Can you imagine the joy?



Today, 15 Aug 2012, is the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God. It is a day when we can entrust the deepest desires of our hearts into her intercession, knowing that today of all days prayers will be answered, and answered powerfully. For today is the day we recall that God answered the deepest prayer of Mary’s heart – to be united forever to her Son, face to face, in the wondrous glory of Heaven.

Can you imagine with what intense longing Mary desired Heaven after seeing the joy, glory and wonder of her risen Son? Can you imagine all the preparations that went on in Heaven to welcome her? Can you imagine how Heaven sparkled with happiness when she arrived? Can you imagine how amazing it was for her to experience the fullness of her relationship with the Father and the Holy Spirit for the first time? If you can, then you will have some idea about how fervently all Heaven celebrates the anniversary of Our Lady’s entrance into that longed for place.

That is why this Feast day is the joy and the hope of the dying members of the Church, who, like Mary, increasingly long to enter through Heaven’s gates. That is why this Feast day sees so many happy souls freed from Purgatory. That is why this Feast day consoles all of those who are waiting for God to answer their prayers, and helps us make our times of waiting fruitful.

Yet, how sad it is that so many priests don’t know how to preach on Feast days like this. Perhaps the priest today wanted to leave the school children with only one simple thought – that of Mary’s generosity – and inspiring though that is, there was so much more that could have been said. Sitting in the pews sometimes a person can get the feeling that a priest is uncomfortable in his relationship with Our Lady. Let us pray heaps for priests such as these, because leading people to her maternal heart is the sure route to leading them to Jesus and to holiness.

On this Feast day, too, let us decide not to dumb down the faith to our children and our teenagers. They need to know about Heaven, and they need to know how to get there. Why can’t we give them hymns to sing that aren’t banal? Why can’t we give them hymns to sing that have decent doctrinal content? How does singing the school song as an Entrance hymn prepare them properly to enter into the sacred Liturgy? Surely ‘Firmly I believe and truly’, or something similar, would do a far better job? Do the dreadfully dumbed down Eucharistic Prayers for Children really help them? Do the shockingly bad ‘children’s translations’ of the Scriptures really assist their understanding? Our youngsters deserve to be inspired with truth, holiness and virtue.

May Our Lady assumed into Heaven obtain all the graces that we need, the children, the young, the not so young, and the old, for us to follow her Son Jesus in such a way that the gates of Heaven will open swiftly to us when our time comes to pass from this world to the next.

O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to you. Amen.

 

 

Highlights from a mini pilgrimage



Recently we were able – at last – to visit the Shrine of Our Lady Help of Christians, Patroness of Australia, at Marian Valley, Beechmont Road, Canungra, QLD. As with most places run by the Order of St Paul the Hermit, it was well off the beaten track.

To find out all the official information about this place, visit www.marianvalley.org . However, don’t depend upon the map on their website. Use a proper map or a Google search, and be prepared for a few winding roads.

Compared with their sister site at Penrose Park, near Berrima, NSW, this one was more compact and we could park much closer to the main devotional areas.

Sadly we didn’t get to see the whole site, but what we did see was impressive.

Firstly there was a life sized statue of Blessed Pope John Paul the Great, and the major shrine dedicated to Our Lady Help of Christians, where a priest was busy hearing confessions. From there we went along the path where all the mini shrines are located. We didn’t have time to also do the walk along the life sized Stations of the Cross, which had been provided by the Vietnamese community.

Along the route it was a joy to find many heavenly friends to greet us, and opportunities to seek their intercession for particular intentions. Among them was a Lourdes grotto including St Bernadette, St Lucy, St Barbara, St Mary of the Cross McKillop, St Anthony of Padua, St Pius X, St Padre Pio and St Gerard Majella.

Many of the mini shrines opened our eyes to the vast array of devotion to Our Lady throughout the world, especially in India, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, and the middle East – several we had never heard of before.

Other mini shrines recalled the valiant Korean martyrs and St Lorenzo Riuz, the first Filipino Saint, or reminded us of holy images from Malta and other places. Still others were under construction, notably one for St Francis Xavier.

Sadly we didn’t get to have a look at the piety store, but we did get to visit a very lovely Adoration chapel and to hear the Magnificat sung in Latin for the first time.

The places where retreatants could stay looked very nice from the outside.

Opportunities to enrich our devotional lives don’t come quite so often any more, so this visit to the Marian Shrine was a real treat. So many churches have had all of their devotional elements removed or located where they are not easily visible, that it is good that places like these still exist to remind us of our Saintly friends in heaven and of the wonders God has done in ages past and in distant lands.

So if you are planning a holiday to south-east QLD, plan to include at least a half-day trip out to Marian Valley. It took about a 40 minute drive from Surfer’s Paradise to get there. You won’t regret it.

Our Lady Help of Christians, pray for us.

 

 

A day to give thanks



Today, 25 Jun 2012, marks the 31st anniversary of the reported apparitions of Our Lady to six youngsters in Medjugorje. While we wait for the Church to give its definitive judgment, it is only right that we give thanks to God for all of the blessings and graces received by us and by many others that have the events at Medjugorje at their source.

After reading so many glowing things about Medjugorje, we were able to visit for the first – and so far only – time in the year 2000. We went out of season when the crowds were low and had a few challenges to deal with which made the visit less than ideal. (Moral of the story : avoid going with high expectations, as soon as a pilgrimage there becomes likely stop reading anything written about the place.) Nevertheless, those few moments each evening when a church packed with people goes totally silent and each heart places all of their deepest longings and desires into the safe hands of the Mother of Jesus, and through her to God, are precious and treasured. It was good, because of the numbers of generous priests there, to be able to make a confession at a greater depth and length than usual.

Without Medjugorje would the ancient tradition of fasting on bread and water on Fridays have been lost to modern generations? Most probably. It has only been the continuous gentle encouragement to give fasting a go, coming from Medjugorje, that has enabled many to take up the challenge – and to keep at it regularly.  

The many graces that come from the ancient tradition of picking out a patron Saint at the start of each new year can trace their renewal back to Medjuorje and Sr Emmanuel.

Would we have been inspired to think about holy Mass as ‘the gift of the day’, and have been challenged by ‘long for it to begin’ without the Messages coming through Medjugorje? I think not.

“Dear Children! I want Holy Mass to be the gift of the day for you. Go to it; long for it to begin, because Jesus gives Himself to you in the Holy Mass. So, live for this moment when you are purified. Pray much that the Holy Spirit will renew your parish. If the people attend Holy Mass in a half-hearted fashion, they return home with cold, empty hearts. Thank you for having responded to my call.” Our Lady at Medjugorje 30th March 1984

At regular intervals the reported Messages request that we make reading Sacred Scripture a part of our lives. Would we have actually done something about it if we hadn’t been reminded so often? Probably not. So we owe many of the graces we receive each night as we read a chapter of Scripture to Our Lady’s encouragement.

Rare indeed is the Message coming out of Medjugorje which doesn’t mention prayer, and prayer that comes from the heart and not from superficial places. Prayer is the key ingredient our spiritual lives need in order to find the path that leads us to eternal life with God – and not apart from him. Just like a good Mother, Our Lady doesn’t shy away from nagging about the things that are essential for life, health and happiness. If you still haven’t made a place for prayer in your life, give her daily recommendation of an Apostles Creed, 7 Our Fathers, 7 Hail Marys and 7 Glory Bes a go.

Where would we be without the encouragement of Our Lady’s presence, and her reminders that she is with us, praying with us and interceding for us constantly? How many good things would we not have attempted if we didn’t have that loving encouragement in the background? 

We give thanks, too, for all of the magazines and websites which promote Our Lady’s messages. How many regular religious publications are going strong today because they took on the challenge of transmitting the Messages? I know I depend on them for regular doses of inspiring stories and news about the what is going on in the world of private revelation.

How many people are sitting with us at daily Mass and Sunday Mass because of a conversion initiated through Medjugorje? At least half of them, and probably far more.

So we give thanks for all of these wonderful blessings and graces flowing from Medjugorje, knowing that there are far many more that we have barely touched upon.

Our Lady, Queen of Peace, thank you. Please continue to pray for us.

 

 

 

 

 

Our refuge and our way to God



Today, the Saturday after Corpus Christi, 16 Jun 2012, is the feast day of Our Lady’s Immaculate Heart. In recent weeks I have been reading through ‘Fatima in Lucia’s own words’ (1976) and one of the things Our Lady said during the apparition of 13 Jun 1917 has been capturing my attention. ‘My Immaculate Heart will be your refuge and the way that will lead you to God.’ Obviously what Our Lady said was important, so I’m going to do my best – with God’s grace – to try and understand it.

The longer version goes like this, and deserves pondering. “Are you suffering a great deal? Don’t lose heart. I will never forsake you. My Immaculate Heart will be your refuge and the way that will lead you to God.”

So what might Our Lady have meant by ‘refuge’? As a Jewess she would have been very familiar with the concept of a city of refuge as explained in the Book of Numbers 35:9-33. If person A murdered person B, then the appointed ‘avenger of blood’, probably a family member of Person B, could take the life of Person A if they came across him or her. In the case of an accidental death, or in a case that wasn’t clear cut, the person who killed could flee to the city of refuge. He or she would have to explain their situation at the city gates before being admitted. Once inside they were safe from the avenger of blood as long as they stayed inside the city walls. To return home safely one of two things had to happen, either a community enquiry that found them not guilty or the death of the high priest.

Through our sins each of us is guilty of the death of Jesus. He knows that most of us had no idea of the enormity of what we were doing when we sinned. ‘Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do’. (Luke 23:34) Thus to Our Lady we can go, and pour out the misery of our sins, gaining access to her Immaculate Heart through an act of consecration to that lovable Heart. Once inside, she pleads for forgiveness for us before the just Judge, winning us time to change our lives and obtain mercy.

What does Our Lady mean by saying she is the ‘way that leads to God’? To answer this, let’s look at the simple requests she made at Fatima and see what capacity they have to lead souls to God.

The first thing Our Lady asked of Bl Francisco, Bl Jacinta and Lucia was to be faithful to a monthly meeting with her, in their case the 13th of the month. We need to allow her regular space in our lives for her to be able to mold us and lead us closer to God.

The second thing Our Lady asked these children was whether they were willing to endure suffering as an act of reparation for the conversion of sinners. It is really interesting that when Lucia was later questioned whether Our Lady had asked her to pray for sinners that she was able to say ‘no’, because Our Lady asked for sacrifices for sinners. We could conclude that prayer alone is insufficient, and that to win the grace of a conversion for someone it is the sacrifices offered that are important.

The third thing Our Lady asked was to pray the Rosary every day. Without prayer we have no hope of developing a relationship with God and coming closer to Him. We’d have to conclude that the vast majority haven’t been very good at developing a regular prayer life, otherwise Our Lady would not have had to repeat her requests for prayer each and every time the good Lord permits her to appear to souls. And what is the Rosary but a 15 minute prayer time where in company with Mary we contemplate the face of Jesus in the important events of His life. The Rosary leads is directly to Jesus.

The next things Our Lady asked for were conversion and particular reparation for sins committed against her Heart. By conversion she meant turning away from all the sins in our lives and seeking forgiveness from God and the power to change in the Sacrament of Penance. Often she promised that if someone converted, then they would be healed during the year. By asking for reparation to her Immaculate Heart she revealed that offences against her Heart were a major cause of people never getting into heaven. It only takes a few moments to ponder what Our Lady went through on Calvary, and the depths of the love of Jesus towards her, to begin to comprehend how much we owe her and how offended Jesus is if we don’t treasure her love. 

All of these things come together very neatly in Our Lady’s request for the five First Saturdays :

Message given to Lucia (Fatima visionary) on 10th December 1925

Christ Child: Have compassion on the Heart of your most Holy Mother, covered with thorns, with which ungrateful men pierce it at every moment, and there is no one to make an act of reparation to remove them.

Virgin Mary: Look, my daughter, at my heart surrounded with thorns with which ungrateful men pierce me at every moment by their blasphemies and ingratitude. You at least try to console me, and say that I promise to assist at the hour of death, with the graces necessary for salvation, all those who, on the first Saturday of five consecutive months, shall confess (may be done during the period eight days before or after), receive Holy Communion, recite five decades of the Rosary, and keep me company for fifteen minutes while meditating on the fifteen mysteries of the Rosary, with the intention of making reparation to me.

In the five First Saturdays are contained the monthly meeting, the Rosary, a sacrifice of time, conversion via the Sacrament of Penance, the intention of reparation and the meeting of meetings with Jesus in Holy Communion. Each part leads us closer to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

If these things are not regular parts of your life, ask Our Lady, especially on this feast day, for the grace to make them regular parts of your life ; where you can find refuge and the secure way that leads directly to God. What a wise and loving Mother in heaven we have who provides us with this simple plan to help her children return to God!

Prayer of Reparation to Our Lady (appropriate for First Saturdays and the feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary)

O most holy Virgin and our Mother, we listen with grief to the complaints of your Immaculate Heart, surrounded with the thorns which ungrateful souls place therein at every moment by their blasphemies and ingratitude. Moved by the ardent desire of loving you as our Mother, and of promoting a true devotion to your Immaculate Heart, we prostrate ourselves at your feet to prove the sorrow we feel for the grievances that souls cause you, and to atone, by means of our prayers and sacrifices, for the offences with which souls return your tender love. Obtain for them, and for us, the pardon of so many sins. A word from you will obtain grace and amendment for us all. Hasten, O Lady, the conversion of sinners, that they may love Jesus and cease to offend the Lord, already so much offended, and so that they will not fall into hell. Turn your eyes of mercy toward us, that henceforth we may love God with all our heart while on earth, and enjoy Him forever in heaven. Amen.

O Most Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, I adore You profoundly. I offer you the most Precious Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ, truly present in all the Tabernacles of the world, in reparation for all the outrages, sacrileges and indifference by which He is offended. By the infinite merits of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I beg the conversion of poor sinners. Amen.

Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for us who seek refuge in you.

 

 

 

In honour of Our Lady, Help of Christians



Today, 24 May 2012, is the feast day of Our Lady, Help of Christians, chief Patroness of Australia. Turning to the Mother of Jesus for help is something that those who love Jesus have naturally done ever since the events at the Wedding at Cana in Galilee at the start of His public mission. All who do so prove themselves wise, as the words of the Memorare go, ‘never was it known, in any age, that anyone who fled to your protection, implored your help or sought your intercession was left unaided’.

St John Bosco used to say, ‘All my work began with a simple Hail Mary for Our Lady’s help. If you have devotion to Mary, Help of Christians, you will see what miracles are.’

Pope Leo XIII wrote a whole encyclical about Our Lady’s help in September 1895 called ‘Adiutricem’. He introduced it with these words, ‘The mightiest helper of the christian people, and the most merciful, is the Virgin Mother of God. How fitting it is to accord her honours ever increasing in splendor, and call upon her aid with a confidence daily growing more ardent. The abundant blessings, infinitely varied and constantly multiplying, which flow from her all over the whole world for the common benefit of mankind, add fresh motives for invoking and honouring her.’ and went on to detail the many ways Our Lady has been a help to believers throughout Christian history. To read the whole document, go to www.vatican.va/holy_father/leo_xiii/encyclicals/documents/hf_l-xiii_enc_05091895_adiutricem_en.htm 

From at least the third century there are records of an early prayer seeking Mary’s help, the Sub Tuum Praesidium. ‘We fly to your protection, Holy Mother of God; do not despise our petitions in our needs, but from all dangers deliver us always, O glorious and blessed Virgin.’ 

When archpriest Fr John Joseph Therry arrived in Australia to minister to the Catholic convicts and settlers in 1820, the stirring international events of 1814 were still very fresh in his mind. Napoleon was in full power in 1809 and determined to overcome the Church, putting Pope Pius VII in prison. The Pope had recourse to Mary and promised that if he were released he would begin a new feast day in her honour. On 24th May 1814, Pope Pius VII re-entered Rome to great rejoicing and on the very same day Napoleon signed the decree of his own abdication. The feast day of Our Lady, Help of Christians was celebrated for the first time on 24 May 1815. Given this most vivid display of intercessory power, it was natural for Fr Therry to encourage the convicts, emancipists and free settlers to seek Our Lady’s help under this title and to place themselves under Our Lady’s protection. In 1844 the first gathering of Australian bishops agreed that she should indeed be the Patroness of Australia under this title, and began the paperwork necessary to get it ratified in Rome. Our Lady underlined how pleasing Fr Therry’s devotion to her under this title was by arranging for his entry into eternity the day after her Feast in 1864.

In the life of St John Bosco many miracles are attributed to the intercession of Our Lady, Help of Christians. Here is a shortened version of one of them… Two days before Our Lady’s feast day a general at Turin was suddenly taken ill. St John Bosco visited him and heard his confession, and then encouraged him by annoucing that on 24th May he would be singing Our Lady’s praises in gratitude for his cure. Everyone else thought that the general was at death’s door on the 22nd, and all through the 23rd. Come the morning of the 24th May, sure enough the general was well enough to attend the feast day Mass, but first he wished to make a new confession with St John Bosco because now he realised just how lacking in faith he was. 

As with these great heroes of faith, St John Bosco, St Bernard, Pope Pius VII, Pope Leo XIII and Fr J.J. Therry, every time I have entrusted matters closest to my heart to Our Lady, and sought her help, I have never been disappointed. 

Thank you, dear heavenly Father for all of the help that you have granted to your children through the intercession of Our Lady, under the title of Help of Christians. May her prayers and her help win the deeper and truer conversion of all Australians to her son Jesus.  

 

 

Preparing for Pentecost with Our Lady



In only a few days time the Church universal will be celebrating the great Solemnity of Pentecost. On that first Pentecost all of the believers were gathered together in constant prayer with the Mother of Jesus (cf Acts 1:14). It follows that if we want to come into deeper relationship with the Holy Spirit then we need to make a special place in our lives for the Woman the Holy Spirit overshadowed to bring about the extra ordinary event of the Incarnation of Jesus.

The great Saints all share traits in common : profound love for the Eucharist, meditation upon the Passion, devotion to the Holy Souls in Purgatory, humility, thirst for the graces which come with suffering, a commitment to hours of daily prayer, an apostolate of service towards others and especially an ardent love for Our Lady. Of all the Saints, she is one who can best teach us how to love Jesus, she is the one most able to help us to grow in holiness. The kind of holiness that Jesus wants for us cannot be obtained without her assistance.

The Catechism of St Pius X teaches: Question. What do the Saints teach us on devotion to Mary? Answer. Regarding devotion to Mary the Saints teach us that those who are truly devout to her are loved and protected by her with a most tender Mother’s love, and that with her help they are sure to find Jesus and obtain Paradise. 

This next excerpt comes from ‘To the Priests, Our Lady’s beloved sons’, 22 May 1988, from a and e. ‘On this day of Pentecost of the Marian Year, consecrated to me, I am calling upon you to unite your prayer to that of your heavenly Mother, to obtain the great gift of the Second Pentecost….I am calling upon you all today to enter into the cenacle of my Heart. Thus you will be prepared to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit which will transform you and make you the instruments with which Jesus will establish His reign.’

So the best preparation for Pentecost is to unite our prayers to those of Our Lady, joining her in begging the Holy Spirit to send those charisms upon us which will help bring about the kingdom of God and dispell the rampant secularism and atheism of our times.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church has this to say (from sections 723, 724 and 725) : ‘In Mary, the Holy Spirit fulfills the plan of the Father’s goodness…In Mary, the Holy Spirit manifests the Son of the Father, now become the Son of the Virgin….Finally, through Mary, the Holy Spirit begins to bring men, the objects of God’s merciful love, into communion with Christ. And the humble are always the first to accept Him.’

So if we want to come into the fulness of communion with Jesus, we need the aid of the Holy Spirit and the aid of Mary, His Mother.

To begin, renew or strength our relationship with Mary, the Mother of Jesus and our Mother it is very fruitful to pray a prayer of consecration. This one from St Francis de Sales is a favourite of mine:

Consecration to Our Lady (Prayer of St Francis de Sales)

Most holy Mary, virgin Mother of God, most unworthy though I am to be your servant, yet moved by your Motherly care for me and longing to serve you, I choose you this day to be my Queen, my Advocate, and my Mother. I firmly resolve ever to be devoted to you and to do what I can to encourage others to be devoted to you.  My loving Mother, through the Precious Blood of your Son Jesus shed for me, I beg you to receive me as your servant forever. Aid me in my actions and beg for me the grace never by word or deed or thought to be displeasing in your sight and that of your most holy Son. Remember me, dearest Mother, and do not abandon me at the hour of death. Amen.

Our Lady, Help of Christians, Spouse of the Holy Spirit, pray for us.

 

 

May is Mary’s month



Traditionally May has been the month dedicated to renewing and intensifying our relationship with the Mother of Jesus. At any time of the year doing this is a good idea because one of the things that the Saints all have in common is deep, sincere and abiding devotion to Our Lady. So the question is how to develop a relationship with Mary, – and if you already have one – how to deepen it.

Before I get to those questions, I’ll mention my own plans. What I’m doing to celebrate this special month of May is reading aloud to my son a couple of pages each night from the book, ‘Fatima in Lucia’s own words’, edited by Fr Louis Kondor SVD. My copy was published in 1976 and most probably came into my hands from one of the many holy people I have met in parish life who are now in eternity. Choosing this particular book wasn’t hard because I wanted something that would show Our Lady in an active relationship with the three children of Fatima. Already, since reading aloud slows down the reading process and enriches the story because the mind has a chance to let mental images of the story emerge, I have been taken by the words to events that I don’t recall reading before. Later in the month when a rather long novena finishes we’ll swap the Litany of St Joseph for the Litany of Our Lady and St Joseph and start the Chaplet of the Flame of Love of Immaculate Heart of Mary (there will be more information about this later).

A relationship with Our Lady tends to start during times of crisis. When an urgent need for prayer comes up we turn naturally to those who can assist us the most, and this frequently needs to dusting off the rosary beads and praying with them. As soon as you have experienced the power and love of Our Lady’s intercession a person can’t help but wish to know her better and seek to please her. Many, many times this heavenly Mother has responded to my pleas, has obtained answers from God, and has been a companion through some very dark moments, so any chance to honour her is a pleasant one. So step 1 is seeking Mary’s intercession when trouble strikes. She is trustworthy.

The next necessary thing is to read about her. St Alphonsus Ligouri and St Louis de Monfort have written wonderful books about her, as have many other Saints. Hearing about recent actions of Our Lady also helps. I find the quarterly magazine ‘Ave Maria’ from PO Box 118, Midland, Western Australia 6936, Australia to be something that reawakens my trust on a regular basis. ($15 AUS per year for locals, $20 AUS per year for international subscriptions. In the current April 2012 issue there is a story about how the lives of two parents were saved at the time of the French Revolution because the daughter prayed the rosary and never gave up; a story about the fruits of a visit to Lourdes; and a story about how God answered a mother’s prayers or the salvation of her son. The more we know her the more we will love her.

The last step is to enter into relationship by praying with Our Lady, as well as to her. The holy Rosary is a privileged means, by which we can ponder the life of Jesus through Mary’s eyes. Delve into some of the other prayers that Christians have treasured over the centuries; the Magnificat, the Memorare, the Hail Holy Queen, the Rosary of Tears, the Rosary of the Seven Sorrows, the Litany of Our Lady, and learn from them how to love her and seek her aid. Prayer is how we connect with her and take on her mind and her values.

And what did Our Lady ask for in May, via Fr Stefano Gobbi in 1988 (message 381)? For prayer, for trust and for love. Which is a good and easy recipe to follow.

Attatched to the Flame of Love Chaplet, mentioned above, is a special promise, ‘While this chaplet is prayed ‘no dying soul in that neighbourood will be damned.’

At the beginning make the Sign of the Cross five times in veneration of Our Saviour’s Five Holy Wounds. On the large beads of the Rosary…Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart of Mary, Pray for us who seek refuge in you! On the small beads…Holy Mother save us, through your Immaculate Heart’s Flame of Love! At the end, three times Glory Be

Any small effort we make on Our Lady’s behalf is received with gratitude. Like God, she cannot be outdone in generous rewards for all those who help her bring souls back to God.

May all of us receive a deeper and truer love for the holy Mother of Jesus during the month of May.

Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for us.

Waiting and watching



Today, in spirit, we join with Our Lady watching in prayer and waiting for the fulfillment of the promise of the Resurrection of Jesus. Even though she believed in this promise with all her heart, her faith was tested and proved to be worth far more than gold. It is because of her sufferings on the day after the Crucifixion that Saturdays, and in particular First Saturdays of the months are when particular honour and devotion is paid to Our Lady.

Despite the bodily release of her Son from his agonies, the memories of the sounds of His pain, of the sounds of the nails being hammered through His flesh, of the sight of all His wounds and the smell of blood and sweat, the sounds of the jeers and insults – all echo in her mind and heart. Her grief over what was done to her Son to win our salvation goes on.

Added to this, as one by one the apostles come creeping back after they ran away, it is Mary’s difficult task to forgive each one, and to assure them of the forgiveness of Jesus.

On top of these sorrows was the greatest one of all, being deprived of the sight of her Son now buried in the tomb. All that was left to her was the sight of the nails, the crown of thorns and other instruments of His torture.

Let the living of this Holy Saturday help us to love our heavenly Mother more.

In this context the Divine Mercy intentions for Holy Saturday make sense – Jesus asks us to bring the souls of priests and religious to His Mercy, because their faithful and fruitful love gave Him strength to endure the Passion. Of these Our Lady is the pre-eminent one, and all consecrated souls are under her special patronage. They are the channels through which the torrents of Divine Mercy come to us. Woe to us if these channels are misshapen, sluggish or blocked. So today let us pray as Jesus requests for all of His consecrated ones, the priests, bishops, deacons, men religious and women religious, that they become true witnesses and channels of the Mercy He won for us on the Cross.

There is another aspect to the watching and waiting of Holy Saturday. Through it we join the expectant anticipation of the Holy Souls in Purgatory. Many of them will enter into the joys of heaven tonight as the Easter Vigil is celebrated. On that first Holy Saturday all of those who had died previously were waiting for the victory of the Saviour to open the doors to heaven for the first time. Only through the Mercy gained by His Blood could they enter. All of the patriarchs, prophets, judges, kings and levites were eagerly awaiting for this great moment. The passage from today’s Office of Readings (see below) expresses this waiting and the extraordinary love and mercy of Jesus towards these waiting souls. Each time I read this passage it moves me close to tears…

‘Today there is a great silence over the earth, for the King sleeps. The earth has trembled and fallen still, for the Lord sleeps in His fleshly nature; in the nether world He is arousing those who have slept for ages. God is dead in the flesh, and has shaken Sheol to its foundations. He goes to seek our first parents like a lost sheep. He wills to visit those who sit in the dark shadows of death, and to release Adam and his wife from their grievous captivity. The Lord takes Adam’s hand and says to him: ‘Awake, sleeper, and rise from the dead, and Christ shall enlighten you. I am your God. For your sake I became one of your sons; to you now and to all your posterity I say: Go forth! You who are in darkness, look upon the light! You who sleep, rose up!’ Office of Readings, Easter Vigil, From an ancient homily for Holy Saturday PG 43:439 

Gracious Redeemer, through the intercession of your holy Mother, please grant torrents of Your Mercy to all consecrated souls and to all the Holy Souls in Purgatory.

Jesus, I trust in You.

To honour the Two Hearts



At the beginning of March 2012 we celebrate once more the graces available on First Friday from the Sacred Heart of Jesus and on First Saturday from the Immaculate Heart of Mary. The more we learn about these Two Hearts, the more we will love them as They deserve to be loved. 

So here are two excerpts that will help us to love the Sacred Heart and Immaculate Heart better:

The first comes from ‘Father Mateo speaks to priests on priestly perfection’ by Fr Mateo Carwley-Boevey, SS.CC. translated by Fr Francis Larkin SS.CC, Chapter 11….

“O, the wonderful scandal of the Saviour openly seeking the company of the publicans, even asking them for hospitality and offering them, together with His friendship, the honour of being associated with His work of salvation! In Zaccheus and Levi we find the personification of a system inaugurated by Jesus and which was an unheard of innovation. What prophet could say as He did, ‘The Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost” (Luke 19:10)” This special love for the lost sheep of the flock is so outstanding that the parable of the prodigal son expressly brings out the indignation and jealousy of the older son who remained faithful. he had nothing to complain about, everything belonged to him. But the Heart of God the Saviour was reaffirming His right to celebrate a great banquet in heaven in honour of the repentant sinner… For instance, I have known the case of a priest who, because of his weakness, badly needed mercy, but who resisted all the attempts of the Good Shepherd to bring him back. Finally, after, many years, he was captured by the infinite mercy of the Heart of Jesus, the only possible explanation for such a conversion. You should have seen the old priest weeping tears of joy, of sorrow and of gratitude! We cannot repeat too often that Jesus was, and always will be, above all else, a Saviour for those He has redeemed….Here below Jesus is more a patient, kind and merciful Saviour than a terrible and severe judge. That is why He waits ten, twenty, fifty years or more, in order to show mercy, even though it be at the eleventh hour.”

The second comes from ‘Immaculate Heart of Mary : True Devotion’ by Fr Robert J. Fox, Chapter 6 :

“The eternal life which God poured into the heart of Mary was given by Jesus Christ. When Mary assists in the distribution of graces, she is not giving them from herself but from Jesus Christ. …graces are granted by God to all men from Christ in union with Mary’s intercession. Her Immaculate Heart acts in union with the Sacred Heart of her Son. The grace that has its source in Jesus is most perfectly received in Mary in her role as member and Mother of the Church. Her heart wills that it be granted and shared with all members of the Church. Christ’s own divine life is shared with us. Mary mediates redemptive graces through her perfect prayers, through the love of her Immaculate Heart for God, for her Son, for all the other members of the Church. Through baptism, Christ shares His divine life with us, incorporating us into Himself in union with all other believers in grace, His Mother the first among them. Mary does perfectly in her Heart what each of us is caled to do. We too are called to be intercessors – always in, with, through Jesus Christ, the one essential Mediator, the one Source of all grace.”

May the mercy of the Sacred Heart of Jesus capture us!

May the love of the Immaculate Heart of Mary intercede for us!

A flowing river of grace



Today, 11 Feb 2012, is the 154th anniversary of the first appearance of the Beautiful Lady to St Bernadette in Lourdes, France. It is also the 20th celebration of the World Day of Prayer for the Sick inauguated by Blessed Pope John Paul the Great. From the events of 11 Feb 1858 a great river of grace began to flow for souls; one which is still flowing. May our praises to God for this enormous gift teach the next generation to seek it for themselves.

This great river of grace, in my opinion, has three main sources. The first is the united love of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary for souls. The second is the declaration of the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception on 8 Dec 1854. The revelation of the Lady’s name on 25 Mar 1858 to St Bernadette was heaven’s emphatic approval of this Dogma. The third is that 1858 was a Jubilee year for the Church, in which Blessed Pope Pius IX asked for solemn public prayer that in all parts of the world good might triumph over evil. The good Lord seems to delight in granting extraordinary graces to His church during Jubilee years eg the major revelations given to St Faustina about the Feast of Mercy were given in the Jubilee year of the Redemption 1933-34.

One of the first messages of the Beautiful Lady was to ‘Pray for sinners’. The next message implored that we do penance, ‘Penance, penance, penance!’. If this message looks familiar it is the same message as contained in the long-awaited third part of the secret of Fatima. Then ‘build a chapel, an ‘come here in processions’. In other words, offer the greatest prayer of the Mass, pray in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament, and witness your faith to each other – it is easier to do penance with others. To St Bernadette, and through her to us, the Beautiful Lady said ‘drink at the stream and wash there’. At the time these words were spoken no one knew that the water would convey God’s gift of healing – not until the first miracle of 1 Mar 1858 of Catherine Latapie.  

The official Lourdes website can be found at www.lourdes-france.org

So let us give thanks for the thousands of wonderful cures received and for the 67 decreed by the Church after rigorous investigation to be miracles worthy of belief. Let us give thanks for all the pilgrims who have received the grace of conversion and for all the doctors who have received the gift of faith through Lourdes. Let us give thanks for all of those who obtained answers to prayer at Lourdes and for all the happy meetings and holy reconciliations between persons and between families that have occurred there. Let us give thanks for all souls in distress that found peace in and through Lourdes. Let us give thanks for all suffering souls who received the joy, strength and peace to carry their crosses in union with Jesus. Let us give thanks for all of the blessings and healings that have been obtained through the holy water of Lourdes and religious objects that were blessed at Lourdes. Let us give thanks for all those who began their journey home to the Catholic Church through Lourdes. 

Graces closer to home: When my grandmother returned home after a lengthy trip to Europe I asked her what the highlight of her whole trip was. It was her time in Lourdes. Much later in life I had the joy of meeting a man who had served part of his holidays each year as a stretch-bearer at Lourdes. I have seldom met anyone of greater holiness. To him, such service was a rare privilege. He treasured every scrap of information on Lourdes that he could find. Years ago one of the women’s magazines carried a story about a mother who took her severely autistic son to Lourdes, hoping for a cure. What she received was probably greater : a new acceptance of her son, peace of heart, confidence that they were all in God’s care, hope, joy, and deep healing of many inner wounds. Her son, too, radiated a whole new peace.   

The flowing river of grace has been real in my life as well. In parishes under the patronage of Our Lady of Lourdes I received the sacraments of Confirmation and Marriage, my first Confession and my first Holy Communion. One of those parishes is celebrating its 50th year in 2012 – a smaller river of grace. At some point in life the Lord Jesus makes real and personal to each one of us the entrustment of His mother, just like He did with St John (John 19:27). For me that was the feast day of Our Lady of Lourdes 1986. It has also been my joy over the years to hear story after story in parish circles of how Lourdes water brought healing and/or peace and solace to others.

God’s grace is alive and active. He wants to bring healing into our lives and to our souls. Often He does this through the intercession of Mary and the river of grace that is Lourdes. May He be praised! Thank You Lord God for this great river of grace and for Our Lady’s role in it.

Our Lady of Lourdes, pray for us.