Archive for the ‘Peace’ Category

Our Lady of Mount Carmel feast July 16

July 16, 2015

Our Lady of Mt Carmel
“Receive my beloved son, this habit of thy order: this shall be to thee and to all Carmelites a privilege, that whosoever dies clothed in this shall never suffer eternal fire. . . . It shall be a sign of salvation, a protection in danger, and a pledge of peace.”

Mount Carmel, in what is today northern Israel, has always been a place rich in mystical tradition. The word hakkarmel means “the garden” in Hebrew, and true to its title, there is a remarkable profusion of plants and wildflowers on this mountain. It is considered a natural paradise and a sacred place, and in biblical times it was forbidden to disturb any of the natural life on it. Those who wanted to ascend the mountain for meditation lived in caves so as not to intrude on the landscape with unnatural structures.

In about 860 b.c., the prophet Elijah (also known as Elias) arrived on this holy mountain to begin a life of contemplation and prayer. The First Book of Kings is filled with tales of wonders he performed and prophesies he gave. In his prophetic visions on Mount Carmel, Elijah became aware of the coming of the mother of the Messiah. He and his followers mystically dedicated themselves to her, setting an example as the first monks. The descendants of these ancient contemplatives were among the first to accept the teachings of Christ and to be baptized by His apostles. Upon meeting Mary after Christ’s Ascension, they were so overcome by her sanctity that they returned to the mountain to build a chapel in her honor. For the next thousand years Mount Carmel continued to be a place where hermits devoted themselves to prayer. By the twelfth century, pilgrims from Europe who had followed the Crusades to the Holy Land settled with the ascetics on Carmel and started a religious holy order known as Brothers of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel. Their rule, which was given in 1209 by the Patriarch of Jerusalem, says that all converges toward the contemplation of God. The Rule of Mysticism exhorts those who follow it to live a life of continual prayer, obedience to a superior, perpetual abstinence and fasting, manual work, and total silence. Simon Stock, an English pilgrim, had joined the group on a visit to Jerusalem. At this time, Saracen invaders forced the monks out of their spiritual home on Mount Carmel. All those who would not leave were murdered.

Simon Stock was instrumental in getting the order to move to Aylesford, England, where the Baron de Grey gave them a manor house. The Carmelite lifestyle of contemplation, poverty, and silent prayer was noteasily accepted in Europe, particularly among the clergy who enjoyed almost the same status and privilege as royalty. Reading into the life of Mary, Simon Stock was inspired by her unquestioning acceptance of all that befell her: her virgin pregnancy; her raising and loving a child doomed to be executed; and her staying at the foot of the Cross while others ran away. It was through his insistence that the Carmelites evolved from a band of hermit ascetics who regretted the loss of their home on Mount Carmel into a traveling society of mendicant friars, opening schools and mission houses in the major capitals of Europe. Still, it was difficult for many monks to accept the alteration of the rule of the order to adapt to European conditions. Their presence was also shunned and not easily tolerated by other religious orders. The people thought these hermits strange and did not accept that they chose to live in such absolute poverty and isolation. In order to preserve what was left of their order, the Carmelites invoked their patroness, the Virgin Mary, for help in establishing their new life.

The answer came in a vision to Saint Simon Stock on July 16, 1251, when he was alone in his cell. Mary appeared to him holding the scapular of his order. She told him, “Receive my beloved son, this habit of thy order: this shall be to thee and to all Carmelites a privilege, that whosoever dies clothed in this shall never suffer eternal fire. . . .It shall be a sign of salvation, a protection in danger, and a pledge of peace.”

The scapular, two pieces of brown wool joined at the shoulders and hanging down the back and breast, was not new to the Carmelite order. For hundreds of years before Saint Simon Stock’s vision, monks in Europe had worn scapulars. But it is thought that the brown scapular that Mary delivered was referencing Elijah’s camel-hair garment on Mount Carmel. Eventually, the brown scapular became reduced in size for laypeople to wear under their clothing. This is a special devotion to Mary worn as a sign to commemorate her faith in both God and humankind.

This gift from Mary helped the Carmelites explain the historical significance of their order to the laypeople; it served as a reminder that belief in Mary as the Mother of God extended back to the Old Testament with the prophet Elijah. After Pope John XXII (r. 1316–1334) had a vision of Mary where she promised those wearing the brown scapular, “I, the Mother of Grace, shall descend on the Saturday after their death and whomsoever I find in Purgatory, I shall free, so that I may lead them to the holy mountain of everlasting life,” the scapular became extremely popular among the common people. By the end of the sixteenth century it had become smaller in size and very similar to the one that is worn today. Admiration for the Carmelite Order spread as their adherence to the rules of solitude and prayer produced some of the greatest mystical saints in Catholicism, all of whom had visions of or openhearted communications with Mary. Among them are Saint Simon Stock, Saint Teresa, Saint John of the Cross, and Saint Thérèse of Lisieux.

Though the original scapular handed to Saint Simon Stock was brown wool cloth without a picture, the Carmelite scapular that is now worn and the one that is most favored now has an image of Our Lady of Mount Carmel holding the Baby Jesus while she offers the scapular. The other piece of cloth often has a picture of Jesus as a man. Neither image is prescribed. Wearing the scapular is a form of prayer and is considered a visible sign of consecrating oneself to Mary and to accepting her maternal protection.

Devotion to Our Lady of Carmel can be found wherever the Carmelites founded a monastery or convent. Many small towns in Italy have churches named after this aspect of Mary. As the townspeople emigrated to other countries, they brought the devotion with them. In many cities in the United States these churches have great celebrations in honor of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. Artistic representations of Our Lady of Mount Carmel depict her either appearing in the sky over Mount Carmel itself or holding Jesus as a toddler. In both versions the figure of Mary is often depicted offering the scapular to the viewer. Tradition has it that the prophet Elijah saw Mary appear in the clouds over Mount Carmel eight hundred years before her birth. Sometimes this representation includes her handing the scapular to Saint Simon Stock. The other version of this aspect of Mary illustrates the Sabbatine privilege where Mary vows to take the souls of those who died wearing the brown scapular out of purgatory on the Saturday after their death. Purgatory is depicted in flames because it is a place where the soul goes to have its sins burned away.

Novena

Say this prayer for 3 consecutive days:
Oh, most beautiful flower of Mount Carmel, fruitful vine, splendor of Heaven.
Oh, Blessed Mother of the Son of God; Immaculate Virgin, assist me in my necessity.
Oh, Star of the Sea, help me and show me you are my Mother.
Oh, Holy Mary, Mother of God, Queen of Heaven and Earth, I humbly beseech you from the bottom of my heart to succor me in my necessity.
(Mention your request here)
There are none that can withstand your power.
Oh, Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee. (say three times).
Holy Mary, I place this prayer in your hands. (say three times).
Amen.

Saint Anthony of Padua, Doctor of the Church, 1195–1231

June 11, 2015

St. Antonius a PaduasmallFeast Day: June 13

Patron of: Lisbon, Portugal, Padua, amputees, barren women,
domestic animals, draftees, oppressed people, orphans, paupers,
the poor, pregnant women, prisoners, sailors

Invoked for: finding a husband, finding lost articles

Invoked against: debt, shipwreck, starvation

Symbols: baby Jesus, book of Gospels, lily

It is hard to find a Catholic church that does not have a statue of Saint Anthony of Padua. Also known as “The Wonder Worker,” he may be the most popular saint in the world. It was said that Saint Anthony was so infused with the Holy Spirit that he could stop the rain, raise the dead, reattach severed limbs, and have fish lift themselves from the water to listen to him. When something is lost, “Say a prayer to Saint Anthony,” is a common refrain. Like other saints known for their ability to control nature, he would be seen preaching in two different places at the same time. Greatly beloved in his own lifetime, he was canonized within a year of his death, the second quickest canonization in Church history. Though he has been dead for over 750 years, his cathedral in Padua attracts millions of pilgrims every year who feel such an affinity for him that they invoke him for help in both ordinary and extraordinary matters.

A contemporary of Saint Francis of Assisi, Anthony was born Ferdinando de Bulhes in Lisbon, Portugal, to a noble family. Raised in the heart of Lisbon, he was educated at the Cathedral school. Against his family’s wishes he joined the Augustinian religious order, where he immersed himself in intensive study. Finding life at the abbey in Lisbon too social and luxurious, he requested a transfer to the city of Coimbra, then the capital of the newly founded country of Portugal. For the next eight years, he read every book in the monastery’s library and devoted himself to contemplative prayer. While serving as the doorkeeper in his monastery, he befriended a group of monks who used to beg at his door. Fascinated with their dedication to simplicity and poverty, he learned that they were from the newly formed Order of Franciscans. When the remains of five Franciscan martyrs were brought back from Morocco and installed in his monastery to great public acclaim, he was inspired to become a missionary and possible martyr himself. He got permission to join the little band of Franciscans and changed his name from Ferdinando to Anthony in honor of the great fourth-century monastic, Saint Anthony of the Desert, the patron of the little church where the friars lived. Intent on preaching the gospel in Morocco, Anthony arrived there with one other friar. His plans were dashed when he was stricken with malaria. After spending the winter in bed, he attempted to return home to Portugal but his ship was blown off course and he found himself in Messina, Sicily. While there, Anthony met a group of Franciscan friars who were heading north for a gathering of all Franciscans with their founder, Francis. Anthony accompanied them to Assisi, where he attended the famous 1221 gathering of more than two thousand Franciscans to celebrate Pentecost. This brand-new religious order was fast sweeping Europe by inspiring Catholics to return to the original words of Christ. When the meeting ended and the friars were disbursing, Anthony was assigned to the hermitage of Montepaolo in Forli, Italy. Many Franciscans came from the ranks of the uneducated and Anthony never mentioned his noble background or his years of learning; he only requested to study more. While at Forli, Anthony attended an ordination along with other Franciscans and several Dominican friars.

It was discovered that no one had been appointed to preach. As his Superior’s polite request, for a speaker were repeatedly turned down, he turned to Anthony and ordered him to say whatever the Holy Spirit infused into him. At first shaky and shy, Anthony’s speech became strong and intense. In simple words, he was able to explain the most complicated scriptural matters. His audience was astonished not only at his incredible speaking ability but also at the depth of his knowledge. This began his public career as one of the most charismatic preachers of all time. He was sent throughout northern Italy and southern France on spiritual preaching missions. Vast crowds soon gathered to hear him. He was known as The Hammer of the Heretics for his success in winning over converts. In 1224 he received a letter from Saint Francis himself requesting that he teach theology to his fellow friars. His tenure at the college of Bologna in 1225 was followed by a move to Padua. Anthony is credited with realizing the Franciscan school of theology. At Padua, he did much to alleviate the debt into which the common people were falling. The social economy was changing from an agrarian to a cash-based society. At Anthony’s insistence, the municipality of Padua passed a law that still stands today, in favor of debtors who could not pay their debts. Debt relief and the plight of the poor in the face of increasing wealth were major topics of Anthony’s speeches. It was difficult for the city of Padua to control the crowds of more than thirty thousand that would come to hear him, and he would frequently preach out in the piazzas and open fields. Luxury, avarice, and tyranny were the three vices that most troubled him. When he was asked to speak at the funeral of a moneylender he quoted the words of the Gospel, “Where thy treasure is, there is also thy heart.” He then told the mourners, “That rich man is dead and buried in hell; but go to his treasures and you will find his heart.” When his friends and relatives did as they were told, they found the man’s still warm heart among his coins–a powerful illustration of a central tenet in his teachings. Anthony’s speaking career was cut short, however, when at only thirty-six years old, his health began to falter. An asthmatic, Anthony found great relief in rural settings among nature and he made frequent trips to meditate at Francis’s hermitage at La Verna.

A local count donated a woodland retreat for his use. One morning the count heard a child giggling and looked out to see Anthony surrounded in light playing with the baby Jesus. That Christ would choose to appear in this most vulnerable state to visit one of His saints is considered further proof of the goodness and kindness of Saint Anthony. Anthony’s death was the cause of intense public mourning and his swift canonization is a testament to the impact his great gifts had upon the very top of the Church hierarchy as well as the common people. He was declared a doctor of the Church because of his deep knowledge and ability to share it with others. The construction of his cathedral began immediately after his death, the people of Padua insisting that it be in the combined styles of Romanesque, Byzantine, and Arabic because Anthony is “everybody’s saint.” When his relics were translated thirty-two years later, his tongue was found to be perfectly preserved. It is currently on display in a reliquary at his cathedral in Padua. Though there are many older paintings depicting the many miracles of Saint Anthony, since the seventeenth century he has traditionally been depicted holding a lily and the baby Jesus. Usually there is a Psalter, or Book of Psalms, in the picture that the baby’s foot rests on.

This is to show that Christ comes directly out of these writings. It is also the root of Anthony’s patronage of finding lost things. While at Bologna, when a departing novice borrowed this Psalter and attempted to leave the monastery with it, he was confronted by a terrifying devil, brandishing an ax who chased him back to the saint. Draftees invoke Anthony for a good number on the list, and since he did so much for the poor and those in debt, he is their patron. Because he holds the baby Jesus, women having trouble conceiving request his aid. In Portugal and Brazil, his feast day is auspicious for marriages, and women seeking husbands will bury a statue of Saint Anthony until he finds one for them. They later free the saint when this is accomplished.

Prayer to Saint Anthony of Padua

Holy Saint Anthony, gentle and powerful in your help, Your love for God and charity for His creatures, Made you worthy, when on earth, to possess miraculous powers. Miracles waited on your word, Which you were always ready to request for those in trouble or anxiety.

Encouraged by this thought, I implore you to obtain for me [request here].

The answer to my prayer may require a miracle. Even so, you are the saint of miracles. Gentle and loving Saint Anthony, whose heart is ever full of human sympathy, Take my petition to the Infant Savior for whom you have such a great love, and the gratitude of my heart will be ever yours.

Amen.

Excerpt from Saints: Ancient & Modern, see ebook on amazon. Or pray with Saint Anthony on Novena app available at iTunes.

 

Saint: Ancient & Modern

June 2, 2015

SaintsJacketSans_R4small

Saints is now an ebook on Amazon, please take a look at http://www.amazon.com/Saints-Ancient-Modern-Barbara-Calamari-ebook/dp/B00S6PS1FC/ref=sr_1_3_twi_1_kin?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1433273932&sr=1-3&keywords=barbara+calamari

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. 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.

Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes

February 11, 2015

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

September 10, 2014

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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.