Visions of Mary: Our Lady of La Salette

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.

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Saint Catherine of Siena

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. Joseph, March 19, First Century AD

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.

Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes

115_GrottoLourdes, an ancient village in the valley of the Pyrenees mountains, is in the extreme southwest of France near the Spanish border. It is the site of the most famous series of apparitions of the Virgin Mary and the most visited pilgrimage shrine in Christendom. Credited with exuding a powerful healing energy, it is inundated by those in need of physical and spiritual renewal. Attracting well over 200 million visitors since its discovery, Lourdes is a relatively modern holy site, having only been recognized by the Church as an official pilgrimage place since 1862. It became famous after a poor, illiterate local 14 year old girl, Bernadette Soubirous saw a vision of the Virgin Mary in a grotto near a great rock mound called Massabeille. Despite much ridicule and persecution inflicted on her by the local authorities, Bernadette could not be shaken from her story. While communing with the Virgin, Bernadette uncovered a trickle of muddy water in a place where water had never been. Today, that tiny spring gushes forth with thousands of gallons of water daily. Considered to contain inexplicable healing properties by the devout, many terminally ill people of all faiths flock to Lourdes as a last resort in curing their ailments. Catholics go to spiritually refresh themselves and to honor this visitation by the Mother of God.

Though officially ruled over by France, the villages of the Pyrenees had little to do with their country on any cultural or social level. Most spoke in patois, their own language, never learning French at all. They dressed in their own local costumes, disdained the central government and were known as the ‘Indians’ of France for the exotic way they lived. While the 19th century was celebrated as a great secular age, when France was finally freed of all political domination of the Catholic Church and science and logic replaced faith, the villagers of the Pyrenees defied all official teachings and held on to their religious beliefs. They were hostile to the French government and suspicious of any forms of official beauracracy. Living in a harsh, mountainous landscape, they held much of nature as sacred. They had little faith in modern medicine and combined ancient Celtic beliefs with their Catholic prayers. The love of the Virgin Mary was at the heart of their religious life. Since the 13th century shepherds and shepherdesses had reported direct contact with her, either through visions or the miraculous discovery of statues of her. Shrines to the Madonna were abundant and most towns had a special day of pilgrimage honoring her.

Bernadette Soubirous was a 14 year old girl who’s impoverished family lived in a dank former dungeon. Stricken with asthma, she was considered slow and held back from receiving her First Holy Communion because she had trouble learning her catechism. On February 11, 1858 her mother needed firewood for cooking and could not afford to buy any. She sent Bernadette, her younger sister and a friend out to look for some. So that they would not be accused of stealing, the girls had to go outside of town to public lands. There was an outcropping of rock facing the river with a grotto at its base known as Massabielle. The pigs of Lourdes grazed there and respectable residents did not go to that area because it was considered filthy. According to legend, the Massabeille had been sacred to the pagans in prehistoric times and those passing by it always crossed themselves to ward off the aura of evil that they felt emanated from it. Because of her illness, Bernadette stayed behind while the two younger girls waded across the river to get wood. She decided to join them and began taking off her stockings. It was at this point she heard the sound of a wind and then saw a soft light coming from the niche in the grotto. A beautiful, smiling girl in white seemed to beckon to her. Bernadette was startled and instinctively reached for her rosary. She was unable to pick it up until the young girl produced one herself. They made the sign of the cross together and as Bernadette prayed the rosary, the young girl passed her own beads through her fingers in silent prayer. When Bernadette finished, the young girl smiled and disappeared. Despite her mother’s opposition, Bernadette returned to the site that Sunday after mass. She was joined by a group of friends. The girl in white appeared and Bernadette said, “If you come from God, stay. If you don’t, go away.” She then sprinkled holy water at the girl to make sure she was not from the devil. Bernadette was relieved when the girl laughed and inclined her head to receive more water. Bernadette was the only one who could see or commune with the girl. Her friends were astounded by the physical change in her demeanor. She had fallen into a beautiful rapture and seemed totally relieved of her asthma. One threw a large stone in the direction of the niche and Bernadette did not flinch. Fearing she had had some sort of fit, they ran to get help. The towns residents who came were shocked at the beautiful transformation in Bernadette. Word of her visions started to spread.

Each time she returned to the grotto she was joined by a larger crowd. Many thought the apparition was either the ghost of a devout townswomen who had recently died or a soul who had wandered away from purgatory. Bernadette’s third vision was on the 18th of February and two important townswomen brought along a pen and paper. The girl in white laughed when Bernadette held out the writing instruments and for the first time spoke to her, addressing her with great politeness, “Boulet aoue ra gracia de bie aci penden quinze dias?” she asked in the patois dialect. (“Would you have the grace to come here for fifteen days?”) When Bernadette replied that she would ask her parents’ permission, the girl said, “I do not promise you happiness in this life, but in the next.” During these next two weeks news rapidly spread through Lourdes about the apparitions and the civil authorities felt obliged to take action. Bernadette was taken to the local police station for questioning. The authorities tried to make her admit that it was all a hoax. When she refused, they began to threaten her family. The Church was also skeptical and embarrassed by what they regarded as superstitious worship. The local pastor, Father Peyramale did not want to give the apparitions any credence. Even though the girl in the visions had not named herself, the belief that she might be the Virgin was growing among the townspeople.

For her part, Bernadette did not speculate on the mysterious girl’s identity, always referring to her as ‘Aquero’, the patois word for indescribable being. It was on February 25th, the ninth apparition of the girl that Bernadette was told to go drink at the spring and wash in it. Thinking the girl meant the river, she went towards the Gave. In her words, “…Aquero called me back and pointed to a spot beneath the rock. I found some moisture there but it was mud. Three times I threw it away even though the Lady said to drink it. Then I washed in it only to have my face besmeared with mud. When the Lady left, my Aunt Bernarde slapped my face. ‘Stop your nonsense,’ she said as she sent me home to the jeers of the people…” By the afternoon the muddy area was flowing with pure water and many in the laughing crowd were amazed.because they had never seen a spring there before. In subsequent apparitions the girl asked for penitence and the conversion of sinners. Bernadette said that she was afraid that the people climbing all over the grotto would disturb the rosebush where the girl stood. “I was afraid she might fall, but she kept on smiling at the people. She loved them, and she always seemed sorry to leave them.” At 13th visit Bernadette was told to tell the priests to come to the grotto on procession and to build a chapel. Father Peyramale was enraged and told her that if the girl in white wanted a chapel she should say who she was and she should make the wild rose bush in the niche blossom. It was after this 13th visit that the water in the spring was first accredited with healing properties. A pregnant woman with a paralyzed hand became totally cured and a stonecutter had his sight restored after he bathed his eyes in the water. Before this, there had been no physical proof of Bernadette’s visits.

The vast crowds that had started to accompany her did not see or hear the girl in white. They only believed in these visions because of Bernadette’s great physical transformation. Thursday, March 4th was the last of the 15 days. Over 8,000 people went to the grotto expecting to see something miraculous. At the end of her vision, 45 minutes, Bernadette put out her candle and went home. The rosebush did not bloom, the girl in white did not declare any message. Bernadette, unconcerned about the wild emotions she had aroused, went home content. For the next three weeks, Bernadette later wrote, “The people pestered me, the police watched me, and the public prosecutor almost crushed me…” Then, on the night of March 24th she awoke with the familiar urge to return. On March 25th,the day of the Annunciation, she returned to the grotto at 5AM. The girl in white appeared and Bernadette asked her four times to say who she was. “Aquero extended her hands towards the ground, swept them upwards to join them on her heart, raised her eyes, but not her head to Heaven, leaned tenderly towards me and said, ‘Que soy era Immaculada Concptiou.’ (‘I am the Immaculate Conception.’) She smiled at me. She disappeared. I was alone.” Father Peyramale was astounded at this announcement. This expression meant nothing to a simple peasant girl like Bernadette. The Catholic tradition that Mary had been conceived without original sin so that she might be worthy to be the Mother of God had only been formally defined as Church doctrine in 1854. Eventually, the parish priest would be Bernadette’s greatest defender as she was harassed and examined by government officials, psychologists and church hierarchy.

She never altered the account of her story to any of them, “I do not ask you to believe; I only told you what I had seen.” Three eminent Parisian doctors declared that she was mentally and emotionally sound but that she suffered from asthma. (“My mother could have told them that and saved them the trouble.”) Under increased pressure from the authorities, the grotto was closed off and anyone visiting it threatened with arrest. On the 16th of July, Bernadette saw the girl in white for the last time. She knelt in the meadow on the far side of the river. “…I began my rosary and my Lady stood in the Grotto smiling at me. It was the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. She looked more beautiful than I had ever seen her. This would be the last time I would see her on this earth….She left heaven in my heart and it has been there ever since.” While Lourdes developed into a world famous place of pilgrimage, Bernadette, disliking the attention her presence created, joined the Sisters of Nevers in 1866. Her novitiate was difficult and her health deteriorating. She never showed any interest in the miraculous healings promised by the water in the spring. Her insistence that the girl in white was no older than 12 was ignored and priestly experts stated that since Mary had to be between the age of 15 and 17 at the time of the Annunciation, the official image of the apparition should depict her at that age. Bernadette never liked the statue that was erected in the Grotto in 1864, declaring it “too big and too old”. She died of tuberculosis in 1879. When her body was exhumed in 1908, it was found to be uncorrupted. She was recognized as a Saint by the Catholic church in 1933. Gradually, the local officials had to relent and re-open the grotto to the public. The Bishop accepted the apparitions and approved the shrine in 1862. After the railroad line was finished in 1866, pilgrims began arriving in the tens of thousands. After 1873, when incidents of healing at the spring began to be reported, the shrine rapidly developed an international reputation for having healing powers. Bathing pools filled with cold water piped from Bernadette’s spring were created for visiting pilgrims. Much effort was put on the scientific community to repudiate the healings at Lourdes.

Many illnesses were declared to be hysterical in nature and therefore cured by the powers of suggestion. Studies of the water from the spring showed it had no special chemical properties In 1882 a medical bureau was established to test the validity of the cures. Before a cure can be officially considered, a patient’s medical records are studied by a commission of doctors and independent medical professionals. The alleged cure must be immediate and permanent to be regarded as a miracle. When an investigation does occur, the conclusion is placed in one of four possible categories: (1)There has been no cure. (2)A partial cure has taken place. (3)There has been a cure, but there are medical or psychological reasons for it. (4) There has been a cure for which there is not natural or scientific explanation. The pilgrim must then return after a year for further examination. Since March 1, 1858, the Church has recognized 65 miracles at Lourdes. There are countless undocumented healings and over 5,000 documented “inexplicable healings”. Father Peyramale completed the first basilica upon the rock of Massabielle in 1873. After the great “national” French pilgrimages were initiated where Catholics of all classes came to bathe the sick at Lourdes, a larger church had to be built. The Church of the Holy Rosary was consecrated in 1901.

Today, the Basilica rises in 3 tiers over the grotto. Across the stream is a cavernous underground church which seats 20,000. In the grotto the miraculous spring has been channeled into a long row of spigots where visitors may collect the “Lordais water” and take it home. A small hospital and a number of hostels serve the needs of the seriously ill There is a Rosary procession held by torchlight each evening and the entire shrine is active throughout the day and evening with various services, processions and blessings of the sick. At the heart of the Lourdes pilgrimage is service to the sick and the infirm. Many devotees do not go for themselves but to aid others and to commune with God in a holy atmosphere.

There are four traditional gifts imparted by Lourdes: 1) The gift of miraculous water 2) The gift of healing 3) The gift of reconciliation 4) The gift of strength and friendship.

Mother of Sorrows

Sorrows_Small_Image

Mother of Sorrows
Patron of: Grief

When we are overwhelmed with grief, we turn to Mary, Mother of Jesus for help in our suffering. Throughout her life she endured much pain and sorrow and is fully able to empathize with anyone’s personal anguish. She endured the shame of being pregnant and unmarried, being poor, homelessness and having her only son unjustly imprisoned and executed. Most astonishing, Mary knew what was to befall her son yet had to see these events from God’s point of view and have faith that this was all for the good of mankind.

By meditating on the Seven Sorrows of Mary, a devotion from the Middle Ages, which uses scenes from the life of the Virgin Mother as a meditation on accepting the sorrowful part of life with grace.

The Seven Sorrows of Mary are:

1) The Prophecy of Simeon. As a young child, when his parents presented him in the temple, Jesus was met by the holy man Simeon who predicted everything that would happen to him in his address to Mary: “Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted – and you yourself a sword will pierce so that thoughts of many hearts will be revealed.” (Luke 2:34-35).

2) The Flight into Egypt. In Bethlehem, after the birth of Christ, Joseph had a vision of an angel warning him of the impending slaughter of any male child under the age of two by King Herod in order to prevent the coming Messiah. The Holy Family had to travel a secretive route to Egypt and remain in that country until Herod died. Mary not only worried for the welfare of her own son but mourn for the murdered children left behind.

3) The Loss of the Child Jesus in the Temple. While on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, the 12 year old Jesus vanished from his family. His heartsick parents finally found him three days later, arguing with elders in the temple.

4) The Meeting of Jesus with His Cross. Mary watched helplessly as her son was ridiculed and mocked as he stumbled, carrying the cross he was to be executed on.

5) The Crucifixion. As he was nailed to the cross, most of his disciples ran away. Mary never wavered as she stood at the foot of the cross, witnessing her son’s agony and death.

6) Jesus Taken Down from the Cross. Mary held her dead son’s wound covered body. This, her greatest sorrow is known as the “Pieta”.

7) The Burial of Jesus. As the stone was rolled, closing up his tomb, Mary had to say her final goodbye to her earthly son. Her faith had to be sincerely tested as there was no hint of the resurrection to come.
Prayer

Most holy and afflicted Virgin, Queen of Martyrs, you stood beneath the cross, witnessing the agony of your dying son. Look with a mother’s tenderness and pity on me, who kneel before you. I venerate your sorrows and I place my requests with filial confidence in the sanctuary of your wounded heart. Present them, I beseech you, on my behalf to Jesus Christ, through the merits of his own most sacred passion and death, together with your sufferings at the foot of the cross. Through the united efficacy of both, obtain the granting of my petition. To whom shall I have recourse in my wants and miseries if not to you, Mother of Mercy? You have drunk so deeply of the chalice of your son, you can compassionate our sorrows. Holy Mary, your soul was pierced by a sword of sorrow at the sight of the passion of your divine son. Intercede for me and obtain from Jesus (mention your request) if it be for his honor and glory and for my good. Amen.

Feast of St. Monica, August 28

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St. Monica 331-387
Patron of: Wayward Children, Abuse Victims, Adultery Victims, Alcoholics, Housewives, Married Women, Mothers, Patience.

Though she was greatly hurt and disappointed by her firstborn son, St. Monica never gave up the idea that he would change his way of living. After 17 years of what seemed like fruitless prayers, her son turned his life around, converted to her faith and became one of the world’s greatest philosophers and Catholic saints, St. Augustine of Hippo. We invoke St. Monica to help us when our own children disappoint us. She serves as a reminder that there are no lost causes in this world and that absolutely anyone can reform and change their life.

Born into a Berber tribe in North Africa, Monica was brought up a Christian. Her parents arranged her in marriage with a prominent pagan Roman citizen of Carthage by the name of Patricius. Monica had a hard time in her early married years as she had to put up with a cantankerous mother-in-law as well as a dissolute husband. There are some accounts which say that she turned to alcohol and was herself an alcoholic who recovered her sobriety through faith and prayer. She had three children who she raised as Christians. The eldest, Augustine, was the most brilliant and his parents had high hopes for his career. Both Patricius and Monica worked hard to get the best education for their son and it was the greatest sorrow of Monica’s life when Augustine turned out to live a lazy, pleasure-filled life. It hurt her even more when he threw out his Christian beliefs to embrace the Manichean heresy – a popular cult believing in the natural good and evil of every soul. In order to keep his blasphemous beliefs from misleading her younger children, Monica forbade Augustine to come back to their home. Inconsolable in her grief, Monica had a vision of a radiant being pointing to Augustine in a beam of light next to her, saying, “Your son is with you.” When she related this vision to Augustine he laughingly said it would all be true if she would only give up her religious piety. “He did not say that I was with you,” she answered him. “He said you were with me.”

When Augustine openly took a mistress and further humiliated his mother by having an illegitimate son, Monica turned to her Bishop for help. He advised her to pray and be patient saying, “It is not possible that the son of so many tears should perish.” After the death of his father, Augustine decided to move to Rome to increase his worldly success, Monica vowed to follow him. In his own great treatise “Confessions”, Augustine relates how as his mother spent the night in prayer before their voyage, he tricked her and slipped away on an earlier ship. Devastated, she traveled to Rome anyway. By the time she arrived Augustine, had already left that city for Milan. By the time Monica tracked him down, she was overjoyed to find that Augustine was no longer a Manichean. He had met Ambrose, the bishop of Milan and was studying with him. Eventually, after several more years, Monica lived to see Augustine baptized a Christian. While waiting for a ship at Ostia to take mother and son back to Africa, Monica told her son that she had accomplished everything that she had set out to do in this life and did not need to live any longer. She died in Ostia, never returning to her native land. It is interesting to note that there are many great saints from Africa, especially the earliest ones and they are rarely depicted as anything but European in visage.

Novena

Dear Saint Monica, once the sorrowing mother of a wayward son, be pleased to present our petition to the Lord God of heaven and earth. (Your intention here.) Look down upon our anxieties and needs, and intercede for us, as you did so fervently for Augustine, your firstborn.

We have full confidence that your prayers will gain favorable hearing in heaven. Mother of a sinner-turned saint; obtain for us patience, perseverance, and total trust in God’s perfect timing. In His appointed hour, in His merciful way, may He respond to your prayer and ours, which we offer through you.

Amen

Day 1: 14 Days of Meditation On The Stations Of The Cross

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Station 1

V. We adore Thee, O Christ, and praise Thee:
R. Because by Thy holy Cross Thou hast redeemed the world!
O INNOCENT Jesus! Having sinned, I am guilty of eternal death, Thou willingly dost accept the unjust sentence of death, that I might live. For whom, then, shall I henceforth live, if not for Thee, my Lord? Should I desire to please men, I could not be Thy servant. Let me, therefore, rather displease men and all the world than not please Thee, O Jesus.

Our Father, etc.; Hail Mary, etc.
V. Lord Jesus, crucified:
R. Have mercy on us!