Friday, December 09, 2016

OUR LADY OF GUADALUPE AND SAINT JUAN DIEGO

Brother John M. Samaha, S.M.


          There exist two miraculous images of Our Lady of Guadalupe: one in Spain, the older, and one in Mexico, the more famous.  Both are known by the same name because of some linguistic confusion.

          The original image of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Spain is an unpainted wooden statue carved in an Oriental style.  It was presented to Bishop Leander of Seville in 580 by Pope Gregory the Great.  This statue was widely revered by the people of Spain until the invasion by the Moors in 771.  At that time it was hidden for safekeeping along with some historical documents explaining its special identity.

          Those who had preserved and documented the statue died in the conquest and knowledge of its whereabouts was lost for 600 years.   In 1326 Gil Cordero, a poor cowherd, was searching for a lost cow when he saw the radiant figure of a lady appear at the edge of the woods.  The lady told him about a buried treasure and showed him where to dig to find it.  She requested that a chapel be built at that location.  Gil reported the apparition to the local clergy and brought them to the place where the lady said the treasure lay. Both the statue and its historical documents were found in perfect condition in an underground cave.

          King Alfonso built the chapel, and the statue named for the nearby town of Guadalupe was enshrined.  Soon miracles were attributed to the veneration of the statue, and the shrine became one of the most popular places of pilgrimage in Spain.  Tradition holds that Christopher Columbus visited the shrine before making his first voyage to the New World, and carried a likeness of the statue on his voyages.  The conquistadors also carried a replica of the statue with them while on their conquests in America.

          In 1531 on December 9, only 39 years after Columbus discovered the western hemisphere, an Indian convert to Christianity, Juan Diego, was crossing Tepeyac Hill near Mexico City on his way to Mass.  As he paused he heard celestial music  which he said sounded like a "choir of birds."  When looking up he saw a golden cloud arched by a rainbow.  Affectionately a voice called to him: "Juanito, Juan Diegito,"  and out of the cloud a beautiful young girl, about 16 years old and of Mexican appearance, stood before him.  She spoke to him in Nahuatl, his native dialect, and asked where he was going.  He replied that he was going to Mass and religious instruction.

          The young woman told him that she was the "Mother of the  true God who gives life."  She explained that she wanted to help the poor native Indians  and that she would like to have a chapel built on the hill so that the Indians would have a place to come to her.  At one time that hill had been the site of a shrine to the Aztec goddess of the earth and harvest, Tonantzin.  The pagan shrine had been destroyed by the Christian conquerors. 

          The Lady asked Juan to take her message to Bishop Juan
Zumarraga in Tenochtitlan, which became Mexico City.  Although 57 years old, Juan had lived his entire life in or near his native village of Tolpetlac.  He had never been to Tenochtital which was only about five miles from his home.  However he agreed to undertake the Lady's mission, even though it meant venturing into unfamiliar territory to see a person he had never met.

          At the bishop's residence the servants were amazed that a lowly Indian  would request a meeting with the bishop.  They kept Juan waiting for hours before informing the bishop that Juan was waiting.  When Juan finally spoke with the bishop, matters did not go well.  The bishop was polite, but he was clearly skeptical of  what Juan told him.  As a conciliatory gesture, the bishop told Juan he was welcome to come again to visit, if he wished.

          A disappointed Juan Diego returned to the hill and reported his failure to the Lady.   He asked that she select another messenger because he was a "nobody."  However the Lady told Juan there were others she could have sent, but she chose him.  Then she asked him to try again the following day, a Sunday.  The next day Juan returned to the bishop's residence, and again he was made to wait for hours before he was admitted.  Again the bishop listened patiently but remained incredulous.  He asked Juan to bring him a sign and then he would seriously consider seriously the request to build a chapel.

          After Juan reported another failure and the bishop's insistence on a sign, the Lady asked him to meet her again on Monday and she would give him a sign for the bishop. However Juan did not keep the appointment.  His uncle, Juan Bernardino, who had raised him from early childhood, was seriously ill.  Juan remained at home on Monday to care for his uncle.  Juan Bernardino was near death and on Tuesday asked his nephew to bring him a priest.  Upset because he had not kept his appointment with the Lady the day before, Juan chose another path to avoid the hill en route to the village.  But the Lady was aware of this and blocked his path.  She assured him that his uncle would be fine and not to worry.  She then instructed him to ascend the hill and gather the flowers he would find there.  Very little vegetation grew on that desolate hill at any time of year let alone flowers in December.  But Juan did as he was told.  There Juan found Castilian roses, which had not yet been brought to Mexico, but would be familiar to the Spanish bishop.  Using his tilma, or cloak, as an apron he gathered as many of the blooms as he could carry and took them to the Lady.  She arranged them in Juan's tilma.  Holding the edges of the tilma close to his chest, Juan proceeded to visit Bishop Zumarraga again.

          Encountering Juan Diego again at the bishop's residence, the bishop's servants tried to persuade him to leave.  But Juan Diego held his ground and expressed his determination to stay as long as necessary.  Eventually some of the bishop's staff became curious about what was in his tilma.  Juan refused to show them, and they threatened force.  Reluctantly Juan opened one corner to allow them a glimpse of the flowers and sniff their fragrance.  Immediately one of the servants rushed to tell the bishop.  The bishop asked that Juan be brought to him at once.

          Juan Diego explained to Bishop Zumarraga that the Mother of God directed him to bring the flowers to the bishop as a sign.  Juan opened his tilma and roses cascaded to the floor.  The bishop fell to his knees in reverence of the image that appeared on the cloak.  Juan also was astonished at the picture.  The bishop invited Juan Diego to stay the night, and the bishop took the tilma to his quarters to be alone with it. 

          News of the miracle spread quickly .  By morning the entire city was clamoring  to see the miraculous image.  The tilma was taken to the cathedral so that all could venerate it. 

         
          Though Juan Diego believed the Lady when she told him his uncle was fine, he was still anxious to see for himself.   After showing Bishop Zumarrga where the apparitions occurred on Tepeyac Hill, the two were joined by a throng of followers as  they returned to  his village. 

          Indeed Juan Bernardino was fine and had an amazing story of his own to tell.  After Juan Diego had left on Tuesday morning to find a priest, and as Juan Bernardino felt his life ebbing, a beautiful young Mexican woman appeared to him.  Immediately he felt his strength return, and he knelt before her.  The Lady told him not to worry about his nephew because she had sent him to the bishop with her image imprinted in his tilma.  She also told Juan Bernardino the name by which she wished to be remembered.

          The Spanish image of Our Lady of Guadalupe and the Mexican image became entwined in the popular understanding.  Neither Juan Diego nor Juan Bernardino spoke Spanish.  Their conversations and dealings with Bishop Zumarraga were conducted through an interpreter.  When the name by which the Lady wished to be called was heard by the bishop, he thought Juan Diego was trying to say "the Ever Virgin Holy Mary of Guadalupe," a name familiar to him.  Consequently that is what he called her image on the tilma.  Since the Lady spoke to these two men in their native language, it is dubious that she used the word "Guadalupe," since Guadalupe can neither be spoken nor spelled in Nahuatl because this Aztec language contains neither the letter "d" nor "g."  No Indian writings about the miracle use the word Guadalupe; they prefer Tonantizen, the name of the former pagan shrine at that spot, or other pagan names.  While the bishop never offered a correction, he was most likely aware of his error because he referred to the image as the Immaculate Conception when writing to Cortez  to invite him to join the procession to the first chapel built to house it.  Some thought the bishop made a mistake and that Juan Bernardino used a word that sounded like Guadalupe.  Earlier scholars speculated the Lady said Tequantlaxopeuh, pronounced Tequetalope, which means "Who saves us from the Devourer."   Devourer is Satan and the dreaded pagan serpent-god Quetzalcoatl to whom 2,000 Aztecs  were sacrificed each year.  Some think the word the Virgin used was more likely Coatlaxopeuh, pronounced Coatallope which means "she who breaks, stamps, or crushes the serpent.  This is reminiscent of both the winged serpent Quetzalcoatl and Satan, and recalls Genesis 3:15.

          The Indians were treated cruelly by their Spanish conquerors under the leadership of Don Nune de Guzman, who believed the Indians were not truly human and therefore unworthy of evangelization.  To him the Indians were soulless and deserved to be exploited.  Neither did Bishop Zumarraga and his associates have a high appreciation of the Indians, but they did believe that because the Indians had the ability to reason they could attain salvation through baptism.  For this the Indians were accorded a degree of respect.  On the other hand, most Indians had no interest or desire to give up their own gods in favor of the God offered by the Spaniards.  Juan Diego and Juan Bernardino were clearly exceptions.  Fearing an Indian rebellion, the bishop sent a message to Charles V begging that Guzman be replaced.  Charles agreed with Zumarraga, but the distance between Spain and Mexico delayed the replacement.  The Lady, however, was prompt.  Her apparitions and the miracle of the tilma were the turning point in the Christianization of the Indians.  The Indians recognized signs and symbols in the picture on the tilma that were meaningless to the Europeans.  As a result eight million Indians were converted in the seven years following the apparitions.

          The first chapel where the tilma hung took only 13 days to build.  Juan Diego was appointed custodian and lived in an adjacent lean-to shelter.   

For 17 years until his death in 1548 he greeted pilgrims and explained his experience.

         

         
         

           
         


ACN News - ISIS may be on the run, but Iraqi Christians ‘are still afraid’



By ACN staff


The Syrian Catholic prelate of Mosul is relieved ISIS is being driven out of the city and from the Nineveh Plain, but he said that enormous challenges continue to confront Iraqi Christians.

Archbishop Yohanna Petros Mouche told international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) that Christians are still afraid of returning to their villages. He said that it was “unclear” who would ensure their safety in the liberated villages and that he felt “betrayed” by the Iraqi government.

Despite the fact that ISIS is “finished” militarily and has been driven out of the region, the ideology of extremist Muslims remains, the archbishop charged. He cited the example of the murder of a Christian seller of alcohol, last October, two days after Baghdad declared ban on alcohol for the entire country.

The archbishop also reported that Christians were “shocked” to discover that about 75 percent of the homes in the liberated Christian villages on the Nineveh Plain had apparently been burned down by local Muslims who had remained there following the ISIS takeover of the territory in summer 2014.

“Why did these people, with whom we were associated, do this? We ask ourselves whether this was their way of telling us that they will burn us to death if we return,” the archbishop said.

“We are afraid that we will have to continue to live with these people. We impatiently awaited liberation, and many wanted to return immediately, but there first need to be guarantees for our safety.”

Nonetheless, the prelate expressed his “great joy” that, now after liberation, there is at least the possibility that Christians can return to the Nineveh plains one day and “continue to bear witness for Christ in our own country.”

        ​
With picture of Archbishop Mouche in Qaraqosh on the Nineveh Plain (© ACN)


Editor’s Notes:


Directly under the Holy Father, Aid to the Church in Need supports the faithful wherever they are persecuted, oppressed or in pastoral need.  ACN is a Catholic charity - helping to bring Christ to the world through prayer, information and action.

Founded in 1947 by Father Werenfried van Straaten, whom Pope John Paul II named “An Outstanding Apostle of Charity,” the organization is now at work in over 145 countries throughout the world.

The charity undertakes thousands of projects every year including providing transport for clergy and lay Church workers, construction of church buildings, funding for priests and nuns and help to train seminarians. Since the initiative’s launch in 1979, 43 million Aid to the Church in Need Child’s Bibles have been distributed worldwide.


For more information contact Michael Varenne at michael@churchinneed.org or call 718-609-0939 or fax718-609-0938. Aid to the Church in Need, 725 Leonard Street, PO Box 220384, Brooklyn, NY 11222-0384.  www.churchinneed.org

Thursday, December 08, 2016

UNDERSTANDING MARY’S IMMACULATE CONCEPTION

Brother John M. Samaha, S.M.


          At the beginning of the liturgical year we honor the immaculately conceived Virgin Mary. The solemnity of Mary’s Immaculate Conception is celebrated on December 8, and honors the conception of Mary in the womb of her mother, St. Anne, without original sin.   

          In 2008 we celebrated the 150th anniversary of the Blessed Virgin’s apparitions at Lourdes, where she identified herself to St. Bernadette as the Immaculate Conception.  In 2004 we observed the 150th anniversary of Blessed Pope Pius IX’s solemn definition of this dogma on December 8, 1854.  Blessed Pius IX explained that Mary was preserved from original sin by a “singular grace and privilege” given her by God “in view of the merits of Jesus Christ,” Redeemer of the human race.  Mary, like every other human being, needed the redemptive benefits of Christ.  But in anticipation of what God did for all through Christ, she alone was preserved from original sin “from the first moment of her conception.”  As one writer asserted, hers was a “redemption by exemption.”  By her Immaculate Conception she was conceived in the fullness of grace, in the state of closest possible union with God in view of her future role as the Mother of the Redeemer.

          The feast of the Immaculate Conception of Mary was celebrated already in the seventh century in Palestine as the Conception by St. Anne of the Theotokos (Mother of God) on December 9.  The doctrine is understood differently by some Eastern Christian Churches because of a variance in their theological understanding of original


sin.  The observance spread west from Constantinople.  Still called the Conception of St. Anne and observed on December 8, it was prominent in Naples in the ninth century; in English monasteries in the eleventh century, when it was called the feast of the conception of Our Lady; and in France in the twelfth century.

           When the feast was introduced in France, St. Bernard of Clairvaux opposed it, igniting a controversy that endured for three centuries.  Most Scholastic theologians, including St. Anselm of Canterbury, St. Albert the Great, St. Thomas Aquinas, and St. Bonaventure opposed the doctrine on the grounds that it detracted from the universality of the redemption by Christ.  But it was defended and explained with theological clarity in the thirteenth century by Blessed John Duns Scotus, a Franciscan.  In 1263 the Franciscans adopted the feast.

          The opponents of this feast and doctrine had argued that Mary had to be touched by original sin for at least an instant, even though she was sanctified in her mother’s womb.  John Duns Scotus resolved these objections by explaining that Christ can save and redeem in two ways: he can rescue from sin those already fallen; or he can preserve one from being touched by sin even for an instant.  Mary was granted “redemption by exemption.”

          The Council of Basel in 1439 affirmed this belief.  Ten years later the Sorbonne in Paris required all its degree candidates to pledge an oath to defend the Immaculate Conception of Mary.  Pope Sixtus IV in 1476 approved the feast with its proper Mass and Office, and in 1708 Pope Clement IX extended the feast to the universal Church and made it a holyday of obligation.

           Later the Council of Trent (1545-1563) explicitly declared that Mary was exempt from the taint of original sin.  From then on the belief was embraced generally and defended by all schools of


theology.  Many Catholic thinkers and founders of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries promoted and expounded Mary’s Immaculate Conception with special interest and verve, and this doctrine became an important part of many Marian spiritualities.  One such exponent was Blessed William Joseph Chaminade (1761-1850), founder of the Marianists. 

          At the First Council of Baltimore in 1846 the Catholic bishops of the United States of America chose Mary under the title of her Immaculate Conception as the patron saint of the nation.  This deepened interest in the vast new country.

          The apparition of Mary Immaculate to St. Catherine Laboure in 1830 at Paris had also advanced this devotion.  At that time Mary asked the young nun to produce the Miraculous Medal, which honored the Immaculate Conception.  And the solemn definition in 1854 was the culmination of this development.  Like an additional seal of approval on the definition four years later Mary appeared to the uneducated and sickly youngster, St. Bernadette Soubirous, at Lourdes.  When Bernadette asked the Virgin Mary on March 25, 1858, to identify herself, Mary replied, “I am the Immaculate Conception.”

          In 1863 a new Mass and Office were composed for the feast of the Immaculate Conception of Mary.  This feast is also celebrated as the Conception of Mary by the Church of England.   Among the Eastern Christian Churches the feast of the Conception by St. Anne of the Most Holy Theotokos continues to be observed on December 9.  The date set for this feast is nine months before the Birth of Mary on September 8. 

          To celebrate the centenary of the definition of Mary’s Immaculate Conception, Pope Pius XII, a devout apostle of Mary, declared 1954 a Marian Year -- the first.

         

          Now, more than 150 years later, we are privileged to continue to honor that solemn definition  of Mary's "redemption by exemption" and its recognition by Mary Immaculate at Lourdes.   

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


           
         
         
           



Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Hour of Grace Plenary Indulgence - Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception

Shared by a friend who is having cataract surgery tomorrow. Please pray for her and for the wife of a deacon who is having open heart surgery tomorrow as well.  Thank you.

THE HOUR OF GRACE
THURSDAY, DEC. 8, starting at 12:00 NOON UNTIL 1:00 PM
 
(Thank you for praying for me - my cataract surgery is in the afternoon on Dec. 8)
 
THE REQUEST OF OUR BLESSED MOTHER FOR THE HOUR OF GRACE :
 
The 8th of December is an important day - the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. It is also the day on which in 1947 Our Blessed Mother gave us the Hour of Grace.
 
DURING THE HOUR OF GRACE, MANY SPIRITUAL GRACES WOULD BE GRANTED. The most hard-hearted sinners will be touched by the grace of God."The Blessed Virgin promised that whatever a person asked Her for during this Hour of Grace (even in impossible cases) would be granted to them, if it was in accordance with the will of the Eternal Father.
 

Our Lady said as follows: "It is my wish that every year, on December 8, at noon, the HOUR OF GRACE FOR THE WORLD be celebrated. Many divine and bodily graces will be received through this devotion. Our Lord, my Divine Son Jesus, will send His overflowing mercy if good people will pray continuously for their sinful brother.... it is my wish that the HOUR OF GRACE FOR THE WORLD be made known and spread throughout the world. If anyone is unable to visit his church, yet will pray at home, he will also receive graces through me.... will find a secure heavenly ladder and receive protection and grace through my motherly heart."
 
Our Lady promised she will hear any prayer we make at this time.
 
BLESSED VIRGIN MARY - MOTHER OF MERCY
 
1. Day and time of the Hour of Grace: December 8th, Feast of the Immaculate Conception, to be started at 12:00 noon and continuing until 1:00 p.m. for one full hour of prayer.
 
2. During this hour, the person making the "Hour of Grace" either at home or at Church must put away all distractions (do not answer the telephones, or answer any doors, or do anything but totally concentrate on your union with God during this special Hour of Grace).
 
3. Begin the Hour of Grace by praying three (3) times the 51st Psalm with out-stretched arms. (Psalm 51 appears below)
 
4. The rest of the Hour of Grace may be spent in silent communication with God meditating upon the Passion of Jesus, saying the Holy Rosary, praising God in your own way, or by using favorite prayers, singing hymns, meditating upon other psalms, etc.
 
Please copy and distribute this message. Remember to pray for our country during this hour. The Blessed Virgin has requested that her important message be sent throughout the entire world. Please help her Mission: that all souls be drawn to GOD, and that JESUS will be loved in every heart. This is the perpetual song of her heart. Let it also be ours.
 
PSALM 51 - PRAY 3 TIMES
 
Have mercy on me, God, in your goodness; in your abundant compassion blot out my offense.
Wash away all my guilt; from my sin cleanse me.
For I know my offense; my sin is always before me.
Against you alone have I sinned; I have done such evil in your sight That you are just in your sentence, blameless when you condemn.
True, I was born guilty, a sinner, even as my mother conceived me.
Still, you insist on sincerity of heart; in my inmost being teach me wisdom.
Cleanse me with hyssop, that I may be pure; wash me, make me whiter than snow.
Let me hear sounds of joy and gladness; let the bones you have crushed rejoice.
Turn away your face from my sins; blot out all my guilt.
A clean heart create for me, God; renew in me a steadfast spirit.
Do not drive me from your presence, nor take from me your holy spirit.
Restore my joy in your salvation; sustain in me a willing spirit.
I will teach the wicked your ways, that sinners may return to you.
Rescue me from death, God, my saving God, that my tongue may praise your healing power.
Lord, open my lips; my mouth will proclaim your praise.
For you do not desire sacrifice; a burnt offering you would not accept.
My sacrifice, God, is a broken spirit; God, do not spurn a broken, humbled heart.
Make Zion prosper in your good pleasure; rebuild the walls of Jerusalem.
Then you will be pleased with proper sacrifice, burnt offerings and holocausts; then bullocks will be offered on your altar.
 
HISTORY AND BACKGROUND OF THE HOUR OF GRACE
 
During the period of November 24, 1946 to December 8, 1947, the Blessed Mother appeared to Sister Pierrina in a little church in Montichiari, Italy, eleven times.
 
On the first appearance the Blessed Mother told Sister Pierrina that She wanted to be known as the 'Mystical Rose' and that an hour of grace should be kept at noonDecember 8th in all the Catholic Churches of the world. The Blessed Mother wanted this to be known through all of Italy and the entire world.
 
It was November 16, 1947 when Sister Pierrina was finishing her thanksgiving after Holy Communion when she saw a great light. She then saw a vision of the Blessed Mother as the 'Mystical Rose'. Sister was so deeply moved by the stunning beauty of Our Lady that she began talking to Her. All of a sudden a gentle force made her kneel down in front of Our Lady.
 
The Blessed Mother spoke these words: "My Son is greatly offended by the sins of impurity. He is already planning to end the deluge upon the people, for their destruction, but I have asked him to show mercy and not send the destruction. So that is why I have appeared to ask for penance and atonement for the sins of impurity."Then the Blessed Mother asked for an Act of Humility by Sister Pierrina. She asked her to make the sign of the cross with her tongue on each of the stones in the Sanctuary. "This shall be a reminder to the people that I have appeared here and do not have the people step on those stones."The Blessed Mother then stepped on each of the stones so that Her gown touched all four stones.
 
On the 22nd of November, Sister Pierrina felt the overwhelming urge to go to Church at 4:00. The Mother Superior, four Sisters and a group of friends accompanied her. They were all saying the Rosary when the Blessed Mother appeared as before.She instructed Sister Pierrina to make the sign of the cross on the stones and fence them off so that no one would step on them.Again Our Lady asked for penance. She said, "Penance is nothing more than accepting all our crosses daily willingly. No matter how small, accept them with love. "At this time, she told sister Pierrina to come again on December 8th at noon. "This will be My Hour of Grace.". The Sister asked how she was to prepare for this Hour of Grace? To which the Blessed Mother said, "With Prayers and Penance. Pray the 51st Psalm with outstretched arms three times.
 
During the Hour of Grace, many spiritual graces would be granted. The most hard-hearted sinners will be touched by the grace of God."The Blessed Virgin promised that whatever a person asked Her for during this Hour of Grace (even in impossible cases) would be granted to them, if it was in accordance with the will of the Eternal Father.
 
It was December 7th when Sister Pierrina felt the urge to go to Church. This time she was accompanied by the Priest and the Mother Superior.The Blessed Mother appeared with a young boy and girl dressed in beautiful white clothing. Sister Pierrina was sure these little ones were angels because they were so beautiful.The Blessed Mother said, "Tomorrow I will show you My Immaculate Heart which is so little known among the people." She asked people to pray for Russia."
 
There are so many people being held prisoners which their families know nothing of because they have been gone for so many years. Pray for the conversion of Russia, the suffering of the soldiers and their sacrifices and martyrdom will bring peace to Italy.The little children are Francisco and Jacinta. I am giving them to you as your companions. You will have much to suffer for My sake. I want simplicity and goodness from you as of these little children." The Blessed Mother then blessed Sister Pierrina, the Priest and all those who were gathered there.
 
On the morning of December 8th people began arriving at the little Church at 8:00 in the morning from neighboring towns. By noon, some 10,000 people had gathered to see the Blessed Mother, many of whom had to stand outside because the Church did not have enough room for the large crowd. Sister Pierrina was accompanied to Church by her Mother and Brothers, the Mother Superior and the Chief of Police from Montichiari. Sister was reciting the Rosary with the crowd in the middle of the Church. Suddenly a brilliant white light appeared from the ceiling. Stairs were coming from the light down to the floor of the Church about fifteen feet in length.The staircase was beautifully decorated with red, white and yellow roses.
 
The Blessed Virgin appeared so radiant, dressed in white, with Her Hands folded. She was standing on a splendid carpet at the top of the stairs made of the red, white and yellow roses.In the most gentle and loving voice, Our Lady smiled and began to speak. "I am the Immaculate Conception, the Mother of all graces and the Mother of my Beloved Son, Jesus. I want to be known as the Mystical Rose. My wish is that every year on the 8th of December at noon an 'Hour of Grace' will be installed. Many spiritual graces and physical blessings will be received by those who pray undisturbed during this hour."
 
Then slowly she began to ascend the staircase gracefully scattering roses as She went along until She reached midway of the staircase. Here again the Blessed Mother spoke, "I am very happy to see this great demonstration of Faith."Sister Pierrina asked for many of the sinners to be forgiven. The Blessed Mother replied. "My Divine Son will show his Greatest Mercy as much as the people will pray for them. I want this to be known and told to Pope Pius XII. Tell him I want him to install the 'Hour of Grace' throughout the whole world and even for those who are not able to go to Church during this time, can obtain this grace in their homes at noon time."She also asked that a Statue be made and placed on the spot where she stood.
 
This should be called the 'Rosa Mystica' and carried in procession through the town at which time many graces will be given and cures will take place. Then the Statue is to be returned to the Church.Our Lady prayed for the sick, some will be cured others not. Many men, women and children were cured at that very instant.A twenty-six year old woman who could not say a word for nine months, suddenly began shouting, "I see Her. I see the Blessed Virgin." An eighteen year old girl with ulcers was instantly cured. A five year old boy who had been paralyzed was told by the Blessed Mother, "Come to Me, you will be walking now." He was placed on the Blessed Stones and was able to walk. There were three others who were very sick and were immediately cured. But of course, the greatest miracles taking place were those of the spiritual blessings being shed upon the people gathered in the Church.
 
The Blessed Mother said, "This is the last time I will appear here. Pray, weep and do penance on these Stones and you will receive the care of My Motherly Heart." She then left the little Church, but because of the Unending Love of Our Heavenly Mother, She has given us the 'Hour of Grace' to be spread through the entire world. She had given all the opportunity to demonstrate our love and trust to Her and to help make reparation for the grievous sins offending Her Beloved Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ.
 

THE DOCTRINE OF THE IMMACULATE CONCEPTION
 
In the Constitution Ineffabilis Deus of 8 December, 1854, Pius IX pronounced and defined that the Blessed Virgin Mary "in the first instance of her conception, by a singular privilege and grace granted by God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the human race, was preserved exempt from all stain of original sin."
 
"The Blessed Virgin Mary..." The subject of this immunity from original sin is the person of Mary at the moment of the creation of her soul and its infusion into her body.
 
"...in the first instance of her conception..." The term conception does not mean the active or generative conception by her parents. Her body was formed in the womb of the mother, and the father had the usual share in its formation. The question does not concern the immaculateness of the generative activity of her parents. Neither does it concern the passive conception absolutely and simply (conceptio seminis carnis, inchoata), which, according to the order of nature, precedes the infusion of the rational soul. The person is truly conceived when the soul is created and infused into the body. Mary was preserved exempt from all stain of original sin at the first moment of her animation, and sanctifying grace was given to her before sin could have taken effect in her soul.
 
"...was preserved exempt from all stain of original sin..." The formal active essence of original sin was not removed from her soul, as it is removed from others by baptism; it was excluded, it never was in her soul. Simultaneously with the exclusion of sin. The state of original sanctity, innocence, and justice, as opposed to original sin, was conferred upon her, by which gift every stain and fault, all depraved emotions, passions, and debilities, essentially pertaining to original sin, were excluded. But she was not made exempt from the temporal penalties of Adam -- from sorrow, bodily infirmities, and death.
 
"...by a singular privilege and grace granted by God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the human race." The immunity from original sin was given to Mary by a singular exemption from a universal law through the same merits of Christ, by which other men are cleansed from sin by baptism. Mary needed the redeeming Saviour to obtain this exemption, and to be delivered from the universal necessity and debt (debitum) of being subject to original sin. The person of Mary, in consequence of her origin from Adam, should have been subject to sin, but, being the new Eve who was to be the mother of the new Adam, she was, by the eternal counsel of God and by the merits of Christ, withdrawn from the general law of original sin. Her redemption was the very masterpiece of Christ's redeeming wisdom. He is a greater redeemer who pays the debt that it may not be incurred than he who pays after it has fallen on the debtor.
 
Such is the meaning of the term "Immaculate Conception."
 
----------------------------------------
 
 
Our Lady Conquers the Serpent
By KIM | Published: 10 OCTOBER 2015
 
Recently, one evening, as Roger, my husband and I, were praying the Holy Rosary at home, I was struck by something. A candle cast light, in a particular way, upon our statue of Our Lady, highlighting Her foot.
 
In fact, the candle was casting light only upon Her foot – the foot, which stands, crushing the head of the serpent.
 
As I prayed, the candlelight held my gaze, upon Our Lady’s foot. And I was reminded of Her role as the second Eve and Her power to crush evil. This all brought to mind what our Lord God had said to the serpent after the fall from grace in the Garden of Eden:
 
I will put enmities between thee and the woman, and thy seed and her seed: she shall crush thy head, and thou shalt lie in wait for her heel (Genesis 3: 14).
 
Many statues of Our Blessed Lady depict the heel of Her foot crushing the head of the serpent. And as Roger and I prayed the Rosary and I gazed at Her lighted foot these thoughts remained with me.
 
I was reminded of how She was born Immaculate, becoming the only creature to walk this earth, with footsteps unblemished by original sin. And that She is the only created representative, who resembles the world before the fall from grace – who represents, or rather is, nature unfallen.
 
And having never fallen from grace, She is our constant reminder of this perfect world that God created, free from sin – a world created from love, in which love rules supreme. And as Our Blessed Lady reminds us of that world, we are naturally focused upon our goal, to reclaim our loving connection with God our Father and Creator – to return home to Paradise.
 
Her Immaculate Heart shines, emitting Her pure love upon all those who call upon Her. And call upon her we must. For, ‘full of grace’ Mary awaits our prayers, our petitions in order to intercede and be the bearer of those graces for us. She is a channel of grace – a channel between Heaven and earth. She receives our earthly petitions and presents them to the Lord. Through Her, graces are then bestowed upon us.
 
When Our Lady appeared to St. Catherine Labouré, in the Rue Du Bac, Paris, on the evening of Saturday, 27th November, 1830, rays of light were pouring from Her hands. They were pouring from bejeweled rings upon her fingers. She said to St. Catherine:
 
These rays symbolize the graces I shed upon those who ask for them. The gems from which rays do not fall are the graces for which souls forget to ask.
 
In other words, there are far more graces available, than petitions and prayers are requested. And there, seated on Her Heavenly throne, Our Lady awaits our requests, eager to bestow these graces upon us. She is eager to intercede for us, Her children, dear to Her heart, whom She loves perfectly.
 
Let us then, not hesitate to implore Her aid, and become the recipients of those beautiful graces, which fall upon us, from the gems on Her delicate fingers.
 
Once again, let us pray those beautiful words, attributed to St. Bernard:
 
Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to thy protection, implored thy help, or sought thy intercession was left unaided. Inspired with this confidence, I fly to thee, O Virgin of virgins, my Mother; to thee do I come; before thee I stand, sinful and sorrowful. O Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not my petitions, but in thy mercy hear and answer me. Amen.
 
Hail Mary full of grace, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Amen.
 
Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal, pray for us.
 
Our Lady Immaculate, pray for us.
 
Our Lady of the Holy Rosary, pray for us.

Thursday, December 01, 2016

ACN News - The Philippines—a Catholic oasis in Asia



The Philippines is the only country in Asia where Christians—in this case Catholics—form the overwhelming majority of the country. More than one-third of the population of some 100 million is under age 15; another 10 million Filipinos are living abroad.

Reinhard Backes, who oversees projects in the country for international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), just returned from a fact-finding mission to the Philippines.

By Maria Lozano


What is the main focus of the Church in the Philippines?

The Church is concerned about both the general and religious education of the faithful. The people are deeply religious, but poorly educated. To give one example, I attended a wedding on the island of Luzon. Ten couples were married at the same time, and all of them brought their children with them. There were quite a few of them.

It was explained to me that many couples live together before marriage and only marry later, partly because they do not have the money—but also owing to a lack of understanding of the faith.

What impressed you most on this trip?

The work of the Silsilah dialogue movement on Mindanao, where the fighting over the past four decades between government forces and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNFL) has cost the lives of around 120,000 people. ACN has long been supporting this initiative by Father Sebastiano D’Ambra, and Italian priest from Sicily, and Minda Sano, a Filipina woman who herself comes from Mindanao.

“Silsilah“ is Arabic for chain, link or connection; the movement has been working for 40 years to promote dialogue between the various religious and ethnic groups, to educate teachers, strive for social justice, help refugees and establish schools, among other vital initiatives.

Roughly 60 percent  of the population of Mindanao is Christians, with Muslims accounting for the other 40 percent. However, on other islands, Muslims are in the majority, for example on Basilan.

In some of those areas the extremist group “Abu Sayyaf“ (or Sword Fighters)  is active, launching attacks and abducting people for ransom money. In the past there have been repeated assassinations of priests, religious and ordinary faithful.

However, the Silsilah movement has never allowed itself to be intimidated by the violence. Again and again its representatives encourage Muslims and Christians to come together and talk, building up trust and caring for the suffering victims on both sides.

What are the local Church’s biggest needs at present?

An estimated 10,000 people died as the result of typhoon Yolanda on the island of Leyte in 2013. There was widespread devastation; many churches were destroyed, as well as the seminary in the Archdiocese of Palo. This was a one-story building not far from the coast, which was totally devastated.

ACN has already helped the archdiocese to rebuild 10 churches. Now Archbishop John Forrosuelo Du has asked us to help for the rebuilding of the seminary as well. The work has already begun in fact, and the first seminarians are already living in the half finished complex. They are now building a massive multi-story building that will hopefully be able to withstand future natural disasters.

With picture of life in the Philippines (© ACN)


Editor’s Notes:


Directly under the Holy Father, Aid to the Church in Need supports the faithful wherever they are persecuted, oppressed or in pastoral need.  ACN is a Catholic charity - helping to bring Christ to the world through prayer, information and action.

Founded in 1947 by Father Werenfried van Straaten, whom Pope John Paul II named “An Outstanding Apostle of Charity,” the organization is now at work in over 145 countries throughout the world.

The charity undertakes thousands of projects every year including providing transport for clergy and lay Church workers, construction of church buildings, funding for priests and nuns and help to train seminarians. Since the initiative’s launch in 1979, 43 million Aid to the Church in Need Child’s Bibles have been distributed worldwide.


For more information contact Michael Varenne at michael@churchinneed.org or call 718-609-0939 or fax718-609-0938. Aid to the Church in Need, 725 Leonard Street, PO Box 220384, Brooklyn, NY 11222-0384.  www.churchinneed.org

Thursday, November 03, 2016

ACN News - Boko Haram terror in Cameroon – ‘We are still alive because we were in church



By Eva-Maria Kolmann


The faithful of the Diocese of Maroua-Mokolo in Cameroon are very afraid of suicide bomber attacks by Boko Haram. The group may have suffered significant setbacks in neighboring Nigeria, but the jihadist terrorists continue to wreak havoc in Cameroon.

When local Bishop Bruno Ateba celebrates Mass outdoors, it’s now customary that the worshipers hold hands, forming a circle, to prevent suicide bombers from mingling unnoticed among members of the community. Plus, large handbags are barred and volunteers screen Mass-goers for weapons and explosives.

“Many of the suicide attacks are carried out by very young people,” the bishop told international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN). He added that just last month two teenage girls blew themselves up in a local marketplace.

Nonetheless, the local Catholic community is undeterred from gathering: “Prayer is our strength and our hope. We need prayer! We want to pray! Prayer in community is a sign of hope,” said Bishop Ateba.

At times, the very act of prayer can save lives. Last February, during Lent, suicide bombers killed 20 people in the village of Mémé—the death toll would have been worse if many locals had not been inside a church praying the Stations of the Cross.

The bishop expressed dismay that the suffering of his flock fails to generate coverage by international media. “When something happens in Europe, the news immediately spreads around the entire world. It is like an earthquake. But if people die here in Cameroon or in other African countries, it is not a big issue,” he said.

The Diocese of Maroua-Mokolo also faces a huge humanitarian crisis as it is helping to care for close to 80,000 Nigerian refugees living in a camp; there are 5,000 Catholics among them.

“Many of the people would like to return to their homeland, but they need safety and prospects! Many have already been there for four or five years and cannot go home,” Bishop Ateba said.

In addition to refugees, the diocese is also hosting 50,000 internally displaced Cameroonians, who fled villages right at the border with Nigeria. The local Church is a vital source of support for these IDPs.

Nonetheless, there are bright spots. Vocations are plentiful: there are 30 seminarians preparing for the priesthood. The bishop is also very happy with what he called the “wonderful dialogue” that has opened up with Muslims, despite the problems with Boko Haram.

Many Muslim children—even the sons and daughters of religious leaders—are attending Catholic schools. “The average Muslim is also opposed to Boko Haram,” the prelate said.

Meanwhile, local Catholics continue to pray ardently for peace; “the hope of the people is primarily rooted in their belief in God. We trust in prayer,” the bishop said.

“Prayer is our strength. And, despite the attacks, we will not stop gathering and asking God for this peace.”

Aid to the Church in Need gives some $1.8M in aid for Cameroon each year.


With picture of faithful in the Diocese of Maroua-Mokolo (© ACN)


Editor’s Notes:


Directly under the Holy Father, Aid to the Church in Need supports the faithful wherever they are persecuted, oppressed or in pastoral need.  ACN is a Catholic charity - helping to bring Christ to the world through prayer, information and action.

Founded in 1947 by Father Werenfried van Straaten, whom Pope John Paul II named “An Outstanding Apostle of Charity,” the organization is now at work in over 145 countries throughout the world.

The charity undertakes thousands of projects every year including providing transport for clergy and lay Church workers, construction of church buildings, funding for priests and nuns and help to train seminarians. Since the initiative’s launch in 1979, 43 million Aid to the Church in Need Child’s Bibles have been distributed worldwide.


For more information contact Michael Varenne at michael@churchinneed.org or call 718-609-0939 or fax718-609-0938. Aid to the Church in Need, 725 Leonard Street, PO Box 220384, Brooklyn, NY 11222-0384.  www.churchinneed.org

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

ACN News - With just one place to worship, Somalia is a dangerous place for Christians



By Mónica Zorita de la Morena


“Even if work has to be done silently, it is better to be here than not be here.” These are the words of Bishop Giorgio Bertin, the apostolic administrator of Mogadishu, Somalia. The prelate, who has been in the region for almost 40 years and also has responsibility for all of Djibouti, was hinting at the grave risks Christians face in the Horn of Africa.

There is only a single church in Somalia, the Church of St. Anthony of Padua in the town of Hargeisa, in Somaliland, a semi-autonomous region. Saying Mass has been and continues to be “very dangerous,” the bishop told international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN).

Just last January, after the church had been boarded up for some 20 years, the bishop was able to re-consecrate the church, which now also serves as a base for humanitarian activities sponsored by Caritas.

“Not many people come to Mass—10 at most—but, nonetheless, it is important,” the bishop said. The church is a silent witness in a country where “there are more and more mosques, thanks to financial aid from Saudi Arabia,” he added.

For Catholics, however, he continued, “there is no possible way of having a presence in Mogadishu, since it is very dangerous.”

“There are a few Catholics, but if they engage in any activities, for example with Caritas, they will be risking their lives. We can only be present there through the intermediary of other Somali associations.”

It was 27 years ago, after the assassination of Bishop Salvatore Colombo, that the Holy See asked Bishop Bertin to become apostolic administrator of Mogadishu, after rebels had destroyed almost the whole of the Somali capital and the Church’s entire infrastructure.

“They deliberately targeted us, though not only us; in fact, they destroyed everything, including embassies, and all public institutions,” the bishop recalled.

To this day, Somalia has remained a completely dysfunctional state, with a host of unrecognized, self-proclaimed independent regions—such as Somaliland—and the constant threat of the jihadist militia of Al-Shabab.


Fortunately, in neighboring Djibouti, the former French colony where Bishop Bertin resides, the Church has freedom. He said: “We are left in peace there; there is no danger and the Church is respected.”

The local Church is comprised of 5,000 Catholics, the majority of them expatriate, with only very few native faithful.

Providing education and humanitarian work are the primary tasks of the Church, which, the bishop stresses, is not out to make converts. The Catholic schools almost exclusively serve Muslim students, however.

Still, the prelate said, “we are sowing the seed of the Gospel among the people.”

There are 30 missionaries in the country, serving two churches and four mission stations. The bishop stressed that “a priest or a religious Sister is not there for the Catholics only; they are there as a presence in society, in contact with the people and open to them.”

“We cannot remain closed up within our structures.”


With picture of the Church of St. Anthony of Padua (© ACN)


Editor’s Notes:


Directly under the Holy Father, Aid to the Church in Need supports the faithful wherever they are persecuted, oppressed or in pastoral need.  ACN is a Catholic charity - helping to bring Christ to the world through prayer, information and action.

Founded in 1947 by Father Werenfried van Straaten, whom Pope John Paul II named “An Outstanding Apostle of Charity,” the organization is now at work in over 145 countries throughout the world.

The charity undertakes thousands of projects every year including providing transport for clergy and lay Church workers, construction of church buildings, funding for priests and nuns and help to train seminarians. Since the initiative’s launch in 1979, 43 million Aid to the Church in Need Child’s Bibles have been distributed worldwide.

For more information contact Michael Varenne at michael@churchinneed.org or call 718-609-0939 or fax718-609-0938. Aid to the Church in Need, 725 Leonard Street, PO Box 220384, Brooklyn, NY 11222-0384.  www.churchinneed.org


Friday, October 21, 2016

ACN News - In Brazil, the Word of God prevented bloodshed



By Rodrigo Arantes


Missionaries abducted and murdered; their church burned down.

Far from the headlines, this is happening in the Indigenous Territory of Raposa Serra do Sol, in the state of Roraima, in northern Brazil. The area was colonized, and the indigenous people, the Macuxis, were enslaved, and forced to work prospecting for minerals and producing rice. Their pay? Cheap alcohol that got them hooked.

The Catholic Church, from the beginning of the 20th century, has been fighting back on behalf of the native people. The efforts of missionaries led to the decision by the indigenous peoples to give up alcohol. Those who wished to continue using it had to leave the tribe.

This decision infuriated the local colonial landowners who thus lost their source of cheap labor—they started going after the Church. In 2004, they murdered some of the indigenous people and abducted three Consolata missionaries, and the following year a band of some 150 masked and armed men set fire to the whole of the mission complex, including the Church of St. Joseph and the school run by the mission. The landowners were aiming to push Macuxis into rebelling against authorities, provoking a bloody crackdown.

However, a local leader, wielding a reading from the Bible, reminded his people that they were Catholic indigenous peoples and that God asks His faithful to forgive, not to take revenge. All the people calmed down and did not take revenge. This prudent response was a key factor in Raposa Serra do Sol being formally declared an indigenous people’s homeland in 2005. All non-indigenous peoples were forced to leave the region.

A simple reading of the Word of God prevented a massacre. The Macuxi people are still very Catholic; they build their own churches with their own materials and their own labor, they translate the Catholic hymns into their native Macuxi language. And Tuxaua Jacir, the leader who prevailed over his people, is known to two Popes on account of his peaceful rule.

Nonetheless, there is still one thing they are unhappy about; the fact that they don’t have a Bible translated in their own language, and they are concerned about their future leadership. There are fundamentalist Christian sects coming into the region, trying to woo them away from Catholicism. And some newcomers are even offering the native people alcohol once again, so many locals are very concerned, above all for their children and young people.

International Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) recently committed to produce the translation of its Child’s Bible into the Macuxi language. A theologian who has a profound knowledge of the language is currently working on the translation, and very soon thousands of copies will be made available for the children. It’s the beginning of ensuring a bright future for this faithful native people.


With picture of Macuxi children (© ACN)



Editor’s Notes:


Directly under the Holy Father, Aid to the Church in Need supports the faithful wherever they are persecuted, oppressed or in pastoral need.  ACN is a Catholic charity - helping to bring Christ to the world through prayer, information and action.

Founded in 1947 by Father Werenfried van Straaten, whom Pope John Paul II named “An Outstanding Apostle of Charity,” the organization is now at work in over 145 countries throughout the world.

The charity undertakes thousands of projects every year including providing transport for clergy and lay Church workers, construction of church buildings, funding for priests and nuns and help to train seminarians. Since the initiative’s launch in 1979, 43 million Aid to the Church in Need Child’s Bibles have been distributed worldwide.

For more information contact Michael Varenne at michael@churchinneed.org or call 718-609-0939 or fax718-609-0938. Aid to the Church in Need, 725 Leonard Street, PO Box 220384, Brooklyn, NY 11222-0384.  www.churchinneed.org