World Youth Day is this week. Why do our youth turn to Our Mother? Here are 50 reasons.
Ascent of the Blessed, Heironymous Bosch, circa 1500
And what comes after.
Near death experiences happen to a lot of people. I know people who have been through near death experiences. I know that what these people say is the truth as they understand it.
What do these things mean? Well, first of all, the person did not die. They were near death, not dead. So, I think it’s safe to say that what they experienced was not death itself. At the same time, these are not just dreams or hallucinations as dreams and hallucinations usually are. There is a profound quality to what happened, and it fits with what also happens to the person afterward.
The near death experiences I know about that I feel secure in believing involve a good afterlife. However, this video contains the story of a Catholic priest who had to deal with the reality of judgement and hell. We will all stand before God one day and give an account of our lives. None of us will escape this. As the priest in the video says, the self-serving explanations we give ourselves for our actions here won’t avail us much on that day.
The video raises some of the most important questions any of us will ever have to answer. Give it a watch and see what you think.
“God our Father, send us holy priests, all for the Sacred and Eucharistic Heart of Jesus all for the Immaculate Heart of Mary in union with St Joseph. Amen.”
Prayers don’t get much more Catholic than that one. With its talk of eucharistic and immaculate hearts, it’s enough to confuse the average protestant for days.
My rosary group prays this particular prayer every time we get together. We also pray by name for all the priests in our archdiocese. We know, as all Catholics do, that our Church is built around the sacrament of Holy Orders. The graces of God rain down on us Catholics in a free and easy way, like a gentle spring shower, when we partake of the sacraments such as the eucharist and confession.
Jesus instituted the priesthood as a mechanism of transmission of these graces. It is meant to be reliable and available. Freely given, freely received. Priests are conduits of God’s grace.
As such, they are an essential component to living the life in Christ in this difficult and challenging age with its destructive secularism and intolerance of genuine Christianity.
We need priests. We need holy priests who are called and empowered by the Holy Spirit to give their lives in the service of Christ’s Church.
This is the story of Father Jason Smith’s vocation. Fr Smith blogs at Biltrix. He has given me permission to reproduce his story in full.
My Vocation Story
Fr Jason Smith
If not for a hockey game, I wouldn’t be a Legionary priest today.As a good Minnesotan, I naturally considered hockey as divinely inspired, a sign of God’s love for us. But it’s what happened after the game that took me by surprise and lead me to know my priestly vocation.
During my first year at college, I often went to the rink at the University of Minnesota with my friends. After one such event —ending in a double overtime victory for the Golden Gophers, and a long celebration— I returned home in the wee hours of the morning, too tired to get out of bed until Sunday afternoon.
Stumbling upstairs for something to eat, I found my Dad sitting at the kitchen table, reading the paper. Opening the fridge, I heard from over my shoulder: “Jason, did you go to Mass this morning?” I swallowed hard. I hadn’t. Quickly I tried to think up the perfect excuse. None came. Trying to hide behind the refrigerator door, I quipped “No, I didn’t go”. Without looking up Dad replied solemnly, “Go tomorrow then.”
It was my first Monday morning Mass ever. I was struck by how quiet the Church was, and how empty. I sat about halfway up and waited. Little by little people began to filter in. Then an attractive girl sat down a few pews behind me. How is it I find a girl like this now and not last Saturday evening? It must be God’s providence! I decided the sign of peace was the perfect time to introduce myself. When the moment came I turned around and, to my surprise, she passed me a note. I put it in my pocket pretending it happened all the time.
When I got home I opened the note. It read something like this: “It’s good to see someone young attending daily Mass. You must really love your faith! I want to let you know about a group of young people who pray and study scripture Wednesday evenings. If you would like to come, here is my number.” I decided I could find time in my packed schedule to go.
That’s when it occurred to me I hadn’t seriously looked into my Catholic faith since Confirmation. What would I say? What would I pray? Where was my Rosary? I found it stuffed in the bottom dresser drawer along with a pamphlet of prayers. As to what I would say, I went to my Dad’s study and checked out his library. It had books on music, history, politics —but the largest section was religion. I found one book called, “True Devotion to Mary”. It seemed like a good place to start since it was short.
I never read beyond the introduction, but the book changed my life. It explained how St Louis de Montfort, a priest who tirelessly preached the Gospel and underwent extraordinary trials, spread devotion to Mary throughout France. It was my first encounter with the life of a saint. I marveled how someone could dedicate himself entirely to Christ, even to the point of heroism. It was precisely then that I renewed the resolution I had made a two years earlier to pray and sincerely live my faith.
A few months later I went on a retreat with the youth group. It was the first time the priesthood entered my mind. During the consecration, as I gazed at the elevated host, I thought to myself —in words that were my own, but which carried a resonance I will never forget— if there is one thing I should do it’s that. It was the defining moment of my calling. I was taken entirely by surprise. I knew I had to look into the priesthood, but I didn’t know how or where.
To make a long story short, the same girl who gave me the note in church then gave me a brochure on the Legionaries of Christ. It had testimonies of the young men who entered the year before. I read it and was convinced. I called and asked for an application. A Legionary came to visit. I went to candidacy. I joined. My younger brother followed the next year.
Since then the years have passed by like a whirlwind. There is much more I could write, but the essential is simple: Christ crossed my path, called, and by his grace —definitely not my own strength— I found the courage to drop everything and follow him. I have never looked back. Our Lord’s presence and the needs of the Church have captivated my attention ever since.
Now only a few days away from priestly ordination, in my conversations with Christ, I continually thank him for the many gifts he has given me: my faith, my wonderful parents and brother, my Legionary vocation, and above all, his presence and friendship throughout my life.
I can hardly believe I have arrived at the foot of the altar. It seems almost a dream; that I’ll wake up, finding myself back in Minnesota, late for a hockey game. But it’s true. God’s plans are far beyond, and far better, then my own.
Witnesses to the Miracle of the Sun at Fatima
Pope Francis will consecrate his petrine ministry to Our Lady of Fatima as part of the program of the International Pilgrimage of May 12/13.
Mary appeared to three shepherd children in Fatima, Portugal 96 years ago this month. She prophesied the fall of Russia to communism and promised that the way to undo this was to consecrate Russia to her Immaculate Heart. Pope John Paul II did this. The results are history.
The shrine at Fatima is a beautiful place. You can feel the holiness of it when you are there. My visit to Fatima was a life-changing experience for me.
I don’t fully understand the implications of what the Holy Father is doing, but I do know that the Holy Spirit moves through Fatima. I’ve felt it myself. I have no reason except my own experiences there and a personal intuition to say this, but I think that the message of Fatima is both on-going and profound. It believe it is especially pertinent as it applies to our problems today.
Our Lady of Fatima chose to appear at a place whose name has both Catholic and Muslim history wrapped around it. I have read that the town is named after a young woman who converted from Islam to Christianity.
I don’t understand Islam enough to comprehend the ramifications of Our Lady’s place within it. But I know she is mentioned in the Koran and that she is respected, perhaps even revered in the Muslim world.
The Mother of God is mother to us all. Through her intervention may we find a way out of this valley of death and war that we are walking now.
“The reason why any free, independent woman would call herself a Christian is beyond me.”
This thought came from a blog that I read yesterday. It’s a small personal blog, but the sentiment it expresses is passed around among unbelievers like a toke at an dorm party from the 1960s. That makes it worth talking about.
Does God tell Christian women, as this author proclaims, to “shut the h— up?”
Are Christian women downtrodden, silenced people who are not allowed to speak up about the things that matter to us?
While I can’t speak for every Christian woman in every denomination in all the world, I am a rather public member of the largest Christian denomination on this Earth. You may have noticed that nobody’s silenced me.
In fact, I can honestly say that nobody wearing a collar has ever tried to silence me. That is not to say that the collar-wearers in my life don’t get perturbed by me and disagree with me from time to time. But silence me? Nope. Nobody has tried. Not once. Never.
If they did, it wouldn’t do them a lot of good. You can convince me that I’m wrong. It’s not easy, but it has been done. But you can’t just yell at me and tell me to shut up and get me to change my opinion. It won’t/doesn’t/hasn’t ever worked.
I would like to remind the readers of this last paragraph that I have been a woman for decades now. Before that, I was a little girl, and before that, I was a baby girl. My female credentials are undisputed.
I have definitely had people try to silence me in the course of all these years of living, but not once has anyone wearing a collar been the attempted silencer. In fact, a good number of the people trying to get me to shut up have been other women who were mad as a nest of proverbial hornets at me for defending the unborn.
From what I’ve read, sexism in atheist circles is rife. It is also of a particularly vicious type.
Those who try to attack Christianity for its supposed mistreatment of women always trot out a series of Bible verses written by St Paul that truly are used against women in some churches. Unbelievers attempt to use this as “proof” that God wants women to be silenced. They ignore Deborah, who judged the tribes of Israel and was basically their commander in chief during a successful military engagement. They don’t mention Our Lady who asked the Lord Himself to help out at the wedding at Cana and then ignored Him when he demurred and … He obeyed her.
I assume that those who bandy Scripture about to “prove” that God “hates women” are operating more from ignorance than anything else. They are unaware of Church teaching on the full dignity of women, unlearned about the many women saints, some of whom, such as St Catharine of Siena, were downright salty in their criticisms of the male hierarchy.
St Catharine was exercising the great moral courage of women when she did this, and by doing it, she was following the Lord. It’s no accident that the Church regards this outspoken woman as a Doctor of the Church. It’s a direct function of her refusal to be silent when speaking out was the moral and Christian thing to do.
Catholic women are not battered, silenced and ignored. We may not be priests, but we are movers and shakers in the world at large, as well as our homes, and yes, in the Church as well. I have never encountered resistance from any of the bishops I’ve dealt with when I asked them for support in the fight to end violence against and degradation of women. In fact, the strongest supporters of legislation to provide protections for women have been officials in the Catholic Church.
I am not claiming that everything is golden for women throughout all the Christian world. Sin is everywhere in this fallen world, including, sadly, the church. I have personally witnessed a congregation that allowed itself to be drug into a vote on whether or not a rape victim should be allowed to remain part of that congregation. This was not a Catholic parish. It was an independent and quite small Protestant congregation.
Sin against women does exist in churches and among Christians. But it is not of God, and it is not the policy or the universal practice of Christians. Sins against women are condemned, and rightfully so, by the Catholic Church. The teachings of Blessed John Paul II are a case in point.
No woman has to be afraid that converting to the Catholic Church will deprive her of the freedom to exercise her individual voice on behalf of women’s rights. I have found that rather than silencing me, the Church has supported me in my feminist work. I do not feel diminished as a human being because I am both a woman and a Christian. I feel empowered by it.
I have prayed, studied and thought about this a lot. I believe with my whole heart that when I stand up to fight against the degradation or limitation of women, I am speaking from the heart of the Gospels and with the full support of Catholic teaching. I do not doubt that my angels stand beside me and the Holy Spirit is working through me when I do these things.
Far from coercing me to sit down and shut up, the Church has taught me the meaning of fearless advocacy for justice of all people, including and most especially women.
Today is May Day.
The month of May is the month of Our Mother. I’m going to write more about this as times goes forward.
This is a video of the Litany of Mary. It’s a responsive prayer in which one person calls out one of the many names by which Mary is known and others respond by saying “Pray for Us.”
I chose this version because it’s easy for someone who is unfamiliar with the prayer to follow. All you need to do is follow along and pray the responses that are in blue.
The Litany Blessed Virgin Mary is a study in the theology of Mary’s role in the salvation of humanity as well as a prayer. She truly is the Mother of God and all that this means.
For I was in prison, and you visited me.
Pope Francis will wash the feet of incarcerated young people tonight. Some of them have no faith. Others are Muslim. Many of them did not even know who the Pope was when they first heard he was coming.
Many Catholics, particularly those in prison ministry, are overjoyed by this act. But there are others who find it off-putting, even a bit scandalous. They expect the Pope to wash the feet of other priests, or at least other men, who are Catholic, Christian and probably important. I’ve read comments emphasizing that the young people whose feet the Holy Father will wash are nondescript boys and girls, many of whom are of no faith or Muslim. They are people who won’t even appreciate the honor they are receiving.
But the Pope is only doing what Jesus did. He is seeking out those who are lost. It appears that this deep equality of all humanity that Our Lord lived and taught is as scandalous to some of us today as it was 2,000 years ago. But a failure to live this will kill the Church. We are not meant to be a closed-off, self-congratulatory faith that despises rather than serves those Jesus died to save.
People didn’t “appreciate” the honor of having God made flesh walking among them 2,000 years ago. The drama of Holy Week is a re-enactement of just how profoundly they didn’t appreciate it. Not even His own disciples really appreciated the honor they were receiving. No one, except His mother, understood what was happening.
Holy Thursday drives us back to the night when He was taken, to the moment when He gave us the Eucharist and instituted the priesthood. But He did not give us a priesthood created for palaces and fine things. It was and is and will always be a servant priesthood. It is priesthood of the kind that goes to prisons and washes the feet of young people who do not understand the meaning of what is happening any more than Peter did on that night in the Upper Room. When it ceases to be that, it ceases to be a priesthood of Christ and becomes a priesthood for itself.
The foot washing is a sign signifying that these young people — and all of us along with them — are children of the living God. It is a living memorial of the servant priesthood Jesus instituted in the upper room 2,000 years ago. If Christ The Lord could go down on his knees before a group of itinerant fishermen and tax collectors and wash their feet, why shouldn’t the Pope do the same for a group of incarcerated young people?
If the Son of God can submit to betrayal, false arrest, verbal abuse, beating, mockery, and a hideously painful, lingering death, then what makes us think that we’re so special?
When Jesus was asked questions similar to the ones that have been raised by those who oppose the Holy Father’s plans to go to the prison tonight, He answered them with a simple statement. The Son of Man came to save and seek the lost. I think He’s saying the same thing to us today and that Pope Francis is His voice.
At last, I get to meet someone who says he is my father!
One of the young people said that when they heard of the Pope’s plans. That statement, speaking as it does of a young person who has most likely led an unloved life, breaks my heart. It also fills me with gratitude that he or she can feel that way about our Holy Father. I am in awe of a Church whose leader can wield the power of a Pope yet move to touch and heal ones such as these. Only a Church whose true head is Christ Jesus could do that.
Two thousand years and counting, and the Gospel message of love, forgiveness and hope marches on to the ends of the earth.