Faith for the Journey of Life

My Thoughts on Faith, Life, and 2,000+ Years of Catholicism / Christianity

06 February 2007

Our Lady of Lourdes

Sunday, 11 February, marks the occasion of Our Blessed Mother's first appearance to St. Bernadette in the Grotto at Lourdes, France in 1858. The story of Lourdes is well known in our Catholic faith. Our Mother's appearance at Lourdes and the miracles associated with her and Jesus are amongst the great treasures that God has blessed our Church with.

On that fateful Sunday in 1858, St. Bernadette was gathering firewood for her family when Our Blessed Mother entered into her life in a most powerful way. During this and the several following appearances, St. Bernadette did not know who this mysterious woman was. Over the next several months, Our Blessed Mother appeared periodically to St. Bernadette. Local authorities harassed and tried to suppress St. Bernadette but no avail; her faith would not be deterred.

After the appearances began, so, too, did the miracles. On one occasion, Mary revealed a miraculous spring that faithful pilgrims that have journeyed to ever since. On another occasion, Our Blessed Mother spoke the words "I am the Immaculate Conception," and in doing so, confirmed this dogma that had been defined by Pope Pius IX just a couple years prior.

"Everything about Mary directs us to her Son, our only Saviour, in anticipation of whose merits she was immaculate and full of grace," wrote Pope Pius XII in his 1957 encyclical Le Pelerinage de Lourdes. "Everything about Mary raise us to praise of the adorable Trinity; and so it was that Bernadette, praying her rosary before the grotto, learned from the words and bearing of the Blessed Virgin how she should give glory to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit."

Lourdes is notable for its miraculous spring, its miraculous healings, its Grotto and the vast crowds of pilgrims who journey there each year. Lourdes should also serve as a powerful reminder of the great miracle of God's love. For in sending Mary to St. Bernadette - a humble, poor peasant girl in an obscure corner of France, God has shown us yet again that His love makes no distinctions based upon economic status, social class, gender, nationality or any of the other divisions that we humans erect between ourselves and others.

Our Lady of Lourdes, pray for us!

23 January 2007

Prayer for the Canonization of Father Michael J. McGivney

In 1881, God called a young parish priest in Connecticut to form an organization of Catholic men to help the less fortunate and support the Church. Today, that priest's vision is an international organization with millions of dedicated members. The organization is the Knights of Columbus; the priest was Father Michael J. McGivney.

As a proud member of the Knights of Columbus, I humbly post the prayer for Father McGivney's canonization. This prayer is often prayed at Knights functions that I attend and I encourage you to pray this as well...

"God, our Father, protector of the poor and defender of the widow and orphan, you called your priest, Father Michael J. McGivney, to be an apostle of Christian family life and to lead the young to the generous service of their neighbor. Through the example of his life and virtue may we follow your Son, Jesus Christ, more closely, fulfilling his commandment of charity and building up his Body which is the Church. Let the inspiration of your servant prompt us to greater confidence in your love so that we may continue his work of caring for the needy and the outcast. We humbly ask that you glorify your servant Father Michael J. McGivney on earth according to the design of your holy will. Through his intercession, grant the favor I now present (here make your request). Through Christ our Lord. Amen. Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory be."

(Courtesy of Father Michael J. McGivney Guild website)

22 January 2007

Random Thoughts on Life Issues

Today in Washington DC and numerous places around the country, the defenders of life have gathered on the occasion of the infamous Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision to remind America of the evils of abortion. On this occasion, I offer my random thoughts on life issues.

"Children are a gift from the Lord, the fruit of the womb, a reward(Psalm 127:3)." No further comment is necessary.

In college, I, like many other well-meaning people, was opposed to abortion but supported a woman's right to choose. Then a close friend of mine aborted her pre-born baby. Her experience taught me that you cannot be against abortion and for choice. Thank you, Lord, for opening my eyes and leading me onto the right side of this issue.

Following Bill Clinton's election to the Presidency in November 1992, Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz authored a most inspiring prayer for life. (See my previous posting.) Now as a new anti-life majority led by pseudo-Catholic Nancy Pelosi takes over in Congress, let us re-visit this prayer in the hopes that the Holy Spirit may lead them to defend life.

When presented with a choice between her life and the life of her pre-born baby, St. Gianna Molla chose not to abort her baby. Doing so cost St. Gianna her life but spared the life of her child. May St. Gianna pray for all expectant mothers that their choices may be for the good of their pre-born children.

On the issue of slavery, Thomas Jefferson once wrote..."I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just, that is justice cannot sleep forever." I find those words most alarming when I reflect that abortion is no less evil than slavery was in Jefferson's time.

I participated in my first March for Life in January 1995 and have attended several since then. At each of the Marches for Life that I have participated in, I have marvelled at the diversity of the participants. People of all ages, faiths, ethnicity, socio-economic background and home states gathering together for the rights of unborn children. Thank God for the freedoms we enjoy to public proclaim life and petition our elected officials on life issues.

I note with great concern that since Roe v. Wade, the forces of choice have chosen to expand their attacks on life in disturbing directions: partial birth abortions, euthanasia, cloning, stem cell research, using abortion for population control, birth control, the infamous "morning after" pill RU-486, etc.

Several years ago, I attended a Rosary prayer session outside an abortion clinic in coastal New Jersey. The clinic chose to close for the day rather than have their clients / victims face a large group of people praying for the lives of pre-born babies and their mothers.

And in conclusion...Lord, please have mercy!

Daily Prayer for Life

In honor of today's March for Life in Washington DC today, I offer the inspiring prayer written by Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz...

"Heavenly Father, as the author of life, touch with compassion the hearts of those women and men who with Your help, have conceived human life and now think of abortion, not parenthood. Help them to understand that their newly created child and all children are made in Your image and likeness, made for eternal life.

Dispel their fears and helplessness and give them true and generous hearts to love their babies and give them birth and all the needed care that a parent alone can give. And when Your children turn away from You through abortion, penetrate their hearts to seek Your loving forgiveness and healing power.

Finally Lord, soften the hearts of the abortionists, and enlighten all elected officials, particularly our current President, to accept Your loving grace and to recognize and protect the inviolability and sanctity of all human life from conception to natural death. Amen."

Bishop Bruskewitz wrote this prayer a couple weeks after Bill Clinton was elected President. You will note that the Bishop's prayer refers to the anti-life / pro-choice Clinton.

20 January 2007

The Heavens Declare

"The heavens declare the glory of God;
the sky proclaims its builder's craft.
One day to the next conveys that message;
one night to the next imparts that knowledge.
There is no word or sound;
no voice is heard;
yet their report goes forth through all the earth,
their message to the ends of the world.
God has pitched a tent there for the sun;
it comes forth like a bridegroom from his chamber,
and like an athlete joyfully runs its course.
From one end of the heavens it comes forth;
its course runs through to the other;
nothing escapes its heat."

Psalm 19:1-7

[Photo taken Oceanside, California, November 2005]

14 January 2007

A New Year for Divine Mercy

My Knights of Columbus council recently hosted a Holy Hour with a Divine Mercy icon. Our Supreme headquarters circulates this icon amongst Knights councils to inspire greater devotion to Divine Mercy. The Holy Hour featured Gospel readings, hymns, a Homily on Divine Mercy, the praying of the Divine Mercy Chaplet and the praying of the Divine Mercy Litany.

If you are not familiar with the Divine Mercy devotion, please allow me to offer a brief overview. The Divine Mercy devotion is based upon the private revelations of our Lord and Savior to a Polish nun in the 1930s - St. Maria Faustina Kowalska. As the world was precariously perched between world wars, our Most Merciful Father saw fit to bless mankind by reminding us of His great mercy and deliver us a message of great hope amidst the impending horrors of renewed war and totalitarian oppression. Over the period of several years, Jesus delivered numerous messages to St. Faustina about God's mercy and instructed her in several ways to promote and honors his mercy. This includes the Divine Mercy Chaplet (said on the Rosary), Divine Mercy Sunday (the first Sunday after Easter), the Divine Mercy Novena and the Divine Mercy image.

The Divine Mercy image (which the aforementioned Knights icon depicts) shows a resurrected Jesus with rays emanating from his chest. The best description comes from St. Faustina's own diary...

"The two rays denote Blood and Water. The pale ray stands for the Water which makes souls righteous. The red ray stands for the Blood which is the life of souls. These two rays issued forth from the depths of My tender mercy when My agonized Heart was opened by a lance on the Cross. Happy is the one who will dwell in their shelter, for the just hand of God shall not lay hold of him (299). By means of this image I shall grant many graces to souls. It is to be a reminder of the demands of My mercy, because even the strongest faith is of no avail without works. (742)."

Jesus spoke these descriptive words to St. Faustina and as the dutiful recorder that she was, St. Faustina conveys His words to us to remind us of God's great mercy for us all.

Today, we do not need look to very far in this world to see why we are all in such great need for God's mercy. Anti-family advocates are ramming gay marriage through courts and legislatures in New Jersey and other states. Babies continue to be killed in the womb in the publicly stated name of "choice" and the publicly denied name of "profit" and "convenience." War rages in various parts of the globe. Christians and Jews are persecuted for their faith. Islamo-fascism threatens the lives of millions of innocent people. Our culture's pop icons are promoting licentiousness and greed amongst our young people. And so on and so forth...

In spite of all the millions of ways in which we provoke God's justice and push His patience, God still loves us and provides us with the means to make amends. Through His Son's Cross and His incomprehensible love and mercy, eternal damnation need not be our ultimate fate. As Jesus's personal secretary of Divine Mercy, St. Faustina reminds us of that.

Divine Mercy, Crown of All God's Handiwork...I place all my trust in You!


23 December 2006

One Night in Judea

In the Roman Province of Judea a long time ago...

"Grandpa, grandpa, come quickly!" an excited young boy commanded as he rushed into the hut of his grandfather early one dark spring night. "You have to see...."
The young boy's words were cut short as he caught sight of his elderly grandfather; the countenance of the old man spoke volumes that even a young boy was able to read in an instant. "Grandpa Jacob, what's wrong?!" the boy asked, perplexed at what he had stumbled into.
The old man was seated alone on the floor by the hearth of a fireplace. A scroll lay partially unrolled in his lap. The only light in the room was that shown by a small lamp and a smoldering fire.
"It is the sad state of affairs this world is in," the old man Jacob finally confessed to his grandson. "I was just reflecting upon the history of our people and what we find ourselves in, John."
A look of bewilderment appeared on the small boy's face. Before he could ask, the old man spoke again. "For thousands of years, our people have suffered greatly at the hands of ourselves and foreign peoples," he said slowly with much lament. "The Romans are just the latest ones to have been conquered us. We have seen our lands and villages pillaged. Our sons and daughters killed or marched off into captivity. Our sacred Temple sacked and desecrated."
"We have strayed from God and suffered the consequences of our disobedience," he continued. "Time and again, prophets warned us and we ignored them. Now God is using the Romans to teach us the same lesson we have not learned so many times before. For our fate, we have no one to blame but ourselves."
"Equally distressing is the delay in our Messiah's coming," the old man continued. "Isaiah and other prophets promised his coming. He would be a light in the darkness. He would shepherd his people Israel. He would redeem us and restore God's kingdom to us. He would teach us the ways we have forgotten and ignored. But alas, it has been so long. I have lived so long, but still we wait and wait and wait." Then with a great sigh, he asked, "Oh, when will our Messiah arrive to set us captives free?"
Patiently, the young boy listened to his grandfather's lament. His face shown a mixture of confusion, but the excitement which had brought him here still shone through.
"I'm sorry, John," the old man apologized when he suddenly remembered the young boy's news which he had wanted to share. "What was it that you wanted to show me?"
"There's a big, bright new star in the sky, Grandpa!" the young boy exclaimed with much enthusiasm.
"Oh?!" the old man replied as the news jolting him out of his melancholy demeanor. "Well, show me this new star," he commanded as he rose to his feet.
The young boy grabbed his grandfather's hand and led him outside into the night. Raising an arm to the east, he pointed at a bright object in the sky. "There it is, Grandpa!" he shouted. "In the sky over Bethlehem!"

Christmas Blessings and a Question that I Cannot Answer

To our Heavenly Father, the Psalmist writes "What are humans that You are mindful of them, mere mortals that You care for them? Yet You have made them a little less than a god, crowned them with glory and honor (Psalm 8:5-6)."

It is believed that David penned these words. Here David expresses both his gratitude to God for his goodness and his puzzlement at why God is so good to mankind.

Centuries later, David's question takes on a completely new and more powerful meaning as the Son of God descends to earth. "For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but have eternal life," Jesus says to Nicodemus (John 3:16).

As we prepare to celebrate the birth of the Son of God, again we must ask the question with David "What are humans that You are mindful of them, mere mortals that You care for them?" and add to those words, "What are humans that You sent Your only Son to redeem them with his very life?"

Jesus's words can only partially answer that, not because of any deficieny on his part, but rather because of the limits of our own intellect and understanding. God is mindful of humans because God created them and loves them. But why God loves us so much is a question beyond my own comprehension.

God's limitless love for us is simply a truth that I accept and am grateful for.

17 December 2006

Who's Who in the Rosary (Part Four - Moses & Elijah)

While the twenty Mysteries of the Holy Rosary celebrate the life of Jesus and depict events that occurred in the times of the New Testament, the Rosary has a strong foundation in the Old Testament. To the casual observer, the Old Testament foundation is not readily apparent. Jesus Christ - the Son of God made man, the Word made Flesh, Emmanuel - is the living fulfillment of God's promises made periodically throughout the Old Testament.

If we look deeper into the Mysteries of the Rosary, we can see the Old Testament antecedents from which they spring. For example, laying the groundwork for the Nativity when Christ is born into this world, Isaiah had previously prophesied that "the virgin shall be with child and bear a son, and shall name him Emmanuel (Isaiah 7:14)."

Inspired by God's Holy Spirit, Isaiah prophesies at length about the promised Messiah. Most notably, Isaiah prophesies the Messiah's Passion in what is known as the four "Servant of the Lord" oracles. "But he was pierced for our offenses, crushed for our sins, upon him was the chastisement that makes us whole, by his stripes we were healed," says Isaiah (53:5). This words are fulfilled at Calvary.

The strongest and most obvious connection to the Old Testament found in the Holy Rosary occurs in the Fourth Luminous Mystery - "The Transfiguration." And it is in this Mystery that we find the only two Old Testament figures to appear in the Rosary: Moses and Elijah.

During the Fourth Luminous Mystery, Jesus takes St. Peter, St. John and St. James up a mountain to pray. In their midst, Jesus becomes Transfigured before them in a heavenly radiance far surpassing any human glory. Elijah and Moses appear to converse with Jesus. Amazed at the sight before him, St. Peter offers to build shelters for Jesus as well as Elijah and Moses. Then God speaks from heaven: "This is my chosen Son; listen to him (Luke 9:35)."

Moses and Elijah are two of the most important persons in the Old Testament and their presence at the Transfiguration is further proof that Jesus is the living fulfillment.

It was Moses that led the people of Israel out of Egypt and through the 40 years in the desert under God's direction. Through Moses, God communicated His Ten Commandments and his directives on how the Israelites should live and worship Him. Just short of reaching the Promised Land, God calls Moses home to Him.

Elijah is one of the most important prophets in the Old Testament. He is a great miracle worker. He brings the widow's son back to life. He defeats Baal's prophets on Mount Carmel. He preaches God's word with great courage. Then God summons him to heaven on a fiery chariot.

Like the Jewish people of our own day, the Jews of Jesus's day expected Elijah to return preceding the appearance of the long-awaited Messiah and to play a major role in the establishment of God's kingdom. But as Jesus points out, "I tell you that Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him but did to him whatever they pleased (Matthew 17:12)." St. John the Baptist fulfills this role.

This extraordinary meeting between Jesus and Elijah and Moses dramatically proclaims that Jesus the Son of God is infinitely of greater importance than either of these great human servants of God. Elijah and Moses's service was vitally important as a preparation for the Christ's mission. Now God sends His own Son to guide all of His people. Now Jesus is going to lead all of God's people out of the wilderness of sin and into the Promised Land of God's kingdom. Now Jesus is going to suffer and die for our sins and be raised triumphantly three days later to destroy death.