See, I am making all things new…

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘See, the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them; he will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away.’

And the one who was seated on the throne said, ‘See, I am making all things new.’” (Revelation 21:3-5)

Maranatha! Come Lord Jesus, come and make all things new!

How broken the world is! The signs of the times are all around us, coming ever faster and more furiously. It is hard to be people of the Good News when the bad news artillery relentlessly falls on our heads.

The past few weeks I have felt bombarded by bad news. Yes, we must continue to fight ceaselessly against injustice, but in the face of bad news, we must keep the Good News of Jesus Christ in the forefront. It is our only hope, and it is a sure hope! To quote St. John Paul II, “We are an Easter people, and Alleluia is our song!”

As if God wished to bolster the troops, he has also bombarded me with inspiring quotes and messages. God is on the march and he wants us to know that, as at the resurrection, the evil one will be supremely defeated. We must remain faithful and attentive to the Divine Will, that His Kingdom may come and His will be done on earth as in heaven.

Come Lord Jesus, and make all things new!

In the Bad News / Good News format, I want to share with you a few of the inspirational quotes and messages that have come my way. May you also be inspired and encouraged in your particular mission in a desperately fallen world.

Bad News: According to opendoors.org, five years ago, only North Korea was in the ‘extreme’ category for its level of persecution of Christians. In the 2019 World Watch List, as in 2018, 11 countries score enough to fit that category and a further 29 are in the “very high” category.

Good News: A Dutch Christian, Andrew van der Bijl, a.k.a. “Brother Andrew”, began in 1957 to smuggle Bibles into communist countries and everywhere Christians were being persecuted. In 1967 he published a book of his memoirs, titled God’s Smuggler, which has sold more than 10 million copies in 35 languages. This eventually led to the formation of Open Doors, an organization devoted to helping persecuted Christians worldwide.

There is a lot more information on their website, http://www.opendoors.org/, but one simple quote that inspired me was:

“PRAYER IS NOT PREPARATION FOR THE BATTLE; PRAYER IS THE BATTLE.” – Brother Andrew, God’s Smuggler

God is on the march and the signs are all around us. The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church. And Jesus said, “If they persecute Me, they will persecute you too!” This too is Good News! The Church has entered into the passion of Christ. Christian soldiers, run the race before you and endure to the end. Rejoice and be glad for the Resurrection is near!

Bad news: This week I read a disturbing document written by Rebecca Oas, Associate Director of Research for the Center for Family and Human Rights (C-Fam) in Washington, D.C. The article outlines how the United Nations “population” funding is often based on the skewed metric of “lives saved”. She writes:

The most popular modeling software to measure lives saved in global maternal and child health strategies is the Lives Saved Tool (LiST), developed Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health with funding by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Using LiST, users can predict reductions in maternal deaths in two ways: by deploying interventions that prevent or treat complications of pregnancy and birth, such as hemorrhage or infection, or by reducing the pool of pregnant women by scaling up contraceptive use.

The article ends with this chilling paragraph.

The claim that the best and cheapest way to save a child’s life is to prevent that child’s existence is indefensible. Those who would make such a claim tend to rely on the fact that they will not be called upon to defend it. While the pro-life movement must regularly contend with the brazen assaults on the rights of children in the womb, we cannot ignore the subtler attempts to redefine human life in global health policy that lead to funding for the abortion agenda. Taking a stand against “therapeutic nonexistence” in lives-saved analyses is ultimately a pro-life position. There is no life saved without a living survivor.

Upside-down world! Archbishop Fulton Sheen further illustrates the principle at work here:

“Suppose a family had five children but they had enough money to buy only four hats. Do you think they would be permitted or should be permitted to cut off the head of a child in order to bring the economic to the level of human and the human to the level of the economic? Suppose a husband says that he can no longer support his wife. Ought he be entitled to shoot her?”

According to the UN metrics, that would be the most economically viable solution. Huh?

Good News: C-Fam is Good News for the pro-life army, but not surprisingly they are under constant attack by the anti-life forces in the UN. Please pray for them.

“The light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed. But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God.” (Jn 3:19-21)

Bad news upon bad news: On June 17, 2016, euthanasia became legal in Canada. According to the Fourth Interim Report on Medical Assistance in Dying in Canada, published by Health Canada one in every 100 deaths in Canada is administered by doctor! They also say the statistic is likely higher because some areas of the country are not yet reporting. This is a government report!

Truly Evil News: There has been much reported about the sexual abuse of minors by priests, and this must be taken seriously. But when God cleans house, he starts with his own. Many more abusers are out there. This week I stumbled upon an article by John Whitehead of the Rutherford Institute on the topic of child trafficking in America. I can’t bear to remember, let alone repeat, what I read in the article, but the “business” of trafficking humans is almost as lucrative to the depraved traffickers as are guns and drugs. It’s big business in every country in the world, even in America! The statistics of how many children are sold and abused each year in the US are shocking. May Christ, the Light of Truth and Justice, expose all these heinous acts and free the victims!

Good News: In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus was “sorrowful unto death” as he saw the sins of mankind whose guilt he took upon himself. His anguish was so great that his sweat became as drops of blood falling to the ground. The Good News is that His fiat to his Father, his obedience unto death, death on the cross, won for all who would repent of their evil, immersion in the ocean of Divine Mercy.

Come Lord Jesus, and make all things new, especially for the little ones!

More Good News: St. Athanasius, who died in the year 373, fought courageously against the Arian heresy and was an outstanding defender of the true faith. As I was reading one of his writings in the Office of Readings, it occurred to me that without the heresy we would not have the writings to guide us centuries later. It encouraged me to be confident that God is working in all this bad news. “We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28) God is not silent in all this turmoil. He is working to make all things new! Maranatha! With God it’s all Good News. His justice and mercy will triumph.

Good News from a Canadian Saint: April 30 is the Feast Day of St. Marie of the Incarnation, first missionary woman of the New World. She was a mystic born in France in 1599 who received revelations concerning the Incarnation, the Sacred Heart and the Blessed Trinity. She joined the Ursuline order and sailed to Quebec with two other Ursulines in 1639 where they opened a school. It was a difficult life as we can only imagine. But her interior life sustained her. She once said:

“If we could, with a single interior glance, see all the goodness and mercy that exists in God’s designs for each one of us, even in what we call disgraces, pains, and afflictions, our happiness would consist in throwing ourselves into the arms of the divine will with the abandon of a young child that throws himself into the arms of his mother.”

Our Lady has called us to offer all we can for the souls she and Jesus love so dearly. If we are consecrated to Our Lady, the Good News is that all our spiritual goods belong to her—and they are in the best of hands.

I leave the last word to Fr. J.P. de Caussade:

“There is not a moment in which God does not present Himself under the cover of some pain to be endured, of some consolation to be enjoyed, or of some duty to be performed. All that takes place within us, around us, or through us, contains and conceals His divine action.” 

― Jean-Pierre de Caussade, Abandonment to Divine Providence

Come Lord Jesus, and make all things new!


I was amazed to see that Mark Mallett’s May 3 blog post also has a similar theme. Come Holy Spirit!

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A Penitent in Medjugorje, Part III…

Prayers and indulgences    

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The grave of Fr. Slavko Barbaric

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

The “Five Stones”

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

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

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

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

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

Priests

We attended English Mass daily at 10:00 am.

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

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

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

Yet another urgent reason to pray for our shepherds!

Two witnesses

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

“The Castle” of Patrick and Nancy Latta

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

The fruit of hope

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

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

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

A Penitent in Medjugorje, Part I…

By their fruits…

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

My Pilgrimage

Me in front of St. James Church

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

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

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

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

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

Apparition Hill

Not as easy as it looks!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(To be continued…)

Me at the top of Apparition Hill!

The good Lord gives even as he takes away…

Thank you all for your prayers, kind words, and good wishes since I my husband passed. The Lord has given me super-abundant consolations, both temporal and spiritual. I feel the strength of your love and prayers. It has been a bit of a wild ride lately. Since the death of my husband barely a month ago, I have moved to a new city to be nearer to family and have helped my sister to move my 92 year old father to an extended care facility. God has been with me and mine every step of the way.

After a great deal of prayer and consultation with others (including my spiritual director and my realtor who both said, “Go!”) I felt I had the green light to move BEFORE my house was sold. I was going to be renting anyway. Finances would be a bit tight but it was doable. I felt the Lord wished me to trust him on this. So I went forward in faith.

The movers were still loading the truck when my realtor called and said he had an offer on my house! It was a decent offer with only one easily surmountable condition. I am confident the deal will go through. That was yesterday. I am still pinching myself. It feels like a dream.

The the good Lord gives, even as he takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord, now and forever!

Goods in common…

Acts 4:32 Now the whole group of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one claimed private ownership of any possessions, but everything they owned was held in common.

Blessed Easter to all!

Scripture is a rose eternally unfolding. When I was choosing a scripture passage as a launching point for this article, I felt that more than anything, this passage referred to the spiritual goods of the members of the Mystical Body of Christ and how, in Christ, they are held in common for all to use for their good, the good of others, and the glory of God.

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Divine Will…

Then I myself will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the lands where I have driven them, and I will bring them back to their fold, and they shall be fruitful and multiply. I will raise up shepherds over them who will shepherd them, and they shall not fear any longer, or be dismayed, nor shall any be missing, says the Lord. (Jeremiah 23:3-4)

I find that the Holy Spirit often teaches in themes. Over the past few years, from many sources and directions, I have been led to the writings of Servant of God, Luisa Piccarreta which speak of the fulfillment of the Lord’s petition in the Our Father: “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” The writings speak of the coming Kingdom of the Divine Will, which corresponds with the “Triumph of the Immaculate Heart” promised at Fatima, a time in which the Will of God reigns in the hearts of all. It is an era of peace longed for by God since the Fall of Adam, and alluded to in Jeremiah’s passage above. In the writings of Luisa, we are taught to exchange our human will for the Divine Will.

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Rejoice!

Isaiah 12:3 With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.

Global tensions are on a seemingly exponential uptick. Yet the utter importance of joy has been coming to me again and again. The above Scripture passage can be read in two ways, a passive way and an active way. The passive way implies that joy is what we are filled with after we are saved. Very true. But the active reading of this passage tells us that joy can also be the “bucket” we can use to draw water from the wells of salvation. Joy therefore becomes an instrument of salvation in the hand of the Christian.

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