Monday, September 29, 2008

St. Michael: Prince and Guardian of God's People

And there was a great battle in heaven, Michael and his angels fought with the dragon, and the dragon fought and his angels: And they prevailed not, neither was their place found any more in heaven. And that great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, who seduceth the whole world; and he was cast unto the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying: Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: because the accuser of our brethren is cast forth, who accused them before our God day and night.

And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of the testimony, and they loved not their lives unto death. Therefore rejoice, O heavens, and you that dwell therein. Woe to the earth, and to the sea, because the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, knowing that he hath but a short time. And when the dragon saw that he was cast unto the earth, he persecuted the woman, who brought forth the man child: And there were given to the woman two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the desert unto her place, where she is nourished for a time and times, and half a time, from the face of the serpent. And the serpent cast out of his mouth after the woman, water as it were a river; that he might cause her to be carried away by the river.

And the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed up the river, which the dragon cast out of his mouth. And the dragon was angry against the woman: and went to make war with the rest of her seed, who keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ. And he stood upon the sand of the sea.

-The Apocalypse of St. John, Chapter 12:7

Today, September 29, is Michaelmas (also spelled Michelmas), a day in which we commemorate the Prince of the Heavenly Host, St. Michael the Archangel. Angels are frequently mentioned in the Scriptures, but only three are liturgically commemorated: Raphael (Ointment of God), Gabriel (Strength of God), and Michael (Who is like unto God?) St. Gabriel’s Feast is March 24 (eve of the Feast of the Annunciation) and St. Raphael's Feast is October 24th. On October 2, the Guardian Angels are commemorated. From the apocryphal Book of Enoch, we know the names of the other archangels who stand before the throne of God, which are related as Uriel, Raguel, Sariel, and Jeramiel. In the Western tradition, their names are (H)anael or (H)aniel; Jophiel or Cassiel; Zedekiel or Sachiel.

In the Middle Ages, this day of Michelmas was celebrated as a holy day of obligation. It is likely no coincidence that since the 18th century (the “Age of the Enlightenment” in which the heresy of rationalism rabidly sought to consume reason illuminated by the Deposit of Faith), the public honor accorded to this great saint progressively came to an end. Despite mankind's arrogance, St. Michael remains the Church's patron and protector and we may offer him private honor while also invoking his guardianship and defense.

Salvation history shows that St. Michael fulfills four offices:
1) God’s first loyal defender, he fights against Satan while this world lasts
2) Rescuer of the souls of the faithful from the power of the enemy, especially at the hour of death.
3) Champion of God's people -the Jews in the Old Dispensation, the Christians of the New; therefore he is the patron of the Church, and of the orders of knights during the Middle Ages.
4) Angel of Judgment, he calls souls away from earth and brings them to the Throne of Judgment. (Frederick Henwick, “St. Michael,” 1911 Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume 10)

Four times is Michael’s name explicitly mentioned in the Scriptures:

---In Daniel, an Angel spoke to the prophet of the help he also received against "the prince of Persia" (which seems to refer to a fallen "guardian" angel, for an Angel of Heaven would not have resisted another good Angel but instantly obeyed God's Will). That assistance came by the hand of St. Michael, Prince of the Heavenly Host: “But I will tell thee what is set down in the scripture of truth: and none is my helper in all these things, but Michael your prince.” (Daniel 10:21)

---In relation to the time of Anti-Christ, the Prophecy of Daniel also relates: “But at that time shall Michael rise up, the great prince, who standeth for the children of thy people: and a time shall come such as never was from the time that nations began even until that time. And at that time shall thy people be saved, every one that shall be found written in the book.” (Daniel 12: 1)

---In the Epistle of St. Jude: “When Michael the archangel, disputing with the devil, contended about the body of Moses, he durst not bring against him the judgment of railing speech, but said: The Lord command thee.” (Jude 1:9) According to Origin, in this passage St. Jude referred to an ancient Jewish tradition, made known by revelation, that St. Michael concealed the tomb of Moses at God’s command, because Satan moved to incite the ancient Hebrews who, accordingly, would have not have honored the body of Moses as a precious relic; instead, they would have accorded it worship meant only for God. (Origen, De Principiis III.2.2; cited by Henwick, “St. Michael,” 1911 Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume 10).

---In The Apocalypse of St. John, Chapter 12:7, as cited above.

The Fathers of the Church declare that St. Michael is the Church’s foremost guardian and protector. In regard to Scripture passages in which his name is not explicitly mentioned, they say that St. Michael was the angel who stood at the gate of paradise, ‘to keep the way of the tree of life’ (Genesis 3:24), the angel through whom God published the Decalogue to his chosen people, the angel who stood in the way against Balaam (Numbers 22:22), [and] the angel who routed the army of Sennacherib (2 Kings 19:35).” (Frederick Henwick, “St. Michael,” 1911 Catholic Encyclopedia, Vol. 10) According to the apocryphal Revelation of Moses, St. Michael also guards the body of Eve. ("Apocryphal Gospels", etc., ed. A. Walker, Edinburgh, p. 647. Cited by Henwick, “St. Michael,” 1911 Catholic Encyclopedia, Vol. 10). Thus St. Michael is known as the protector and guardian of God’s ecclesia (both independently and collectively - that is, the Church as a whole but also of individuals), the herald of judgment, and the guardian of Paradise.

Appearing on earth throughout the ages, St. Michael also came to Fatima, first identifying himself as “the Angel of Peace” and later as “the Angel Guardian” of Portugal. Both of these titles have long belonged to the Prince of the Heavenly Host. In the course of his few apparitions to the three shepherd children, St. Michael taught them the deep reverence due to the Holy Trinity and the Blessed Sacrament.

Of St. Michael’s first visit to them, Sr. Lucia revealed:

“Kneeling on the ground, he bowed down until his forehead touched the ground. Led by a supernatural impulse, we did the same, repeating the words we heard him say:

‘My God, I believe, I adore, I hope (trust), and I love Thee! I beg pardon for those who do not believe, do not adore, do not trust, and do not love Thee!’

“Having repeated these words three times, he rose and said, ‘Pray thus. The Hearts of Jesus and Mary are attentive to the voice of your supplications.’ Then he disappeared.”

At another time, St. Michael gave Holy Communion to the children. To Jacinta and Francisco, he administered the Precious Blood and to Lucia he gave the Precious Body of Our Lord – thus foreshadowing their collective vocations. In their brief lives, Blessed Jacinta and Francisco would drink quickly and deeply of the Cup, while Lucia, who Our Lady said would remain on earth “for some time longer,” lived a different Passion. Should we not be awed to discover that St. Michael is also known as the Angel of the Holy Eucharist?

The angels in heaven are our true friends, like loving older brothers who desire only God’s glory and the salvation of our souls. Every day, we should pray the St. Michael prayer which begins “St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle…” and the Guardian Angel prayer to our own personal, heavenly protector. For their honor and for the good of our own souls, we might also invoke the seven angels who stand before the throne of God, every day offering 7 Glory Be’s to the Holy Trinity in their names, even as we ask them to enlighten, guard and defend us.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

For Children: A Short and Simple Way of Life

Last night, as we began the prayers of the Rosary, it seems our littlest recognized that I wasn't feeling very well, so he brought his prayer book to me and whispered, "Mama, maybe you should read these. They always help me."

I was so touched to read the pages he had bookmarked. The first listed the Eight Beautitudes, which, as we all know, begin, "Blessed are the poor in spirit..." (How true it is that even a moment of spiritual reading lifts up the heart!) After reading them, I saw a tiny slip of a bookmark on the next page, so I carefully turned the thin leaf. After reading that second page, I realized our littlest was not only offering me spiritual consolation --- he had also given me a glimpse into his own developing interior life. My heart swelled in gratitude...

Because it is a 'short and simple way' that reminds little ones of True Devotion to Jesus through Mary, or perhaps "The Little Way" of St. Therese, and to take as their own the examples of the lives of saints like young St. Dominic Savio or the Blesseds Jacinta and Francisco, I gladly share with you what our youngest son shared with me:

A Short and Simple Way of Life for a Child

Fear sin.

Dread mortal sin.

Never commit wilful venial sins.

Fly the occasions of sin.

Avoid bad companions.

Never read a bad book.

Guard your eyes, that they see no evil.

Watch your lips, that they speak no ill.

Pray often -

-To Jesus, to His Mother, to the Saints.

-Say your morning and evening prayers.

-Recite your Rosary.

-Hear Mass as often as you can.

-Receive Jesus frequently in Holy Communion.

Be obedient, be wise, be kind, be industrious, be good.

Honor your parents. Help them. Obey them.

Forget not the Souls in Purgatory.

Always, and above everything else ---love God.

From Jesus Make Me Worthy, a Prayerbook for the Young Boy or Girl
(The Regina Press, New York, 1961)

Monday, September 22, 2008

Happy Birthday, Bilbo and Frodo!

"In a dream, I saw the eastern sky grow dark,
but in the west,
a pale light lingered."
-Boromir, The Fellowship of the Ring
[Pix: Sunset at Marianna's house]

While the birthday of two such estimable hobbits is, in and of itself, more than sufficient cause for a celebration, this is a day to celebrate so much more: Middle Earth, the Nobility of Aragorn, the Wisdom of Gandalf, the Courage of Sam, the Shire itself - in short, all that is at the heart of what we call normal and decent.

The stories of Bilbo and Frodo provide a lifeline for us to a dimension where morality still exists, where Truth is honored, where virtue - its own reward - is nevertheless rewarded. While we’re at it, we may drink a toast to Tolkien himself, and to Lewis and Williams and Barfield and all the other sparkling intellects who gathered at the Eagle and Child. We may drink a toast to Narnia, and hope for the day when we can enter Aslan’s Country, for which we are all, at heart, truly homesick. We can drink a toast to George McDonald, and the Brothers Grimm, and all those who, in the exquisite code of a besieged but determined underground, have encouraged and reminded us of Our King and His Reward, which may only be obtained on careful condition and after much danger in the enchanted forest.

For this most merry feast, let us enjoy:

Buckland Pie

1 unbaked 12-inch pie shell
10 strips bacon, diced
2 medium onions, chopped
3 large eggs
¾ cup cream
8 oz. baby portobellos, roughly chopped
8 oz. white mushrooms, chopped
(you may substitute a pound of whatever mushrooms you can get)
¼ teaspoon white pepper
1 cup cheddar cheese

1. Saute the bacon until nearly done, then add the onions.

2. When onions are transparent, add mushrooms and saute just a little.

3. Put about half the cheese in the bottom of the pie shell. Pile on the sauted ingredients with a slotted spoon, leaving the bacon grease behind. [Put the grease on the dog’s food
because ­it has onions in it and shouldn’t go into the bacon grease jar, but the dog will benefit greatly.]

4. Sprinkle the remaining cheese over the top.

5. Beat the eggs lightly and add the cream and white pepper.

6. Carefully pour over the other ingredients---if it won’t quite fit, give the leftovers to the dog.

7. Put the pie on a baking sheet and transfer to a 350 degree oven.

8. Bake until set, about 25 minutes or so.

9. Serve with baby spinach salad with a light dressing and wash down with a good ale (beer). One pie will not feed more than four---it is just too good!

With special thanks to Syler Womack for this submission, which is entirely hers!
"By all that you hold dear on this good earth, I bid you stand, Men of the West!"
~~~King Aragorn

Friday, September 19, 2008

Our Lady of LaSalette: The Madonna in Tears

In “modern times,” as error begat error, Our Lady began to plead with her children to stop offending God. Appearing at the Rue-de-Bac (Paris, France) in 1830, She made prophecies of the future that came to pass by the year 1870; She also gave a great sacramental to the world, commonly called "the Miraculous Medal." (Its official name is the Medal of the Immaculate Conception.) Our Lady came again to the world in 1836 and in 1840 to offer special spiritual helps, but the world paid little heed.

Some souls were led back to God through the Miraculous Medal (1830), the Archconfraternity of the Immaculate Heart (1836), and the “Badge of the Immaculate Heart” (1846), commonly known as “the Green Scapular.” Miracles of grace were given, as in the famous case of Alphonse Rathisbonne. But as a whole, the world continued to ignore Our Lady’s messages.

"As men of science made new discoveries," pride in intellectual prowess led most of them and others "to thrust God into the background" and then abandon Him altogether. “Books attacking religion were coming off the presses in great numbers. The ranks of freethinkers, agnostics and atheists were swelling every day.”

“An ordinary creature would have been tempted to leave the world to the fate it so richly deserved” – but not Our Lady! On September 19, 1846 - the eve of the “Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows” - the Madonna appeared in a one-time apparition to two children, the eleven-year old Maximin Giraud and the fifteen-year old Melanie Mathieu Calvat. At the moment these simple, barely catechized children first saw the Lady, they had been "tending cows on the slope of Mt. Gargas, which rises above the village of La Salette in southeastern France."

The children first “saw a globe of dazzling white. While they gazed in wonderment, the globe opened and they saw a woman seated on some stones” near a spring that was dry at the time. “The Lady’s elbows rested on her knees, her face was buried in her hands, and she was weeping.” The children were very afraid, not knowing who the Lady was or why She was so desperately crying.

The Lady rose, crossed her arms, and “in the sweetest of tones,” said:

“Come near, my children. Do not be afraid. I am here to tell you important news.”

Advancing closer to the Lady, the children saw that “Her face was beautiful, though her eyes were filled with tears. She wore white shoes encircles by roses. Her apron was golden and descended to the bottom of her full white robe. Her arms were concealed within broad straight sleeves which reached beyond her finger tips. A white cape bordered with roses hung over her shoulders. She wore a thin chain upon which hung a crucifix," upon which the Body of Christ seemed very real. "Her head-dress was white; above it was a royal diadem wreathed with roses of many hues.” Her beauty was “so radiant and dazzling that the children could scarcely look at her.” They would later say that “nothing could begin to compare with her beauty.”

“The Lady spoke again in a voice sweeter than the sweetest of melodies” but tears continued to fall from Her eyes as She spoke.

“If my people will not submit, I shall be forced to let go the hand of My Son. It is so strong, so heavy, I can no longer withhold it.”

“How long a time do I suffer for you! If I would not have My Son abandon you, I am compelled to pray to Him without ceasing. But, as to you, you take no heed of it.”

“However much you pray, however much you do, you will never recompense the pains I have taken for you.”

Halt for just a moment…think of those beautifully stirring words issued by the Virgin Mary, Mediatrix of All Graces! Although eternally happy in heaven, She showed Herself as the Weeping Madonna - weeping over the greater number of her spiritual children on earth who have left the Narrow Road. Why did they leave - and why do they continue in this vein - to seek so many “easy” but dangerous paths, unless the cause was at least one of the seven capital sins? For example, only spiritual sloth or anger could lead a baptized Catholic to desecrate the Sabbath or use Our Lord’s name in vain – and it was these two particular, latter sins of which Our Lady of LaSalette would speak.

She wept because too many dismissed and forgot the love Her Divine Son. Too many were calling down the punishment of God on their own heads as well as upon the heads of innocents, for such are the mysteries of the Mystical Body of Christ. To save Europe from the punishments, Our Lady revealed that She prayed unceasingly to withhold the Justice of Our Lord but still – you take no heed of it.”

“Blessed are the poor in spirit” – this Beatitude from Our Lord Himself, which centers on the virtue of humility coupled with trust in God, comes to mind even as we recall Our Lady’s words at LaSalette: “However much you pray, however much you do, you will never recompense the pains I have taken for you.” The best each faithful member of the Mystical Body can hope to accomplish here on earth is the work expected of one of God’s servants. We shouldn’t congratulate ourselves at all because if any good is accomplished, it is only through the grace of God. Knowing that, we should attempt to do more – in thought, word, and action - since we can never hope to recompense either Our Lord or His Virgin Mother for Their Sufferings on our behalf.

As if the Lady’s preceding tears and sad words were not enough, She continued to speak to the children:

“If the harvest is spoiled, it is your fault. I gave you warning last year in the potatoes, but you did not heed it. On the contrary, when you found the potatoes spoiled you swore, taking My Son’s Name in vain. The potatoes will continue to decay, so that by Christmas there will be none left.”

The Virgin made clear that the calamities then falling on the world were a result of two sins, seriously offending Her Son and wounding the Mystical Body of Christ. How many more of the Commandments are broken in our own day – and to what a greater extent!

Then Our Lady foretold the continuing failure of the potato crop if the people did not repent.

Most curious is the fact that, up to this point, Our Lady spoke in the noble French of the cultured classes, not the “patois” dialect of the children. Melanie did not understand the “cultured” French word for “potatoes,” so she turned to Maximin and asked him for the meaning of “pommes de terre.”

“Ah, my children,” said the Lady, “you do not understand. I will say it in a different way.” (Of course, there can be no doubt the Our Lady already knew the children could not understand the “noble” French. It is clear She had a purpose for first speaking it – which was to place yet another piece of evidence before the Church authorities who would later investigate the claims of these very poor and uneducated children.)

So the Lady then proceeded in “patois”:

“If you have wheat, it is no good to sow it; all that you sow the insects will eat. What comes up will fall into dust when you thresh it.”

Then, the conditional prophecy became even more sorrowful:

“There will come a great famine. Before the famine comes, the children under seven years of age will be seized with trembling and will die in the arms of their mothers. Others will do penance by famine.”

“The walnuts will become worm-eaten; the grapes will rot.”

“But if the people are converted, the stones and the rocks will become heaps of wheat and the potatoes will be self-sown.”

Our Lady was asking for repentance, in itself an important form of “conversion,” and at the same time making clear that if Her requests were not heeded, God would impose terrible penances on the populace. If they did listen, the punishments would be withheld and their material needs abundantly met.

Suddenly, the Lady’s message became more personal. She spoke separately to each of the children, who later reported they could see Her lips moving as She spoke, first with one and then the other, but neither could hear Her words addressed to the other child. Then She asked both of them, “Do you say your prayers well, My children?”

“Not very well, Madame,” they both admitted. Of course, the Lady already knew that the children were poorly catechized, due to the grave neglect of their parents, but She was going to further the grace of faith given to them at baptism. In their adult lives, both children would fail in developing "heroic virtue," but they remained constant in the Faith and never denied the Vision of Our Lady of LaSalette. To the children's response about their prayers, Our Lady sweetly and seriously replied:

“You must say them well, morning and evening. When you cannot do better, say at least an ‘Our Father’ and a “Hail Mary.’ When you have time, say more.”

Once again, She complained of the few people who attend Mass on Sunday. When it came time for Her departure, Our Lady spoke again in the noble French.

“Well, my children, you will make this known to all the people.” She crossed the little stream and then turned to them to repeat, “Well, my children, you will make this known to all the people.”

"Moving along the tips of the grass, the Lady ascended the mountain for a short distance, then gently rose about a yard from the ground. Remaining in that position for a moment, She lifted her gaze heaven-ward and then back to the earth. Then She disappeared, but the light remained for another moment."

“Maximin had no idea who the Lady was…When She spoke of the heavy arm of Her Son, he thought She meant her son had been beating her.” Melanie was not much better informed than Maximin, but she was older and perhaps a bit more reflective. “Maybe she is a great saint,” she said.

This was a new idea to Maximin, who enthusiastically responded, “If we had known she was a great saint, we could have asked her to take us to heaven!”

“Oh, I wish she was still here,” answered Melanie.

It is reported that both children were “rather slow of mind.” Melanie was judged by a teaching nun "not to have sufficient knowledge to receive Holy Communion until her 17th year," and Maximin was unable to remember the “Our Father” until he was 15. Yet when questioned about the apparition – together or separately – they never failed to give complete details which never contradicted the other's testimony.

Although people began flocking to LaSallete, and miracles took place through use of the spring’s now-flowing waters, not enough responded to Our Lady’s call for repentance (much less reparation) and “the calamities foretold by Our Lady took place. The famine had already begun in 1845," as a heavenly warning. "In 1846, this famine was so severe in Ireland that Queen Victoria of England had to appeal to Parliament for special funds.” (The injustice done to Ireland, dear reader, is another sorrowful story in itself.) “The wheat shortage was so severe in Europe that more than a million people died. A grape disease decimated all of the vineyards in France. Babies and little children died trembling...just as Our Lady foretold.”

Within two years of Our Lady’s appearance at LaSalette, France lived through the horrors of the “February Revolution,” the “March Revolution” and then the “June Days.” The year 1848 saw Communism arising in France.

The punishments, so severe and sorrowful, may have been even greater if Our Lady had not continued to intercede before the throne of Her Divine Son and also because some people, at least, did respond to Her entreaties. Many began attending Mass again, the shops were closed on Sundays, people stopped doing unnecessary work on the Sabbath, and cursing and swearing became less common.

After a thorough investigation, the Bishop of the diocese was satisfied that the appearance was authentically supernatural (which means issuing from God) and made his official declaration to that effect. Later, Pope Pius IX would also approve devotion to Our Lady of LaSalette and his successor, Pope Leo XIII, built a great basilica on the mountain. Five years after the apparition, Pope Pius IX would inquire about the Secrets of LaSalette and the children would agree to write down their secrets for him on two conditions: That the Secrets would be placed in sealed envelopes and that they would be directly delivered to the Pope. “Maximin wrote his four or five paragraphs quickly” but Melanie took awhile longer. As she was writing, she asked for the proper spelling of the word “infallibility” and the meaning of the word “anti-Christ.”

The two secrets were taken to Rome by two priests, Frs. Rousellot and Gerin of the Grenoble diocese. On July 18, 1851, the Holy Father Pope Pius IX received them in audience, took the sealed envelopes, and opened them in the presence of the two Fathers. He chose to first read Maximin’s letter. After finishing it, the pope smiled and said, “Here is all the candor and simplicity of a child.”

To read Melanie’s letter, however, he walked over to a window and opened the shutters for better light. Her letter was longer and its contents seemed to be more serious, for the Holy Father did not smile; in fact, “the Pope pressed his lips more tightly together and puffed out his cheeks.”

“Calamities threaten France,” he said to the two priest witnesses, “but she is not the only guilty nation. Germany, Italy, and all Europe are guilty and deserve punishment. I have less to fear from open impiety than from indifference and human respect. It is not without reason that the Church is called militant, and here,” he said, as he touched his breast, “you see Her Leader.”

That is all of what is officially known of the Secrets of Our Lady of LaSalette. Through the years, there has been much speculation about the revelations later made by Melanie in regard to the Secret given to her. One thing we must recall are the words of Pope Leo XIII, who said: “Do you want to know the secret? This is it: Unless you do penance, you shall perish.”

In this year of Our Lord 2008, we can deduce much of Melanie's Secret by the history that has already come to pass, as well as the hints and traces given by Pope Leo XIII and Melanie’s questions as she wrote the Second Secret imparted to her.

---We know that France, Germany, Italy and all of Europe suffered from war, famine and desolation – not once but many times since 1846. At LaSalette, the Virgin gave the reasons for these temporal chastisements. And, as Our Lady would later reveal at Fatima, "War is a punishment for sin."

---We know that the dogma of papal infallibility was defined in 1870 at Vatican I - about 25 years after LaSalette. It was Melanie who, as she wrote down her secret, asked for the spelling of the word "infallibility," so we know at least a part of the Secret had to do with papal infallibility.

---Because not enough people heeded the Weeping Madonna's requests, we know that an even greater chastisement fell upon France as well as other nations. Communism has spread not only through France but also -as Our Lady would prophesy at Fatima in 1917 – throughout the world. Many people understand the connection between Communism and the growing spirit of anti-Christ.

---Recalling Pope Pius' remarks after reading Melanie's secret: "Religion indifferentism" has infilitrated the Church, replacing the cardinal virtues of faith, hope, and charity. This great sin is born of "human respect," which itself has replaced a holy fear of the Lord.

---Furthermore, Pope Pius' words, "It is not for nothing that the Church is called militant, and here you see Her Leader" suggest that Melanie' Secret has to do with the sacred duties of the Holy Father's office if not also the daily duties of the entire Church Militant - an astonishing similarity to what Our Lady would later reveal at Fatima.

---Finally, we might wonder at Melanie's question about "anti-Christ." Some declare that she never really asked about that particular word or that it did not appear in the Secret she wrote down. Can they be so certain? Since Melanie's Secret (nor Maximin's, for that matter) has never been officially released, and since the passage of time provides us with a different historical vantage point, we must again consider the unfolding importance of history and the reasons for Our Lady's continuing apparitions, especially those at Fatima (the crown of all the Marian apparitions proven to be supernatural and therefore worthy of belief):

"If my requests are not heeded, Russia will spread her errors throughout the world, causing wars and persecutions of the Church and of the Holy Father. Good people will be martyred...various nations will be annihilated." What else could be the cause of obstinate sin and the resulting terrible chastisements, except the spirit of anti-Christ permeating the world?

“The keynote of Our Lady's message at LaSalette lay in the words: ‘If my people will not submit.’ Although She still calls us Her people, "She summed up the great evil of our times – human pride. Her message was for all times and all places, but particularly was it meant to show how false was the idea that man no longer needs God.”

(All excerpts are denoted by quotations and come from “The Woman Shall Conquer” by Don Sharkey, now out-of-print)

"The Age of Mary": Ultimate Catholic Unit Study for Teens

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Students will learn the philosophy (and the philosophers) behind the French Revolution, the Sacred Heart's request to the King of France and the Nine First Fridays, and the tragic fates of King Louis, Queen Marie Antoinette and their children.

Yet the thrust remains "True Devotion" (to Jesus through Mary) via the Message of Our Lady of Paris, the virtuous life of St. Catherine Laboure, and the writings of St. Alphonsus de Liguori and St. Louis Marie de Montfort. This first Guide (like those that follow) includes a "Bonus List" of Catholic living books you may wish to purchase elsewhere, Lesson Ideas with PRE-SCREENED links to website pages for the study of Religion, History, Geography, Literature and Science.

"Our Lady of LaSalette" combines the second and third Guides in one expansive and colorful Windows-only ebook - and includes 20 weeks of Lesson Ideas (that is one whole semester!). The singular vision of LaSalette illustrated how our personal lives either conform to or wound the Mystical Body of Christ and displays the gravity of breaking the First Two Commandments. Study what happened (and why it happened) in France and Ireland, including the devastating Potato Famine, as well as historical figures. This Guide also includes the apparition which gave the world the Green Scapular, the discovery of St. Louis de Montfort's lost manuscript (True Devotion), Our Lord's messages to St. Marie de St. Pierre, and more - seamlessly interweaving Religion, History, Geography, Poetry, and Science.

The last Guide for the first year (scheduled for release in the summer of 2009) focuses on "Our Lady of Lourdes," and also includes information on Our Lady of Pontmain, Pellevoisin, and Knock.

For another overview of "The Age of Mary" and your convenience, please see:

For a detailed preview, kindly start here:

To Jesus through Mary!
Marianna Bartold
We're Keeping It Catholic on the Net!
"One day, through the Rosary and the Scapular,
I shall save the world."
~ Our Lady to Blessed Alan de la Roche

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Lady of Courtesy and Amiability

Our Lady has a solution for this one! Have you ever greeted someone, only to find yourself treated in a discourteous manner? What used to be "common courtesy" is appallingly lacking today. But no matter, for as St. John of the Cross taught, “It is great wisdom to know how to be silent and to look at neither the remarks, nor the deeds, nor the lives of others.” Instead, let's be concerned about how we behave.

For example, when in a situation when speaking aloud would be remiss (as when in church), a gentle smile and a brief nod of the head acknowledges the presence of those in our vicinity. When passing closely by a stranger in a store, one should say, "Excuse me" (and so should the stranger).

Should someone (family, friend or acquaintance) open a door for us, we should gratefully say "Thank you" instead of sailing through the entrance with nary an acknowledgement of the favor granted us. If someone wishes to speak with us and we truly do not have time, we should sincerely express our regrets with a sympathetic tone. Even further, we might ask the individual what time would be best for us to catch up with them? The little niceties go a long way, but how revealing is the interior life of those who lack them.

Yet there is someone who is all courtesy and amiability, especially when we remember to greet Her first. And well we should, for She truly is Our Lady. This most gracious Lady will teach us to be (or become even more) considerate of others.

So here is a lovely practice for the good of our souls: Each time we pass any likeness of Our Lady, simply bow our heads in respect and quietly say "Hail Mary!"

"You must know that when you ‘hail’ Mary, she immediately greets you! Don’t think that she is one of those rude people, of whom there are so many. On the contrary, she is utterly courteous and pleasant. If you greet her, she will answer you right away and converse with you!"
~St. Bernardine of Siena

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Catholic Homeschooling: While the Eyes of the Great are Elsewhere

At the start of the Catholic homeschooling year, we may start with high expectations or we may begin anew with another sense - one of "Oh, my, it starts again!" We may have begun the 'homeschooling journey' with a hobbit-like thought of "Great! Where are we going?" or we may have understood from the very beginning the seriousness of the mission. After living, parenting and homeschooling for many years, we know that (for better or worse) our circumstances and outlooks may differ, and our interior or physical strengths may alter, but the Truth, which is the reason for the journey, never changes.

Objective truth is not a matter of what we may 'believe," by which I do not only mean "assent of the intellect." Rather I refer to that false but popular definition that belief is a matter of opinion, a tenacious clinging to one's own ideas. As St. Thomas wrote in explaining what objectivity means in relation to truth, "It is what it is." That is why we are taught that the meaning of life is to KNOW (not just believe) God, love God, and serve God. But if we do not yet know such things as we ought, we shall if we trust and give our assent to faith.

Catholic home life and Catholic home education is really about "knowing" God. It is about loving and serving God. Always keeping in mind that Our Lord, Jesus Christ, IS the WAY, the TRUTH, and the LIFE is what keeps us to our moorings. Our Lord's dogmas and doctrines are deposited in His Church via Divine Revelation. For all Catholic parents (homeschooling or not), Our Lord's doctrines on marriage and education are found within the Church - and they exist to guide us on the straight way. We need not 'seek' the path of Truth; we already possess it. We only need follow it!

As we begin the journey for the first time, or start it anew, it cannot be denied that September, the month of Our Lady's Sorrows, is another chance in which to ponder the beauties of the Faith and grace. Thus it is a perfect time to recall what led each of us to Catholic home education. The years pass by and circumstances are constantly changing, sometimes to our liking but more often not. What matters is our charity and perseverance.

Our answers will prove how matters change from year to year, and yet - come what may - the noble task of Catholic education continues in our homes. For example:

1. Who are we formally teaching this year? The whole kit and caboodle of our blessings or some of them? An eldest child who has reached grade school age? Are the older children at an outside school while some of the younger children at home or visa versa? Are any of us assisting in the Catholic home education of grandchildren? Is this our first year of homeschooling? Are we nervous, a bit trepiditious, afraid of failing? Is this our twentieth year of homeschooling? Are we getting a bit lackadaiscal about the whole process? Are we seeing the first fledglings try their wings? Have some already left the nest? How are we interiorly dealing with all the changes?

To that end, let's consider a few other matters (things which apply not only to the lives of Catholic homeschoolers; these questions might be slightly revised to apply to our lives as Catholics. In other words, 'what' we are really doing with our time, what books or newspapers do we we read, etc.):

2. What materials are we using? Old favorites? What is new? Are we not amazed at the times spontaneous discussions arise, either related to (or a tangent of) the lesson plans? Was there a problem we recognized last year, one that we are attempting to resolve this year?

3. When do we homeschool? All day? Half a day? In-between other things that seem to keep interupting? Five days a week, or four days a week, with Fridays as a 'reward' day if tests are done well that morning? And then there is the same question as asked before in regard to materials: Was there a scheduling problem last year that we are now attempting to rectify?

4. Above all, WHY do we homeschool? Have we ever deeply thought of the answer to that question? Have we ever written it down, to remind ourselves of it on the more trying days? Do we often discuss those reasons with our spouses and our children? Do we KNOW the good that Catholic home education can bring to the whole family - all it needs, like everything else in regard to God's Will, is our free will cooperation.

5. Finally, how we answer the previous questions are tied to this last question: HOW do we homeschool? Do we make honest attempts to keep fast to the Church's doctrine on education? Do we grasp "the importance of religious instruction"? (1) Have we accepted the Church's perennial truth that dogma and doctrine are not subject to personal interpretation but must be understood in the light of Divine Revelation, which is found in Tradition and Scripture? For 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." (2)

Personal interpretation of doctrine is a serious error issuing from an over-confidence in the individual intellect. For though we accept faith through the intellect, the truth remains: "Intellect is a guide, though, that, if it lack its companion light, the knowledge of divine things, will be only an instance of the blind leading the blind so that both will fall into the pit." (3) In a word, the intellect must be illuminated with the Church's scholastic philosophy, for knowledge is only the beginning of wisdom. And wisdom is only one of many virtues which we must practice.

On the other hand, Catholic parents who, for whatever reasons, lack confidence in their own training, their virtues (especially patience!), or perceive any other lacks which may hinder their ability to teach the truth of Religion - the Religion which must permeate the curriculum (4) - may take solace in this explanation to the universal Church on teaching Christian doctrine:

"No matter what natural facility a person may have in ideas and language, let him always remember that he will never be able to teach Christian doctrine to children or to adults without first giving himself to very careful study and preparation. They are mistaken who think that because of inexperience and lack of training of the people the work of catechizing can be performed in a slipshod fashion. On the contrary, the less educated the hearers, the more zeal and diligence must be used to adapt the sublime truths to their untrained minds; these truths, indeed, far surpass the natural understanding of the people, yet must be known by all - the uneducated and the cultured - in order that they may arrive at eternal happiness." (5)

The Church's encyclical on teaching Christian doctrine, addressed to the patriarchs, primates, bishops, archbishops and other ordinaries in peace and communion with the Apostolic See, contained a reminder to the hierarchy of the Church's duty to Her members. Those words are a great comfort to those of us living in this age permeated with modernism, for the sublime truths exist and always will. Still, it is difficult to accomplish the mission without the necessary cooperation, zeal, and diligence of all the pastors.

"Yet hope remains while the company is true," said Lady Galadriel as she looked upon the ever-faithful Samwise. Each faithful Catholic family is a 'little company' (a Fellowship, as it were) of the Church Militant, and so we take upon ourselves the full responsibility of our children's education, even as the shadows of Mordor lengthen. We do so with little help from those from whom we should expect it, but we will find such help in a tiny band of faithful priests and laypeople (and with many graces from God, if only we remember to ask for them).
We parents may rest assured that the 'careful study and preparation" necessary to teach Christian doctrine (and all other 'subjects') will be ours as we teach our children. For as Catholics, we are so very akin to the hobbits in The Lord of the Rings, who did not know the faith and fortitude that was already in them, who did not realize they would overcome their fears, who did not expect to be separated from good and faithful kin and friends, who did not know in what forms would they face many terrible dangers to body and soul. Neither did they know they would receive refuge in Rivendell and Lothlorien, that they would be given "gifts of grace," or find unexpected help and friends along the way. Like the task of the Fellowship, our "homeschooling journey" is an important chapter - not only in our own story but also of "the story" of the world, even when our part is over.

All that we do and learn on that journey is what people mean when they speak about "the beauties of Catholic homeschooling." Still, there are days in which it seems we take this task upon ourselves all alone, thinking ourselves too small to do what must be done. But remember the insightful words of Lord Elrond, gifted with foresight yet echoing what has always been true: "Small hands do them because they must, while the eyes of the great are elsewhere."

"ORA et LABORA" (Pray and work) means prayer and sacrifice. Those actions sum up the lives of all faithful Catholics, including Catholic homeschooling families!

1. Pope St. Pius X, Acerbo Nimis (On Teaching Christine Doctrine, 1905): para. 17
2. Vatican Council 1, can. 3
3. Pope St. Pius X, op. cit., para. 3
4. Pope Leo XIII, Militantis Ecclesiae (On St. Peter Canisius, 1897): para. 18
5. Pope St. Pius, para. 26

Monday, September 8, 2008

Our Lady's Nativity: The Lesson to be Learned

On this Feast of Our Lady's Nativity, Catholics world-wide recall the truth about the Virgin Mary on the day of her birth, "the day for which the prophets sighed and for which the patriarchs prayed for hundreds of years." [1] With thankful awe to the Mercy of God, we think of the birth of the Immaculate Conception (which was not an event, but is a person - Our Lady Mary). Our Lady is the only human soul adorned with the grace of God from the very first moment of her existence in her
mother's womb. That the Virgin Mary was immaculately conceived, "in view of her future merits and future dignity" [2] in becoming the Mother of God, is a doctrine - now a defined dogma - of the Church, a truth imparted by God in Divine Revelation to His One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.

Here is one of God's great mysteries, for this Lady would one day acquiese to the humble Bernadette's thrice-made request for Her name by first lifting Her eyes to Heaven, placing Her hands together as if in prayer, and then responding, "I am the Immaculate Conception." These words of the Mother of God in Her glory reinforce the truth that conception is not an 'event' - but that conception is a human life, body and soul. How much everything about Our Lady teaches us!

"She was born free from Original Sin and, further, during her entire life she never committed even the slightest sin. She received more graces than anyone else who ever lived and she accepted and corresponded to them all." (3)

At the Annunciation, the young Virgin Mary was already "full of grace," for so did the angel address her, "Hail, Full of Grace! The Lord is with thee." (4) So the Angel Gabriel spoke to the humble Immaculate One for, by his words, God's messenger revealed the name by which the Father called her: "Full of Grace."

The Virgin Mary is "the woman" foretold by God in Genesis 3:15; it was her "Fiat!" to God's Will which made possible the Incarnation of the God-Man, Our Savior. It is only fitting that She who was to give the world the Savior, the maiden Who would be His Mater et Magistra, the Woman to whom the Son of God would subject Himself in perfect charity and obedience, must be like Him, "full of grace." Her words to the Angel Gabriel, "Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it done to me according to thy word" manifested Her free-will consent to God's Will...(5)

"And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us,
(and we saw his glory, the glory as it were
of the only begotten of the Father,)
full of grace and truth." (6)

At the moment of the Incarnation, the Virgin Mother became Theotokos (the Mother of God); at that moment, the second Eve became the spiritual mother of all the living. For that moment was Mary was conceived without sin and, through Her own merits, sanctifying graces only increased in Her Immaculate Soul throughout Her entire life. It was for the Birth, Life and Passion of the Savior, Who offers Redemption to each soul born into the world, that the Perpetual Virgin was created, born, lived and passed through this world as the Immaculate One.

"The great lesson to be learned from the birth of Our Lady, [a birth] without any external grandeur, is the importance of the possession of God's grace....The birth of Mary brings to us the meaning of the interior life. Our external works are only of value in proportion to the state of grace in our our union with God. This is why the actions of some of the saints who never appeared in public but lived in the cloister or away from the tumult of the world were raised up to great heights of holiness. This arose from their interior life or their eagerness to increase the state of Sanctifying Grace in their souls. Mary led the interior life in all its activity and all its beauty. She is really the model for all those who wish to acquire sanctity. Mary increased the state of Sanctifying Grace by her great purity of intention. Her whole life was spent in forgetfulness of self and in doing God's Will. No child of Adam ever thought less of herself than Mary. Her thoughts were constantly occupied with God and she only thought of how she could give glory to God." (7)

"We can imitate Mary here at least by saying frequent aspirations and by offering each little action or each little sacrifice in union with the works and sufferings of Jesus and Mary for the salvation of souls. As a preparation for this feast, let us offer our Holy Communion that we may obtain that purity of intention and that zeal for souls that characterized the whole life of Mary. If we consecrate to this tender Virgin our purity of soul, she will preserve it for us, and if we ask her to protect us from all the snares of the devil, she will shield us with her mantle. May this sweet Mother be more loved in the years to come, and she will then bring all her children to the feet of Jesus." (8)

On this day commemorating Our Lady's Nativity, may we remember the Sweet Name of Mary, and all that it means, as expressed in the lovely poem below:

"The Names of Our Lady"
by Adelaide A. Proctor

Through the wide world thy children raise
Their prayers, and still we see
Calm are the nights and bright the days
Of those who trust in thee.
Around thy starry crown are wreathed
So many names divine;
Which is the dearest to my heart,
And the most worthy thine?
Star of the Sea! we kneel and pray
When tempests raise their voice;
Star of the Sea! the haven reached,
We call thee and rejoice.
Help of the Christian! in our need
Thy might aid we claim;
If we are faint and weary, then
We trust in that dear name.
Our Lady of the Rosary!
What name can be so sweet
As what we call thee when we place
Our chaplet at thy feet.
Bright Queen of Heaven! when we are sad,
Best solace of our pains;
It tells us of the badge we wear,
To live and die thine own.
Our Lady dear of Victories!
We see our faith oppressed,
And, praying for our erring land,
We love that name the best.
Refuge of Sinners! many a soul,
By guilt cast down, and sin,
Has learned through this dear name of thine
Pardon and peace to win.
Health of the Sick! when anxious hearts
Watch by the sufferer's bed,
On this sweet name of thine we lean,
Consoled and comforted.
Mother of Sorrows! many a heart
Half-broken by despair
Has laid its burden by the cross
And found a mother there.
Queen of all Saints! the Church appeals
For her loved dead to thee;
She knows they wait in patient pain
A bright eternity.
Fair Queen of Virgins! thy pure band
The lilies round thy throne,
Love the dear title, which they bear,
Most that it is thine own.
True Queen of Martyrs! if we shrink
From want, or pain, or woe,
We think of the sharp sword that pierced
Thy heart, and call thee so.
Mary! the dearest name of all,
The holiest and the best;
The first low word that Jesus lisped
Laid on His mother's breast.
Mary! the name that Gabriel spoke,
The name that conquers hell;
Mary! the name that through high heaven
The angels love so well.
Mary! our comfort and our hope,
-O, may that word be given
To be the last we sigh on earth,
The first we breathe in heaven. (9)

(1) Fr. H. O'Laverty, The Mother of God and Her Glorious Feasts (Rockford, IL: Tan Books and Publishers, 1977. Originally published between 1908-1915 under the title The Mother of God's Glorious Feasts): p.10
(2) Ibid.
(3) Ibid., p. ix
(4) Lk 1:28
(5) Lk 1:38
(6) Jn 1:14
(7) O'Laverty, op. cit, pp.11-13
(8) Ibid. p. 14
(9) "The Names of Our Lady" by Adelaide A. Proctor, The Art and Literature Reader (Book IV), Copyright 1904.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Discounts! "The Age of Mary" and "The Return of the King"

For a limited time, educators all over the world can receive discounts on both "The Age of Mary" and "The Return of the King" electronic Catholic Study Guides (for Windows users ONLY). Designed for Catholic high school students, these electronic Guides are perfect for homeschooling parents and students, catechetists, and English/Literature teachers!

"The Age of Mary" discount (50% OFF) ends this Friday, Sept. 12, 2008. Featuring a full-color electronic syllabi with graphics & interactive link, it is designed for grades 9 and up. You choose for which grade you wish to use it! The first "Age of Mary" Guide is quickly available via email; the remaining Guides will be released on a quarterly basis via downloadable Windows-ONLY Ebook.

Due to popular request, KIC is again offering The Return of the King Catholic Study Guide - with NEW additions to the original 2004 paper version! Soon to be released in a Windows-ONLY Ebook format, this is a great time to take advantage of the PRE-ORDER Discount!

Order now in time for its holiday-release and save $5! The colorful, unique, downloadable "Return of the King" Guide" will open on your desktop (just like The Keepsake Collection), include interactive SCREENED Links (just like The Age of Mary), and provide a compelling Catholic study of the religious elements and symbolism in Tolkien's epic historical romance. (Not only that, it allows for a relaxing 'breath of fresh air' during the school year, so that you may all enjoy a HOLY Advent, Nativity of Our Lord, and post-Christmas season!)

Please see the ORDER page for an explanatory overview of The Return of the King.

And please don't forget that the 50% discount on "The Age of Mary" ends THIS Friday, Sept. 12! To preview "The Age of Mary" Catholic Study Guides, kindly start here.