Visions of Mary: Our Lady of Fatima

May 12, 2015

fatima12c-seers

Our Lady of Fatima is the patroness of Portugal.
Feast day: May 13.

The twentieth century was the first time in history where we ourselves had the ability to destroy not only the entire human race but all other forms of life on this planet. During World War I, the violence of which people had never seen before, Mary came to Fatima with a very serious warning. Expressing the belief that humankind had drifted away from God, she wanted the world to offer up reparations for the disastrous state of the earth. Fatima is the most prophetic of Mary’s apparitions. She correctly foretold the suffering imposed by the Communist states and the carnage of World War II. The third secret of Fatima was deemed too terrifying to release. It was finally revealed by the Vatican on May 13, 2000, in the hopes of what it had predicted had passed. Others strongly disagree with the Vatican’s interpretation and insist it is a portent of the end of the world. Our Lady of Fatima is an angry, pained mother, demanding that her children take action before it is too late.
It is said that Mary usually appears to the simplest and least complicated of people because they do not try to judge or interpret what she says, they merely report it. For this reason, many times her visionaries are children. In 1916, a nine-year-old girl from Fatima, Portugal, named Lucia dos Santos was out tending sheep with her two younger cousins, Francisco and Jacinta. They were happily playing a little game with stones when they saw an immense light come from the sky in their direction. At the center of the light was a translucent angelic form.

“Do not be afraid!” he said. “I am the Angel of Peace. Pray with me.” Kneeling, he bowed down until his forehead touched the ground. He taught them a prayer that he made them repeat three times. “My God, I believe, I adore, I trust and I love You! I ask pardon of You for those who do not believe, do not adore, do not trust and do not love You.” Rising, he told them, “Pray thus. The hearts of Jesus and Mary are attentive to the words of your prayers.”
This was not the first time Lucia had seen this angel. When she had previously tended sheep with other companions she had witnessed the light of the angel overhead. When her friends had told their parents what they had seen, they were all accused of fabricating a story out of boredom. Because of this, Jacinta convinced her younger cousins to keep the angelic visit a secret. All three children began praying in the manner taught to them by the angel. Toward the end of summer they received another visit from the angel admonishing them for frittering so much time away in play. He told them he was Guardian Angel of Portugal and that God was offended by the sins of others. He advised the children to pray more and “Above all, accept and bear with submission, all the suffering which the Lord allows in your lives. In this way you will draw down peace upon your country.” Before winter came they received one more visit from this angel telling them that Jesus Christ was outraged by ungrateful and indifferent men. He implored them to keep praying and gave them Communion.
The children continued to work, play, and pray together throughout the winter months. On Sunday. May 13, 1917, they were leading their flocks to a grazing field called the Cova da Iria. They were frightened by flashes of lightning and were shocked to see a beautiful lady who glowed brighter than the sun. When she spoke to them, Lucia was the only one who could hear her, “Fear not, I will not harm you. I am from heaven.”

When Lucia asked her what it was she wanted, the lady answered, “I ask you to come here for six consecutive months, on the thirteenth day at this same hour. I will tell you later who I am and why I have come to you. I shall return here again a seventh time.”

Lucia asked if they could go to heaven with the lady, and she was told that they would all come to heaven with her but that “Francisco must pray many rosaries.” She added, “Let him pray the rosary. In that way he too will be able to see me.” Francisco had only seen Lucia talking to a bright light. He said one decade of the rosary, and he, too, was able to see the lady. Streams of light radiated onto the children from the lady’s hands. As she left them, she told the children, “Say the rosary every day to earn peace for the world and the end of the war.”
Lucia’s family and friends greeted her story about the lady with scorn and mockery. Her cousins had a different experience. Their father believing that they truly had some sort of celestial vision, protected and respected them. On June 13 about fifty people accompanied the children to the Cova da Iria. Lucia called Jacinta out of a group of playing children, the lightning had started to flash even though it was a beautiful day. Lucia, Jacinta, and Francisco ran toward the oak tree where they had seen the lady a month before. Though others in the crowd could not see her, some reported hearing a “buzzing noise” or a “tiny little voice.” The lady, enveloped in a mystical light, taught the children a prayer, and made the following promise to the world, “I promise salvation to those who embrace devotion to my Immaculate Heart. Their souls will be loved by God as flowers placed by me to adorn His throne. These souls will suffer a great deal but I will never leave them. My Immaculate Heart will be their refuge, the way that will lead them to God.” She again showered the children with light from her hands. People in the crowd heard a “rushing sound” and the three children shouted, “There she goes, there she goes!” as they pointed to the sky in the east. To everyone’s amazement, the branches of the tree, which had been standing straight up a few minutes before, were also pointing to the east.

The third visit, which took place on July 13 was attended by thousands of believers, cynics, and those searching for miracles. Lucia has written that between the past month and this day she was continually tormented by self-doubt. No one in her immediate family seemed to believe her, perhaps this was all a trick of her mind. The large crowd quieted down as they heard a buzzing sound. A cloud moved in over the oak tree. They watched as Lucia, enraptured, appeared to be having a conversation with the cloud. At one point, the girl cried out in horror. After a few minutes, there was the sound of thunder and the cloud lifted. The children waved good-bye to it. When asked what made her cry out, Lucia said, “It was a secret.” In her own memoirs, she wrote that as the lady started to appear all her doubts about whether this was really happening or not left her forever. In this visit, the famous Three Secrets of Fatima were imparted to the children.

The local government looked upon the growing interest in the alleged apparitions in Fatima as a dangerous threat to its sovereignty. The royalists had recently been driven out of government and religion was looked upon as equaling royalism. Many monasteries and parochial schools had been closed down. The prime minister had promised that within twenty years all trace of religion would be gone from Portugal. The fourth apparition of the lady took place on August 13. Almost fifteen thousand people were gathered in the Cova da Iria, but Lucia, Jacinta and Francisco were locked in the town jail. Even without the seers the crowd witnessed the cloud hovering over the oak tree, there were sounds of explosions, and the ground shook A mystical light showered the crowd, reflecting all the colors of the rainbow. While this was happening, each of the children were separately questioned for hours. They refused to give up the secrets they were told by the lady. Though each was told that the other had completely recanted their story of the lady, not one of them would change their personal account. As a last resort the mayor told them that obviously there were no secrets, and he was going to boil them in oil if they did not admit the apparitions were all a lie. Instead of collapsing in hysteria, the three remained silent, and the children were released on August 15.

The lady came to them in the area near their village and told them she wanted them to continue their pilgrimages to the Cova da Iria on the thirteenth of the month. She also told them to pray the rosary every day. “Pray. Pray very much, and make sacrifices for sinners. So many souls go to hell because there is no one to pray and make sacrifices for them.” The seriousness with which the children took her words greatly altered their personalities. Neighbors who once mocked them became their biggest defenders.
By the September 13 apparition, there were over thirty thousand people in the Cova da Iria. In the middle of a cloudless sky, many witnessed a luminous globe moving from east to west. According to Lucia, the lady asked the people to pray the rosary to obtain the end of the war. She also promised that she would perform a miracle on her next and last visit so that everyone would believe.

The apparition of October 13 is widely documented and was reported by newspapers all over the world. Even the most anticlerical Portuguese news agencies reported that there were “strange natural phenomenon” that had occurred in front of a crowd of at least fifty thousand people. Despite heavy rains, pilgrims arrived to the little town, most of them on foot. A few minutes before 1:30 in the afternoon it stopped raining. What happened next has been detailed by news reporters (most of whom were extremely skeptical of the children), eyewitnesses in the crowd, professors from the university, government officials, and even those who lived miles away. The sun appeared through the clouds, shone very brightly, and began to tremble and dance, whirling through the sky in a dizzying speed it cast all the colors of the rainbow on the crowd. The crowd began shouting for the Virgin Mary. The strange movements and light from the sun lasted a few minutes before returning to its natural place in the sky. The crowd, who had been soaked to the skin were now completely dry. As for the children, they were unaware of any “dance of the sun,” they had been communing with Mary.

According to Lucia, “When Our Lady disappeared in the immense distance of the sky, next to the sun we saw Saint Joseph holding the Child Jesus and Our Lady dressed in white with a blue mantle. Saint Joseph seemed to be blessing the world, making the sign of the cross. Shortly after this vision had vanished, I saw Our Lord and Our Lady who reminded me of Our Lady of Sorrows. Our Lord was blessing the world as was Saint Joseph. This vision vanished too, and it seemed to me I again saw Our Lady in a form resembling that of Our Lady of Mount Carmel.”

The story of Our Lady of Fatima had worldwide repercussions, and Fatima became a major pilgrimage site. It is visited by 5 million Marian devotees a year. The three seers were hounded by the sick, the desperate, and the curious. Jacinta and Francisco died during the flu epidemic of 1918. Lucia joined a convent in May 1921. She is still alive at this writing.
In 1941, Lucia allowed the first two secrets of Fatima to be released. According to her memoir,

The first part is the vision of hell. Our Lady showed us a great sea of fire which seemed to be under the earth. Plunged in this fire were demons and souls in human form, like transparent burning embers, all blackened or burnished bronze, floating about in the conflagration, now raised into the air by flames that issued from within themselves together with great clouds of smoke, now falling back on every side like sparks in a huge fire, without weight or equilibrium, and amid shrieks and groans fo pain and despair, which horrified us and made us tremble with fear. The demons could be distinguished by their terrifying and repulsive likeness to frightful and unknown animals, all black and transparent. This vision lasted but an instant. How can we ever be grateful enough to our kind heavenly mother, who had already prepared us by promising, in the first apparition, to take us to heaven. Otherwise, I think we would have died of fear and terror. We then looked up at Our Lady, who said to us so kindly and sadly, “You have seen hell where the souls of poor sinners go. To save them, God wishes to establish in the world devotion to my Immaculate Heart. If what I say to you is done, many souls will be saved and there will be peace. The war is going to end: but if people do not cease offending God, a worse one will break out during the Pontificate of Pius XI. When you see a night illumined by an unknown light, know that this is the great sign given you by God that he is about to punish the world for its crimes, by means of war, famine and persecutions of the Church. The good will be martyred; the Holy Father will have much to suffer; various nations will be annihilated. In the end, my Immaculate Heart will triumph. The Holy Father will consecrate Russia to me, and she shall be converted, and a period of peace will be granted the world.

Lucia was so confused by the content of the third secret, that she placed it in an envelope and sent it to the Vatican with the instructions that it was not to be opened until the year 1960. Pope John XXIII chose not to release it upon reading it, Paul VI also kept it a secret. On May 13, 1981, the Feast of Our Lady of Fatima, an assassin fired a bullet at Pope John Paul II as he was out greeting the pilgrims in Saint Peter’s Square. He impulsively bent down to hug a little girl wearing an Our Lady of Fatima medal and the bullet only wounded him instead of killing him. He has always credited Our Lady of Fatima with saving his life. It was he who decided to release the third secret on May 13, 2000, to mark the beatification of Francisco and Jacinta. Lucia met with him beforehand and approved of the action.
This is the third secret as released by the Vatican:

After the two parts which I have already explained, at the left of Our Lady and a little above, we saw an Angel with a flaming sword in his left hand; flashing, it gave out flames that looked as though they would set the world on fire; but they died out in contact with the splendor that Our Lady radiated towards him from her right hand: pointing to the earth with his right hand, the angel cried out: “Penance, Penance, Penance.” And we saw in an immense light that is God: something similar to how people appear in a mirror when they pass in front of it, a bishop dressed in white, we had the impression it was the Holy Father. Other bishops, priests, men and women religious going up a steep mountain, at the top of which there was a big cross of rough-hewn trunks of a cork-tree with the bark; before reaching there the Holy Father passed through a big city half in ruins and trembling with halting step, afflicted with pain and sorrow, he prayed for the souls of the corpses he met on his way. Having reached the top of the mountain, on his knees at the foot of the big cross he was killed by a group of soldiers who fired bullets and arrows at him, and in the same way there died one after another the other bishops, priests, men and women religious, and various lay people of different ranks and positions. Beneath the two arms of the cross there were two angels each with a crystal aspersorium in his hand, in which they gathered up the blood of the martyrs and with it sprinkled the souls that were making their way to God.

Pope John Paul II felt that this last secret was a symbol of the attempt on his life. The Russian Revolution brought into the world a society that outlawed spirituality and religious practices. By the last half of the twentieth century, communism had engulfed many nations under this umbrella. Coming from Poland, Pope John Paul II was a force to be reckoned with. He inspired many in those countries to rebel against the totalitarian system. He felt the prayers Our Lady of Fatima asked for helped to change the course of history and the visions given to the three children.

Visions of Mary: Our Lady of Czestochowa

May 6, 2015

Matka Boska CzestockowskaOur Lady of Czestochowa is the patroness of Poland.
Her feast day is August 26.

Our Lady of Czestochowa is the most well known and most revered of the many Black Madonna icons found in the East. Not only is this image honored in the traditional way as an icon, but like Our Lady of Guadalupe, Our Lady of Czestochowa has earned the dedication of an entire nation. She has been credited several times with saving Poland from invaders and providing a national identity when that country was divided. The Polish people not only admire her as an aspect of the Virgin Mary, but they relate to her as their queen and credit their existence as a nation to her help.

Like the majority of the Black Madonna statues, it is said that Our Lady of Czestochowa was created by Saint Luke. The historical legend of this painting is that the Virgin Mary actually sat for it after the Crucifixion when she was living in the house of Saint John the Evangelist. The cedar wood the icon was painted on was from a table made by Jesus Christ when he was a carpenter. During the destruction of Jerusalem in a.d. 70, the early Christians hid the painting away. It was rediscovered in a.d. 326 when Saint Helena, the elderly mother of Constantine made her trip to the Holy Land in her search for the True Cross. Among the relics she brought back with her to Constantinople was this icon. Constantine erected a church to house the image, and it was revered by the citizens of that city. The icon remained in Constantinople for five centuries, escaping destruction during the reign of the Iconoclasts (746–843). This was a movement in the Eastern Church that strictly forbade the existence of religious images. All icons and holy pictures were ordered painted over or destroyed. It is said that the wife of the emperor who ordered it burned, hid the icon away instead. In the ninth century Constantinople’s emperor offered Charlemagne any treasure he wanted in the city in gratitude for his help in defending them against the Saracen invaders. He chose this icon and later presented it to Prince Leo of Ruthenia. It remained in his castle at Belz, Russia, for the next five hundred years. In 1349, an invasion mounted by the Tartars from the east threatened Belz. Prince Ladislaus, the town’s ruler decided to take the icon to a safer place. As he was making his plans, an arrow fired by the invaders came through the window and embedded itself in the painting. It was the prince’s intention to take the painting to his birthplace in Opala. While he stopped to rest in the town called Czestochowa, the image was brought to Jasna Gora (“bright hill”) and temporarily placed in the Church of the Assumption. On August 26, 1382, when the prince attempted to continue his journey, the painting became too heavy for his servants to carry. He took this as a sign from the Virgin Mary that this painting should remain in Czestochowa. Searching for the holiest men he could find to create a shrine, he brought in an order of Hungarian monks dedicated to Saint Paul the Hermit to guard the icon. This is also where the first writings on the painting start to be recorded.
The followers of a heretic priest John Hus of Prague stormed the church in 1430. In an attempt to rob the jewels embedded in the icon, one of the men started slashing at the icon’s face. As he was about to slash it the third time he fell dead. This terrified the invaders into leaving. The icon, however, fell and broke into three pieces. Grecian painters familiar with the style of iconic painting were brought in to restore it, and by 1434 it was virtually completely repainted. However, the two slashes in the face have continually reappeared despite repeated attempts to repair them.

In 1655 a small army of three hundred Polish soldiers were gathered at the foot of the monastery. They were challenged by a force of twelve thousand Swedish invaders. In one of the greatest victories in European history, the small army of Poles successfully routed the invasion. Though the image of Our Lady of Czestochowa had always been regarded as special and miraculous, this victory was considered spectacular proof of the intercession of Mary through the icon. On April 1, 1656, King John Casimir proclaimed Our Lady of Czestochowa as Queen of Poland and said vows putting the country under her patronage and protection. On September 3, 1717, the apostolic delegate staged a national coronation of the icon. A crown, given to Poland as a gift from the pope was created to fit on the head in the image. In the late eighteenth century, Poland had a very weak central government and it was gradually separated and divided up by Russia, Austria and Prussia. Throughout this time, under foreign domination, almost every Polish church had a copy of Our Lady of Czestochowa and the people consistently referred to her as the Queen of Poland. Until the country’s restoration in 1918, the shrine at Jasna Gora served as a spiritual capital and a vital link for the Polish people with their true homeland.

In the last century, on September 14, 1920, the Russian army was gathered at the river Vistula in preparation for an invasion of Warsaw. The Polish people prayed to Our Lady of Czestochowa for a miracle. The Russians dispersed the next day when they saw the image of the Virgin Mary in the clouds over Warsaw. In Polish history books this is known as the Miracle of Vistula.

The Pauline Fathers at Jasna Gora keep archives of all the individual claims of healings and miracles due to the intercession of Our Lady of Czestochowa. National devotion to her remains very strong, and her shrine has been a popular pilgrimage site since her arrival in the late fourteenth century. As the people of that country suffered through division and annexation, the Nazi invasion and Communist rule, they have always remained steadfast in keeping her feast day.

Many people are puzzled as to why Our Lady of Czestochowa is dark-skinned. Different explanations are given: the ancient paints have darkened over time, or it was made darker when it was overpainted in the fifteenth century, or that centuries of candle smoke have blackened the image. It is also commonly said that when the original shrine at Jasna Gora was destroyed by fire, though the painting, miraculously, did not burn, it was darkened by the flames and smoke and from that day on it has been known as the Black Madonna.

In the early part of the twentieth century the original crown for the icon was taken by thieves, but an elaborate new crown was created to replace it. In some images, Our Lady of Czestochowa wears this elaborate crown and in others, she wears the royal blue veil of the Virgin Mary.

 

Visions of Mary: Our Lady of La Salette

May 5, 2015

LaSall3Patroness of France
Feast: September 19

One of the most controversial of the Church-approved apparitions of Mary is her visit to La Salette in the French Alps. The seers who saw her were two poor shepherd children, half wild, unwanted by their parents and unschooled. They had little credibility with the people in their region and even less with the local clergy. Yet because of the complete conversion or change of heart of the little town, this apparition was approved within four years.

On September 19, 1846, two shepherds, fourteen-year-old Melanie Calvat and eleven-year-old Maximin Giraud were tending their cows in the Alpine hamlet of La Salette, France, approximately 6,000 feet above sea level. Both children had only recently met, the younger of the two, Maximin, was outgoing and friendly. He had insisted on their working together in order to stave off the boredom and loneliness of their tedious job. Melanie Calvat begrudgingly accepted his company. She was known to have a difficult and taciturn nature. She had worked as a shepherd from the time of her tenth birthday, and her master considered her disobedient and lazy. She was the fourth of tenth children, and many people in the village remember her mother as abusive and violent. On this Saturday afternoon in September the children had only been working together for a few days. They had taken a nap after lunch and upon awakening realized that their cows had wandered off. As they scrambled up into the pasture to retrieve them, they saw what seemed to them to be a globe of fire near a little hollow, which looked “as though the sun had fallen on that spot.” Upon closer inspection, the light took on a form and the figure of a beautiful woman weeping could be made out. The woman was sitting on a rock with her face buried in her hands. She saw the children and got up, saying, “Come near, my children, do not be afraid. I am here to tell you great news.”
Reassured and extremely curious, Maximin and Melanie ran over to the woman. They later reported that she was tall and everything about her radiated light. She wore clothing typical of the women of that area; a long dress with an apron, and a shawl crossed over her breast and tied around her back. Her dress, however was studded in pearls, and her bonnet was a strange crown-shaped hat that exuded bright rays. Hanging from her neck she wore a large crucifix with a figure of Christ on it. Beneath the arms of the cross there were, to the left a hammer, and to the right, pincers. An even brighter radiance emanated from this crucifix. There were garlands of roses around her head, the edge of her shawl and around her feet. Throughout her conversation with the children the woman continually wept.

“If my people will not obey, I shall be compelled to loose my Son’s arm. It is so heavy, so pressing that I can no longer restrain it. How long I have suffered for you! If my Son is not to cast you off, I am obliged to entreat Him without ceasing. But you take no least notice of that. No matter how well you pray in the future, no matter how well you act, you will never be able to make up to me what I have endured for your sake.”

Then the woman pointed out how no one in the village took Sunday off from work. She added, “The cart drivers cannot swear without bringing in my Son’s name. These are the two things which make my Son’s arms so burdensome.”
She went on to say that if the village continued to act impiously there would be a great famine coming and it would be the people’s own fault. She added that if the people would change their ways, the rocks would become piles of wheat and the potatoes would sow themselves. Melanie later reported that since the lady was speaking French and she was not familiar with the French word for “potato,” the lady stopped what she was saying and added, “Ah, but you do not speak French!” and she continued her dialogue to them in the local patois. She then gave each child a secret that the other could not hear. She questioned them on whether they said their prayers. When they answered “no,” she said, “Ah, my children, it is very important to say them, at night and in the morning. When you don’t have time at least say an ‘Our Father’ and a ‘Hail Mary.’ When you can, say more.” She continued in a tearful voice: “Only a few old women go to mass in the summer. All the rest work every Sunday throughout the summer. And in winter, when they don’t know what to do with themselves, they go to mass only to poke fun at religion. During Lent they flock to the butcher shop like dogs.”
The lady went on to ask if either of them had ever seen spoiled grain before. Maximin quickly answered, “No.”

The lady reminded him that this was not so, “But my child, you must have seen it once near Coin, with your papa. The owner of a field said to your papa, ‘Come and see my spoiled grain.’ The two of you went. You took two or three ears of grain in your fingers. You rubbed them, and they crumbled to dust. Then you came back from Coin. When you were but a half hour away from Corps, your papa gave you a piece of bread and said, ‘Well, my son, eat some bread this year, anyhow. I don’t know who will be eating any next year, if the grain goes on spoiling like that.’”
Maximin immediately recalled this experience but was astounded as to how this lady could know it.

In French the lady said, “My children, you will make this known to all my people.” She turned from them and started to glide away. She stopped and paused, repeating one more time, “My children, you will make this known to all my people.”
The children returned with their cows at the end of the day. Melanie was not inclined to tell anyone of their adventure with the lady. Maximin however, told his employer all about it. When both children were questioned independently, they told the same story. The priest and the town officials were doubtful. To them, these were just two ignorant children making up a fantasy. But there was something in the tone of the story that affected the people of the town. This lady was not using religious metaphors, she was speaking in an accessible, straightforward manner. When the villagers went to visit the spot where the lady appeared, a spring had started flowing. It was thought at first that this was a coincidence, since it had rained the day before and it was common for small springs to appear for a day or so than dry up. But this spring behaved differently, freely flowing no matter what the weather. People who drank from the spring reported dramatic healing activity. The demeanor of the village totally changed. By 1846, France, once a nation dedicated to the Virgin Mary, was now actively a nation trying to live without religious conviction. In the search for material wealth, spiritual values had fallen by the wayside. Though La Salette had only five hundred inhabitants, they, too, had adapted the slack lifestyle of the bigger cities. The lady was right; religious devotion had become a joke. Recognizing the truth in the lady’s examples of their behavior, the village church started to fill up with earnest worshipers, and most of the village began honoring Sunday as the Sabbath. The spring itself, became a pilgrimage site with devotees of Mary coming from far distances. It is thought that Mary speaking her final words in French was a message to the French nation to reform themselves and their values. La Salette became an approved apparition in 1851.

The seers of La Salette went on to lead troubled lives. Maximin drifted in and out of employment and died by his fortieth birthday. Melanie became a nun. She reveled in the attention she received for being a visionary and felt neglected by the local clergy. In 1879 she published a book alleging what her secret had been. It was a gruesome description of Satan let loose upon the world in 1864 and predictions of mass destruction and the anti-Christ. Because she had fallen under the influence of apocalyptic books and various conspiracy theorists, her book was thought to be purely imaginative and was not sanctioned by the Church. She continually had a small band of followers who believed in these later visions. She died in 1904.

In 1879 a magnificent basilica, Our Lady of La Salette was consecrated on the site of the apparition.

.

A Month of Mary: Our Lady of Einsiedeln

May 4, 2015

Kloster_sizedOur Lady of Einsiedeln is the patroness of Switzerland.

The feast day of Our Lady of Einsiedeln is September 14.

The statue of Our Lady of Einsiedeln is said to be material proof of the power of prayer and the ability of meditation to change the vibrations and feelings of a place hundreds of years into the future. Brother Meinrad, a Benedictine monk, left his monastery at Richenau in 840 in order to move into the woods and live as a hermit. It was firmly believed that anchorites and hermits served the world by being in a state of constant prayer. At first Meinrad lived in a cave near his monastery. But as it was the custom in ancient times to look upon hermits as those with great wisdom, too many of the local people came to him for advice. He moved to a much more isolated place where there were no human settlements. He erected his hermitage with a chapel, his cell, and two small rooms to shelter travelers. His belongings were a candlestick, a missal, a Bible, a copy of the Rule of Saint Benedict and a statue of Mary holding the Christ Child. This statue had been given to him by the Hildegard, the abbess of Zurich. Meinrad was devoted to the Virgin Mary, and he lived in this isolated environment for twenty years, conversing with the trees, the flowers, and the animals. The people of the valley respected his privacy and admired his sanctity. In 863, two robbers who suspected that Meinrad was secretly hiding a great treasure went to the hermitage asking for shelter. After Meinrad took them in, they killed him with the candlestick. Being at one with nature, it is said that Meinrad had two crows as his guardians. The two robbers were not only angry and disappointed at not finding any treasure, but they were also terrified by the two crows who flew around their heads, pursuing them all the way back to Zurich. The crows did not leave them until they were identified as the murderers of the holy man.

Meinrad’s cell quickly became a place where people went for spiritual favors and healing. So great was Meinrad’s devotion to Mary, that the people felt she had a special love for those who visited the place he spent in prayer. His cell became known as the Lady Chapel, and soon a community of hermits came to live in the same place. In 940 a new Benedictine monastery was erected, which enclosed the cell of Meinrad. Today, it is the abbey of Einsiedeln, Switzerland.

In 948 a church was built around the Lady Chapel of Einsiedeln. On September 14, the day before the consecration ceremony, the church was filled with a blinding light and the bishop saw a vision of Jesus Christ on the altar. When he went the next day to perform the Consecration, he heard a voice clearly tell him that the church had already been consecrated to God. His deposition is still intact and preserved at the abbey. Meinrad’s statue, called Our Lady of the Hermits continued to be the focal point for pilgrims. After almost one thousand years of a peaceful existence, in the spring of 1798, the sanctuary was invaded by French revolutionary troops. They sent what they thought was Meinrad’s statue back to Paris and razed the Lady Chapel to the ground. In reality, the people of Einsiedeln hid the statue. It was deemed safe to return it to the church in 1802 but first was restored in Austria. The restorer took great care in removing centuries of smoke grime from the statue. When the people saw this lighter-skinned version of Our Lady of the Hermits they refused to accept it. “It is not ours,” they said. “Ours used to be black.” He had to blacken the skin of the statue in order to make it acceptable to them.

It is believed that the statue that is at present displayed in the chapel is not Meinrad’s original but a copy that was made in 1466 after a fire had struck the church. It is important to note that grace abounds in the place that Meinrad spent his days in prayer devoted to the Virgin Mary. He successfully created a peaceful atmosphere in that place regardless of the fact that his original hermitage and original statue no longer exist.

 

Saint Catherine of Siena

April 15, 2015

st.catherine of sienna

1347 – 1380
Patron saint of: Fire Protection, Italy, Nursing Services, Activism
Feast Day is April 29.

Action and activism are the essence of Saint Catherine of Siena. Passionately devoted to the salvation of mankind, she left an astounding legacy of four hundred written letters and a devotional Dialogue that are considered great classics in literature. She is credited with influencing the return of the papacy to Rome from Avignon, and for this reason she is the patroness of Italy. Known for her incredible charm, she horrified her wealthy parents by her willingness to express her devotion to Christ through corporal humiliations and long periods of fasting. Counselor and advisor to those in power, it was said that she perfected the art of kissing the Pope’s feet while simultaneously twisting his arm. Saint Catherine struggled against great odds to keep the Catholic Church united. Her novena is a call to faith in troubled times. She is invoked to engender the strength and faith for action in times when action is needed, both political and spiritual.
Born Caterina Benincasa, the youngest of twenty-five children, Saint Catherine’s father was a wealthy dyer. At the age of six she had a mystical vision of Christ surrounded by saints. A beautiful and cheerful child, she alarmed her parents by spending much of her time in prayer and meditation. She grew devoted to Christ and, like him, wanted to take on the suffering of the entire world, secretly mortifying her flesh and fasting for days. Saint Catherine is the patroness of fire protection because her sister saw her deep in prayer in the kitchen, engulfed in flames from the stove. When she was pulled out, there was no evidence of burn marks on her body. Her parents, wanting a normal daughter, were angry at her refusal to marry or to improve her personal appearance. They finally gave in to her religious cravings and allowed her to become a tertiary (lay person) in the Order of Saint Dominic. She lived at home and went out to work, caring for those with the most repulsive diseases when no one else would help them. For this reason, Saint Catherine is also known as the patron saint of nursing services. Because of her great spiritual insight and radiantly happy outlook, she attracted a following in Siena known as the Caterinati. They did much to revitalize an interest in spirituality in Siena and its surrounding regions. On the Fourth Sunday of Lent in 1375, Saint Catherine received the stigmata; the wounds of Christ appeared on her body and then disappeared, visible only to her.
Illiterate, Saint Catherine dictated hundreds of letters and spiritual writings to her secretaries. It was her constant barrage of letters to Pope Gregory XI that influenced him to move the papacy back from Avignon to Rome. She later became the advisor to his successor, the arrogant and difficult Urban VI. When he caused a great schism in the church, the College of Cardinals having voted in a rival Pope to return to Avignon, Saint Catherine remained loyal to Urban. She lectured him in countless letters on how to best improve himself. At his invitation, she moved to Rome to work as a papal adviser. When she died there of a stroke at the age of thirty-three, the wounds of the stigmata reappeared on her body.

Novena to Saint Catherine of Siena
Heavenly Father, your glory is in your saints. We praise your glory in the life of the admirable Saint Catherine of Siena, virgin and doctor of the church. Her whole life was a noble sacrifice inspired by an ardent love of Jesus, your unblemished lamb. In troubled times she strenuously upheld the rights of his beloved spouse, the church. Father, honor her merits and hear her prayers for each of us. Help us to pass unscathed through the corruption of this world. Help us always to see in the Vicar of Christ an anchor in the storms of life and a beacon of light to the harbor of your love, in this dark night of your times and men’s souls. Grant also to each of us our special petition. We ask this through Jesus, your Son, in the bond of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
(Pause to pray for your intentions).
Saint Catherine of Siena, pray for us.
Say this novena nine times in a row for nine days in a row.

Feast of St. Vincent Ferrer 1350-1419, April 5

March 30, 2015

St.VFerrer “Christ, master of humility, manifests his truth only to the humble and hides himself from the proud.”

Patron of: Builders, Construction Workers, Brick Makers, Epilepsy, Fields, Headaches, Inn Keepers, Lightning Strikes, Penance, Plumbers, Preachers, Tile Makers, Reconciliation, Roofers, Vineyards.

Born in Valencia, Spain to an English father and Spanish mother, Vincent Ferrer’s time on earth was spent during an extremely tumultuous period in history. The Black Death had ravaged Europe, decimating the population and the church was divided in a Great Schism, with three men claiming the papacy at one time. Because of his work in healing this rupture and his untiring labors in revitalizing the faithful, as well as his charismatic ability to convert thousands, he is the patron of builders and those in all of the construction trades.

With encouragement from his parents, Vincent realized his dream of becoming a Dominican friar at an early age. His intellectual gifts were immediately apparent and he soon became an expert on theology and scripture. His advice was much sought after by bishops and cardinals, and eventually, Vincent was summoned to Avignon to advise the schismatic pope Benedict XIII. In 1398 he suffered from a near fatal fever where he had a vision of Christ, Saint Dominic de Guzman (founder of the Dominicans), and Saint Francis of Assisi advising him to unite the world by evangelizing throughout it. Always a popular and skillful preacher, Vincent’s talents were said to have become supernatural after this vision. He left his political duties and took it upon himself to travel throughout Western Europe preaching about the Final Judgment, earning him the title “Angel of the Apocalypse.” Though he could only converse in his native Catalan, he was clearly understood by the tens of thousands who thronged to hear him preach. The Moslem-controlled city of Granada invited him to speak there resulting in 8,000 conversions.

At a time when many were left reeling and faithless by the plague which had killed off one fourth of the population, Vincent Ferrer’s message of hope in the face of despair was wildly popular in cities and towns in England, France, Italy the Netherlands, Switzerland, Germany and Spain. Throngs of religious pilgrims drawn from every level of society devoted themselves to a life of penance, following him wherever he went. Along with his spectacular success as an evangelist, he also had the ability to heal the sick and hours were put aside every day for his prayers and cures. Because many of his miracles took place where thousands could gather in fields, one of his patronages is the protection of fields. Because lightning was such a threat to crops, he is also invoked against lightning strikes.

Vincent Ferrer is credited with helping to heal the great schism in the church when he realized that his friend and benefactor Benedict XIII should relinquish his claims on the papacy when he refused to submit himself to a vote among cardinals. Vincent withdrew his support and recognition of him and Benedict XIII was deposed in favor of Gregory XII in Rome.

Novena Prayer to St. Vincent Ferrer

O Saint Vincent Ferrer, our guardian, because God, our eternal Father, has blessed you with and inexhaustible fountain of grace and blessing, we beg you to hear our prayers and to assist us with your powerful intercession which is even more effective now that you are in heaven than it was when you were on earth. Full of confidence in your mercy and compassion, we kneel in prayer before you, and commend to your powerful intercession all our needs, those of our families, our friends, relatives, and especially (your request here).

Glorious Saint Vincent Ferrer, let not our hope and confidence in your protection be deceived. Intercede for us before the throne of God. Watch over our eternal welfare. If our trials and tribulations in this world multiply, may they serve to give us spiritual joy and happiness. If God will only grant us the grace of ever increasing patience to the end that we may save our souls.

Saint Joseph’s Day Celebration in Menfi, Sicily March 19, 2015

March 20, 2015

Thank you Erica De Mane for sending us Judy Witt Francini’s excellent photograph.

Happy Saint Patrick’s Day

March 17, 2015


St.Patrick
389 – 461

His Feast Day is March 17.

Saint Patrick is Patron Saint of Ireland, Fear of Snakes, Faith

Though not usually considered a novena saint, Saint Patrick is called upon by many for faith in the most trying of circumstances. Since he himself was forced to submit to living in a country not of his own choosing, he assists in accepting difficult situations where there is little hope of change. The patron saint of Ireland, he is credited with single-handedly changing the beliefs of the entire Irish nation through the purity and intensity of his faith. Saint Patrick’s following has spread to wherever the Irish have settled, especially in North America and Australia. He could never have imagined the astounding impact that his work in Ireland would have on the world.

Saint Patrick was born on the west coast of Great Britain of Roman-British parents. Though his father was a deacon, and his grandfather a priest, early on, Patrick showed no interest at all in God or religion. At the age of sixteen he was abducted by pirates and taken to Ireland, where he was sold into slavery. For six years he was forced to live under the direst of conditions, subject to the elements and hardship, herding sheep. When he began to pray for deliverance, he dreamed of a ship docked two hundred miles away. By following the dream’s directions, he was able to escape from captivity, find the ship, and prevail upon the sailors to take him with them. He eventually returned to his family, and in gratitude for God’s help he became a priest. In A.D. 432 he again had a dream that changed the course of his life. In it, he was instructed to return to Ireland and to convert as many people as possible to Christianity. Though he would have preferred to perfect his studies and remain in Britain, he surrendered to the guidance of the dream and put all his faith in God by returning to Ireland. Living there at a time when the Druid religion was in decline, he nonetheless had to compete with the “wizardry” of the Druid priests.

There are many fantastic tales of his magical powers. It was said that Saint Patrick could turn people into deer and that he could turn day into night. He is still invoked today by those afraid of snakes, because he was said to have obtained a promise from God that no poisonous reptiles would be allowed to live on that island. Saint Patrick expelling snakes is a common image. Another one of his symbols is the shamrock, or three-leaf clover. This symbolizes how he explained the Holy Trinity in his preaching. Saint Patrick built his main church in Northern Ireland. Realizing that the landowners chose the religion of their serfs for them, he set upon converting the major families first. His life as a former slave and fugitive taught him to trust God completely, and those living in similarly miserable circumstances have always been able to identify with him. He died in 461 in the monastery of Saul, and his remains are buried with those of Saint Brigid in Ulster.

Novena

O great apostle of Ireland, glorious Saint Patrick, to whom under God so many are indebted for the most precious of all treasures, the great gift of faith, receive our fervent thanks for the zeal and charity that have been to thousands the blessings so invaluable. We ask your intervention in receiving(Mention your request here).

Ask for all who dwell in this land and the land of thy labors the precious light of Faith, and beg for us on whom its glorious rays have long since beamed, the grace to regulate our lives by its sacred maxims. Amen

Say this novena nine times in a row for nine days in a row.

Feast of St. Joseph, March 19, First Century AD

March 11, 2015

St.Joseph copysmall“I know by experience that the glorious Saint Joseph assists us generally in all necessities. I never asked him for anything which he did not obtain for me.” —Saint Teresa of Avila

Patron of: Fathers, Carpenters, Catholic Church, Families, Homeless, Pregnant Women, Unborn Children, Workers, Family Protection, To Find Work, A Happy Death, To Sell A Home.

A righteous man who never shirked his responsibilities as protector of his family, Saint Joseph offers a perfect example for fathers everywhere. He is invoked by families for all matters of support needed to sustain a household, both material and spiritual.

A descendant of the House of David, there is very little written about Joseph in the gospels. He was said to be betrothed to Mary when she became pregnant with Jesus. Instead of leaving her in scandal, he accepted the word of the angel Gabriel who told him that the child was divinely given and Joseph and Mary were chosen by God to be his earthly parents. It was Joseph who protected Mary on the journey to Bethlehem when Jesus was born. He also suffered the frustrations of a man who could not find proper shelter for his family as his wife was about to give birth. Upon returning to their native city of Nazareth, Joseph was once again visited by an angel warning him of the impending slaughter of the innocents. On faith alone, he dispensed with his business and personal effects, taking Jesus and Mary to Egypt where they stayed for seven years until Herod’s death. It fell upon Saint Joseph to support his young family in this foreign country.

The last mention of Joseph comes when Jesus is twelve years old and strayed from his family while on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. It is thought that he died well before Jesus began his mission with Jesus and Mary at his deathbed. For this reason, more than any other saint, he is invoked for a happy death, one where a person is older and has their family at their side.

Though of noble lineage, Joseph was a carpenter and it was from him whom Jesus learned his trade. Because he worked with his hands and frequently put his family ahead of any personal ambitions, workers everywhere who live similar lives call on him as a patron. It is no mystery that the cult of Saint Joseph became more popular in modern times with the advent of the Industrial Revolution. Many saints throughout the ages have declared him to be a powerful advocate as well, since it is thought that Jesus obeyed him in his earthly life, he is inclined to listen to Joseph in his heavenly life. Teresa of Avila always buried medals with his image when she needed land for a new convent. This tradition has extended itself to realtors of all faiths who bury statues of Saint Joseph on properties they wish to sell.

It is assumed that since Joseph respected his wife’s virginity that he was an older man when he married. He is depicted in art with a staff, which he led his family ( precursor to the bishop’s staff) a lily for purity, and with carpenter tools or holding the baby Jesus

Novena

O glorious Saint Joseph, faithful follower of Jesus Christ, to you we raise our hearts and hands to ask your powerful intercession in obtaining from the compassionate heart of Jesus all the helps and graces necessary for our spiritual and temporal welfare, particularly the grace of a happy death, and the spiritual grace for which we now ask.

(Mention your request.)

O guardian of the Word Incarnate, we feel animated with confidence that your prayers for us will be graciously heard at the throne of God. (The following is to be said seven times in honor of the seven joys and seven sorrows of Saint Joseph.)

O glorious Saint Joseph, through the love you bear for Jesus Christ, and for the glory of his name, hear our prayers and grant our petitions.

A Lenten Novena

February 18, 2015

Father, all-powerful and ever-living God, 
During the Holy Season of Lent 
You call us to a closer union with Yourself. 
Help me to prepare to celebrate
The Paschal Mystery 
With mind and heart renewed. 
Give me a spirit of loving reverence
For You, our Father, 
And of willing service to my neighbor. 
As I recall the great events
That gave us new life in Christ, 
Bring the image of Your Son
To perfection within my soul. 

This great season of grace is Your gift
To Your family to renew us in spirit. 
Give me strength to purify my heart, 
To control my desires, 
And so to serve You in freedom, 
Teach me how to live 
In this passing world with my heart set
On the world that will never end. 

I ask for the grace 
To master my sinfulness 
And conquer my pride. 
I want to show to those in need 
Your goodness to me by being kind to all. 

Through my observance of Lent, 
Help me to correct my faults 
And raise my mind to You, 
And thus grow in holiness
That I may deserve 
The reward of everlasting life. 

In Your mercy grant me this special favor: 

(State your intention(s) here...)

The days of the life-giving Death 
And glorious Resurrection of Jesus Christ, 
Your Son, are approaching. 
This is the hour 
When He triumphed over Satan’s pride, 
The time when we celebrate
The great event of our Redemption. 
The Suffering and Death of Your Son 
Brought life to the whole world, 
Moving our hearts to praise Your glory. 

The power of the Cross reveals
Your judgment on this world 
And the kingship of Christ crucified. 
Father, through His love for us 
And through His Sufferings, Death and Resurrection, 
May I gain eternal life with You in heaven.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,578 other followers