Friday, February 29, 2008

Pater Noster with Pope Pius XII

Meet the Pope - collection of videos Read whole post......

Monday, February 25, 2008

St John Vianney, the Cure of Ars "The Little Catechism - Exhortations and Explanations"

For Lenten spiritual reading the Cure of Ars gives us his excellent explanations and exhortations on temptation, sin, last judgment and seven deadly sins - after "The little catechism of the Cure of Ars - from TAN books.

Anger is an emotion of the soul, which leads us violently to repel whatever hurts or displeases us.

This emotion, my children, comes from the devil: it shows that we are in his hands; that he is the master of our heart; that he holds all the strings of it, and makes us dance as he pleases. See, a person who puts himself in a passion is like a puppet; he knows neither what he says, nor what he does; the devil guides him entirely. He strikes right and left; his hair stands up like the bristles of a hedgehog; his eyes start out of his head - he is a scorpion, a furious lion....Why do we, my children, put ourselves into such a state? It is, mind, because we do not love the good God. Our heart is given up to the demon of pride, who is angry when he thinks himself despised; to the demon of avarice, who is irritated when he suffers any loss; to the demon of luxury, who is indignant when his pleasures are interfered with....How unhappy we are, my children, thus to be the sport of demons? They do whatever they please with us; they suggest to us evil-speaking, calumny, hatred, venegeance: they even drive us so far as to put our neighbour to death. See, Cain killed his brother Abel out of jealousy; Saul wished to take away the life of David; Theodosius caused the massacre of the inhabitants of Thessalonica, to revenge a personal affront....If we do not put our neighbour to death, we are angry with him, we curse him, we give him to the devil, we wish for his death, we wish for our own. In our fury, we blaspheme the holy Name of God, we accuse His Providence...What fury, what impiety! And what is still more deplorable, my children, we are carried to these excesses for a trifle, for a word, for the least injustice! Where is our faith! Where is our reason? We say in excuse another sin. The good God equally condemns anger, and the excesses that are its consequences....How we sadden our guardian angel! He is always there at our side to send us good thought, and he sees us do nothing but evil...If we did like St Remigius, we should never be angry. See, this saint, being questioned by a Father of the desert how he managed to be always in an even temper, replied, "I often consider that my guardian angel is always by my side, who assists me in all my needs, who tells me what I ought to do and what I ought to say, and who writes down, after each of my actions, the way in which I have done it." Philip II, king of Spain, having passed several hours of the night in writing a long letter to the Pope, gave it to his secretary to fold up and seal. He, being half asleep, made a mistake; when he meant to put sand on the letter, he took the ink bottle and covered all the paper with ink. While he was ashamed and inconsolable, the king said, quite calmly, "No very great harm is done; there is another sheet of paper"; and he took it, and employed the rest of the night in writing a second letter, without the least displeasure with his secretary.

Pieter Bruegel the Elder - "The seven deadly sins or vices - anger"

Gluttony is an unordinate love of eating and drinking.

We are gluttonous, my children, when we take food in excess, more than is required for the support of our poor body; when we drink beyond what is necessary, so as even to lose our senses and our reason....Oh, how shameful is this vice! How it degrades us! See, it puts us below the brutes: the animals never drink more than to satisfy their thirst: they content themselves with eating enough; and we, when we have satisfied our appetite, when our body can bear no more, we still have recourse to all sorts of little delicacies; we take wine and liquors to repletion! Is it not pitiful? We can no longer keep upon our legs; we fall, we roll into the ditch and into the mud, we become the laughing stock of everyone, even the sport of little children...If death were to surprise us in this state, my children, we should not have time to recollect ourselves; we should fall in that state into the hands of the good God. What a misfortune, my children! How would our soul be surprised! How would it be astonished! We should shudder with horror at seeing the lost who are in Hell....Do not let us be led by our appetite; we shall ruin our health, we shall lose our soul....See, my children, intemperance and debauchery are the support of doctors; that let them live, and gives them a great deal of practice...We hear every day, such a one was drunk, and falling down he broke his leg; another, passing a river on a plank, fell into the water and was drowned....Intemperance and drunkenness are the companions of the wicked rich man....A moment of pleasure in this world will cost us very dear in the other. There they will be tormented by a raging hunger and a devouring thirst; they will not even have a drop of water to refresh themselves; their tongue and their body will be consumed by the flames for a whole eternity....
O my children! we do not think about it; and yet that will not fail to happen to some amongst us, perhaps even before the end of the year! St Paul said that those who give themselves to excess in eating and drinking shall not possess the kingdom of God. Let us reflect on these words! Look at the saints; they pass their life in penance, and we would pass ours in the midst of enjoyments and pleasures. St Elizabeth, Queen of Portugal, fasted all Advent, and also from St John Baptist's day to the Assumption. Soon after, she began another Lent, which lasted till the feast of St Michael. She lived upon bread and water only on Fridays and Saturdays, and on the vigils of the feasts of the Blessed Virgin and of the Apostles. They say that St Bernard drank oil for wine. St Isidore never ate without shedding tears! If we were good Christians, we should do as the saints have done. We should gain a great deal for Heaven at our meals; we should deprive ourselves of many little things which, without being hurtful to our body, would be very pleasing to the good God; but we choose rather to satisfy our taste than to please God; we drown, we stifle our soul in wine and food. My children, God will not say to us at the Day of Judgment, "Give Me an account of thy body"; but, "Give Me an account of thy soul; what hast thou done with it?"...What shall we answer Him? Do we take as much care of our soul as of our body? O my children! Let us no longer live for pleasures of eating; let us live as the saints have done; let us mortify ourselves as they were mortified. The saints never indulged themselves in the pleasures of good cheer. Their pleasure was to feed on Jesus Christ! Let us follow their footsteps on this earth, and we shall gain the crown which they have in Heaven.

Picture by Pieter Bruegel the Elder - "The seven deadly sins or vices - gluttony"


Envy is a sadness which we feel on account of the good that happens to our neighbour.

Envy, my children, follows pride; whoever is envious is proud. See, envy comes to us from Hell; the devils having sinned through pride, sinned also through envy, envying our glory, our happiness. Why do we envy the happiness and the good of others? Because we are proud; we should like to be the sole possessors of talents, riches, of the esteem and love of all the world! We hate our equals, because they are our equals; our inferiors, from the fear that they may equal us,; our superiors, because they are above us. In the same way, my children, that the devil after fis fall felt, and still feels, extreme anger at seeing us the heirs of the glory of the good God, so the envious man feels sadness at seeing the spiritual and temporal prosperity of his neighbour . We walk, my children, in the footsteps of the devil; like him, we are vexed at good, and rejoice at evil. If our neighbour loses anything, if he is unfortunate, we are joyful...we triumph! The devil, too, is full of joy and triumph when we fall, when he can make us fall as low as himself. What does he gain by it? Nothing. Shall we be richer, becasue our neighbour is poorer? Nothing. Shall we be greater, because he is less? Shall we be happier, because he is more unhappy? O my children! how much we are to be pitied for being like this! St Cyprian said that other evils had limits, but that envy had none. In fact, my children, the envious man invents all sorts of wickedness; he has recourse to evil speaking, to calumny, to cunning, in order to blacken his neighbour; he repeats what he knows, and what he does not know he invents, he exaggerates.
Through the envy of the devil, death entered into the world; and also through envy we kill our neighbour; by dint of malice, of falsehood, we make him lose his reputation, his place....Good Christian, my children, do not do so; they envy no one; they love their neighbour; they rejoice at the good that happens to him, and they weep with him if any misfortune comes upon him.How happy should we be if we were good Christians. Ah! my children, let us, then be good Christians and we shall no more envy the good fortune of our neighbour; we shall never speak evil of him; we shall enjoy a sweet peace; our soul will be calm, we shall find paradise on earth.

Picture as previously drawn by Pieter Bruegel the Elder "The seven deadly sin or vices - Envy".

Lust is the love of the pleasures that are contrary to purity.

No sins, my children, ruin and destroy a soul so quickly as this shameful sin; it snatches us out of the hands of the good God and hurls us like a stone into an abyss of mire and corruption. Once plunged in this mire we cannot get out, we make a deeper hole in it every day, we sink lower and lower. Then we lose the faith, we laugh at the truth of religion, we no longer see Heaven, we do not fear Hell. O my children! how much are they to be pitied who give way to this passion! How wretched they are! Their soul, which was so beautiful, which attracted the eyes of the good God, over which He leant as one leans over a perfumed rose, has become like a rotten carcass, of which the pestilential odor rises even to His throne. ...
See, my children! Jesus Christ endured patiently, among His Apostles, men who were proud, ambitious, greedy - even one who betrayed Him; but He could not bear the least stain of impurity in any of them; it is of all vices that which He has most in abhorrence: "My Spirit does not dwell in you," the Lord says, "if you are nothing but flesh and corruption." God gives up the impure to all wicked inclinations of his heart. He lets him wallow, like the vile swine, in the mire, and does not even let him smell its offensive exhalations....The immodest man is odious to everyone, and is not aware of it. God has set the mark of ignominy on his forehead and he is not ashamed; he has a face of brass and a heart of bronze; it is in vain you talk to him of honour, of virtue; he is full of arrogance and pride. The eternal truths, death, judgment, Paradise, Hell - nothing terrifies him, nothing can move him. So, my children, of all sins, that of impurity is the most difficult to eradicate. Other sins forge for us chains of iron, but this one makes them of bull's hide, which can be neither broken nor rent; it is a fire, a furnace, which consumes even the most advanced old age. See those two infamous old men who attempted the purity of the chaste Susannah; they had kept the fire of their youth even till they were decrepit. When the body is worn out with debauchery, when they can no longer satisfy their passions, they supply the place of it, oh, shame! by infamous desires and memories.
With one foot in the grave, they still speak the language of passion, till their last breath; they die as they have lived, impenitent; for what penance can be done by the impure, what sacrifice can be imposed on himself at his death, who during his life has always given way to his passions? Can one at the last moment expect a good confession, a good Communion, from him who has concealed on of these shameful sins, perhaps, from his earliest youth - who has heaped sacrilege on sacrilege? Will the tongue, which has been silent up to thhis day, be unloosed at the last moment? No, no, my children; God has abandoned him; many sheets of lead already weigh upon him; he will add another, and it will be the last....

Picture credit: Pieter Bruegel the Elder "The seven deadly sin or vices - Lechery"

Avarice is an unordinate love of the goods of this world.

Yes, my children, an ill-regulated love, a fatal love, which makes us forget the good God, prayer, the sacraments, that we may love the goods of this world - gold and silver and lands. The avaricious man is like a pig, which seeks its food in the mud, without caring where it comes from. Stooping towards the earth, he thinks of nothing but the earth, he no longer looks towards Heaven, his happiness is no longer there. The avaricious man does no good till after his death. See, how greedily he gathers his wealth, how anxiously he keeps it, how afflicted he is if he looses it. In the midst of riches, he does not enjoy them; he is, as it were, plunged in a river, and is dying of thirst; lying on a heap of corn, he is dying of hunger; he has everything, my children, and dares not touch anything; his gold is a sacred thing to him, he makes it his divinity, he adores it...
O my children! how many there are in these days who are idolators! how many there are who think more of making a fortune than of serving the good God! They steal, they defraud, they go to law with their neighbour; they do not even respect the laws of God. They work on Sundays and holydays; nothing comes amiss to their greedy and rapacious hands. Good Christians, my children, do not think of their body, which must end in corruption; they think only of their soul, which is immortal. While they are on the earth, they occupy themselves with their soul alone. So you see how assiduous they are at the Office of the Church, with what fervour they pray before the good God, how they sanctify the Sunday, how recollected they are! The days, the months, the years are nothing to them; they pass them in loving the good God, with their eyes fixed on their eternity....
Seeing us so indifferent to our salvation, and so occupied in gathering up a little mud, would not anyone say that we were never to die? Indeed, my children, we are like people who , during the summer, should make an ample provision of gourds, of melons, for a long journey; after the winter, what would remain of it? Nothing. In the same way, my children, what remains to the avaricious man of all his wealth when death comes upon him unawares? A poor covering, a few planks, and the despair of not being able to carry his gold away with him. Misers generally die in this sort of despair, and pay eternally to the devil for their insatiable thirst for riches. Misers, my children are sometimes punished even in this world. Once St Hilarion, followed by a great number of his disciples, going to visit the monasteries under his rule, came to the abode of an avaricious solitary. On their approach, they found watchers in all parts of the vineyard, who threw stones and clods of earth at them to prevent their touching the grapes. The miser was well punished, for he gathered that year much fewer grapes than usual, and his wine turned into vinegar. Another solitary, named Sabbas, begged him, on the contrary, to come into his vineyard and eat the fruit. St Hilarion blessed it, and sent in to it his religious, to the number of three thousand, who all satisfied their hunger; and twenty days after, the vineyard yielded three hundred measure of wine, instead of the usual quantity of ten. Let us follow the example of sabbas, and be disinterested; the good God will bless us, and after having blessed us in this world, He will also reward us in the other.

Sloth is a kind of cowardice and disgust, which makes us neglect and omit our duties, rather than do violence to ourselves.

Alas, my children, how many slothful people there are on this earth: how many are cowardly, how many are indolent in the service of the good God. We neglect, we omit our duties of piety, just as easily as we should take a glass of wine. We will not do violence to ourselves; we will not put ourselves to any inconvenience. Everything wearies, everything disgusts the slothful man. Prayers, the holy Sacrifice of the Mass, which do so much good to pious souls, are a torture to him. He is weary and dissatisfied in church, at the foot of the altar, in the presence of the good God. At first he feels only dislike and indifference towards everything that is commanded by religion. Soon after, you can no longer speak to him either of Confession or Communion; he has no time to think of those things. O my children! how miserable we are in losing, in this way, the time that we might so usefully employ in gaining Heaven, in preparing ourselves for eternity! How many moments are lost in doing nothing, or in doing wrong, in listening to the suggestions of the devil, in obeying him! Does not that make us tremble? If one of the lost had only a day or an hour to spend for his salvation, to what profit would he turn it! What haste he would make to save soul, to reconcile himself with the good God! And we, my children, who have days and years to think of our salvation, to save our souls - we remain there with our arm crossed, like that man spoken of in the Gospel. We neglect, we lose our souls. When death shall come, what shall we have to present to Our Lord? Ah! my children, hear how the good God threatens the idle: "
Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit shall be cut down, and shall be cast into the fire." "Take that unprofitable servant, and cast him out into the exterior darkness where there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth." Idleness is the mother of all vices. Look at the idle; they think of nothing but eating, drinking, and sleeping. They are no longer men, but stupid beasts, giving up to all their passions; they drag themselves through the mire like very swine. They are filthy, both within and without. They feed their soul only upon impure thoughts and desires. They never open their mouth but to slander their neighbour, or to speak immodest words. Their eyes, their ears, are open only to criminal objects....O my children! that we may resist idlness, let us imitate the saints. Let us watch continually over ourselves; like them, let us be very zealous in fulfilling all our duties; let the devil never find us doing nothing, lest we should yield to temptation. Let us prepare ourselves for a good death, for eternity. Let us not lose our time in lukewarmness, in negligence, in our habitual infidelities. Death is advancing: tomorrow we must, perhaps, quit our resolutions, our friends. Let us make haste to merit the rewards promised in Paradise to the faithful servant in the Gospel.

Pride is an untrue opinion of ourselves, an untrue idea of what we are not.

The proud man is always disparaging himself, that people may praise him the more. The more the proud man lower himself, the more he seeks to raise his miserable nothingness. He relates what he has done, and what he has not done, he feeds his imagination with what has been said in praise of him, and seeks by all possible means for more; he is never satisfied with praise. See, my children, if you only show some little displeasure against a man given up to self-love, he gets angry, and accuses you of ignorance or injustice towards him...My children, we are in reality only what we are in the eyes of God, and nothing more. Is it not quite clear and evident that we are nothing more, that we can do nothing, that we are miserable? Can we lose sight of our sins, and cease to humble ourselves? If we were to consider well what we are, humility would be easy to us, and the demon of pride would no longer have any room in our heart. See, our days are like grass - like the grass which now flourishes in the meadows, and will presently be withered; like an ear of corn which is fresh only for a moment, and is parched by the sun. In fact, my children, today we are full of life, full of health; and tomorrow, death will perhaps come to reap us and mow us down, as you reap your corn and mow your meadows...Whatever appears vigorous, whatever shines, whatever is beautiful, is of short duration....The glory of this world, youth, honours, riches, all pass away quickly, as quickly as the flower of grass, as the flower of the field...Let us reflect that so we shall one day be reduced to dust; that we shall be thrown into the fire like dry dust, if we do not fear the good God. Good Christians know this is very well, my children; therefore they do not occupy themselves with their body; they despise the affairs of this world; they consider only their soul and how to unite it to God. Can we be proud in the face of the examples of lowliness, of humiliations, that Our Lord has given, and is still giving us every day? Jesus Christ came upon earth, became incarnate, was born poor, lived in poverty, died on a gibbet, between two thieves....He instituted an admirable Sacrament, in which He communicates Himself to us under the Eucharistic veil; and in this Sacrament He undergoes the most extraordinary humiliations. Residing continually in our tabernacles, He is deserted, misunderstood by ungrateful men; and yet He continues to love us to serve in the Sacrament of the Altar. O my children! what an example of humiliation does the good Jesus give us!
Behold Him on the Cross to which our sins have fastened Him; behold Him: He calls us, and says to us, "Come to Me, and learn of Me, because I am meek and humble of heart.""How well the saints understood this invitation, my children! Therefore, they all sought humiliations and sufferings. After their example, then, let us not be afraid of being humbled and despised. St. John of God (picture on the left), at the beginning of his conversion, counterfeited madness, ran about the streets, and was followed by the populace, who threw stones at him; he always came in covered with mud and with blood. He was shut up as a madman; the most violent remedies were employed to cure him of his pretended illness; and he bore it all in the spirit of penance, and in expiation of his past sins. The good God, my children, does not require of us extraordinary things. He wills that we should be gentle, humble, and modest; then we shall always be pleasing to Him; we shall be like little children; and He will grant us the grace to come to Him and to enjoy the happiness of the saints.

Credits: The upper picture is by Pieter Bruegel the Elder "Seven deadly sins - Pride".

Sin is a thought, a word, an action, contrary to the law of God.

"By sin, my children, we rebel against the good God, we despise His justice, we tread under foot His blessings. From being children of God, we become the executioner and assassin of our soul, the offspring of Hell, the horror of Heaven, the murderer of Jesus Christ, the capital enemy of the good God. O my children! if we thought of this, if we reflected on the injury which sin offers to the good God, we should hold it in abhorrence, we should be unable to commit it; but we never think of it, we like to live at our ease, we slumber in sin. If the good God sends us remorse, we quickly stifle it, by thinking that we have done no harm to anybody; that God is good, and that He did not place us on the earth to make us suffer. Indeed, my children, the good God did not place us on the earth to suffer and endure, but to work out our salvation. See, He wills that we should work today and tomorrow; and after that, an eternity of joy, of happiness, awaits us in Heaven. ...O my children! how ungrateful we are! The good God calls us to Himself; He wishes to make us happy forever, and we are deaf to His word, we will not share His happiness; He enjoins us to love Him, and we give our heart to the devil. ...The good God commands all nature as its Master; He makes the winds and the storms obey Him; the angels tremble at His adorable will: man alone dares to resist Him. See, God forbids us that action, that criminal pleasure, that revenge, that injustice; no matter, we are bent upon satisfying ourselves of a moment's pleasure, or give up a sinful habit, or change our life. What are we, then, that we dare thus to resist God? Dust and ashes, which He could not annihilate with a single look....
"By sin, my children, we despise the good God. We renew His Death and Passion; we do as much evil as all the Jews together did, in fastening Him to the Cross. Therefore, my children, if we were to ask those who work without necessity on Sunday: "What are you doing there?" and they were to answer truly, they would say, "We are crucifying the good God." Ask the idle, the gluttonous, the immodest, what they do every day. If they answer you according to what they are really doing, they will say, " We are crucifying the good God.". O my children! it is very ungrateful to offend a God who has never done us any harm; but it is not the height of ingratitude to offend a God, who has done us nothing but good? It is He who created us, watched over us. He holds us in His hands; if He chose, He could cast us into the nothingness out of which He took us. He has given us His Son, to redeem us from the slavery of the devil; He Himself gave Him up to death that He might restore us to life; He has adopted us as His children, and ceases not to lavish His graces upon us. Notwithstanding all this, what use do we make of our mind, of our memory, of our health, of those limbs which He gave us to serve Him with? We employ them, perhaps, in committing crimes. "The good God, my children, has given us eyes to enlighten us, to see Heaven, and we use them to look at criminal and dangerous objects; He has given us a tongue to praise Him, and to express our thoughts, and we make it an instrument of iniquity - we swear, we blaspheme, we speak ill of our neighbour, we slander him; we abuse the supernatural graces, we stifle the salutary remorse by which God would convert us. ...we reject the insiprations of our good guardian angel. We despise good thoughts, we neglect prayer and the Sacraments. What account do we make even of the Word of God? Do we not listen to it with disgust? How miserable we are! How much we are to be pitied! We employ the time that the good God has given us for our salvation, in losing our souls. We make war upon Him with the means He has given us to serve Him; we turn His own gifts against Him! Let us cast our eyes, my children, upon Jesus fastened to the Cross, and let us say to ourselves, "This is what it has cost my Saviour to repair the injury my sins have done to God." A God coming down to the earth to be the victim of our sins! A Dod suffering, a God dying, A God enduring every torment, becasue He has put on the semblance of sin, and has chosen to bear the weight of that Cross, let us conceive once for all the malice of sin, and the abhorrence ikn which we should hold it. ...Let us enter into ourselves, and see hat we ought to do to repair our past sins; let us all together say to Him, from the bottom of our heart, "O Lord, who art here crucified foe us, have mercy upon us! Thou comest down from Heaven to cure souls of sin; cure us, we beseech; cause our souls to be purified by approaching the tribunal of penance; yes, O God! make us look upon sin as the greatest of all evils, and by our zeal in avoiding it, and in repairing those we have had the misfortune to commit, let us one day attain to the happiness of the saints."

Credit: picture is "Sin, Satan and Death" by William Hogarth.


We are all inclined to sin, my children; we are idle, greedy, sensual, given to the pleasures of the flesh. We want to know everything, to learn everything, to see everything; we must watch over our mind, over our heart, and over our senses, for these are the gates by which the devil penetrates. See, he prowls round us incesantly; his only occupation in this world is to seek companions for himself. All our life he will lay snares for us, he will try to make us yield to temptation; we must, on our side, do all we can to defeat and resist him. We can do nothing by ourselves, my children; but we can do everything with the help of the good God; let us pray Him to deliver us from this enemy of our salvation, or to give strength to fight against him. With the Name of Jesus we shall overthrow the demons; we shall put them to flight. With this Name, if they sometimes dare to attack us, our battles will be victories, and our victories will be crowns for Heaven, all brilliant with precious stones.
See, my children, the good God refuses nothing to those who pray to Him from the bottom of their heart. St Teresa, being one day in prayer, and desiring to see the good God, Jesus Christ showed to the eyes of her soul His Divine hands; then, another day, when she was again in prayer, He showed her the whole of His Sacred Humanity. The good God who granted the desire of St Teresa will also grant our prayers. If we ask of Him the grace to resist temptations. He will grant it to us; for He wishes to save us all, he shed His Blood for us all, He died for us all, He is waiting for us all in Heaven. We are two or three hundred [in the Cure of Ars parish] here: shall we all be saved. shall we all go to Heaven? Alas! my children, we know nothing about it; but I tremble when I see so many sould lost in these days.
See, they all fall into Hell as the leaves fall from the trees at the approach of winter. We shall fall like the rest, my children, if we do not avoid them, we do not fight generously, with the help of the good God - if we do not invoke His Name during the strife, like St Anthony in the desert.

This saint having retired into an old sepulcher, the devil came to attack him; he tried at first to terrify him with horrible noise; he even beat him so cruelly that he left him half dead and covered with wounds. "Well", said St Anthony, "here I am, ready to fight again; no, thou shalt not be able to separate me from Jesus Christ, my Lord and my God." The spirits of darkness redoubled their efforts, and uttered frightful cries. St Anthony remained unmoved, becasue he put all his confidence in God. After the example of this saint, my children, let us be always ready for the combat; let us put our confidence in God; let us fast and pray; and the devil will not be able to separate us from Jesus Christ, either in this world or the next.

Credits: first picture is by Lafosse "Temptation of Christ", the second is by Hieronim Bosch "Temptation of St Anthony".


Our Catechism tells us, my children, that all men will undergo a particular judgment on the day of their death. No sooner shall we have breathed our last sigh than our soul, without leaving the place where it expired, will be presented before the tribunal of God. Wherever we may die, God is there to exercise His justice. The good God, my children, has measured out our years that He has resolved to leave us on this earth, He has marked out one which shall be our last; one day which we shall not see succeeded by other days; one hour after which there will be for us no more time. What distance is there between that moment and this - the space of an instant. Life, my children, is a smoke, a light vapour; it disappears more quickly than a bird that darts through the air, or a ship that sails on the sea, and leaves no trace of its course!
When shall we die? Alas! Will it be in a year, in a month? Perhaps tomorrow, perhaps today! May not that happen to us which happens to so many others? It may be that at a moment when you are thinking of nothing but amusing yourself, you may be summoned to the judgment of God, like the impious Baltassar. What will then be the astonishment of that soul entering on its eternity? Surprised, bewildered, separated thenceforth from its relations and friends, and, as it were, surrounded with Divine light, it will find in its Creator no longer a merciful Father, but an inflexible Judge. Imagine to yourselves, my children, a soul at its departure from this life. It is going to appear before the tribunal of its Judge, alone with God; there is Heaven on one side, Hell on the other. What object presents itself before it? The picture of ite whole life! All its thoughts, all its words, all its actions, are examined.
This examination will be terrible, my children, becasue nothing is hidden from God. His infinite wisdom knows our most inmost thoughts; it penetrates to the bottom of our hearts, and lays open their innermost folds. In vain sinners avoid the light of day that they may sin more freely; they spare themselves a little sham the eyes of men, but it will be of no advantage to them at the day of judgment; God will make light the darkness under cover of which they thought to sin with impunity. The Holy Ghost, my children, says that we shall be examined on our words, our thoughts, our actions ; we shall be examined on our words, our thoughts, our actions; we shall be examined even on the good we ought to have done, and have not done, on the sins of others of which we have been the cause. Alas! so many thoughts to which we abandon ourselves - to which the mind gives itself up; how many in one day! in a week! in a month! in a year! How many in the whole course of our life! Not one of this infinite number will escape the knowledge of our Judge.

The proud man must give an account of all his thoughts of presumption, of vanity, of ambition; the impure of all his evil thoughts, and of the criminal desires with which he has fed his imagination. Those young people who are increasingly occupied with their dress, who are seeking to please, to distinguish themselves, to attract attention and praise, and who dare not make themselves known in the tribunal of Penance, will they be able still to hide themselves at the day of the judgment of God? No, no! They will appear there such as they have been during their life, before Him who makes known all that is most secret in the heart of man. We shall give an account, my children, of our oaths, of our imprecations, of our curses. God hears our slanders, our calumnies, our free conversations, our worldly and licentious songs; He hears also the discourse of the impious. This is not all, my children; God will also examine our actions. He will bring to light all our unfaithfulness in His service, our forgetfulness of His Commandments, our transgressions of His law, the profanation of His Churches, the attachment to the world, the ill-regulated love of pleasure and of the perishable goods of earth. All, my children, will be unveiled; those thefts, that injustice, that usury, that intemperance, that anger, those disputes, that tyranny, that revenge, those criminal liberties, those abominations that cannot be named without blushes...

Credits: the picture is "Last Judgment" by Hieronymus Bosch
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Sunday, February 24, 2008

Third Sunday of Lent

GOSPEL (Luke 11: 14-28)
At that time, Jesus was casting out a devil, and the same was dumb. And when he had cast out the devil, the dumb spoke, and the multitudes were in admiration at it. But some of them said: He casteth out devils by Beelzebub the prince of devils. And others tempting, asked of him a sign from heaven. But he seeing their thoughts, said to them: Every kingdom divided against itself shall be brought to desolation, and house upon house shall fall. And if Satan also be divided against himself, how shall his kingdom stand? because you say, that through Beelzebub I cast out devils. Now if I cast out devils by Beelzebub, by whom do your children cast them out? Therefore they shall be your judges. But if I by the finger of God cast out devils, doubtless the kingdom of God is come upon you. When a strong man armed keepeth his court, those things which he possesseth are in peace; but if a stronger than he come upon him, and overcome him, he will take away all his armor wherein he trusted, and will distribute his spoils. He that is not with me, is against me; and he that gathereth not with me, scattereth. When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through places without water, seeking rest; and not finding, he saith, I will return into my house whence I came out: and when he is come, he findeth it swept and garnished. Then he goeth, and taketh with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and entering in they dwell there. And the last state of that man becomes worse than the first. And it came to pass, as he spoke these things, a certain woman from the crowd, lifting up her voice, said to him: Blessed is the womb that bore thee, and the paps that gave thee suck. But he said: Yea rather blessed are they who hear the word of God, and keep it.

Can a man be really possessed of a devil?
It is the doctrine of the Catholic Church that the evil spirit most perniciously influences man in a twofold manner: by enticing his soul to sin, and then influencing his body which he often entirely or partially possesses, manifesting himself by madness, convulsions, insanity, etc. Many texts of Scripture, and the writings of the Fathers speak of this possession. St. Cyprian writes: "We can expel the swarms of impure spirits, who for the ruin of the soul, enter into the bodies of men, and we can compel them to acknowledge their presence, by the force of powerful words." Possession takes place by the permission of God either for trial or as a punishment for sin committed, (1 Cor 5: 5) and the Church from her Head, Jesus, who expelled so many devils, has received the power of casting them out as He did. (Mark 16: 17; Acts 5: 16, 8: 6-7, 16: 18) She however warns her ministers, the priests, who by their ordination have received the power to expel the evil spirits, to distinguish carefully between possession and natural sickness, that they may not be deceived, (Rit. ROM. §3, §5-10) and the faithful should guard against looking upon every unusual, unhealthy appearance as an influence of Satan, and should give no ear to impostors, but in order not to be deceived, should turn to an experienced physician or to their pastor.

What is understood by a dumb devil?
The literal meaning of this is the evil enemy, who some times so torments those whom he possesses that they lose the power of speech; in a spiritual sense, we may understand it to mean the shame which the devil takes away from the sinner, when he commits the sin, but gives back again, as false shame, before confession, so that the sinner conceals the sin, and thereby falls deeper.

How does Christ still cast out dumb devils?
By His grace with which He inwardly enlightens the sinner, so that he becomes keenly aware that the sins which he has concealed in confession, will one day be known to the whole world, and thus encourages him to overcome his false shame. - "Be not ashamed to confess to one man," says St. Augustine "that which you were not ashamed to do with one, perhaps, with many." Consider these words of the same saint: "Sincere confession subdues vice, conquers the evil one, shuts the door of hell, and opens the gates of paradise."

How did Christ prove, that He did not cast out devils by Beelzebub?
By showing that the kingdom of Satan could not stand, if one evil spirit were cast out by another; that they thus reproached their own sons who also cast out devils, and had not been accused of doing so by power from Beelzebub; by His own life and works which were in direct opposition to the devil, and by which the devil's works were destroyed. - There is no better defence against calumny than an innocent life, and those who are slandered, find no better consolation than the thought of Christ who, notwithstanding His sanctity and His miracles, was not secure against calumniation.

What is meant by the finger of God?
The power of God, by which Christ expelled the evil spirits, proved himself God, and the promised Redeemer.

Who is the strong man armed?
The evil one is so called, because he still retains the power and intellect of the angels, and, practiced by long experience, seeks in different ways to injure man if God permits.

How is the devil armed?
With the evil desires of men, with the perishable riches, honors, and pleasures of this world, with which he entices us to evil, deceives us, and casts us into eternal fire.

Who is the stronger one who took away the devil's armor?
Christ the Lord who came into this world that He might destroy the works and the kingdom of the devil, to expel the prince of darkness, (John 12: 31) and to redeem us. from his power. "The devil," says St. Anthony, "is like a dragon caught by the Lord with the fishing-hook of the cross, tied with a halter like a beast of burden, chained like a fugitive slave, and his lips pierced through with a ring, so that he may not devour any of the faithful. Now he sighs, like a miserable sparrow, caught by Christ and turned to derision, and thrown under the feet of the Christians. He who flattered himself that he would possess the whole orbit of the earth, behold, he has to yield!"

Why does Christ say: He who is not with me, is against me?
These words were intended in the first place for the Pharisees who did not acknowledge Christ as the Messiah, would not fight with Him against Satan's power, but rather held the people back from reaching unity of faith and love of Christ. Like the Pharisees, all heretical teachers who, by their false doctrines, draw the faithful from communion with Christ and His Church, are similar to the devil, the father of heresy and lies. May all those, therefore, who think they can serve Christ and the world at the same time, consider that between truth and falsehood, between Christ and the world, there is no middle path; that Christ requires decision, either with Him, or against Him , either eternal happiness with Him, or without Him, everlasting misery.

Who are understood by the dry places through which the evil spirit wanders and finds no rest?
"The dry places without water," says St. Gregory, "are the hearts of the just, who by the force of penance have drained the dampness of carnal desires." In such places the evil -one indeed finds no rest, because there his malice finds no sympathy, and his wicked will no satisfaction.

Why does the evil spirit say: I will return into my house?
Because he is only contented there where he is welcomed and received: those who have purified their heart by confession, and driven Satan from it, but labor not to amend, again lose the grace of the Sacraments by sin, and thus void of virtue and grace, offer a beautiful and pleasant dwelling to the devil.

Why is it said: The last state becomes worse than the first?
Because a relapse generally draws more sins with it, and so it is said: the devil will return with seven other spirits more wicked than himself, by which may be understood the seven deadly sins, because after a relapse into sin conversion to God becomes more difficult, as a repeated return of the same sickness makes it harder to regain health; because by repetition sin easily becomes a habit and renders conversion almost impossible; because repeated relapses are followed by blindness of intellect, hardness of heart, and in the end eternal damnation.

Why did the woman lift up her voice?
This was by the inspiration of the Holy Ghost to shame the Pharisees who, blinded by pride, neither professed nor acknowledged the divinity of Christ, whilst this humble woman not only confessed Jesus as God, but praised her who carried Him, whom heaven and earth cannot contain. Consider the great dignity of the Blessed Virgin, Mother of the Son of God, and hear her praises from the holy Fathers. St. Cyril thus salutes her: "Praise to thee, Blessed Mother of God: for thou art virginity itself, the sceptre of the true faith!" and St. Chrysostom: "Hail, O Mother, the throne, the glory, the heaven of the Church!" St. Ephrem: "Hail, only hope of the Fathers, herald of the apostles, glory of the martyrs, joy of the saints, and crown of the virgins, because of thy vast glory, and inaccessible light!"

Why did Christ call those happy who hear the word of God and keep it?
Because, as has been already said, it is not enough for salvation to hear the word of God, but it must also be practiced. Because Mary, the tender Mother of Jesus, did this most perfectly, Christ terms her more happy in it, than in having conceived, borne, and nursed Him.

O Lord Jesus! true Light of the world, enlighten the eyes of my soul, that I may never be induced by the evil one to conceal a sin, through false shame, in the confessional, that on the day of general judgment my sibs may not be published to the whole world. Strengthen me, O Jesus, that I may resist the arms of the devil by a penitent life, and especially by scorning the fear of man and worldly considerations, and guard against lapsing into sin, that I may not be lost, but through Thy merits maybe delivered from, all dangers and obtain heaven

Credits: text from Fr. Goffine "The Church's year". Picture is by Gustave Dore "Bible Illustrations"
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Saturday, February 23, 2008

Consolatrix afflictorum, ora pro nobis

Be of good comfort, my children; cry to the Lord and He will deliver you - (Bar 4:21).

My delicate ones have walked rough ways
(Bar 4:26)

Be of good comfort, my children...for as the neighbours of Sion have now seen your captivity from God, so shall they also shortly see your salvation from God, which shall come upon you with great honour and everlasting glory.

My children, suffer patiently the wrath that is come upon you...for He that hath brought evils upon you shall bring everlasting joy again with your salvation (Bar 4:21, 24, 25, 29)

We shall have afflictions, and for that reason this land of exile is termed a valley of tears. The happiest and most light-hearted will sooner or later have trouble and care. Oftentimes those who seem to have the least to bear have the most, for ti is not always external trials that weigh the heaviest on the heart. And we often have to endure our sufferings in silence for want of any one who can enter into and understand them; for to speak of them to unsympathetic ears only adds to the poignancy of our grief. In such straits where shall we turn if not to her who is the consoler of the afflicted? Whatever may be the cause of our sorrows, it will not be beneath her notice, for our Mother's heart is above all, a compassionate one. She has suffered too much herself not to sympathize with the sufferings of others. Her own heart was pierced with a sword that out of many hearts thoughts might be revealed. We are too inclined perhaps to lock up our afflictions within ourselves in a hopeless, perchance ever bitter or stoical way. Let us go to Mary and reveal to her all that is in our hearts, telling her our troubles in a simple, childlike way, and through the rent made by the cruel sword place them in hers. It is large enough for them all, for great as the sea was her affliction. Our trials may come from others - we may be ill-treated, wronged, misunderstood; or from fortune - poverty and want may be our share; or from ourselves - oftentimes our own character, tempers, humours, are our greatest affliction; or again they may come to us through the sorrows of those we love. Be they what they may, tell them to Mary; but surely, if they be one more than another that she can sympathize with, it will ne this last. WAs it not compassion for the sorrows of her Son that pierced her heart? Let her be our refuge in grief. Let us say with the wise man: "I took her to live with me, knowing she would be a comfort in my cares and griefs". Our Lady will not only listen to us, though with the utmost gentleness, that what seems a misfortune is in reality a blessing. If we have lost riches, she will let us see they might proved a snare to our soul. If a friend is taken from us by death, she will whisper that Jesus covets the place in our hearts which that friend once occupied. If ill-health be our lot, she will lead us to recognize that it cuts us off from many dangerous pleasures and amusements; and in this way we shall become so consoled by her that we may end by positively rejoicing over those things which caused our tears. But there is one grief, Mother mine, which even thou must find difficult to assuage. How comfort those who mourn and weep that Jesus, their beloved, is hated without cause? useless to bid them cease, for who could do so when the dearest of all who are dear to them is being mocked, ridiculed, driven from the hearts of men, nay, even crucified afresh, and that not once, but as many times as there are mortal sins committed in a day? Yet even in this, the grief of griefs, she can whisper words of consolation, even amidst her own tears - for did not her seven swords of sorrow spring from the same source , and did she not realize this more than all the lovers of Jesus put together? - and remind such souls that He had said: "Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted." For one day they will see that all these things will in the end redound to His greater glory, as showing forth the unspeakable love of that Sacred Heart which, knowing what was before Him and all that would come upon Him, with full deliberation left His heavenly home and braved it all for the sake of rescuing from eternal misery those who were willing to listen to His voice and yield Him their hearts. Our heavenly Mother will teach such souls that, while mourning that he is hated without cause, they can also, at the same time, rejoice in the thought that He is infinitely good. But there is yet another realm than earth where mary exercises her power as comforter of the afflicted, and that is in purgatory. Oh, how those poor prisoners must welcome the sight of their august Queen, when from time to time she visits them, bringing consolation and renewed hope in her train! And what can she say to ease these sufferings, the greatest of which must be that of seeing how we have wasted our substance - the many graces bestowed on us - and disappointed the Sacred Heart by not attaining to that perfection and to that degree of glory which He had planned for us, and for which he gave us the means? Well, she can comfort them by putting before them that at any rate their present sufferings will make at least some atonement for the past, and thus they will learn even to love those grievous torments; while those whose chief pain consists in the sense of loss will be joined to the happy throngs awaiting them in the heavenly kingdom. "Be of good comfort, my children... for as the nrighbours of Sion [your eternal home] have now seen your captivity from God, so shall they also see your salvation from God which shall come upon you with great honour and everlasting glory." (Bar 4) But Mary will have more than words to offer these suffering exiles. Can we think she will ever visit them without bringing a royal pardon for many of their number who will follow joyously in her train, speeding aloft towards Him whom they love and to whom their being craves to be united? And cannot we share in great measure our Mother's office of "Consolatrix Afflictorum"? Surely yes. Let us put self aside and enter lovingly into the sorrows of those around us, consoling, comforting and sympathizing with every form of suffering, no matter whence its source. Be it they have brought ot on their own heads, that is no reason for hardening our hearts. Self-condemnation is one of the bitterest forms of trial; let us not add to it by our censoriousness. Who has appointed us to judge over them? Then again for the souls in purgatory we can do most real work. Has not holy Church placed in our hands the means of paying their debts, giving us the key of the treasury of the Precious Blood, which on easy conditions we can sprinkle broadcast into the fierce flames, assuaging their heat and releasing their prisoners? Here indeed we can be co-operators with our Mother Mary. Not a day passes but we can put a treasure into her hands with which to ransom those beloved ones to God, many of whom we may have knnown in life, and who must often wonder at our not exerting ourselves more to obtain their release. Could time be better spent than freeing these holy prisoners who will bring immediate glory to God by their praise of Him and who will surely in their turn not forget us, but will plead our cause before "the great white throne", when our time comes to pay the penalty of our neglect of grace? Finally, before leaving our Mother Mary, whom we have been considering under so sweet and consoling an aspect as that of a universal consoler, let us call to mind that she was privilaged to be th comforter of God Himself. Did she not share the griefs of her divine Son, the Man of Sorrows, and by her deep sympathy bring consolation to His Sacred Heart, from Its first pangs of disappointed love in the cave at Bethlehem, when It realized that the creatures for whom He was preapred to do so much cared naught for Him, to Its last sigh on the cross they had prepared for Him? And how she longs for us to imitate her in this loving compassion for the Sacred Heart! "Comfort Him, all you who are round about Him", she whispers; and Jesus, when He sees us approach Him, more full of His griefs and wrongs than our own, will recognize us as true children of Mary, and virtue will go out from Him into our souls, and we shall become more truly His friends than we have hitherto been, for in times of common sorrow hearts become knit together by strong and lasting ties.

Comforter of the afflicted, pray for us!

In the first Holy Card Mary is depicted as the solace, consolation and comforter of our life. This is the meaning of the caption borrowed from the book of Tobit (chapter 10). Her portrait is enclosed in the disk of the moon. The contrast between Mary’s constancy, fidelity and unwavering faith and the changing status of the waxing and waning moon heightens Mary’s reliability as consoler and comforter. In antiquity, the moon was guide and protector of charioteers. Similarly, Mary’s comfort forbids mere indulgence; she gives direction and points the way. She is leading the erring pilgrim (lower right) who sees in her the comforter of affliction (Psalm 119). In the storms of life (see ship lower left) Mary dispenses solace to those who remain faithful to the Holy One (Job 6:10). The banquet scene in the lower half is an illustration of the lemma: “I beg you for my people” (Esther 7:3). Queen Esther in her fight against Haman begs the king, during the second banquet, to spare her life and that of her people. Esther is a well-known symbol or type of Mary. Both women are known for their attitude of prayer and intercessory power. Thus, Mary is comforter of the afflicted because she is both mother of and intercessor with Christ.

Credits: text from "My Queen and my Mother" and picture explanation taken from here
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Sunday, February 17, 2008

Second Sunday of Lent

O Jesus, grant that Your grace may triumph in me and make me worthy to participate in Your glorious Transfiguration!


1. The soul of Jesus, personally united to the Word, enjoyed the Beatific Vision, which has as its connatural effect the glorification of the body. But this effect was impeded by Jesus, who, during the years of His life on earth, wanted to resemble us as much as possible by appearing "in the likeness of sinful flesh" (Rom 8:3). However, in order to confirm the faith of the Apostles who were shaken by the announcement of His Passion, Jesus permitted some rays from His blessed soul to shine forth for a few brief instants on Thabor, when Peter, James, and John saw Him transfigured: "His face did shine as the sun and His garments became white as snow." The three were enraptured by it, and yet Jesus had revealed to them only one ray of His glory, for no human creature could have borne the complete vision.
Glory is the fruit of grace: the grace possessed by Jesus in an infinite degree is reflected in an infinite glory transfiguring Him entirely. Something similar happens to us: grace will transform us "from glory to glory" (2 Cor 3:18), until one day it will bring us to the Beatific Vision of God in heaven. But while grace transfigures, sin, on the other hand, darken and disfigures whoever becomes its victim. Today's Gospel (Mt 17: 1-9) brings out the close connection between the transfiguration and the passion of Jesus. Moses and Elias appeared on Thabor on either side of the Saviour. They conversed with Him, and as St. Luke explains, talked specifically about His coming Passion: "They spoke of His decease, that He should accomplish in Jerusalem" (Lk 9:31).
The divine master wished to teach His disciples in this way that it was impossible - for Him as well as for them - to reach the glory of the Transfiguration without passing through suffering. It was the same lesson that He would give later to the two disciples at Emmaus: "Ought not Christ suffered these things and so to enter into His glory?"(Lk 24: 26). What has been disfigured by sin cannot regain its original supernatural beauty except by way of purifying suffering.
2. In ecstasy before the vision on Thabor, Peter cried out with his usual eagerness, "It is good for us to be here," and offered to make three tabernacles: one for Jesus, one for Moses, and one for Elias. But his proposal was interrupted by a voice from heaven: "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye Him!" and the vision disappeared.
Spiritual consolations are never an end in themselves, and we should neither desire them nor try to retain them for our own satisfaction. Joy, even that which is spiritual, should never be sought for itself. Just as in heaven, joy will be the necessary concomitant of possessing God, so too on earth, it should be nothing but a means, enabling us to give ourselves with greater generosity to the service of God. To Peter, who wanted to stay on Thabor in the sweet vision of the transfigured Jesus, God Himself replied by inviting him to listen to and follow the teachings of His beloved Son. The ardent Apostle would soon learn that following Jesus meant carrying the Cross and ascending Calvary with Him. God does not console us for our entertainment but rather for our encouragement, for our strengthening, for the increase of our generosity in suffering for love of Him. The vision disappeared; the Apostles raised their eyes and saw nothing "nisi solum Jesum," save Jesus alone, God alone. Everything else - consolations, helps, friendships (even spiritual ones), understanding, esteem, encouragement (even from Superiors) - may be good to the extent that God permits us to enjoy them. He very often makes use of them to encourage us in our weakness; but if, through certain circumstances, His divine hand takes all these things away, we should not be upset or disturbed. It is precisely at such times that we can prove to God more than ever - by deeds and not by words only - that He is our All and that He alone suffices. On these occasions the loving soul finds itself in a position to give God one of the finest proofs of love: to be faithful to Him, to trust in Him, and to persevere in its resolution to give all, even if, by removing His gifts, He has left it alone. The soul may be in darkness, that is, subject to misunderstanding, bitterness, material and spiritual solitude combined with interior desolation. The time has come to repeat, "Jesus alone," to come down from Thabor with Him, and to follow Him with the Apostles even to Calvary, where He will suffer, abandoned not only by men, but even by His Father.


"You only do I love, my God. You only do I wish to seek and to follow; I am ready to follow You alone. I wish to be entirely at Your disposal. I beg You to order and command whatever You will, but cure me, open my eyes, that I may see Your slightest gesture. Cure me completely, that I may recognize You. Tell me which way to turn my attention in order to see You; and I hope that I shall be able to do all that You command me" (St. Augustine).

O Jesus, destroy sin in me, the sin which has disfigured Your face and disfigured my soul created in your image and likeness. But to bring about this destruction, I must share Your Calvary, Your Cross. Deign then, O Lord, to unite to Your Passion all the sufferings, little or great, of my life, that they may purify me and prepare me to rise from light to light, until I am completely transformed in You. The light and glory of Thabor encourage me. Thank You, O Lord, for having allowed me, if only for a few moments, to contemplate Your splendour and to enjoy Your divine consolations. Fortified and encouraged by this, I come down from the mountain to follow You, You alone, to Calvary.

Credits: Text from Fr Gabriel of St Mary Magdalene "Divine Intimacy", picture is "Transfiguration" by Carl Bloch
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Saturday, February 16, 2008

Saturday - Our Lady's Day

O ever Immaculate Virgin, Mother of Mercy, health of the sick, refuge of sinners, comfort of the afflicted, you know my wants, my troubles, my sufferings; deign to cast upon me a look of mercy. By appearing in the Grotto of Lourdes, you were pleased to make it a privileged sanctuary from which you dispense your favors. Already many sufferers have obtained the cure of their infirimities, both spiritual and corporal. I come, therefore with unceasing confidence to implore your motherly intercession. Obtain, O loving Mother, the grant of my requests. Let me strive to imitate your virtues on earth, that I may one day share your glory in heaven. Amen.


MARY, you have learned the meaning of compassion while you witnessed the long and bitter sufferings of your Son during His holy Passion. At the foot of the cross you received from His lips as an inheritance all the faithful as your children in the person of the beloved disciple John. Your children who invoke you know that your power equals your love. When you were told that Elizabeth was with child, you hastened to her side to help her. If you showed such compassion for the married couple at Cana who were disturbed because the wine failed, how much more will you have pity on the sick whose need is far greater. Who can number all the miraculous cures of the most terrible diseases of body and soul, which have been wrought through your intercession? When we visit sacred shrines, like Lourdes and Fatima, where great churches have been erected in your honor, we find there inscriptions engraved by gratitude and gifts offered to your altar as trophies of your power over diseases which resisted all human aid. Therefore, to whom after Jesus can the Christian turn in the crosses and sufferings of life, if not to you, the Health of the Sick? In your motherly compassion, sympathize with the sick throughout the world and give them comfort and, help, and even health, if this should be God's will.

MARY, you comfort the sick with motherly love and alleviate their sufferings. You take an interest in them lest they lose patience and become discouraged. A mother watches day and night by the bedside of her darling child when it is dangerously ill, lovingly she treats the little one and caresses it. But your love for us is greater than any mother's love. Unseen you stand at the sickbed and serve them with motherly care. You pour strengthening remedies into the hearts of the sick so that they feel their pains of sickness soothed; you speak words of peace and consolation to their souls, so as to revive their courage and to strengthen their confidence; you procure for them the forgiveness of their sins and peace of conscience which is such a comfort in suffering. You help them in every temptation and give them grace to gain the victory. You confirm their hope, fill them with confidence in God, and help them to pray with a cheerful heart and perfect resignation: Thy will be done!

Health of the Sick, help me to realize that it is a great grace to be sick. May sickness lead me to a knowledge of my helplessness and teach me the virtue of humility. May sickness open my eyes to the vanity of all earthly things and direct my heart to those which are above. May sickness weaken the violence of carnal desires and remove from me the occasion of sin. May sickness teach me to pray with devotion; may it give me an opportunity to practice obedience, humility, and confidence in God. May I use sickness as one of the great means I have of atoning for my sins and of increasing my merits for heaven. Help me to thank God for sickness. Though I use the proper means for recovery, I wish to leave it entirely to God to do with me what He wills since He knows what is best for me. Perfect resignation is the most acceptable sacrifice to God, as you have taught me in your own life.

MARY, you are the health of the spiritually sick. In the days of their strength they live in forgetfulness of God, and when illness overtakes them, they lie down with the poison of sin eating into their hearts. The gnawing worm of conscience, the fear of their approaching death, of the judgment to come, and of a never-ending eternity, fills them with anguish and brings them to the verge of despair. May they, too, learn that you are the health of the Sick. Obtain for them the grace of repentance and forgiveness and even bodily health.

Grant us, Your servants, we beg of You, O Lord God, that we may be blessed with health of soul and body, and by the glorious intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, be freed from the sorrows of this present life and enjoy everlasting bliss. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.


Credits: "Our Lady's Titles - Meditations for all Saturdays of the Year" by Fr Lawrence G. Lovasik - copy of the text after Intermirifica Loreto Litany meditations - link on the sidebar Rosary section

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Friday, February 15, 2008

Lourdes, February 11th - 14th 2008

I present today slide show-movie, the record of my pilgrimage to Lourdes. The movie starts with vintage Holy Card followed by old photo of the Grotto as seen in St Bernadette times. We can also have a glimpse of Bernadette and the Grotto when it became celebrated place of worship. These four photographs are introduction to pictures I have taken during my stay in Lourdes. The photos show the main events of these several days. During the first day, on our arrival we first decided to pay a visit to Our Lady and lit votive candles at the Grotto of Messabielle while listening to International Mass open air celebrated just over the river. The several next pictures show exterior and interior of Immaculate Conception Basilica which top up the Crypt - the first chapel built at Our Lady's request. The building beneath is the Rosary Basilica which has a crowned dome. The gold plated crown was founded by faithful Irish Catholics from all over the world. In the afternoon of the first day, we participated in the Eucharistic Procession with over 920 priests gathered at Lourdes to pay homage to Our Lady. The procession took place around the main square in front of Basilicas. The square is adorned with beautiful crowned statue of Our Lady. The first day ended with International Rosary and candle procession concluded with prayers at the Grotto. The following days were marked by Jubilee pilgrimage to places connected with life of St Bernadette where we had an opportunity to collect stickers for Jubilee medal commemorating steps of this meditative journey and needed to fulfill conditions of Indulgence generously granted by our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI. On the way we visited Soubirou's family home, called Boly Mill, where St Bernadette was born, the original baptisery used for her baptism is now located within new Parish Church that replaced the original one completely destroyed by the fire at the end of XIX century. Interestingly, the front of the Church with baptismal font was the only part of the Church spared from the fire. Next we visited Le Cachot, the desolate former prison cell room measuring a bit over 12 feet square where Bernadette lived with her parents and three other siblings. This loving and very close family lived there in utter poverty in despicable conditions after Bernadette's father lost both business and family house, was left half blinded after accident at the mill he run, was falsely acused of stealing his own flour and had to spent eight days in prison before being finally declared innocent. He never, however, recovered his good name and was thought a thief when first Apparitions took place. The Jubilee pilgrimage ended with the visit to Hospice run by Sisters of Charity where Bernadette received her First Communion and lived there since Apparitions ended to avoid ever increasing attention of the public. Important devotion of the following days were prayers at Lourdes spectacular open air Stations of the Cross located on the steepy hill neighbouring Basilica of Immaculate Conception. The Stations are made of natural size figures and each Station in very vivid manner depicts dramatic moments of Our Lord's Passion. The first Station is usually prayed by the faithful on miniature replica of Santa Scala Church holy steps originating from Pilate palace and located in Rome. Time spent in Lourdes was certainly very special spiritual experience for every pilgrim that can be celebrated only once in fifty years. The faithful were blessed with two multiple sclerosis cures during these first days of Jubilee year celebrations.
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Sunday, February 10, 2008

Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes

The saint of Lourdes ... the saint of penance ... the saint of poverty ... Our Lady's child visionary is also to many the saint of family. Born January 7, 1844 at a time of prosperity for her family, her parents and younger siblings lived in an environment of deep love and devotion for each other. However, hard times soon fell on agricultural France, and worse yet, a string of seemingly endless bad luck fell on the Soubirous family. Put to the test time and again, Bernadette and her family discovered the meaning of unconditional commitment. In desperation, illness, and poverty, the oldest of the Soubirous children began having mysterious visions at the age of fourteen. The combination of sophisticated revelations and Bernadette's simplicity were a certain confirmation of these apparitions. The entire region was soon in an uproar over the events. The apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary spanned only six months, but no relief came to the Soubirous family. They came even closer together as they were plagued with continued misfortune through the time of the apparitions and beyond. The events at Lourdes only magnified the trials of Bernadette and her family, leading to persecution by many non–believers and authorities alike. Within their home the Soubirous did find peace, however. Their commitment to each other and their faith held them together despite the unnerving events and their dire living conditions. Consolation also came as the Catholic Church confirmed the apparitions within only a few years, and construction began on the sanctuary at the Grotto of Massabielle before Bernadette even left for Nevers. As for Bernadette, she individually experienced destitution and divine light simultaneously. We might find it difficult to resolve these two states in the same life circumstance under any conditions. By faith and grace, she was able to live with them together. Less than a year after Bernadette was born (November 1844), her mother Louise suffered a burn injury while pregnant with her second child. Bernadette was sent to a nurse at Bartrès, and returned eleven months later after the younger child died. There were eventually to be nine children born to Louise and François Soubirous, of which only four survived childhood. Three years later, François was blinded in the left eye in a milling accident at the Boly Mill, which was also the family's home. Crops were poor and famine struck France. In 1854, with work sparse, the Soubirous were turned out from the Boly Mill. They wandered from one boarding house to another, turned out each time for failing to meet their bills. Bernadette was 11 years old and watching after the three younger children as her parents went out to find work each day. François was forced to become a day laborer earning less than the cost of hiring a horse. When a cholera epidemic swept through town, Bernadette was stricken. Almost to the point of death, she was to suffer with severe asthma for the rest of her life. To help her family survive, she worked for a time as a waitress in her aunt's inn. Failing again to meet their meager rent in May 1856, the family was this time left homeless. A cousin had pity and allowed them to stay in an abandoned prison cell that was in a building he owned. "Le Cachot" (the lock–up) was little more than 12 feet square. At this point the family was in utter poverty. With no food to eat, François was suspected of stealing two sacks of flour. Imprisoned for eight days, the charges were shortly dismissed, but he was left with a reputation as a thief. "The room was dark ... In the backyard was the privy which overflowed and made the place stink. We kept the dung–heap there ... The Soubirous were destitute: two poor beds, one on the right as you entered, and the other on the same side nearer to the fireplace ... They had only a little trunk to put all their linen in ... My wife lent them some chemises: they were full of vermin ... She often gave them a bit of bread made of millet. Yet the little ones never asked for anything. They would rather have starved." André Sajous, owner of Cachot, 1875. In the darkness of this destitution the Soubirous maintained the light of their faith. Evenings in the Cachot were spent in common prayer. They attended mass frequently, and on Sundays assisted services in the parish. Louise and François recited the rosary and taught the children to do the same. Bernadette owned rosary beads and carried them with her. Towards the end of 1857, she was again sent to her nurse in Bartrès to work as a farmhand. There would be food there and one less mouth to feed at the Cachot. However, there was no school or catechism to prepare for her first Communion. Persistent and decisive, Bernadette persuaded her mistress and family to allow her to return to Lourdes. She could not remain away from the reading lessons which would earn her the ability to complete her catechism and finally receive her first Communion. In January, 1858, at almost 14 years of age, she returned to the misery of the Cachot and entered a pauper's school where she learned in the company of 7– year–olds. Only three weeks were to pass before a desperate search for firewood led Bernadette to her first encounter with "the Lady" ... The mountain air was cold and wet. Still two months of winter lay ahead. Food was scarce, and firewood all gone for this young family. Survival of the family was the first concern. Remaining together in their love the second. Each member, young and old, had their part to play in this survival game. Illness plagued the firstborn, who in body was so weak, and yet in mind so strong. Their village with a thousand–year history was one of the larger towns at the foot of the Pyrenees. But, the time had come to really place Lourdes on the map. Not just for Lourdes' 4,000 inhabitants, nor France, but for the entire world. No particular feature or product of this pocket of Bigorre was worthy of great prominence. It was merely a stopping point for mountaineers or travellers in search of the waters of places like Barèges, Cauterets, or Bagnères–de–Bigorre. In fact the culture of the region was so separated from surrounding areas geographically and historically that they even spoke their own language. Lourdes had seen its share of hardship in recent years. Droughts had killed the wheat harvest, and the industrial revolution threatened the mills. A cholera epidemic swept through the area, killing many and almost claiming the life of Bernadette. Lourdes' past glories could be traced in history to 778, when Charlemagne lay siege on the Moorish castle. Legend held that the Moor leader converted at the feet of the Black Virgin of Puy, and was baptized with the name Lorus, from which the town received its name. But by the nineteenth century, it had only dreams of past glories. Photography had been invented in France less than 15 years earlier, and it is almost certain that none of the photographs you see of young Bernadette Soubirous on these pages would never have been taken ... that is unless the "Lady" came for a visit!

January 20th, 1858

Bernadette returned to live in the misery and squalor of the Cachot, and attended a convent–run school where she was put in a "pauper's class" with no fees to pay, in the company of 7– year–olds. How courageous was Bernadette! Three weeks later, a dark and somber sky hung over the icy dawn of Thursday February 11th. Outside the Cachot there was mist and drizzling rain. Inside, the Soubirous family shivered from the cold and dampness. The last of the firewood had gone, the last bundle having been sold the night before to buy food. Bernadette pleaded with her mother to allow her to go and fetch some. Afraid that Bernadette might suffer an asthma attack from the bad weather, her mother was reluctant. Finally, she gave in to her daughter's constant pleading. And so it was that Bernadette, her sister Toinette and a friend Jeanne Abadie, nick–named Balourn, made their way to the river Gave. They crossed the meadow of the Savy mill (the present day Rosary Square). "We are not thieves," said Bernadette as they crossed this private property and left untouched the many fallen branches that lay strewn there. Further on they came to the "pig–sty", a rocky recess where the river currents washed up driftwood and all sorts of rubbish. This place had often been a treasure trove for these poor children who sold what they found to the local rag market in Lourdes. Even that very day they were to find and to sell enough to buy 20 sous worth of bread, and this in a place used by Samson, the local swineherd, as a watering hole for pigs. Heaven has a wondrous way of working its miracles. What symbolism exists in the circumstances surrounding the Lourdes apparitions. For many, it took great faith to look beyond simple appearances to realize the rich imagery and message behind the events that were soon to occur. Here now is how Bernadette herself described the events which left such an indelible impression on her heart. She wrote of the events several times in almost identical terms. This first account, written on May 28th, 1861, was at the time when Bernadette was just learning to write. "The first time I went to the Grotto, was Thursday, 11th February, 1858. I went to gather firewood with two other little girls (Toinette, her sister, and Jeanne Abadie, nicknamed Balourn). When we got to the mill (of Savy), I asked the other two if they would like to see where the water of the mill joins the Gave. They said 'Yes.' From there we followed the canal. When we arrived there (at the foot of the rock of Massabielle) we found ourselves before a grotto. As they could go no further, my two companions prepared to cross the water lying before their path; so I found myself alone on the other side. They crossed the water; they started to cry. I asked them why and they told me that the water was cold. I begged them to help me throw a few rocks into the water so that I could cross without taking my stockings off. They replied that I could do as they had done. Then I went a bit further to see if I could cross without taking my stockings off, but without success." "I came back towards the grotto and started taking off my stockings. I had hardly taken off the first stocking when I heard a sound like a gust of wind.Portrait of Bernadette in 1858 Then I turned my head towards the meadow. I saw the trees quite still: I went on taking off my stockings. I heard the same sound again. As I raised my head to look at the grotto, I saw a Lady dressed in white, wearing a white dress, a blue girdle and a yellow rose on each foot, the same color as the chain of her rosary; the beads of the rosary were white." "The Lady made a sign for me to approach; but I was seized with fear, and I did not dare, thinking that I was faced with an illusion. I rubbed my eyes, but in vain. I looked again, and I could still see the same Lady. Then I put my hand into my pocket, and took my rosary. I wanted to make the sign of the cross, but in vain; I could not raise my hand to my forehead, it kept on dropping. Then a violent impression took hold of me more strongly, but I did not go." "The Lady took the rosary that she held in her hands and she made the sign of the cross. Then I commenced not to be afraid. I took my rosary again; I was able to make the sign of the cross; from that moment I felt perfectly undisturbed in mind. I knelt down and said my rosary, seeing this Lady always before my eyes. The Vision slipped the beads of her rosary between her fingers, but she did not move her lips. When I had said my rosary the Lady made a sign for me to approach, but I did not dare. I stayed in the same place. Then, all of a sudden, she disappeared. I started to remove the other stocking to cross the shallow water near the grotto so as to join my companions. And we went away. As we returned, I asked my companions if they had seen anything. 'No,'; they replied. 'And what about you? Did you see anything?' 'Oh, no, if you have seen nothing, neither have I.' "I thought I had been mistaken. But as we went, all the way, they kept asking me what I had seen. I did not want to tell them. Seeing that they kept on asking I decided to tell them, on condition that they would tell nobody. They promised not to tell. They said that I must never go there again, nor would they, thinking that it was someone who would harm us. I said no. As soon as they arrived home they hastened to say that I had seen a Lady dressed in white. That was the first time." Bernadette's relationship with the Lady begins on a gesture of poverty. As Jesus came to the world in a humble manger, so did Mary come to Massabielle, a muddy cavelike formation filled with trash that washed up from the river, dressed in pure white! Bernadette was soon to discover in one of the purest dialogues ever exchanged between a human being and the Mother of God, that there is a poverty worse than destitution, hunger, cold, ignorance, social degradation, illness, death, and so on. This poverty is that of human sin. In her own physical poverty, she is enriched with this knowledge and grace. She discovers that true riches consist in the mercy of God, who offers Himself to sinners and transforms them ... if they consent, to His will. Bernadette soon consents, at first to a simple request ... to meet the lady again for fifteen days ... and begins her lifelong mission. "The second time was the following Sunday. I went backBernadette at the grotto, 1862 because I felt myself interiorly impelled. My mother had forbidden me to go. After High Mass, the two other girls and myself went to ask my mother again. She did not want to let us go, she said that she was afraid that I should fall in the water; she was afraid that I would not be back for Vespers. I promised that I would. Then she gave me permission to go." "I went to the Parish Church to get a little bottle of holy water, to throw over the Vision, if I were to see her at the grotto. When we arrived, we all took our rosaries and we knelt down to say them. I had hardly finished the first decade when I saw the same Lady. Then I started to throw holy water in her direction, and at the same time I said that if she came from God she was to stay, but if not, she must go. She started to smile, and bowed; and the more I sprinkled her with holy water, the more she smiled and bowed her head and the more I saw her make signs. Then I was seized with fright and I hurried to sprinkle her with holy water until the bottle was empty. Then I went on saying my rosary. When I had finished it she disappeared and we came back to Vespers. This was the second time." "The third time was the following Thursday. The Lady only spoke to me the third time. I went to the grotto with a few grown–ups, who advised me to take paper and ink, and to ask her, if she had anything to say to me, to have the goodness to put it on paper. I said these words to the Lady. She smiled and said that it was not necessary for her to write what she had to say to me, but asked if I would do her the favour of coming for a fortnight. I told her that I would. She told me also that she did not promise to make me happy in this world, but in the next." "I do not promise to make you happy in this world, but in the next" ... These words spoken by Mary to Bernadette at the third apparition on February 18, 1858 were a prophesy of Bernadette's life. This was the promise in return for Bernadette's total compliance with the will of the heavenly Mother. The happiness promised to Bernadette was not only intended for life after death. It is a happiness experienced by all those who progress in the way of prayer; who go beyond prayerful words to the discovery of true Prayer. It was this experience that Bernadette came to discover as she knelt before Our Lady. She went beyond the mere recitation of the rosary to savor the deeper experience of a loving communion, "of a friend speaking to a friend." There at the Grotto, Bernadette's deeply prayerful experience silently touched the hearts of all who watched, and crowds began to form in ever greater numbers as the famous Fortnight of Apparitions progressed.

Eight people were present, including Bernadette's mother and her aunt Bernarde, who was her godmother. In spite of their natural fear, they found comfort in the calm happiness displayed by Bernadette throughout this fourth Apparition. Bernadette was armed with a candle for protection.
"I came back for a fortnight. The vision appeared every day, except one Monday and one Friday. She repeated to me several times that I was to tell the priests they were to build a Chapel there, and I was to go to the fountain to wash, and that I was to pray for sinners. During this fortnight, she told me three secrets which she forbade me to tell anyone. I have been faithful until now."
Bernadette's writing of The Fortnight focuses on the time when the Lady confided to her messages and secrets. Calendars matter little to her, except concerning the two occasions on which the Vision did not appear.

Saturday, February 20, 1858
Thirty people were in attendance and returned to the village deeply moved and astonished at the extraordinary atmosphere of peace and joy that emanated from the poor little Grotto. Father Pene, the local parish curate, questioned Bernadette about the happiness she found at the Grotto. She answered "When I see her I feel as if I'm no longer of this world. And when the vision disappears I'm amazed to find myself still here."
Sunday, February 21, 1858
Over one hundred people had gathered. The police began to keep an eye on the place. They counted the crowd and were truly alarmed by the events. Jacomet, the Police Commissioner, sent for Bernadette, questioned her, threatened her, and finally obtained from François Soubirous, who had no desire to return to prison, the assurance that the whole business would cease. Bernadette's sadness upset her family ..."she is no liar", said her mother.

The 1st Interrogation
Monday, February 22, 1858
In obedience to her father, Bernadette painfully went off to school. But, in the afternoon of that same day an irresistible force drew her back to Massabielle. There was however no Apparition.

Tuesday, February 23, 1858
In spite of the Police Commissioner, Bernadette was back again at the Grotto for the seventh Apparition. There was but a small gathering of people that included some of the leading villagers who had come out of curiosity and the desire to mock the gullibility of the "lower classes." A certain Jean-Baptiste Estrade, a tax inspector with a rather aloof personality, was also present. He was sent by the parish priest Father Peyramale to find out what was going on. He and Duffo, the court official, with officers from the garrison and other eminent citizens, had come to witness this "Mardi Gras carnival" on the advice of the parish priest. But, instead of being shocked or scandalized, they were astonished and moved by the whole experience. The vision of Bernadette in prayer turned them into "believers and witnesses". Something was definitely happening at Massabielle. There was no stopping it now. The "pig–sty" was about to become the "Blessed Grotto," a place destined to make Lourdes the capital of prayer in which the "Message of Prayer" would take root and flourish.

Wednesday, February 24, 1858
250 people clustered around Bernadette taking up all the space between the River Gave and the rock of Massabielle. Sadness and tears stained the transfigured face of the visionary. The message given today was repeated at the Grotto and in the town: "PENANCE!" "PRAY FOR THE CONVERSION OF SINNERS." And pray they did at Massabielle. People arrived earlier than ever. In the cold of winter, they were satisfied to be there, by the banks of the River Gave, to watch and pray.

Discovery of the Spring

Thursday, February 25, 1858
The police recorded a crowd of more than 350. Hoping to witness something of her ecstasy, the crowd waited with eagerness for Bernadette's arrival. Unlike the fine weather of previous days, this was a cold, miserable rainy day. It was out of the cold misty dawn that Bernadette finally appeared. She was seen to remove her hood, put her candle aside, walk towards the Gave, then turn, go down on her knees and finally crawl on all fours to the back of the Grotto, towards the left of the rock. (The Lady) told me that I should go and drink at the fountain and wash myself. Seeing no fountain I went to drink at the Gave. She said it was not there; she pointed with her finger that I was to go in under the rock. I went, and I found a puddle of water which was more like mud, and the quantity was so small that I could hardly gather a little in the hollow of my hand. Nevertheless I obeyed, and started scratching the ground; after doing that I was able to take some. The water was so dirty that three times I threw it away. The fourth time I was able to drink it. She made me eat grass growing in the same place where I had drunk; once only; I do not know why. Then the Vision disappeared and I went home."

The Ninth Apparition is a culminating point of the Lourdes message. The water bubbling up and mixing with the mud from the inner recesses of the Grotto was to take on an unimaginably deep meaning. Much more than a mere purifying water which may sometimes produce miraculous cures, this water is the mystical sign of the water that flowed with the Blood from Christ's side, pierced by the soldier's spear. An enlightening coincidence, since it was at that time that an account of the Passion was being read in the Catholic liturgy. Without knowing, Bernadette had mimed the Passion "for sinners." But, as Bernadette was discovering the meaning of the Lady's message, only a few scarce people, such as Marie Pailhes, grasped the full gravity of the situation. Moved by the sadness upon Bernadette's face, "She seemed to carry all the sorrow of the world," wrote Pailhes. But as for the majority, they had callously behaved like the many who, on Good Friday, had abandoned Jesus, whom only a few days before they had so admired and loved. As Bernadette scratched the muddy ground and chewed the bitter grass, her friends and supporters one by one began to abandon their belief in the claimed visions. This was just like Jesus' friends failed to understand that "ours were the sufferings He carried, and ours the sorrows He bore." Yet they had lived with Him and He had tried to teach them this. On the evening before Christ's passion, He had taken a loaf of bread and said, "this is my body given up for sinners." He had taken a cup of wine and said, "this is my blood poured out for all people." Jesus had tried to avoid this, asking three times of the Father to "let this cup pass from me." But He surrendered himself to the Father: "May your will be done." Jesus had a great love and compassion for sinners, and it led Him to severe suffering. He was the innocent lamb, sacrificed for the salvation of the world, taking on Himself all the sins of the world. For those who cared to watch and listen, true meaning was discovered in Bernadette's crawling in the mud, and the grass that she found "difficult and bitter" to eat. At the ninth apparition, a passion play of sorts was performed by Bernadette. She observed the sadness of Mary, was called to offer sacrifices and penance for sinners, and surrendered herself in a symbolic gesture representing the poverty of sinners. During the course of her life, Bernadette meditated and deepened her understanding of this mystery. Her compassion and prayer for "poor sinners" was to grow ever more profound.

February 25, 1858
Bernadette rose from crawling in the mud at the Grotto. The crowd was surprised and shocked when she turned towards them. Her face was unrecognizable, smeared with mud, and chewing a tuft of grass pulled up from the ground. The surprise of the onlookers soon turned to resentment, sarcasm and anger. Some were horrified. Headlines in the next day's newspapers angrily proclaimed that "the gullible have been well and truly had ... Bernadette's real place should be in the asylum." On the day of the apparition, Bernadette's Aunt Bernarde intervened, slapping Bernadette's face and sending her off towards the Cachot. The standersby jeered as she passed. "An unforgettably gloomy day" wrote Estrade, the tax inspector. He now had to suffer the taunts of his colleagues at the Café Français. Furious at having let themselves be dragged into this misadventure, they discovered that Bernadette was a "filthy little upstart." The term was used throughout the town to conjure up the image of Bernadette covered with the mud of the pig–sty. The local authorities sensed the changed mood in the village and acted quickly. That same evening, Bernadette was summoned to appear before Dutour, the Imperial Public Prosecutor. He was the same man responsible for landing Bernadette's father in prison. For two long hours, Bernadette stood on her feet with her mother standing beside her. The fourteen–year–old girl endured a grilling interrogation. She was questioned, accused, and threatened with all kinds of insinuations. Finally, her mother, weakened with fear, fainted. The inspector persisted, but gave them chairs to sit down.

The 2nd Interrogation
It has been taught by the Church and the great mystics themselves that those favored with supernatural experiences should exercise discernment concerning what happens to them, and even resist it. Without the benefit of this advice, Bernadette follows these practices naturally. From the first apparition she rubs her eyes and grasps her rosary for protection. She doubts the visions since her friends see nothing. At the second apparition, she throws holy water at the apparition. During the course of eight interrogations, she takes great care that her statements never exceed precisely what she has seen. On the day following the discovery of the spring (February 26th), Bernadette returned to the grotto. She was disheartened from the events and persecutions of the prior day, fearing that all was coming to an end. But, everything was just beginning. Water began flowing strongly from the spring, and a few spectacular miracles quickly renewed the expectations of the followers. The next two days (Saturday February 27th and Sunday 28th) brought the crowds back. About 1,150 were present on Sunday, about one–third of Lourdes' population. Of course by now, people were arriving from afar to witness the miracles. Judge Ribes brought Bernadette in again for questioning, hoping to discourage her from going to the grotto. But she had made a promise to go there for fifteen days.

Monday, March 1, 1858
Almost fifteen hundred people gathered. An astounding number of conversions were taking place, and the town parish was not certain what to make of it all. On this day, the first recognized miracle occurred. Catherine Latapie, nine months pregnant, walked 9 kilometers from her home in the neighboring village of Loubajac to bathe here paralyzed arm in the "healing" spring. Healed on the site, she returned home to immediately give birth to a son. Recognized in 1862 as the first approved miracle of Lourdes, her healing testified of the truth of the apparitions. A visiting priest, Fr. Desirat, was standing next to Bernadette on this day: "What struck me was the joy, the sadness reflected in Bernadette's face ... Respect, silence, recollection reigned everywhere. Oh it was good to be there It was like being at the gates of paradise." The Soubirous family is still destitute. They are still lodged in the Cachot. François has no stable job. Food is hard to come by. And, Bernadette fiercely refuses gifts and money. Events have become more stressful. Jacomet and his policemen hover around the family, and interrogations and prison are a constant threat. Above all their troubles, the light from Massabielle shines on the poor household and the family within. Aquero (the Lady) has revealed to Bernadette a destitution worse than poverty and sickness. The Lady has asked her to pray for sinners and do penance for them. After all, sin is the great destitution, sinners are the poorest of the poor. Finally, not only a message was given, but a command. The fortnight had ended without Aquero yet revealing her true name. But, her request was a formidable one.

Tuesday, March 2, 1858

"Go and tell the priest to build a chapel here and to have people come in procession." At the end of her ecstasy on this fifteenth apparition, Bernadette heard these words. The task would be a daunting one. Monsieur le Curé (Fr. Peyramale) was not an easy–going personality. He was also quite impatient with the grotto story. Bernadette was determined to convey the message, and accompanied by her two aunts for support, she found herself on the front steps of the presbytery. Turned away at first and called a liar by the furious priest, she and her aunts left quickly, but not before the priest forbade her from returning to the cave. With bravery, Bernadette resolved to try again. Before the night was over, she was accompanied by a friend of the priest to deliver her message. Bernadette was questioned thoroughly in front of the entire parish clergy. Her task was accomplished. Fr Peyramale was left confused after Bernadette's visit. The parish priests no longer could agree. Fr. PeyramaleBernadette's confessor, the prudent Fr. Pomian, was content to wait for further developments. Peyramale felt it was time to act. He went to Tarbes to pay a visit to the bishop, Msgr. Laurence. The bishop concluded that Peyramale should remain safely away from the grotto, although Peyramale had grown eager to inspect the location firsthand. Bernadette was to return to Fr. Peyramale on three consecutive days to deliver her message. On March 3rd he gave her a cool reception. Thousands of people had flooded into Lourdes, several times the population, eagerly awaiting the last day of the fortnight (March 4th). Expectations of a spectacular sign had spread through the town. With the priest's approval, a guard was posted at the grotto through the night. He responded to Bernadette, "If the lady wants her chapel, let her tell you her name, and ask her to make the rosebush at the grotto flower"

Thursday, March 4, 1858

Bernadette set out on what may have been her last meeting with the lady, the last day of the fortnight. She serenely made her way through a crowd of 10,000, and went into a rapture that lasted for well over an hour in an atmosphere of peace and fervour. The crowd was quiet. Afterwards, many who had came expecting to see wonders were disappointed. Bernadette returned deep in thought to Le Cachot. The crowd pressed against her, wanting to see and touch her. She repelled the crowd and refused money that people tried to slip into her hands. Her one desire was to see the priest once more. "The third time I went to see M. le Curé, to tell him that a Lady had ordered me to go and say to the priests that they were to have a chapel built there, he looked at me for a moment, and then he said to me in a rather gruff tone, 'Who is this lady?' I answered that I did not know. Then he commissioned me to ask her name and to come and tell him. The next day when I arrived at the grotto I recited my rosary and then asked her, from M. le Curé what her name was, but all she did was to smile. When I got back I went to M. le Curé to tell him that I discharged his commission, and her only response was her smile; then he said she was laughing at me and that I would do well not to go to her again. But, I could not help going." Life rapidly returned to normal after the fortnight ended. Crowds continued to gather at the grotto, but Bernadette returned to school and was preparing for her first Communion. The priest, however, remained troubled. On March 18th, Bernadette was again subjected to a formal interrogation. Questioned by the authorities about the so–called miracles and her intentions, she claimed that she did not believe she had cured anyone. She was also submitted to repeated medical examinations to prove her sanity. The fortnight of apparitions had concluded. "Aquero" had not yet revealed her name. And yet she had already asked much of Bernadette–crawling in the mud, eating bitter grass, humiliation by the fickle crowds, the chapel. The small town was also put under strain. Swelling to several times its population, tensions increased as expectations on one fourteen–year–old girl carried the residents and visitors on an emotional roller coaster. Aquero had also given much in return. The message of penance and prayer for sinners taught those who were willing to open their hearts that there was a poverty worse than physical destitution. Bernadette herself was among the poorest of any child in town. The healing waters were a lasting sign that brought miracles. Many were converted. What was next? After three weeks, life had regained some normalcy. The faithful still gathered at the grotto, but Bernadette was not to be seen. She was busy studying her catechism and preparing for her first Holy Communion. In the early morning hours on March 25th, Bernadette awoke with the familiar inner call to return to the grotto. This was a call that she could not resist. The day was an important one in the church–the feast of the Annunciation, a day when young Mary of Nazareth also received a call in her own poor dwelling. An angel visited to announce that she would become the mother of the Saviour.

Thursday, March 25, 1858

Bernadette joyfully rejoined the lady in the grotto. It had been 3 weeks since she saw Aquero and had not known whether she would ever appear again. This time she was determined to obtain the lady's name, so that she could finally tell the priest. Bernadette was characteristically stubborn, and she repeated four times the question she had practiced so often, "Would you be so kind as to tell me who you are?" The answer finally came: "I am the Immaculate Conception." "I went every day for a fortnight, and each day I asked her who she was–and this petition always made her smile. After the fortnight I asked her three times consecutively. She always smiled. At last I tried for the fourth time. She stopped smiling. With her arms down, she raised her eyes to heaven and then, folding her hands over her breast she said, 'I am the Immaculate Conception.' Then I went back to M. le Curé to tell him that she had said she was the Immaculate Conception, and he asked was I absolutely certain. I said yes, and so as not to forget the words, I had repeated them all the way home." Bernadette planted a candle between two rocks as a gift, a sign of her prayer and the revelation, and then ran home. Running all the way, she repeated these strange words over and over so that she would not forget them. Saint Bernadette at 19 yearsOf course the words were spoken in her native Bigourdan dialect and were completely unfamiliar, "que soy era Immaculada Councepciou." Fr. Peyramale said that a woman cannot have a name like that. "You are mistaken. Do you know what that means?" The priest was shaken, and unable to talk to Bernadette. He quickly sent her away, and she left without the privilege of understanding the meaning of the title. She was only told later that afternoon that the Blessed Mother carried that title. "She could never have invented this ... " wrote Fr. Peyramale to the bishop that evening. The Church declared that Mary was the "Immaculate Conception" only four years earlier in 1854. The title would certainly have been unknown to Bernadette since it was not broadly discussed in the liturgy, and Bernadette still could not read or write. She was only then learning her catechism to prepare for first Holy Communion, a task undertaken typically by children six or seven years her junior. It was her poor health and her family's poverty that had hindered her education. Two more apparitions were to occur following Our Lady's announcement that she was in fact the Immaculate Conception, the Mother of God. Lourdes was in a state of unrest. False visionaries and other troublemakers created a frenzy in the town. The Bishop finally intervened, denouncing such abuses. Civil authorities barricaded the grotto and prevented access. The barricades were repeatedly destroyed and re–erected. Meanwhile, Bernadette returned to a quieter life. After the seventeenth apparition, the Soubirous finally left the Cachot. With no knowledge that she would ever see the Virgin Mary again, Bernadette went on to receive her first Holy Communion on June 3rd. She was indeed the first to live the message of penance, receiving visitors tirelessly and repeating the events over and over. This wore greatly on her health and hindered her education.

Wednesday, April 7, 1858
Three days after Easter, Bernadette again felt the inner call to the grotto. She arrived with a candle in hand. Already gathered, the regular daily crowd fell silent as Bernadette immediately went into a rapture. All was quiet until Dr. Dozous pushed noisily through the crowd to be at the visionary's side. He had always been a skeptic, and now arrived "in the name of science." The large candle that Bernadette was holding burned down until she was barely holding a wick. Dr. Dozous observed the flames licking at Bernadette's fingers for a full ten minutes. When the ecstasy was over, he examined her fingers, which had not been harmed or affected in any way. Bernadette had not felt the flames at all. From that moment, Dr. Dozous became an ardent supporter of the apparitions and an important witness. He returned immediately to Commissioner Jacomet's office to have the account recorded in writing. "Bernadette seemed to be even more absorbed than usual in the Appearance upon which her gaze was riveted. I witnessed, as did also every one else there present, the fact which I am about to narrate. She was on her knees saying with fervent devotion the prayers of her Rosary which she held in her left hand while in her right was a large blessed candle, alight. The child was just beginning to make the usual ascent on her knees when suddenly she stopped and, her right hand joining her left, the flame of the big candle passed between the fingers of the latter. Though fanned by a fairly strong breeze, the flame produced no effect upon the skin which it was touching. Astonished at this strange fact, I forbade anyone there to interfere, and taking my watch in my hand, I studied the phenomenon attentively for a quarter of an hour. At the end of this time Bernadette, still in her ecstasy, advanced to the upper part of the Grotto, separating her hands. The flame thus ceased to touch her left hand. Bernadette finished her prayer and the splendour of the transfiguration left her face. She rose and was about to quit the Grotto when I asked her to show me her left hand. I examined it most carefully, but could not find the least trace of burning anywhere upon it. I then asked the person who was holding the candle to light it again and give it to me. I put it several times in succession under Bernadette's left hand but she drew it away quickly, saying 'You are burning me!'. I record this fact just as I have seen it without attempting to explain it. Many persons who were present at the time can confirm what I have said."

Friday, July 16, 1858.

Obedient to the Bishop and the restrictions of the civil authorities, Bernadette was living peacefully far from the turbulence. On the feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, she was drawn one final time to Massabielle. The grotto was now blockaded. Bernadette's irresistible call led her across the Gave River to the far side of the meadow. "I thought I was at the Grotto, at the same distance as I was the other times. All I saw was Our Lady ... She was more beautiful than ever." At 8pm Bernadette and the Virgin Mary silently made their final goodbyes amidst a still crowd. She had seen Our Lady from a few hundred yards across the river, and yet she felt as if Mary was right before her.

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