Martyrdom of Solitude…

Luke 2:19 Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart.

I was praying a rosary recently using a published meditation guide. In the Fourth Glorious Mystery, one meditation leaped out at me, even though I had read it many times before. The meditation gave thanks to God for all the graces Our Blessed Mother won for the Church during the inexpressible “martyrdom of solitude” that she suffered after Jesus’ ascension. As I pondered Our Lady’s “martyrdom of solitude”, I felt it take on a greater meaning for the Church today, as well as a distinct calling to the faithful in these turbulent days.

Some experiences I have had recently have underscored how we, especially as penitents, are being called to enter into Mary’s martyrdom of solitude, a solitude where the presence of Jesus in the world is not only not felt, but rarely sought. I know you feel it too. It pierces.

On Christmas Eve I arrived early for the latest Mass, thinking there would be carols or the rosary before Mass. There wasn’t. With four Masses that night and two the next day, with only one priest and a small liturgical team in the parish, I can’t say I was surprised. There were only a few people in the church, so I thought I would sit near the front and at least meditate on the rosary before Mass on this Holy Night.

In the front pew just across the aisle, sat a family with adult children. I was alarmed and seriously distracted when a couple of the young women started taking selfies of themselves, chatting in normal tones about all manner of things. I had seen people chat before Mass before, but this I found quite disturbing. I moved to the other side of the church in front of the nativity scene and offered reparation.

I was into the second decade when another large, extended family moved in a few rows behind me. I could smell the alcohol on their breath, as they chatted and laughed even louder than the first group. I started to pray my rosary out loud. While I don’t think anyone in these two groups could hear me, I’m hoping the Holy Family was in some way consoled. Lord have mercy!

A couple of days later in a group gathering someone made a joke about priests abusing altar boys. I felt as if I was the only one who didn’t find it funny. Don’t get me wrong–I am in no way excusing the guilty. Anyone who is guilty of abusing children should be found and penalized. I just don’t think there’s anything funny about it. I was pierced by how it hurt Jesus to have his Bride so tarnished, not to mention the horrific damage being inflicted upon his innocent children. I couldn’t even speak. I could only pray.

Upon reflection it occurred to me that all faithful Catholics today carry in their own spirits these modern-day piercings of Christ. We are being called to enter into Mary’s martyrdom of solitude, and it is bound to become worse before her Immaculate Heart triumphs and makes everything infinitely better. Fiat!

On top of these piercings, I feel comforts being removed. It seems we are being stripped of all that is not Christ.

But let us not become discouraged. As penitents, we know how to offer up our piercings, and strippings only serve to separate us from our attachments, until we cling only to Him. Our Mama shows us that in every circumstance, even in the piercing of our hearts, we are called to give praise to God, keep our eyes on Christ, and proclaim our never-ending Fiat!

The evil one thinks he is winning. But the Church’s martyrdom of solitude, her Fiat under the banner of Our Lady will prove to be an invincible weapon, just as it was in the early Church. Our Lady was an unsung hero in the early days of the Church. She re-lived the silence of Nazareth, bereft of the comfort of the physical presence of her Beloved Son. Her every act, perfectly conformed to the Divine Will, won graces and favors for the fledgling Church. Her holiness was the milk that fed it, just as her wisdom and knowledge guided the Apostles and disciples in their first steps. 

So let us continue to do whatever God asks of us, in silence and prayer, for as long as He requires it, embracing whatever comes as a cross-shaped gift from our Beloved. The Divine Will is indeed our joy and our hope, the tomb in which we await His glorious resurrection.

O holy Mother of God, Full of Grace, grant to us, your little children grace upon grace, that our martyrdom of solitude, linked to yours, will be an invincible weapon in your hand, leading to the glorious triumph of the Bride of Christ. St. Francis and St. Clare, all you holy angels and saints, pray for us. Amen. Fiat!

Feet for the Journey…

Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. (Luke 2:4-5)

Do you ever think about feet? Maybe only when they’re hurting. Our feet serve us so humbly and faithfully, we do miss them when they are out of commission. A year or so ago, I was diagnosed with plantar fasciitis in one foot and Achilles tendinopathy in the other. At the same time had a frozen hip joint. It was a perfect storm—I was quite out of commission. I remember watching people walk and marveling at the beauty of it, at God’s stunning design of our bodies that, when they are functioning normally, can travel long distances on foot. We have gotten away from that in modern times, and that’s a pity. God be praised in the glory of the human body!

The Scripture passage above gives precious little insight into the actual journey the Holy Couple undertook to get from Nazareth to Bethlehem for the census. But Mary and Joseph’s 90-mile journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem was no doubt filled with great hardship. Having been to the Holy Land in the past year, I have a new appreciation, not just for the sheer length of the journey, but also the punishing terrain along the way. Winter in the Holy Land can be cold and rainy, and the trip would have been slow, likely taking a week or more. Whether they traveled on foot or rode a donkey, it would have been grueling, especially as Mary was heavy with child.

Perhaps it seems strange to consider their feet at this holy time of year. But Advent is a journey—a mission really. And as soldiers know, if you don’t look after your feet, your mission may become compromised over something as seemingly inconsequential as a blister.

The feet of Mary and Joseph would have been cold and sore. No hot bath at the end of each day either! This too was the hidden life of Nazareth. How fascinating it will be in heaven to know much was won for us through daily trials such as these.

Some years ago, I felt led to see how many passages in Scripture mentioned the feet of Jesus, either directly or indirectly. There were more than I had considered, so I put together some little prayer meditations, which I have adapted here.

Luke 2: 16 So (the shepherds) went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger.

Mary and Joseph were specially chosen to care for Jesus in his infancy and childhood. As parents, would they not have kissed his pure little feet in homage, and would not the Holy Child whose feet would one day be nailed to the cross, have been consoled by it? Beloved Jesus, your infant feet, cared for and adored by Mary and Joseph, were a visible sign of your innocence and purity. May we strive always to imitate your innocence and purity. As we kiss your holy feet in the Christmas manger, may you feel once more the comforting kisses of Mary and Joseph. May your kingdom come!

John 1: 14 And the Word became flesh and lived among us.

When the Word became flesh, his holy feet served as a living bridge between heaven and earth. Each step he took on earth sanctified and cleansed the world he came to save. Living Word of the Father, use our prayers and sacrifices as you wish to once again bridge heaven and earth. Walk in our walking, pray in our praying, love in our loving. May your kingdom come!

Romans 10:15 As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring the good news!”

Matthew 11: 4-5 Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them.”

How our Lord’s holy feet must have suffered as they trod the hot and dusty roads of the Holy Land to bring the Good News to the poor! Humble Savior, for the sake of your holy feet so battered on account of our sin, grant us the grace to imitate your long-suffering perseverance in spreading the Gospel message to those you send us, for the glory of God the Father. May your kingdom come!

Mark 5: 22-24 Then one of the leaders of the synagogue named Jairus came and, when he saw him, fell at his feet and begged him repeatedly, “My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well, and live.” So he went with him.

The Divine Physician had mercy on Jairus who fell at his holy feet to make supplication for the life and health of his daughter. In his mercy he rewarded the man’s faith and answered his prayer. Glorious Savior, to whom nothing is impossible, grant us the humility and faith we need to work and pray for the conversion of sinners, so that all who are dead in their sins will be brought, in you, to newness of life. May your kingdom come!

Luke 10: 38-39 Now as they went on their way, he entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying.

The Divine Teacher told Martha that her sister Mary had chosen the “better part” in choosing to sit at his feet and listen to him. Beloved Lord, may we, like Mary, always choose the better part. May we sit at your holy feet and learn from you new ways to worship you and contemplate your glory. May your kingdom come!

Luke 7: 44-47 Then turning towards the woman, he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has bathed my feet with her tears and dried them with her hair. You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. Therefore, I tell you, her sins, which were many, have been forgiven; hence she has shown great love.”

The love and gratitude this woman felt for Jesus gave her a holy audacity. She did not let human approval stop her from showing her love for her Beloved, bathing his holy feet with her tears and wiping them with her hair, from covering his feet with kisses and anointing them with costly oil. Lord of compassion, as we sinners contemplate your mercy, may all that we have been given and forgiven fill us with unending gratitude, holy audacity, great confidence, and unending trust in your great love. May your kingdom come!

John 19:16 Then (Pilate) handed (Jesus) over to them to be crucified.

Our loving Savior allowed his holy feet to be nailed to the cross out of love for us, allowing every drop of his precious blood to spill to earth. Founts of mercy gushed forth from him, top to bottom. O Lord, what love! Give us the courage we need to stand at the foot of your cross with our Blessed Mother and St. John, that we too may kiss your holy, crucified feet. May your kingdom come!

Matthew 28: 8-9 So (the women) left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came to him, took hold of his feet, and worshipped him.

Jesus, the God of surprise and delight, met the women on the road after the angels had told them that their Lord had risen from the dead. In love and unimaginable joy, they embraced his holy feet and paid him homage. Risen Savior, may we also worship you passionately as Lord and Savior, embracing your holy feet with delight, as we wait in joyful hope for the fulfilment of your promise to come again in glory. May your kingdom come!

1 Corinthians 15: 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.

The King of Kings must reign until he has placed all his enemies under his holy feet. All-powerful Savior, may our humble prayers and sacrifices, perfected in the power of the Divine Will, hasten the day of your coming in glory. May your kingdom come! Fiat!

Ephesians 6:14-15 Stand therefore, and fasten the belt of truth around your waist, and put on the breastplate of righteousness. As shoes for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace.

As FOOTsoldiers in the Lord’s army, we aim to be lowly and useful, fulfilling our duties whether we are appreciated or not. Perhaps we are best represented as being the feet in the body of Christ. Glorious Commander, train us to become more humble, faithful, and steadfast in your service. Protect us against the tiniest blister of sin, or the most putrid fungus of pride. Lord Jesus, may your kingdom come and your will be done on earth as in heaven! Fiat!

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Sister Death…

The souls of the righteous 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 to others, indeed, they seem 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. As gold in the furnace, he proved them, and as sacrificial offerings he took them to himself. (Wisdom 3:1-6)

As November is ushered in by the feasts of All Saints and All Souls, it seems a fitting time to contemplate our good friend, Sister Death, our faithful, inexorable, beloved conductor into eternal life. Beloved, of course, by those well acquainted with the unimaginable love and mercy of God.

This week I was watching EWTN’s Journey Home program. The episode featured an atheist turned Religious Sister, Sr. Theresa Alethia Noble, FSP. One of the points she shared was that an important part of her discernment process was a long period of time in which she daily contemplated her death. It served to cement her resolve to live each day as if it were her last chance to become a saint.

As poet Leon Bloy put it: “The only real sadness, the only real failure, the only great tragedy in life, is not to become a saint.” Contemplating our own death can help assist us down that narrow path.

The Office of Readings on the feast of All Souls gave an excellent tribute to Sister Death:

“It was by the death of one man that the world was redeemed. Christ did not need to die if he did not want to, but he did not look on death as something to be despised, something to be avoided, and he could have found no better means to save us than by dying. Thus his death is life for all. We are sealed with the sign of his death; when we pray we preach his death; when we offer sacrifice we proclaim his death. His death is victory; his death is a sacred sign; each year his death is celebrated with solemnity by the whole world.

“What more should we say about his death since we use this divine example to prove that it was death alone that won freedom from death, and death itself was its own redeemer? Death is then no cause for mourning, for it is the cause of mankind’s salvation. Death is not something to be avoided, for the Son of God did not think it beneath his dignity, nor did he seek to escape it.

“Death was not part of nature; it became part of nature. God did not decree death from the beginning; he prescribed it as a remedy. Human life was condemned because of sin to unremitting labour and unbearable sorrow and so began to experience the burden of wretchedness. There had to be a limit to its evils; death had to restore what life had forfeited. Without the assistance of grace, immortality is more of a burden than a blessing.

“The soul has to turn away from the aimless paths of this life, from the defilement of an earthly body; it must reach out to those assemblies in heaven (though it is given only to the saints to be admitted to them) to sing the praises of God.”

From St Ambrose’s book on the death of his brother Satyrus

As penitents we live with death every day as we are called to die daily to ourselves and to our passions. This too helps us down the narrow path.

In a few days, on November 12, BSP members begin our pre-Christmas fast, one of the two 40-day fasting periods we observe each year. May God grant us every grace we need to carry in our fasting His own death as we prepare our hearts to celebrate his holy birth. May He make us all saints.

“Praised be You, my Lord through Sister Death, from whom no-one living can escape. Woe to those who die in mortal sin! Blessed are they She finds doing Your Will. No second death can do them harm. Praise and bless my Lord and give Him thanks, and serve Him with great humility.”

Canticle of Brother Sun and Sister Moon, St. Francis of Assisi

Indulgenced Acts for the Faithful Departed

According to the Manual of Indulgences:

  1. plenary indulgence, applicable only to the souls in purgatory, is granted to the faithful who,
    • on any and each day from November 1 to 8, devoutly visit a cemetery and pray, if only mentally, for the departed;
    • on All Souls’ Day (or, according to the judgment of the ordinary, on the Sunday preceding or following it, or on the solemnity of All Saints), devoutly visit a church or an oratory and recite an Our Father and the Creed.
  2. partial indulgence, applicable only to the souls in purgatory, is granted to the faithful who,
    • devoutly visit a cemetery and at least mentally pray for the dead;
    • devoutly recite lauds or vespers from the Office of the Dead or the prayer Requiem aeternam (Eternal rest).

[Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May they rest in peace.]

  1. To gain a plenary indulgence, in addition to excluding all attachment to sin, even venial sin, it is necessary to perform the indulgenced work and fulfill the following three conditions: sacramental confession, Eucharistic Communion, and prayer for the intention of the Sovereign Pontiff.
  2. A single sacramental confession suffices for gaining several plenary indulgences; but Holy Communion must be received and prayer for the intention of the Holy Father must be recited for the gaining of each plenary indulgence.
  3. The three conditions may be fulfilled several days before or after the performance of the prescribed work; it is, however, fitting that Communion be received and the prayer for the intention of the Holy Father be said on the same day the work is performed.
  4. If the full disposition is lacking, or if the work and the three prescribed conditions are not fulfilled, saving the provisions given in Norm 24 and in Norm 25 regarding those who are “impeded,” the indulgence will only be partial.
  5. The condition of praying for the intention of the Holy Father is fully satisfied by reciting one Our Father and one Hail Mary; nevertheless, one has the option of reciting any other prayer according to individual piety and devotion, if recited for this intention.

In Christ all things hold together…

In (Christ) all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers—all things have been created through him and for him. He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” (Colossians 1:16-17)

 In one of his appearances to St. Catherine of Siena, Jesus told her, “In his ignorance man treats himself very cruelly. My care is constant, but he turns my life-giving gifts into a source of death.” In other words, what our Lord gives us for our good, we misuse to the point of causing ourselves grave harm. Consequently, in our willful disobedience, we are running headlong into destruction.

There are all manner of theories out there as to why the world is careening out of control on so many fronts. Even if you believe in climate change, it is vastly inadequate to explain the confluence of calamities—natural, economic, political, and social, not to mention the rebellions, protests, and chaos—that currently assail our world in apocalyptic proportions. It’s like being focused on a broken fingernail during an earthquake. It’s like trying to stop a flood with a sieve—every new solution is so full of holes it only serves to exacerbate the situation. Vanity of vanities!

Those of us who have been paying attention to the words of Our Lady, especially over the past century and a half cannot be surprised at what is transpiring as we have witnessed the wholesale rejection of Christ in contemporary society. Colossians 1: 17 tells us: “(Christ) is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” That, my friends is the key to the matter: In Christ all things hold together, and the more he is rejected, the more things fall apart. What we have sown in rebellion and disobedience, we are reaping in chaos and destruction. Lord have mercy on us, for we have sinned!

However, even in the midst of trials that seem certain to get worse before they get better, there is cause for great hope and joy. We who believe in Christ, believe that there is far more going on than what our senses tell us. We remember that at Calvary, all seemed lost, and even the apostles ran away scared. But a mere three days later—the resurrection! A more glorious outcome than could have ever been dreamed possible! We believe that God is in control now, just as he was then. One significant advantage we have over the apostles is that they endured their trial before Pentecost, while we have already received the gift and gifts of the Holy Spirit.

The Catechism tells us:

The moral life of Christians is sustained by the gifts of the Holy Spirit. These are permanent dispositions which make man docile in following the promptings of the Holy Spirit.

“The seven gifts of the Holy Spirit are wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord. They belong in their fullness to Christ, Son of David. They complete and perfect the virtues of those who receive them. They make the faithful docile in readily obeying divine inspirations.

(CCC #1830-31)

The catechism goes on to tell us that the gift of fortitude “ensures firmness in difficulties and constancy in the pursuit of the good.” Fortitude is one gift we will have great need of as the days continue to darken.

As we hear so often, God has not left us orphaned. With the Holy Spirit as our strength and guide, the storms of life may batter us, but our immortal souls will not be harmed as long as we remain in a state of grace, are docile to the promptings of the Holy Spirit, and make use of the extraordinary graces being poured out over us at this time. God has not left us orphaned, but we must accept the graces he offers, especially those he showers on us through the Eucharist.

A recurring theme in the writings of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI is the need for the human will to be united with the Divine Will. He taught that peace will only come when we enter into this Communion of Wills. This is something each of us can work towards and by doing so, we accomplish far more than the sum of our paltry efforts. Pope Benedict was familiar with the life and writings of Servant of God, Luisa Piccarreta, whose cause for canonization is currently in process. Jesus teaches us through Luisa how to live always in the Divine Will. The Italian translation of Luisa’s writings have been found by Vatican-appointed theologians to contain no errors in faith or morals. They are complex writings, but Fr. Robert Young (may he rest in peace) has left us a treasure in a series of podcasts found at https://divinewilllife.org/. If you are unfamiliar with the writings of Luisa, please click on “An Introduction to the Divine Will” at the top of that web page. There are 19 podcasts that give a very gentle and solid primer. God be praised!

Let us keep these things in mind as we continue to pray and offer sacrifices for souls and for the coming of the Kingdom. The world is desperately in need of penance, as the angel indicated so strongly at Lourdes and Fatima. May the Holy Spirit grant us the fortitude to fast and pray well according the will of our Father in heaven.

St. Mary and St. Joseph, pray for us. St. Francis, St. Clare, pray for us. All you holy saints and angels, pray for us. All you holy souls in purgatory, pray for us. We need all the help we can get!

Jesus we trust in you. Maranatha!

Sustaining the weary with a word…

As I was writing this blog post, I heard the shocking news that Notre Dame Basilica in Paris was burning. News reports rightly spoke of the tragic loss of historical treasures, not least the Basilica herself. But even more tragic is the loss of faith in that part of the world. God is calling, louder and louder it seems, and it is always the same call: “Come back to me, my children. Are you weary? Let me sustain you with a word…”

Isaiah 50:4 The Lord God has given me the tongue of a teacher, that I may know how to sustain the weary with a word.

Jesus, the Word, knows well our weariness, the weariness that today oppresses us and threatens to crush our spirit.

Think of his weariness in the Garden of Gethsemane. As the weight of the sins of billions of souls crushed him to the point of sweating blood, the word that sustained Jesus in the garden was the one he spoke to the Father in his agony, “Not my will but yours be done.” The word was fiat. At that moment angels came and waited on him to sustain him, for it was not the end of his suffering. That fiat called down the graces he would need to complete his mission.

Indeed, Jesus is a Redeemer who knows our weariness—but infinitely magnified. In his weariness, or perhaps because of it, he went on to embrace the cross and resolutely climb the hill to Calvary bearing in mind the glory that would be his—and ours—if only he would complete his mission. Fiat. His weariness of body and spirit ended with death, but his rising from the dead gave new life and glorious hope to all. He took his weariness to the tomb and left it imprinted on his burial shroud for all to see.

Mary, the Blessed Mother, whom Jesus bequeathed to us, and us to her from the cross, also endured unimaginable sorrow and crushing weariness. When they met face-to-face on the Via Dolorosa, what pain must have been in their eyes. Yet, what love and trust. Wordlessly their hearts beat as one, fiat, fiat, fiat… Here as in every moment of her existence, her will remained chained to the Throne of God.

There is astonishing power in that little word, fiat. It can sustain us in our weariness as it did for Jesus and Mary, but more than that it can propel us forward with new strength, fortitude, courage, and hope. Like a cosmic explosion, it is a word which, united to the divine fiat, dramatically transforms people and changes the trajectory of world events.

The cosmic importance of this little word is expanded upon in great detail in the Lord’s teachings on the Divine Will in the writings of Luisa Piccarreta. In the Easter Vigil Mass we recall how God’s fiat, “Let there be…” set all creation in motion. On Good Friday we hear Jesus re-echo his fiat of redemption in the Garden of Gethsemane, the Word he initially uttered in heaven when the plan of redemption was conceived, first in the Divine Will and then after her fiat, in the womb of the Virgin Mary.

It is almost inconceivable that our salvation hinged on one little word uttered by a humble Hebrew Maiden. Throughout her existence, that word was as constant in her as the beating of her heart, even in the unimaginable agony of her own Calvary.

She is a model of abject trust in the glorious power of God. At our Parish Lenten Mission the priest reminded us that none of the prophecies made at the Presentation of Jesus had been fulfilled by the time he was crucified. No salvation, no light for the Gentiles, no glory for God’s people Israel. Yet, even in the face of that, she trusted. Her heart never ceased to beat out the rhythm, fiat, fiat, fiat…

At the Annunciation, just before she proclaimed the fiat that changed everything, the Angel Gabriel called greeted by her title, “Full of Grace”. Let us then beg her, by virtue of her continuous fiat to obtain from her Son every grace we need in our weariness, that we may navigate in trust the thick darkness that surrounds us, as we wait in joyful hope for the glorious dawn which has been promised.

Jesus is himself the Word who sustains us in our weariness, and the word he gives us is a word that we can utter in any circumstance: “Fiat.”Sometimes it is the only word that makes sense. I think of the few Christian souls remaining in the Holy Land, Bethlehem in particular. When the security perimeter (now a wall) went up in 2002, they were crushed in spirit for a time. But today, even though their situation is still dire, and they remain weary, they are not crushed. Their hope is alive because Jesus Christ is alive.

God is on the march dear friends. It may not look promising at this point, but neither did the crucifixion. He will not lose the battle that now rages for souls, and in the end his triumph will be more glorious than we can imagine.

We have now entered the Garden with Jesus. The passion is upon us. Let us not flee for fear of the wolves. Whatever our weariness, even if we feel crushed in spirit, if we but link ourselves to Christ in his passion, we may anticipate with great joy and hope a glorious day of triumph. Let our fiat be one with his and his Mother’s as we place our unshakable trust in God’s Holy Will, as they did.

Our Lady of Fatima: “In the end, my Immaculate Heart will triumph.”

Heavenly Father, may Your kingdom come, and Your will be done on earth as in heaven.

 Come Divine Will to reign upon the earth!

Fiat, fiat, fiat…


Prayer suggestions for Holy Week

A few years back I wrote a Way of the Cross for Greater Trust. Please feel free to print, pray, and share it if you wish. (Here it is formatted as a double-sided brochure.)

A very powerful prayer for Holy Week is the 24 Hours of the Passion, as given to Luisa Piccarreta, which has an imprimatur. Praying it in its entirety is ideal, but if that is not possible, consider meditating on part of it on Holy Thursday and Good Friday. God will touch you, guaranteed.

Pilgrimage to the Holy Land, Part I…

Last Fall I made a special pilgrimage to Medjugorje, having promised Our Lady I would go if my house sold. Our Lady kept her end of the bargain, and, as promised, I went. What a blessing it was.

I had not left yet for the pilgrimage when I heard about a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. There are many such pilgrimages on offer at any given time. I put it to prayer and decided that if there were still spaces available after Christmas I would consider it. There were, so I prayed some more and was given three strong confirmations. Fiat!

As it turned out, it was just the right pilgrimage for me; the tour leader was excellent and I was warmly welcomed by the other pilgrims, almost all of whom I had never met before. God had many graces for us, many of which have yet to be revealed!

I have had a difficult time knowing how to write about my pilgrimage. A spiritual pilgrimage to the Holy Land cannot be unpacked in one sitting. I have come to understand that it will likely unfold over the next liturgical year, but probably much longer. Already I have found that the rosary beads have come to life in my hands as I meditate on the mysteries, remembering the holy places I have visited. As I am beginning to write this on the Solemnity of the Annunciation, it seems right to let Our Lady reveal the lessons of this pilgrimage—to you and to me.

[Two notes: First, my reflections will not be arranged by the chronology of our pilgrimage, but will unfold as the Spirit leads. Second is to apologize for the quality of some of my photos. As it was a spiritual pilgrimage, we were not encouraged to take numerous photos but to respect the holy places and remain prayerful. As pilgrims we tried to find that balance, but it was not always easy, and there was no chance to go back for re-takes!]

First Joyful Mystery: The Annunciation

We were blessed to spend one night in Nazareth where we visited the Basilica of the Annunciation. There, pilgrims file past the ancient grotto where it is believed Mary received the message that she had been chosen to be the Mother of Jesus. A stunning statue of Mary depicts the wonder on her face the moment she received the greeting by St. Gabriel. The crowds were fairly thin that day, so we were able to spend a bit of time in contemplation.

Basilica of the Annunciation
Grotto of the Annunciation
Statue of Mary as she is greeted by the angel

The feast day of the Annunciation is the celebration of the “Fiat” that changed everything, the moment the New Eve tied her human will to the Throne of the Almighty. Her, “Let it be done to me…” echoed in every moment of her life and through all eternity.

Dear Mother, thank you for your FIAT! Teach me how to let my “fiat” echo in each moment of my life. With your help and guidance I pray that God’s will alone might be done in me and through me all the days of my life.


The Basilica of the Annunciation and the Sisters of Nazareth convent are in very close proximity. A short walk away, beneath the convent of the Sisters of Nazareth, is what is believed to have been the Holy Family’s home at Nazareth near the “Tomb of the Just One”, one of the titles by which St. Joseph is known. Our first Mass in the Holy Land was celebrated in the convent chapel above the tomb of St. Joseph. Glorious!

Holy Family statue at the convent

We felt honoured to be led down to the ancient site by one of the sisters. The site is unspoiled and it was easy to imagine the Holy Family entering and leaving their home countless times over the hidden years of Jesus’ life. We can only wonder what spiritual gifts were bestowed on the world through those myriad daily comings and goings.

Believed to be the doorway to the Home of Nazareth
Tomb of the “Just One”

As I was pondering this writing, it happened that our parish Lenten mission was scheduled. The topic the first night was the spirituality of Mary. Our mission leader, Fr. Irudaya, spoke about the deep spirituality of the silent years of Nazareth and explained that what Mary was accomplishing during those years of silence, was to prepare the Lamb of God for sacrifice. She was teaching her Son the spirituality of work, service, obedience, and faith. Their hidden years were the epitome of lives lived in pure love of God and neighbour, a daily dying to self which left everybody a winner. Fr. Irudaya called it a “spirituality of weakness”, the “power of powerlessness”. It was a spirituality of complete self-renunciation, of embracing the crosses of daily life, of encountering the other and pouring sacred balm into their woundedness.

Pondering that spirituality of weakness gave new meaning to the places I had visited, and having visited those places gave greater depth to the teachings I was hearing. Glory to God!

Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, may the silence of Nazareth teach us what we need to learn about the spirituality of our own powerlessness, and the sanctity of daily life lived in uniformity with the Will of God. Show us new ways to die to self so that we may imitate you in love and service for love of God and neighbor.

St. Joseph, guardian of the unborn Jesus and the Holy Family of Nazareth, pray for us!

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 call to arms…

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.

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“…a time to keep silence, and a time to speak…” (Ecclesiastes 3:7)

Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. (Luke 2:19)

Grace and peace to you as I begin this writing on the Solemnity of Annunciation, the feast day of Our Lady’s Fiat!

Here are a few of my thoughts on the sudden decision to suspend my Pelianito blog.

Under obedience to my spiritual director, a holy priest who has known me for 10 years and is very familiar with my writings, and out of respect for what was communicated to me about what the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith said about my Pelianito blog, I did what I felt was necessary and suspended my blog until such time as, under obedience, I may be able to bring it back online.

I am at peace. My spiritual director has told me before, “Don’t make it happen. Let it happen.” Even if the evil one is behind this, God allowed it, for His glorious triumph. If God wants to defend me he will, and I will wait for that. God may yet decide to bring my blog back online. Whatever happens I must remain docile to the Spirit and detached from the results. So—fiat!

Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?’ And I said, ‘Here am I; send me!’ (Is 6:8)

Back in 1997, when I first began hearing the Lord speaking to my heart, I felt him give me the name Pelianito, which he revealed to me means “sent”. Since 2003, my Pelianito Journal Blog, has been online in one form or another. It started with the messages being “sent” as a weekly mailout and grew from there. For me it was never about how many visitors or views or subscribers there were, but about fulfilling the will of God for my life. For the first few years it was mostly people who knew me personally reading the messages. Eventually, more people found the blog, thanks in no small part to a mention by Mark Mallett, whom I have come to know as a dear spiritual brother and friend. Being a Catholic blogger—especially in the prophetic landscape—has unique challenges. I am glad he was there.

I have also been greatly edified by those who visited or commented on my blog. Many times, when a message would not really speak to anything I was going through, someone would comment that it was exactly what they needed to hear. These were powerful confirmations that it was God’s work, not mine. Others wrote to encourage me at just the right time or to discuss spiritual matters. We were blessed in each other, thanks be to God!

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven. (Ecclesiastes 3:1)

But…things change. They always do. I see the hand of God in this change. I find the Holy Spirit often teaches in themes, and the theme of silence has been coming to me from various sources recently, always a reason to take notice. In response, a few months ago, I wrote an article for my Joy of Penance blog, titled Silence, which I invite you to read if you wish. Just recently, someone brought to my attention the book, “The Power of Silence” by African Cardinal Sarah. (Click here to read a review.) And you may remember, a few of my posts over the years have spoken of “a silence and a stillness” coming to the church. Jesus in the tomb.

I keep thinking of Mark’s blog post titled, The Age of Ministries is Ending. Certainly, signs abound these days, such as the recent sudden deaths of Fr. Robert Young and Anthony Mullen, strong voices, men God was using in a powerful way to spread his most urgent messages for our time. And whatever you may think about Charlie Johnston, his love of the Church cannot be doubted. His voice too has been largely silenced. Now this event with my blog has been just as sudden. Could it be that we are being prepared for that deeper silence of Christ in the tomb? Let us take heed and ponder. If we learn our lessons well, we will know how to respond when the time comes. Listen to the voices that are left while you can.

Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end. (Cor 13:8)

I feel as if I have been prepared for this moment. There was a strong theme of surrender in my writings, and you may remember that I posted Fr. Dolindo Ruotolo’s Novena of Surrender to the Will of God. I have prayed the novena numerous times over the years, and for some months now, each morning and evening I repeat 10 times: “Jesus I surrender myself to you, take care of everything. I love you and I thank you with your own Divine Will.” For each repetition, in place of the word “love” I use “adore”, “bless”, “console”, “glorify & honor”, “kiss”, “praise”, “supplicate”, “trust”, or “worship”. I put them in alphabetical order so they are easier to remember and even know which finger belongs to which one. I have often said, “Pray it till you mean it!” I took my own advice on this one and I’m glad I did!

A few years ago, during the night I felt the Lord’s presence and saw an image. It was like multi-colored pieces shifting and overlapping. The image seemed to have no order to it. It was very chaotic and hard to figure out. These words came to me: “Things will happen in rapid succession.” In the image it seemed like things were happening all over the place that were seemingly unconnected, but really, they were all connected in the big picture. Still, I could not make sense of it. Kind of like a living, moving, “crazy quilt”.

Even in the dream, I had the feeling that even though things appeared chaotic to me, even though I could not make sense of them, that God certainly could, that indeed, God’s plan always looks like this to us. We just don’t get it. The good news is that we don’t have to understand. We just have to do what God puts in front of us every day, and trust in him for everything.

A good guess would be that Jesus is taking away all that we cling to so that we can cling only to him, knowing that when we have him we have everything. Like a child’s weaning, at first there is a lot of crying, then we realize that what is happening is right and good and necessary for our spiritual growth. Then let us cling to Jesus with both hands and trust that all shall indeed be well.

When the Lamb opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour. (Rev. 8:1)

Silence does not mean inactivity nor acquiescence to the status quo. It means going deeper and becoming a conduit of the Divine Silence, the power of God, which contains all fullness, and holding every word you do speak captive to Christ. While there is little we know for certain about the earthly life of the Blessed Mother, I think we can surmise that she was always deliberate, mindful, and intentional in thought, word, and deed. Let us imitate her. (See also this article On Being Deliberate.)

The world is in great need of conduits of the Divine Power, which can only come through prayer, meditation, Scripture, sacraments, and not least, obedience to proper authority. Think of the contemplatives who, as I have said before, are the ones keeping this planet from spinning out of orbit!

If this silence is indeed a sign of the times, we can be comforted in knowing that God is on the march and is set to put an end to this wicked age. Whatever that entails, let us give God our clear and firm FIAT!

Jesus, I surrender myself to you. Take care of everything. I love you and I thank you with your own Divine Will. Fiat!

“And, therefore, my own good daughter, do not let your mind be troubled over anything that shall happen to me in this world. Nothing can come but what God wills. And I am very sure that whatever that be, however bad it may seem, it shall indeed be the best.” ―St. Thomas More

I leave you with the Antiphons for this past Tuesday’s Office of Readings from the Liturgy of the Hours:

Antiphon 1 – Surrender to God, and he will do everything for you. Alleluia.

Antiphon 2 – Turn away from evil and learn to do God’s will’ the Lord will strengthen you if you obey him. Alleluia.

Antiphon 3 – Wait for the Lord to lead, then follow in his way. Alleluia.

Amen. Fiat!

 

Lessons…

Luke 15:11-32 “…(The prodigal son) would gladly have filled himself with the pods that the pigs were eating; and no one gave him anything. But when he came to himself he said, “How many of my father’s hired hands have bread enough and to spare, but here I am dying of hunger! I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me like one of your hired hands.’ ”

Like the prodigal son in the Gospel reading above, we all have lessons to learn, and they may indeed be just as hard-won for us as they were for the prodigal! Usually there is pride involved on some level. Lately I have felt the Lord revealing to me some of my defects of character, some of which I counted as strengths! Ouch! It has meant a series of trials, big and small, in which I had to assiduously inspect my own motives and actions, until finally, when the lesson was ready to be learned, a light went on.

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