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

 Below is an excerpt from my book, "Fatima: The Signs and Secrets" (available through Amazon in both paperback and Kindle readers). Numbers in brackets indicate the soft-cover paperback's footnote numbers.

“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.” [741] 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!” [742] 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.”[743]

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.” [744]

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,” [745] as St. Paul reminds Christians: For whom He foreknew, he also predestinated to be made conformable to the image of His Son. [746]

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.

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

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

Saturday, May 11, 2013

The Day a Pope Spoke to Mothers

The Pope Speaks to Mothers:
Address of Pope Pius XII to the Concourse of Women of Catholic Action and Their Helpers from all the Dioceses of Italy

October 26, 1941, The Feast of Christ the King


As We look round upon this splendid gathering of mothers, teaching sisters, school-mistresses, representatives of the children of Italian Catholic Action, and others who devote themselves to the work of education, Our thoughts go beyond the threshold of this hall, beyond the confines of Italy, and reach to the ends of the earth as We embrace all those dear children who are the flower of the human race and the joy of their mothers' hearts. [Cf. Ps. cxii. 9] At the same time We are mindful of the immortal Pope Pius XI who in his Encyclical Divini illius Magistri of 31 December, 1929, treated so profoundly of the Christian education of the young. Dealing with this important subject he judiciously allocated the parts which belong respectively to the Church. the family, and the State, and then went on regretfully to observe that parents are often unprepared or ill-equipped for their work as educators. Accordingly, and since the limits of that lucid and exhaustive document did not permit him to deal in detail with education in the home, he exhorted in the name of Christ all pastors of souls 'to use every means, by catechism and instruction, by word of mouth and in widely published writings, to ensure that Christian parents are well instructed both in general and in particular regarding their duties in the religious, moral, and civic education of their children, and regarding the best methods-----apart from their own example-----of attaining that end.' [Cf. A.A.S.. XXII, 1930, pp. 73-4]

In so exhorting the pastors of souls the great Pontiff was exhorting parents also, fathers and mothers alike. But We believe that We are acting in accordance with the desire of Our venerated Predecessor in reserving this special audience for mothers and other teachers of children. It is true that when We speak to the newly wed Our words are addressed also to you; nevertheless We are glad to have this opportunity of speaking to you in a special way, dearly beloved daughters, because We see in mothers, and in their expert and pious helpers, those who exert the earliest and the most intimate influence upon the souls of little ones and upon their growth in piety and virtue.

We need not delay to remind you how important and now necessary is this work of education in the home, and how grave a mother's obligation not to neglect it or perform it with indifference. Speaking as We are to Our beloved daughters of Catholic Action We can have no doubt that they regard this obligation as the first of their duties as Christian mothers, and as a task in which none can fully take their place. But it is not enough to be conscious of an obligation and to have the desire to discharge it; it is necessary also to render oneself capable of discharging it competently.

The Need of Serious Preparation for the Difficult Work of Education

It is a curious circumstance and, as Pope Pius XI remarked in his encyclical, a lamentable one, that whereas no one would dream of suddenly becoming a mechanic or an engineer, a doctor or a lawyer, without any apprenticeship or preparation, yet every day there are numbers of young men and women who marry without having given an instant's thought to preparing themselves for the arduous work of educating their children which awaits them. And yet, if St. Gregory the Great could speak of the government of souls as "the art of arts", [Regula pastor., lib. I, c. 1] surely no art is more difficult and strenuous than that of fashioning the souls of children; for those souls are so very tender, so easily disfigured through some thoughtless influence or wrong advice, so difficult to guide aright and so lightly led astray, more susceptible than wax to receive a disastrous and indelible impression through malignant influences or culpable neglect. Fortunate the child whose mother stands by its cradle like a guardian Angel to inspire and lead it in the path of goodness! And so while We congratulate you upon what you have already achieved, We cannot but exhort you warmly and anew to develop those splendid organizations which are doing so much to provide for every rank and social class educators conscious of their high mission, in mind and bearing alert against evil and zealous to promote good. Such sentiments in a woman and a mother give her the right to that reverence and dignity which belong to a man's loyal helpmeet; such a mother is like a pillar, for she is the central support of the home; she is like a beacon whose light gives an example to the parish and brings illumination to the pious associations of which she is a member.

The Mother's Work of Training During Infancy

Especially opportune are those organizations of your Union of Catholic Action which seek to help and train the young wife before childbearing and during the infancy of her offspring. In this you are doing an Angel's work, watching over the mother and the little one she bears within her, [Cf. S. Th. I, 113, 5, ad. 3] and then, when the baby comes, standing by the cot to help the mother as with breast and smile she feeds body and soul of the tiny angel that Heaven has sent her. To woman, God has given the sacred mission, painful yet how joyous, [Cf. John xvi. 21] of motherhood; and to her too, more than to anyone else, is entrusted the first education of the child in its early months and years. Of heredity, which may exercise such an influence upon the future cast of a child's character, We will not speak-----except to say that this hidden heritage sometimes points an accusing finger at the irregular life of the parents, who are thus gravely responsible for making it difficult for their offspring to lead a truly Christian life. Fathers and mothers, whose mutual love is sanctified by the faith of Christ, see that before your child is born you prepare a pure family atmosphere in which it may open its eyes to light and its soul to life, so that the good odor of Christ may linger about every step of its moral development.

Mothers, your sensibility is greater and your love more tender, and therefore you will keep a vigilant eye upon your babies throughout their infancy, watching over their growth and over the health of their little bodies, for they are flesh of your flesh and the fruit of your womb. Remember that your children are the adopted sons of God and specially beloved of Christ; remember that their Angels look for ever on the face of the Heavenly Father; [Cf. Matt. xviii. 10] and so you too as you rear them must be angels in like manner, in all your care and vigilance keeping your eyes fixed upon Heaven. It is your task from the cradle to begin their education in soul as well as in body; for if you do not educate them they will begin, for good or ill, to educate themselves. Many of the moral characteristics which you see in the youth or the man owe their origin to the manner and circumstances of his first upbringing in infancy: purely organic habits contracted at that time may later prove a serious obstacle to the spiritual life of the soul. And so you will make it your special care in the treatment of your child to observe the prescriptions of a perfect hygiene, so that when it comes to the use of reason its bodily organs and faculties will be healthy and robust and free from distorted tendencies. This is the reason why, except where it is quite impossible, it is most desirable that the mother should feed her child at her own breast. Who shall say what mysterious influences are exerted upon the growth of that little creature by the mother upon whom it depends entirely for its development!

Have you observed those little eyes, wide open, restlessly questioning, their glance darting from this thing to that, following a movement or a gesture, already expressing joy or pain, anger and obstinacy, and giving other signs of those little passions that nestle in the heart of man even before the tiny lips have learned to utter a word? This is perfectly natural. Notwithstanding what certain thinkers have maintained, we are not born endowed with knowledge or with the memories and dreams of a life already lived. The mind of the child as it comes forth from its mother's womb is a page upon which nothing is written; from hour to hour as it passes on its way from the cradle to the tomb its eyes and other senses, internal and external, transmit the life of the world through their own vital activity, and will write upon that page the images and ideas of the things among which it lives. Hence an irresistible instinct for truth and goodness turns 'the simple soul that nothing knows ' [Dante, Purg., XVI, 88] upon the things of sense; and all these powers of feeling, all these childish sensations, by way of which mind and will come gradually to their awakening, need to be educated, trained, carefully guided, otherwise the normal awakening and proper direction of these noble faculties of the spirit will be compromised and distorted. From that early age a loving look, a warning word, must teach the child not to yield to all its impressions, and as reason dawns it must learn to discriminate and to master the vagaries of its sensations; in a word, under the guidance and admonition of the mother it must begin the work of its own education.

Study the child in his tender age. If you know him well you will educate him well; you will not misconceive his character; you will come to understand him, knowing when to give way and when to be firm; a naturally good disposition does not fall to the lot of all the sons of men.

The Training of the Mind

Train the mind of your children. Do not give them wrong ideas or wrong reasons for things; whatever their questions may be, do not answer them with evasions or untrue statements which their minds rarely accept; but take occasion from them lovingly and patiently to train their minds, which want only to open to the truth and to grasp it with the first ingenuous gropings of their reasoning and reflective powers. Who can say what many a genius may not owe to the prolonged and trustful questionings of a childhood at the home fireside!

The Training of the Character

Train the character of your children. Correct their faults, encourage and cultivate their good qualities and co-ordinate them with that stability which will make for resolution in after life. Your children, conscious as they grow up and as they begin to think and will, that they are guided by a good parental will, constant and strong, free from violence and anger, not subject to weakness or inconsistency, will learn in time to see therein the interpreter of another and higher will, the will of God, and so they will plant in their souls the seeds of those early moral habits which fashion and sustain a character, train it to self-control in moments of crisis and to courage in the face of conflict or sacrifice, and imbue it with a deep sense of Christian duty.

The Training of the Heart

Train their hearts. Frequently the decision of a man's destiny, the ruin of his character, or a grave danger threatening him, may be traced to his childish years when his heart was spoiled by the fond flattery, silly fussing, and foolish indulgence of misguided parents. The impressionable little heart became accustomed to see all things revolve and gravitate around it, to find all things yielding to its will and caprice, and so there took root in it that boundless egoism of which the parents themselves were later to become the first victims! All this is often the just penalty of the selfishness of parents who deny their only child the joy of having little brothers and sisters who, sharing in the mother's love, would have accustomed him to think of others besides himself. What deep and rich potentialities for love, goodness, and devotion lie dormant in the heart of a child! You, mothers, must awaken them, foster them, direct them, raise them up to Him Who will sanctify them, to Jesus; to Jesus, and to Mary, their Heavenly Mother, who will open the child's heart to piety, will teach it by prayer to offer its pure sacrifices and innocent victories to the Divine Lover of little ones; she will teach it to feel compassion for the poor and unhappy. How joyous is the springtime of childhood, unruffled by wind or storm!

The Training of the Will in Adolescence

But the day will come when the childish heart will feel fresh impulses stirring within it; new desires will disturb the serenity of those early years. In that time of trial, Christian mothers, remember that to train the heart means to train the will to resist the attacks of evil and the insidious temptations of passion; during that period of transition from the unconscious purity of infancy to the triumphant purity of adolescence you have a task of the highest importance to fulfill. You have to prepare your sons and daughters so that they may pass with unfaltering step, like those who pick their way among serpents, through that time of crisis and physical change; and pass through it without losing anything of the joy of innocence, preserving intact that natural instinct of modesty with which Providence has girt them as a check upon wayward passion. That sense of modesty, which in its spontaneous abhorrence from the impure is akin to the sense of religion, is made of little account in these days; but you, mothers, will take care that they do not lose it through indecency in dress or self-adornment, through unbecoming familiarities, or immoral spectacles; on the contrary you will seek to make it more delicate and alert, more upright and sincere. You will keep a watchful eye on their steps; you will not suffer the whiteness of their souls to be stained and contaminated by corrupt and corrupting company; you will inspire them with a high esteem and jealous love for purity, advising them to commend themselves to the sure and motherly protection of the Immaculate Virgin. Finally, with the discretion of a mother and a teacher, and thanks to the open-hearted confidence with which you have been able to inspire your children, you will not fail to watch for and to discern the moment in which certain unspoken questions have occurred to their minds and are troubling their senses. It will then be your duty to your daughters, the father's duty to your sons, carefully and delicately to unveil the truth as far as it appears necessary, to give a prudent, true, and Christian answer to those questions, and set their minds at rest. If imparted by the lips of Christian parents, at the proper time, in the proper measure, and with the proper precautions, the revelation of the mysterious and marvelous laws of life will be received by them with reverence and gratitude, and will enlighten their minds with far less danger than if they learned them haphazard, from some disturbing encounter, from secret conversations, through information received from over-sophisticated companions, or from clandestine reading, the more dangerous and pernicious as secrecy inflames the imagination and troubles the senses. Your words, if they are wise and discreet, will prove a safeguard and a warning in the midst of the temptations and the corruption which surround them, 'because foreseen an arrow comes more slowly.' [Dante, Par., XVII, 27]

The Powerful Aid of Religion

But in this great work of the Christian education of your sons and daughters you well understand that training in the home, however wise, however thorough, is not enough. It needs to be supplemented and perfected by the powerful aid of religion. From the moment of Baptism the priest possesses the authority of a spiritual father and a pastor over your children. and you must co-operate with him in teaching them those first rudiments of catechism and piety which are the only basis of a solid education, and of which you. the earliest teachers of your children. ought to have a sufficient and sure knowledge. You cannot teach what you do not know yourselves. Teach them to love God, to love Christ, to love our Mother the Church and the pastors of the Church who are your guides. Love the catechism and teach your children to love it; it is the great handbook of the love and fear of God, of Christian wisdom and of eternal life.

Valiant Helpers in the Work of Education

In your work of education, which is many-sided, you will feel the need and the obligation of having recourse to others to help you: choose helpers who are Christians like yourselves, and choose them with all the care that is called for by the treasure which you are entrusting to them: you are committing to them the faith, the purity, and the piety of your children. But when you have chosen them you must not think that you are henceforth liberated from your duty and your vigilance; you must co-operate with them. However eminent school-teachers may be in their profession they will have little success in the formation of your children without your collaboration-----still less if instead of helping and lending support to their efforts you were to counteract and oppose them. What a misfortune it would be if at home your indulgence and fond weakness were to undo all that has been done at school, at catechism, or in Catholic associations, to form the character and foster the piety of your children!

But-----some mother may say-----children are so difficult to manage nowadays! I can do nothing with that son of mine; that daughter of mine is impossible! Admittedly many boys and girls at the age of twelve or fifteen show themselves intractable. But why? Because when they were two or three years old they were allowed to do as they pleased. True, some temperaments are ungrateful and rebellious; but however unresponsive, however obstinate, he is still your child. Would you love him any the less than his brothers and sisters if he were sickly or deformed? God has given him to you; see that you do not treat him as the outcast of the family. No child is so unruly that he cannot be trained with care, patience, and love; and it will rarely happen that even the stoniest and most unpromising soil will not bear some flower of submission and virtue, if only an unreasonable severity does not run the risk of exterminating the seed of good will which even the proudest soul has hidden within it. The whole education of your children would be ruined were they to discover in their parents-----and their eyes are sharp enough to see-----any signs of favoritism, undue preferences, or antipathies in regard to any of them. For your own good and for the good of the family it must be clear that, whether you use measured severity or give encouragement and caresses, you have an equal love for all, a love which makes no distinction save for the correction of evil or for the encouragement of good. Have you not received them all equally from God?

Teachers side-by-side with Christian Mothers

Our words have been addressed principally to you, Christian mothers. But with you We see around Us today a gathering of nuns, teachers, and others engaged in the work of Christian education. They are mothers too, not by nature or by blood but by the love which they bear to the young, who are so dear to Christ and to His Bride the Church. Yes, you too are mothers, you who work side by side with Christian mothers in the work of education: for you have a mother's heart, burning with the charity which the Holy Spirit has poured out in you. In this charity, which is the charity of Christ that presses you on the path of well-doing, you find your light, your comfort. and the work that brings you so close to mothers, fathers, and children. You gather together these living branches of society, these children who are the hope of their parents and of the Church, and form them into a great family of thousands and thousands of little ones; you develop the training of their minds, characters, and hearts, bringing them up in a spiritual and moral atmosphere in which the joyousness of innocence appears side by side with faith in God and reverence for holy things, with a sense of duty towards parents and country. Our praise and gratitude, joined with the thanks of all mothers, go out to you in full measure. In your schools, homes, colleges, and associations you emulate and continue the mother's work of training. You are truly a sisterhood of spiritual mothers whose offspring is the pure flower of youth.


Christian mothers and beloved daughters, of your incomparable mission-----fraught in these days with so many difficulties and obstacles-----We have been able only briefly to describe the glories. What a majestic figure is that of the mother in the home as she fulfills her destiny at the cradle side, the nurse and teacher of her little ones! Hers is truly a task full of labor, and We should be tempted to deem her unequal to it were it not for the grace of God which is ever at hand to enlighten, direct, and sustain her in her daily anxieties and toil; were it not, too, for those other educators, mother-like in spirit and energy, whom she calls to aid her in the formation of these youthful souls. Imploring God to fill you to overflowing with His graces and to give increase to your manifold labors on behalf of the young entrusted to you, We grant you from Our heart, as a pledge of Heavenly favors, Our fatherly Apostolic Benediction.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Pope Francis’ Papacy: Consecration to Our Lady of Fatima

“Pope Francis asked me twice to consecrate his new ministry to Our Lady of Fatima,”said José Policarpo, Cardinal Patriarch of Lisbon. “It is a request I may fulfill in the silence of a prayer. But it would be fine if the whole Bishops' Conference would associate itself to make this request. Mary will guide us in all our labours [meaning all things to be discussed] in the meeting, and also in the way to accomplish this wish of Pope Francis.”

The Catholic Family News blog quotes a source in Coimbra, Portugal as stating:“Policarpo, as a man who is on record as saying he doesn’t believe in Fatima, leaves the final decision to the Bishops’ Conference. If they agree in doing a collective consecration, good; if not, Policarpo will do it in ‘silent prayer.’”

While it is most heartening to know that Pope Francis wishes to consecrate his papacy to Our Lady of Fatima, a few things must be observed. First, the Pope’s “request”was personally made to Cardinal Policarpo, not to the Bishops’ Conference. Suggesting that the Pope’s “request” be considered by the Conference was Cardinal Policarpo’s idea. Second, when a Pope makes a “request,”he is neither appealing for a vote nor asking “the permission” of the bishops. He’s the Pope – the reigning monarch of the Church. Third, the fact that the Pope had to twice make the request suggests that Policarpo might not have responded to the first request or that the Pope initially received some obfuscating response. At any rate, one wonders why Pope Francis doesn’t publicly announce on his own accord that he has consecrated his papacy to Our Lady of Fatima.

Consider Cardinal Policarpo’s words, “It is a request that I may fulfill in the silence of a prayer.” The response seems somewhat impertinent but perhaps it was a trial balloon for the other bishops. Think about it: A Pope twice makes a request to a cardinal – who is the pope’s subordinate - and the Cardinal responds by saying he will turn the decision to the Bishops’ Conference and if they don’t “vote” to acquiesce to the Pope’s “request,” then he “may” meet it by “silent prayer”? This is a perfect example of redefining the word “collegiality.” The Pope doesn’t need the permission of the bishops to consecrate his papacy to Our Lady of Fatima. It is he who is the Bishop of Rome and, in consequence, he is the Pope of the Roman Catholic Church.

Meanwhile, the Rorate Caeli blog recently reported: “As an answer to the request of the Pope to the Patriarch of Lisbon, Cardinal José Policarpo, asking that he consecrate the Pope’s Pontificate to Our Lady of Fatima, the Bishops of Portugal have just decided that this consecration be made next May 13.
The consecration will be included in the program of the International Pilgrimage of May 12/13 and will be made on the 13th at a time to be announced later.

May’s International Anniversary Pilgrimage, on the 96th anniversary of the first apparition of Our Lady to seers Lucia, Francisco and Jacinta, will be presided over by Mons. Orani Tempesta, Archbishop of Rio de Janeiro.”

Let us remind you that, during the opening speech of the 181st Plenary Assembly of the Bishops Conference of Portugal, Cardinal Policarpo said that he could very well fulfill the request all alone, ‘in silent prayer,’ but that ‘it would be nice if the entire Bishops Conference joined him in fulfilling the Pope’s request.’”
Considering the recent development, was Cardinal Policarpo’s response impertinent to the Pope or was it a trial balloon in the event Pope Francis may someday “request” the collegial consecration of Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary? What say you?


Friday, March 29, 2013

The Cradle, the Cross, and the Charity of Christ

“At the end of our lives, we shall all be judged by charity.”
~St. John of the Cross

On Palm Sunday, Our Lord was hailed and honored by the entire city of Jerusalem, with hails of “Hosanna to the Son of David” ringing in his ears. Before the week was ended, He manfully and meekly allowed Himself to suffer a most terrible Passion and Death on the Cross. As we continue to meditate during Holy Week, we must never forget that the whole Life of Jesus Christ, the Son of God and the Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity, is the Perfect Example of How to Carry the Cross.

“God was under no obligation to assume our nature and to save us. He became Man of his own free will…that He might redeem us from all iniquity…To the eternal observer, the interval between the sufferings of Christ’s Nativity and the ignominies of His Passion, seems to have passed partly in the calm repose of domestic seclusion, and partly in the wondrous triumphs of His public mission. But to the reflecting mind which penetrates beyond the surface, the life of Jesus Christ, from its beginning to its close, presents but one continued martyrdom. His Divine Heart was ever ‘mourning within Him, its sorrow above all human sorrow’ (Jer. 8:18).”

From the first moment of His Incarnation, Our Blessed Lord had ever before His eyes the prospect of His approaching Agony and Death. It was present to Him, not vaguely and uncertainly – as future pain and suffering are to us now – but vividly and distinctly, as at the actual time when He suffered. Never for a single moment was it absent from His thoughts…Every moment of His life, Jesus suffered and merited grace and help for us – 'He loved me and delivered Himself up for me.’ ‘Forget not the kindness of thy Surety, for He hath given His life for thee,’ is a word addressed to us by the Holy Spirit. Jesus loves us to recognize and realize His love for us. It is in His Sacred Passion that He specially desires to be remembered by us.”

What are our own dispositions toward the Cross when we ourselves are asked to carry it? Do we accept it, as Christ did, with a charitable love toward God and our fellow man? We might be surprised to think of possessing charity toward God but, lest we forget: “Charity is the virtue by which we love God with all our hearts, souls, minds, and strength, and by which we love our neighbors for the love of God.”

Charity, as the Church teaches, is not a “feeling.” We don’t necessarily “feel charitable” even when we are charitable. Rather, charity is a virtue, but we will not possess that virtue, or any other, without accepting the graces God sends us and without directing our Free Will to use them as God intended. Charity, the highest virtue, is always directed first toward God and second, to our fellow human beings because God created them, loves them, and wills their (and our) eternal salvation through the Holy Roman Catholic Church.

Charity is what moved Jesus Christ to be “conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary” and became Man – the Son of God Who offered His entire Life, and Death, as the Eternal Sacrifice to an offended God and His lost people. “The charity of Christ presses us” – in other words, it urges us to follows His Holy Example.

Love, says St. Frances de Sales, naturally inspires reciprocation – not to mention gratitude. Imagine a king of great majesty bestowing his affections on a peasant, a love so great that the king willingly offered his own life to save that of the peasant’s. This is what Christ the King has done for each one of us. Our Lord Himself said, “Greater love than this no man hath, that a man lay down is life for his friends.” (John 15:13)

Christ died to offer us Redemption, but it is up to us to attain salvation. If we love God, why is it we cannot die to self, suffering with the sinless Christ, and offering it all to Him - not only for ourselves but for other sinners?

The offering of our daily duties and trials to God possess merit only because we are members of the Mystical Body of Christ. St. Paul explained this when he taught, “If so ye continue in the faith, grounded and settled, and immoveable from the hope of the Gospel which you have heard, which is preached in all the creation that is under heaven, whereof I Paul am made a minister. Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up those things that are wanting of the sufferings of Christ, in my flesh, for His Body, which is the Church.” (Col.1:23-24) As the Douay-Rheims Bible footnote explains: “There is no want in the sufferings of Christ in Himself as Head: but many sufferings are still wanting, or are still to come, in His Body the Church, and his members the faithful.”

We are called "the faithful" because we are members of the Mystical Body of Christ – the Catholic Church, the One and Only Church of God. We hope to become saints by working out our salvation in fear and trembling, just like all the Saints throughout the ages who have followed Christ in His Passion did before us. We, too, suffer – sometimes in great ways, sometimes in little ways. But what do we “do” with our suffering? Do we gripe and complain? Or do we remember that all that we suffer – every headache, every pain, every annoyance, every disappointment, every difficulty, every worry, every embarrassment and humiliation - can be offered in sacrifice to God, in reparation for our own sins, for other sinners, for the Holy Souls in Purgatory, and for the needs of the Church?

Even with all of our good intentions, we will still fall. “Even the just man sins seven times a day.” If a just man can commit 49 sins a week, how many sins do we commit? But we will not despair when we remember Christ’s example.

The sinless Christ fell three times as He carried the Cross – laden with the offenses of our repeated sins, He fell. And each time, He gathered the little strength left to Him, and He picked up His Cross and continued on the Sorrowful Road to His Crucifixion…and His Resurrection. We, who are not sinless, must do the same for love of God, Who will give us the strength to carry on.

When we examine ourselves honestly, we will discover our repeated failings. We will truly know all of our “interior and exterior dispositions in regard to the Cross of Christ” and ask ourselves, “Shall I not embrace the Cross of Christ? Shall I not devote myself, without stint or reserve, to the service of my Lord and Master, sparing no effort, however irksome or fatiguing, that will fit me to work more efficiently for Him? Such devotion will do great things for Our Lord, and [we] will discover the secret of the best and highest kind of happiness which is attainable upon the earth. There never was a greater need and opportunity for showing devotion, and proving our love for Our Lord.”

During these last days of Holy Week, may we not forget to make a thorough examination of conscience, followed by a good Confession, and practice charity, the highest virtue, as we offer all that comes our way in reparation to Jesus through Mary. In this way, we will not only live a “Holy Week” with Our Lord, but a holy life.

The Betrayal: Ecce Homo!

"...dost thou betray the Son of Man with a kiss?"
   ~Luke 22:48

To men, the arrest of Jesus is the opening scene of the Passion. In this mystery, we can feel how much the Heart of Jesus is wounded by treason on the part of His own. What audacity to approach the Divine Person of Jesus, under the very eyes of the Apostles, and betray Him with a kiss! What malice and callousness to give the signal for the terrible process of torture to begin! How cruel, to use a kiss as a sign for delivering the Master to a terrible martyrdom and death!

Our Lord is betrayed by one of His own Apostles. He is bound with tight, hurting cords, struck on the face, mocked, insulted, slandered, and beaten. The Good Shepherd, who is also the Lamb of God, allows Himself to be led to the slaughter. The Apostles at first rise up to defend Him but...He does not allow it. Instead, He performs one of His last Miracles – that of healing the soldier’s ear, struck off by a sword, and He admonishes His Apostle, “Put up again thy sword into its place: for all that take the sword shall perish with the sword.” (Matthew 26: 52)

The Church is the Bride of Christ and the faithful reflection of His Spirit. She always behaves in this manner to the world, which persecutes, reviles, and despoils, always with the aim of curtailing her freedom. She has always met its cunning and violence with the same temper and principles. She does not resort to sword and club; her power lies in the Will of God, in suffering and endurance. When she is fettered, she continues to bless and do good to those who injure her. The bonds she bears for Christ are her most beautiful, precious adornment, her sign of ultimate victory. Her cry, when persecuted by men, is ever, “But thanks be to God, who hath given us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Corinthians 2: 15-57)

In His Passion, Jesus showed us all the degrees of charity and humility we should imitate. Humility is a real reparation and compensation to Our Lord for all our cowardice and meanness in His service, and we should be careful not to miss them. Humiliation always atones for our failures in humility – e.g., if we take correction badly, we can humble ourselves by admitting how little virtue we have and acknowledge that fault.

When we are constrained from doing something we wish to do, we can remember Our Lord, put in prison and bound by ropes and chains, knowing that more suffering is to come.

When we are mocked, and our words and actions judged wrongly, especially by those who have no intention of being fair, we can remember Jesus before Caiphas, His mock trial, and His unjust condemnation.

When we are tired and exhausted, we can remember how Jesus was dragged from Annas, and then to Caiphas, and on to Pilate, to Herod, and back to Pilate.

When we fall by sin, we can remember that Christ fell three times, in pain and exhaustion, on the Way of the Cross. Yet even as we take comfort in the Cross, we can never forget that we are also the reason for the Cross.

We do not like to think that, like Judas, we can also truthfully say, “I have sinned in betraying innocent blood.” (Matthew 27:4) Unlike Judas, however, we should say what David said to God: “I have sinned exceedingly in doing this: I beseech thee take away the iniquity of thy servant, for I have done foolishly.” (Paralipomenon 1: 21-8) To save us from our sins, God sent His only Begotten Son, the Most Wonderful Counselor, the Prince of Peace.

“Ecce Homo!” – Behold the Man!  Those are the words which Pilate would later say on this day, hoping that the sight of the battered man would arise compassion and mercy. But it was not to be.
On this Good Friday, let us not only watch one hour with Jesus, not only direct our souls to stay with Him on His way to the Cross, but wholly unite ourselves with Him on the Cross. For whom He foreknew, He also predestinated to be made conformable to the image of His Son.” (Romans 8:29)