreaties fell on deaf ears. Finally, Bernadette took matters into her own hands.
 
On a Sunday near the end of January 1858, she requested permission to go to Lourdes. Although given consent, she was instructed by the Lagües to return the very next day. She came back three days later, humbly yet forthrightly explaining, “I must go home. The parish priest is going to have the children prepared for First Communion, and if I go back to Lourdes, I shall make mine.” In this one example, one should easily recognize Bernadette’s fortitude, that “moral virtue that ensures firmness in difficulties and constancy in the pursuit of the good. It strengthens the resolve to resist temptations and to overcome obstacles in the moral life. The virtue of fortitude enables one to conquer fear, even fear of death, and to face trials and persecutions. It disposes one even to renounce and sacrifice his life in defense of a just cause.” [7]

Within two weeks upon Bernadette’s return to Lourdes, the Queen of Heaven would appear to this poor, neglected, and uneducated child. She was obedient, meek, and conscientious and had never insisted upon anything for herself – until now. Her only longing was a spiritual one, and that was to receive Our Lord in the Holy Eucharist.  Bernadette was humble and set her sight not on material riches but only those of the interior life. At the age of 14 years, her brief life was already one of which Our Lord taught in the Beatitudes: “Blessed are the poor in spirit; for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” [8]

-To be continued

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. 346.
[2]  Ibid.
[3]   Morrow D.D., Most Rev. Louis LaRavoire, My Catholic Faith: A Manual of Religion [Kansas  City, MO: Sarto House. Third edition published from the 1954 edition by Sarto House]:  p. 85.
[4]  Ibid., p.83.
[5]  BENEDICT XIV, De servorum Dei beatificatione et beatorum canonizatione, chs. xxxi-xxxviii, in Opera omnia, III (Prato, 1840); DEVINE, Manual of Mystical Theology (London, 1903); SLATER, A Manual of Moral Theology (London, 1908); WILHELM AND SCANNELL, Manual of Catholic Theology (London, 1906). Cited by Wilhelm, Joseph. "Heroic Virtue." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 7. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1910. 6 Jan. 2014 <
http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/07292c.htm>.
[6]  Trochu, op cit., p. 17.
[7]  "Divine Mysteries: The Four Cardinal Virtues: Prudence, Justice, Fortitude, and Temperance," Legion of Mary website <
http://www.legionofmarytidewater.com/news/news07/may/divinemysteries.htm>
 [8] Matt. 5:3, The Holy Bible, Douay-Rheims translation. With revisions and footnotes (in the text in italics) by Bishop Richard Challoner, 1749-52. Taken from a hardcopy of the 1899 Edition by the John Murphy Company.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

The Visitation of the Virgin and the Hidden Jesus



"Thy Blood, the price of our redemption, O Lord Jesus, is indeed most precious and deserving of our special veneration because of its immaculate origin in Mary, thy spotless Mother, on account of its surpassing innocence and its union with Thy divinity."

---From a prayer to the Most Precious Blood of Jesus



Today is the Feast of the Visitation of Our Lady, in which the Church remembers the Virgin's unsurpassed charity and humility as she made haste to visit her older and expectant cousin, Elizabeth. Hidden behind this mystery of the Virgin's visit to St. Elizabeth are many rich teachings and examples. One such mystery is the sanctification of St. John Baptist in the womb at the very moment the Virgin Mary spoke to his mother.

Let's see what the Gospel of Luke (Ch. 1: 26-57) records of these wondrous events, beginning with the Incarnation of Christ, which the Church celebrates on March 25, the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin:

[26] And in the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent from God into a city of Galilee, called Nazareth, [27] To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin' s name was Mary. [28] And the angel being come in, said unto her: Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women. [29] Who having heard, was troubled at his saying, and thought with herself what manner of salutation this should be. [30] And the angel said to her: Fear not, Mary, for thou hast found grace with God.

[31] Behold thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and shalt bring forth a son; and thou shalt call his name Jesus. [32] He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the most High; and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of David his father; and he shall reign in the house of Jacob for ever. [33] And of his kingdom there shall be no end. [34] And Mary said to the angel: How shall this be done, because I know not man? [35] And the angel answering, said to her: The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the most High shall overshadow thee. And therefore also the Holy which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.

[36] And behold thy cousin Elizabeth, she also hath conceived a son in her old age; and this is the sixth month with her that is called barren: [37] Because no word shall be impossible with God. [38] And Mary said: Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it done to me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her. [39] And Mary rising up in those days, went into the hill country with haste into a city of Juda. [40] And she entered into the house of Zachary, and saluted Elizabeth. 

[41] And it came to pass, that when Elizabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the infant leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost: [42] And she cried out with a loud voice, and said: Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb. [43] And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? [44] For behold as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy. [45] And blessed art thou that hast believed, because those things shall be accomplished that were spoken to thee by the Lord.
 
[46] And Mary said: My soul doth magnify the Lord. [47] And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour. [48] Because he hath regarded the humility of his handmaid; for behold from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed. [49] Because he that is mighty, hath done great things to me; and holy is his name. [50] And his mercy is from generation unto generations, to them that fear him.

[51] He hath shewed might in his arm: he hath scattered the proud in the conceit of their heart. [52] He hath put down the mighty from their seat, and hath exalted the humble. [53] He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away. [54] He hath received Israel his servant, being mindful of his mercy: [55] As he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his seed for ever.

[56] And Mary abode with her about three months; and she returned to her own house. [57] Now Elizabeth' s full time of being delivered was come, and she brought forth a son.


First, the Annunciation, when Jesus incarnated in the womb of the Virgin, is the greatest mystery of the universe. There is much that could be said of this portion of St. Luke's Gospel, but let it suffice for now to say that the Virgin was greeted by the angel (sent by God) with the name by which God Himself considers her:  "Hail, full of grace." This Virgin was the one chosen by God to be the Mother of God, the Word, and hence, she is the grace-filled Mother of God.

Second, St. Ambrose remarks that when Our Lady visited Elizabeth, it was she who first greeted her older cousin. There is no snobbery on the chosen Virgin's part, even though she knows that she is the chosen Mother of the Messiah. It is she who hastens to visit her older cousin who is six months with child; it is the Virgin who enters the house and immediately offers the first sincere "hello." It could have gone quite differently; she could have gone to help her cousin but upon the way, reflecting upon her own prerogatives, pride might have slipped in. She could have treated Elizabeth in a manner that made clear what a great favor she was bestowing on her older cousin simply by visiting her. But that is not what happened.

God had prepared Mary to become the Mother of the Son. She was conceived without sin so that Christ could assume from her His human nature - Body and Blood. Her soul had to be immaculate, because God is holy.  Like Her Son, she never committed any sin but grew in wisdom and grace. She was the first Tabernacle of Jesus Christ.

And so Mary's visit to Elizabeth "brought with it an accumulation of graces," as writes St. Alphonsus de Liguori. "The moment she entered that dwelling, on her first salutation, Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost; and St. John was cleansed from Original Sin, and sanctified; and therefore gave this mark of joy by leaping in his mother's womb, wishing thereby to manifest the grace that he had received by the means of the Blessed Virgin, as St. Elizabeth herself declared: As soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy."

Third, while there are many more doctrinal depths to these passages of St. Luke's, may it suffice to say that there are many reasons why we call the Blessed Virgin Mary by the title of "Our" Lady, for the one hailed by an angel as "full of grace" is truly a "channel of grace" to lead others to her Divine Son.

Last but not least, since this is the month of July, the month of the Precious Blood of Jesus, which he assumed from His Virgin Mother, it would not be remiss, when contemplating the mystery of the Visitation, to also consider the following  prayers:

O Father, Son, and Holy Ghost! O Jesus! O Mary! All ye blessed angels of God and saints of Paradise, obtain for me these graces which I ask through the Most Precious Blood of Jesus:

1. Ever to do the holy will of God.
2. Ever to live in union with God.
3. Not to think of anything but God.
4. To love God alone.
5. To do all for God.
6. To seek only the glory of God
7. To sanctify myself solely for God.
8. To know well my own utter nothingness.
9. Ever to know more and more the will of my God.
10. (Here ask for any special grace)

O Mary most holy, offer to the Eternal Father the Most Precious Blood of Jesus for my soul, for the poor souls in Purgatory, for the needs of the Holy Church, for the conversion of sinners, and for the entire world. Amen.


 
 

Monday, July 1, 2013

The Precious Blood of Jesus and the Great Secret of Fatima


“God’s goodness is at once the most public of all His attributes and, at the same time, the most secret.”Fr. Frederick Faber

 
“Devotion to the Precious Blood is as old as the world, and the devotion to this redemptive and Eucharistic Blood of Jesus is as old as the Church.” [1] At Fatima in 1917, Our Lady chose the month of July to give the Great Secret, in its three distinct parts, in the same month in which the Church commemorates the Precious Blood of Jesus.  Is there a connection between the each of the three parts of the Great Secret of Fatima and July, the month of the Precious Blood?

The First Secret, which provides the means to save poor sinners of this era from hell, offers a spiritual remedy – i.e., worldwide devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. The Second Secret tells the Pope and the rest of the Church how to administer the remedy. It includes two specific requests, conditional prophecies, and gives an infallible promise of robust spiritual health and vitality for the Church and the world when the remedy is given. The Third Secret, insofar as only the Vision is known but not Our Lady’s words explaining it, describes what seems to be a particular historic era that will culminate in the Church’s Way of the Cross. Where in all this is the Precious Blood of Jesus?

First, let us look to the initial supernatural manifestations at Fatima, which began with the appearance of an angel. Three times through the spring and late summer of 1916, the angel appeared to three shepherd children, Lucia dos Santos (now Servant of God) and her two younger cousins, Blessed Francisco Marto and Blessed Jacinta Marto.  On his first visit, he identified himself as the Angel of Peace, commanded the children to pray with him, and taught them a brief prayer, to be prayed thrice (once each time to each Person of the Holy Trinity): "O my God, I believe, I adore, I trust, and I love Thee. I beg pardon of those who do not believe, do not adore, do not trust, and do not love Thee."

On his second visit, the angel appeared suddenly, during the children’s afternoon rest on an unbearably hot summer day, admonishing them, “What are you doing? Pray! Pray very much! The Hearts of Jesus and Mary have designs of mercy on you. Offer prayers and sacrifices constantly to the Most High!” [2] Telling them that they could make everything they do as a sacrifice offered to God as an act of reparation for the sins by which He is offended, and in supplication for the conversion of sinners, the angel also revealed himself as the Angel Guardian of Portugal. He did not give his name but we can say with moral certainty that he was the great St. Michael the archangel, the Prince of the heavenly host who for 1,000 years has been invoked as Portugal’s guardian. The wondrous St. Michael concluded his visit by saying “Above all, accept and bear with submission the suffering which the Lord will send you.”[3]

Years later as a Discalced Carmelite, Sr. Lucia later wrote in her memoirs that on his third and last visit (which took place about a year before the Great Miracle of Sun), the angel appeared “holding a chalice in his hands, with a host above it, from which some drops of blood were falling into the sacred vessel. Leaving the chalice and the host suspended in the air, the Angel prostrated on the ground and repeated this prayer three times:

‘O Most Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, I adore Thee profoundly. I offer Thee the most precious Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, present in all the tabernacles of the world, in reparation for the outrages, sacrileges and indifference by which He Himself is offended. And by the infinite merits of His Most Sacred Heart and those of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I beg of Thee the conversion of poor sinners.’

“Then, rising, he once more took the chalice and the host in his hands. He gave the host to me, and to Jacinta and Francisco he gave the contents of the chalice to drink, saying as he did so:  “Take and eat the Body and drink the Blood of Jesus Christ, horribly outraged by ungrateful men. Make reparation for their crimes and console your God.” [4]

 
Our Lady and the Precious Blood

From the beginning of the Fatima apparitions, focus began with the Holy Trinity, the True Presence of Jesus under the mere appearance of bread and wine, and reparatory prayer and sacrifice. The children were being prepared for increasing sacrifices, first with those made of their own accord and later with those which God sent them. This latter part is what so many shy away from, forgetting that “there is an apostolate of suffering, as well as an apostolate of prayer and labor,” [5] as St. Paul reminds Christians: For whom He foreknew, he also predestinated to be made conformable to the image of His Son. [6]

The Holy Trinity prayer (offered three times in succession) is one that we, too, are meant to pray. It is the perfect prayer to offer when in the Presence of the Blessed Sacrament, before or after receiving absolution, when the Host is elevated as Mass, or when at Benediction, before or after our Rosary prayers, and most certainly in thanksgiving after receiving Holy Communion.


The True Presence of Our Lord is the same Jesus Who, in the hypostatic union of true God and true Man, assumed from His Immaculate Mother His own Flesh and Blood. “It is an article of faith that the Blessed Virgin gave to the Son of God that most pure and Precious Blood which the Holy Ghost drew from her virginal veins as from the original source of man’s redemption. This body of the Mother of God, in order of nature, was purer than the rays of the sun and, in the order of grace, purer than the blessed Spirits” (the angels). [7]

The 19th century priest, Fr. Frederick Faber explained, “The Precious Blood was assumed directly to our Blessed Lord’s Divine Person from His immaculate Mother. It was not taken merely to His Body, so that His body was directly assumed to the Person of the Word, and His Blood only indirectly or mediately as part of His Body. The Blood, which was the predetermined price of our redemption rested directly and immediately on the Divine Person, and thus entered into the very highest and most unspeakable degree of the Hypostatic Union – if we may speak of degrees in such an adorably simple mystery. It was not merely a concomitant of the Flesh, an inseparable accident of the Body. The Blood itself as Blood, was assumed directly by the Second Person of the Holy Trinity.” [8]

It came also from Mary’s blood. Mary’s blood was the material out of which the Holy Ghost, the Third Person of the Most Holy Trinity, the artificer of the Sacred Humanity, fashioned the Blood of Jesus. Moreover,” Fr. Faber continued, “there is some portion of the Precious Blood which once was Mary’s blood, and which remains still in our Blessed Lord…At this moment in heaven, He retains something which once was his Mother’s…”[9]

Already we receive glimpses of understanding why souls may attain salvation via devotion to the Immaculate Heart, because “the Precious Blood is the fountain of the plenitude of all graces in Mary, but it is also the source of her power to help us.” [10]

The Great Secret of Fatima in Three Distinct Parts

The First Secret opened with Our Lady momentarily showing the children a terrifying apparition of hell. Then the Virgin said “so kindly and so sadly: You have seen hell where the souls of poor sinners go. To save them, God wishes to establish in the world to my Immaculate Heart.”

“If what I say to you is done, many souls will be saved and there will be peace. The war is going to end; but if people do not cease offending God, a worse one will break out during the pontificate of Pius XI. When you see a night illumined by an unknown light, know that this is the great sign given you by God that He is about to punish the world for its crimes, by means of war, famine, and persecutions of the Church and of the Holy Father.” [11]

Then begins what most scholars consider the Second Secret, for Our Lady continued, “To prevent this, I shall come to ask for the consecration of Russia to my Immaculate Heart, and the Communion of Reparation on the First Saturdays. If my requests are heeded, Russia will be converted, and there will be peace. If not, she will spread her errors throughout the world, causing wars and persecutions of the Church. The good will be martyred, the Holy Father will have much to suffer, various nations will be annihilated. In the end, My Immaculate Heart will triumph. The Holy Father will consecrate Russia to me, and she will be converted, and a period of peace will be granted to the world.” [12]


A Vision of the Church’s Calvary

Like the First and Second Secrets, the Third Secret of Fatima is literal, not symbolic, and it also has two parts. Credible Fatima scholars agree that the Third Secret begins with the words written in Lucia’s Fourth Memoir, “In Portugal, the dogma of the Faith will always be preserved, etc.” At some point, the children saw another Vision (described below by Lucia), but the Church Militant and the world still await the publication of the Virgin’s words that describe this mystifying Vision. Lucia’s description of it indicates a modern-day Calvary for the Church.

After the two parts which I have already explained, at the left of Our Lady and a little above, we saw an Angel with a flaming sword in his left hand; flashing, it gave out flames that looked as though they would set the world on fire; but they died out in contact with the splendour that Our Lady radiated towards him from her right hand: pointing to the earth with his right hand, the Angel cried out in a loud voice: ‘Penance, Penance, Penance!'. And we saw in an immense light that is God: ‘something similar to how people appear in a mirror when they pass in front of it' a Bishop dressed in White ‘we had the impression that it was the Holy Father'. Other Bishops, Priests, men and women Religious going up a steep mountain, at the top of which there was a big Cross of rough-hewn trunks as of a cork-tree with the bark; before reaching there the Holy Father passed through a big city half in ruins and half trembling with halting step, afflicted with pain and sorrow, he prayed for the souls of the corpses he met on his way; having reached the top of the mountain, on his knees at the foot of the big Cross he was killed by a group of soldiers who fired bullets and arrows at him, and in the same way there died one after another the other Bishops, Priests, men and women Religious, and various lay people of different ranks and positions. Beneath the two arms of the Cross there were two Angels each with a crystal aspersorium in his hand, in which they gathered up the blood of the Martyrs and with it sprinkled the souls that were making their way to God.”

Truly, the Third Secret Vision is a sobering one. It brings to mind what was said by Our Lord, appearing to St. Margaret Mary Alocoque with His Sacred Heart torn and His Body so grievously wounded: “Behold the state to which I am reduced by My chosen people that should have appeased My justice, and that instead persecute Me. If they amend not, I will chastise them severely. I will withdraw the just and the innocent, and immolate the rest in My just anger, inflamed against them by their sins.” Christ’s warning came to pass in the French Revolution and the 19th century’s subsequent revolutions.

As St. Jean-Marie Vianney once said, “The good God asks not for the martyrdom of our body, but asks for the martyrdom of our hearts and wills.”[13] Fr. Faber noted, “Each age is a stray sheep from God; and the Church has to seek it and fetch it back to him…Each age needs persuading in a manner of its own,” but as he also observed, “Works of mercy are not attractive to hearts untouched by love.” [14]

Then, only a few years before the Fatima apparitions, Fr. Waltz of esteemed memory also remarked, “In our age of luxury and religious indifference, men do not want to be reminded of moral regeneration, of the necessity of struggling against the flesh, the world, and the devil; they do not want to hear of their obligation to use the means of salvation and thus co-operate with God’s grace.”[15] Finally, St. Paul infallibly stated, "And almost all things, according to the law, are cleansed with blood: and without shedding of blood there is no remission."[16]

The Third Secret is a serious warning for the Church because the Church is the work of the Precious Blood. “The salvation of individual souls is dependent on the Church. Hence the building up of the Church is one of the grandest works of the Precious Blood. The conversion of nations, the history of doctrine, the holding of councils, the spread of the episcopate, the influence of the ecclesiastical upon the civil law, the freedom of the Holy See, the papal monarchy of ages past, the concordats of the present day, the filial subordination of Catholic governments – all these things alter the face of the spiritual world.” [17]

For this particular era of history, the Mother of Mercy has found a way to satisfy Divine Justice, save souls from hell, and convert millions to the Faith, so that God will grant the entire world an era of peace. Hidden in all of the Fatima Virgin’s requests is the Precious Blood, the secret behind the Great Secret, for as Fr. Faber once wrote, “God’s goodness is at once the most public of all His attributes and, at the same time, the most secret.” The Virgin, fountain of the Precious Blood, is the rightful dispenser of the Precious Blood, the source of all the graces which the Savior channels through the hands of His Virgin Mother. And so it follows that whether for a nation or an individual, it always remains true that “belonging to Mary is a privileged means of belonging to Christ.” [18]

Notes



[1] Walz, Rev. M. F., Why is Thy Apparel Red? Or Glories of the Precious Blood, [Collegeville, IN: St. Joseph’s Printing Office, 1914]; Kindle loc. 266.
[2] Sr. Maria Lucia of the Immaculate Heart, Fatima in Lucia’s Own Words [Fatima, Portugal: Postulation Centre, 1976]: p. 156.
[3] Ibid.
[4] Ibid. p. 157.
[5] Walz, loc. cit., Loc. 1490
[6]  Rom. 8:29.
[7] Ibid., Loc. 87.
[8] Faber, Fr. Frederick William, The Precious Blood or the Price of Our Salvation [Baltimore, MD: John Murphy and Co., 1860 reprint, 10th American Edition]: Kindle Location 470.
[9] Faber, Ibid.
[10] Waltz, loc. cit.,  Loc. 109.
[11] Sr. Lucia, loc.cit., p. 167.
[12] Ibid.
[13] St. Jean Marie Vianney, cited by Fr. Waltz, Loc. 1486.
[14] Faber, (loc. 914)
[15] Waltz, Loc. 334
[16] Heb. 9:9.
[17] Faber, Loc. 1686, 1688.
[18]John F. Murphy, "The Immaculate Heart," in Mariology, Vol. III.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

FREE "Secrets of the Image" Book on Kindle


To My Blog Readers:

FREE! Starting at midnight tonight (May 31) and Saturday (June 1), my new book "GUADALUPE: Secrets of the Image" is FREE on Kindle.

I'm offering the book FREE for these TWO DAYS in honor of the Queenship of Mary (Friday, May 31) and also because June 1st is the First Saturday in June, the first day of the month of the Sacred Heart, and because...HOBBITS traditionally gives presents on their own birthdays! ;) 

BTW, the book's Amazon description is right below the link:


 
 
For almost 500 years, a miraculous Image of the Virgin Mary, known as “Our Lady of Guadalupe,” has attracted the attention of thousands. What is still not widely known is that the heavenly Portrait’s symbols spoke to the Aztecs and other peoples native to South America. The main focus of this book is the “secret” messages within the Image itself, given in the form of cryptology understood by the Aztecs - a message which led to the conversions of millions.

GUADALUPE: SECRETS OF THE IMAGE draws on the work of experts but presents in a concise, easily readable way topics including---

* Did the Virgin say “Guadalupe” – or something else? What do the Aztec language experts say?

* How the Lady Mary's appearance to St. Juan Diego was also the answer to a bishop’s private prayer

* What the Virgin’s face revealed to the Aztecs

* How the Image tells within itself the entire story of salvation history

* The meaning behind the Virgin’s turquoise-colored mantle, red tunic, the flowers on her dress, and more

* How the Miraculous Image shows that the Lady Mary is “the woman” prophesied by God in Genesis 3:15 and Apocalypse 12:1.

* The stars and constellations that appear (or intersect with) the Virgin’s cloak - and what they could mean

* Decoding the Message on the Mantle: Do the stars on the Virgin’s mantle include an apocalyptic prophecy?

* PLUS: The original Aztec account of the tilma and the Apparitions, translated into English

* The symbolism of the Scriptural number 153 and why it applies to the Psalter (commonly known as "the Rosary"")

* Why the way one prays to Our Lady is not the same way one prays to God

* The three groups of people to whom the Rosary holds a special value

* How to Pray the Rosary (with complete directions)

* Prayers, a chaplet, and novenas to Our Lady of Guadalupe, including a prayer approved by the canonized pope and incorruptible saint, Pius X

* A chronology before and after the miraculous events, right up to St. Juan's canonization by Pope John Paul II, and a springboard of Internet links to unique sites and blogs on the topic of Guadalupe

In GUADALUPE: SECRETS OF THE IMAGE, Catholic writer Marianna Bartold shares the wondrous message displayed on the miraculous Portrait – a missive of Divine Revelation given in symbols that has been for centuries right before our eyes.
 

 

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The Prayer Consecrating Pope Francis' Papacy

On May 13, 2013, Cardinal Policarpo of Lisbon consecrated the papacy of Pope Francis to Our Lady of Fatima. It was an unusual event, in which a reigning pope asked a subordinate to make on his behalf such an act. The Pope was not present at Fatima for the consecration of his pontificate to the Virgin of Fatima, which occurred on the 96th annniversary of the first Fatima apparition. At Fatima, Mary's International Pilgrimage also took place. News of this event hasn't seem to gather much attention. Meanwhile, let's literally pray and hope that Pope Francis will be the prophesied pope who will command and lead the bishops in the collegial consecration of Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary!

What follows below is the prayer - as it was translated from a Portuguese site to English (source at the end):


Consecration to Our Lady of Fatima's Ministry of Pope Francisco
Blessed Virgin,

1. We are at Thy feet
, the Bishops of Portugal and this crowd of pilgrims, in the 96th Anniversary of Your Appearance to the Shepherds, at this Cova da Iria, to comply with the desire of Pope Francisco, clearly expressed, to consecrate to You, Virgin of Fatima, his ministry as Bishop of Rome and Universal Pastor. So, we consecrate to You Our Lady, Thou who art the Mother of the Church, the Ministry of the new Pope: fill his heart with the tenderness of God, that You have experienced as nobody did, so that he can embrace all men and women of this time with the love of Thy Son Jesus Christ. The contemporary humanity needs to feel loved by God and by the Church. Just by feeling loved they overcome the temptation to violence, materialism, of forgetting God, the loss of direction that will lead them to a new world, where love will reign. Give him the gift of discernment to know how to identify the ways of renewal of the Church; give him the courage not to hesitate to follow the ways suggested by the Holy Spirit; support him in hard hours of suffering, to win, in charity, the trials that the renewal of the Church will bring. Always be at his side, speaking to him as you well know those words: "I am the handmaid of the Lord, be it in me to Thy word." [KIC Note: Perhaps this is a translation error, for the latter words should be "let it be done to me according to thy word."]

2. The ways of renewing the Church leads us to rediscover the relevance of the message you have left to Shepherds: the requirement of conversion to God who has been so offended, and so forgotten. The conversion is always a return to the love of God. God forgives because he loves us. That is why His love is called Mercy. The Church, protected by Thy maternal solicitude and guided by this Pastor has to be firm, more and more, as a Place of conversion and forgiveness, because in her it expresses the truth always in charity.

You have indicated prayer as the path of decisive conversion. Teach the Church, You who are a member and model, to be, increasingly, a people of prayer, in communion with the Holy Father, the first prayer of the people, and also in silent communion with the previous Pope, His Holiness Benedict XVI, who chose the path of silent prayer, challenging the church to the ways of prayer.


3. In Your Message to the Shepherds here in Cova da Iria,You have put into relief the Ministry of the Pope, "the man in white." [KIC Note: This is an unusual phrasing in which to address the Pope. Is this a reference to the Third Secret's "bishop dressed in white"?] Three of the last Popes made themselves pilgrims of Your Sanctuary. Only You, Lady, in Thy motherly love for the whole Church can put in the heart of Pope Francisco the desire to be a pilgrim in this Shrine. It is not something that you can ask for other reasons, only the silent complicity between You and He led him to feel attracted to this pilgrimage in sure it will be joined by millions of believers, willing to listen again Your Message.

Here, in this world Altar, he may bless mankind, to impress on the world today that God loves all men and women of our time, the Church loves them and You, Mother of the Redeemer, lead them tenderly into the ways of salvation.Fatima, May 13, 2013

D. José Policarpo

Cardinal Patriarch of Lisbon and President of the Portuguese Episcopal Conference
Source: http://www.agencia.ecclesia.pt/cgi-bin/noticia.pl?id=95484