Pray for the Church…

Isaiah 6:1-3 In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lofty; and the hem of his robe filled the temple. Seraphs were in attendance above him; each had six wings: with two they covered their faces, and with two they covered their feet, and with two they flew. And one called to another and said: ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory.’

It is good to remind ourselves especially in times of darkness that the glory of the Lord is eternally present and praised in heaven. Here on earth, however, we are continually reminded of the need for prayers for the Church and the world. Indeed, God is counting on our daily prayers for the Church, and for all those in leadership. I realize I am preaching to the choir, but it doesn’t hurt to highlight this critical duty of ours to pray daily for the Church. The more society descends into darkness, the more it will hate the light of Christ.

The recent abominable, murderous law passed in New York allowing for abortion up to birth and potentially beyond is just one example. The UN itself has factions that threaten to make Church teachings “crimes against humanity” using terms like, “forced pregnancy” to justify abortion on demand at any stage. That is just to mention one issue. There are many, of course. A great persecution is certainly here and coming.

A few days ago, I woke up suddenly at 5:00 am having had a disturbing dream. I was in a school building, alone in a classroom, having stopped for a drink of water before re-joining the rest of the group. A woman came into the room, smartly dressed in black and white. I knew her as a government official. She was accompanied by a boy, around 10 or 11 years old, and he was carrying a baseball bat. She said to me, in a matter-of-fact tone, “Hold out your hand.” I knew three things, that the child was going to smash my hand with the bat as an example to the others, that the woman’s power was absolute and no one could help me, and that her choosing me for punishment was arbitrary. I was no better or worse than anyone else in the school, I was just available. Just being affiliated with that school was all that was required to warrant arbitrary punishment. The boy seemed ambivalent about it all. He would do what was expected.

I woke with a start and felt that this represented the next phase of the persecution coming upon the Western Church (it is already happening elsewhere). During my morning prayers that same day, two passages from the Liturgy of the Hours seemed to confirm what I felt the dream had meant.

The prayer after one of the psalms read:

“Lord Jesus, you foretold that we would share in the persecutions that brought you to a violent death. The Church formed at the cost of your precious blood is even now conformed to your Passion; may it be transformed, now and eternally, but the power of your resurrection.”

(Thursday Week IV, Office of Readings, prayer after Psalm III)

The second confirmation came on the same day in the Office of Readings:

From the Catechesis by St. Cyril of Jerusalem

Even in time of persecution let the Cross be your joy

The Catholic Church glories in every deed of Christ. Her supreme glory, however, is the cross. Well aware of this, Paul says: God forbid that I glory in anything but the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ!

At Siloam, there was a sense of wonder, and rightly so: a man born blind recovered his sight. But of what importance is this, when there are so many blind people in the world? Lazarus rose from the dead, but even this affected only Lazarus: what of those countless numbers who have died because of their sins? Those miraculous loaves fed five thousand people; yet this is a small number compared to those all over the world who were starved by ignorance. After eighteen years a woman was freed from the bondage of Satan; but are we not all shackled by the chains of our own sins?

For us all, however, the cross is the crown of victory. It has brought light to those blinded by ignorance. It has released those enslaved by sin. Indeed, it has redeemed the whole of mankind!

Do not, then, be ashamed of the cross of Christ; rather, glory in it. Although it is a stumbling block to the Jews and folly to the Gentiles, the message of the cross is our salvation. Of course it is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it was not a mere man who died for us, but the Son of God, God made man.

In the Mosaic law a sacrificial lamb banished the destroyer. But now it is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Will he not free us from our sins even more? The blood of an animal, a sheep, brought salvation. Will not the blood of the only-begotten Son bring us greater salvation?

He was not killed by violence, he was not forced to give up his life: his was a willing sacrifice. Listen to his own words: I have the power to lay down my life and take it up again. Yes, he willingly submitted to his own passion. He took joy in his achievement; in his crown of victory he was glad and in the salvation of man he rejoiced. He did not blush at the cross, for by it he was to save the world. No, it was not a lowly man who suffered, but God incarnate. He entered the contest for the reward he would win by his patient endurance.

Certainly in times of tranquility the cross should give you joy. But maintain the same faith in times of persecution. Otherwise you will be a friend of Jesus in times of peace and his enemy during war. Now you receive the forgiveness of your sins and the generous gift of grace from your king. When war comes, fight courageously for him.

Jesus never sinned; yet he was crucified for you. Will you refuse to be crucified for him, who for your sake was nailed to the cross? You are not the one who gives the favour; you have received one first. For your sake he was crucified on Golgotha. Now you are returning his favour: you are fulfilling your debt to him.

(Thursday Fourth Week in Ordinary Time, Office of Readings, Second Reading)

This is indeed a powerful reading. Let us pray for grace and strength for ourselves and for the Church. God has not left us orphaned. He has given us many powerful graces to defeat the enemy. After I woke from the dream, I spent half an hour praying the Flame of Love prayer: “Holy Mary, Mother of God spread the effect of grace of Thy Flame of Love over all of humanity now and at the hour of our death. Amen.”

This month, there will be an “anti-abuse” meeting at the Vatican from Feb. 21-24. We should consider how we can support this meeting with our prayers and sacrifices. In addition, Pope Francis is endeavoring to reshape the Roman Curia and the College of Cardinals. May the Holy Spirit lead and guide him! Again, let us turn up the spiritual heat to support him with our ever more fervent daily prayers. We can always do more as St. Francis of Assisi said often towards the end of his life: “Let us begin again, brothers, for up until now, we have done little or nothing.”

While it is a good practice to regularly evaluate how we spend the precious gift of time especially to see if more time could be spent in prayer, sometimes it may be that we just need to pray better, doing the things we already do with the firm intention of uniting our paltry efforts with Jesus on the Cross in the Divine Will.

One of the little prayers we pray so often that we may be in danger of taking it for granted, is the Glory Be. I listened to one of Fr. Robert Young’s talks on the life and writings of Luisa Piccarreta recently (found at https://divinewilllife.org). She once had a vision of the whole heavenly court as they praised God, continuously intoning the first part of that prayer: “Glory Be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit…” She then felt a strong call to respond: “…as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.” Jesus then explained to her that by participating in the Divine Will with the angels and saints in the ongoing praise of God in heaven, she was able to connect heaven to earth and earth to heaven in the eternal act of praise that all creatures owe to their Creator-God.

This is certainly worth pondering. Since hearing that, I have found it brings new life and an ever-more glorious mission to this little, eternally powerful, often-repeated prayer! This little prayer in the Divine Will, is a bridge of praise connecting the Church Militant to the Church Triumphant for the glory of God and serves to hasten the coming of His kingdom.

Praise of the Lord poisons the air for demons. Let us pray this little but mighty prayer with renewed fervor, in concert with the Church Triumphant, that evil may be defeated in the Church and in our broken world.

May His Holy will be done; may His kingdom come and come quickly; may His holy Name be glorified now and forever!

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Grace upon grace…

Titus 2:11-14 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all, training us to renounce impiety and worldly passions, and in the present age to live lives that are self-controlled, upright, and godly, while we wait for the blessed hope and the manifestation of the glory of our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ. He it is who gave himself for us that he might redeem us from all iniquity and purify for himself a people of his own who are zealous for good deeds.

Grace. God’s gratuitous gift to humanity. Ever undeserved, often un-requested, sometimes unappreciated, but always worth pondering. The Catechism tells us:

“Grace is a participation in the life of God. It introduces us into the intimacy of Trinitarian life: by Baptism the Christian participates in the grace of Christ, the Head of his Body. As an “adopted son” he can henceforth call God “Father,” in union with the only Son. He receives the life of the Spirit who breathes charity into him and who forms the Church.

“This vocation to eternal life is supernatural. It depends entirely on God’s gratuitous initiative, for he alone can reveal and give himself. It surpasses the power of human intellect and will, as that of every other creature.


(CCC #1997, 1998)

I write this reflection on the feast day of Mary, Mother of God, whom the angel Gabriel hailed as “Full of Grace”. We know that every word spoken by an angel comes directly from God, and each word has weight of its own. “Full of Grace”. These three simple words, applied to this simple peasant girl, enraptured all of heaven.

Take the little invisible word, “of”, defined as expressing the relationship between a scale or measure and a value. What was the measure? Full. What was the value? Grace.

How full is full? When something is full, there is no room in it for anything else. Mary had emptied herself of all that was not God, and so made room in her humble heart for all that God wanted to give her, which was everything, including his own Beloved Son. How empty must she have been to make room for the infinite God to dwell in her. What humility! No spec of a space left where her own will reigned, but her Fiat! was unconditional and unlimited. Therefore, the grace she received was unconditional and unlimited. Full measure given, full value received. What can we learn from this as penitents in the world?

Just as salvation history could not proceed without the cooperation of a humble soul—Mary—so too are we called in our own time to cooperate with grace for the salvation of souls. If we take this seriously—and we must—our own wills must be tied, like hers, to the foot of the cross. Our fiat like hers must be unconditional and unlimited. For us this is impossible, but for God all things are possible.

As members of the Brothers and Sisters of Penance, the Rule we follow is itself a great grace that helps us to die to self, one desire at a time. The longer we live the rule, the more we empty ourselves, and the more we desire to. This too is grace. Our Lord would not call us to this self-emptying if the world were not in such dire need of the grace that he wishes to pour on it through us, whether we see it or not.

Of course, the principle grace, as St. Paul tells us in the above scripture passage, is Our Lord, Jesus Christ himself, “who gave himself for us that he might redeem us from all iniquity and purify for himself a people of his own who are zealous for good deeds.”

January is the time of new beginnings. The world calls them resolutions, but I like the way St. Francis put it. St. Bonaventure tells us that towards the end of his life St. Francis would tell the other friars: “Let us begin again, brothers, for up until now, we have done little or nothing.”

Let us, too, begin anew to empty ourselves, that we may be conduits of as much grace as God desires to pour into the world through us.

Blessed New Year to you and yours in Our Lord, Jesus Christ and his most Immaculate Mother. St. Francis and St. Clare, pray for us!

Mountains laid low…

(Friends, I first wrote this in 2006 and have re-posted it a few times now. I find it helps me in preparing for Christmas to meditate on this at Advent.)

(John the Baptist) went throughout (the) whole region of the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah:

‘The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: “Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth; and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.” ’ (Luke 3:3-6)

For some reason I have found myself doing a lot of apologizing lately. So much so, that I have felt compelled to reflect on the phenomena. Two possibilities emerge: either I have been acting more rashly than usual lately, or else the Lord is giving me some new illumination on the effects my words and actions are having on others. If it is the latter, then comes the horrifying thought that I have habitually acted in ways that are arbitrarily hurtful to others. Mercy!

“Every mountain and hill shall be made low.” As I read the above gospel reading, I begin to realize that these humiliations may be meant to form part of my “fast of St. Martin”**. The mountains of my pride and the hills of my arrogance are being laid low, one at a time. Gee, I wonder how many there are?

As painful and humiliating as the process is, I must be grateful to God for the grace of it. The more the rough ways of my selfishness are made smooth, the more comfortable a resting-place will my heart be for the Prince of Peace when he comes. I suppose it is Mary’s doing. As I prepare to renew my consecration to her on December 12, I can imagine her making ready the poor and lowly manger of my heart to receive the Infant King. Her loving care for my miserable soul dazzles like the star of Bethlehem. Who can fathom her love for us and for all she does to make us ready to receive her Son?

I am reminded of an Advent experience a few years ago. It was a time of great personal trial for me. Our business was failing and the future seemed far from certain. It was at this very low point of my life, during Advent, that God withdrew from me any smidgen of evidence that he was there. I had no comfort. Prayer was a chore. I felt heavy. It was a feeling that went beyond the circumstances of my life. Spiritually speaking, it was a dark night.

There was one prayer I prayed over and over, but even that I prayed without feeling. It was from Psalm 116, vs 10: “I trusted, even when I said, ‘I am sorely afflicted.’” It was a prayer of the will, not the heart. But it was all I could muster, and I clung to it.

It was a long, dry Advent for me. I could not look forward to Christmas in any way. When I went to confession, even though I had not told the priest about my darkness, he made this comment out of the blue, “I see a baby. Why don’t you invite the Infant Jesus into your heart this Christmas.”

I did not give his words much thought. They were far too simplistic for what I was going through. Then, the BSP newsletter came out. In Bruce’s column, lo! and behold, he also encouraged us to invite the Infant Jesus into our hearts at Christmas.

Okay,okay, I’ll do it, I thought. Something simple can always be tried, I suppose. But, like Naaman*, I didn’t hold out much hope.

I dragged myself to Christmas Eve mass even though I had no heart for it. After communion I decided to try the “simple thing”. I invited the Infant Jesus into my heart. At that very moment, the darkness lifted. The Light was back! I could not believe or understand it, but there it was! My life circumstances had not changed, but my Jesus was back in my heart! With unprecedented joy my heart sang, “Glory to God in the highest! And peace to his people on earth!” My prayer of trust had been answered most spectacularly in my very own Christmas miracle!

If I were to draw a single lesson for penitents from these Advent experiences it would be to encourage all of us to remain docile to whatever the Lord or his Mother ask of us during Advent. As penitents we have a special role to play in making straight the way of the Lord. Let us not begrudge Our Lord and Our Lady anything they ask, but offer it all up for the forgiveness of sins and for the conversion of sinners.

May our Advent sacrifices make straight the way of the Lord, so that all flesh may see the salvation of God this Christmas. May the Infant Jesus dwell in every heart.

(* Naaman – see 2 Kings 5:1-14)

(**Fast of St. Martin – in the BSP we have a 40 day pre-Christmas fasting period that begins after the Feast of St. Martin of Tours.)

Penitent in Medjugorje, Addendum: A miracle at home…

Some people returning from Medjugorje see the sun miracle at home. Others have other mystical happenings as a result of their pilgrimage. Last week something happened to me.

According to the visionaries Our Lady has request that people pray the rosary daily. In the beginning she led them gently into it, but eventually she made it clear that she was asking them to pray the full (at that time) 15-decade rosary daily. She rightly pointed out that we spend a lot of time on far less worthy or worthwhile things and that we should make a sincere effort to so this. Many people have responded.

For my part, I have prayed the five-decade rosary daily for over 30 years now. I also have a structured prayer life as a member of the Brothers and Sisters of Penance and, probably like most of you, also pray the Divine Mercy chaplet daily and some other favorite prayers. While this is not usually a burden for me, I was not looking to add more to the list! However, after visiting Medjugorje, I thought I’d add a second set of five decades daily.

Always when trying to form a new habit, the transition is rough. Last week, about six weeks after returning, I thought perhaps it was more than I could manage. As I was walking into the church for adoration last Thursday, I had the thought that I would go back to just five decades a day. Our Lady had other plans.

During our one-hour Thursday adoration, we pray the rosary and take turns leading. I pulled out one of the rosaries I had bought in Medjugorje. All the rosaries I bought there were blessed by Our Lady at an apparition and by the priests at the end of a Mass, as is the custom there. I had bought quite a few rosaries with the idea to give them away to family and friends. Upon returning, I had laid them out several times so folks could choose the one they wanted. I had two the same, made of local stones, with the large medal having a little bubble filled with soil from there. These two had not been picked yet. I have been using one of them to pray at church.

As in most churches where the rosary is prayed in public, we take turns leading a decade. That night the first two decades were led by other people. As the first person ended her decade, I still had a bead left. That doesn’t happen often, but it could have been her mistake or mine. I did not think much of it. When the same thing happened after the second decade, I looked at the beads. Something looked off, so I counted them. Oddly, the first two decades now had 11 beads each! I counted them again. And again. I counted the other beads. The others had the standard 10 beads each. I counted them again after the rosary was finished. Two extra beads, no question.

Rosary on the left has two extra beads

Now, I have been known to be unobservant at times, but I have always appreciated the symmetry of the rosary when it is laid out, where the Our Father beads line up on both sides. I would have noticed any misalignment when I laid out those rosaries for display. Nothing ever looked off and I never before had extra beads with that rosary when someone else was leading. I really feel it was a miracle, and that Our Lady was asking me, with those TWO beads, to continue praying my TWO rosaries daily! Fiat, Mama!

When discerning a miracle, we should always look first to the natural. Was the rosary flawed from the beginning? Perhaps, but being flawed in the same way on two separate decades is very much against the odds. Even if it was flawed in the shop when I picked it up, the odds of me choosing that particular rosary out of the many, many, thousands of rosaries for sale in Medjugorje, are very remote. And even if that happened randomly, the odds of me noticing the extra beads 20 minutes after I had decided to stop praying the extra rosary, were equally remote. One can only stretch coincidence so far and I think in this case, the word “miracle” is not unwarranted. 

Now, if Our Lady is asking for increased prayer—and she absolutely is—we can be sure there is a critical reason. So, we should not take lightly her call to pray more, and especially when it comes to the rosary. We have a novena of days left in which to offer her our best efforts before the Infant King comes to the lowly manger of our hearts. Let the prayer of our hearts sing: Maranatha! Come Lord Jesus!

A Penitent in Medjugorje, Part III…

Prayers and indulgences    

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The grave of Fr. Slavko Barbaric

I took many prayer requests to Medjugorje with me, some for my intentions, and some for others. All BSP members and blog readers and their intentions were included in my list. In addition to prayers for conversions, my list also included prayers for the repose of the souls of my husband and my dad. It was providential that we would be in Medjugorje for the Feasts of All Saints and All Souls and for the octave of indulgences the Church makes available for the souls in purgatory from November 1-8. With my family members in mind, I gave all my prayers to Mary to distribute in the best way possible. One of conditions for the indulgence is to visit a cemetery each day you wish to gain it. I was able for seven of those eight days to visit the cemetery near St. James Church, where Fr. Slavko is buried. He was the priest who, initially a skeptic, became a believer and supporter of the visionaries and the message of Medjugorje.

The “Five Stones”

Our Lady of Medjugorje. Her veil blows in the breeze in the way the children first saw her. The Rosary beads are made of local stone.

There have been countless messages attributed to Our Lady of Medjugorje, Queen of Peace. She has given the world through these visionaries a peace plan in what have come to be known as the “five stones”, the weapons that will defeat the evil one. Thesis in reference to the five stones David used to slay Goliath. They are: 1) Prayer with the heart, especially the rosary; 2) Eucharist/Mass/Adoration; 3) Scripture reading; 4) Fasting; 5) Monthly confession (at least). I was amazed to see how the locals have embraced the messages. The rosary is prayed in the church every evening and the evening Mass was overflowing the whole time we were there.

Adoration, we were told repeatedly, is the heart of Medjugorje for both locals and pilgrims. Mary is there, pointing to her Son as she always does. The adoration chapel is open every afternoon, and evening adoration is held a couple of times per week. On the Saturday night we were there, Adoration was held from 9:00 to 10:00 pm. We estimated that there were 5- 6,000 people there from all over the world—just another Saturday night in Medjugorje!

The villagers also embrace fasting, which Our Lady has asked to be done on Wednesdays and Fridays. She has said that the best fast is on bread and water. The local bakery gives away free bread on those days, and the restaurants too. Confession is also important to the villagers. In fact there is a “Croatian only” set of confessionals reserved for the local residents so that they don’t have to wait in line with the pilgrims. It is a small concession, given the unimaginable sacrifice involved in being a popular pilgrimage destination.

In the early days Our Lady chastised the residents for not taking seriously the messages. She needed them to take them to heart so that they could minister to the many pilgrims who would be coming. For the most part they heeded her request. Although there may be people who are taking advantage of certain opportunities, I saw many generous souls serving Our Lady in many ways.

Priests

We attended English Mass daily at 10:00 am.

It was so edifying to see, every day, numerous priests concelebrating the various Masses. These are priest who are living Our Lady’s messages, tending their flocks, and hastening the Triumph of the Immaculate Heart. In Mirjana Soldo’s new autobiography, called, “My Heart Will Triumph”, she says:

I wish I could divulge more about what will happen in the future, but I can say one thing about how the priesthood relates to the secrets. We have this time that we are living in now, and we have the time of the triumph of Our Lady’s heart. Between these two times we have a bridge, and that bridge is our priests. Our Lady continually asks us to pray for our shepherds, as she calls them, because the bridge needs to be strong enough for all of us to cross it to the time of the triumph. In her message of October 2, 2010, she said, “Only alongside our shepherds will my heart triumph.”

Soldo,Mirjana My Heart Will Triumph CatholicShop Publishing 2016 p. 325

Yet another urgent reason to pray for our shepherds!

Two witnesses

One of the priests we had the privilege to hear was Fr. Leon Pereira, originally of Sri Lanka, but now chaplain of the English-speaking pilgrims and priests at Medjugorje. He is a gifted speaker and has a true calling to that holy place. In his talk, he said that Our Lady once showed him how much she loves us; it is as if each person in the world is her only child, echoing what Our Lady has told the visionaries: “If you knew how much I love you, you’d cry for joy.” His powerful testimony is available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QUwVvuPr87Q&t=34s.

“The Castle” of Patrick and Nancy Latta

Another dramatic testimony is the conversion story of Patrick Latta, who was once a very wealthy car dealership owner in Vancouver. He was wealthy, but his life was a mess—until Mary intervened. After his amazing conversion, Patrick and his wife Nancy eventually sold everything in order to serve Our Lady. They built a castle in Medjugorje from which they serve the local poor and provide food and lodging to priests, seminarians and other pilgrims. Patrick’s compelling testimony is available here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EOSpKcttFhA .

The fruit of hope

For my part, one thing I found to be very deeply moving was to pray and worship with so many pilgrims and priests from around the world, each one praying in their own language. Truly, the language of the Spirit was reversing the division of Babel. It was encouraging to see so many priests there, as well as countless young people, all responding to Mary’s call. It gave me great hope for the future of the Church.

In Medjugorje, I felt a foreshadowing of the Triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. A true reflection of Advent, Our Lady is giving us a time of grace heralding the day when Jesus will be born into the lowly manger of our hearts in a new way so that the great longing of God’s heart will be fulfilled at last. Then, we shall be his people and he shall be our God*. Maranatha! Amen. 

(*To read a collection of bible verses that tell of God’s great longing click here.)

A Penitent in Medjugorje, Part II…

The weeping statue

In the prayer garden behind St. James Church is a tall bronze statue of the Risen Jesus which began to “weep” liquid in 2001, most often from the knee. Sometimes the weeping is more, sometimes less, sometimes not at all. People collect the liquid on small cloths that are sold for that purpose. It can take a while for a drop to form so there is usually a lineup of pilgrims waiting. The first time we went there, it did not seem to be weeping, so we only stopped and prayed.

One of my fellow pilgrims gathers liquid from the Risen Christ statue.

However, when I was at the top of Apparition Hill, I had felt a call to visit the statue that night. One of my fellow pilgrims had said she saw it weeping that day, but up higher, from the navel area. That evening, a few of us went. Sure enough when we got there we could see a small drip had trickled down to the edge of the loin cloth. But no one could reach it so we sat down to pray. As I prayed, the word, “hyssop stick” popped into my mind. I immediately thought of the sponge of sour wine on a hyssop stick that was offered to our Lord on the cross. I looked around for a stick. I couldn’t see one, but then remembered I had brought a walking stick at the last minute and thought that would work to reach higher up and catch the drip. My friend had a hair tie that we used to attach the little square of cloth. I reached up to dab where the drip was and when I looked at the cloth there was a glisten! I gave my other friend the stick and she got a drop too. That seemed to exhaust the flow. My fellow pilgrims and I marveled at the way it all came about with the reference to the “hyssop stick”. I prayed that more people would be blessed in this way. The day before we left,it was weeping quite a bit on the back side and we were able to moisten quite a few more cloths. May God grant that his graces be given to many through these miraculous sacramentals.

Pilgrims gather to collect liquid from the Risen Christ statue.

Mirjana’s apparition

Mirjana walking to Apparition Hill November 2, 2018

It was a great grace to be in Medjugorje at the time of Mirjana’s second of the month apparition, which happened to be on All Souls Day. Even though it was the end of the pilgrim season, thousands were in the village for the Feast Day and it seemed they all showed up at the base of Apparition Hill for the apparition. Some of our group had gotten there early enough to be quite near to the apparition site, but we were only close enough to see Mirjana’s head going by flanked by her security team, there to prevent people from taking souvenirs of hair or clothing!Lord have mercy! As we waited, the rosary and hymns were prayed and sung indifferent languages. It was a moving experience and seeing the huge, diverse crowd, young and old, from many different countries, and was very encouraging.It felt such a privilege to be there.  

At 8:40 am,the word “Silencio!” was proclaimed and the crowd fell completely silent as Our Lady appeared to Mirjana. They spoke for about 10 minutes, then a rough copy of the message was read in Croatian, English, and other languages. The official translation is as follows:

November 2, 2018

Dear children, My motherly heart suffers as I am looking at my children who do not love the truth, those who are hiding it – as I look at my children who do not pray with their feelings and actions. I am sad as I am saying to my Son that many of my children no longer have faith, that they do not know Him – my Son. That is why I call you,apostles of my love: you strive to look to the very depth in human hearts and there you are certain to find the little hidden treasure. To look in this way is mercy from the Heavenly Father. To seek the good even where there is the greatest evil – to strive to comprehend each other and not to judge – that is what my Son is asking of you. And I, as a mother, am calling you to listen to Him. My children, the spirit is mightier than the flesh, and, carried by love and actions, it overcomes all obstacles. Do not forget: my Son has loved you and loves you. His love is with you and in you when you are one with Him. He is the light of the world and no one and nothing will be able to stop Him in the final glory. Therefore, apostles of my love, do not be afraid to witness the truth. Witness it with enthusiasm, with works, with love, with your sacrifice,and, above all, in humility. Witness the truth to all those who have not come to know my Son. I will be alongside you. I will encourage you. Witness the love which never ends because it comes from the Heavenly Father who is eternal and who offers eternity to all of my children. The spirit of my Son will be alongside you. Anew I am calling you, my children: pray for your shepherds,pray that the love of my Son may lead them. Thank you.

Mirjana relayed that during the apparition, Our Lady was sad.

This is a very dense message, with much to ponder. I hope that our efforts to live the call to be Apostles of Love will serve to console Our Lady’s sorrowful heart. May her Immaculate Heart triumph!

(To be continued…)

A Penitent in Medjugorje, Part I…

By their fruits…

While the Church has not yet officially ruled on the Medjugorje apparitions that have been allegedly taking place since 1981, it has recognized the fruits of increased faith, conversion, confession and vocations that flow from it. In February this year, Pope Francis appointed Henryk Hoser, retired Archbishop of Warsaw-Praga, as pastoral envoy to Medjugorje. Archbishop Hoser has told Poland’s KAI Catholic news agency that “from a pastoral point of view, there is a very positive result. […] My mission was not to make a judgement on Medjugorje, but to evaluate whether the pastoral ministry was proper and consistent with the doctrine and teaching of the Church, and effective and well-organized. I concluded that this is the case.” He has also said that the biggest phenomenon in Medjugorge is confession. The commission established by Pope Benedict XVI to study the alleged apparitions of Mary at Medjugorje, reportedly voted overwhelmingly to recognise as supernatural the first seven appearances of Mary in 1981. As the alleged apparitions are ongoing, the Vatican cannot make a definitive ruling on them. With that in mind, I wish to share with you some of the blessings and fruits of my pilgrimage there this past fall. To avoid being cumbersome, I have not used the word “alleged” in the following article.

My Pilgrimage

Me in front of St. James Church

In “the world”, penitents are a rare commodity. In Medjugorje, you can’t trip over a rock without falling on one. So, I felt right at home when I was recently a pilgrim there from October 29 to November 8. I had felt called to go there for over 30 years, ever since first hearing about it. If Our Lady is coming all the way from heaven, I thought, the least I can do is meet her partway! But life circumstances seemed never to allow it and I sometimes wondered if I would ever get there. The decades passed, and beyond all hopes and expectations, Our Lady continued to grace the world with her presence in that holy place. I continued to hope and pray that I might get there before the apparitions ceased altogether.

This year brought a deluge of changes for me. I tell people that God did not just turn a page, He closed a book. As you may recall my husband passed away in May and my father in August. Amid those changes I moved to a new city to be near family and to finally be a “close-by grandma”. In addition, there were other changes and challenges as well. After my husband passed, since I really needed to be near family, I rented a place in my new city before my existing house was sold. The housing market was very low, but in my heart I knew I had to go and that I had to trust. I told Our Lady that if my house sold I would try to go to Medjugorje in the fall. Our Lady works fast! The day the movers came to get my belongings was the day I got an offer on my house that led to a sale. The timing was undeniably Our Lady’s. Once that hurdle was passed, going to Medjugorje finally seemed within reach. Our Lady even arranged that a group was leaving from my new city on October 29. Praise God!

There was one complication—due to some foot and hip problems, I could barely walk on level ground in the weeks leading up to the trip. I wondered how I going to make it through the airports, let alone climb Apparition Hill or Cross Mountain. I told my friends and family, Our Lady has made the other arrangements so I’m going! If she wants me to climb Apparition Hill, she’s going to have to carry me. If not, my penance will be to stand at the bottom and pray while watching the others go up. Fiat!

The day of the trip arrived and I set out in the wee hours for the airport. To my surprise, I made it through all the airports without assistance, albeit with persistent pain in my foot and hip. Fiat! After about 24 hours of travel time, our group of 19 Canadian pilgrims arrived at our “pansion” or inn, in Medjugorje. My first hint that Our Lady was not going to go easy on me was that my room was on the third floor, 36 stairs up. Fiat! The innkeeper himself grabbed my bags, hauled them up effortlessly, then disappeared. Thank you, Mama, for that grace!

The rooms were simple, comfortable but not luxurious, perfect for a pilgrim-penitent. Mine had a great view of the chickens and sheep in the yard below, and at night I could see the lighted cross on the top of Cross Mountain. Praise God!

Apparition Hill

Not as easy as it looks!

Our first full day there, I was kind of hoping for a day of subdued activity, but at breakfast our pilgrimage leaders informed us that since the weather was going to be favorable, we were going to climb Apparition Hill that afternoon. Apparition Hill is, I learned, the “easier” of the two climbs, as Cross Mountain is three times higher. Fiat! The able-bodied group members would hike to the hill, but those of us who needed to conserve our strength and pseudo-agility would take a cab to the base of the hill. We would all meet and pray the joyful mysteries together on the way up at the stations provided, with reflections by Fr. Joseph Jacobson, who was our spiritual guide for the pilgrimage. Coming down would be at each our own speed, and hopefully in a controlled manner as the climb was very rocky.

I was shocked at the terrain when I first laid eyes on it! It was as if God had dumped from on high a huge load of boulders with just enough mud to hold them in place. Many of the rocks were sharp, and flat bits were scarce. The climb, I found, was a metaphor for the struggles of life—you can never plan past the next step, and if you think about how hard the journey is going to be, you will give up before you even begin. Sometimes, even what you thought was the right step turns out all wrong. Just. Keep. Going. After all, how did Christ make it up the hill to Calvary? One step at a time.

Our Lady chose to appear in this place, first of all because of the steadfast faith of the villagers, which had held firm through centuries of persecution. As for the terrain, besides the penitential component, Our Lady has told the visionaries she wants pilgrims to see the stones as representing the stony hearts of those who need our prayers and sacrifices.

Our Lady has said that the veil between heaven and earth is very thin at Medjugorje and I believe it! With my physical limitations in mind, you will understand when I say that it was no small thing to find myself, an hour and a half after starting, at the goal of our climb, the statue of Mary which marks the spot where she first appeared to the visionaries in 1981. The Queen of Peace, rewarded my efforts with gifts of hope, comfort, and peace. I was overcome with emotion in that holy place, and still am when I think of it. Our Lady carried me up for sure! It was so humbling to be up there, and I am so grateful!

After that beautiful mountain-top experience I, of course, still had to get down, and the down is even harder than the up! My previously underused muscles were already protesting the uphill climb. Now, a further hour and half down? I picked up my trusty walking stick and started out. Our Lady had further pity on me and sent two angels to help me. A couple of gentlemen from our pilgrim group walked with me to keep me safe, scouting the best path, and guiding each step, extending their hands when I needed it. Truly they were the embodiment of our guardian angels, who also are there as scouts, guides, and a hand to hold, whether we feel it or not.

Despite their efforts, near the end, one of my feet got wedged in a rock with the other foot wedged behind it. I was going down! Because of my walking stick it was a slow fall sideways. I landed—where else—on a rock, next to a thorny bush, which also left its mark. Without my angels I would have had a very hard time getting out of that predicament. I must have landed on my real angel because aside from a 7-inch bruise on my thigh, and a small thorn prick, I suffered no real injuries. When I mentioned my bruise to one of the locals she said, “In Medjugorje, we call those ‘kisses from heaven’.” Upon reflection I can see that Our Lady gave me a very small taste of Calvary—one fall and a small thorn. Yes, it was indeed a kiss from heaven! Fiat! Thank you, Mama!

There is much to ponder in such a climb. I’m sure everyone comes back with their own message or messages. I felt Our Lady was telling me (and all of us) to persevere in our prayers and sacrifices. The evil one wants to discourage us, but our Mother wants us to know that our prayers and sacrifices are bearing abundant fruit. She is always with us as our Mother, strengthening all her dear children for the mission entrusted to us—which often feels like a gruelling climb we are not in shape for. With her at our side, we have nothing to fear. Then what is left for us but to say, Fiat! as we put one foot in front of the other until she calls us home.

(To be continued…)

Me at the top of Apparition Hill!

Making up for what is lacking…

Hebrews 7:26-27 For it was fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, blameless, undefiled, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens. Unlike the other high priests, he has no need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for those of the people; this he did once for all when he offered himself.

Colossians 1:24 I am now rejoicing in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am completing what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church.

The two scripture passages above—both written by St. Paul—on the surface seem contradictory. Most protestant denominations gloss over the second and don’t really have a theology of suffering. But the Catholic understanding of almost everything in the deposit of faith is not that these two passages are contradictory, but rather that both are true and must be understood together.

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All Souls Day…

Wisdom 3: 1-5

The souls of the just are in the hand of God,
and no torment shall touch them.
They seemed, in the view of the foolish, to be dead;
and their passing away was thought an affliction
and their going forth from us, utter destruction.
But they are in peace.
For if before men, indeed, they be punished,
yet is their hope full of immortality;
chastised a little, they shall be greatly blessed,
because God tried them
and found them worthy of himself.

ALL SOULS DAY is just around the corner. I admit, I feel its approach more keenly this year having lost both my husband and my father in the last few months. It is a great blessing that my trip to Medjugorje happens to include that feast day. I can’t wait to offer prayers there for all the souls Mary wants me to pray for but especially for my husband and my father.

Here is an article from the National Catholic Register about the indulgences available at this time of year.

Here’s How You Can Help the Holy Souls in Purgatory
We have access to several keys to help rescue the holy souls in purgatory and get them to heaven.

 

I will try to put up one more post before leaving on Monday. I take you all with me in my heart and will pray for your intentions while there.

Dreams as calls to prayer…

2 Timothy 2:20-21 “In a large house there are utensils not only of gold and silver but also of wood and clay, some for special use, some for ordinary. All who cleanse themselves of the things I have mentioned will become special utensils, dedicated and useful to the owner of the house, ready for every good work.”

As you may remember from my May 12 post, my beloved husband of 42 years passed away on May 11 this year. There were many graces around the time of his death and since then, some of which I have mentioned on this blog. Two of those graces came in the form of dreams.

In the last few months I have had a several of dreams that I feel came with a message. I learned long ago to view dreams primarily as calls to prayer. Perhaps that is why I keep receiving them. Dreams and their interpretation can be risky. However, if we view dreams as calls to prayer, it is less likely that we will be misled, so I caution you not to see more in the dreams I will share in the next few blog posts. I ask you to see them only as calls to prayer.

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