New Insights on the Gospels

March for Life 2012

Evil triumphs when good men do nothing - Edmund Burke

Friday, February 12, 2010

Prayer to overcome temptation - St Aplhonsus De Ligouri

Most holy Virgin Immaculate, my Mother Mary, to thee who art the Mother of my Lord, the queen of the universe, the advocate, the hope, the refuge of sinners, I who am the most miserable of all sinners, have recourse this day.

I venerate thee, great queen, and I thank thee for the many graces thou hast bestowed upon me even unto this day; in particular for having delivered me from the hell which I have so often deserved by my sins.

I love thee, most dear Lady; and for the love I bear thee, I promise to serve thee willingly for ever and to do what I can to make thee loved by others also. I place in thee all my hopes for salvation; accept me as thy servant and shelter me under thy mantle, thou who art the Mother of mercy.

And since thou art so powerful with God, deliver me from all temptations, or at least obtain for me the strength to overcome them until death. From thee I implore a true love for Jesus Christ. Through thee I hope to die a holy death.

My dear Mother, by the love thou bearest to Almighty God, I pray thee to assist me always, but most of all at the last moment of my life. Forsake me not then, until thou shalt see me safe in heaven, there to bless thee and sing of thy mercies through all eternity. Such is my hope. Amen.

St. Eulalia of Barcelona - 12th February 2010


We don't have historical documentation on Eulalia's life, but we do have the tradition and the story that has arrived to us.
According to this tradition, the Saint was the daughter of a wealthy family from the suburbs of Barcelona (Spain), born towards the end of the Third Century. The legend says that she was a child prodigy. She was Christian, and she had a pleasant infancy.

When she was around 12 to 13 years old, the emperor of Rome sent a judge to persecute the Christians in Barcelona. At that time the Christian faith was growing quickly in the Empire, and the Emperors Diocletian and Maximilian, sent to the provinces of Hispania (Roman name for Spain) the judge Dacian, who had the reputation to be extremely cruel. Already in Barcelona, he started one of the worst persecutions ever directed against the small Christian community established there.

Dacian organized public offerings to the pagan Gods and Goddesses.
The Christians were obligated to attend these ceremonies and worship the pagan Gods. The news of this persecution arrived to the suburbs where Eulalia was living. During this time she was praying and she started holding a secret project.

One day before dawn, while everybody was still sleeping in the house, Eulalia left her home and went walking to Barcelona.

Is well known that Eulalia means in Greek the one who speaks well.
That day she honored her name.

When she got into the city, she went to the forum (the center of the town) without any shade of fear. The Court of Dacian was meeting there. Dacian himself was sitting in the middle of the people. Eulalia went across the soldiers and stood in front of the judge. She said to him with a loud voice: "You, how come that you are sitting here, full of proud, to judge the Christians? Don't you fear God, the one who is above the Emperors, the one who wants the people to worship Him, and only Him? Now you have the power, but your power is useless at God's eyes".

Dacian, astonished at that girl who had spoke to him with such courage, told her: “Who are you, girl without fear? All these affirmations you say are against the imperial law”. She answered: “I am Eulalia, servant of my Lord Jesus Christ. I trust him and that is why I came here without fear to contest your conduct, which is the one of an ignorant”.

After hearing Eulalia, Dacian ordered the soldiers to take her. In jail she was tortured and they tried to make her reject her faith in Jesus. For a while they didn't want to harm her because she was from a noble family, but when they saw that after those tortures she was even stronger, they decided to kill her. She said: “The tortures you are inflicting me make me greater and the wounds don't hurt, because God is at my side. He will judge the abuses of authority you are responsible for”.

Therefore Dacian ordered the men to burn the young Eulalia. The· legend says that the flames were not harming her body. On the contrary they burnt some of the soldiers, and then they extinguished. They lighted it again and finally the fire touched her flesh, and when Eulalia died she opened her mouth and her soul, appearing as a white dove, came out from her lips and flew to the sky.

Dacian was still full of anger, and he ordered the soldiers to hang the body of Eulalia in a cross. They did so, thinking that in a few days scavenger birds would come and eat her body. But suddenly, even tough the weather is always warm in the area, a heavy snowstorm fell down and covered the city and the body of the Saint with a natural white sheet. The soldiers left the place at night. Some friends and relatives of Eulalia came to the place, took her body and buried her.
We don't know the place of the first burial, but it had to be in one of the cemeteries of the city, close to the old walls.

For some centuries, the citizens of Barcelona worshiped her as their Patron Saint in the unknown spot of her burial. However, we know that in the eighth century they hid what they said that were the remains of Eulalia, when the moors were conquering the city. In the year 877 the Bishop Frodoi found the remains of the Saint and they where moved to the cathedral. In July 10, 1339, the remains of Eulalia were finally moved to the new cathedral of Barcelona, the one that is there nowadays. The remains were placed in a marble grave done by an Italian artist from Pisa. You still can visit this tomb in the crypt of the cathedral, which is called, of course, The Crypt of Saint Eulalia.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Immaculate Mary - North American version

This is not the version we used to sing when I was a boy in the home country, I heard this in Canada


Immaculate Mary - Lourdes version

Our Lady of Lourdes and St. Bernadette - 11th February 2010







I am the Immaculate Conception . . .

IT IS MORE THAN 150 years since the birth of Bernadette Soubirous, the peasant girl whose visions led to the founding of the shrine at Lourdes in the foothills of the French Pyrenees. Nowadays four illuminated basilicas dominate the landscape, there are torchlight processions every day, and the shops are full of statuettes and relics. Five million pilgrims or religious tourists visit every year.

At the time of her vision Bernadette was fourteen years old and barely literate, and had to look after her younger brothers while her mother went out cleaning. On February 11, 1858, while Bernadette was out collecting wood with her sister Toinette and her friend Jeanne, they came to a place where the millstream joined the shallow river by a grotto at Massabielle. The other girls waded through the water, crying because it made their feet so cold. As Bernadette, a sickly, asthmatic girl, held back, she heard what she described as a roar. Later she reported: "I raised my head and looked towards the grotto. I saw a Lady dressed in white, wearing a white dress, a blue girdle and a yellow rose on each foot, the same color as the chain of her Rosary: the beads of her Rosary were white."

The vision was praying the Rosary. Bernadette took out her beads and did the same. The Lady beckoned but, when the girl dared not approach, she vanished. Toinette and Jeanne saw nothing and at first Bernadette did not tell them what she had seen but they got the story out of her and told her parents. The Soubirous family would not allow her to visit the grotto again, but the girl told her priest, Father Pomian, about the vision and he discussed it with the parish priest of Lourdes, Father Peyramale.

A VISION CALLED AQUERO

On February 14, a Sunday, Madame Soubirous relented. Bernadette took a bottle of holy water to the grotto and knelt down to say her Rosary. The Lady appeared again. Bernadette said, "I started throwing holy water at her and told her that if she came from God to stay, and if not to go." The vision smiled and bowed her head and as Bernadette was frightened, Our Lady disappeared. On the 18th Bernadette returned once more, this time with two adults, Madame Millat and Antoinette Peyret, "who advised me to take paper and ink and to ask her, if she had anything to say to me, to be so good as to write it down." The Lady appeared, said that what she had to say need not be written down, and asked Bernadette if she would come each day for a fortnight. Bernadette began to refer to the vision as Aquero, which means simply, 'It', and said that the Lady spoke in the Lourdes dialect, 'sweet and gentle', and not in French. On this third visit Aquero said, "I do not promise to make you happy in this world, but in the other."
According to Bernadette, between February 19 and March 4 "The vision appeared every day except one Monday and one Friday. She told me several times that I should tell the priests that a chapel should be built there and . . . I should pray for the conversion of sinners. She gave me three secrets which she forbade me to tell anyone."

Bernadette's account caused mixed reactions. The local police inspector interrogated her and tried to muddle her testimony, but could not: his notes of the interview have been preserved.

Some of the villagers were angry at him and threatened to break down the door if he would not release the girl.

Our Lady told Bernadette to drink from the spring-----a little muddy water that appeared from beneath the rock. Bernadette said, "I threw it away three times because it was so dirty, but the fourth time I was able to drink it . . .

The Public Prosecutor, Dutour, tried to rig Bernadette's account, but again local men hammered on his door and, trembling, he let the girl and her mother go. Later Bernadette said, "There was something in me that enabled me to rise above everything. I was tackled from all sides, but nothing mattered and I was not afraid."



I AM THE IMMACULATE CONCEPTION

At five o'clock on the morning of March 25, the Feast of the Annunciation of the Virgin Mary, Bernadette felt compelled to go again to the grotto. The Lady was already there. "With her two arms hanging down, she raised her eyes and looked up at the sky, and it was then that she told me, joining her hands together now at the height of her breast, that she was the Immaculate Conception. Those were the last words she ever said to me." Four years before these events, Pope Pius IX had proclaimed the dogma of the Immaculate Conception. For centuries this doctrine-----that the Virgin Mary had been conceived and born without the taint of Original Sin-----had been a pious belief among the ordinary people; but the proclamation of 1854 had made it part of the Church's official teaching.

Controversy surrounded the event, and it is possible that Bernadette had heard angry words flying about in a devout village. But Father Peyramale was convinced by Bernadette's story and became her strongest supporter.

On June 3, the Feast of Corpus Christ, Bernadette made her First Communion. By the 16th, when Bernadette returned to the grotto, fences had been put up around it and she was obliged to say her Rosary from a distance. When questioned she said, "I saw nothing but the Blessed Virgin."

In 1862 a series of interrogations by bishops began. They were impressed by 'her simplicity, candor and modesty, the wisdom of her answers, her calm imagination and commonsense above her age'. To skeptics Bernadette replied, "I have been told to tell you about it. I have not been told to make you believe it."

THE VISIONS AUTHENTICATED

Lourdes quickly became a popular shrine and visitors tried to shower Bernadette with money, to steal a relic from her or to cut off a piece of her hood or her dress as a souvenir. She complained of the adulation and said it tired her. Hundreds of letters were addressed to her; she prayed for their senders and asked them to pray for her in turn.

In 1862 the Bishop of Tarbes authenticated the visions and the hard-pressed Bernadette applied to join the St. Bernard nuns at Anglet, but was turned down because they did not want to be over-run by pilgrims and tourists. Four things told against her vocation: poverty, fame, poor education and lifelong bad health. In March 1862 Bernadette became very ill and she was given the Last Rites. She recovered to nurse old people in the hospice at Lourdes.

In April 1866 she succeeded in becoming a postulant at Nevers. On her first day she was ordered to recount her visions to the whole community and then never speak of them again. "I have come here to hide," she declared. She carried with her three small stones of which she said, "These are my companions whom I love." On them she had written the words 'Lourdes', 'The Grotto' and 'Nevers Mother House'. In July she received the habit and became known as Sister Marie-Bernard, but in October she was so ill that she was again given the Last Rites. Once more she defied death, and was later put in charge of the hospital.

In June of 1873 she was given the Last Rites for the third time. Yet again she recovered and this time was appointed Assistant Sacristan-----the person who kept the chapel clean and in order. But from April of 1875 she was a complete invalid, and on April 16, 1879 she died at three in the afternoon-----the same hour as Christ's death on the Cross.

THE SUFFERINGS OF BERNADETTE

What, apart from this bare chronology, can we know about Bernadette Soubirous? One thing is certain: she strove with all her might to fulfill the vocation announced to her by the Virgin at Massabielle-----to do penance, to pray and suffer for sinners. And she did suffer. The Mother Superior at Nevers testified, "It took her an hour to find a bearable position, during which her face changed and she became as if dead. Even when asleep, the faintest movement of her leg made her cry out. Such sharp cries that her companions in the dormitory could not sleep. She shrank to nothing." In fact, she had tuberculosis. Bernadette did not 'enjoy' suffering, though she spoke of it as 'my job'. And she once said, "I pray to St. Bernard, but I do not imitate him. St. Bernard liked suffering, but I avoid it if I can."
Apart from her physical pain, she bore much personal grief. Her mother died early, at forty-one. Her sister Toinette's first child, also named Bernadette, died in February of 1871, to be followed by her father a month later. In fact all five of Toinette's babies died and Bernadette wrote to her: "I like to imagine that dear little group praying in Heaven for us poor exiles on this miserable earth."

Bernadette suffered, too, from the interrogations of religious historians who tried to make her offer elaborate theological explanations for her visions. But she replied, "It is best for people to speak and write very simply. It is more moving to read the Passion than to have it explained."

In the last stages of her final illness, she requested to be left only with the crucifix sent to her by Pope Pius IX. When she became too weak to hold it, she had it fastened to her breast. After her death she was first beatified in 1925 and then canonized as St. Bernadette in 1933. Her Feast Day is February 18.
Is there anything truer or more beautiful, anything more desperately needed in our own violent times, than the heartfelt desire to pray for the forgiveness and salvation of others as well as for ourselves, and to follow the intuitive, undefeated sense and hope in all of us that love and tenderness are the immaculate things in a sullied world? It is not out of place to describe this longing as a vision of the Mother of God.

THE BEAUTY AND WORK OF LOURDES TODAY

Lourdes is justly regarded as the most important place of Catholic pilgrimage in the world after the Holy Land and Rome. It comprises four magnificent basilicas and the grotto marking the exact spot where Our Lady appeared to Bernadette.

It is an awe-inspiring and unforgettable experience for the pilgrim or visitor to join one of the torchlight processions which begin at the grotto and lead to Rosary Square where the sick are blessed in the name of the Holy Mother. Traditionally there are four gifts of Lourdes: the gift of miraculous water, the gift of healing, the gift of reconciliation, the gift of strength and friendship.

In 1866 the first Mass was offered at the grotto, and on the Feast of the Assumption in 1871 the newly built Church of the Immaculate Conception was blessed. The following year saw the first national pilgrimage, with flags and banners and a torchlight procession. In 1873 the Assumption Fathers organized a much larger pilgrimage and a year later the first visitors came from abroad, particularly from Belgium and the USA. The statue of Our Lady of Lourdes was crowned in 1876 and the second of four great basilicas-----the Church of the Rosary-----was opened in 1889. On March 25, 1958, the centenary of the apparitions, the Basilica of St. Pius X was consecrated.

There have been five thousand cures which have taken place. Sixty-five of these cures have been officially designated 'miraculous' by the Church. Wonderfully moving is the nightly procession of the Holy Rosary.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

St. Scholastica - from the Office of readings

This following piece is from the Office of readings and is by Pope St. Gregory the Great.

Scholastica, the sister of Saint Benedict, had been consecrated to God from her earliest years. She was accustomed to visiting her brother once a year. He would come down to meet her at a place on the monastery property, not far outside the gate.
One day she came as usual and her saintly brother went with some of his disciples; they spent the whole day praising God and talking of sacred things. As night fell they had supper together.
Their spiritual conversation went on and the hour grew late. The holy nun said to her brother: “Please do not leave me tonight; let us go on until morning talking about the delights of the spiritual life.” “Sister,” he replied, “what are you saying? I simply cannot stay outside my cell.”
When she heard her brother refuse her request, the holy woman joined her hands on the table, laid her head on them and began to pray. As she raised her head from the table, there were such brilliant flashes of lightning, such great peals of thunder and such a heavy downpour of rain that neither Benedict nor his brethren could stir across the threshold of the place where they had been seated. Sadly he began to complain: “May God forgive you, sister. What have you done?” “Well,” she answered, “I asked you and you would not listen; so I asked my God and he did listen. So now go off, if you can, leave me and return to your monastery.”
Reluctant as he was to stay of his own will, he remained against his will. So it came about that they stayed awake the whole night, engrossed in their conversation about the spiritual life.
It is not surprising that she was more effective than he, since as John says, God is love, it was absolutely right that she could do more, as she loved more.
Three days later, Benedict was in his cell. Looking up to the sky, he saw his sister’s soul leave her body in the form of a dove, and fly up to the secret places of heaven. Rejoicing in her great glory, he thanked almighty God with hymns and words of praise. He then sent his brethren to bring her body to the monastery and lay it in the tomb he had prepared for himself.
Their minds had always been united in God; their bodies were to share a common grave.

St. Scholastica - 10th February 2010


Saint Scholastica, twin sister of Saint Benedict of Nursia who founded of the
Benedictine order, was consecrated to God at a very early age but probably
continued to live in her parents' home. It is said that she was as devoted to Jesus
as she was to her brother. So, when Benedict established his monastery at Monte
Cassino, Scholastica founded a convent in nearby Plombariola, about five miles
south of Monte Cassino. The convent is said to have been under the direction of
her brother, thus she is regarded as the first Benedictine nun.

The siblings were quite close. The respective rules of their houses proscribed either
entering the other's monastery. According to Saint Gregory, they met once a year
at a house near Monte Cassino monastery to confer on spiritual matters, and were
eventually buried together, probably in the same grave. Saint Gregory says, "so
death did not separate the bodies of these two, whose minds had ever been united
in the Lord."

Saint Gregory tells the charming story of the last meeting of the two saints on
earth. Scholastica and Benedict had spent the day in the "mutual comfort of
heavenly talk" and with nightfall approaching, Benedict prepared to leave.
Scholastica, having a presentiment that it would be their last opportunity to see
each other alive, asked him to spend the evening in conversation. Benedict sternly
refused because he did not wish to break his own rule by spending a night away
from Monte Cassino. Thereupon, Scholastica cried openly, laid her head upon the
table, and prayed that God would intercede for her. As she did so, a sudden storm
arose. The violent rain and hail came in such a torrential downpour that Benedict
and his companions were unable to depart.

"May Almighty God forgive you, sister" said Benedict, "for what you have done."

"I asked a favor of you," Scholastica replied simply, "and you refused it. I asked it
of God, and He has granted it!"

Just after his return to Monte Cassino, Benedict saw a vision of Scholastica's soul
departing her body, ascending to heaven in the form of a dove. She died three
days after their last meeting. He placed her body in the tomb he had prepared for
himself, and arranged for his own to be placed there after his death. Her relics
were alleged by the monk Adrevald to have been translated (July 11) to a rich
silver shrine in Saint Peter's Church in Le Mans, France, which may have been
when Benedict's were moved to Fleury. In 1562, this shrine was preserved from
the Huguenots' plundering.

Some say that we should only petition God for momentously important matters.
God's love, however, is so great that we wishes to give us every good thing. He is
ever ready to hear our prayers: our prayers of praise and thanksgiving, and our
prayers of petition, repentance, and intercession. Nothing is too great or too trivial
to share with our Father. The dependent soul learns that everything we are and
have is from His bountiful goodness; when we finally learn that lesson we turn to
Him with all our hopes and dreams and needs. Saint Scholastica is obviously one
of those who learned the lesson of her own helplessness (Attwater, Benedictines,
Bentley, Delaney, Encyclopedia, Farmer, Husenbeth, Walsh, White).

Saint Scholastica is usually depicted in art as a habited nun, holding a crozier and
crucifix, with her brother. Sometimes she may be shown (1) with Saint Justina of
Padua, with whom she is confused though Justina was never a nun; (2) receiving
her veil from Saint Benedict; (3) her soul departing her body like a dove; (4) with a
dove at her feet or bosom; or kneeling before Saint Benedict's cell (Roeder,
White).

She is the patroness of Monte Cassino and all Cassinese communities (Roeder).
She is invoked against storms (White).

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

St. Apollonia - 9th February 2010


Saint Apollonia was born in the third century and lived in Alexandria, Egypt. Apollonia spent her whole life preaching the word of God. She took a big risk doing this because Christians were being persecuted during the reign of Emperor Philip. Even into old age, Apollonia still preached and bravely risked her life to visit Christians in prison to comfort them. In 249 AD she was captured and brought before a court.

When the judge asked her name, she replied, "I am a Christian and I love to serve the true God". People who were trying to force her to give up her faith then tortured her. All her teeth were smashed with pinchers and then knocked out. Even this painful ordeal did not shake her faith, when she was given the choice of rejecting Jesus or being burned alive she jumped into the burning fire herself. When the pagans saw how heroic she was many were converted to Christianity. A church was erected in her honour in Rome, it no longer exists but the square where it stood is still called after her "Piazza Sant' Apollonia". The Catholic Church celebrates Saint Apollonia's Feast Day on 9th February.

Because of the torture Saint Apollonia endured people frequently pray her when they have a toothache and hence she has become the patron saint of dentistry. She is generally depicted in art holding a gold tooth with a pincers.

Monday, February 8, 2010

St. Jerome Emiliani - 8th February 2010

A careless and irreligious soldier for the city-state of Venice, Jerome was captured in a skirmish at an outpost town and chained in a dungeon. In prison Jerome had a lot of time to think, and he gradually learned how to pray. When he escaped, he returned to Venice where he took charge of the education of his nephews—and began his own studies for the priesthood.
In the years after his ordination, events again called Jerome to a decision and a new lifestyle. Plague and famine swept northern Italy. Jerome began caring for the sick and feeding the hungry at his own expense. While serving the sick and the poor, he soon resolved to devote himself and his property solely to others, particularly to abandoned children. He founded three orphanages, a shelter for penitent prostitutes and a hospital.

Around 1532 Jerome and two other priests established a congregation, the Clerks Regular of Somasca, dedicated to the care of orphans and the education of youth. Jerome died in 1537 from a disease he caught while tending the sick. He was canonized in 1767. In 1928 Pius Xl named him the patron of orphans and abandoned children.