Dear friends, I have been feeling the call to more fervently promote Our Lord’s teachings on the “Gift of Living in the Divine Will”, which He gave to us through Luisa Piccarreta. God has reserved this extraordinary grace, this “Gift of all gifts” for our time as a remedy—and more than a remedy—for the unprecedented ills of the world. I have listed below resources which will explain clearly the distinction between doing the Divine Will and living in the Divine Will. Believe me it makes all the difference in the world. God is not playing a defensive game, He’s playing offense all the way to His unstoppable victory.
Luisa Piccarreta was a very saintly soul (1865-1947), unimaginably humble, with a singular mystical life, whose holiness has been recognized, not just by her those who knew her (including St. Padre Pio), but at the highest levels of the Church. She has been declared Servant of God and her cause for beatification has been submitted to the Vatican. Her diary, over 8000 pages, has been studied by Vatican theologians in the Italian translation and has been found to contain no errors in faith or morals. The Vatican Press published her biography in 2015.
The censor liborum of Luisa’s writings was Rev. Annibale (or Hannibale) di Francia. A holy man and the Founder of two religious orders, he was the first and most rigorous promoter of Luisa’s writings. He was canonised by Pope John Paul II in 2004, and in 2010 Pope Benedict XVI installed a large statue of the saint outside the Vatican Basilica.
Jesus tells Luisa that the Holy Spirit is ready to descend in His fullness on the earth, to usher in the Era of Sanctification through this Gift. Please, I invite you to watch to this new 27-minute video by Daniel O’Connor, and this 13-minute video (Divine Will in a Nutshell) by Fr. Joseph Iannuzzi. Fr. Iannuzzi has been tasked by the Vatican to work on the English translation of Luisa’s 36-volume diary which Jesus titled, “The Book of Heaven” (sometimes referred to as, “The Volumes”). His Doctoral Dissertation on the subject was given Ecclesiastical Approbation by the Pontifical Gregorian University of Rome, authorized by the Holy See. Fr. Robert Young (may he rest in peace) has an excellent series of podcasts on the Divine Will, found at https://divinewilllife.org/, including a 12 part Introduction to the Divine Will. He also has this one hour talk as a shorter introduction.
The Gift of Living in the Divine Will is meant for everyone. It is not meant to replace other Catholic spiritualities, but embraces and enhances them. We continue to do all our good and holy practices, but learn to do them in a new way by grace. The more people there are that desire this gift and learn about it, the sooner the Immaculate Heart will triumph, and the Kingdom of the Divine Will come to reign. I implore you, if you have not already done so, to take this call seriously.
There is much, much more information in the videos, and a little more from me in this post. If you feel a stirring in your heart, know and believe that God is calling you to be part of this Great Work of His. May God guide us all deeper into His holy and adorable Will. Fiat!
Jesus’ prayer to the Father at the Last Supper: “(May they) all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” (John 17: 21-23)
Jesus spoke these words as part of the Last Supper discourse, a heart-wrenching prayer to his Father. It was his final hour, and every word he spoke bore the weight of eternity. Even in this short Scripture passage, we sense the tremendous longing in the heart of Jesus for unity among his followers. The words themselves seem to tremble on the page.
It is of cosmic importance
that on his last night on earth, Jesus bequeathed to his followers the inner
life of the Trinity—a unity of wills in perfect love—praying “that they may be
one, as we are one…so that the world may know that you have sent me and have
loved them even as you have loved me.” This is the life of heaven and we are
called to live it now as a sign to the world that God sent his only Son to die
out of pure love for us. We need to ponder this deeply. Sins against unity,
that is unity with the will of God, cause great damage to the Church and
consequently to the world.
Lately we have heard of a
serious disagreement between the bishops of Germany, and the Vatican. Too often
these days, the word “schism” is heard in Catholic circles. My friends, if the
Church herself cannot maintain unity, what hope is there for those who do not
believe in God? Unity is critical, now more than ever, a unity born in the
humility of the manger.
In the Liturgy of the Hours is a reading from a letter to Diognetus which contains this line: “…it is by the Christians, detained in the world as in a prison, that the world is held together.” Unity with the will of God and each other is a sacred duty for Christians.
Several years ago our parish
ladies group visited a Carmelite monastery in our diocese. We were blessed with
a brief audience—through a grate—with the saintly prioress, Mother Teresa of
Jesus (may she rest in peace). She spoke about life in a closed community. She
did not sugar-coat it, emphasizing more than once the challenges of living day
in and day out with “the same 10 people.” Yet, in spite of the challenges, they
were a true community modeling a common unity. Did they always agree? Certainly
not. Did they sometimes argue? Most likely. Were they living in unity? Absolutely!
Their unity did not depend on agreement in earthly matters, but on loving
obedience to the will of God in the bond of charity.
Someone once asked St.
Mother Theresa of Calcutta how we can know what the will of God is in any given
situation. She gave a little smile and replied, “Wait and see what happens.”
That is the reply of one who lives in the fiat of the Blessed Virgin Mary,
always docile to the movement of the Spirit.
Those of us who try to live
in the will of God know that His will is not always easy to discern. That is
why it is good to have a spiritual director, or priest, or someone spiritually
mature enough to help with discernment. When in doubt, we cannot err in being
obedient to those God has placed over us in authority.
Unity with the Will of God
is what we must aspire to at all times. This has never been easy for us, for
the shadow of the evil one is never far away. He loves to sow confusion and
chaos, misunderstanding and the pride of self-righteousness, a righteousness
that divides and seeks to conquer. There is no peace in this approach, only
division. Therefore, we need to look carefully at the attitudes we hold—and
especially the ones that hold us! Let us not be slaves to them, but always act
out of love for those God sends us. Let our own thoughts and feelings take a
back seat to the true inspiration of the Spirit in the bond of charity. Then we
will be working for peace, not division.
Never has it been more
urgent that we learn to live in God’s will, to desire it above all else. It is
the only way to peace and unity in families, in the Church, and in the world.
God has given us many unimaginable graces in our day. We must re-double our
efforts to be faithful, attentive, and docile to the Spirit. No one is safe
outside of grace. Humility is key; pride will be our undoing. And when we fail,
let us place all our trust in God who can, by his merciful grace, make what is
Where hearts are not at
peace there can be no unity. Where hearts are not at prayer there can be no peace,
for one flows out of the other. Peace has its source in the heart of God, which
is perfect unity. Since prayer is communion with God, the more one prays, the
more the fruits of peace and unity will flow.
We are children of light! We must not give in to the shadows. Light always dispels shadows. Let us stay firmly rooted in the truth of our faith found in the Divine Will, especially as taught to Luisa Piccareta. And in all things—charity.
ADDENDUM: Minutes after I posted this, I read this article which quotes Cardinal Robert Sarah. He speaks very strongly on the theme of unity.
“I therefore, the prisoner in
the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been
called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one
another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in
the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were
called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one
God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.”
“We must no longer
be children, tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine, by
people’s trickery, by their craftiness in deceitful scheming. But speaking the
truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into
Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knitted together by every ligament
with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the
body’s growth in building itself up in love.” (Ephesians 4:1-4, 14-16)
The nature of God is unity. At the Last
Supper, Jesus entreated the Father, “That
they may be one as you are in me and I am I you.” (Jn 17:21) Unity is
neither trivial nor optional. It was a last request of Jesus to the Father
witnessed by the apostles at the Last Supper. We may not understand all that is
going on in the Church, but this prayer is very clear. We are called to unity.
God’s holy Church has undergone trials in
every age, attacks from outside and from within. Today, the attacks on it from
outside the Church are escalating in an unprecedented manner. So too are the
attacks from within. The cunning enemy of the Church has released a weapon that
is aimed directly at “good Catholics”. It is the temptation to schism. I don’t
often read comment boxes on Catholic websites, but when I do, I am shocked at
the vitriol being spewed against the Holy Father by people who consider
themselves good, faithful Catholics. I have learned from personal examination
that self-righteousness is a form of pride the devil reserves for good people.
Humility is the only way to defeat evil.
Jesus gave a structure to his Church to
protect us, and to which we owe the greatest respect. We know that all the
clergy have human failings as we all do, but let us remember the story of St.
Francis where he was brought to confront a priest who was living in a
scandalous relationship with a woman. St. Francis “fell to his knees, took the
priest’s hands into his own stigmatized hands, kissed them and said, ‘All I know and all I want to know is that
these hands give me Jesus.’” It is said the priest converted after that.
Our job is not to judge the clergy, and
especially not the Holy Father, but to respect their office, pray unceasingly
for them, and support them in any way we can. St. Francis told his brothers: “If you will be sons of peace, you will win
the clergy and the people for the Lord, and the Lord judges this more
acceptable than to win the people but scandalize the clergy. Hide their lapses,
supply for their many defects; and when you have done this, be even more
humble.” (Celano, Second Life #146)
Whenever we have trials, it is prudent to
ask ourselves if we are being tested, and to ponder how we can best demonstrate
our love and trust in the Lord. God is cleaning house and he is starting with
His own. To paraphrase Fr. Altier, when Jesus cleared the temple, he cleaned
like a man, moving only the big stuff. But now His Mother is doing the
cleaning, and she cleans like a woman, getting in all the corners. God is
purifying his Bride. What is happening now is painful, but so necessary!
As Saint John Paul II said so prophetically
during the 1976 Eucharistic Congress in Philadelphia:
“We are now standing in the face of the greatest historical confrontation humanity has ever experienced. I do not think that the wide circle of the American Society, or the whole wide circle of the Christian Community realize this fully. We are now facing the final confrontation between the Church and the anti-church, between the gospel and the anti-gospel, between Christ and the antichrist. The confrontation lies within the plans of Divine Providence. It is, therefore, in God’s Plan, and it must be a trial which the Church must take up, and face courageously.”
More than ever we are called to pull
together and let God work his mighty work through his unified Church, imperfect
as it may be. Archbishop Chaput said during a recent Synod: “We also need to
thank God for the gift of this present, difficult moment. Because conflict
always does two things: It purifies the church, and it clarifies the character
of the enemies who hate her.”
It brings to mind what Simeon said at the
Presentation of the Lord: “This child is
destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign
that will be opposed so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed…”
This bears pondering. What I am noticing is
that as the world becomes more polarized, the inner thoughts of people are
being revealed. Think of all the polarizing figures in the world today, people
who are challenging our assumptions and provoking often heated discussion: Pope
Francis, President Trump, Prime Minister Trudeau, as well as countless other
world leaders, factions, and movements. Our inner thoughts are being revealed
and almost no one is holding back.
Let us keep in mind the messages of Our
Lady, that the only appropriate response to all this turmoil is prayer,
penance, humility, and trust in God. This is still God’s Church no matter how
things appear; her Immaculate Heart WILL triumph. I like this quote from Andrew
van der Bijl, founder of Open Doors: “Prayer
is not preparation for the battle; prayer IS the battle.” If we’re doing
more talking than praying, we’re fighting for the enemy, not against. Let our
words be few and measured. Remember what Jesus told the disciples: “Whoever will not receive you or listen to
your words—go outside that house or town and shake the dust from your feet.”
(Mt 10:14) There is a time to every purpose under heaven—a time to argue, and a
time to quit arguing and fall to your knees. May God grant us wisdom!
We must remember always to trust in God, believe in his promises, and be faithful to our mission—that is, OUR mission and not someone else’s. It is tempting to act as armchair cardinals when there is so much to talk about and everyone has a soapbox literally at their fingertips, but it can be a huge distraction. Our main task in this world, and especially as penitents in it, is and always has been to become holy and to fulfill the mission entrusted to us. If we have expectations that are not being met by the Pope or the Church as a whole, consider that at any given point in the history of the people of God, people’s expectations have not been met. That is how God operates. If he was predictable, he would not be God.
It is so easy to be dragged down by the
negative voices in the world. Here are a few more quotes to give us hope and a
reason to remain firmly planted on deck in the Barque of Peter, faithfully
manning our stations.
Cardinal Sarah: “We must help the Pope. We must stand with him just as we would stand with our own father.” —May 16th, 2016, Letters from the Journal of Robert Moynihan
Cardinal Raymond Burke: “Absolutely not. I will never leave the Catholic Church. No matter what happens I intend to die a Roman Catholic. I will never be part of a schism. I’ll just keep the faith as I know it and respond in the best way possible. That’s what the Lord expects of me. But I can assure you this: You won’t find me as part of any schismatic movement or, God forbid, leading people to break away from the Catholic Church. As far as I’m concerned, it’s the church of our Lord Jesus Christ and the pope is his vicar on earth and I’m not going to be separated from that.” — LifeSiteNews, August 22nd, 2016
Cardinal Gerhard Müller: “There is a front of traditionalist groups, just as there is with the progressivists, that would like to see me as head of a movement against the Pope. But I will never do this…. I believe in the unity of the Church and I will not allow anyone to exploit my negative experiences of these last few months. Church authorities, on the other hand, need to listen to those who have serious questions or justified complaints; not ignoring them, or worse, humiliating them. Otherwise, without desiring it, there can be an increase of the risk of a slow separation that might result in the schism of a part of the Catholic world, disorientated and disillusioned.” —Corriere della Sera, Nov. 26, 2017; quote from the Moynihan Letters, #64, Nov. 27th, 2017
From Archbishop Fulton Sheen:
“The revelation of Fatima is a reminder that we live in a moral universe, that evil is self-defeating, that good is self-preserving; that the basic trouble of the world are not in politics or economics but in our hearts and our souls, and that spiritual regeneration is the condition of social amelioration.”
And from Scripture:
Psalm 46:7 “The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge.”
Psalm 37: 10-11 “Yet a little while, and the wicked will be no more; though you look diligently for their place, they will not be there. But the meek shall inherit the land, and delight in abundant prosperity. “
Come Divine Will! Come to reign upon the
earth! May your kingdom come and come quickly.
“Now as (Saul) was going along and approaching Damascus, suddenly a light
from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying
to him, ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?’ He asked, ‘Who are you, Lord?’
The reply came, ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.” (Acts
Bethlehem haunts me
past March, I was blessed to be part of a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. I had
heard about the pilgrimage from a friend last fall. At the time I was just
getting ready to leave for Medjugorje and was not thinking about another
pilgrimage so soon. Still, I felt drawn to it, even though I only knew one
person on the pilgrimage and the point of departure was on the other side of
the country. I decided to wait until after Christmas to see if there were still
spots available. There were. I prayed for a confirmation that I was to go, and
I received three. In faith I booked my ticket.
It turned out to have been
just the pilgrimage God wanted for me, focused on prayer and Scripture, but
also with an emphasis on the “living stones” of the Holy Land, particularly on
the current situation of the Christians who live there, both in Israel and
As our group of 37 pilgrims,
including two priests, followed with awe the hallowed footsteps of Jesus
through Nazareth, Galilee, Jericho, Jerusalem, Bethlehem, and points in
between, we prayerfully pondered the Scripture passages that were set in the
places we visited, Nazareth, the River Jordan, Cana, the Sea of Galilee,
Capernaum where Jesus called the fishermen, Mount Tabor, the mount of the
Transfiguration, Tabgha where the loaves and fishes were multiplied and where
Jesus asked Peter three times, “Do you love me,” and many other places. Halfway
through the pilgrimage we “set our faces toward Jerusalem”. We celebrated daily
Mass in stunning surroundings and were often brought to tears. The rosary came
alive in our hands, and since returning, there is a new dimension to the Mass
readings. I hope to expand on this in future, but first I feel compelled to
tell you why, since coming home, Bethlehem haunts me.
As we traveled, our tour guide informed us of some of the extreme challenges faced by Christians and other Palestinians in the Holy Land. The States of Israel and Palestine have a population of some 10 million people of which the Christian population has dropped to less than 2%, some 180,000 souls. It is a delicate, extremely complex and utterly confusing arrangement, this tenuous co-habitation of the three main Abrahamic religions, along with various other people from around the world, including migrant workers. I am not qualified to explain or make sense of any of it, but I can tell you what I saw with my own eyes and why Bethlehem still haunts me.
The Shock of arriving in Bethlehem
The last five nights of our
pilgrimage we stayed in Bethlehem, the holy city where Jesus was born. It is
just a few miles from Jerusalem and would be our home base. Along with the
other pilgrims on our trip, I was shocked and devastated to learn that Bethlehem
is a walled city. It is completely enclosed by a security wall 25
feet high, equipped with security cameras and with watchtowers manned by
Israeli armed guards. Everyone, including pilgrims, enters and leaves Bethlehem
through manned checkpoints.
With the initial shock still fresh in our minds, we spent our first day in Bethlehem, visiting holy sites, and celebrating a stunning “Christmas” Mass in a shepherd’s cave. Even though the liturgical calendar told us it was Lent, every day in Bethlehem is Christmas we were told. But as a pilgrim to modern-day Bethlehem I could not help but be deeply disturbed at the current situation of Palestinians, both Christian and Muslim, who live there.
Most of us pilgrims had not
been aware that Bethlehem has had a security perimeter since 2002. On Easter
Monday of 2002, the Israelis invaded and occupied all the cities of the West
Bank, including Bethlehem. Not long afterwards, a security fence went up around
Bethlehem, which later became a wall encircling the entire city of over 14,000
Palestinian residents, mostly Muslim and Christian. (Other walled cities
include Jericho and Ramallah and of course Gaza, but my story is about
Bethlehem where we spent five nights.)
The checkpoints through which one passes to get in and out of Bethlehem are heavily manned. Israelis are forbidden to enter by law, and Palestinians need special permission to leave, permission which is rarely granted to anyone whose birthplace is listed as Bethlehem. The walled enclosure has been called an open-air prison, and that is not an exaggeration. I suppose that Jesus himself would not be allowed to leave had he been born in June 2002 or later.
The official unemployment
rate in Bethlehem is 29%, the highest rate in Palestine. But that figure likely
does not include those no longer looking for work because it’s pointless, or
those who are underemployed which is pretty much everyone. The jobs in that
city are few, mostly tourism-based, and never full-time. The unofficial
estimate is 80% unemployment within the walls of Bethlehem. Those “fortunate”
few who are given permission to work outside of Bethlehem are strip-searched at
the checkpoint leaving and returning. It can take an hour for them to get
through the checkpoint at each end of the day.
I have since read that
Bethlehem was originally built on an aquifer that is still one of the main
sources of water in Israel. It is deeply ironic that since the Israeli
occupation, citizens of Bethlehem are forbidden to dig deeper than 4 feet down,
and are forced to truck in water at high prices. Not only are they not provided
with water, but neither with electricity. Our tour guide told us that you can
tell Palestinian housing all over the Holy Land by the solar panels and water
tanks on the roofs. By contrast, Israelis have all the water and electricity
It is the people, the living
stones of the Holy Land that haunt me, that cry out for justice. We visited an
orphanage, a secondary school, and talked to many local people who asked for
prayers and implored us also to “tell people” about their dire situation. We
found everyone in Bethlehem to be very friendly and open, even though their situation
is tragic. The Israeli narrative is that they are dangerous, and it is
dangerous to stay in Bethlehem. We found the opposite to be true.
Palestinian Muslims and
Christians do live outside the walled cities, but even they are not supplied
with water or electricity and must have cisterns and solar panels installed on
their houses if they are lucky enough to be able to afford it. High-paying jobs
are routinely denied to Palestinians, and they are never allowed a supervisory
role over Israeli workers.
In addition, Israeli
settlements encroach daily farther into Palestinian territory. Israeli
settlements are communities of apartment units inhabited by Israeli citizens
(often from other countries), built predominantly on Palestinian land. There
are roughly 100,000 settlers living in the units that surround Bethlehem alone.
The Shepherd’s Field itself, having existed on the outskirts of Bethlehem for
the past 2000 years, is now being swallowed up by Israeli settlements. It is as
if a big hungry giant is devouring Palestinian land and there is nothing they
can do about it. Often Palestinians are evicted from their homes and even
schools to make way for the settlements. Everything in the giant’s path is
Israelis believe they have an ancestral right to the lands they are occupying in the Palestinian territory. As we all know, the situation is enormously complex, but even if you believe this to be true, does that allow for denying entire populations access to water, electricity and freedom of movement? Does that allow for evicting Palestinian people from their homes so that settlements can be built?
For my part, I am haunted by
the persecution being endured by the living stones of the Holy Land. The
hallowed memory of my pilgrimage is overshadowed by it and every time I open my
mouth to tell people about my pilgrimage, what comes out is the story of how
Jesus is still being persecuted today in the people of Bethlehem and other
areas of the Holy Land. Our pilgrimage guide deliberately included contact with
the living stones of the Holy Land, particularly in Bethlehem, and provided
opportunities speak to them and offer what little moral and material support we
could. This included staying in Bethlehem for five nights at the splendid Jacir
Palace Hotel, which has had to shut down several times over the years for lack
of pilgrim traffic. We became aware of what it meant to them to have us there.
They were so gracious and kind. It was very humbling.
Our first contact with the living stones was as we traveled from Galilee to Jerusalem. Our tour guide had arranged for us to meet with a group of Muslim Bedouins whose nomadic lifestyle is no longer possible as their territory has been overtaken by Israeli settlements. They now live with their animals in small communities of tin shacks eking out whatever existence they can with their small herds, selling trinkets where possible. They live in extreme poverty. We brought them lightly used shoes and clothing and were humbled by their ardent gratitude. Shoes are very important to nomads, and they wear out quickly in the rocky hills. I thought of the shoes in my closet that are never worn because of a pinch here or there. Those people would be happy for them.
Our next contact with living
stones was a visit to a Catholic secondary school in Bethlehem. The school
welcomes all Palestinian students, no matter their faith background. The
Catholic school provides a quality education for the children who live within
the walls. They work towards peace, harmony and respect for all. Unfortunately,
the Palestinian children are unlikely to be able to fulfill their career dreams
as they may never be allowed to exit the walls of Bethlehem.
Bethlehem does have an
excellent university, however (https://www.bethlehem.edu). One person we encountered attended the university
and got permission to finish her college education in Jerusalem. However, once
she obtained her degree, she was not given permission to find work outside of
Bethlehem, and has been unemployed ever since. Her husband is fortunate to have
a job, but many educated people live there in poverty or are seriously
We arrived at the school on
a Friday, a traditional day off for the students and staff as it is a holy day
of worship for Muslims. Sunday is also a day off as it is a Christian holy day,
but Saturday is not a day off, so the weekend is split. No matter, since they
are not allowed to go away for the weekend but must remain inside the walls
even then. The students and staff were joyful and came in on their day off to
talk to us. The young student I spoke to had aspirations of becoming an
electrical engineer like his father and starting his own business. I did not
ask if his father was currently working. He spoke with pride and I prayed for
his dreams to be fulfilled. He also talked about the possibility of going to Europe
on exchange, which he may indeed get permission to do. The danger is that
students who get a taste of the outside world often make plans to leave
permanently. I couldn’t help but think that might be the reason they get
permission to go, so they won’t come back.
The school staff then
offered us refreshments, and the students (including some girls) played a game
of basketball in the outdoor courtyard for our enjoyment. I was impressed by
the students’ resilience and joy, but I am haunted by them. I am free. They are
Later that day, we had a
visit from the priest who is with the Secretariat for Christian Educational Institutions
for all of Israel and Palestine. He spoke about how they are working for love
and peace in the Holy Land by welcoming and serving others in their schools and
in their lives, that they do not just coexist as Christians and Muslims, but
that they live together as community, as neighbours, and as friends. He asked
us to go home and be witnesses, to encourage people to come here to see for
themselves. He thanked us for coming to see the living stones of Bethlehem.
In his work, he travels all
over the region to the schools, including in Gaza, which is the poorest area of
Palestine. There is a great deal of damage from Israeli artillery there, but
the Israelis do not allow building materials in and no outside food. It is a
desperate situation and they are little able to help themselves. In other
walled off areas of Palestine, they have access to outside food and building
materials, but they are very expensive. When the priest was asked about their
needs, he asked for prayer, donations if possible, and that we would make known
the situation among those we can reach.
Since coming home, whenever
I have spoken to people about my pilgrimage and the situation in Bethlehem, I
am met with shock. How is it that this has been their situation since 2002 and
we have not heard about it? I am haunted by that as well.
The tiniest living stones we
met were the children at an orphanage in Bethlehem run by an order of Sisters.
We brought gently-used clothing, supplies, candy—and bubbles! We spent an hour
visiting with the children and blowing bubbles. The Sisters were grateful, the
children were happy, and we were deeply moved by the experience. Some of the
children had been left there by parents who could not afford to keep them.
Again, the injustice of it haunted me.
While hope for the future is
hardly possible for any of them, the spirit of the people is not crushed. They hope
for and rely on pilgrim traffic to sustain them. We purchased what we could
from vendors in Bethlehem, knowing it was likely their only source of income.
In one shop, one of the young brothers who ran it asked one of our group
members to keep an eye on the place while he went to get his older brother for
a price check! Within the walls there is a high degree of trust. Not the
narrative you get from the other side of the wall.
One ray of hope, dare I say a moment of pride as a lay Franciscan, was when I learned of the importance of the Franciscans in the Holy Land.
Franciscans have been there
since 1217, the time of St. Francis, when they created in the order the “Province
of the Holy Land”. They have been in the Holy Land in one form or another since
then. Since 1342 they have been known under the title “Custody of the Holy
Land”. They currently occupy Saint Savior Monastery in Jerusalem. Their primary
responsibility is safeguarding Christian holy places and making sure the
spiritual value of these places is preserved. They welcome pilgrims and
maintain the shrines, basilicas, and churches in the Holy Land.
We had a presentation from
one of the Franciscans in Jerusalem and he told us what a delicate diplomatic
balancing act it is to have so many religions and even various Christian sects
as actors in the preservation of the holy places. Very often at meetings,
nothing gets decided, so nothing gets done. Changes come slowly if at all. He
mentioned that in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre a ladder is brought out each
Lent and placed where it was once used to light candles—right in the path of
pilgrims entering and leaving the building. It is no longer needed because
electricity was installed a long time ago. However, the ladder comes out every
Ash Wednesday anyway and must be gone around by the thousands entering and
leaving. Apparently, there are more important things to talk about at meetings
than useless ladders!
Given the Franciscans’ long
service, and their knowledge of the inner workings of the Holy Land machinery,
we owe them a great debt of gratitude, and an abundance of prayers for their
continued presence. God is working miracles through them that we will never
What can be done?
I grieve for Bethlehem. I
have had difficulty writing and talking about my pilgrimage to the Holy Land
because when I open my mouth to speak, my words are haunted by the living
stones. They are crying out for justice and I feel called to give them a voice.
I have also been haunted by the words addressed to
Saul of Tarsus in the Acts excerpt at the beginning of this article: “Why do
you persecute me?” “Who are you, Lord?” “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.”
May God intercede with the same blinding miracle of conversion for those who
are persecuting the living stones of the Holy Land.
If you too are haunted by
the plight of our brothers and sisters in the Holy Land, there are ways to help.
First of all, pray and offer sacrifices and especially the Mass for them. The
Holy Land is bleeding Christians, now down to 2% of the population. If the
situation does not change, what will keep the few remaining Christians there?
Would you stay if you were in their situation? Please pray for those who are
sacrificing so much to keep the Christian presence alive in the Holy Land.
Second, educate yourself and
others, and write to your federal representative urging them to ensure that the
basic human rights of Palestinian citizens are respected and protected.
Third, donate to the Good
Friday collection in support of the Holy Land, either through the parish or at https://www.custodia.org/en. The Catholic Near East Welfare Association www.cnewa.org also has
projects that include support for foreign workers in Israel and the poor in
Palestine. You can also support students directly through the University of
Above all, if you can, pay a
visit to the living stones of the Holy Land to support and encourage them, to
let them know they are not forgotten in the world. Join or arrange a church
pilgrimage, but try to use Christian agencies. And don’t be afraid to stay in
Bethlehem. The birthplace of Jesus is full of beautiful souls. They will do
everything in their power to serve you joyfully. Their hospitality is limited
only by the limitations they are under. Dare to enter into their passion as
Simon of Cyrene did for Jesus.
Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, we
pray for the Holy Land, for peace that comes from hearts filled with love, for justice
that flows from the heart of God, and for strength and courage for those who
are bearing the cross of injustice.
St. Paul, pray with us, that
the peace of Christ, beyond all understanding will fill the hearts of all.
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!
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”
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.
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!
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.
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.)
Blessings dear friends. Since the 1980s, when I first learned about the alleged Marian apparitions at Medjugorje, I have felt drawn to make a pilgrimage there. It has taken over 30 years, but this autumn I am going! Our Lady seems to have had a hand in the arrangements as it all came together quite quickly and easily. There is even a pilgrimage group leaving from the city I just moved to, so what can I say but thank you Mama! Fiat!
Ephesians 6:12 “For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”
In the army, everyone has a duty to fulfill. Some are strategists, some are foot-soldiers, some are mechanics, some are medics, some are support staff. All are important. All are needed. This is the time to discern carefully where we are called to serve in the spiritual battle that is escalating all around us. We don’t have to do it all, but we are, each of us, made for these times and entrusted with a unique mission and the grace needed to fulfill it.
Certainly in this battle against “principalities and powers” penance is needed more than ever. Our Lady has told us so herself in every modern apparition, how urgently it is needed. As a reader of this blog, it is safe to assume that you too feel called in some way to answer Our Lady’s call to do spiritual battle through penance.
Isaiah 60:2-3 For darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the Lord will arise upon you, and his glory will appear over you. Nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn.
In the visions of Ann Catherine Emmerich, detailed in her book The Life of the Blessed Virgin Mary,she described scenes where the ancestors of Mary, as well as St. Joseph, and Mary herself, devoutly, fervently, and unceasingly prayed for the coming of the Messiah. Their desire for the Messiah was never out of their hearts. In fact, those of Mary’s ancestors who longed so fervently for the Messiah, played a role in entreating God to bring forth the Immaculate Conception. The desire of their hearts was a magnet calling the Mother of the Messiah to earth. In turn, the longing of Mary and Joseph was an irresistible call that drew Jesus to earth.
Acts 1:6-8 So when they had come together, (the disciples) asked him, ‘Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?’ He replied, ‘It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.’
It is important to read the signs of the times, to watch and pray. Something is definitely afoot in our day. Anyone who follows the Church-approved apparitions of Our Lady beginning with those to Catherine Labouré in 1830 through to the present day, will comprehend that Our Lady is the new John the Baptist calling us all to repentance. She is warning us of the consequences of our sins and exhorting us to do penance for the salvation of souls. And we must not forget what Jesus told St. Faustina: we are living in the days of mercy that precede the Day of Judgment.