Tuesday, July 25, 2017

The Queen of Heaven and the Son of Thunder


 By Andrea Phillips

When Our Blessed Lord ascended into heaven, He left His most holy Mother here on earth for several years to help the young Catholic Church.  All of the Apostles and disciples held her in great esteem and sought her counsel in all things. She, the holiest, wisest, and most blessed of women, always had a word of encouragement and precious advice to answer their requests.
At times, as the Apostles and disciples went on their journeys to far off places to preach the Faith, she would send one or several of her many guardian angels to strengthen or console them in some way.

For example, after the Apostles’ Creed had been composed by the Twelve, she wrote several copies of this profession of our Faith with her own hand and, summoning several of her angels, bade them deliver these copies to the disciples who were in distant places so they might recite it and teach others to do the same.
She also prayed constantly for their work and begged God to deliver them from the assaults of the devil, who from the very beginning has unceasingly prowled around seeking to destroy God’s Church.

Our Lady and Saint James
The Apostle Saint James the Greater, brother of Saint John the Evangelist and a cousin to Our Lord Jesus, had a most special and tender devotion to Our Blessed Lady.
Possessed of a generous nature, he preached the word of God with such zeal and fearlessness that he aroused the fury of all who hated Our Lord and His Church.
The more the evil people persecuted him the more ardently and louder he preached. Some say that he had a powerful, booming voice, in keeping with his designation as a “Son of Thunder.” He knew how needful he was of Our Lady’s help and sought it constantly.
One day, about a year and a half after the death of Our Lord, Saint James traveled to Spain to carry the true Faith to the people there. In imitation of his Master, he took twelve disciples with him. One of the first cities he and his disciples visited was Granada in the south of Spain. In Granada were several Jews who hated the new Faith of Jesus and watched the newcomers closely. Saint James and the disciples fearlessly began to preach as if nothing were wrong. While several of these Jews became impressed and listened, others became even more hardened against these holy men and began a terrible persecution against them. Seizing one of them, they brought him to his martyrdom.
Yet another day they managed to seize Saint James and the remaining eleven and took them to a field outside the walls of Granada to put them to death. As had occurred so many times before, Saint James prayed to the Blessed Mother to assist them. If they were to die for her Son, then he wished that somehow he be allowed to see her before dying.

Our Lady interceeds
Back in Jerusalem, by a special gift granted to her by her Divine Son, the Holy Virgin, saw everything that was happening, and her mother’s heart went out to this devoted son who sought her help. She felt a great sorrow that she was so far away, but knowing that nothing is impossible to God, she besought her Son to allow her to aid Saint James and his friends.
Our Lord, seeing His Mother’s holy desire from heaven, commanded the angels of her guard to carry her to Spain. Immediately, one thousand angels appeared before her and, placing her on a shining throne of clouds, carried her across the sea to Granada.
All the while, Saint James and his disciples remained in great danger. The Jews already had their swords bared and ready to strike when, looking up, the Apostle beheld his beloved Queen and Mother coming on this dazzling cloud surrounded by angels. She spoke beautiful words of encouragement to this faithful son and made him understand that he and his companions were not yet to shed their blood for her Son.
At her command, their fetters and chains fell to the ground. Simultaneously, the would-be executioners fell as if dead and remained stunned for many hours. The devils that had accompanied them and incited them to this terrible deed were hurled into the deepest abysses of Hell, leaving Saint James and his friends completely free.
Saint James was filled with joy at the sight of his Queen and what she had done. He thanked her from the depth of his heart and, bowing his face to the ground, thanked God Our Lord for such a favor. Although the other disciples had not seen her and the thousand angels, they understood that a great miracle had taken place, and Saint James later told them what he had seen to increase and confirm their Faith.
Before leaving, the Most Holy Mother wished to bless Spain even further by sending Saint James all over its territory to preach the new Faith of her Son. For this she assigned hundreds of her own angels to accompany him and his disciples wherever they went, showing them the way and protecting them from every danger. In this manner, the Son of Thunder and his worthy friends traveled throughout Spain and brought about many conversions.
Eventually they entered the old city of Saragossa. There, the Mother of God came to visit Saint James once more. This came about in the following manner.

Spain honored by a second visit from the Mother of God
One day, Our Lord Jesus decided in heaven to visit His mother in her home in Jerusalem to speak with her about Saint James. While she prayed, He entered her room seated on a shining throne and surrounded by thousands of angels. He told her that He wanted her to visit Saint James in Saragossa and have him build a house of prayer in her honor so that through her He might be specially honored there.
Once again the angels built a shining throne of clouds and, placing their Queen on it, carried her over the land and sea to far away Spain. This time, however, Our Lord had commanded them to travel slowly so that along the way they might sing beautiful songs to her. Their repertoire included the “Ave Maria,” “Salve Sancta Parens,” “Salve Regina,” and “Regina coeli laetare,” chanted by various choruses of angels in the most pleasing harmony.
During this joyous celestial singing, the most humble Lady returned all this praise to God Most High: “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of Sabaoth, have pity on the poor children of Eve. Thine is the glory, Thine the power and majesty. Thou alone art holy, the most High and the Lord of all the heavenly armies and of all creation.”
Meanwhile, Saint James was camped outside the walls of Saragossa with his disciples. He was praying by himself some distance from them when he suddenly perceived the most beautiful music he had ever heard.
The disciples, some while praying and others awakening from sleep, likewise heard this heavenly chorus, and their hearts filled with an ineffable joy. Looking up, they saw a most brilliant light forming a luminous globe. Evidently something marvelous was happening.
To his immense joy, the holy Son of Thunder once again beheld, within this brilliance, his holy Mother coming across the sky to visit him. All resplendent with the very light of God as she sat on her throne of clouds, the great Lady far outshone her angel escort.
The angels placed the throne with their Queen within sight of the Apostle who, beside himself with joy, bowed low to the earth. The loving Queen greeted him sweetly and then gave him a blessing in the name of her Son Jesus.

Our Lady of the Pillar of Saragossa
Saint James noticed that some of the angels held a small marble column and a small statue of their Queen holding the Infant God. Our Lady relayed to him the desire of her Divine Son that he build a temple on that very spot to be dedicated to her name so that, through her, Her Son might be glorified.
In His name she promised great favors and blessings to those who sincerely requested her intercession in this church, as well as her protection and assistance, “for this is to be my house and temple, my inheritance and possession.” The column and the statue were presented as a pledge of this promise: “In the temple which thou shalt build for me, it shall remain and be preserved, together with the holy faith, until the end of the world.”
She told him that he should begin building this church immediately. When it was finished, he was to return to Jerusalem where he would be called to imitate his Lord Jesus, the first of the Apostles to surrender his life for Him. She assured him that she would be there to assist him.
As she finished speaking, she ordered the angels to place the column with her statue on the ground. As soon as this was done, both the angels and Saint James gave thanks to God and celebrated this spot as the first place on earth to be dedicated to the name of Mary Most Holy for the greater glory of Almighty God.
Such was the beginning of the famous shrine of Our Lady of the Pillar of Saragossa. The original chapel built by Saint James has grown into a great church that stands today on the very site of Our Lady’s visit nearly 2000 years ago.
Our Lady guaranteed this before leaving by appointing one of her angels to guard the statue and the place against every attack of devil or man. And attack it the devil has done, throughout all these years, but that mighty angel has foiled every attempt of the infernal fiend.
So, dear reader, if you wish to see this great marvel that is, still today, the great church of Our Lady of the Pillar, the very first place dedicated to Holy Mary even as she was still on this earth, you have only to go with a sincere heart and you will certainly receive her sweet favor.



Adapted from The Mystical City of God, by Venerable Maria of Agreda, “The Coronation,” Chapters 16 and 17.

When you can do nothing at prayer

When you can do nothing at prayer,
make acts of humility, comparing
your nothingness with God’s greatness,
your ingratitude with His benefits,
your lack of virtue with the purity and perfection of the saints.

St. Claude de la Colombière

St. James the Greater

James the Greater was the son of Zebedee and Salome, one of the women at the tomb on Easter morning, (Matt.27:56, Mark 15:40, 16:1) and the brother of John – probably the elder of the two. He is called “the greater” to distinguish him from James the Lesser, who was probably shorter in stature.

There is evidence in Scriptures that these two brothers were cousins of the Lord, which may explain Our Lord entrusting His mother to John as He was dying. Both James and John were probably of a fiery temperament for which they were called “sons of thunder.”  They once wished to call fire upon a city, for which Our Lord rebuked them. (Luke 9:51-6)

James was one of the first apostles called by Jesus, and was one of the three selected to witness His transfiguration.

James was apostle in Iberia, in the region of present-day Spain. Ancient tradition ascertains that when praying one night in the year 40, the Virgin Mother, then still living, appeared to him on the banks of the River Ebro to encourage him in his difficult mission. She was accompanied by a multitude of angels who bore with them a marble pillar on top of which was a small statue of her holding the Child Jesus. She bid James build a shrine where the pillar was to be placed, which he did, the first shrine dedicated to the Mother of God on earth. Today, the sacred pillar, still in the same spot, is enshrined in the great Basilica of Our Lady of the Pillar in Zaragoza.

James returned to Judea after this apparition, and was the first apostle to suffer martyrdom. He died by the sword in Jerusalem at the command of Herod Agrippa in the year 44. His relics rest in the city of Compostela in northern Spain, the final destination of the famous pilgrims of the “Camino de Compostela.”

Monday, July 24, 2017

When you are sick

When you are sick, offer to Christ our Lord
all your pains, suffering, and your languor, and beseech Him
to unite them to those He bore for you.

St. Francis de Sales

St. Sharbel Makhlouf

Youssef Antoun Makhlouf was born in the village of Bekka Kafra in Lebanon on May 8, 1828 and was one of five children born to Antoun Zarrour Makhlouf and Brigitta Chidiac. His father was a mule driver who died when Youssef was only three years old, leaving his widow to bring up their children alone.

Although Brigitta was left nearly destitute, she reserved a profoundly religious atmosphere in their home and instilled in her children a deep spirit of piety. Because of this fidelity, Youssef became unusually devoted and inclined to prayer and solitude at a very young age. He was greatly attracted to the life and spirituality of hermits; and as a young boy tending his family’s small flock, he would often go to a nearby grotto where he had erected a little shrine to the Holy Mother of God and would spend his whole day there in prayer.

When he was twenty-three years old, Youssef, feeling the call to the religious life, left his home and family to join the Lebanese Maronite Order at the Monastery of Our Lady in Marfouq. Here he began his formation as a monk before later being transferred to the Monastery of St. Maron near Beirut. There he received the religious habit of the Maronite monk and took the name Sharbel. He made his final profession as a religious brother on November 1, 1853 – he was twenty-five years old.

Brother Sharbel immediately began his studies for the priesthood under the instruction of Father Nimattullah Kassab, who was also later declared a saint by the Church. Sharbel was ordained on July 23, 1859, following which he returned to the Monastery of St. Maron where he lived a life of great austerity. In 1875, he was granted permission by his superiors to live a solitary life in the Hermitage of Sts. Peter and Paul, which was under the jurisdiction of the monastery; and there he resided for the remaining twenty-three years of his life until his death on Christmas Eve, 1898.

St. Sharbel is renowned for his many miracles both during his life and after his death. His most famous miracle – which was also his first – occurred when, multiple times, he successfully lit an oil lamp which was filled with water. He is also credited with many healing miracles.

After his death, he was interned at the Monastery of St. Maron, now a famous pilgrimage site. His tomb was often witnessed surrounded by a dazzling light, and to this day his remains are incorrupt and an unexplainable blood-like fluid flows from his body. He was canonized on December 9, 1977, by Pope Paul VI, who held him up as an example to help us understand “in a world, largely fascinated by wealth and comfort, the paramount value of poverty, penance and asceticism, to liberate the soul in its ascent to God.”

Sunday, July 23, 2017

He never refuses pardon and grace

Behold Jesus Christ crucified, Who is the only foundation of our hope;
He is our Mediator and Advocate; the victim and sacrifice for our sins.
He is goodness and patience itself; His mercy is moved by the tears of sinners,
and
He never refuses pardon and grace to those who ask it
with a truly contrite and humbled heart.

St. Charles Borromeo

St. Bridget of Sweden

Bridget was nobly born, her father was Birger, the governor of Upland in Sweden, and her mother, Ingeborg, was the daughter of the governor of East Gothland.

At fourteen she was married to young Ulf Gudmarsson, to whom she was happily married for twenty-eight years and had eight children, four boys and four girls, one of whom was St. Catherine of Sweden.

In 1335, she was appointed lady-in-waiting to King Magnus II’s bride, Blanche of Namur, and she spent years at court trying to reform Magnus’ weak, and at times, wicked ways, and the queen’s often well-meaning, but irresponsible, bend.

Though Bridget’s famous visions were already under way at this time, spanning subjects from personal hygiene to politics, she did not have great success with her royal “charges”, and was often seen as a “dreamer.”

After her husband’s death in 1344, she founded an order of women and another of men to support them spiritually. When her order was established, she traveled to Rome accompanied by her daughter Catherine and some disciples, to seek approval of her Rule. But she was never to return to her native Sweden.

In Rome, she worked to bring back the Papacy, then in the French city of Avignon, to the Eternal City. Her visions and prophecies, dealing with the burning political and religious issues of her time, continued and so increased that, alarmed, she submitted them to the direction of Canon Matthias of Linkoping who pronounced them to be of God. Peter, Prior of Alvastra, recorded these visions in Latin.

Her order was only approved by Pope Urban V in 1370.

In 1373 she made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, with Catherine and three of her sons. At Naples, Charles, her favorite son, became entangled with Queen Joanna I who wanted to marry him despite both being already married (Joana thrice). Anguished, Bridget stormed heaven, and Charles, struck by a fever, after two weeks died in his mother’s arms.

Returning from Jerusalem, Bridget, already ailing, received the last rites from her faithful friend, Peter of Alvastra, and died on July 23 at the age of seventy-one.

Bridget was canonized in 1391, and is the patron saint of the Kingdom of Sweden. She is also considered one of the patron saints of Europe.