Monday, April 24, 2017

How to win

In the spiritual life, one does not sustain honorable losses.
War honors
come only with victory.
And winning consists in not abandoning the cross
even when one falls beneath it. It consists in persevering
amidst the apparent failures of external works,
amidst adversity, in the exhaustion of all of one’s strength.
It consists in carrying the cross to the height of Calvary, and, there,
letting oneself be crucified.

Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira

St. Fidelis of Sigmaringen

Fidelis was born Mark Rey in Sigmaringen in Prussia, and was the son of the town's burgomaster. Pursuing studies at the University of Freiburg in Bresigau, he eventually taught philosophy, while working towards a degree in law.

In 1604, he was appointed tutor to a small group of noble youths and with them made a six-year tour of Europe. His pupils, who grew to respect and love him, attested to the austerity and holiness of his life.

On his return to Germany, he took a doctorate in law and was soon known for his integrity and for his espousal of the cause of the oppressed. Still, the corruption within the legal profession disgusted him and he decided to enter the Capuchin branch of the Franciscan Order.

He was a preacher and confessor of great repute and from the beginning of his apostolic life fought heresy, especially in the form of Calvinism and Zwinglianism, not only through preaching but also with his pen.

Appointed, with eight others, apostle of the region of Grison with the mission of bringing its people back to the faith, he undertook the project with courage and dedication. From the start the wonderful effect of his zeal infuriated his adversaries. They roused the peasants against him by spreading the rumor that he was an enemy of their national aspirations and the agent of the Austrian Emperor.

Fidelis was warned, but chose to spend several nights in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament at the feet of a crucifix. On April 24 he was back at his pulpit. A gunshot fired from the crowd missed him, but once back on the road, he was attacked by a group of armed men demanding that he renounce his Faith. He refused and was struck down while calling on God to forgive his assailants, as they mangled his body with their weapons.

The conversion of a Zwinglian minister who witnessed the scene was one of the first fruits of his martyrdom. Fidelis was canonized by Pope Benedict XIV.

Stories of Mary 32: Mary’s Charity In The Visitation



 A Reflection

Mary’s Charity In The Visitation
WE must not imagine that the Blessed Virgin Mary was moved to undertake this long journey to visit her cousin, St. Elizabeth, by curiosity to know if what the Angel had told her were true, for she had not the slightest doubt of it. Our Blessed Lady was moved by a secret impulse of God, Who wished to commence the work of Redemption and the sanctification of souls in this visit, by the sanctification of the infant St. John.
The most ardent charity and most profound humility animated her, and gave her wings to fly across the mountains of Judea, and these two virtues were also the cause of her journey. As St. Ambrose says, charity or grace knows no delays nor cold deliberations: Nescit tarda molimina sancti spiritus gratiae.
It need not therefore surprise us if the Most Holy Virgin, filled as she was with charity (because she bore in her womb Him Who is Love itself), should exercise it in continual acts towards God, to Whom she was closely united by the sacred bond of perfect love, and towards her neighbors, whom she loved so tenderly and sincerely that she sighed for the salvation and sanctification of the whole world.
She went with all alacrity, because she knew with what happy results her visit would be attended, in the person of St. John, and also because she wished to congratulate her cousin who, notwithstanding her age and sterility, had conceived the long-predicted precursor of the Word Incarnate. She went that they might rejoice together, and excite each other to glorify the God of all mercy, and to thank Him for so many favors and benedictions.
St. Luke would teach us by the words, Exurgens Maria abiit cum festinatione in montana in dvitatem Juda –‘Mary arose and went into the mountain country with haste, into a city of Judea’ – the care and readiness with which we also ought to correspond to the Divine inspirations. As it is the work of the Holy Spirit to banish all tepidity and negligence from the heart, so He would have us execute His Divine Will with all care and diligence, and He is offended by any kind of delay.
The virginal purity of Mary, which so dearly loved solitude, also caused her to go with haste, for the best protection for virginal purity is to appear as little as possible in the tumult of the world.
Having reached the house of Zachary, she entered it. She saluted Elizabeth. The Evangelist does not relate that she saluted Zachary also, for her love of purity was so great that she spoke little with men. Let virgins learn from this that they cannot take too great care for the preservation of this virtue.
Who can imagine the sweet fragrance of this most beautiful lily in the house of Zachary during the three months that she remained there? How well did she spend every instant! What honey, what precious balsam, must those sacred lips have distilled in the few but excellent words that they uttered! Indeed, Mary could speak only that which filled her heart, and that was Jesus!
Let us consider the meaning of the words, that ‘Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost’ – Et repleta est Spiritu Sancto Elisabeth – that Elizabeth, who had already received the Holy Ghost with all His gifts, received a new fullness and a new increase of grace by this visit. Although the Lord grants His graces to the just in full measure, yet, as the Gospel says, this measure can be so augmented as to overflow on all sides: Mensuram bonam confertam et coagitatam et supereffluentem dabunt in sinum vestrum.
Let us well understand this important truth. The grace of the Holy Ghost can never be granted to us in this life in such full measure that it cannot be augmented; therefore, let us beware of saying: “It is enough; I am sufficiently enriched with graces and virtues. Mensura conferta est – the measure is filled up, further progress in mortification is unnecessary.”
He who should speak thus would only show too clearly his misery, or, rather, his presumption, and the great danger to which he exposes himself. Omni habenti dabitur et abundabit, ei autem qui non habet et quod videtur habere auferetur ab eo. This text signifies that to him who has received much – that is to say, who has labored much, and never gives up – much shall be given.
Such a one believes that he has never done enough; but, conscious of his own misery, he continues to labor with holy and sincere humility. He, then, who possesses much, shall receive with usury, and superabundantly; but from him who profits not by the grace received, letting it lie idle and fruitless, because he believes he is rich enough, from him shall be taken that which he thinketh himself to possess and that which he does not possess.
This means that graces already received shall be taken away, because he has not traded with them, and those which have been prepared for him shall not be bestowed upon him, since he has rendered himself unworthy of them by his negligence. All this, however, is not to be understood of sufficient grace, which is never denied by God to anyone, but of efficacious grace, which, by a just judgment of God, is not granted to tepid and ungrateful souls.
The thirst for riches and honors, by which worldlings are tormented, never allows them to say, Enough. And yet they ought to be contented with a little, for experience teaches us that the highest dignities and honors and great wealth frequently occasion the loss of souls. It is in regard of such temporal matters that we should say, I have sufficient.
But, with regard to spiritual goods, let us never believe that we possess them in sufficient abundance, so long as we remain in this land of exile, but let us make every possible effort to advance day by day from virtue to virtue.
Experience teaches us that plants and fruits do not attain maturity until they have produced their seeds, which are necessary for the reproduction of their species. In the same way our virtues will never be sufficiently perfected, or reach their maturity, until they produce within us an ardent desire to make further progress. This desire is
the spiritual seed which produces new degrees of virtue.

Consecration of the Saturday to Mary
Holy Church is ever desirous to maintain a tender devotion in the hearts of the faithful towards the Most Blessed Virgin, and from the earliest ages of Christianity she has encouraged the consecration of the Saturday to her.
It is related that there was in the church of Santa Sofia at Constantinople a picture of the Mother of God which was veiled during the rest of the week, but on Friday evening the veil was raised without human aid, and lowered on the evening of Saturday.
Thus did Almighty God manifest His Will that Saturday should be dedicated to Mary. It was on Saturday she took so great a part in the work of our redemption, and it was fitting that on the morrow of the day when she so bitterly wept over the sorrowful scene of Calvary we should remember her tears shed for us in a special manner.
Again, on Saturday God rested from His work in the creation of the world, and the Church consecrates this day to her, to honor the mysterious repose of the Holy Ghost in her Immaculate Heart, and that of Our Blessed Savior in her chaste womb. Saturday is the introduction to Sunday – the symbol of eternal rest – and the Holy Virgin is truly invoked under the title of “Gate of Heaven” – Janua Caeli.
Saturday, moreover, is the day between Friday, the day of mourning, and Sunday, the day of joy and the Holy Virgin is the mediatrix between God, Who is Eternal Beatitude, and man, who is subject to endless evils and miseries.
Mary is the way to arrive at Jesus, and Saturday is a prelude to the solemnity of Sunday. Saturday is as a magnificent portal consecrated to the Mother of God, by which we enter the Sanctuary of God Himself. The Saints held this day in great esteem – on it they redoubled their pious exercises – and many begged, as a signal favor, that they might die on a Saturday.


This “Stories of Mary – Stories of the Rosary” is taken from The Month of Mary, According to the Spirit of St. Francis de Sales; by Don Gaspar Gilli; translated and abridged from the Italian by a Sister of the Institute of Charity. Robert Washbourne, London. 1890. Nihil Obstat: Fr. T.A. Smith, O.P. Imprimatur:Henricus Eduardus, March 14, 1890.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Stories of Mary 31: Mary and The Jealous Wife



"Mary Is The Hope Of All"

It is related in the Fourth Part of the Treasure of the Rosary, miracle eighty-fifth, that a gentleman who was most devoted to the divine mother, had set apart in his palace an oratory where, before a beautiful statue of Mary, he was accustomed often to remain praying, not only by day, but also by night, interrupting his rest to go and honor his beloved Lady; but his wife, for he was married, though she was a very devout person, observing that her husband in the deepest silence of the night left his bed, and going from his apartment did not return for a long time, became jealous, and was suspicious of evil; wherefore, one day, to free herself from this thorn which tormented her, she ventured to ask him if he ever loved any other woman but herself.
Smiling, he answered her: "I assure you that I love the most amiable lady in the world; to her I have given my whole heart and rather would I die than cease to love her; if you knew her, you would say that I ought to love her more than I do."
He meant the most holy Virgin whom he loved so tenderly. But his wife, conceiving a greater suspicion than before, in order to ascertain the truth better, interrogated him anew, and asked him if he arose from his bed and left the room every night to meet that lady.
The gentleman, who did not perceive the great trouble of his wife, answered "Yes." The wife was completely deceived, and, blinded by passion, one night when her husband, according to his custom, had left the chamber, seized a knife in despair, cut her throat, and very soon died.
Her husband having finished his devotion, returned to his apartment, but on going to bed, found it wet. He called his wife; she did not answer: he tried to arouse her; she was immovable. At length he took a light, found the bed full of blood, and his wife dead, with her throat cut. Then he perceived that she had destroyed herself through jealousy.
What does he do? He locks the door of his apartment, returns to the chapel, prostrates himself before the most blessed Virgin, and shedding a torrent of tears, said to her: "Oh my mother, behold my affliction: if thou dost not console me, to whom shall I go? Remember I am so unfortunate as to see my wife dead and lost because I have come hither to pay thee honor, oh my mother, who dost help us in all our troubles, help me now."
How surely does every one obtain what he wishes if he supplicates with confidence this mother of mercy! No sooner did he offer this prayer than he heard a servant-maid calling him: "My lord, come to your apartment, for your lady calls you."
The gentleman could hardly believe these words for joy. "Return," he said to the servant, "and see if she really calls me." She returned, entreating him to go quickly, for her mistress was waiting for him. He went, opened the door, and found his wife living; she threw herself at his feet in tears and begged him to pardon her, saying: "Oh, my husband, the mother of God, through thy prayer, has delivered me from hell."
Weeping for joy, they went to their oratory to thank the blessed Virgin. The next day the husband made a feast for all their relations, to whom the wife herself related the facts, at the same time showing the marks of the wound, and all were more deeply inflamed with the love of the divine mother.

PRAYER:
Oh mother of holy love, oh our life, our refuge, and our hope, thou knowest that thy Son Jesus Christ, not content with making Himself our perpetual intercessor with the eternal Father, would have thee also engaged in obtaining for us, by thy prayers, the divine mercy.
He has ordained that thy prayers should aid in our salvation, and has given such power to them that they obtain whatever they ask; I, a miserable sinner, turn to thee then, oh hope of the wretched. I hope, oh Lady, through the merits of Jesus Christ and thy intercession, to secure my salvation. In these I trust; and so entirely do I trust in thee, that if my eternal salvation were in my own hands, I would wish to place it in thine; for in thy mercy and protection I would trust far more than in my own works.
My mother and my hope, do not abandon me, as I deserve. Behold my misery, pity me, help me, save me. I confess that I have often, by my sins, shut out the light and aid which thou hast obtained for me from the Lord.
But thy compassion for the wretched and thy power with God are far greater than the number and malignity of my sins. It is known in heaven and on earth that he who is protected by thee will certainly not perish. Let all forget me, but do not thou forget me, oh mother of the omnipotent God. Say unto God that I am thy servant, tell Him that I am defended by thee, and I shall be saved.
Oh Mary, I trust in thee: in this hope I live, and in this hope I wish to die, repeating always: "Jesus is my only hope, and after Jesus, Mary."


This "Stories of Mary – Stories of the Rosary" is taken from the Glories of Mary, translated from the Italian of St. Alphonsus Liguori; New Revised Edition, P.J. Kennedy & Sons. Copyright 1888

How evil begins

The beginning of evil
is the lack of vigilance.

St. Poemen

St. George

Though the story of St. George is intertwined with legend, especially the account of him slaying a dragon, the historicity of his life is certain.
He was of Greek origin, seemingly of a noble, Christian family. His father was Gerondios, from Capaddocia, a prominent officer in the Imperial army. His mother was Polychronia, from the city of Lyda, now in Israel.

As a youth, he lost first his father and then his mother, after which he enlisted in the Roman army under Emperor Diocletian. The latter favored him in honor of his father’s service, and George was made an Imperial Tribune.

By imperial edict, Roman soldiers were forbidden to practice Christianity. Notwithstanding this prohibition, George loudly proclaimed himself a follower of Christ before the Emperor Diocletian and his fellow soldiers. Upset at the news, the Emperor offered George an abundance of earthly goods in exchange for his Christian Faith, but George was unmoved. He endured various tortures and was finally beheaded. The Empress Alexandra was converted by his courageous example, and some interpret that while the dragon often depicted being slain by St. George is the pagan Roman might, the lady in the background is the Empress.

Devotion to St. George spread throughout Asia Minor, and already early in the fourth century churches were being dedicated to his honor.

Throughout the history of Christian battles there have been reports of St. George’s heavenly assistance, Richard I of England and other Crusaders also confirming such intercession. It is not known how St. George was chosen as patron of England, though it is certain that his fame had reached the isle long before the Norman Conquest.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Sickness itself can be a prayer

The prayer of the sick person is
his patience and his acceptance of his sickness
for the love of Jesus Christ.
Make sickness itself a prayer, for there is none
more powerful, save martyrdom!

St. Francis de Sales

St. Theodore of Sykeon

Born in the Roman Galatian town of Sykeon in Asia Minor, Theodore was the son of a woman of ill repute, who kept an inn along the imperial highway.

As a child, he was so given to prayer that he would often give up a meal to spend time in church. From an early age he shut himself up first in the cellar of his mother’s house and then in a cave beneath a disused chapel. Later, for a time, seeking to further escape the world, he sought solitude on a mountain.

On a pilgrimage to Jerusalem Theodore assumed a monk’s habit, and though only eighteen years of age, was ordained a priest by his own bishop. His life was most austere, wearing an iron girdle about his body and only sparingly partaking of vegetables.

Endowed with the gift of prophecy and miracles, on a second pilgrimage to the Holy Land, he obtained abundant rain after a severe drought.

Theodore founded several monasteries, and ruled as abbot in Sykeon. He was consecrated Bishop of Anastasiopolis, though he deemed himself totally unfitted. After ten years he succeeded in relinquishing his post and retired to Sykeon.

From Sykeon he was recalled to Constantinople to bless the emperor and the senate and there healed one of the Emperor’s sons of a skin disease, reputedly leprosy.

Theodore had a great devotion to St. George and did much to propagate devotion to him.

He died in Sykeon on April 22, 613.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Why was Mary made Mother of God?

Mary was raised to the dignity of Mother of God
rather for sinners than for the just, since
Jesus Christ declares that
He came to call not the just, but sinners.

St. Anselm

St. Anselm of Canterbury

Anselm was born in Aosta in Italy about the year 1033. There was little sympathy between the lad and his father, a harsh man who practically drove him from home after his mother’s death to pursue his studies in Burgundy, France.

In the Benedictine monastery of Bec in Normandy, Anselm met and became the disciple and friend of its great abbot, Lanfranc. When Anselm was twenty-seven, Lanfranc was elected to higher office, and he himself appointed Prior of Bec. Fifteen years later, Anselm was chosen abbot, a position that entailed visits to England where the abbey had property, and where Lanfranc was now Archbishop of Canterbury.

An original thinker and great scholar, Anselm had a burning passion to learn about natural and supernatural truth. He developed a method of study for which he came to be known as the "Father of Scholasticism." Under his governance, first as prior and then as abbot, the Abbey of Bec became a center of true reformation in Normandy and England.

Above all, Anselm's great merit lay in his earnest and conscious effort of living according to what he learned from the study of divine truths. His life truly was a combination of contemplation, study, prayer, writing, and activity.

As the seat of Canterbury became vacant, the pastoral staff was forced into the monk’s reluctant hand. Now, as archbishop, he set about defending the liberties and rights of the Church against encroaching English monarchs for which he was sorely persecuted and exiled, but ultimately upheld, by Pope Urban II.

While in Rome in 1098, Anselm attended the Council of Bari and assisted in the definition of the doctrines challenged by the Greeks.

Anselm’s was a character of singular charm. He was known for his sympathy and sincerity which won him the affection of men of all classes and nationalities. A friend of the poorest of the poor, his care also extended to slaves, being one of the first to stand against slavery. In 1102, at the Council of Westminster, he obtained the passing of a resolution prohibiting the practice of selling men like cattle.

Anselm of Canterbury died in 1109 and was declared Doctor of the Church in 1720.

Stories of Mary 30: The Adulteress And The Wife



"Justice, Mother of God, justice."
Our blessed Lady answered:"Justice! do you seek
justice from me?" 

How Great is the clemency and mercy of Mary
Father Charles Bovius relates that in Doinana, in France, lived a married man who had held a criminal connection with another woman. Now the wife being unable to endure this, continually besought God to punish the guilty parties; and one day in particular went to an altar of the blessed Virgin, which was in a certain church to implore vengeance upon the woman who had alienated her husband from her; and this very woman went also every day to the same altar, to repeat a "Hail Mary."
One night the divine mother appeared in a dream to the wife, who, on seeing her, began her accustomed petition: "Justice, Mother of God, justice." But the blessed Lady answered: "Justice! do you seek justice from me? Go and find others to execute justice for you. It belongs not to me to do it for you. Be it known to you," she added, "that this very sinner offers every day a devotion in my honor, and that I cannot allow any sinner who does this, to suffer and be punished for her sins."
The next day the wife went to hear mass in the above named church of our Lady, and on coming out met her husband's friend; at the sight of her she began to reproach her and call her a sorceress, who had even enchanted with her sorceries the blessed Virgin.
"Be silent," cried the people: "what are you saying?"
"I be silent!" she answered: "What I say is only too true; this night the Virgin appeared to me; and when I implored justice of her, she answered me, that she could not grant it on account of a salutation which this wicked woman repeats daily in her honor."
They asked the woman what salutation she repeated to the Mother of God. She answered that it was the "Hail Mary"; and then on hearing that the Blessed Virgin had dealt with her so mercifully in return for that trivial act of devotion, she cast herself on the ground before the sacred image, and there, in the presence of all the people, asked pardon for her scandalous life, and made a vow of perpetual continence.
She afterwards put on a religious habit, built for herself a little cell near the church, where she retired, and persevered in continual penance until the day of her death.

PRAYER:
Oh mother of mercy! since thou art so compassionate, and hast so great a desire to do good to us sinners, and to satisfy our demands, I, the most wretched of all men, today have recourse to thy mercy, that thou mayest grant my requests. Let others ask what they will, health of body, wealth, or temporal advantages; I come to ask of thee, oh Lady, those things which thou thyself dost most desire of me, and which are most conformable and most pleasing to thy sacred heart.
Thou who wast so humble, obtain for me humility and love of contempt. Thou who wast so patient in the difficulties of this life, obtain for me patience in things contrary to my wishes. Thou who didst overflow with love to God, obtain for me the gift of a holy and pure love. Thou who wast all charity towards thy neighbor, obtain for me charity towards all men, and especially towards those who are my enemies. Thou who wast wholly united to the divine will, obtain for me a perfect uniformity with the will of that God in all his dispositions concerning me.
Thou, in a word, art the most holy of all creatures; oh Mary, obtain for me the grace to become a saint. Thy love is unfailing; thou canst and wilt obtain all things for me.
Nothing, then, can hinder me from receiving thy graces but my neglect to invoke thee, or my want of confidence in thy intercession. But thou thyself must obtain for me the grace to seek thee, and this grace of confidence in thy intercession.
These two greatest gifts I ask from thee – from thee will I receive them – from thee do I confidently hope for them. Oh Mary! Mary, my mother, my hope, my love, my life, my refuge, and my consolation. Amen.


 This "Stories of Mary – Stories of the Rosary" is taken from the Glories of Mary, translated from the Italian of St. Alphonsus Liguori; New Revised Edition, P.J. Kennedy & Sons. Copyright 1888

Thursday, April 20, 2017

There is only one ladder to heaven

Apart from the cross
there is no other ladder by which
we may get to heaven.

St. Rose of Lima

St. Agnes of Montepulciano

Around the year 1268 in the Tuscan village of Gracchiano-Vecchio, a child was born to a well-to-do couple, a little girl who was to become one of the great women saints of the Dominican Order.

Attracted  to prayer from an early age, even as a child Agnes would spend hours on her knees praying the Our Father and Hail Mary. At nine years of age, she convinced her parents to place her in the nearby Franciscan monastery at Montelpuciano. In the austerity of monastic life, she advanced in virtue by leaps and bounds.

Five years later, Agnes was called upon to leave Montepulciano to assist in the foundation of a new convent in Proceno. As soon as it was known that Agnes was at Proceno, several girls offered themselves as postulants. With special papal dispensation, the fifteen-year-old Agnes was elected abbess.

From that day onwards, she redoubled her austerities, living for fifteen years on bread and water, and sleeping on the ground with a stone pillow.

Still, the inhabitants of Montelpuciano pined for their now famous saint, and on the plans to build a new convent for her, she returned. The establishment flourished under her rule and guidance, and she remained prioress of this convent until her death.

In her later years, she suffered from a painful illness but did not allow this condition to interfere with her duties. She died at the age of forty-nine.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Stories of Mary 29: Mary’s Life In The Temple




The Immaculate Virgin, who enjoyed use of her reason

from the moment she was born, understood the significance of this act.

Saints Joachim and Anne proved their gratitude to God Who, against all hope, 
had satisfied their innermost desire.

They promised, probably with a vow, to consecrate their daughter to the service of the Temple.
Such a practice was nothing out of the ordinary for the chosen people of God. For generations, a given number of young girls would devote their lives from childhood until their wedding day in the House of the Lord. There they received the education commonly given to women of Israel in their day.
Several passages of Holy Scripture refer to them spending their days praying and working. Indeed, they embroidered the fine linen and the sumptuous purple ornaments bordered with gold used in the liturgy. They enhanced the magnificence of the liturgical celebration with their singing. Finally, as the book of Kings tells us, they formed an honor guard before the Tabernacle.

When the Virgin Mary attained the age of three, her pious parents fulfilled their promise to the Lord.
Despite the immense sorrow of losing their daughter, such a tender, gracious, and gentle child, they took her to Jerusalem. The Immaculate Virgin, who enjoyed use of her reason from the moment she was born, understood the significance of this act.
On that day, she who had already been entirely consecrated to the Lord, gave herself fully to Him with all the élan of her will and love.
Her devotion, however, did not prevent her from acutely experiencing the bitterness of her sacrifice. As souls draw closer to God, they become more loving and good.
Indeed, the affectionate heart of Mary was torn when she left her parents, but, even at such a young age, she ascended the long stairway to the Temple unhesitatingly and disappeared into the House of God.
* * *
For twelve years the Queen of Heaven dwelled in the shadow of the sanctuary, leading a hidden and very ordinary life. Let us bow respectfully before her and ask permission to draw near her soul that we might study her virtues in the Temple, which made her the favorite garden of the Most High.

How did the Blessed Virgin consider herself:
She who was such an incomparable masterpiece of the Lord and the most beautiful of all creatures aside from the holy humanity of our Savior? Assuredly, Mary knew she had received exceptional favors. She sensed the absence of any interior temptation, the fire of love burning within her heart, and the incomparable and frequent ecstasies, without ever calling attention to herself.
All this proved without a doubt the immensity of God’s divine mercy for her.
In the Temple of Jerusalem, however, she was not aware of the grandeur that was hers. It seems unlikely that she would have known of the unique privilege of her Immaculate Conception. In any case, she was not cognizant that the Son of God had chosen from all eternity to take on flesh in her womb.
She would have thought herself fortunate to have become the humble servant of this glorious virgin who would one day be the Mother of the Messias. Little did she suspect the honor that awaited her.
Give heed to what she revealed to Saint Elizabeth of Hungary: “Be certain that I saw myself as the lowliest creature and most unworthy of God’s graces.”1 Do not be astounded to hear such an affirmation! After Our Lord, only Mary understood more profoundly the immensity of the Most High and the lowliness of mankind. She knew that by her human nature she was nothing. She attributed the virtues adorning her heart to God alone, taking no merit for them whatsoever. In the presence of the Heavenly Father, she immersed herself in an unfathomable abyss of humility.
Her exterior manner reflected this humility. No other child showed herself more docile to her tutors. She learned much that she did not know through infused knowledge. She was taught to read the Scriptures, to sew and embroider, and made rapid progress. The priests also taught her about divine things, although she was incomparably more advanced than they! Yet, she listened to their lessons with respectful attention and submitted in every way to their opinions.
The Virgin Mary’s humility made her attentive and helpful toward her little companions. She revealed to Saint Mechtilde that as she immersed herself in the consideration of her nothingness, she liked to admire their youthful virtues. It never occurred to her to prefer herself over the least among them.

This rare humility enchanted the adorable Trinity.
Indeed, it merited a sublime response, attracting the Incarnate Word to reside within Our Lady’s chaste womb. If the Immaculate Virgin pleased the Most High by her spotless purity, said Saint Bernard, it was by her humility that she became the Mother of God: “Virginitate placuit, humilitate concepti.”2

This study should not be merely speculative. It must have practical applications.
Let us then speak with frank brutality and merciless cruelty. I pray this humble and gentle Virgin will deign to give me just and propitious words!
All men are naturally vain. There is, however, a pride that is more subtle, more dangerous, and more difficult to cure than any other, that of pious souls. In the Temple, Mary did not cling complacently to the favors she received. Some devout persons lose considerable time scrutinizing their progress in virtue. If they experience some sweetness or consolation in prayer, they become ecstatic and immediately see themselves as favored by God. Yet, these insignificant feelings often come from purely natural sources.
In the Temple, Mary preferred herself to no one. Certain pious souls judge their neighbor with extreme severity. It is not that they occasionally let loose biting remarks about the exterior faults of others. Indeed, their conscience forbids them to utter such caustic remarks—regrettable without doubt—but which are not in themselves grave sins. They do not do this, but instead very candidly and sincerely think themselves superior to those who do not cast sighing looks of longing towards the Blessed Sacrament.
In the Temple, Mary had no suspicion of the sublime mission God had reserved for her. Occasionally one finds pious souls who think they have some special mission. They apply themselves to a thousand devotional practices that God has not asked of them but neglect the most essential aspects of their state in life.
The seventeenth century produced one of these false saints who believed herself called to finally make “pure love” known to the world. She unabashedly described herself as the most perfect image of the spouse from the Canticle of Canticles. For a while, she led astray even the enlightened mind of Fenelon3 by her dangerous delusions.
Let us sincerely examine our consciences. If we find some complacency or fail to consider our complete nothingness, then we are undoubtedly dragging along miserably at the basest level of mediocrity.

God cannot pour His gifts into a proud heart.
When He discovers a soul that is full of itself, either He lets it stagnate or He uses the only means of healing it, allowing it to fall prey to its own faults—at times considerable—in order for it to open its eyes and recognize its miserable state.
In fact, Saint Peter preferred himself to the other apostles when he said: “Although all may abandon Thee, I will never leave Thee.… Even though I should die with Thee…” In vain the Master reminds him of his weakness, but Peter stubbornly replies, “I will not deny you.”4 Poor Saint Peter! How harshly he learned the lesson so necessary to humility.
If you seriously want to progress in the way of perfection, beg the Queen of Heaven to inspire you with true humility. Never think yourself better than others. Recall the words of Our Lord Himself to the Pharisees, so self-righteous with their exterior acts of justice. I would not dare refer to such words had the Master not pronounced them Himself. “There are sinful souls whom you despise,” He declared to these proud men. “But because they recognize the depth of their depravity, My grace will one day touch them. They will enter the Kingdom of Heaven before you.”5

* * *
I would like to have continued studying the other excellent virtues Mary practiced during her childhood. I would like to have shown Our Lady waiting with impatience for the coming of the Messias. She knew that the time fixed by the Prophets approached. She meditated with particular fervor on the chapter of Scripture wherein Isaias foretells the humiliation and suffering of the Man-God. She ardently asked Our Heavenly Father for the particular favor of serving the Lord. Her prayers were granted far beyond her expectations.
I would also like to have studied the vow by which she consecrated her virginity to the Lord. Through such a radiant example, we would have learned how the Most High crowns Christian virginity with admirable fecundity. To develop these topics would exceed the confines of the present work. We have chosen the virtues of the Immaculate Virgin that we deemed most appropriate for souls desiring to lead a profound interior life.

* * *
When speaking of the Savior’s childhood at Nazareth, the Gospel tells us that He grew in age, wisdom, and grace before both God and men. Our Lady’s childhood, like that of her Divine Son, was also a time of growth. The Virgin quickly rose to peaks of holiness.

During the years she lived in the Temple, she blossomed fully in physical beauty and especially in the radiant splendor of her incomparable virtue.
She was now ready for the great designs of the Lord’s divine mercy. The luminous radiance of divine maternity would soon engulf her.
Let us ask the holy Virgin to be not only our model but, even more, our guide along the way of perfection.
Under her guidance, we will have neither illusions nor dangers to fear, as Saint Bernard assures us.6 She will lead us on the surest and most direct route to God, and in hearts, shaped by her maternal hands, she will place her divine Infant.


 Notes:
1. “Me reputabam vilissimam et gratia Dei indignam.” Quoted by Saint Alphonsus Liguori in The Glories of Mary in discussing her humility. [back to text]
2. St. Bernard, Homilia…super Missus est. [back to text]
3. Transl. Note: Fenelon was a priest and writer of the seventeenth century. He is known for his criticism of the political regime of Louis XIV. His Explanations of Maxims of the Saints was condemned by the Church for its quietism. He is nonetheless considered one of France’s great thinkers of that time. [back to text]
4. Matt 26:33-35. [back to text]
5. Cf. Matt 21:28-32. [back to text]
6. Homilia 2 super Missus. [back to text]
This devotional article is taken from Crusade Magazine, November-December, 1999; a Special Edition dedicated almost entirely to the Most Holy Trinity and the Blessed Virgin Mary in the form of a work by Fr. Raymond de Thomas de Saint-Laurent as a token of reparation for the many blasphemies and insults that are continuously hurled against them.

Why does God subject us to such long trials?

The longer the trial to which God subjects you,
the greater the goodness
in comforting you during the time of trial and
in the exaltation after the combat.

St. Padre Pio of Pietrelcina

St. Alphege of Canterbury - Martyr of Justice

St. Alphege of Canterbury

As a youth, Alphege became a monk in the monastery of Deerhurst in Gloucestershire, England, afterwards an anchorite and later an abbot in a monastery in Bath. At thirty, at the insistence of St. Dunstan and to his great consternation, he was elected Bishop of Winchester. As bishop, he maintained the same austerity of life as when a monk. During his episcopate he was so generous toward the poor that there were no beggars left in the diocese of Winchester.

Alphege served twenty-two years as bishop of this see and was then translated to the see of Canterbury at the death of Archbishop Aelfric.

During this period, England suffered from the ravages of the Danes who joined forces with the rebel Earl Edric, marched on Kent and laid siege to Canterbury. When the city was betrayed, there was a terrible massacre, men and women, old and young, dying by the sword.

The Archbishop hastened to the defense of his people, and pressing through the crowd begged the Danes to cease the carnage. He was immediately seized, roughly handled, and imprisoned.

A mysterious and deadly plague broke out among the Danes, and, despite the fact that the holy prelate had healed many of their own with his prayers and by giving them blessed bread, the Danes demanded an exorbitant ransom for his release. As the Archbishop protested that the country was too poor to pay such a price, he was brutally assassinated.

St. Alphege was the first Archbishop of Canterbury to die a violent death. In 1023, the martyr's body was translated with great ceremony to Canterbury accompanied by the Danish King Canute. Although he did not die directly in defense of the Faith, St. Alphege is considered a martyr of justice.

Stories of Mary 28: Mary “Mothers” A Mother



Mary, “Mothers” A Mother

It was painful,
and she would yell out,
"No Mommy, No Mommy!"

Dear John Mary,
My husband and I have 7 children. Our middle daughters are twins. They were born conjoined twins. They were born severely conjoined from the sternum to the pelvis, and they shared a leg. We were told that we would be lucky if one survived. They were born healthy, separated at 6 months old, and are now doing well in college.

Around age two, however, dozens more reconstruction surgeries awaited them: spika casts, stitches, scars, and pain. They were beautifully accepting of all their challenges. There was one surgery, however, that one of them had to go through that was particularly hard on me. This surgery involved at-home, around the clock involvement. It was painful, and she would yell out, "No Mommy, No Mommy!" I would cry and continue. The doctors could not tell me how long the process would last. It could be two weeks; it could be two months.

Finally, I reached my breaking point. With little sleep for me and with little improvement in her condition, I crumbled to the floor and cried out to Our Blessed Mother to "mother" me.
The next day I had to take my daughter to the doctor for a check-up to see how she was progressing. I took both twins with me. Afterward, we were sent to the basement to pick up some supplies for her care. In the long basement hallway, a woman and her husband walked toward us. They stopped me to talk and ask about my daughters. This was not uncommon because my daughters were delightfully happy girls even though they both only have one leg each, so they drew much attention.
This time was different, though, because the woman asked if I had the girls baptized. This was an odd question coming from a stranger. I looked and saw that she wore a Miraculous Medal, so I knew her perspective. I answered yes, and we continued to talk pleasantly. As we departed each other, I thought in my heart that they were a wonderfully nice couple, and I hoped that we would be able to meet again.

Two days later was Sunday. My husband was out of town for work. I was struggling with four young children, and we were late to church. The usher took us to one of the front pews, and I was full of embarrassment as we shuffled in late. As I collected myself and looked around, the woman from the other day was right beside me! I am not kidding. We were both shocked.

After Mass, she said that Our Lady wanted me to have something. She went to her car and took out a beautiful picture of Our Lady. In our talk in the basement the other day I had not let on to my personal struggles, and the girls looked healthy and well.
Our Blessed Mother knew our struggles though, and she reached out through this kind woman to show her maternal care for me with her picture.
It has been 17 years now, and I still have that very picture on the wall of our homeschooling room where I am reminded daily of Our Lady's mothering care.

I never saw the kind couple again. I heard they moved to some place in Arkansas, yet their thoughtfulness in relaying the message of care from Our Lady to me in the height of my struggles remains dearly with me.

Sincerely,
E.R., Harrisburg, PA

* * * * * * * * * * * * *
Another Statue Of Mary
That Never Needs Dusting

Dear John Mary,
I also have a story about my statue of Fatima. I purchased it about 3 or 4 years ago during a rosary my friend held at her home. I have her in my living room and have not had to dust her since I got her. She is not covered by glass or any other protection from dust. I know this is a miracle because everything else around her gets dusty and all the furniture does too. I have pointed it out to our family and friends. Praise God and his mother Mary.
God Bless you all in all the work you do.
Ms. B., Arlington, TX


The above Stories of Mary are submissions from our Stories of Mary subscribers and are vouched for by the writers as authentic.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

The Miraculous Christ de la Vega

There was once in the city of Toledo, Spain a soldier, Diego Martinez, and a young woman, Ines de Vargas, who were in love.
Diego was called to fight in Flanders, so, at Ines’ insistence, before a crucifix known as The Christ de la Vega, Diego solemnly swore to marry her on his return.
With Diego gone, Ines felt lost and alone, and often sought solace at the foot of the Christ who had witnessed their solemn engagement.
Years went by, Ines always on the lookout. One day, at the head of a returning cavalry, she beheld her fiancé. She screamed and rushed to meet him, but he feigned not to know her, and passed on.
Successful in war and prowess, he had not only been promoted to captain, but had been knighted by the King, and no longer considered Ines a worthy prospect.
Tears being of no avail, the spurned young woman took her case before the governor of Toledo, Don Pedro Ruiz de Alarcon, claiming that Diego Martinez had sworn to marry her. But the captain denied such a vow, and with no witnesses, the case was about to be dismissed when Ines cried:
“Indeed, there was a witness–the Christ the la Vega!”
There was a stunned silence. But, this was Catholic Spain, and finally, judge, Diego, Ines, court and the curious repaired to the Basilica of St. Leocadia* , which housed the carved Christ.
Kneeling between Diego and Ines before the life-sized crucifix, Don Pedro held up a Bible and asked if He, Jesus Christ, Sovereign Lord, would indeed swear to the couple’s solemn vow to wed each other.
In the dead silence that ensued, all present heard a voice coming from the statue,
“I SWEAR.”
At the same time, to the astonishment of all, the statue’s right arm, descended, its hand coming to rest on the Bible which the judge held up.
So struck were Diego and Ines, that giving up all earthly plans, they entered religious life.
As to the Christ de la Vega, to this day, His right arm remains in the same position, and, some affirm, His mouth slightly open in the utterance of His witness.

By A.F. Phillips
*Now the Ermita del Cristo de la Vega

Stories of Mary 27: Mary Breaks Impurity


With A Simple Morning & Night Prayer
Mary Breaks Impurity

A well-known incident is related by Father Paul Segneri in his “Christian Instructed”
A Roman youth, of evil habits and laden with sins, went to confession to Father Niccolas Zucchi. The confessor received him kindly, compassionated his misery, and told him that devotion to the blessed Lady would free him from his accursed vices.

He therefore imposed it upon him as a penance, that until the time of his next confession, every morning and evening, on rising and going to bed, he should recite a “Hail Mary” to the Virgin; making an offering to her of his eyes, hands, and his whole body, praying her to keep him as her own; and that he should kiss the ground three times.
The young man practiced this penance, and at first with very little improvement; but the father continued to exhort him never to give it up, encouraging him to trust in the patronage of Mary.
In the mean time, the penitent left home with some other companions, and travelled over the world. Having returned to Rome, he went again to seek his confessor, who to his great joy and surprise, found him entirely changed, and free from his former impurities.
“My son,” he said, “how have you obtained from God so happy a change?”

“Father,” answered the youth, “the blessed Virgin, for that little devotion which you taught me, has obtained for me this grace.”

Barred From The Door Of Sin
But the wonder did not cease here. The same confessor related this [next] fact from the pulpit.
An officer, who, for several years, had kept up an illicit intercourse with a certain woman, heard [the above story], and proposed also himself to practice the same devotion, in order to free himself from that horrible tie which held him a slave of the devil (which intention is necessary for all such sinners, that the Virgin may aid them): and he also quitted his bad practices and changed his life.
But what followed? At the end of six months, foolishly and too confidently trusting in his strength, he wished, one day, to go and find that woman, to see if she had also changed her way of life.
But on approaching the door of her house, where he was in manifest danger of falling again into sin, he felt himself thrust back by an invisible force, and soon found himself distant from the house the whole length of the street, and before his own door.
He was then enlightened to see clearly that Mary had thus rescued him from his destruction. Thus we perceive how solicitous is our good mother, not only to save us from sin, if we for that end commend ourselves to her, but also to protect us from the danger of falling into it again.

In Praise of Mary
Oh immaculate and holy Virgin: oh creature the most humble and the greatest before God! thou wast so small in thy own eyes, but so great in the eyes of thy Lord, that He exalted thee even to choose thee for His mother, and therefore to make thee Queen of Heaven and of Earth.
I then thank that God Who hath so much exalted thee, and rejoice with thee in seeing thee so closely united to God, that more is not permitted to a pure creature. I am ashamed to appear before thee who art so humble, with so many graces; I, a miserable sinner, and so proud with so many sins.
But wretched as I am, I, too wish to salute thee: Hail Mary, full of grace: “Ave Maria, gratia plena.” Thou art already full of grace; obtain a share of it also for me.
The Lord is with thee: “Dominus tecum.” The Lord who hath ever been with thee even from the first moment of thy creation, is now more intimately with thee, by making himself thy Son.
Blessed art thou among women: “Benedicta tu in mulieribus.” Oh woman, blessed among all women, obtain for us also the divine benediction.
Oh blessed plant which hath given to the world a fruit so noble and so holy: “Et benedictus fructus ventris tui.”
Holy Mary, mother of God: “Sancta Maria, mater Dei.” Oh Mary, I confess that thou art the true mother of God, and for this truth I would give my life a thousand times.
Pray for us sinners; “Ora pro nobis peccatoribus.” But if thou art the Mother of God, thou art also the mother of our salvation, and of us poor sinners; since it is to save sinners that God made Himself man; and He has made thee His mother that thy prayers may have the power to save every sinner.
Pray for us, oh Mary. Now and in the hour of our death: “Nunc et in hora mortis nostrae.” Pray always; pray now, while we are in life, in the midst of so many temptations and so great danger of losing God; but still more, pray in the hour of our death, when we are on the point of leaving this world and being presented at the divine tribunal; that being saved by the merits of Jesus Christ, and by thy intercession, we may one day come, without the danger of losing thee any more, to salute thee and praise thee, with thy Son, in heaven, for all eternity. Amen.

A Prayer For Purity
Blessed be Thy purity forever:
For in Thy graceful beauty,
None other than God is formed.
I offer Thee today,
O heavenly Princess,
Holy Virgin Mary,
My life, heart and soul;
Look upon me with compassion
And leave me not, O Mother.

This “Stories of Mary – Stories of the Rosary” is taken from the Glories of Mary, translated from the Italian of St. Alphonsus Liguori; New Revised Edition, P.J. Kennedy & Sons. Copyright 1888 by P.J

Nine day Novena to Our Lady of Good Counsel: April 18 - April 26


By Pope Pius XII, 23 January 1953
 
Following the icon of Our Lady of Good CounselHoly Virgin, moved by the painful uncertainty we experience in seeking and acquiring the true and the good, we cast ourselves at thy feet and invoke thee under the sweet title of  Mother of Good Counsel.  We beseech thee: come to our aid at this moment in our worldly sojourn when the double darkness of error and of evil plot our ruin by leading minds and hearts astray.
Seat of Wisdom and Star of the Sea, enlighten the victims of doubt and of error so that they may not be seduced by evil masquerading as good; strengthen them against the hostile and corrupting forces of passion and of sin.
Mother of Good Counsel, obtain for us our most urgent need..... (here mention your request) and secure for us from thy Divine Son the love of virtue and the strength to choose, in doubtful and difficult situations, the course agreeable to our salvation.
Supported by thy hand we shall thus journey without harm along the paths taught us by the word and example of Jesus our Savior, following the Sun of Truth and Justice in freedom and safety across the battlefield of life under the guidance of thy maternal Star, until we come at length to the harbor of salvation to enjoy with thee unalloyed and everlasting peace.   Amen

Say the Our Father, Hail Mary and Glory Be, three times each.
  


Litany Banner 

Read: The Story of the Miraculous Fresco of Our Lady of Good Counsel

How to sanctify others

Sanctify yourself
and
you will sanctify society.

St. Francis of Assisi

St. Galdinus of Milan

Galdinus was born about the year 1096 into the Della Salla family, of minor Milanese nobility.

He lived in a tumultuous time for the Church in Italy with the Emperor Frederick Barbarossa causing trouble. Opposed to the election of Pope Alexander III in 1159, Barbarossa proceeded to rally a few dissident cardinals that elected another Pope. When the people of Milan sided with the legitimate Pope, the Emperor invaded.

Galdinus, who occupied the post of chancellor and archdeacon under Hubert, the Archbishop of Milan, was obliged to follow the prelate into exile.

In 1165 Galdinus was created Cardinal, and upon the death of Archbishop Hubert, was consecrated his successor by Pope Alexander III himself. The new prelate went about comforting his war-weary people and gathering his dispersed flock. He also re-enforced discipline among his clergy who had, during the troubled times, become lax.

Throwing himself heart and soul into the new undertaking, Galdinus preached constantly, not only healing the spiritual wounds caused by the schism but clarifying the faith to those confused by the heretical doctrine of the Cathars, then widely prevalent in the north of Italy. The Cathari, or Albigensians, rejected the seven sacraments, had special hatred for the Holy Eucharist and Matrimony, and believed that the physical world was all evil. Among their bizarre beliefs was that women must be reborn as men in order to achieve salvation.

On the last day of his life, too weak to celebrate the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, the ardent shepherd could not be kept from his pulpit. When the zealous preacher came to the end of his discourse, he simply died at his post.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Stories of Mary 26: The First Marian Shrine: Our Lady of the Pillar

The same granite of which the pillar is made has never been found on earth and for almost 2,000 years the statue has not once needed dusting.
The First Marian Shrine: Our Lady of the Pillar


















The sentiment of Zaragozans toward their beloved Virgen del Pilar — the Virgin of the Pillar — is quite different from the ordinary homage paid to a favorite saint or even to other Marian devotions elsewhere in the Catholic world. It is an inheritance from their forefathers, a love that is born with them and ends only with their deaths. It is interwoven with their patriotism, with their nationality, with their home life, and with their daily tasks and amusements, and it is an ever-recurring theme in their popular songs.
The faithful of Zaragoza repair to her shrine in their joys and in their sorrows. They speak to her not in the ordinary forms of prayer, for she is not far away in Heaven, but here on earth among them, in her own shrine where she has dwelt for over nineteen hundred years. They converse with her as with a friend, and with the confident faith of children.
“Viva la Virgen del Pilar” was the rallying cry that filled Zaragozan hearts with courage and strengthened their arms when, in 1809, they had to fend off the Napoleonic invasions of Spain. Then, frail women, faint with fatigue, disease and hunger, fired the guns and defended their homes, barricading doors and windows with the fallen bodies of their husbands, parents, and children.
Then, the greatest kindness one could show the wounded, when all hope had fled, was to take them to the Capilla Santa — the Holy Chapel — where they could look upon the little brown face of “La Pilarica” — the Virgin of the little pillar — and speak with her, kiss the pavement of her house, and die breathing her name.

Saint James the Apostle
That Our Lady appeared to the Apostle Saint James, patron of Spain, is a well-founded tradition and forms part of Zaragoza’s history and patriotism. The church of the Pillar was the first shrine ever raised in Our Lady’s honor, and every Zaragozan, rich or poor, ignorant or learned, knows that the shrine “will last with the Holy Faith until the end of the world.”
In support of this conviction is the fact that since the city’s conversion to Christianity in Apostolic times, the sacred image has escaped injury, the rituals of the Catholic Faith have been celebrated unceasingly in the chapel where Saint James first officiated, and its altars have never been defiled by pagan rites despite all the centuries of war, rampage, and desecration by the Romans, Goths, Moors, or Vandals. Even time, the great destroyer, has failed to leave its marks on the statue: Although nearly twenty centuries old, it shows not the slightest sign of deterioration.
Traditions of extreme antiquity attest to the Christianization of Spain by Saint James the Apostle. It is supported by such writers as Saint Hypolite, in his treatise “De duodecim apostolis,” by Saint Isidore, and by the Venerable Bede, and it is verified by the ancient Spanish liturgy, the Rite of Toledo, the so-called Visigothic or Mozarabic liturgy. More recent and better known to American Catholics are the writings of Venerable Mary of Agreda, which contain a worthy account of his apostolate in the Iberian peninsula and, more specifically, about Our Lady’s miraculous visit to Saint James in Zaragoza during her lifetime.
Most impressive are the countless pilgrimages to the tomb of the Saint by the entire Christian world since long centuries ago, whereby we know that it was generally held not only that Saint James spread the Gospel in Spain but that after his martyrdom in Jerusalem, his body was returned to Spain and buried next to his disciples in the little Galician town of Iria Flavia where he had dwelled and whence he used to set forth on his journeys to preach of Christ throughout the Peninsula.
His body was afterwards removed from Iria Flavia, now called Padron, to the nearby village of Liberum Domum, which later became the famous Compostella, that is, Field of the Star, where, tradition states, a miraculous star appeared about the beginning of the ninth century over the Saint’s burial site, leading to the discovery of his tomb, hidden during the first centuries of Mohamedanism. The Zaragozans further tell us that Saint James came to [the village of] Caesar Augusta, later Zaragoza, and founded the first church of the Pilar, and this is the story, handed down from generation to generation, sung by poets and immortalized by artists, of the Virgin’s gift to the city of Zaragoza. .”
After having preached the Gospel of our Divine Lord and Master in Judea and Samaria, Saint James traveled to Spain to spread the Faith there. He disembarked at Carthagena and started to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
His simple eloquence won the hearts of the rude Iberians, who came flocking in large numbers to receive the Sacrament of Baptism from his hands. In Andalusia, Castile, Galicia, and Portugal he met with the same success, and so when he finally entered Zaragoza his fame had traveled before him, and the light of Faith spread quickly throughout the city.

Our Lord Sends Our Lady To Zaragoza
On the night of the second of January, forty years after the birth of our Savior, Saint James was walking along the banks of the river Ebro with seven disciples whom he had won to the Faith in Zaragoza. The sky was aglow with myriads of stars, the toils of the day were over, both man and beast had gone to rest. Inspired by the calm beauty of the night and the contemplation of the glories of the Heavenly dome, in whose wonders they saw the Master’s hand, they spoke reverently of the sublime mysteries of the Divinity.
At the same hour the Blessed Virgin was in Jerusalem, praying to her Son for Saint James, who, she knew, would soon be called upon to give his life for the Faith. While she prayed, her Divine Son appeared to her and, as the Venerable Mary of Agreda relates in her Mystical City of God, He commissioned her to go to Zaragoza:
“As thou already knowest, it is necessary for My glory, that the Apostles labor with My grace, and that at the end they must follow Me to the cross and to the death I have suffered for the whole human race. The first one who is to imitate Me therein is My faithful servant James, and I will that he suffer martyrdom in this city of Jerusalem. In order that he come hither, and for other purposes of My glory and thine, I desire thee to visit him in Spain, where he is preaching My name. I desire, My Mother, that thou go to Zaragoza where he now is, and command him to return to Jerusalem. But before he leaves that city, he is to build a temple in thy name and title, where thou shalt be venerated and invoked for the welfare of that country, for My glory and pleasure, and that of the most Blessed Trinity.”
Later, according to the same Venerable Mary of Agreda, Our Lord added:
“I give you My royal word that I shall look with special clemency and fill with blessings all those who, with devotion and humility, call upon Me through thy intercession in that temple. In thy hands have I deposited and consigned all My treasures; as My Mother, who holds My place and power, thou canst signalize that place by depositing therein the riches and promising in it thy favors; for all will be fulfilled according to thy will and pleasure.”
Having spoken these words, He disappeared, and a band of angels, singing canticles of joy, filled the room. Raising Mary on their wings, they bore her through the air.
Saint James, near the banks of the Ebro, knelt in prayer with upturned face while his companions, fatigued with the labors of the day, had closed their heavy eyelids and, like the Apostles before them, slept while their master prayed.
A flash of light suddenly lit up the fields, sounds of Heavenly music filled the air, and the seven disciples, roused from their slumbers, gazed with wonder and fear at the apparition before them. Seated on a throne of light, borne aloft by angels, was Mary, whom they supposed was in Jerusalem.
Angels knelt around her on transparent clouds while others, playing mystical harps, sang the sublime words with which, forty years before, the Archangel Gabriel had saluted her in her home in Nazareth, “Ave Maria Gratia plena, Dominus tecum.”
Saint James, seeing this vision in ecstasy, saw the angels suspend the throne in front of him and place themselves before it. Mary, taking from the hands of the Seraphim a small column upon which stood a beautiful statue of herself with the Infant Jesus in her arms, showed it to Saint James, gave him her blessing, and said, “James, servant of the Most High, blessed be thou by Him, and may He fill thee with His Divine Grace.”
To this the angels answered, “Amen,” and she continued:
“My son James, the Most High and Mighty God of Heaven has chosen this place that you may consecrate and dedicate here a temple and house of prayer where, under the invocation of my name, He wishes to be adored and served, and all the faithful who seek my intercession will receive the graces they ask if they have true faith and devotion, and in the Name of my Son I promise them great favors and blessings, for this will be my temple and my house, my own inheritance and possession, and in testimony of my promise, this pillar will remain here, and on it my own image that, in this place where you will build my temple, will last and endure with the Holy Faith until the end of the world. This must be done at once, and when your work is accomplished, you will return to Jerusalem where it is the will of my Divine Son that you make the sacrifice of your life where He gave up His for the redemption of mankind.”
She then commanded the angels to place the column with its sacred image where it stands to this day, and as the angelic cortège disappeared, Saint James and his disciples praised God and offered to Him the first shrine ever dedicated to His Blessed Mother.
Saint James builds the first chapel and others follow
Soon after, Saint James and his disciples built a modest chapel, sixteen feet long by eight feet wide, to enclose the Virgin’s gift. This chapel succumbed to time and the elements and was replaced by several others, but the sacred column has always remained in the spot where the angels placed it.
The piety of the faithful and the offerings of pilgrims, whose numbers increased steadily to multitudes, attracted to the shrine by the fame of the miracles attributed to the Virgin of the Pillar, eventually raised a church that remained until the end of the seventeenth century, when Charles II, the last monarch of the Austrian dynasty to occupy the Spanish throne, built the splendid edifice that now enshrines the column and statue. The first stone was laid on the feast of Saint James in 1686. In 1753, King Ferdinand VI engaged the celebrated architect Ventura Rodriguez to build the sumptuous chapel in which the statue is now preserved.
Above the high altar is a carving of the Virgin extending her hand to the Apostle, and over an altar to the right of this is a picture of the seven disciples of Saint James. On the left is the altar where, under a rich canopy of silver, against a dark background thickly studded with diamonds, stands the miraculous pillar with the statue of the Blessed Virgin and the Infant Jesus.

Miraculous Attributes
Scientists, attempting to match the granite of which the pillar is made, have been able to find similar, but not identical, granite and only in other parts of the world. The statue of the Virgin is made of a material not found on this earth. By a miraculous divine action, no dust ever settles on it, so for almost 2,000 years the statue has never needed dusting.

Universally Honored and Loved
A silver railing of exquisite workmanship runs the entire length of the three altars, and the walls of jasper and marble glitter with offerings of gold, silver, and precious stones which, flashing in the light of the numerous silver lamps, fairly dazzle the eyes of the spectator.
But the Zaragozan sees only “La Pilarica” and the costly gifts that have been offered in faith, devotion, and love to adorn her holy chapel: gifts from kings, queens, princes, and noble knights who have prayed at this shrine throughout the centuries: gifts from pilgrims who have come on foot from afar to lay their offerings at her feet: gifts from saints who left their jewels here before retiring from this world for ever: gifts from humble peasants, from toilers of the deep, and from the poorest of God’s poor, who saved and fasted for years to be able to offer a token of their love to La Patrona — the Patroness.
It was in this church that the old kings of Aragon knelt to take their oaths of fidelity to God and to the people. Isabel the Catholic, who helped Columbus with his journey to the Americas, went frequently to Zaragoza and gave priceless jewels to the treasury of the Virgin: the Emperor Charles V, heavy with the weight of crowns, visited Our Lady of the Pillar and laid his sceptre at her feet before retiring to the monastery at Juste; Philip II, Philip III, Philip IV, all left memorials at the shrine, and Don Juan of Austria had such a devotion for the Virgin of the Pillar that he wished his heart to be buried in the crypt of the holy chapel.
The holy chapel is never unoccupied for a moment from daybreak until the doors are closed at night. The crowds come and go continually. Very few people pass the church without entering, if only to salute “La Patrona!” and depart.
Every now and then one sees an acolyte in cassock and surplice wending his way through the groups of worshippers, carrying in his arms a tiny baby, perhaps only a few weeks old. This is the one occasion in his life when a son of Zaragoza is privileged to touch the sacred statue; the baby, its innocent face wet with the waters of Baptism, is raised in the arms of the chaplain and pressed against the face of “La Pilarica.”
There are chaplains whose time is entirely given to the services in the holy chapel; four of these guard the vestments and jewels of the Virgin, which they change according to the rituals of the Church and the festivals of the year. No others are allowed to touch the statue or to have access to the mantles and ornaments that belong to her.

Shrine Ceremonial
Every morning, as the first streaks of dawn break through the sky and the last stars have faded, one of the chaplains sings the “Mass of the Infants,” so called because the choir is composed of eight small boys, Infantes, who are dedicated to the service of the holy chapel and serve the many Masses that are celebrated daily. 
These boys wear a special uniform during the liturgy and processions. This Mass is the first of the innumerable prayers that are murmured unceasingly from this moment until the echo of the last notes of the Salve Regina die away in the vast arches at nightfall. It is considered a great privilege among the Zaragozan families to have a son as an Infante of Our Lady of the Pillar.
The Feast of the Virgin of the Pillar is celebrated with great pomp and ceremony on October 12 [Ed.: note the date’s connection to Our Lady of Fatima’s miracle of the Sun], beginning with the Mass of the Infants at four in the morning.
The city puts on holiday attire for a week, all work is suspended, and visitors pour in from all parts of the Peninsula to make their devotions and take part in the celebrations at the famous shrine.
On October 11, bands parade the streets and fireworks are set off at intervals. This is the formal announcement to the public that the festivals are about to commence.
Trains arrive every half hour loaded with passengers, and cars by the thousands come from every corner of Aragon and the remotest parts of Spain.
As early as two o’clock on the morning of the 12th, the crowds begin to enter the church, and when the beautiful voices of the Infantes sing the first notes of the Mass, the edifice is so packed that it is difficult to move.
At the conclusion of the Masses the worshippers stream out at one end while others stream in at the other, and this continues throughout the entire day. It is virtually impossible to estimate how many come to pray on this occasion.

The Doors Are Thrown Open
When the sun has set and night begins to fall, the bells peal a joyous call to the Salve Regina, all the doors are thrown wide open, and the church soon fills to capacity, without apparently diminishing the immense throngs that have gathered in the Plaza del Pilar.
All classes are there, peasants in picturesque costumes who proclaim their native places; children, some in fine clothes, others in tatters; women, some wearing the latest French hats and others with their heads enveloped in traditional mantillas or in old shawls; working people from the vicinity, and tourists with Baedeckers in hand.
All sorts of faces mingle with throngs of soldiers, priests, and Infantes, all pressing as one moving mass to hear the solemn notes of the Salve, the last act of devotion of the Feast of Our Lady of the Pillar.
Outsiders may look upon this tradition as absurd and impossible, but the Zaragozan sees nothing unusual in it; he dwells in an atmosphere of saintly love, and the inhabitants of Heaven do not seem so very far away from him, for he has evidences of their presence on all sides; he lives with them with a familiarity that might appear irreverent were it not for its genuine simplicity.
There is no place in the world where devotion to the Holy Mother of God is so deeply rooted as in the heroic city of Zaragoza, where her statue has been defended, with the lives of thousands of her children, and where it is firmly believed that her revered statue will surely endure “with the Holy Faith until the end of the world.”


This “Stories of Mary – Stories of the Rosary” is taken from Crusade Magazine, September – October, 1998.

The Marvelous World of Easter Eggs



As a child, I was fascinated by the foil wrapped, chocolate eggs hidden in the bush. The intense search was rewarded by a glimmer of light and color in the greenery that never failed to make my heart skip.
Still, in our Catholic household, we actively celebrated the Resurrection of Our Lord; and it was explained to us children that the Easter egg was a symbol of Jesus’ resurrection because the egg is symbolic of new life that emerges from a confined space, such as Christ’s tomb.

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Later, for a few years, I attended a Ukrainian Catholic grade-school and there I was introduced to the fascinating art of Pysanky, or “writing on eggs”, and tried my wobbly hand at it.
As I handled the “kistka” an instrument that dispenses hot wax, as an ink pen dispenses ink, I loved every minute. The process, basically masks designs and progressively dips the egg into dies to reveal, at the end, and when the wax is melted off, a small marvel. No matter how amateur or how proficient one is at it, there’s a thrill.
Pysanky
Indeed, pysanky, from the word pysaty, “to write”, dates back to pre-Christian times, when eggs were celebrated for their life-giving/nutritious properties.
With the advent of Christianity, the custom was incorporated into the new faith and related to Our Lord’s Resurrection with Christian symbols replacing pagan ones.
I wasn’t to be a pysanky artist. I use a pen, rather than a “kistka”, but never forget that one time I did “write” on an egg, and felt the fascination of the ancient tradition.
It was thus, with another heart-skip that last October, while on vacation in Hot Springs, Arkansas, I met a group of bubbly Pysanky artists who convene there every year.
Inspired by Pysanky master Lorrie Popow, a life-long writer of Pysanky, just named 2015 Arkansas Living Treasure, people come from all over the world to learn this ancient art form.
Several eggs
Culture is a powerful thing. It can be used for bad, as manifested all around us today, or it can be used for good as evinced by the strength of ancient customs. Steeped in a civilization inspired by Christ, these customs not only have enriched generations past, but continue to cross oceans, resurfacing in places such as the heart of Arkansas! 
Red and Black egg
Indeed such traditions, when used and passed on with the right knowledge and linked to their deep religious meaning, can be an asset to faith, especially for children who are so visual and “hands on”.
I loved those eggs I found in the bush, and I loved those eggs I learned about in school. They never took away from faith, but rather lent a marvelous component of enjoyment and art to the sacred in my life.


 By Andrea F. PhillipsPhotos: Pysanky Eggs displayed at the 2014 convention of Pysanky painters in Hot Springs Arkansas.