Blessed John Paul II

Blessed John Paul II

This is the Year of John Paul II

This must be the Year of the Eucharist

Family, we are very excited about this year.  Pope John Paul II, or Pope John Paul the Great, will be beatified on May 1, in St. Peter’s Square.  If the predictions hold true that 700,000 Polish pilgrims will descend on the Holy City for that occasion, it will be the greatest and largest event our Church has ever experienced.

We were present for the Beatification of Padre Pio.  It was truly a sight to behold.  We didn’t dare try to buck the crowds for his Canonization.  We have friends who did go, and they couldn’t get within two blocks of St. Peter’s Square.  For the viewing and funeral of Pope John Paul, we don’t even want to speculate on how many faithful waited on line for a mini-second glimpse of our fallen leader.  We recall videos on Fox News and EWTN of lines of people waiting all day and through the night to say their goodbyes to the Pope. And so we are looking forward to a great celebration on the life and sanctity of our John Paul the Great.

But there’s so much more to it than the spectacular tribute which will be given him.  The legacy he left us is being felt all over the country; I’m sure it’s being felt all over the world.  In our Ministry, even before the announcement of the Beatification was made official by the Vatican, we began to experience a great resurgence of interest in the Eucharist.  We received a great deal of requests for our books and videos on the Eucharist.  As far back as last summer, we began getting requests to give talks, days of recollection, conferences and retreats on the Eucharist through this year and into 2012.  We would not have thought that unusual ten or fifteen years ago.  We were known as the go-to-people for information on the Eucharist, especially Miracles of the Eucharist.  We had pioneered interest in the Miracles of the Eucharist since 1976, when we first visited the Eucharistic Miracle of Lanciano.  All through the 70’s and 80’s, we researched Miracles of the Eucharist throughout Europe.  We wrote our first book on Miracles of the Eucharist in 1986.  We made our first television series for Mother Angelica on the Miracles of the Eucharist in 1987.  It was all done in studio at EWTN in Birmingham, Alabama, and ran on that format for many years.  But the clamor to actually see the places of the Miracles and make on-site programs gave us the incentive to go overseas to the shrines, and make on-site documentaries of the Miracles of the Eucharist, which are being shown to this day on EWTN.

But then in the mid-90’s, we began a series on Super Saints, which is also very popular, and which has been running on prime time from that time to this.  We keep finding new Saints to share with you, our family.  It doesn’t hurt that Pope Benedict XVI is one of our greatest promoters, talking each week at his audiences about Saints, many of them Super Saints we’ve made programs about.  And so we became the go-to-people on Saints.  If you want to know about a Saint, contact Bob and Penny.  If you want someone to talk about the Saints, or a particular Saint, call Bob and Penny.  But now, family, as we said, in the last six months, there has been a great regeneration of interest in the Eucharist, and Mother Mary.  We know it had to do with Pope John Paul II, and so we looked back to the last years of his life, and the legacy he gave us.  We know that his has been a teaching ministry throughout his papacy.  He has always been trying to lead us into a direction, towards the Kingdom of Heaven.

But now family, we truly believe Pope John Paul knew he was being called Home by Our Lord Jesus.  It’s almost as if he was setting the stage for us for when he would be gone.  We recall how blessed we felt the week before his death, when we had the privilege of watching beneath his apartment.  When he tried to give us an Easter blessing from the window of his papal apartment, no matter how he tried, he couldn’t get the words out. He clutched his chest, as if trying to summon every ounce of strength he had left, to leave us yet one more word to live by.  But to no avail; he was in such pain.  He couldn’t get the words out.

But he didn’t have to worry.  He had given us a path to Heaven that year and the year before.  First, he gave us the Year of the Rosary; then he ended his life giving us the Year of the Eucharist.  When he introduced the Year of the Eucharist, right on the heels of the Year of the Rosary, our thoughts went to the vision of St. Don Bosco, and so we have to take a moment here to share it with you.  He shared this vision with his boys, on May 30, 1862.

“ Try to picture yourselves with me on the seashore, or better still, on an outlying cliff with no other land in sight.  The vast expanse of water is covered with a formidable array of ships in battle formation, prows fitted with sharp, spear like beaks capable of breaking through any defense.  All are heavily armed with cannons, incendiary  bombs and firearms of all sorts – even books – and are heading toward one stately ship, mightier than them all.  As they close in, they try to ram it, set it afire and cripple it as much as possible.

“This stately vessel is shielded by a flotilla escort.  Winds and waves are with the enemy.  In the midst of this endless sea, two solid columns, a short distance apart, soar high into the sky: one surmounted by a statue of the Immaculate Virgin at whose feet a large inscription reads: Help of Christians; the other, far loftier and sturdier, supports a Host of proportionate size and bears beneath it the inscription Salvation of believers.

“The flagship commander – the Roman Pontiff – seeing the enemy’s fury and his auxiliary ships’ very grave predicament, summons his captains to a conference.  However, as they discuss their strategy, a furious storm breaks out and they must return to their ships.

“When the storm abates, the Pope again summons his captains as the flagship keeps on its course.  But the storm rages again.  Standing at the helm, the Pope strains every muscle to steer his ship between the two columns from whose summits hang many anchors and strong hooks linked to chains.

“The entire enemy fleet closes in to intercept and sink the flagship at all costs.  They bombard it with everything they have: books and pamphlets, incendiary bombs, firearms, cannons.  The battle rages ever more furious.  Beaked prows ram the flagship again and again, but to no avail, as unscathed and undaunted, it keeps on its course.  At times a formidable ram splinters a gaping hole into its hull, but immediately, a breeze from the two columns instantly seals the gash.

“Meanwhile, enemy cannons blow up, firearms and beaks fall to pieces, ships crack up and sink to the bottom.  In blind fury the enemy takes to hand-to-hand combat, cursing and blaspheming.  Suddenly the Pope falls, seriously wounded, He is instantly helped up, but, struck down a second time, dies.  A shout of victory rises from the enemy and wild rejoicing sweeps their ships.  But no sooner is the Pope dead than another takes his place.  The captains of the auxiliary ships elected him so quickly that the news of the Pope’s death coincides with that of his successor’s election.  The enemy’s self-assurance waned.

“Breaking through all resistance, the new Pope steers the ship safely between the two columns and moors it to the two columns; first, to the one surmounted by the Host and then to the other, topped by the statue of the Virgin.  At this point, something unexpected happens.  The enemy ships panic and disperse, colliding with and scuttling each other.

“Some auxiliary ships which had gallantly fought alongside their flagship are the first to tie up at the two columns.  Many others, which had fearfully kept far away from the fight, stand still, cautiously waiting until the wrecked enemy ships vanish under the waves.  Then, they too head for the two columns, tie up at the swinging hooks and ride safe and tranquil beside their flagship.  A great calm now covers the sea.”

This vision of Don Bosco’s so reminds us of the urgency Pope John Paul had to give us these two gifts, the Eucharist and the Rosary before he died.  He fully intended to implement the year of the Eucharist, to instill in us the importance of the Eucharist.  He had great plans on how the year would be implemented throughout the Church.  He talked about how the year would go; he looked forward to the World Youth Day in Cologne, Germany, which he did not live to see.

We see tremendous parallels with Pope John Paul’s introductory letter to the Year of the Eucharist, and our way of writing about Miracles of the Eucharist.  When he introduced the Year of the Eucharist, in October, 2004, he began with Scripture, the Scripture passage regarding the Disciples on the Road to Emmaus.  He opened his letter with the phrase, “Stay with us, Lord, for it is almost evening.”

From the very first time we talked about Miracles of the Eucharist, we began with Scripture, John 6: 51.  We felt the need to preface any Miracle of the Eucharist with the Scripture passage regarding the Eucharist.  When we talk about the importance of the Eucharist to Jesus, we share His urgency to affirm His Real Presence in the Eucharist.  We talk about the teaching at Capharnaum, coupled with the actual giving of His Body and Blood at the Last Supper, and then we talk about the Disciples on the Road to Emmaus.  We end with them rushing back to Jerusalem after Jesus had made Himself known to them.  Their hearts burned as He shared the Scripture passages that affirmed all that Jesus had done, but they recognized Him in the Breaking of the Bread, the Eucharist.

Family, we don’t know what we else we can say that will impress on you the importance of the Eucharist, especially in these times.  We have to go back to our basics.  Pope John Paul II knew the importance of leading us back to the Eucharist and the Rosary.  We have strength, brothers and sisters.  We need to tap into that strength, which St. John Bosco gave us in 1862, and John Paul gave us in 2004-5, the Eucharist and the Rosary.  We need them.  Use them.  And above all, know that you are not alone.

You are never alone.  We love you!

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