Friday, July 10, 2009
Monday, July 6, 2009
The little White and Crimson Rose of Jesus
The name of Maria Goretti has a special place for me. I would judge that most everyone in my generation has grown up having heard the story of the little crimson and white Rose of Jesus, St. Maria Goretti. Her story inspires such emotions in us, such a desire to bring ourselves to Jesus and His Mother Mary as pure buds, ready to flower into whatever vocation They desire for us, whether it be religious, lay people or as in the case of little Maria, Saints who gave their lives as martyrs rather than stain their immortal souls by committing a sin. And in that way, Saints like Maria Goretti become role models for young people in these modern times.
We know the story of Maria Goretti with surface knowledge. She is famous for what she obviously did, die rather than allow her relationship with Jesus to be compromised by giving into a sexual temptation. This is the obvious cause for her Sainthood, much as St. Maxmilian Kolbe’s obvious reasoning for Sainthood was taking the place of a fellow prisoner in the death cells of Auschwitz during the Second World War. But these are only the apparent. There is so much more to each life which calls for us to venerate them as special servants of God, true role models. We have written about St. Maxmilian Kolbe in two different books, trying to tell the story of this powerful man in the Church.
There were two other virtues of St. Maria Goretti which are so subtle, they get lost in the shadow of giving her life. One of them was selflessness. She cared more about her eternal soul than her bodily safety. And possibly even more than that, she cared about the soul of her attacker more than her own life. As we get into the woeful story of her life and death, we can’t help but realize that part of the reason for her determination not to give into Alessandro Serenelli was for his salvation.
Maria Goretti was a good little girl, a pure little girl. At eleven years old, she had such a love relationship with Jesus that she would rather die than allow her chastity to be compromised, rather die than take a chance on breaking relationship with Jesus. But how can that be? How could she possibly understand what path her Yes to Jesus would take her down? We’re not talking about St. Agnes or St. Cecilia or Saints of the early Church who gave up their lives for Jesus. This is the Twentieth Century. She is a product of this century. Where have we gone, how low have we become, that our young people can’t possibly understand how a girl from their own century could sacrifice her life for her morals?
Girls as young as eleven, are “sexually active,” have become pregnant, have had abortions often with help of their own mothers, in many instances, and those who did not die on the abortionist’s table, have died of AIDS in many instances. We’re at a time in our society when there are virtually no morals being taught or practiced either in the classrooms of our schools, in the pulpits of our churches, or in the homes by the parents of these children. Our schools are giving children condoms and parents are putting girls on the birth control pill. We’re being taught safe sex in an effort to avoid the spread of dangerous diseases and to keep the world population down. Last on the list of priorities is the prevention of the spread of moral decay of a civilization, which in its final analysis will be much more deadly than any physical disease our children may contract.
Maria Goretti is definitely a contradiction in terms. She is surely a paradox. She could not possibly exist in this, the last decade of the Twentieth Century, the end of the second millennium, and yet she is a product of our century. Either she is completely out of sync, or we are condemned for the apathy we portray to our children by our behavior. Either Maria Goretti is wrong or we’re wrong. Is it possible that we could be wrong?
But we’re getting way ahead of ourselves. To begin at the beginning of this short, but brilliant life in the Lord, we have to go to the far north and east of Italy, to the Marches, the harsh area around Ancona and the Adriatic Sea. For those of us who visit the Holy House of Loreto, it seems a most pleasant place to be. The month we usually choose, July, is not yet hot. The warm breezes off the Adriatic make it a most desirable time to visit our Lady of the Holy House there. But that’s July in Loreto. Not too far away in Corinaldo, where our little Saint was born, things are not quite the same. The winters are brutal. The howling winds coming off the Adriatic Sea pound against the rock-hard land, making it next to impossible to do any work on the farms.
If this is not enough, the Spring and Fall bring hard rain and flooding, ruining any small amount of crops which could be planted. No matter how hard the farmers tried, this was not a good place to make a living. For the parents of Maria Goretti, Luigi Goretti and Assunta Carlini, it was home. They had lived here all their lives, as had their parents before them and their parents before them. But that didn’t make their lives any more bearable. It was just consistent.
And this is where our little Saint was born on October 16, 1890. She was the second living child of the Goretti family, the first boy having died as an infant. She had an older brother, Angelo, and would have more brothers and sisters as time went on. When we wrote of the Little Flower of Lisieux, St. Thérèse, we said Saints beget Saints. Maria’s mother in particular, Assunta, was a saintly woman. She had no formal education, but she was taught powerfully by her Church and given, we believe, infused knowledge by the Holy Spirit. This love for God and her Church was passed on to her children, especially little Maria. She was baptized the day after her birth. Assunta did not want to have her child carry the stain of Original Sin any longer than necessary.
Under the tutelage of Assunta and Luigi, Maria grew up a very selfless, giving girl. She cared more about pleasing others than for her own comfort. Little things had great meaning to Maria. Perhaps because the family had always been and would always be financially very poor, she had no great need for possessions. They were not available to the family; Maria didn’t think about them. Instead, she tried to do whatever she could to make her family’s life more pleasant. She was a very normal girl, enjoying games and running through the fields. But her mother noted a strong spirituality in her from an early age. It never left her; it just became more intense.
Little Maria and her family lived a happy life in Corinaldo, but they were always on the edge. The land was too small and difficult to farm. Luigi did the best he could, but it was not good enough. He insisted that he could not take care of his family in the proper manner under these conditions. He argued they would have a better chance in some far-off land, perhaps the big city, Rome. The grass was always greener somewhere else.
Taken from Holy Innocence
Thursday, July 2, 2009
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“When you speak or preach,
always insist on frequent Communion,
and devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary.”
The Lord sends us special people to handle special needs, at crucial times in the history of our Church and our world.
From the time of Jesus, the little ones, the children, have been dear to the heart of the Father. We recall the words of Jesus in Scripture, “Let the little ones come unto me, and do not hinder them. It is to such as these that the
Children have always been uppermost in the mind of the Father, as they have been helpless and in need of protection. There have been orphans and street urchins from the beginning of time. Over the centuries, the Lord has provided for these little ones, by sending men and women to take care of them.
An epidemic of exploitation of children began at the end of the eighteenth century, with the dawn of the Industrial Revolution. Inventions, such as machines for spinning thread, the power loom, and the steam engine, created a new way of manufacturing goods. It also created a need for massive cheap labor. Families were lured off the farms and brought into the cities to work in factories, under the deception of living a better life.
In the name of progress, a new phrase had to be coined, slums, to accommodate the unbelievably poor living conditions, to which these families were subjected. Mothers and fathers worked long hours, as did the children who were old enough to work. Those children who could not find work, or were too young to work, were left to roam the streets, on their own. Satan had a field day, turning these little ones into street gangs. Left to their own devices, many embraced lives of crime. There was no one to curb their behavior, or focus them in the direction of God. But God is in charge; God is always in charge.
From God’s vantage point in Heaven, He could see the entire history of civilization, past, present and future. He could see the crisis, building in the lives of His children, in the wake of this new wave of materialism, this frenzy to possess more goods, better goods, no matter what the cost in human lives and souls. God knew, He would have to send a very special person to combat this wholesale evil in the world and save the children. That person would have to be so charismatic, he could draw young and old alike. He had to be able to soften hearts of stone and convince others that the vision, the Lord had given him could be accomplished. He had to have a “can do” personality. He had to be a mover and shaker. He had to be a super-yes man. He had to be a Don Bosco!
Don Bosco was God’s gift to the Church of the nineteenth century. He was one of the most powerful men in our Church of that time. The magnetism of Don bosco reached out and touched souls all over the world, even to this present day. He was one of the most multi-faceted diamonds, the Lord has ever given us. In addition to being a pied-piper to the young, attracting them, embracing them, protecting them, guiding them, he founded a Religious Order, was an author, a super church-builder, as well as a visionary and prophet. His accomplishments were so great, he was loved by millions of God’s people and hated by God’s enemies. He gave all credit to Our Lord Jesus and to His beautiful mother, Mary’s active intervention, under the title of Mary, Help of Christians.
When I was a little person, the good nuns in my Catholic elementary school, filled my spirit with beautiful tales about Don Bosco and his work with children. Interspersed with the stories were accounts of miraculous happenings, to which Don Bosco gave credit to Our Lady. She was his best friend; She became my best friend, possibly as a result of these marvelous stories. When I grew up, naturally, I believed that all the stories the nuns had told me about Don Bosco, as well as other saints, were just that, stories. That is, until I came back to the Church at age 40, at which time the Lord gave me the gift of believing as a child again.
In researching the incredible life of this modern day role model, we found the same problem exists, even among his own biographers. Some of them feel that supernatural aspect of Don Bosco’s life has been blown out of proportion, that the instances of miraculous intervention in his life have been overstated, and we should focus on the man and his accomplishments, rather than the power of the Lord to work in men’s lives, in whatever way He chooses. On the other hand, there are those who picture Don Bosco as an empty vessel; they give full credit for every good thing in his life to the intercession of Mary, Help of Christians. To be honest, that’s the way Don Bosco felt about most everything.
We realize, though, there has to be a balance, that some of the incidents in his life make him so unique that no one could feel capable of imitating him. In the interests of keeping the man on a plain where he remains touchable, we will attempt to keep our enthusiasm, for how much the Lord worked in his life, to a minimum. But if we don’t expound on the miraculous in his life, we fail to give glory to God, who is the moving Force behind all of it. We also fail to give honor to this man, who allowed himself to be emptied completely, that he might be filled with the Holy Spirit. We have to give serious consideration to the words Pope Leo XI said of him, “In his (Don Bosco) life the supernatural almost became the natural and the extraordinary ordinary.” We really have to address that profound statement.
Out of the Darkness
It was the year 1815, Masses of migrants descended on the big city of
He was born of strong peasant stock, Francis and Margaret. Theirs was a large household to feed. Francis’ invalid mother, as well as a son by his first wife, plus John and his brother Joseph, created a major financial burden on the young couple. The fruits of their land were not enough to take care of the family, so Francis worked at other jobs to bring extra income into the house. It was while he worked for a landowner that he contracted pneumonia and died. John was barely two years old. John always remembered his mother’s words, although he could not remember his father: “You have no father, Johnny.”
With the father and main breadwinner gone, many families would have fallen apart, but not the family of Margaret Bosco. She had been given special graces by the Lord, to hold onto and provide for her family’s welfare and growth. She used them. She took care of her bedridden mother-in-law, a step-son, and her own two children. She had the greatest influence on Don Bosco. While he has been given the honor of being among the Communion of Saints, his mother has to be right there next to him, sharing the glory.
There has been an ongoing dispute about the value of absorbing huge amounts of information, compared with the simple, uncluttered teachings of our ancestors. Francis of Assisi distrusted books and learning. Don Bosco, on the other hand, was a great proponent of learning. We have to believe that a great deal has to do with faith. Where is the information coming from, and how does it glorify God? Margaret Bosco was very clear on that point. Whatever she taught her children was to point them towards God. Margaret believed that she was training her children for the difficult world they lived in. They all worked hard. It was good training for the life John would live as a religious. We can’t help but think, Our Lady had a direct hand in raising John.
The First Dream
Don Bosco was gifted with many dreams, visions and prophecies, during his lifetime. Actually, it’s very difficult to distinguish between them. We believe, his dreams were prophetic visions. There is a great deal of accuracy attached to Don Bosco’s visions, both for his time and for the Church of today. He actually became very famous, while he was still living, for the dreams, visions and prophecies he was given. In 1858, Pope Pius IX ordered Don Bosco to write down all his dreams “word for word”, for the posterity of the community.
Don Bosco experienced his first dream at age nine. He wrote it down in his autobiography. It impressed him so much, he never forgot it. Years later, he could recount the dream exactly as it had happened. In his own words,
“When I was about nine years old, I had a dream that left a profound impression on me for the rest of my life. I dreamed that I was near my home, in a very large playing field where a crowd of children were having fun. Some were laughing, others were playing and not a few were cursing. I was so shocked at their language that I jumped into their midst, swinging wildly and shouting at them to stop. At that moment, a Man appeared, nobly attired, with a manly and imposing bearing. He was clad with a white flowing mantle, and his face radiated such light that I could not look directly at Him. He called me by name and told me to place myself as leader over those boys, adding the words,
‘You will have to win these friends of yours not with blows, but with gentleness and kindness. So begin right now to show them that sin is ugly and virtue beautiful.’
“Confused and afraid, I replied that I was only a boy and unable to talk to these youngsters about religion. At that moment the fighting, shouting and cursing stopped and the crowd of boys gathered about the Man who was now talking. Almost unconsciously, I asked:
‘But how can you order me to do something that looks so impossible?’
‘What seems so impossible you must achieve by being obedient and by acquiring knowledge.’
‘But where, how?’
‘I will give you a Teacher, under whose guidance you will learn and without whose help all knowledge becomes foolishness.’
‘But who are you?’
‘I am the Son of Her whom your mother has taught you to greet three times a day.’
‘My mother told me not to talk to people I don’t know unless she gives me permission. So, please tell me your name.’
“At that moment I saw beside Him a Lady of majestic appearance, wearing a beautiful mantle glowing as if bedecked with stars. She saw my confusion mount; so she beckoned me to her. Taking my hand with great kindness, she said:
“I did so. All the children had vanished. In their place I saw many animals: goats, dogs, cats, bears and a variety of others.
“`This is your field, this is where you must work.’ the Lady told me. `Make yourself humble, steadfast, and strong. And what you will see happen to these animals you will have to do for my children.’
“I looked again; the wild animals had turned into as many lambs, gently gamboling lambs, bleating a welcome for that Man and Lady.
“At this point of my dream I started to cry and begged the Lady to explain what it all meant because I was so confused. She then placed her hand on my head and said:
‘In due time everything will be clear to you.’
“After she had spoken these words, some noise awoke me; everything had vanished.”
The next day, when he shared this dream with his family, everybody came up with a variety of interpretations of what the dream might have meant. However, his mother zeroed in on the message immediately. She said, “Who knows if some day he may not become a priest?”
There are Saints among us whose greatest virtues have been their lifelong battles against their human nature. Those of us who are privileged to study their lives, have a tendency to ignore what we believe to be their shortcomings, in an effort to go directly to their source of sanctification. When we do this, we miss the teaching the Lord has to give us by the example of His suffering servant. We go for the dream, and miss the journey. The sanctification is in the journey.
St. Bernadette used to complain about the accounts she read on the Lives of the Saints, in that they all seemed too sugar coated. She said of the Saints, “They were human beings with faults and weaknesses, like all of us.” Mother Angelica once said, referring to the authors of lives of the Saints, “They should all be given forty years each in purgatory, for making these Saints seem so perfect.” Bernadette probably felt the same way.
To the little Saint of Lourdes, the many gifts she was given during her lifetime: one, that of beholding the presence of Mary, the Mother of God, eighteen times in the year 1858; another, her ecstasies during those Apparitions, were just that, gifts. She believed that these were aids from the good God to help her get through a sacrificial life amidst a barrage of attacks, and to suppress her own fiery inclination to fight those attacks. She prayed the gifts would offset her imperfections, which included a strong will, a fierce temper, and a stinging tongue. What she may never have reallized is how Our Lord Jesus and His Mother Mary were able to use these traits for their glory.
We once wrote that Bernadette was a simple girl, an illiterate at the time that Our Lady appeared to her, but never did we consider her a stupid girl. Her behavior throughout the period of the Apparitions, her inner strength to hold up against great powers in the government and the Church, are a strong indicator of this. Her life after the Apparitions, and in the Convent of St. Gildard in Nevers, is proof of her strength.
We never knew much about Bernadette. As a young man, I became enraptured by the Apparitions of Our Lady to Bernadette, after reading The Song of Bernadette. I fell in love with Mary, but never thought much about Bernadette. Even the first time Penny and I visited Lourdes, we didn’t see or hear much of the little visionary. This is as Bernadette wanted it. With the exception of the Cachot, where she lived during the time of the Apparitions, the Boly Mill, where she was born, and the Maison Paternelle, where the family lived after the Apparitions, Bernadette is not considered a major part of the Shrine. But Bernadette is very important, both as the intermediary for Mary during that period of time in 1858, and as a role mode for todayl.
Once I got to know her, I came to love her. There is much in Bernadette which can be used in our everyday struggle to reach the kingdom, to be part of the Communion of Saints. We can learn from her. We can use her lifelong struggle for sanctity as a teaching in our own lives.
Bernadette at the time of the Apparitions
Bernadette once said, in reflecting on her life, that the reason Mary chose her was because she was the lowest of the low. “What do you think of me? Don’t I realize that the Blessed Virgin chose me because I was the most ignorant? If she had found anyone more ignorant than myself, she would have chosen her.”
She really underestimated her role in the Apparitions at the grotto of Massabiele in the little hamlet of Lourdes. Our Lady needed one such as she knew Bernadette could be. This was a very important message she was bringing the people of the world. She could not take a chance on trusting a weak person, who could be reduced to tears, or shot down at the first sign of adversity. She needed someone who would have the strength to stand up before the powers of hell, and Bernadette was that person.
Another time our Saint said, “The Blessed Virgin used me like a broom. What do you do with a broom when you have finished sweeping? You put it back in its place, behind the door!” referring to her much sought after life of seclusion at the cloistered Convent in Nevers. Without her being aware of it, she was exhibiting a great deal of depth of spirit, abandonment to the Lord, and humility. Penny and I call our ministry the Lord’s balloon. We believe we are allowed to rise as high as He wants, for His Glory, but when He is finished with us, He will stick a pin in the balloon.
Everything in Bernadette’s early life would agree that she was the bottom of the barrel, so to speak, if we were using the world’s mentality. Her family was so poor that they brought the poverty level of the area down to a new low. Her father hired out for wages just under what was paid for a work horse. Between her mother and father, they could not earn enough money to bring them up to the poverty level. At the time of the first Apparition, they had been reduced to living in a former prison cell, the Cachot, which had been condemned for being below human standards.
Bernadette was a sickly girl from birth. She suffered from Asthma all her life. She was undernourished as a result of the family’s living conditions. She was sent to a farm in Bartres, to live with the woman who had breast-fed her when she was an infant. Only this time it was because there was not enough room, or enough food to care for her in Lourdes.
She loved her family, especially her father, François. When she was sent away to Bartres during her childhood, he always found excuses to visit her there. She was the oldest, and for him, the most special. He grieved for his child, but could not see her being with the family under such austere conditions. So when Bernadette sent countless messages home to bring her back, they were unanswered. However, Our Lady had a plan.
Bernadette had been promised when she was sent to Bartres, that she would be able to study with the Priest there for her First Holy Communion. She was almost fourteen at this time, and the only girl of her age in Lourdes who had not received First Holy Communion. We have to believe that she was under the mantle of Mary all her life, but especially at this time. She was extremely good in her work, which turned out to be her downfall. She was given more and more responsibility as a shepherdess, which gave her no time to go to Catechism lessons. She found herself working in the fields all day long. The two children of the family she stayed with, left each morning for Catechism lessons, while Bernadette went out into the field. This hurt her terribly.
Shortly after she arrived at Bartres, the Priest left to enter a Monastery. When he left the village, the foster-parents of Bernadette felt guilty that they had not kept their promise to let her attend Catechism lessons. The foster-mother tried to teach her at home, but she could only read a little, and Bernadette not at all. In addition, the lessons took place after dinner was over, and all the chores had been completed. Under the best circumstances, it would have been difficult for the child to learn, but this was an impossible situation. She had a problem retaining information to begin with, and that, coupled with the fact that she was exhausted when they began, turned it into a disaster. Bernadette was extremely frustrated.
We see the first signs of her strong will crop up. She took the bull by the horns. She told her foster-mother she had to go into Lourdes one Sunday. When she arrived there, she confronted her family, insisting she be allowed to return home. She wanted to receive First Holy Communion, and would have to begin Catechism lessons at once if she were to receive in 1858. Her parents gave in. She returned to Lourdes on January 28, 1858, just fourteen days before Our Lady came to her.
Her insistence on going back to Lourdes to study her Catechism in order to receive First Holy Communion, shows her strength in the face of adult authority, and really the first inclination we see of the deep spirituality of Bernadette. Prior to this, she had never been considered a holy girl. She had always been good, very polite, and very lovable. But all the teachers, Priests, Sisters and neighbors of the Soubirous family interviewed after the Apparitions, maintained that she would never have been thought of as holy.
This brings to mind the Scripture passage regarding Jesus, when He returned to Nazareth after having begun His ministry. He spoke brilliantly in the synagogue, but the elders said to each other, “But isn’t this Joseph the carpenter’s son?”
The year 1858 had been declared by Pope Pius IX to be a Holy Year. He asked for solemn public and private prayer. Four years before, this same Pope, who had a great love and devotion to Mary, had proclaimed to all the world, the dogma of her Immaculate Conception, amid a furor that had not yet died down. Catholics were required to believe this. There had been a popular heresy spreading throughout Europe at this time, Pantheism, which claimed that man was equal with God. By this proclamation of our Lady’s Immaculate Conception, Our Lord Jesus through His Pope, Blessed Pius IX, declared that with the exception of Jesus, only Mary was conceived without Original Sin. This proclamation caused more problems than it meant to solve. Rumbling went on inside the Church, and outside in Protestant circles. It was outrageous to give this singular honor to a woman, they argued. Shades of Lucifer!
On January 7th of this Holy Year of 1858, Bernadette had turned fourteen years old. On January 28, she returned to Lourdes from Bartres. On February 11, she went with her sister and a friend to pick up dry twigs at the grotto of Massabielle. The Bernadette who walked out the door of the Cachot that day would never return. She was to be touched by Our Lady, and would never be the same. Her life would be changed forever.
“We take you to a place high in the sky, so you can watch the drama of February 11, 1858, unfold, where Heaven and earth meet, the Divine touches the human, and the world is affected for all time. On earth, we see Bernadette and her sister Toinette frolicking through the town, picking up a playmate, Jeanne Abadie. They don’t even know where they are being directed. Their chore is to pick up firewood, wherever they can find it. At the other end of the spectrum, we see the clouds open, and a bright light appears from Paradise, moving slowly towards earth. The little girls wind their way through the town, then down the hill in the direction of the River Gave. From our vantage point, we can hear choirs of Angels singing joyous hymns in anticipation of the miracle that is to take place. If we could see into God’s dimension, we would be able to witness these Angels surrounding and carrying the most magnificent creature the Lord has ever placed on the earth. Slowly, they descend from the Heavens, the drama building. We can feel our hearts pounding as the Angels and the Queen get closer and closer to earth.
The children approach the River Gave. They see a cave on the other side. It’s the Grotto of Massabiele, a garbage dump. But it’s dry inside. They can see sticks and twigs on the ground. Bernadette hesitates crossing the river, for fear she will catch cold. Her mother will kill her if she finds out that Bernadette even entertained the idea of crossing. The girls chide her. She feels a flush of anger and resentment rise up in her cheeks. She takes off her stockings and begins to wade across the water. At the same time a streak of light flashes across the sky at meteoric speed. We don’t know if the other children see it. But as Bernadette walks out of the water, she is thrown to her knees by an unknown force. Before her is a brilliance that is indescribable. It’s dazzling, yet there is a softness, a warmth, a shimmering, but oh, so much more. She looks to an alcove at the right of the grotto. She is speechless. The choir of Angels reaches its highest pitch as the eyes of Bernadette and the Lady meet. An electric beam rivets the gaze of the two together. Bernadette feels her heart swelling. She is afraid it will burst. She cannot breathe. She trembles; her fear turning into excitement, wonderment. She can’t take her eyes off the Lady. It has begun. The Queen of Heaven comes to speak to her people. God puts aside the laws of nature, and creates MIRACLE!”
The above article is from our Book, "The Many Faces of Mary, a Love Story"
Saint Peter Julian Eymard
Peter Julian Eymard is called, among other things, “Champion of the Blessed Sacrament”. He had such a singleness of purpose, in his great devotion to the Blessed Sacrament that he would Found an Order devoted solely to adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and the spread of that devotion. That Religious Order is called “Priests of the Blessed Sacrament.”
There’s a teaching here, which we don’t want to miss. He went from Diocesan priest, to the Order of Mary, to founding an Order in honor of the Blessed Sacrament. Wherever you find the Mother, you will find the Son; wherever you find the Son, you will find the Mother. Wherever you find the Mother and the Son in the Eucharist, you will find the priesthood. We have never researched or written about any Saint who has not had a great devotion to the Eucharist, coupled with a great love for Our Lady. Peter Julian Eymard confirms this in his choice of ministries.
But his path to Our Lord Jesus and Our Mother Mary was not an easy one. To begin with, there was a great feeling of anti-clericalism in
Add to that Peter's father did not want him to become a priest, or live the religious life. They were poor, and Peter suffered poor health. The situation in
At the beginning of his priestly ministry, he devoted his time to normal parish activities, but he felt a powerful draw to the Blessed Sacrament. The Eucharist was always the Center around which his life revolved. He proclaimed more than once, “Without it, I would have been lost.”
One time, while carrying the Consecrated Host in procession on
“My soul was flooded with faith and love for Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. Those two hours seemed but a moment. I laid, at the Feet of our Lord, the Church in France, myself, and everybody throughout the world. My eyes were filled with tears: it was as though my heart were under the wine-press. I longed, at that moment, for all hearts to have been within my own and to have been fired with the zeal of
He left the diocesan life to enter the Marist community, where he had been a novice in 1829. When he was leaving the diocese to enter the Marists, his sisters begged him to reconsider. he told them, "God calls me now. Tomorrow will be too late."
Even during his time with the Marists, he couldn’t help pondering and meditating on the Eucharist. A pivotal point in his life occurred on a pilgrimage to a local Marian shrine in 1851, Our Lady of Fourvieres. The Lord put a thought into his head, and he could not get it out of his mind. There was no Order devoted to the Blessed Sacrament! In his own words,
“One idea haunted me, and it was this; that Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament had no Religious Institute to glorify His mystery of love, whose only object was entire consecration to Its service. There ought to be one....I promised Mary to devote myself to this end. It was still all very vague and I had no idea of leaving the Order (Marists).”
[Author’s Note: When you hear the words, haunted, or “I couldn’t get it out of my mind”, you know it’s the Lord. Blessed Juliana of Liege, whom the Lord used, to institute a Feast Day in honor of the Blessed Sacrament, expressed her feelings in the same way. She had a vision which haunted her day and night. Everywhere she went, every day, it was there. So, my brothers and sisters, if you feel an overpowering feeling that has to do with the Eucharist, in particular, you can be pretty sure it’s the Lord hounding you (like the hounds of Heaven which
He felt he couldn’t hold back any longer. The burning inside of his heart to protect, adore and give honor to his God, Jesus in the Eucharist, took over his entire being. He presented his idea for a new Order of the Blessed Sacrament to his Superior General, who told him to wait. Obedience, being at the zenith of his vows, he waited. He was still chomping at the bit, but because his
They had to change houses in 1858, and they moved into a small chapel in
[An aside - Mother Angelica's order, Poor Clares of Perpetual Eucharistic Adoration was founded in
In 1859, Pope Pius IX greatly praised the movement. Spurred on by that endorsement, the Order grew in leaps and bounds. More houses were opened in
Once he had received the praises of Blessed Pope Pius IX, his community began to spread its wings all over the world. Communities of the Congregation of the Blessed Sacrament can be found all over the world, in
He was a staunch soldier in defense of the Eucharist and Eucharistic devotion. Although he was known to be kind and gentle, he had no problem getting up and letting the church of any given country know how they were offending the Lord by their behavior.
It was his first trip to
He continued with his tirade against
In researching the life of St. Peter Julian Eymard, we found that he truly put everything into the Hands of the Lord through the Blessed Sacrament. An example of this was when he wanted to go to
His great work for adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and his ongoing work for the Faithful to receive frequent Communion was endorsed and encouraged by many popes. Even after his death, St. Pope Pius X gave his backing to frequent reception of Holy Communion in 1905, and allowed young people to receive Communion once they have reached the Age of Reason.
Peter Julian Eymard died on August 11, 1868. He was beatified in 1925, and raised to the Communion of Saints by Blessed Pope John XXIII, at the close of the first session of the Ecumenical Council, December 9, 1962.
St. Peter Julian Eymard leaves behind great insights into the Eucharistic life. He wrote many spiritual works.
Sunday, June 28, 2009
St. Paul the Apostle
"May I never boast of anything but the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ!" Gal 6:14
In the history of our Church, no man stands out more clearly as a zealot and role model, than does St. Paul, the Apostle. The Church as we know it today, the Church of the Gentiles, would not exist were it not for the unceasing pursuit of Paul to bring the Gospel to the four corners of the earth. He took to heart, Jesus' command, "Go into the whole world, and proclaim the good news to all creation. "
Paul has always impressed us by his singleness of purpose, his unflinching courage, his relentless drive, and his ability to stir men's hearts, whether by his public speaking, or by his writings. Luke has chronicled the experiences of Paul in the Acts of the Apostles. They read like tales of high adventure. Paul's letters have inspired the greatest minds of our Church, including, but not limited to St. Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Francis of Assisi, St. Anthony, St. John of the Cross, and St. Teresa of Avila. Read about any of the great Saints; you'll find the teachings of Paul. Of all the Apostles, for us, he is the most touchable, the most approachable, the most identifiable. From this, you can gather that we are great fans of St. Paul.
We feel very close to Paul. Although we are born Catholics, we consider ourselves converts, or rather, we are converting. It's a never-ending process. When we first came back to the Church, we were overwhelmed by all the exciting people and things she had to offer. We were like kids in a candy store. There was so much more than we could absorb; so we didn't key into Paul, and his powerful role in the Church, right away. It wasn't until our first pilgrimage to Rome that we met Paul in a very personal way.
I think it's important for all of us, just once in our lives, to go to the places of the Saints, so that we can soak up their spirit, which never leaves these areas. There is such a strong sense of the Saints at their shrines. It permeates your skin, and goes deep into your soul.
That's what happened when we went to the Church of St. Paul Outside the Walls, in Rome. Paul was martyred in this area. After the Church was legitimized by Constantine, his bones were brought back to this spot, to be his final resting place. When we walked through the gates of the courtyard, a formidable statue of St. Paul loomed high above us. He wielded a huge sword ; he stared deep into our souls. He was so strong! We asked our guide why he was buried outside the city walls. The guide raised himself to his full five feet, two inches, and proclaimed, "It was his right as a Roman citizen, Signor. The Christians were fed to the lions in the Colosseum during the persecution. But Paul was allowed to die outside the city walls with dignity, as was his birthright." That didn't make any sense. He was a Pharisee from the Holy Land, as best we knew. He was converted in Damascus, knocked down off his high horse, so to speak. How did he get to be a Roman citizen?
Then we went to the Mamertine Prison in Rome. This was Paul's home prior to his death. We walked down, deep into the dark, damp hole of the cave, There was a dim light from a bare 30 watt bulb, dangling from the ceiling. An exhaust fan made a feeble attempt to suck out the foul-smelling, humid air, which permeated the prison. It was damp and gloomy, a very depressing scene. And that was now, in the twentieth century! We could not begin to imagine how it had been when Paul was imprisoned here. Our priest was well-versed in Scripture, and the historical background of the Gospel. He shared with us the ending of Paul's letter to the Philippians. He shared Paul's last testimony to Timothy. They are the most touching, uplifting, beautiful letters Paul wrote. And they were written here, in the stinking bowels of the earth. We had never known much about this pioneer and martyr for our Faith, but here in this cell, we came to love him very much.
That's how they get you, these Saints. You ask a little question; you discover something that doesn't quite fit in, and the next thing you know, you're deeply engrossed in the life of the Saint. This is how we began to learn about Paul. We didn't do it to share with anyone. We were in love with Church. This man was our Church! We had to know more about him. Who was he? What made him turn so completely towards Jesus and the Gospel message, at the height of his persecution of the Church? We know now, why the Lord gave us the gift of being able to search out and study this man. Jesus wants us to know about those who struggled and died for us; He wants us to be proud of our ancestors, and never forget them! He wants us to follow in their footsteps. On that note, we invite you to join us as we share the life of one of the most powerful men our Church has ever known, St. Paul the Apostle.
Paul was born in Tarsus, a port city in the southeastern part of Turkey. He was from a Jewish family, who traced their roots back to the tribe of Benjamin. This Jewish community had been sent to Tarsus during the Diaspora . Pompey had made Tarsus the capital of the province of Cilicia. Mark Anthony gave the people of Tarsus freedom, immunity, and the right to become Roman citizens, which accounts for Paul's reference to, and pride in, his Roman citizenship. He invoked his rights as a Roman citizen many times during his ministry to get out of some serious scrapes with the Jews.
Paul was originally named Saul, after the first king of the Jews. But the Jews in Tarsus had assimilated so greatly with the Romans that he was probably given the Roman equivalent of Saul, which is Paul, at birth. He was called Paul in public, and Saul among Jewish gatherings. It was not unusual for Jews who had integrated into foreign cultures to take on a Hebrew name, and an ethnic name. He grew up under two cultures, that of his Hebrew ancestors, and the Greco-Roman customs of his adopted country. He was greatly influenced by the Greek background; Greek was a second language to him; he studied Greek philosophers.
Nothing is certain as to when he came to Jerusalem. His whole family moved there when he was a young man. The year 30 A.D. is as good a barometer as it gets. Scripture scholars claim there was little possibility that he ever saw Jesus during His lifetime. There are others who believe that, while he may never have spoken to the Lord, he may have seen Him before His death. Remember, they really frequented the same circles. They were at different ends of the spectrum, but they were both religious men.
Paul was a Pharisee. He studied under Gamaliel for three or four years. This would have been during the time of Jesus' ministry, 30 to 33 AD. Jesus became very prominent after the arrest and murder of John the Baptist, probably about a year or so into His ministry. The temple area of Jerusalem was always abuzz with rumors about this new Prophet. The personality of Paul was that of a zealot, a nosy body, who had to know everything that was going on, all the time. Also, he was a defender of the Jewish law, which he believed Jesus was breaking. Paul would have agreed with those who considered Jesus a blasphemer and lawbreaker, who should be dealt with accordingly.
We don't mean to imply for a minute that Paul was ever a vindictive person. He was a passionate person. The Lord can work with people like Paul. His passion was for God. He had committed himself to the service of God. He truly believed he was doing the Lord's will in stamping out these blasphemers (Christians) . The same firebrand fervor he employed in defending God against the Christians, was put to use in proclaiming our Lord Jesus Christ, after Paul's conversion. It's so exciting to see God in action! He chooses His people so carefully. We believe, Paul was part of the Divine Plan from before the beginning of time . He was groomed so well for his part in Salvation history. The area of the world in which he was born, his knowledge of the Greek and Roman languages and cultures, his schooling in Jerusalem, all of this was necessary for his role in proclaiming the Gospel throughout the Roman Empire. We can't help but see the Lord's Hand in Paul's development.
Taken from Bob and Penny Lord's book Saints and Other Powerful Men in the Church.
Thursday, June 25, 2009
Special Announcement: Jacksonville Florida Area Supporters
Tell your friends!
Bob and Penny Lord are coming to
July 18, 2009
Marywood Retreat Center
235 Marywood Drive
St. Johns, Florida 32259
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"Saints and Martyrs"
You do not want to miss this presentation!
Friday, June 19, 2009
Monday, June 8, 2009
We read an article on EWTN’s website. It was put out by the United States Bishops. It read
“WASHINGTON, D.C., JUNE 5, 2009 (Zenit.org).- There are one million more Catholics in the United States than the previous year, the 2009 Official Catholic Directory statistics indicate.
“A press release from the U.S. Catholic bishops' conference affirmed Wednesday that the total number of Catholics in the country equals 68,115,001, or 22% of the population.”
Under normal circumstances, we would be elated by such news. It would mean that we’re getting stronger. But we know that’s not the case at all. Most practicing Catholics would tell you they believe we’re going to hell in a handbasket. So where are all these Catholics in the statistics?
Are they the students and faculty of Notre Dame who chanted “Yes, we can!” during Obama’s speech? The president maintains, and the official standing of the university is that they are pro-life, and defend the sanctity of marriage, but!!! Apparently, they hought that having Obama as keynote speaker was not damaging to their image. They didn’t think that the protest of so many bishops and cardinals, and the more than 250,000 e-mails, objecting to their decision, was important.
Are they the students and faculty of Georgetown University who covered the Cross and symbol of Jesus (HIS) above where Obama would give his speech? They claim to be a Catholic University but!!! felt that Obama’s sensibilities should be respected, in not wanting the name of Jesus above his head. Was it a matter of who gets top billing, or do they think that Obama has a problem with Jesus?
Are they the congressmen and senators who claim to be Catholic, but!!! support abortion in their states?
Are they the Catholic state representatives who are writing and supporting bills legalizing same-sex marriages in their states?
Are they the Catholics who supported Kathleen Sebelius, a Catholic, in her bid to become Secretary of Health and Human Resources, and have been rewarded for their work? According to the EWTN's website, their group
“have supported controversial political decisions and appointments made by the Obama administration, including the suspension of the Mexico City Policy and the decision to allow federally-funded embryonic stem cell research, and lent their support despite both measures drawing criticism from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops”
They claim that Sebelius is personally opposed to abortion, but!!!
She was the greatest proponent of abortion in her state as governor.
Archbishop Fulton Sheen once said, “We are going to hell on our buts!!!”
The Bishops’ office stated that Catholics represent 22% of the American population. That means to me that Catholics are the ones who voted for this administration. It’s common knowledge that a candidate cannot be elected for a national office without the Catholic vote.
So are these statistic Catholics really Catholics? If so, where are they? Why are they not standing up for Catholic values? Why are we not unified? Why have we let our Church and our faith beliefs taken such a back seat?
Family, we want nothing more than to be joyful at the news that we have one more million Catholics in the United States. But we would rather hear that we have stronger Catholics who are truly Catholics, who would help bring our Catholic values, our Christian values into the forefront. This is our prayer. We pray you join us in this prayer.
Monday, June 1, 2009
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Wednesday, May 27, 2009
Arius cut quite a figure as he went about, the troubadour priest, singing catchy lyrics to tunes everyone had already been humming. He had a slick delivery. He would sing and then speak. He even accompanied himself with a musical instrument as he spoke. He was passionate! He was zealous! He was a pied piper. Before you knew it, his doctrines were being sung by priests, fishermen, storekeepers, and farmers; mothers were caroling these little ditties to their children on their knees; everyone was singing, but it wasn’t the Lord they were praising. It was Arius and his really great personality.
Because of his ability to charm people with his music and songs, many people believed what he was teaching. He was just so doggone nice. He had a way about him. He wasn’t really nice; he just let people think he was. This was how he was able to get them to believe him. He would use Scripture passages to back up his claims. They were words taken out of context, twisted to get the effect he wanted. At first, he was condemned by Constantine in the Council of Nicea. The Nicene Creed, which was adopted at that time, was basically written to denounce all the lies that Arius was spreading. The Creed that we proclaim every Sunday at Mass was because of Arius.
But Arius had such a great smile, and such a great way of charming people, you couldn’t stay mad at him for long. Even Constantine was fooled by him, and so three years later, Constantine began supporting Arianism, and pretty soon, his false doctrine was being accepted all over the Christian world. Bishops began going over to Arius’s side. He was so elegant, although they knew in their hearts that everything he said was against the Church, they just couldn’t believe that such a nice guy could say anything that was not true.
In our book Scandal of the Cross and its Triumph, we wrote: “Arius died a horrid death right after Constantine decreed that he be brought back into the Church. It took four hundred years to finally put down the heresy of Arianism. Some say it has never been put down. For 150 years, Arianism was the religion of the Teutonic, or Germanic people of Europe. Adolph Hitler adopted Arianism, only his was a twisted version of the heresy in which he was god. He completely outlawed Christianity, imprisoning, torturing and killing bishops, priests and religious who would not deny Christ. The Heil Hitler replaced the Heil Jesus and the Heil Maria. Hitler told people they were a master race, the Arian race. And the world did not know how deadly this title and philosophy could be. It is frightening when you contemplate how close Hitler came to dominating the whole world.”
Although Hitler was never considered a nice guy, like Arius, he had a compelling way about him. When he stood at the Brandenburg gate in Berlin, and gathered hundreds of thousands of people to listen to him, they were spellbound. When he pointed his fingers at the Jews, he blamed them for everything bad that had happened to the German people. The Germans needed someone to hate for their terrible condition, and Hitler gave them the Jews to hate. The people rose up and turned their anger against the Jews, and in favor of Adolph Hitler and his gang of misfits and miscreants. And you know how that turned out. There are those who say that Arianism is still among us today. There are some religions that claim that Jesus was not Divine. Then there are other takes on Arianism, those who have espoused the Hitler version where one man holds himself up as God, and the people are spellbound by him. He gathers evil people around him as in the Hitler gang. But because he is just so darned nice, because he has the ability to sway people with his smile and his rhetoric, we can’t recognize him for who he is. We must really beware of Greeks bearing gifts, and nice guys among us.
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Family, when we wrote our book: “Beyond Sodom and Gomorrah, Prophecies and Promises” in 1999, we were concerned it would become dated material, and lose its relevance. In a way, I wish with all my heart that was so.
One of the chapters was titled: Requiem for the Age of Innocence; and God knows I wish it was no longer true, that it was a thing of the past. If anything, matters are worse. Our children are being inundated with the worst forms of ADULT literature. Children are killing children! They are being programmed to commit violence, under the guise it’s entertainment. We have an enemy, who has invaded our homes. For years, most parents were afraid to send their children to universities because they came home completely changed, spouting heresies against our Church, revolution against our government. The enemy has spread his tentacles. The age has been lowered to include children in kindergarten and up. Our children are learning things their tiny minds cannot absorb. They are being taught that marriage is not holy, between a man and a woman, but between two women or two men, as well – possibly better. Pope John Paul II said that the education of the children is the parents’ responsibility. On Judgment Day, God will ask parents to show accountability of how their children turned out. Not teachers or television producers, but parents!!!
Our phones are ringing off the hooks with Priests, CCD teachers, school librarians ordering books and DVDs on the Super Saints. And it is not confined to just our Catholic Faith. We are receiving orders from Ministers of different denominations, saying their young need viable, holy role models to imitate.
I would like to add a segment from our book: Beyond Sodom and Gomorrah:
Requiem for the Age of Innocence
“While the crowds pressed around Jesus, He began to speak to them in these words:
`This is an evil age. It seeks a sign. But no sign will be given it except the sign of Jonah. Just as Jonah was a sign to the Ninevites, so will the Son of Man be a sign for the present age. The queen of the south will rise at the judgment along with the men of this generation, and she will condemn them. She came from the farthest part of the world to listen to the wisdom of Solomon, but you have a greater than Solomon here. At the judgment, the citizens of Nineveh will rise along with the present generation, and they will condemn it. For at the preaching of Jonah they reformed, but you have a greater than Jonah here.’”
How did it happen?
How did we go from faith and fidelity,
to deception and betrayal?
“Those were the days, my friend; we thought they’d never end...” I still remember those days, the good old days, days filled with innocence, love and caring for one’s family, friends and neighbors, days where children revered their parents and grandparents, where the family stuck together, days of trust, days of honor, days of patriotism. Yes, we thought they would never end.
My childhood was a simple one, a life filled with awe and wonder, where with other neighborhood children, we would take hours to determine which candies we should buy for the precious penny we had to spend. They were days of dressing up as Mommies and Daddies, the Mommy serving the Daddy make-believe tea and fresh bread my Nana had made.
In the heart of Brooklyn, what would be called a ghetto or barrio today, was a neighborhood, more like a small village, where everyone knew everyone else, with many aunts and uncles (some really only friends whom we respectfully called Aunt and Uncle). You were never alone; at least one mother or grandmother was hanging out the window, at any hour of the day or night, watching your every move and reporting any mischief you got into, to your parents. We felt safe! It was a world of innocence, with coal stoves and wood-burning stoves warming our bodies and cooking our food. I can still see the dust particles floating up to heaven on the rays of the sun; I can feel the warmth of the sun streaming into our kitchen on the third floor of the apartment house we lived in. I can still feel the warm tears flowing down my cheeks when we moved away from that neighborhood as I waved good-by to everyone and everything I had ever known, and to the Age of Innocence.
We believed in our country!
We placed our hand over our hearts when we pledged allegiance to the flag of the United States of America. Tears came to our eyes, and our voices choked up a little as we sang the National Anthem of our country. We were Americans! When it was time to vote, an electricity filled the air, an excitement, with Daddy explaining the electoral system to us, the importance of casting our vote, and the merits and shortcomings of the different candidates. We were all involved, even those of us who were too young to vote. At four years old, I campaigned clandestinely, while my mother was on duty as one of the inspectors at the Polling Place. Franklin D. Roosevelt badges covering every inch of my favorite red coat, I would find myself being lifted bodily and carted to the other side of the Polling signs, when I wandered too close to the Barber Shop where the voting took place.
Franklin D. Roosevelt was our hero! We would have done anything he asked of us, even die; and many of our loved ones did! It was a time of patriotism and pride--We were Americans! Oh those were days of flags waving and speeches on the street corners, everyone crowding around the speakers or hanging out their windows to hear their platform. We believed in our country! We believed we had a personal interest in the destiny of our nation. What we said or did made a difference. We were important; we counted!
When did our world start to fall apart?
For more information about our book,
“Beyond Sodom and Gomorrah,
Prophecies and Promises”
We stated in this issue that these are challenging times and with that said, we want you to know we are up to the challenge.
We have made it our policy to avoid running around saying the sky is falling every time some obstacle comes in front of our mission to evangelize. And for that reason in these more difficult times we simply want to inform you how you many help us to continue our work.
Here are some ideas we want to share with you about how you can help us.
Number one is prayer. We thank you over and over for the prayers that you do for our mission. Without them we would not be here.
Next is our books and DVDs and other items. As you know our ministry receive's most of its income from the sale of our books, DVDs etc. Your support has been tremendous. Please continue and tell your friends and family that are not familiar with us about us. Remember we have all of our items listed on www.BobandPennyLord.com.
Next, we have another sister site that you may not be familiar with. www.catholicvirtualmall.com
www.CatholicVirtualMall.com is just like a shopping mall only this one is online and filled with primarily items that Catholics would purchase. You can securely shop at the major Catholic shops there.
Book shops where you can purchase Bibles or Liturgy of the Hours.
Gifts shops where you can purchase items from the Holy Land, Holy Water Fonts, Prayer Card and gift baskets of all kinds.
Shops devoted to Crucifixes, Medals, Statues and Rosaries.
Shops for music, Travel and Pilgrimage and more.
We have a food court. Here you can purchase items like Mystic Monk Coffee, Abbey Peanut Brittle, Cheese and Chocolate.
In summary we have almost everything of the Catholic nature you can think of at this site.
This is how you can help us - Holy Family Mission will receive a commission from any item you purchase through www.catholicvirtualmall.com
Make this site a favorite in your browser and tell your friends about it.
Finally, many of you have told us you would like to view some of Bob and Penny's talks and conferences.
We have a site where you can view on demand many of the talks that Bob and Penny have given.
The site is continuously being updated with new additions. Only requirement to watch is a very small registration fee. Then you can view any talk at the time of your choice.
The sky is not falling, and we are up to the challenge. Thank you for your prayers and your support.
Please won't you help!