Tag Archives: Pope John Paul II

Our Lady of Lourdes

Our-Lady-of-Lourdes

Today, February 11th, the universal Church honors Our Lady of Lourdes, the  most beautiful Blessed Mother of Our Lord Jesus Christ, in a particular and special appearance she made in 19th century France.

On February 11, 1858, Bernadette Soubirous, born January 7, 1844, the oldest of a family of six, went with her sisters, Toinette and Jeanne to obtain firewood.  They took off their shoes and socks so that they could wade through the water which was near the Grotto of Massabielle.  But the sisters wanted Bernadette to stay behind, because she suffered from asthma and/or other respiratory problems, and they did not want her to catch a cold.  Nevertheless, Bernadette desired to go with them and began to take off her shoes and socks.  Whilst she performed this little activity, she heard gusts of wind, but she also noticed that the trees and plants were not moving.  She noticed, however, a little wild rose move.  She went to look at it and observed the niche it was in; from that niche she saw “a dazzling light, and a white figure.”  This figure was dressed in white, with the exception of a blue sash around her waist and two golden yellow roses, one on each of her feet, which was also the color of her rosary.  Bernadette told her sisters about this vision and asked them to keep it a secret.  But Toinette could not; hence, she told her mother.

Three days later, Bernadette went back to the Grotto, bringing holy water to make sure that the person she saw was a holy person, and not any other kind of entity.  The lady appeared and Bernadette caste the holy water at her, wherein the lady inclined her head gratefully when the water was cast.  Bernadette told the figure that if she was from God, that she must stay, and that if she was evil, she must leave.  The lady stayed.

On February 18th, Bernadette saw the lady and she was told by her to return to the Grotto over a period of two weeks.  The lady said to her, “I promise to make you happy, not in this world, but in the next.”

Word spread of Bernadette’s vision.  But Bernadette’s parents ordered her not to go to the Grotto again.  She disobeyed and went anyway, and on February 24th, the lady asked Bernadette for people to pray and do penance for the conversion of sinners.  The next day, the lady asked Bernadette to dig in the ground and drink from the spring that would develop there.  The people who watched Bernadette noticed that she became dirty and disheveled, which disappointed them.  But from that spot, came a stream that soon became a focal point for pilgrimages.  The muddy stream became clean, and the water from that stream was given to medical patients with varying health issues, and numerous reports of miraculous cures followed.

Indeed and in fact, in 1860, Professor Verges confirmed  that seven of these cures lacked any medical explanation.  Nevertheless, the local government there took issue with this Grotto, and issued stiff fines for anyone who tried to get near it.  Soon, Lourdes was known all throughout France.  Napoleon III, emperor of France, intervened and on October 4, 1858, issued an order to reopen the Grotto.

Bernadette being a brave and persistent person, visited the Grotto even while it was barricaded at night.   On that night, March 25th, she asked the lady who she was; the lady told her, “I am the Immaculate Conception.”

On July 16th, Bernadette went to the Grotto for the last time.  Because of the notoriety of the Grotto, on November 17, 1858, the Catholic Church investigated the matter through a commission.  On January 18, 1862, Bishop Laurence, the Bishop of Tarbes, issued a declaration:

“We are inspired by the Commission comprising wise, holy, learned and experienced priests who questioned the child, studied the facts, examined everything and weighed all the evidence.  We have also called on science, and we remain convinced that the Apparitions are supernatural and divine, and that by consequence, what Bernadette saw was the Most Blessed Virgin.  Our convictions are based on the testimony of Bernadette, but above all on the things that have happened, things which can be nothing other than divine intervention.”

In 1863, a sculptor, Joseph-Hugues Fabisch, was commissioned to make a statue of the Virgin according to Bernadette’s description.  His work was placed in the Grotto and solemnly dedicated on April 4, 1864, with approximately 20,000 pilgrims present.

Lourdes, France

Because Bernadette’s apparitions were her private ones, not public revelations, Catholics are not required to believe in Our Lady of Lourdes.  The apparitions do not add any additional truths to the truths of Catholicism; the Church states that God chooses whom he wants cured, and whom he does not, and by what means.  Bernadette said that, “One must have faith and pray; the water will have no virtue without faith.”

Lourdes is a place of pilgrimage, a place of healing, a place of spiritual growth.  Church authorities recognize 60 miraculous cures, which have undergone scrupulous investigation by scientists, including physicians and specialists who examined the pertinent patients.  But most probably there have been many more healings, including physical and spiritual healings.  Lourdes is a continuation of Jesus’ healing miracles performed at Lourdes through the intercession of His mother.  There are people, of course, who do not believe in Lourdes and doubt its authenticity.  What can be said to them comes from the wonderful movie, The Song of Bernadette:  “For those who believe in God, no explanation is necessary.  For those who do not believe, no explanation is possible.”

Bernadette died on April 16, 1879, as she was 35 years of age.  In 1933, she was canonized a saint.

The following prayer is said as an act of consecration to Our Lady of Lourdes:

“Holy Mary, Mother of God, Virgin Immaculate, you appeared 18 times to Bernadette at the grotto in Lourdes to remind Christians of what the truths in the Gospel require of them.  You call them to prayer, penance, the Eucharist and the life of the church.  To answer your call more fully, I dedicate myself, through you, to your Son Jesus.  Make me willing to accept what He said.  By the fervor of my faith, by the conduct of my life in all its aspects, by my devotion to the sick, let me work with you in the comforting of those who suffer and in the reconciliation of people that the church may be one and there be peace in the world.  All this I ask, confident that you, Our Lady, will fully answer my prayer.  Blessed be the Holy and Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God.”

Finally, I will conclude with a prayer said by Pope John Paul II:

“. . .Under your protection we seek refuge, Immaculate Virgin of Lourdes, who present yourself to us as the perfect model of creation according to God’s original plan.  To you we entrust the sick, the elderly, the lonely:  soothe their pain, dry their tears and obtain for each one the strength they need to do God’s will.  May you support those who toil every day to alleviate the sufferings of their brethren!  And help us all to grow in the knowledge of Christ, who by his death and Resurrection defeated the powers of evil and death.”

Our Lady of Lourdes, pray for us.  St. Bernadette, pray for us!

With love and respect,

Joan

SourcesVatican website; Saint of the Day, edited by Leonard Foley, O.F.M.; Lives of the Saints, edited by Michael Walsh

St. Marguerite Bourgeoys

St. Marguerite Bourgeoys

Today we celebrate St. Marguerite Bourgeoys, a very special Canadian saint.

She was born in 1620, the sixth of twelve children in Troyes, France.  That alone is an incredible challenge, growing up in such a large family.  At the age of 20, Marguerite believed she was called to the religious life and desired to be a member of the Carmelite and/or Poor Clares Orders.  Yet, she was not accepted into either Order, wherein she was most disappointed.  But a priest counseled Marguerite advising her that perhaps God had other plans for her which would be revealed to her in His timing.

In 1654, the Governor of the French settlement in Canada visited his sister, who happened to be an Augustinian canoness in Troyes, and coincidentally, Marguerite belonged to the Sodality connected with this particular convent. (A Sodality is an organization under the patronage of Our Blessed Mother.)  This Governor invited Marguerite to come to Canada and start a school there, wherein clearly, Marguerite could then see God’s plans for her, remembering what the priest had previously told her.  Consequently, she went to Ville-Marie (which eventually became Montreal), where there was a colony of approximately 200 people, containing a hospital and a chapel served by Jesuit priests.

Marguerite determined she needed more help and therefore, went back to Troyes, recruiting some of her friends and associates to come back with her to her new school.

In 1667, Marguerite developed classes for Indian children, which of course then required more help.  She went back to France, wherein three years had gone by, and she then brought back with her six more women and a letter from King Louis XIV authorizing the school.  This important development lead to her starting the Congregation of Notre Dame in 1676, with its members actually making their formal religious profession in 1698, upon approval of their constitution and Rule.

The bishop requested that Marguerite establish a community of her Sisters in Montreal; consequently, at the age of 69, she actually walked from Montreal to Quebec to begin to effect that request.  At the time of her death in 1700, Marguerite received the honor of being known as the “Mother of the Colony.”

Marguerite was canonized in 1982, and during her canonization Mass, Pope John Paul II said, “. . .in particular, Marguerite contributed to building up that new country of Canada, realizing the determining role of women, and she diligently strove toward their formation in a deeply Christian spirit.”  Pope John Paul then stressed that she was loving towards her students, believing in them and being confident in their talents, “in order to prepare them to become wives and worthy mothers, Christians, cultured, hardworking, radiant mothers.”

When I learned about this gutsy lady, I was absolutely amazed at her determination, her strength of will and love of God as reflected in her good works and spirit.  She did what needed to be done, when she was supposed to do it, and in the manner it was supposed to be done.  May we remember her example when we have goals that seem to be unattainable, situations that are daunting and difficult tasks that are laborious and unending.  May God be praised for giving us this remarkable saint!

Respectfully,

Joan

Source:  Saint of the Day, edited by Leonard Foley, O.F.M., Franciscan Media, 2009.

Edith Stein – now St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross

Edith SteinEdith Stein (l) became St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (r).

First of all, I want to thank the Holy, Mighty and Eternal Triune God for allowing me to see so well now after my recent left-eye cataract surgery.  This process took my left eye several weeks to heal, whereupon new glasses were fitted and I picked them up Tuesday.  Just before my surgery, I mentioned to Dr. Eowyn that the post had to be done on Edith Stein, thinking that her Feast Day was in July, whereupon I discovered that it was actually on August 9th.  Therefore, I am able to draft this post myself now and am joyful to do so for such a brilliant and holy lady, St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (1891-1942).

Edith was born into a prominent and well-respected Jewish family in Breslau (now Wroclaw), Poland.  She abandoned her Jewish faith whilst she was a teenager.  In fact, at the age of fourteen she was an atheist.  Edith, while a student at the University of Gottingen, became fascinated by phenomenology as an approach to the study of philosophy; indeed, her mentor was Edmund Husserl, one of the leading phenomenologists.  In 1916, Edith earned a doctorate in philosophy and served as a university professor until 1922, at which time she moved to a Dominican school in Speyer.  She was a lecturer at the Educational Institute of Munich, but that position ended because of the influence and policies of the Nazis.

It was at this time in 1922, at or around October 15th, that Edith met Our Lord Jesus Christ by reading the autobiography of one of the great Doctors of the Catholic Church, also a mystic, St. Teresa of Avila.  This began her spiritual journey to being baptized a Catholic in 1922.  Twelve years later, she imitated St. Teresa of Avila by becoming a Carmelite nun, taking the name, Teresa Benedicta of the Cross.

Sister Teresa then lived at the Cologne Carmel  (1934-1938), moving to reside in the Carmelite monastery in Echt in the Netherlands, a country that was occupied by the Nazis.  The Dutch bishops publicly renounced Hitler and Nazism, which motivated revenge and retaliation, whereupon all Dutch Jews who had become Christians were arrested.  Thus, Sister Teresa and her sister Rosa, who also became a Catholic, were both executed in a gas chamber in the concentration camp in Auschwitz on August 9, 1942.  Whilst she was at this camp, she was kind and encouraging to those who suffered there.  Pope John Paul II beatified her in 1987 and she was canonized as a saint twelve years later.  During the canonization Mass, Pope John Paul II stated in his homily:

“Because she was Jewish, Edith Stein was taken with her sister Rosa and many other Catholics and Jews from the Netherlands to the concentration camp in Auschwitz, where she died with them in the gas chambers.  Today we remember them all with deep respect.  A few days before her deportation, the woman religious had dismissed the question about a possible rescue:  “Do not do it!  Why should I be spared?  Is it not right that I should gain no advantage from my baptism?  If I cannot share the lot of my brothers and sisters, my life, in a certain sense, is destroyed.” 

The Pope then said to all present at this Mass, “Your life is not an endless series of open doors!  Listen to your heart!  Do not stay on the surface but go to the heart of things!  And when the time is right, have the courage to decide!  The Lord is waiting for you to put your freedom in his good hands.” 

I construe this as a directive to “Get to the Point” of your life by serving God and His people with true love and courage, standing up for Truth and for your Faith.  I say, everything else will then follow. . .

I have always admired this great lady because of her sincere search for Truth, and when she found it, she gave up everything for Him, for Our Dear Lord, for her Catholic Faith.  She used her brilliance to serve the Triune God and His people, with great love, bravery, kindness and passion.

St. Teresa was a prolific writer, and her writings fill seventeen volumes, many of which have been translated into English.  She sought truth in her life, finding that Truth was actually a Person, Jesus.  One of her findings included in part, “Truth Is Love, and Love Is Truth.”  I can only imagine that a great celebration is taking place in heaven with the members of the Church Triumphant over this most exemplary and amazing lady!

With deep respect and love,

Joan

Source:  Saint of the Day, Sixth Revised Edition, Edited by Leonard Foley, O.F.M.

Pope Benedict XVI to resign

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Pope Benedict XVI announces his resignation in a surprise statement

UPDATE!!!    Pope Benedict XVI will resign on Feb. 28, The Vatican announced Monday, according to the Associated Press.

For more information… http://www.politico.com

Pope Benedict XVI is to resign at the end of this month after nearly eight years as the head of the Catholic Church, saying he is too old to continue at the age of 85.

The unexpected development – the first papal resignation in nearly 600 years – surprised governments, Vatican-watchers and even his closest aides.

The Vatican says it expects a new Pope to be elected before Easter.

Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger became Pope in 2005 after John Paul II’s death.

The BBC’s David Willey in Rome says the move has come as a shock, but in theory, there has never been anything stopping Pope Benedict or any of his predecessors from stepping aside.

Under Canon Law, the only conditions for the validity of such a resignation are that it be made freely and be properly published.

A Vatican spokesman, Father Federico Lombardi, said that even the Pope’s closest aides did not know what he was planning to do and were left “incredulous”. He added that the decision showed “great courage” and “determination”.

Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti is quoted as saying he was “greatly shaken by this unexpected news”.

The brother of the German-born Pope said the pontiff had been advised by his doctor not to take any more transatlantic trips and had been considering stepping down for months.

Talking from his home in Regensburg in Germany, Georg Ratzinger said his brother was having increasing difficulty walking and that his resignation was part of a “natural process”.

He added: “His age is weighing on him. At this age my brother wants more rest.”

‘Incapacity’At 78, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was one of the oldest new popes in history when elected.

He took the helm as one of the fiercest storms the Catholic Church has faced in decades – the scandal of child sex abuse by priests – was breaking.e took the helm as one of the fiercest storms the Catholic Church has faced in decades – the scandal of child sex abuse by priests – was breaking.

n a statement, the pontiff said: “After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry.

“I am well aware that this ministry, due to its essential spiritual nature, must be carried out not only with words and deeds, but no less with prayer and suffering.

“However, in today’s world, subject to so many rapid changes and shaken by questions of deep relevance for the life of faith, in order to steer the boat of Saint Peter and proclaim the Gospel, both strength of mind and body are necessary, strength which in the last few months, has deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognise my incapacity to adequately fulfil the ministry entrusted to me.

“For this reason, and well aware of the seriousness of this act, with full freedom I declare that I renounce the ministry of Bishop of Rome, Successor of Saint Peter, entrusted to me by the cardinals on 19 April 2005, in such a way, that as from 28 February 2013, at 20:00 hours, the See of Rome, the See of Saint Peter, will be vacant and a conclave to elect the new Supreme Pontiff will have to be convoked by those whose competence it is.”

A German government spokesman said he was “moved and touched” by the surprise resignation of the pontiff.

“The German government has the highest respect for the Holy Father, for what he has done, for his contributions over the course of his life to the Catholic Church.

“He has left a very personal signature as a thinker at the head of the Church, and also as a shepherd.”

POPE BENEDICT XVI

  • At 78, one of the oldest new popes in history when elected in 2005
  • Born in Germany in 1927, joined Hitler Youth during WWII and was conscripted as an anti-aircraft gunner but deserted
  • As Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger spent 24 years in charge of Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith – once known as the Holy Office of the Inquisition
  • A theological conservative, with uncompromising views on homosexuality and women priests