Saint Gregory the Great

September 2, 2015

Father of Medieval Christianity – Doctor of the Church
The First Monk to be elected Pope

gregory 1
One day, I called a brilliant, holy priest-friend, complaining about the attacks against the Church and our country. His advice to me was, “Don’t despair! The world and the Church have been under attack for generations and we are still here!
To study the history of the world, especially Europe, is to discover the history of the Church. For the Church has always played an integral part in the annals of history, as she continues to follow her Master Jesus Christ, who told the Apostles, “I will be with you till the end of the world.” For since the children of God are living in the world, then so must the happenings of the world be intertwined with Mother Church as her children are affected by the world they live in.
The way the Lord protects us and saves us from the enemy is to send down from Heaven a powerful man or woman, a Super Saint, who is the right instrument for the job at the time when he or she is needed the most.
Rome and Italy under siege
We want to share a little of what was going on in the world of the 5th Century. The world was in a turmoil! This was the beginning of the end of the Western emperors. The collapse of the Roman empire begins with Italy being taken over by one barbarian army placing Italy under the thumb of the Eastern emperors of Constantinople, only to be invaded and ravaged by another barbarian, the Ostrogoth Theodoric, who would rule Italy from Rome, from 493, until his death in 526.
We are now in the 6th Century and we see yet another war brewing. Seeing Theodoric’s demise as an opportunity, we meet another conqueror, Emperor Justinian. He wanted to bring back to Rome some of the glory that it had during its glorious days. He was determined to reclaim North Africa and Italy from the Goths for the Western Roman Empire. He went about it by sending the ominous Belisarius with his Greek armies, who set out by first plowing through North Africa, triumphantly; and then focusing his sights on Italy, he went on to invading Sicily. That engagement successful, he was on to Rome and the rest of Italy. This Italian war lasted from 535 to 553. Through the tenacity of Belisarius, Justinian accomplished what he had set out to do, re-establish the glory that was Rome.
Not to know any respite, Rome was once again invaded by the Goths, with the fierce Totila now leading the charge, laying waste anything or anyone in his way, with nothing less than the occupation of Rome, in mind. The new charging hordes looted everything in sight, destroying that which they could not take. Cities after cities were laid waste, along with the farms in the tiny villages. There was an anger and a helplessness which made monsters out of otherwise good people, trying to cope with the famine which was widespread; and so as a direct result we find Rome and the rest of Italy attacked now from within, with rioting and all forms of chaos.
People were almost out of their minds, not knowing where to turn. And to compound the cross they were forced to carry, an epidemic spread throughout the countryside, claiming those who had not died through starvation and mistreatment. Tossed from conqueror to conqueror, the 500 citizens of Rome who were left alive, suffered the worst persecution and horrible deprivation. All their crops confiscated by the invading armies, and that which they couldn’t take burned and destroyed, the suffering citizens were reduced to near starvation.
For the Goths, the sweet taste of victory and conquest was to be short-lived. General Belisarius returned, and once again led the charge, forcing the Goths to retreat. Once again the victor, the intoxicating smell of conquest for Belisarius was to be as fleeting as a breath of fresh air on a hot, smoldering day. The Emperor Justinian replaced Belisarius with Narses, another general. This was not a good move, because it gave the Goths the opportunity to recapture Rome, which they did.
For the poor citizens of Italy, their lives were like living on a see-saw. Each day, some new tragedy befell them. it must have felt like the sun would never shine on them and their land, again, what with being under the subjugation of one Emperor after another, one conqueror replacing the one before, raising havoc and despair; it seemed even Mother Nature was against them. A great feeling of despair overtook the land. And God’s children cried!
This is where God comes in. Well, He’s always there. He always helps us. During this terrible time, He gave us St. Benedict, who, according to tradition, had an encounter with the Goth conqueror, Totila.
“The vile and murderous tyrant Totila the Goth, spreading his evil ways throughout the Roman Empire, finally came to central Italy and Saint Benedict. Now, Totila had heard of Benedict’s miracles and prophetic gifts, and he thought he would test him. So he took Riggo, the captain of his guards, and dressed him in his regal purple robes (the color of royalty), and sent him to Benedict at Monte Cassino, along with three counts from his court who always escorted him. But the disguise did not fool Benedict, who, upon Riggo appearing before him, addressed the impostor: “My son, why are you wearing these robes, as they do not belong to you?” Riggo fled and reported what had transpired to Totila. Upon hearing his testimony, Totila went in haste to visit St. Benedict. It is written that when Totila appeared before Benedict, he was in such awe and wonder, he fell prostrate before him. Benedict, in his always charitable heart, after inviting him to stand several times, rose and helped Totila to his feet.

Benedict spoke severely and prophetically: “It is time you ceased your vile and contemptible conduct. You are doing much evil, and much evil you have done. You will enter Rome; you will rule for nine years; and on the tenth you will die.” Totila remained alarmed and never forgot the prophecy. It was as if he were getting another chance. He went about altering his rule, lending more clemency to his sentencing. It came to pass, as Benedict prophesied: Totila reigned for nine years and died on the tenth year, in 542 A.D.”
God raises up a Saint for this time

gregory2
God’s children were suffering! Never leaving us alone, into this topsy-turvy world, God sent us a future Saint, whose voice would ring strong down through the ages, summoning God’s children to pray and believe in the One True Triune God,
Who is with us; Who loves us; Who we can trust.
This future Saint Gregory the Great, God was raising up, who was destined to be one of the most powerful Popes the world would know, was sent to strengthen the Church He had founded, to guide His most precious lambs that they not wander and get devoured by wolves.

 

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Saints Augustine and Monica – Mother and Son

August 27, 2015

Augustine and Monica – Mother and Son

Author’s Note:  This blog contains excerpts from a chapter on St. Augustine in our book “Saints and Other Powerful Men in the Church

This was written entirely by Penny Lord

augustine1Family, when we speak of Saints, not meaning to be disrespectful, we sometimes say, they were sinners who became Saints.  But that would include many of our Saints today.  If there is one, the world knows most for that distinction, it would have to be Saint Augustine.  But he is so much more.  We also learn of his mother, Monica, who prayed for 17 years for his conversion, but she also is so much more.

We talk of touchability and we think of this Saint.  If we’re not careful, we ignore his strength, and become comfortable in his weakness.  We speak of conversion, and he comes right to the forefront of our minds.  It’s so reassuring; St. Augustine had 30 years to reform his life.  We like that idea; convert me, Lord, but can You wait ’till tomorrow?

But as we travel deeper into his life, we discover not only the son Augustine; we encounter the Saint of Prayer, that relentless petitioner, his mother Monica.  He was the source of her sanctification, as she led him to his.  This is a story of a sinner turned saint, and his mother.  It’s a story of love, powerful, unconditional, untiring love.  It’s not too popular a story, in our present age, because: number one, it’s true;  number two, it’s about hope; number three it’s about faithfulness; number four, it’s about conversion; number five, it’s about love and a mother’s love, at that.  This all adds up to that very unpopular message of the Gospel.  But I think it’s time for the Gospel.  It’s time for Miracles.  It’s time for sinners to turn into Saints.  It’s time for you and me.  He was a great intellect, who gave great credence to the scholars of his time, Cicero, and Plato.  She became a convert to Our Lord Jesus.  He believed the teachings of the Gospel to be too simple for his intellect.  She kept praying for him and doing battle with him as mothers will so with their sons.

Even though she was not aware, what was going on inside her son, Monica would be responsible for his salvation.  Was it the early training, she had imparted to him of the Faith?  Was it that longing that burns in our hearts and minds and never lets go of us.  Was it that Truth that always brings us back to our Mother Church?  Or was it, Monica, true mother, possibly without realizing the danger her son was in, nevertheless praying unceasingly for him and for his future?  He did start to go back to church with his mother.  He cried out for help, even asking God for the strength to lead a more virtuous life.  His prayer went,

“…Grant me chastity and continence (abstinence), but not yet!

Augustine sank lower and lower, sin not only infecting him, but permeating his entire being.  Monica began to discern the evil that was taking over in her son’s life.  She prayed!  His father, now a catechumen on the way to becoming baptized, recognized the signs.  These were the carnal desires he, too, had known.  He thought of the perfect solution: marry him off!

Monica, not content to cry and worry, reached out to her son and asked him, outright, what his problem was.  She spoke calmly, but compassionately, trying to get Augustine to confide in her.  She warned him of the danger he was putting himself into, but all to no avail.  What did she know?  She was a woman; what did she know of men’s concerns, no less needs.  Besides, he was so advanced intellectually, so beyond her understanding.  Later he spoke of this woman talk:

“You were speaking to me through her, my God, and in ignoring her, I was ignoring You!”

Are you ever tempted to say nothing to your children, judging they’re not listening?  If you do not speak, as Monica before you did, where will that voice come from, that wisdom, for them to remember?  As with Augustine, will they, in time, hear and say “yes?”  It couldn’t have been easy for Monica, as her advice created a rift, a heart-break only a mother, estranged from her son, knows.

Augustine planned to leave for Rome.  The reason he was setting out for Rome, he thought, was, he would be more successful there, but God had other plans.

At first, Monica was very unhappy that her son was leaving for Rome; but then, when she saw she could not dissuade him, she decided she would go with him.  Loving his mother, but unequivocally opposed to her accompanying him, Augustine lied to her; he told her the boat would leave the following day.  When his mother arrived at the shore, and saw the boat had left, without her, she was beside herself.  She had prayed to God, pleading with Him to keep her son from leaving.  He let her down; was she upset!  However, it was in Italy that Augustine would be converted, and her prayers answered.  But Monica, like Martha (John 11:21), could not, at that moment in time, see her son rising from the death of his former life, and so she was angry with God.

Augustine spent a year completely oblivious of Catholic Rome.  He spent most his time with his Manichaean friends.  He discovered they were as dishonorable and deceitful as they claimed to be virtuous and honest.  Rather than turn to St. Jerome, who could have answered and dispelled his many doubts, he held on to his deep-seated prejudice against the Catholic Church and turned to the Academics.  These Academics or Agnostics were dissidents, decadent disciples of an Academy founded by Plato seven hundred years earlier.  Their philosophy was that truth was beyond human intellect; nothing can be known with absolute certainty.  Therefore, permanent doubt was the wisest course to take.

Hard as he tried to bury himself, teaching his students, his persistent doubts were eating at him.  Man has a need for truth.  Without this, the emptiness becomes unbearable and if not satisfied, leads to death.  Augustine became so depressed; he lost all desire to live.  But, not even this would lead him to be baptized!  Here he was, in Rome, all alone, at the point of death, and he was dying without a priest, without Christ, without God.  There was Monica, back in Africa, praying passionately, sensing, with her motherly instinct, the new and maybe, final danger her son was in.

Augustine, having doubted God, now doubted man.  His friends, the Manichaeans and his new-found friends, the Academics had betrayed him; their talking in circles tired him.  Their worldly attempts to explain the unexplainable did not satisfy the gnawing questioning inside of him.  The peace and acceptance he had expected from his students, in Rome, was not forthcoming; rather they proved more disappointing than those he had left in Africa.

Augustine learned of a chair of Rhetoric open in Milan.  The prefect of Rome, who had final word over his acceptance or rejection, was a pagan.  Augustine would need the Manichaeans to recommend him.  And they did!  God, with His incomparable sense of humor, used a pagan cult through a pagan authority to bring Augustine to the Holy Catholic Church.  Why not?  After all, God created all of us, Saints and sinners.  Maybe this was His Merciful Way to forgive them, in part, for all the innocent, they had led astray through their errors.

St. Augustine meets St. Ambrose and all Heaven rejoices

aug3        St. Ambrose was the Bishop that would lead the stubborn, prideful Augustine to the Church.  Why did God allow St. Augustine the luxury of so much pain and near death to body and soul?  We believe, in our Ministry, that God works most powerfully and authoritatively, through our mistakes and our pain.  There is something, like with St. Augustine that speaks louder than even the words, when we speak from our own falling and rising and falling again, the living words being, “Well, here I am, by the Grace of God.”

This is the man who was to bring the treasure of Augustine into Christ’s Church.  It appears Augustine is always in the midst of turmoil, either by his will, life’s circumstance, or God’s design.  And so, here he was in Milan.  It was being torn apart by dissensions between Catholics and Arians.  Surprise you?  Arianism had been gaining a foothold in the East and had spread to Milan.  Bishop Ambrose had the difficult and unpopular mission of maintaining unity within the Church and peace in the city, and all this, without compromising the Faith.

Augustine first went to hear St. Ambrose preach because he thought he could absorb some of the renowned man’s gifts of Rhetoric.  St. Augustine writes,

“Yet along with the words, which I admired, there also came into my mind the subject-matter, to which I attached no importance.  I could not separate them.  And while I was opening my heart to learn how eloquently he spoke, I came to feel, though only gradually, how truly he spoke.”

A glimmer of hope cut through the clouds in Augustine’s mind, as Ambrose’s preaching began to dispel some of the doubts that had plagued him.  He began to find the Catholic Faith understandable, plausible, simple for the ordinary man, yet not too simple for the intelligent man.  This was an important step in his walk toward the Father.  Others would follow, but like a baby taking his first steps; it would not be easy for Augustine.  Wanting to do it his own way, he would continue to lose his balance and fall, until he accepted the guiding hand of his Mother Church.

The word Mother was not just a word to Augustine.  He loved his mother with the fervor with which he loved life.  So, when he finally gave his heart to this Mother Church, it was with this same ardor.  Unlike the picture we may have of him, Augustine could never be considered a cold, intellectual, way above our heads, Saint.  Augustine passionately loved and sought the truth, even before he recognized the truth he longed for; the Truth, was God.

Augustine decided he would return to Church, only as a catechumen (as he had been as a child), until he was enlightened to do otherwise.  As a catechumen, he was required to leave after the Liturgy of the Word.  It didn’t seem to bother him.  Not knowing Who he was missing, he did not hunger for more.  Or did he know, in his heart of hearts, that once he knew the Lord in the Eucharist, he would be helplessly in love!  As he departed from the church, he could not wait to return the next day, to hear Scripture and the Bishop’s homily.  He found himself more and more excited by what he was learning.  This would have to suffice, for now.  God would use this to draw him to Him.  If this is what would color Augustine’s decision to continue attending Mass, well, God was not past wooing him that way.

Monica joins Augustine in Milan

aug4         It is most likely that St. Augustine called his mother to join him in Milan.  Whatever the case, we know she left Tagaste, probably departing from Carthage in the year 385 A.D.  Did all the fallen angels, in their fury, attack the ship, knowing the part Monica was playing in Augustine’s life?  Didn’t they know the power was in her prayers, more than in her physical presence?  Nevertheless, as they crossed the ocean, the sea became violent; the ship tossed and pitched from side to side.  Even the most seasoned sailors knew they were going to perish.  Monica never gave up hope, trusting in the word the Bishop had given her; she would see her son a Catholic before she died.  That was enough for her!

The storm over, Monica stepped on Italian soil, and into her beloved son’s open arms.  Did Augustine try to hide the delight and need he had for his mother?  We believe they hugged and cried, their special love surpassing language.  As they walked away from the shore, Augustine excitedly shared what he knew Monica wanted to hear most: he was a practicing catechumen and no longer part of the Manichaeans.

To his bewilderment, that did not surprise or satisfy her.  Monica wanted him to be a part of the Church, Baptized and Confirmed; nothing but him being a professed member of the Mystical Body of Christ would satisfy her.  Her hopes and expectations, the extent of her prayers for him were, he would marry within the Church.  Little did she envision or suspect, for one moment, he would, one day, be consecrated to the Lord as a Priest.

Monica did not stop with the bone her son handed her; she went to see Bishop Ambrose.  He listened kindly and attentively to this holy mother.  He could see how very much she loved her son.  Strengthened by his kindness, she expressed concern that the Bishop was doing little, personally, to encourage Augustine to be baptized.  We wouldn’t be surprised if she told him, respectfully, that when Augustine came to see him, eager to unburden his soul, Ambrose appeared to be indifferent.  Was he ignoring him, never once looking up from what he was reading?  Both Monica and Augustine recognized Ambrose’s Holiness.  She was not really questioning his actions.  Monica was trying to move mountains!  But, she was also trying to be obedient to the Will of God.  So, she prayed!

Ambrose probably told the mother, it was not enough for Augustine to accept the Faith intellectually, with his head; he must live the Faith, with his heart.  As Augustine was living with a woman, outside the Sacrament of Matrimony, this did not appear feasible.  You never discover, from Augustine’s writings, the earthly reason he could not take this girl, he loved and lived with for many years, as his wife.  But he could not!

Augustine and the girl loved one another.  They had been faithful to one another for fifteen years; but without the blessing of Almighty God, it was hopeless from the beginning.  Their happiness was overcast by torment, the agony of trying to build a house without a foundation.  Christ, the Cornerstone was missing in their relationship.  Instead, their bedfellows were the fallen angels of jealousy, suspicion, fear, anger, and dissension.  They were not bad people, only victims of the world and its lies.

The young woman had given Augustine a son.  Years later, as he grieved over the death of this son, he called him, “the son of my sin;” but the young father, puffed up with pride, called his son Adeodatus, “God-given.”

The young mother left Augustine and their son, after he converted, although she loved them very deeply.  Following her lover’s example, she, too, had converted.  She joined a convent and spent the rest of her life loving and being loved by her one and only True God.  Had He been looking after her, brushing off her knees, as He had Mary Magdalene, telling her she was beautiful and needed to sin no more?

Putting two and two together, reasoning that had been why Ambrose had hesitated to talk to her son, Monica prayed to God, only now, in thanksgiving,  As a Catechumen, he left the church right after the Gospel.  He never knew about the Consecration or the Body and Blood of Jesus.  He was given the word, “Courage!  I am the Food of the strong.  And you will eat Me.  But it is not I Who shall be changed into you, for you will be changed into Me!”

These words that spoke not to his mind, were received within the deep recesses of his heart.  He wrote,

“There was from that moment no ground of doubt in me: I would have doubted my own life than have doubted that truth.”

Amazon links for Saints Augustine and Monica

St. Augustine meets himself in St. Paul

St. John spoke to Augustine’s heart, calling him to a higher Love.  He was now ready to turn to the city boy, St. Paul.  In Paul’s letters, Augustine saw how St. Paul laid bare man’s inner struggles, that ongoing war being waged inside of every one of us, that battle between, as St. Paul says,

“What happens is that I do, not the good I will to do, but the evil I do not intend…This means that even though I want to do what is right, a law that leads to wrongdoing is always at hand…”

St. Paul’s writings became a fountain from which Augustine would continue to drink the water of Salvation. Through them, he would quench the dryness of his soul.  He would, as well, meet himself in St. Paul’s tears of confession, later writing his own.  Nowhere, was St. Augustine to relate, so personally, to his own struggles, discouragements, hopes and failures, that of running the race and seeing no victory, as in St. Paul’s writings.  He knew, through Paul, he, too, was on the road to Damascus and Jesus was pleading,

Augustine was baptized by St. Ambrose in the caves of the Cathedral of Milan.  Her work done, Monica set out for home in Carthage.  But the Lord called her Home in Ostia, while she was waiting for the ship.

Bring your sons and daughters, maybe your husbands or brothers, up to the foot of the altar as Monica did.  All she asked of her son, as she was dying, was that he remember her at the foot of the altar.  Little did she suspect, Augustine would remember her, as he celebrated Mass on the Altar.  As he raised the Consecrated Host, in sacrifice for sins, he raised all the love and sacrifice his mother had made for the salvation of his soul.  That love stood with him, as victim-priest, he brought to the faithful, our Lord Jesus in His Body and Blood.  And so, a mother never gave up and we have a Saint whom we look to and remember, saying, there’s a place for us.  There is a promised land.  And that land is with You, Lord.

Epilogue

aug2     We pray that reading this, our humble attempt to bring you a little of St. Augustine and his relationship with God, his mother and all the forces of Heaven and hell, you will now dig into that most beautiful and forceful of all autobiographies, The Confessions of St. Augustine.  He called us to “read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest.”  As we close this small chapter on this great man: Saint, sinner and son, we add to his words, “and love.”

Media and more information about Monica and Augustine

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Our Lady Of Czestochowa Queen of Poland

August 25, 2015

czesto1We begin with the miraculous tradition by which
this painting found its way from a little home in Jerusalem to
Czestochowa, Poland, 1300 years later? Where do you start?
I guess the beginning would be best.
Tradition tells us that St. Luke painted the original image of
Our Lady on a table top in St. Joseph’s workshop in Nazareth.
We truly believe that St. Luke sat at the feet of Mary and listened
to Her tell about the Miraculous Conception and Birth of Our Lord Jesus.
St. Luke is the only one of the four Gospel writers
who describes in detail the events from the Annunciation of the
Angel Gabriel to Our Lady, through the Visitation, the Birth of
Jesus, the Presentation in the Temple, and the Finding of Our
Lord Jesus in the Temple. Where would he have gotten this
information if not sitting at Her feet, listening in awe to this,
the most beautiful Woman the world has ever known?
And why not, while he was listening to Her, could he not
have painted a picture of Her, or drawn a sketch which later
could become a statue of Her (Our Lady of Loreto)? There are
many writings which justify this theory. From the early days,
writers such as Sixtus of Siena and Nicefar (a Roman writer)
both wrote that St. Luke painted the image of Our Lady.
There are literally thousands upon thousands of images of
Our Lady, most of them created through the inspiration of the
Holy Spirit by the hands of mankind (men or women). All are
limited in their ability to capture the beauty of the Mother of
God, except two. One is the image which was painted by the
Divine Artist, brought to earth by the Angels and deposited on
the hill of Tepeyac in Mexico in 1531. This is undoubtedly
the truest image of Our Lady we will ever see. The Artist was
God.
The second image was made firsthand by a person who was
standing or sitting or kneeling in Her presence as he put the
image on canvas, or in this case, on a table top, which, according
to tradition, was made by Our Lord Jesus as a young Man. It is
believed, the artist was St. Luke, the physician, the Evangelist,
the artist. To our way of thinking (and now, don’t take this as
church teaching, this is Bob and Penny Lord), he was inspired
by the Holy Spirit. To repeat, to our way of thinking, what
gives it away is Our Lady’s eyes.
There are expressions and expressions on images of Our
Lady. But none that we have seen have the pain and suffering
Our Lady experienced in Her lifetime. Nor does any other image
of Our Lady depict the overwhelming sadness which
cries out in that painting by St. Luke. Not even the re-creation
of the scene at the foot of the Cross, where Our Lady holds
Her Beloved Son’s limp, bleeding Body in Her arms – the
Pieta, captures the anguish of Our Lady, painted by St. Luke.
Not even those images of Our Lady standing at the foot of the
Cross, painted by some of the most gifted artists, who have
attempted to capture those moments, have the depth of sadness
in the eyes of Our Lady depicted by St. Luke.
It had to be done while he sat in front of Her, listening as
She recounted Her life story to him. There were most likely
moments when Her eyes lit up, and She smiled, remembering
special times in Her life with Her Son and St. Joseph. Perhaps
the very occasion He made the table, upon which St. Luke was
painting Her portrait, was a joyful moment. But then there
were other times, when St. Luke could almost see what She
could see – the Passion, Crucifixion and Death of Her Son.
How sad, how overpoweringly sad it had to be, for Her to look
out at the world with such agony coming from deep within Her
heart, rising up into Her eyes, and then spilling out for all the
world to see and know.

czesto2
As we’ve said before, there have been many portraits of Our
Lady made over the centuries. She is the most popular Woman
the world has ever known. And of those paintings, there are so
many diverse expressions on Her face, you can’t count all of
them. But there has never been a painting made of Our Lady
which begins to compare with the raw, naked emotion of the
painting of Our Lady in Czestochowa. And because the artist
had so profoundly personal a relationship with Our Lady, we
concur that it could very well have been St. Luke. Why not?

More information and media about Our Lady of Czestochowa

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Saint Rose Of Lima Patroness of the Americas

August 23, 2015

rose1Letter to the Romans,
“We know that in everything God works for good, with those who love Him, who are called according to His purpose.
For those whom He foreknew He also predestined
to be conformed to the image of His Son, in order
that he might be the first-born among many brethren.
And those whom He predestined, He also called;
and those whom He called, He also justified,
and those whom He justified, He also glorified.”
Romans 8:28-30
After the death and canonization of St. Rose of Lima the question that everybody asked was whether it was coincidental that her parents bought the property on the location where the first rose was planted, or was it by Divine design? Those who believed in the power of God were sure it was His intent that the child be born in

A Miraculous Name
Even the name she was given came directly from Heaven. Originally she was named Isabel after her maternal grandmother. But a miraculous occurrence took place while the child was an infant, before her Baptism. She was in her stroller with the Indian servant Mariana. All of a sudden the maid began to cry out to Rose’s mother and the children assembled in the room. She saw the child’s face turn into a beautiful rose! The children ran over to the stroller. They saw something different. They cried out that they saw a rose above her head, suspended in mid-air. Her mother, Oliva, took this as a sign from Heaven that the child was to be named Rose.

We believe it was a sign from Heaven also, even though it caused a lifetime of bad feelings between Oliva and her mother, Isabel, for reasons which are pretty obvious. This was just the beginning of the mystical experiences attributed to St. Rose of Lima.
When it was time for the Baptism, Rose’s grandmother, Isabel was still determined to have the Archbishop, Toribio de Mongrevo, baptize the child with her given name, Isabel. But the Archbishop, who heard about this miracle from his sister, being justifiably fascinated by the possibility that this might truly be a miracle from Heaven, baptized her with the name Rose, ignoring the name Isabel altogether. Whether he did it intentionally, or was inspired by the Holy Spirit, is not certain. Do you think there may have been a little intercession from on high? We do.
We believe that God had a very special plan for this child in the religious development of the people of this New World. If we just look at the parallel world, Europe, in this same time frame, we may be given some indicator as to why God was working so hard to make the Church strong in Peru. The year of Rose’s birth was 1586. What was happening in Europe in 1586?
The heresies of Martin Luther had wreaked havoc on the Church of Europe from the beginning of the century. But the movement faltered, even under the rule of Calvin, who was much more violent than Martin Luther. It was in great danger of collapsing, until Henry VIII of England started his own church in an effort to legitimize his lustful and adulterous behavior. He wanted to marry many women and couldn’t get the Pope to annul his previous marriages. Henry decided to throw out the Catholic Church and start a new church, with him as the head. This from a man who had been given the title of Defender of the Faith by the Pope for his defense of the Faith against Martin Luther.

Henry VIII’s daughters played a game of one upmanship on him, treating those who would not come over to the Church of England worse than Henry did. By 1570, Elizabeth I, his daughter from Ann Boleyn, declared her Act of Supremacy,1 and in 1585, it became illegal to be a priest in England under pain of treason. Priests and religious became non-persons. This was Elizabeth’s way of getting back at Pope Pius V, who excommunicated her as a heretic in 1570.
In 1588, a rumor was started that the Pope and the King of Spain were planning an invasion on England and Ireland. All priests who were in captivity or who were able to be rounded up, were taken to Canterbury and executed. Most were hanged, then drawn and quartered.2 They were called the Martyrs of Canterbury.
During the time Elizabeth and her cronies were enjoying killing their own countrymen, she decided it was time to subject the Irish to her particular type of terror. Thus began the Penal times for the Irish, the age of the persecution. Thousands of Irish people, faithful to the Church, were slaughtered or starved to death in an effort to bring Ireland under English Rule and the Church of England. It never happened. This was followed by Oliver Cromwell, who subjected the Irish to inhuman terror.
In France, the Huguenots3 began Wars of Religion, in which they looted and destroyed churches, kidnapped and murdered priests and nuns, dug up bodies of Saints and profaned them, all to put down Catholicism in France.
So if you wonder why Our Lady came to Guadalupe in 1531, and Our Lord Jesus gave us Martin de Porres, Rose of Lima, and Toribio de Mongrevo in Lima Peru at the end of the Sixteenth century, the answer may be all too clear.
A Rose from Heaven
In the midst of so much political activity in Lima, little Rose was born on April 20, 1586 to Oliva and Gaspar Flores. From the very beginning of her life she exhibited a great deal of mysticism. She was the only child of Gaspar and Oliva’s eleven children who did not cause her mother any labor pains. All the children before, and those subsequent to Rose, caused her a great deal of pain in child-bearing. Rose, on the other hand, caused her mother a great deal of pain after she was born.
She was the recipient of God’s graces from an early age. Barely able to walk, she would be found lost in contemplation before the big crucifix in her mother’s room. At three years old, she endured surgery from an accident without crying at all. A heavy lid from a flour jar fell on her finger, causing a blood clot and great pain. The surgeon had to cut back her fingernail, and apply acid to the finger. All of this was done without anesthetic. The acid had to stay on the finger for several days. When she was complimented on her behavior, Rose commented on how much more Jesus had suffered.

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Later, she was stricken with an excruciating earache. When asked if it hurt badly she stated, “Yes, but Our Lord’s Crown of Thorns must have hurt much more.”
During Rose’s recuperation period from the blood clot, her mother tried teaching her how to read, using secular material. It was impossible. The girl could not read anything. Oliva gave up in despair. She threw the book across the room and told little Rose to get out of her sight. Then her grandmother began to teach Rose from her prayer book. Sometime later, little Rose came out of her room with the prayer book, having read several pages from it. When Oliva asked her daughter who taught her to read and write, she replied, “I asked the Baby Jesus to teach me, Mama, to save you the work and He did.” Rather than being elated that her daughter could read and write, Oliva punished Rose for what she considered defiance. Rose took her punishment without a word of complaint.
In an effort to establish a truce with her own mother, Oliva allowed Rose’s grandmother, Isabel, to bring Rose to confession to whatever church she desired. When Rose became five years old, Isabel brought her to the Jesuit church. Rose immediately asked her new confessor if she could make a vow of Chastity. The priest was somewhat surprised, especially in view of the fact that she was only five years old, but after prayer and counsel with superiors, he allowed her to make the vow. It would be a problem for Rose in later years, when her mother wanted her to marry, but at this time, it seemed harmless to the priest, and to our little Saint, it was an important gift to give Our Lord Jesus.

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Through a controversy which took place between the government and the Archbishop of Lima, the Lord moved Rose and her family from the Jesuit church to the church of St. Dominic, to which Rose became extremely attached. There was a special statue in this chapel of Our Lady of the Rosary. Many of the faithful of Lima flocked in time of need to petition favors of Our Lady. In this chapel, Rose had many encounters with the Mother of God, some of them actual apparitions, others inner locutions.

 

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What is the most important thing to be a Catholic today? by Bob Lord

August 19, 2015

What is the most important thing to be a Catholic today?

Family, since we appeared on EWTN’S Bookmark recently, we’ve been getting a lot of questions about what we’re supposed to believe in today.  There’s a lot of confusion in our Church today.  Our priests are bewildered; our Bishops are no less perplexed.  Misinformation is coming our way daily, probably from the main stream media.  Nevertheless it puts us everyday rank and file Catholics in a quandary.

Lanciano Miracle

Lanciano Miracle

There is only one thing we need to focus our lives on, and that is Jesus in the Eucharist.  He comes to us in the Holy Mass.  The greatest prayer we have is the Mass.  All the promises Jesus made to us are confirmed in that one great prayer which too many of us take for granted.

 

Well, when you’re confounded by what you’re hearing that the Pope has said, or what Cardinal is resigning due to a scandal, or what priest is running a drug operation in his home town, just focus on what it is that makes you a Catholic.  It’s Jesus in the Eucharist; Jesus in the Tabernacle; Jesus in your life.

 

I want to tell you a story.  My precious wife Penny and I were invited to the installation of an Archbishop.  He was a good friend of ours, as was his mother and most of his family.  So when we got there, we were treated like royalty as long as we were with the family.   We got front row seats at the various events that week.  We got the first taxis, making priests and monsignors and bishops wait.  It was great.  We were scheduled to sit with the family at a table right next to all the hierarchy after the installation.

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SO, the day of the Installation arrived.  We had great seats in this huge auditorium.  We were sitting with the family.  Down on the stage area, two Cardinals were in attendance.  Then about 50 high hats (Bishops) processed in.  They were followed by close to 250 priests.  It was a glorious celebration.

 

About then, the cousin of our friend the Archbishop-to-be became upset.  She looked at the program where the new Archbishop made what we thought was a very loving statement to our Protestant brothers and sisters who might be there, telling them they could not receive Communion, as they were not in union with the Catholic Church.  The cousin, an ex-nun, turned to Penny and said, “Isn’t that a disgrace what he’s written here?  We’ll never get them back to the Church.”  Whereupon my darling, in her best Brooklyn accent volleyed back, “What’s your problem?  It’s in keeping with Church teaching.”  At that point, the cousin’s mother, the aunt of the future Archbishop, spouted out, “Oh what’s the big deal?  It’s only a symbol anyway.”

 

There was a moment of silence before Penny, filled with her Italian rage let the two of them have it.  She said:

“Do you see those two Cardinals down there?

Do you see all those high hats (bishops)?

Do you see all those priests down there?

Well they could all get up and dance naked on the altar and I would still be a Catholic because JESUS IS NOT A SYMBOL.  He is present to us in the Eucharist every day.” 

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She silently said to Jesus “I wish You had not made me say that.  You know where we’re going to sit at the dinner.”  And her prediction was true.  Instead of sitting with the family, right next to all the bigwigs of the Church, we found ourselves right next to the kitchen door, getting banged every time it opened and closed.

 

You may think the moral of this is “No good deed goes unpunished.”  I don’t think so.  I believe the moral is that our Faith belief is very simple.  It’s not complicated at all.  It may not be easy; but it’s simple.  Focus on the tabernacle.  You have a friend there, a best friend.  Talk to Him; He will listen.  Don’t let outside forces influence you.  And that goes for my revered priests,  bishops and Cardinals.  Keep your eyes on Jesus in the Eucharist.  I didn’t say it would be easy.  But it is simple

IMAGE LICENSED TO EWTN FOR PROMOTIONAL, TV, AND EDITORIAL USE (Photo by Greg Tarczynski)

IMAGE LICENSED TO EWTN FOR PROMOTIONAL, TV, AND EDITORIAL USE (Photo by Greg Tarczynski)

We love you!

 

Information about Miracles of the Eucharist


Mother Mary Has Many Faces – The Assumption

August 14, 2015

Mother Mary has Many Faces

rosary-basilicaFamily, when we gave a talk in a church, Penny and I always asked our audience to think about their mother.  The reactions were varied, and very often surprising.  Most would smile and reminisce about times with their mother when they were young.  Others would grimace.  We always found it strange.  Then we asked them to think about our Blessed Mother.  We always got a good reaction then.

Mary has different faces.  She is a different person to the same child many times over in their lives.  As are we different people at different times in our lives.  I want to tell you a story of how we named the title of our book, “The Many Faces of Mary.”

Actually it was my darling wife Penny, who coined the phrase, Many Faces of Mary in 1983.  It was a warm summer day in Italy.  The afternoon sun cast its shadows from the buildings onto the pavement of the sleepy narrow Corso Boccalino, which leads to the Holy House in Loreto.

As we walked down the street towards the famous shrine to Mary, we praised and thanked her for the relief from the heat the shadows afforded us.  It was a lazy day, partly because of the heat, and partly because of the conversation with our luncheon guest.  He was a young Italian manufacturer of religious articles, Paolo Georgetti.  He was eager to know why people prayed to Mary under so many different names.  He used the pretext that he was interested in manufacturing plaques of Our Lady, but we could tell from his conversation that he had been seriously flirting with the Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Penny, who was inspired by the Holy Spirit and had a great love for Mary, rattled off with great enthusiasm various titles of Our Lady to which people had the greatest devotion.  “Let’s see, there’s Our Lady of Lourdes, Our Lady of Fatima.  Then you definitely need Our Lady of Pompeii and Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal……”

Young Paolo started to laugh, sarcastically.  “But signora, how many ladies can there be?”  The sound of his laughter ricocheted off the buildings, assaulting the peaceful silence of the afternoon.  It was like a shriek against our ears.  We felt as if he had blasphemed.

Penny looked at him, her expression a combination of hurt, anger and defensiveness.  “How many people are you?  To your wife, you are Paolo, husband and lover.  To your children, you are daddy, pillar of strength, provider.  To your father, you are Paolo, successor to his business, learning your trade from him.  To your mother, you are the baby she held inside her womb those nine months, and watched with pride as you grew up.  To your employees, you are Signor Georgetti, the Patrone.  Same Paolo, but different people, addressing different needs.”

“It’s the same with Our Lady, only multiplied ten thousand fold.  Mary has many faces.  Each title of Mary answers a special need in those who reach out to her.  And she answers the needs as a loving mother, an understanding friend, a trusting confidante, whatever you need.  She’s available.  Don’t ever underestimate the Many Faces of Mary.”  And there we had it, out of the mouth of inspired, brilliant Penny Lord, the title of our new book, “The Many Faces of Mary.”

Family, this month, August 15, we will celebrate the Assumption of Mary into Heaven, Body and Soul.  It was after this that she was able to help us in so many ways, in so many titles, with so many faces.  The following week, August 22, we celebrate the Queenship of Mary, when our dear Mother Mary was crowned Queen of Heaven and earth, of all the Angels and the Saints.

FHC61-2Everyone who has ever visited Our Lady’s Shrine in Lourdes, France, has a special place where they just like to be with Mary.  It could be the Grotto where Our Lady appeared to St. Bernadette 18 times in the year 1858.  It could be the Blessed Sacrament Chapel.  It could be the Miraculous Baths or the Way of the Cross.  My special place for the last 40 years has been the Basilica of the Rosary.  I go up to the very front row and sit on either side, and just look above the altar on the dome at this beautiful mosaic of Our Lady, dressed as Queen of Heaven and Earth.  She wears her Crown and is dressed in a white gown with a blue sash.  A cape of ermine drapes her shoulders.  She looks straight at me. I can walk anywhere in the Basilica and her eyes follow me.  I cannot escape her.  I never want to escape her.  She is there, and she is talking to me and to you.  If you get everything out of your mind, you may hear her.  Every time I go there, I tell her that this may be the last time I see her.  She just smiles.  I’ve been saying that for years.

We Catholics have always believed in the Assumption of Our Lady into Heaven.  It was just a part of our Faith.  But the world started to go tipsy towards the middle of the Nineteenth Century.  There had been a popular heresy spreading all over Europe called Pantheism, which claimed that man was equal with God.

In 1854, in the midst of all of this, and in the face of massive opposition, His Holiness, Blessed Pope Pius IX declared a Dogma of the Church, the Immaculate Conception, by which all Catholics were required to believe this.  What His Holiness declared was that, with the exception of Jesus, only Mary was born without the Stain of Original Sin.  The rest of us were heirs of Adam and Eve, and all that went with that.

There was an uproar inside the Church in Catholic Circles, and outside the Church in Protestant circles.  It was outrageous, they claimed, to give this singular honor to a woman.  Shades of Lucifer.  He said the same thing when told that a woman, Mary, would be Queen of Heaven and Earth, of all the Angels and the Saints.

Our Lady waited.  The situation was bad.  One year passed.  Not much better.  Two years passed.  The situation remained the same.  The third year passed, and still Mother Mary waited.  And then she did the predictable.  She found a remote town of no great importance, and within that speck on the earth, she chose a simple child of the poorest family in the region, and led her to a garbage dump, the Grotto of Massabielle.  From that vantage point, she was to send out a message to the world for all time, loud and clear, a confirmation of Pope Pius IX dogma, in the statement she made in the 16th Apparition to Bernadette:

I AM THE IMMACULATE CONCEPTION

our-lady-of-lourdes

 

Honor her on her Feast Day this Saturday, August 15, and for the rest of your lives.  We love you!

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Saint Maxmilian Kolbe – Martyr of Auschwitz

August 13, 2015

A prisoner escaped!

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The shrill sound of the alarm pierced the still, dark night. The prisoners lay frozen, praying they would not be part of those chosen to be executed. According to the barbaric law of the camp, when an inmate escaped, ten men from his cell were chosen to starve to death, in the underground bunker. They rounded up all the prisoners and had them stand at attention, for three hours, in the prison yard. Then, they marched them in to have their meager supper, all that is but the men of block 14! Instead, they were forced to helplessly look by, as their rations were dumped into the canal.
The next day, they were lined up in the scorching sun, as the rest of the prisoners went off to work. They were given nothing to drink or eat. Their condition became so unbearable, many of them collapsed and not even the guards’ brutal beatings could arouse them. They just dumped them, one on top of another, in a heap.
As night approached, the rest of the prisoners came back. They, too, were lined up, facing those of block 14, so they could witness what happens when someone escapes. They stood there, helpless to ease the fear they saw in their fellow inmates eyes, as they stared across at them…And then, the dreaded announcement: “Since the fugitive has not been found, ten of you are condemned to death.” The commander Fritsch took delight as he passed back and forth, before the prisoners of block 14. He could read their minds, Oh God, don’t let it be me.

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“Good-by, friends; we will meet again where there is justice,” was joined by another sobbing, “Long live Poland!” “Good-by! Good-by, my dear wife; good-by, my dear children, already orphans of your father,” cried out Sergeant Francis Gajowniczek.

{Watch video on the life of Saint Maxmilian Kolbe}
A prisoner from block 14 stepped out of the lineup. It was Father Maxmilian! He had been assigned to block 14, had endured all the torture and was still standing. He walked slowly and calmly toward the commandant. He stopped in front of Fritsch. The sight was blinding! There was a hush that went through the men lined up.

No one, in the history of the camp, had ever done anything like this before.
They stared; they tried to take their eyes away, but they couldn’t or wouldn’t. Suddenly they were not afraid of this man who reduced men to animals; he no longer posed a threat. The man before him, chest caved in, little more than hanging flesh on thin bones, had the upper hand. The commander was stunned, frozen. Was he afraid at what or who it was, he saw? Did he remember from a thousand lifetimes ago, his mother telling him about the Savior who gave His life for him?

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Here was a man who had traded his God in for a lie and he looked frightened. Facing him, was one who death could have no victory over, one who dared to love Him with all his heart, mind and soul, totally abandoning himself to Him. He had loved others through Him, in Him, with Him, even this monster in front of him. This one who so exemplified the Sacrificial Lamb who died, forgiving them, saying “They know not what they do,” frightened him!
The commander found his voice; regaining his composure, he barked, “What does this Polish pig want?”

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Father Maxmilian, pointing toward Sergeant Francis Gajowniczek, answered:
“I am a Polish Catholic priest; I am old; I want to take his place because he has a wife and children…”
Father Maxmilian was 47 years old!

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