Friday, July 16, 2021
Our Lady of Mount Carmel: Feast of the Brown Scapular
Today is the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel! Let's pray today for all the Carmelites throughout the world and especially for those who are cloistered and praying for the world!
Also, the Church celebrates on this day the feast of the Brown Scapular of Mount Carmel. The scapular, which derives its name from the Latin word scapulæ, meaning shoulders, is a dress which covers the shoulders. It is mentioned in the rule of Saint Benedict as worn by monks over their other dress when they were at work, and it now forms a regular part of the religious dress in the old Orders. But it is best known among Catholics as the name of two little pieces of cloth worn out of devotion to the Blessed Virgin over the shoulders, under the ordinary garb, and connected by strings. The devotion of the scapular, now almost universal in the Catholic Church, began with the Carmelites. The history of its origin is as follows: During the thirteenth century the Carmelite Order suffered great persecution, and on 16 July 1251, while Saint Simon Stock, then general of the Order, was at prayer, the Blessed Virgin appeared to him, holding in her hand a scapular. Giving it to the saint, she said,
"Receive, my dear son, this scapular of thy Order, as the distinctive sign of my confraternity, and the mark of the privilege which I have obtained for thee and the children of Carmel. It is a sign of salvation, a safeguard in danger, and a special pledge of peace and protection till the end of time. Whosoever dies wearing this shall be preserved from eternal flames."
It is much to be wished that people should everywhere join this confraternity, for the honor of Mary and for the salvation of souls, by a life fitted to that end.
In order to have a share in the merits of the sodality every member must:
1. Shun sin, and, according to his state of life, live chastely.
2. Say every day, if possible, seven times, Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory be to the Father.
3. Strive to serve God by venerating Mary, and imitating her virtues.
Friday, July 9, 2021
Our Lady of Chiquinquirá: The image that healed itself!
While I was in Quito I was able to spend 3 weeks with Salesians from all over Latin America. They came to Quito for the Salesianity class just as I had and I was grateful to hear some of the stories and devotions that are popular in their home countries. One of these devotions has its Feast Day on July 9! That devotion is Our Lady of Chiquinquirá! This is a devotion related to an image of Our Lady of the Rosary that was damaged and moved to Chiquinquirá, Columbia. The image also included St. Andrew the Apostle and St. Anthony of Padua. This image, by the grace of God, began to mend itself on December 26, 1586! Today Our Lady of Chiquinquirá is the patroness of Columbia. In Venezuela the image is honored as La Chinita. The following comes from the Patron Saints Index:
In the mid-16th century the Spanish painter Alonso de Narvaez created a portrait of the Virgin of the Rosary. He painted in pigments from the soil, herbs and flowers of the region of modern Colombia, and his canvas was a rough 44" * 49" cloth woven by Indians. The image of Mary is about a meter high, and stands about a half moon. She has a small, sweet smile, both her face and the Child's are light colored, and she looks like she's about to take a step. She wears a white toque, a rose-coloured robe, and a sky blue cape. A rosary hangs from the little finger of her left hand, and she holds a sceptre in her right. She holds the Christ Child cradled in her left arm, and looks toward him. Christ has a little bird tied to his thumb, and a small rosary hangs from his left hand. To the sides of Mary stand Saint Anthony of Padua and Saint Andrew the Apostle, the personal patrons of the colonist and monk who commissioned the work Don Antonio de Santana and Andrés Jadraque.
In 1562 the portrait was placed in a rustic chapel. It was exposed to the air, the roof leaked, and soon the damage caused by the humidity and sun completely obscured the image. In 1577 the damaged painting was moved to Chiquinquirá and stored in an unused room. In 1585 Maria Ramos, a pious woman from Seville, cleaned up the little chapel, and hung the faded canvas in it. Though the image was in terrible shape, she loved to sit and contemplate it. On Friday 26 December 1586 the faded, damaged image was suddenly restored. It's colors were bright, the canvas cleaner, the image clear and seemingly brand new. The healing of the image continued as small holes and tears in the canvas self-sealed. It still has traces of its former damage, the figures seem brighter and clearer from a distance than up close. For 300 years the painting hung unprotected. Thousands of objects were touched against the frail cotton cloth by pilgrims. This rought treatment should have destroyed it, but it healed and survives. Pope Pius VII declared Our Lady of Chiquinquirá patroness of Colombia in 1829, and granted a special liturgy. In 1897 a thick glass plate was placed over it to stop the weather and the excesses of the faithful. The image was canonically crowned in 1919, and in 1927 her sanctuary declared a Basilica.
Monday, July 5, 2021
The Miraculous Conversion of Alessandro Serenelli
Maria Goretti's heroic story of love and forgiveness would not be complete without one of its first miraculous fruits: the conversion of Alessandro Serenelli, Maria's murderer.
Immediately after his brutal assault on young Maria Goretti, Alessandro was imprisoned temporarily in Nettuno and then transferred to Regina Coeli prison in Rometo stand trial. After vehemently denying his guilt, he finally broke down in the face of overwhelming testimony. Since he was a minor, he was sentenced to only thirty years hard labor.
A priest came to see him soon afterward, and he turned on the cleric in rage, howling like a maniac and lunging at him.
In the days which followed, Alessandro lost his appetite and grew nervous. After six years of prison, he was near the brink of despair. Then one night, Maria appeared to him in his cell. She smiled at Alessandro and was surrounded by lilies, the flower symbolic of purity.
From that moment, peace invaded Alessandro's heart, and he began to live a constructive life.
After serving his sentence, Alessandro took up residence at a Capuchin monastery, working in the garden as a tertiary. He asked pardon of Maria's mother and accompanied her to Christmas Mass in the parish church where he spoke before the hushed congregation, acknowledging his sin and asking God's forgiveness and the pardon of the community.
Forty years later, on June 24, 1950, Maria was canonized at St. Peter's basilica in Rome, with Alessandro's heart now firmly converted to the Lord. A miraculous fruit of Maria's life, indeed!
Alessandro Serenelli died on May 6th, 1970 in the Capuchin convent of Macerata. He left the following testimony, dated May 5, 1961, as his spiritual legacy:
"I'm nearly 80 years old. I'm about to depart.
"Looking back at my past, I can see that in my early youth, I chose a bad path which led me to ruin myself.
"My behavior was influenced by print, mass-media and bad examples which are followed by the majority of young people without even thinking. And I did the same. I was not worried.
"There were a lot of generous and devoted people who surrounded me, but I paid no attention to them because a violent force blinded me and pushed me toward a wrong way of life.
"When I was 20 years-old, I committed a crime of passion. Now, that memory represents something horrible for me. Maria Goretti, now a Saint, was my good Angel, sent to me through Providence to guide and save me. I still have impressed upon my heart her words of rebuke and of pardon. She prayed for me, she interceded for her murderer. Thirty years of prison followed.
"If I had been of age, I would have spent all my life in prison. I accepted to be condemned because it was my own fault.
"Little Maria was really my light, my protectress; with her help, I behaved well during the 27 years of prison and tried to live honestly when I was again accepted among the members of society. The Brothers of St. Francis, Capuchins from Marche, welcomed me with angelic charity into their monastery as a brother, not as a servant. I've been living with their community for 24 years, and now I am serenely waiting to witness the vision of God, to hug my loved ones again, and to be next to my Guardian Angel and her dear mother, Assunta.
"I hope this letter that I wrote can teach others the happy lesson of avoiding evil and of always following the right path, like little children. I feel that religion with its precepts is not something we can live without, but rather it is the real comfort, the real strength in life and the only safe way in every circumstance, even the most painful ones of life."Signature, Alessandro Serenelli
Fr. John Hardon on the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist
The following is a reflection of Fr. John Hardon, SJ:
In the Sacrifice of the Mass, Jesus offers Himself to His heavenly Father just as truly as He offered Himself on the Cross. On Calvary, He offered Himself by shedding His blood and thus merited the salvation of the world. In the Mass, He continues to offer Himself just as truly as He did on the first Good Friday. But now, He confers the graces that He won for us on Calvary. What are these graces? In one sentence, they are the graces we need to surrender ourselves to the will of God.
The Church defines sacrifice as the voluntary surrender of something precious to God. That is why Christ continues to sacrifice Himself to His heavenly Father in every Mass that has been offered for the twenty centuries of Christianity. In every Mass, Jesus Christ is present in the fullness of His human nature and therefore with His human will. That is what the double consecration at Mass is all about. It signifies that Jesus is just as willing to shed His blood for our salvation as He willingly and actually shed His blood on Calvary. As the glorified Redeemer, He can no longer die. But He is willing to die.
It is from the Sacrifice of the Mass offered throughout the world that we obtain the strength we need to surrender ourselves to the divine will in this valley of tears.
As we all know from personal experience, God can make heavy demands on our generosity. He will send us trials and difficulties and sufferings. Why? In order that we may prove our submission to His divine will. God will take away so many things, dare I say everything that we consider precious in this world. Again why? In order that we may recognize Him as our Lord and ourselves as His servants.
No words can describe the depth of this necessity to surrender our created wills to the divine will of the Creator. Where, where can we obtain the courage we need to make this self-surrender? Where, except from the God who died on the Cross for our salvation and continues to offer Himself in every Mass.
The lesson this should teach us is obvious. We must assist at Mass as often as we can. We must learn to live the Mass by putting into practice the graces which the Savior gives us through the Holy Sacrifice.
One more observation, in the form of a long quotation from Pope Pius XII in his encyclical Mediator Dei, which is the foundation of the true spirit of the Second Vatican Council.
It is desirable that all the faithful should be aware that to participate in the Eucharistic sacrifice is their chief duty and supreme dignity, and that not in an inert and negligent fashion, giving way to distractions and day-dreaming, but with such earnestness and concentration that they may be united as closely as possible with the High Priest, according to the apostle, Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus (Phil. 2, 5). And together with Him and through Him let them make their oblation, and in union with Him let them offer up themselves.
I do not think I need apologize for this long quotation. The widespread liturgical abuses in the offering of Mass should only inspire us to participate in the Holy Sacrifice as often and as fervently as possible. Saints like Leonard of Port Maurice do not hesitate to say that the world would long ago have been destroyed for its sins except for the Sacrifice of the Mass.
It is through the Mass we are able to imitate Jesus Christ in living lives of total self-surrender to the will of God.
Saturday, July 3, 2021
Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati: A Saint for Today
Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati (1901-1925) has been a significant global patron for youth and young adults. St. John Paul II declared him a patron for World Youth Days and deemed him "the man of the beatitudes" as he exemplified those blessings in his everyday life. Pope Francis listed him among the twelve exemplary saints for all young people in his apostolic exhortation, Christus Vivit, "who devoted their lives to Christ... precious reflections of the young Christ; their radiant witness encourages us and awakens us from our lethargy." (CV 49) Frassati was considered extraordinary in his "ordinariness." Pier Giorgio was engaged in the life of the Church through regular worship and adoration, service to the poor and marginalized, advocacy for social justice for the disenfranchised and for religious liberty, regular participation in student activities, devotion to his family, and joyful companionship with his friends and fellow Catholics in his community. He saw many parallels between Catholic life and his favorite pastime, mountain-climbing. He would regularly organize trips into the mountains with his close friends with occasions for prayer, liturgies, and conversations about faith on the way up to or down from the summit. After what would become his final climb he wrote a simple note on a photograph: "Verso L'Alto", which means "to the heights." This phrase has since come to encapsulate his philosophy of mountaineering and his Catholic outlook on life and adventure.
Friday, July 2, 2021
Padre Pio, Fr. Wojtyla and the Shoulder Wound of Christ
At one time Padra [sic] had confided to Brother Modestino Fucci, now the doorkeeper at Padre Pio’s friary in San Giovanni Rotondo, Italy, that his greatest pains occurred when he changed his undershirt. Brother Modestino, like Father Wojtyla, thought that Padre Pio was referring to pains from the chest wound. Then, on February 4, 1971, Brother Modestino was assigned the task of taking an inventory of all the items in the deceased Padre’s cell in the friary, and also his belongings in the archives. That day he discovered that one of Padre Pio’s undershirts bore a circle of bloodstains in the area of the right shoulder.
Prayer to the Shoulder Wound of Christ
Most loving Jesus, meek Lamb of God, I, a miserable sinner, salute and worship the most Sacred Wound of Thy Shoulder on which Thou didst bear Thy heavy Cross which so tore Thy flesh and laid bare Thy Bones as to inflict on Thee an anguish greater than any other wound of Thy Most Blessed Body. I adore Thee, O Jesus most sorrowful; I praise and glorify Thee, and give Thee thanks for this most sacred and painful Wound, beseeching Thee by that exceeding pain, and by the crushing burden of Thy heavy Cross to be merciful to me, a sinner, to forgive me all my mortal and venial sins, and to lead me on towards Heaven along the Way of Thy Cross. Amen.