Monday, 5 October 2020

Pope warns against aggressive nationalism in third encyclical, Fratelli Tutti

Letter addressed to whole of Catholic church urges nations to work towards a just world

 Pope Francis has warned against “myopic, extremist, resentful and aggressive nationalism” in some countries, and a “growing loss of the sense of history” in a major document outlining his view of the world. 

Fratelli Tutti – the third encyclical, a pastoral letter addressed to the whole of the Catholic church, of his papacy – was published on Sunday, the feast of Saint Francis of Assisi, amid global uncertainty and anxiety over the Covid-19 pandemic and rising populism. 

 In the 45,000-word document, the pope urges nations to work towards a just and fraternal world based on common membership of the human family. He expands on familiar themes in his teachings, including opposition to war, the death penalty, slavery, trafficking, inequality and poverty; concerns about alienation, isolation and social media; and support for migrants fleeing violence and seeking a better life.

 Pope Francis had begun writing the encyclical when the pandemic “unexpectedly erupted”. But, he says, the crisis has reinforced his belief that political and economic institutions must be reformed to address the needs of those most harmed by it. The global health emergency has demonstrated that “no one can face life in isolation” and that the “magic theories” of market capitalism have failed. 

 “Aside from the differing ways that various countries responded to the crisis, their inability to work together became quite evident,” Francis writes. “Anyone who thinks that the only lesson to be learned was the need to improve what we were already doing, or to refine existing systems and regulations, is denying reality. 

 “The fragility of world systems in the face of the pandemic has demonstrated that not everything can be resolved by market freedom. It is imperative to have a proactive economic policy directed at ‘promoting an economy that favours productive diversity and business creativity’ and makes it possible for jobs to be created, and not cut.”

 Francis says a “certain regression” has taken place in today’s world. He notes the rise of “myopic, extremist, resentful and aggressive nationalism” in some countries, and “new forms of selfishness and a loss of the social sense”.

  The leader of 1.2 billion Roman Catholics says “we are more alone than ever” in a world of “limitless consumerism” and “empty individualism” where there is a “growing loss of the sense of history” and a “kind of deconstructionism”. “Hyperbole, extremism and polarisation” have become political tools in many countries, he writes, without “healthy debates” and long-term plans but rather “slick marketing techniques aimed at discrediting others”. 

 He notes that “we are growing ever more distant from one another” and that voices “raised in defence of the environment are silenced and ridiculed”. Addressing digital culture, he criticises campaigns of “hatred and destruction” and says technology is removing people from reality. Fraternity depends on “authentic encounters”.

Pope Francis’s new encyclical is a papal warning about a world going backward

 ROME — Humankind, Pope Francis says, is in the midst of a worrying regression. People are intensely polarized. Their debates, absent real listening, seem to have devolved into a "permanent state of disagreement and confrontation." In some countries, leaders are using a "strategy of ridicule" and relentless criticism, spreading despair as a way to "dominate and gain control."

 Amid all that, the pope says, the notion of a kinder, more respecting world “sounds like madness.”

 But with the release Sunday of his third encyclical, a book-length paper that feels like something from a bygone time, Francis makes an uncynical case for how people can reverse course. The document amounts to a papal stand against tribalism, xenophobia, and the dangers of the social media age. It also marks a test for Francis in the eighth year of his papacy, at a time when his message has become familiar, and is often overshadowed by the louder voices he warns about.

 The coronavirus has put a near-halt to the public events that had become Francis’s hallmark. The pope began writing the encyclical, called “Fratelli Tutti,” or “Brothers All,” before the pandemic. But he argues that the world’s response to the crisis shows the depth of humanity’s mistrust and fractures.

 “For all our hyper-connectivity, we witnessed a fragmentation that made it more difficult to resolve problems that affect us all,” he writes.

 For Americans, certain passages will likely read as a warning against Trump-style politics. Those sentiments come as little surprise to anybody who has listened to the pope’s remarks over the years — with frequent denunciations of populism and wall-building — but the paper argues in more details about how the style can exacerbate divisions and lead to other societal breakdowns.

 “Things that until a few years ago could not be said by anyone without risking the loss of universal respect can now be said with impunity, and in the crudest of terms, even by some political figures,” Francis writes.

 He adds that there are “huge economic interests” operating in the digital world, capable of manipulation and subverting “the democratic process.”

 The way many platforms work often ends up favoring encounters between persons who think alike, shielding them from debate,” Francis writes. “These closed circuits facilitate the spread of fake news and false information, fomenting prejudice and hate.”

 Francis’s prescriptions range from the policy-based to the spiritual. He describes steps he says countries should take to more adeptly integrate migrants. He says businesses should direct themselves to eliminate poverty, “especially through the creation of diversified work opportunities.” He says people born into privilege must remember that others — the poor, the disabled — need a “proactive state” more than they do.

 Other ideas are more fundamental, and deal with listening to the points of view of others.

 “Other cultures are not ‘enemies’ from which we need to protect ourselves, but differing reflections of the inexhaustible richness of human life,” Francis writes.

 He includes a critique of consumerism, “empty individualism,” and the free market. Even the right to private property, he says, should be secondary to the common good.

 “This is a legacy document,” said Monsignor Kevin Irwin, a research professor at the Catholic University of America in Washington, who wrote an introduction to the English edition of the encyclical. “I think this pope is a big-picture guy and he wants to make sure that this is perceived to be the Catholic Church at its best, being welcoming and inviting.” The document is not just for Catholics, Francis says, but for all people of “good will.”

 The pope’s previous encyclical, Laudato Si’, addressed responsibility for the environment, climate change and development. His first, Lumen fidei — The Light of Faith — released in 2013, months after he became pope, was written mostly by Benedict XVI, with only a few changes.

 “[Fratelli Tutti] surely is the most political encyclical,” said Monsignor Domenico Pompili, the bishop of Rieti and head of the Italian bishops’ commission for culture and social communication. “One of its clearest critiques is against politics as a sort of marketing with shortsighted goals. It’s aiming to medium-to-long goals, politics as a vision.”

 In the lead-up to Laudato Si’ in 2015, the church held a splashy multimedia rollout in a Vatican hall for journalists and other church officials. This time, the process was far more subdued. Francis traveled on Saturday to Assisi, the Italian hill town that is the birthplace of St. Francis, to sign the document at the saint’s tomb. Only a few dozen people were allowed to attend. The pope, who was not seen wearing a mask, traveled to Assisi by car. It was his first trip outside of Rome since the start of the pandemic.

  Even before the coronavirus, Francis no longer attracted the fanfare seen in the early years of his papacy. Abuse scandals have bruised his reputation, and there is less novelty about his reform plans for the church. But the pandemic has added to the challenge, keeping the pope mostly confined inside the city-state, where in March he groused that he felt “caged.”

 Francis’s year has had some indelible moments — especially a solitary ceremony he held in a rain-soaked St. Peter’s Square — but the virus has denied the pontiff many of his reliable paths for outreach. The Vatican has put on hold all of Francis’s overseas trips, and with it, the news conferences he typically holds aboard the papal plane. In 2019, Francis visited 11 countries and spent a month on the road, often in places on the Catholic periphery that he thought had been overlooked for too long.

  “Removed from the people, he’s like a fish out of water,” said one Vatican official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to share his frank comments on the pope. “Basically, Pope Francis is still in that cage to this day.”

 Austen Ivereigh, a Francis biographer, said it’s clear the pope had planned to release this encyclical before the pandemic, and it is not his response to the year’s tumult.

 “But one might say that the covid crisis has made his message more urgent and relevant,” Ivereigh said. He noted that Francis makes reference to the virus in several passages. “In journalism, we’d say it is pegged to the crisis rather than a response to it.”

 Francis does not touch on any of Catholicism’s touchiest issues, such as roles for women and LGBT members inside the church, and though he talks generally about forms of abuse, he does not mention the sex crimes committed by Catholic clerics against minors. Thomas Reese, a Jesuit priest and senior analyst at the Religion News Service, wrote that the paper “is not a quick read that can be used for partisan bickering.”

 Reese noted that many elements of the paper will be familiar to those who have followed Francis’s papacy closely, and the pope widely incorporates material from past speeches.

Sunday, 4 October 2020

St. Faustina: The apostle of Divine Mercy

 October 5 is the feast day of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska, the  apostle of Divine Mercy and one of the most popular and well-known saints of the Church.

 Through her, the Lord Jesus communicates to the world the great message of God's mercy and reveals the pattern of Christian perfection based on trust in God and on the attitude of mercy toward one's neighbors.
 Sister Faustina was born on August 25, 1905 in Glogowiec, Poland of a poor and religious family of peasants, the third of 10 children. She was baptized with the name Helena in the parish church of Swinice Warckie. From a very tender age she stood out because of her love of prayer, work, obedience, and also her sensitivity to the poor. At the age of seven she had already felt the first stirrings of a religious vocation.

 Helen made her first Holy Communion at the age of nine, which was very profound moment in her awareness of the presence of the Divine Guest within her soul. She attended school for three years. After finishing school, she wanted to enter the convent, but her parents would not give her permission. Being of age at 16, Helen left home and went to work as a housekeeper in Aleksandr√≥w, Lodi, and Ostr√≥wek in order to find the means of supporting herself and of helping her parents.

 The Lord Jesus chose Sr Maria Faustina as the Apostle and "Secretary" of His Mercy, so that she could tell the world about His great message, which Sr Faustina recorded in a diary she titled Divine Mercy in My Soul. In the Old Covenant He said to her: "I sent prophets wielding thunderbolts to My people. Today I am sending you with My mercy to the people of the whole world. I do not want to punish aching mankind, but I desire to heal it, pressing it to My Merciful Heart." (Diary, 1588)

 In an extraordinary way, Sr. Maria Faustina's work sheds light on the mystery of the Divine Mercy. It delights not only the simple and uneducated people, but also scholars who look upon it as an additional source of theological research. The Diary has been translated into more than 20 languages, including, English, German, Italian, Spanish, French, Portuguese, Arabic, Russian, Hungarian, Czech, Slovak, Polish, Castilian, Brazilian, Vietnamese, Korean, Chinese, Swedish, Ukrainian, Dutch and Japanese.
 Sister Maria Faustina, consumed by tuberculosis and by innumerable sufferings which she accepted as a voluntary sacrifice for sinners, died in Krakow at the age of just 33 on October 5, 1938, with a reputation for spiritual maturity and a mystical union with God. The reputation of the holiness of her life grew as did the cult to the Divine Mercy and the graces she obtained from God through her intercession.

 In the years 1965-67, the Investigative Process into her life and heroic virtues was undertaken in Krakow and in the year 1968, the Beatification Process was initiated in Rome. The latter came to an end in December 1992.

 On April 18, 1993 our Holy Father, John Paul II raised St Faustina to the glory of the altars. She was canonized on April 30, 2000. St. Maria Faustina's remains rest at the Sanctuary of the Divine Mercy in Krakow-Lagiewniki.

Saturday, 15 August 2020


 When did Blessed Virgin Mary, mother of Jesus die? Very little is known about it. Holy Bible doesn’t say anything about it.

Part one:

  Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich (September 8, 1774 – February 9, 1824), a Roman Catholic nun, experienced visions on the life and passion of Jesus Christ, reputed to be revealed to her by the Blessed Virgin Mary under religious ecstasy.

 The poet Clemens Brentano interviewed her at length and wrote two books based on his notes of her visions. The authenticity of Brentano's writings has been questioned and critics have characterized the books as "conscious elaborations by a poet" and a "well-intentioned fraud" by Brentano.

 Brentano prepared The Life of the Blessed Virgin Mary from the Visions of Anna Catherine Emmerich for publication, but he died in 1842. The book was published posthumously in 1852 in Munich. Catholic priest Father Karl Schmoger edited Brentano's manuscripts and from 1858 to 1880 published the three volumes of The Life of Our Lord. In 1881, a large illustrated edition followed.

 The Vatican does not endorse the authenticity of the books written by Brentano.  However, it views their general message as "an outstanding proclamation of the gospel in service to salvation".


Here it begins…..

 On the afternoon of August 14, Catherine Emmerich said to the writer: They are following the Way of the Cross and are preparing the grave of the Mother of God. When she said this, she was already seeing what happened after Mary's death.

 After a pause she continued, marking on her fingers the figures she mentioned: See this number, a stroke I and then a V, does not this make four? Then again V and three strokes, does not that make eight? This is not properly written out; but I see them as separate figures because I do not understand big sums in Roman letters.

  It means that the year 48 after Christ's Birth is the year of the Blessed Virgin's death. Then I see X and III and then two full moons as they are shown in the calendar, that means that the Blessed Virgin died thirteen years and two months after Christ's Ascension into Heaven. This is not the month in which she died -- I think I already saw this vision several months ago. Ah, her death was full of sorrow and full of joy.'

 Yesterday at midday I saw that there was already great grief and mourning in the Blessed Virgin's house. Her maidservant was in the utmost distress, throwing herself on her knees and praying with outstretched arms, sometimes in corners of the house and sometimes outside in front of it. The Blessed Virgin lay still and as though near death in her little cell. She was completely enveloped in a white sleeping coverlet, even her arms being wrapped in it. It was like the one I described when she went to bed in Elizabeth's house at the Visitation.

  The veil over her head was arranged in folds across her forehead; when speaking with men she lowered it over her face. Even her hands were covered except when she was alone. In the last days of her life I never saw her take any nourishment except now and then a spoonful of juice which her maidservant pressed from a bunch of yellow berries like grapes into a bowl near her couch.

  Towards evening the Blessed Virgin realized that her end was approaching and therefore signified her desire, in accordance with Jesus' will, to bless and say farewell to the Apostles, disciples and women who were present.

 Her sleeping cell was opened on all sides, and she sat upright on her couch, shining white as if suffused with light. The Blessed Virgin, after praying, blessed each one by laying her crossed hands on their foreheads. She then, once more, spoke to them all, doing everything that Jesus had commanded her at Bethany. When Peter went up to her, I saw that he had a scroll of writing in his hand. She told John what was to be done with her body, and bade him divide her clothes between her maidservant and another poor girl from the neighborhood who sometimes came to help.

  The Blessed Virgin in saying this pointed to the cupboard standing opposite her sleeping cell, and I saw her maidservant go and open the cupboard and then shut it again. So I saw all the Blessed Virgin's garments and will describe them later. After the Apostles, the disciples who were present approached the Blessed Virgin's couch and received the same blessing.

  The men then went back into the front part of the house and prepared for the service, while the women who were present came up to the Blessed Virgin's couch, knelt down and received her blessing. I saw that one of them bent right down over Mary and was embraced by her.

 In the meantime the altar was set up and the Apostles vested themselves for the service in their long white robes and broad girdles with letters on them. Five of them who assisted in offering the Holy Sacrifice (just as I had seen done when Peter first officiated in the new church at the pool of Bethsaida after the Ascension) put on the big, rich, priestly vestments.

  Peter, who was the celebrant, wore a robe which was very long at the back but did not trail on the ground. There must have been some sort of stiffening round its hem, for I see it standing out all round.

 They were still engaged in putting on their vestments when James the Greater arrived with three companions. He came with Timon the deacon from Spain, and after passing through Rome had met with Eremenzear and still another. The Apostles already present, who were just going up to the altar, greeted him with grave solemnity, telling him in few words to go to the Blessed Virgin.

  He and his companions, after having had their feet washed and after arranging their garments, went in their traveling dress to the Blessed Virgin's room. She gave her blessing first to James alone, and then to his three companions together, after which James went to join in the service. The latter had been going on for some time when Philip arrived from Egypt with a companion. He at once went to the Mother of Our Lord, and wept bitterly as he received her blessing.

 In the meantime Peter had completed the Holy Sacrifice. He had performed the act of consecration, had received the Body of the Lord, and had given Communion to the Apostles and disciples. The Blessed Virgin could not see the altar from her bed, but during the Holy Sacrifice she sat upright on her couch in deep devotion.

  Peter, after he and the other Apostles had received Communion, brought the Blessed Virgin the Blessed Sacrament and administered extreme unction to her. The Apostles accompanied him in a solemn procession. Thaddeus went first with a smoking censer. Peter bore the Blessed Sacrament in the cruciform vessel of which I have spoken, and John followed him, carrying a dish on which rested the Chalice with the Precious blood and some small boxes. The Chalice was small, white, and thick as though of cast metal; its stem was so short that it could only be held with two or three fingers. It had a lid, and was of the same shape as the Chalice at the Last Supper.

 A little altar had been set up by the Apostles in the alcove beside the Blessed Virgin's couch. The maidservant had brought a table which she covered with red and white cloths. Lights (I think both tapers and lamps) were burning on it. The Blessed Virgin lay back on her pillows pale and still. Her gaze was directed intently upwards; she said no word to anyone and seemed in a state of perpetual ecstasy. She was radiant with longing; I could feel this longing, which was bearing her upwards -- ah, my heart was longing to ascend with hers to God!

 Peter approached her and gave her extreme unction, much in the way in which it is administered now. From the boxes which John held, he anointed her with holy oil on her face, hands, and feet, and on her side, where there was an opening in her dress so that she was in no way uncovered. While this was being done the Apostles were reciting prayers as if in choir.

 Peter then gave her Holy Communion. She raised herself to receive it, without supporting herself, and then sank back again. The Apostles prayed for a while, and then, raising herself rather less, she received the Chalice from John. As she received the Blessed Sacrament I saw a radiance pass into Mary, who sank back as though in ecstasy, and spoke no more. The Apostles then returned to the altar in the front part of the house in a solemn procession with the sacred vessels and continued the service. St. Philip now also received Holy Communion. Only a few women remained with the Blessed Virgin.

Afterwards I saw the Apostles and disciples once more standing round the Blessed Virgin's bed and praying. Mary's face was radiant with smiles as in her youth. Her eyes were raised towards heaven in holy joy.

  Then I saw a wonderfully moving vision. The ceiling of the Blessed Virgin's room disappeared, the lamp hung in the open air, and I saw through the sky into the heavenly Jerusalem. Two radiant clouds of light sank down, out of which appeared the faces of many angels. Between these clouds a path of light poured down upon Mary, and I saw a shining mountain leading up from her into the heavenly Jerusalem.

  She stretched out her arms towards it in infinite longing, and I saw her body, all wrapped up, rise so high above her couch that one could see right under it.

 I saw her soul leave her body like a little figure of infinitely pure light, soaring with outstretched arms up the shining mountain to heaven. The two angel-choirs in the clouds met beneath her soul and separated it from her holy body, which in the moment of separation sank back on the couch with arms crossed on the breast. 

  My gaze followed her soul and saw it enter the heavenly Jerusalem by that shining path and go up to the throne of the most Holy Trinity.

  I saw many souls coming forward to meet her in joy and reverence; amongst them I recognized many patriarchs, as well as Joachim, Anna, Joseph, Elizabeth, Zechariah and John the Baptist.

 The Blessed Virgin soared through them all to the Throne of God and of her Son, whose wounds shone with a light transcending even the light irradiating His whole Presence. He received her with His Divine Love, and placed in her hands a scepter with a gesture towards the earth as though indicating the power which He gave her.

  Seeing her thus entered into the glory of heaven, I forgot the whole scene round her body on the earth.

 Some of the Apostles, Peter and John for example, must have seen this too, for their faces were raised to heaven, while the others knelt, most of them bowed down low to the earth. Everywhere was light and radiance, as at Christ's Ascension. To my great joy I saw that Mary's soul, as it entered heaven, was followed by a great number of souls released from purgatory; and again today, on the anniversary, I saw many poor souls entering heaven, amongst them some whom I knew. I was given the comforting assurance that every year, on the day of the Blessed Virgin's death, many souls of those who have venerated her receive this reward.

 When I once more looked down to earth, I saw the Blessed Virgin's body lying on the couch. It was shining; her face was radiant; her eyes were closed, and her arms, crossed on her breast. The Apostles, disciples, and women knelt round it praying. As I saw all this there was a beautiful ringing in the air and a movement throughout the whole of nature like the one I had perceived on Christmas night. The Blessed Virgin died after the ninth hour, at the same time as Our Lord.

 The women now laid a covering over the holy body, and the Apostles and disciples betook themselves to the front part of the house. The fire on the hearth was covered, and all the household utensils put aside and covered up. The women wrapped and veiled themselves and, sitting on the ground in the room in front of the house, they began to lament for the dead, kneeling and sitting in turns.

 The men muffled their heads in the piece of stuff which they wore round their necks and held a mourning service. There were always two praying at the head and foot of the holy body. Matthew and Andrew followed the Blessed Virgin's Way of the Cross till the last Station, the cave which represented Christ's sepulcher.

 They had tools with them with which to enlarge the tomb, for it was here that the Blessed Virgin's body was to rest.

 The cave was not as spacious as Christ's and hardly high enough for a man to enter it upright. The floor sank at the entrance, and then one saw the burial-place before one like a narrow altar with the rock-wall projecting over it.

 The two Apostles did a good deal of work in it, and also arranged a door to close the entrance to the tomb. In the burial-place a hollow had been made in the shape of a wrapped-up body, slightly raised at the head. In front of the cave there was a little garden with a wooden fence round it, as there had been in front of Christ's sepulcher. Not far away was the Station of Calvary on a hill. There was no standing cross there, but only one cut into a stone. It must have been half an hour's journey from Mary's house to the tomb.

 Four times did I see the Apostles relieve each other in watching and praying by the holy body. Today I saw a number of women, among whom I remember a daughter of Veronica and the mother of John Mark, coming to prepare the body for burial. They brought with them cloths, as well as spices to embalm the body after the Jewish fashion. They all carried little pots of fresh herbs. The house was closed and they worked by lamplight.

 The Apostles were praying in the front part of the house as though they were in choir. The women took the Blessed Virgin's body from her death-bed in its wrappings, and laid it in a long basket which was so piled up with thick, roughly woven coverings or mats that the body lay high above it. Two women then held a broad cloth stretched above the body, while two others removed the head-covering and wrappings under this cloth, leaving the body clothed only in the long woolen robe. They cut off the Blessed Virgin's beautiful locks of hair to be kept in remembrance of her.

 In the meantime the Apostles had assisted at the Holy Sacrifice offered by Peter and received Communion with him, after which I saw Peter and John, still in great bishops' cloaks, going from the front part of the house to the death chamber.

 John carried a vessel with ointment, and Peter, dipping the finger of his right hand into it, anointed the hands and feet of the Blessed Virgin, praying as he did so.

A transparent handkerchief was folded back from the face, which shone white between the bunches of herbs. They then placed the holy body in the coffin which stood near; it was like a bed or a long basket. It was a kind of board with a low edge and a slightly arched lid.

 The Apostles, disciples, and all others present then came in to see the beloved face once more before it was covered up. The holy women, after making their farewells, covered the holy face and placed the lid on the coffin, which they fastened round with gray bands at each end and in the middle.

  Then I saw the coffin lifted onto a bier and carried out of the house on the shoulders of Peter and John. They must have changed places, for later on I saw six of the Apostles acting as bearers -- at the head, James the Greater and James the Less; in the center, Bartholomew and Andrew; and behind, Thaddeus and Matthew. There must have been a mat or piece of leather attached to the carrying-poles, for I saw the coffin hanging between them as if in a cradle. Some of the Apostles and disciples went on ahead, others followed with the women. It was already dusk, and four lights were carried on poles round the coffin.



On the morning of August 13, 1822, Catherine Emmerich said: Last night I had a great vision of the death of the Blessed Virgin, but have completely forgotten it all. On being asked, in the middle of a conversation on everyday matters, how old the Blessed Virgin was when she died, Catherine Emmerich suddenly looked away and said: She reached the age of sixty-four years all but three and twenty days: I have just seen the figure X six times, then I, then V; is not that sixty-four?' (It is remarkable that Catherine Emmerich was not shown numbers with our ordinary Arabic figures, with which she was familiar, but never saw anything but Roman figures in her visions).


 After Christ's Ascension Mary lived for three years on Mount  Sion, for three years in Bethany, and for nine years in Ephesus, whither St. John took her soon after the Jews had set Lazarus and his sisters adrift upon the sea. 

 Mary did not live in Ephesus itself, but in the country near it where several women who were her close friends had settled.  Mary's dwelling was on a hill to the left of the road from Jerusalem some three and a half hours from Ephesus. This hill slopes steeply towards Ephesus; the city as one approaches it from the south-east seems to lie on rising ground immediately before one, but seems to change its place as one draws nearer.  Great avenues lead up to the city, and the ground under the trees is covered with yellow fruit. Narrow paths lead southwards to a hill near the top of which is an uneven plateau, some half-hour's journey in circumference, overgrown, like the hill itself, with wild trees and bushes. It was on this plateau that the Jewish settlers had made their home. It is a very lonely place, but has many fertile and pleasant slopes as well as rock-caves, clean and dry and surrounded by patches of sand. It is wild but not desolate, and scattered about it are a number of trees, pyramid-shaped, with big shady branches below and smooth trunks.

 John had had a house built for the Blessed Virgin before he brought her here. Several Christian families and holy women had already settled here, some in caves in the earth or in the rocks, fitted out with light woodwork to make dwellings, and some in fragile huts or tents. They had come here to escape violent persecution.

 Their dwellings were like hermits' cells, for they used as their refuges what nature offered them. As a rule, they lived at a quarter of an hour's distance from each other. The whole settlement was like a scattered village.

 Mary's house was the only one built of stone. A little way behind it was the summit of the rocky hill from which one could see over the trees and hills to Ephesus and the sea with its many islands. The place is nearer the sea than Ephesus, which must be several hours' journey distant from the coast. The district is lonely and unfrequented. Near here is a castle inhabited by a king who seems to have been deposed. John visited him often and ended by converting him. This place later became a bishop's see. Between the Blessed Virgin's dwelling and Ephesus runs a little stream which winds about in a very singular way.


 Mary's house was built of rectangular stones, rounded or pointed at the back. The windows were high up near the flat roof. The house was divided into two compartments by the hearth in the center of it. The fireplace was on the floor opposite the door; it was sunk into the ground beside a wall which rose in steps on each side of it up to the ceiling. In the centrE of this wall a deep channel, like the half of a chimney, carried the smoke up to escape by an opening in the roof. I saw a sloping copper funnel projecting above the roof over this opening.

The front part of the house was divided from the room behind the fireplace by light movable wicker screens on each side of the hearth. In this front part, the walls of which were rather rough and also blackened by smoke, I saw little cells on both sides, shut in by wicker screens fastened together. If this part of the house was needed as one large room, these screens, which did not nearly reach to the ceiling, were taken apart and put aside. These cells were used as bedrooms for Mary's maidservant and for other women who came to visit her.

To the right and left of the hearth, doors led into the back part of the house, which was darker than the front part and ended in a semicircle or angle. It was neatly and pleasantly arranged; the walls were covered with wickerwork, and the ceiling was vaulted. Its beams were decorated with a mixture of paneling and wickerwork, and ornamented with a pattern of leaves. It was all simple and dignified.

The farthest corner or apse of this room was divided off by a curtain and formed Mary’s oratory. In the center of the wall was a niche in which had been placed a receptacle like a tabernacle, which could be opened and shut by pulling at a string to turn its door. In it stood a cross about the length of a man’s arm in which were inserted two arms rising outwards and upwards, in the form of the letter Y, the shape in which I have always seen Christ’s Cross.

  It had no particular ornamentation, and was more roughly carved than the crosses which come from the Holy Land nowadays. I think that John and Mary must have made it themselves. It was made of different kinds of wood. It was told me that the pale stem of the cross was cypress, the brown arm cedar, and the other arm of yellow palm-wood, while the piece added at the top, with the title, was of smooth yellow olive-wood. This cross was set in a little mound of earth or stone, like Christ’s Cross on Mount Calvary.

 At its foot there lay a piece of parchment with something written on it; Christ’s words, I think. On the cross itself the Figure of Our Lord was roughly outlined, the lines of the carving being rubbed with darker color so as to show the Figure plainly. Mary’s meditation on the different kinds of wood forming the cross were communicated to me, but alas I have forgotten this beautiful lesson. Nor can I for the moment be sure whether Christ’s Cross itself was made of these different kinds of wood, or whether Mary had made this cross in this way only for devotional reasons. It stood between two small vases filled with fresh flowers.

 I also saw a cloth lying beside the cross, and had the impression that it was the one with which the Blessed Virgin had wiped the blood from all the wounds in Our Lord’s holy body after it was taken down from the cross. The reason why I had this impression was that, at the sight of the cloth, I was shown that manifestation of the Blessed Virgin’s motherly love. At the same time I had the feeling that it was the cloth which priests use at Mass, after drinking the Precious Blood, to cleanse the chalice; Mary, in wiping the

 To the right of this oratory, against a niche in the wall, was the sleeping place or cell of the Blessed Virgin. Opposite it, to the left of the oratory, was a cell where her clothes and other belongings were kept. Between these two cells a curtain was hung dividing off the oratory. It was Mary’s custom to sit in front of this curtain when she was working or reading. The sleeping place of the Blessed Virgin was backed by a wall hung with a woven carpet; the side-walls were light screens of bark woven in different-colored woods to make a pattern. The front wall was hung with a carpet, and had a door with two panels, opening inwards. The ceiling of this cell was also of wickerwork rising into a vault from the center of which was suspended a lamp with several arms. Mary’s couch, which was placed against the wall, was a box one and a half feet high and of the breadth and length of a narrow plank.

 A covering was stretched on it and fastened to a knob at each of the four corners. The sides of this box were covered with carpets reaching down to the floor and were decorated with tassels and fringes. A round cushion served as pillow, and there was a covering of brownish material with a check pattern. The little house stood near a wood among pyramid-shaped trees with smooth trunks. It was very quiet and solitary. The dwellings of the other families were all scattered about at some distance. The whole settlement was like a village of peasants.



The Blessed Virgin lived here alone, with a younger woman, her maidservant, who fetched what little food they needed. They lived very quietly and in profound peace. There was no man in the house, but sometimes they were visited by an Apostle or disciple on his travels. There was one man whom I saw more often than others going in and out of the house; I always took him to be John, but neither here nor in Jerusalem did he remain permanently near the Blessed Virgin. He came and went in the course of his travels. He did not wear the same dress as in Jesus. time. His garment was very long and hung in folds, and was of a thin grayish-white material. He was very slim and active, his face was long, narrow, and delicate, and on his bare head his long fair hair was parted and brushed back behind his ears. In contrast with the other Apostles, this gave him a womanish, almost girlish appearance.

 Last time he was here I saw Mary becoming ever quieter and more meditative: she took hardly any nourishment. It was as if she were only here in appearance, as if her spirit had already passed beyond and her whole being was far away. In the last weeks before she died I sometimes saw her, weak and aged, being led about the house by her maidservant.

Once I saw John come into the house, looking much older too, and very thin and haggard. As he came in he girt up his long white ample garment in his girdle, then took off this girdle and put on another one, inscribed with letters, which he drew out from under his robe. He put a sort of maniple on his arm and a stole round his neck. The Blessed Virgin came in from her bedchamber completely enveloped in a white robe, and leaning on her maidservant’s arm.

 Her face was white as snow and as though transparent. She seemed to be swaying with intense longing. Since Jesus’ Ascension her whole being seemed to be filled with an ever-increasing yearning which gradually consumed her. John and she went together to the oratory. The Blessed Virgin pulled at the ribbon or strap which turned the tabernacle in the wall to show the cross in it. After they had knelt for a long time in prayer before it, John rose and drew from his breast a metal box. Opening it at one side, he drew from it a wrapping of material of fine wool, and out of this took a little folded cloth of white material. From this he took out the Blessed Sacrament in the form of a small square white particle. After speaking a few solemn words, he gave the Sacrament to the Blessed Virgin. He did not give her a chalice.

 Behind the house, at a little distance up the hill, the Blessed Virgin had made a kind of Way of the Cross. When she was living in Jerusalem, she had never failed, ever since Our Lord’s death, to follow His path to Calvary with tears of compassion. She had paced out and measured all the distances between the Stations of that Via Crucis, and her love for her Son made her unable to live without this constant contemplation of His sufferings.

 Soon after her arrival at her new home I saw her every day climbing part of the way up the hill behind her house to carry out this devotion. At first she went by herself, measuring the number of steps, so often counted by her, which separated the places of Our Lord's different sufferings. At each of these places she put up a stone, or, if there was already a tree there, she made a mark upon it. The way led into a wood, and upon a hill in this wood she had marked the place of Calvary, and the grave of Christ in a little cave in another hill. After she had marked this Way of the Cross with twelve Stations, she went there with her maidservant in quiet meditation: at each Station they sat down and renewed the mystery of its significance in their hearts, praising the Lord for His love with tears of compassion.

 Afterwards she arranged the Stations better, and I saw her inscribing on the stones the meaning of each Station, the number of paces and so forth. I saw, too, that she cleaned out the cave of the Holy Sepulcher and made it a place for prayer. At that time I saw no picture and no fixed cross to designate the Stations, nothing but plain memorial stones with inscriptions, but afterwards, as the result of constant visits and attention, I saw the place becoming increasingly beautiful and easy of approach. After the Blessed Virgin's death I saw this Way of the Cross being visited by Christians, who threw themselves down and kissed the ground.


 After three years' sojourn here Mary had a great longing to see Jerusalem again, and was taken there by John and Peter. Several of the Apostles were, I believe, assembled there: I saw Thomas among them and I think a Council was held at which Mary assisted them with her advice.

 On their arrival at Jerusalem in the dusk of the evening, before they went into the city, I saw them visiting the Mount of Olives, Calvary, the Holy Sepulcher, and all the holy places outside Jerusalem. The Mother of God was so sorrowful and so moved by compassion that she could hardly hold herself upright, and Peter and John had to support her as they led her away.

 She came to Jerusalem from Ephesus once again, eighteen months before her death, and I saw her again visiting the Holy Places with the Apostles at night, wrapped in a veil. She was inexpressibly sorrowful, constantly sighing, O my Son, my Son'. When she came to that door behind the palace where she had met Jesus sinking under the weight of the Cross, she too sank to the ground in a swoon, overcome by agonizing memories, and her companions thought she was dying. They brought her to Sion, to the Cenacle, where she was living in one of the outer buildings.

  Here for several days she was so weak and ill and so often suffered from fainting attacks that her companions again and again thought her end was near and made preparations for her burial. She herself chose a cave in the Mount of Olives, and the Apostles caused a beautiful sepulcher to be prepared here by the hands of a Christian stonemason.

 During this time it was announced more than once that she was dead, and the rumor of her death and burial was spread abroad in Jerusalem and in other places as well. By the time, however, that the sepulcher was ready,  she had recovered and was strong enough to journey back to her home in Ephesus, where she did in fact die eighteen months later.

  The sepulcher prepared for her on the Mount of Olives was always held in honor, and later a church was built over it, and John Damascene (so I heard in the spirit, but who and what was he?)  wrote from hearsay that she had died and been buried in Jerusalem. I expect that the news of her death, burial-place, and assumption into heaven were permitted by God to be indefinite and only a matter of tradition in order that Christianity in its early days should not be in danger of heathen influences then so powerful. The Blessed Virgin might easily have been adored as a goddess.

-- Part 2 to be followed.

Tuesday, 28 July 2020

The devil versus St Padre Pio

 Many people throughout the world are well aware of the Italian priest affectionately named "Padre Pio" who bore the stigmata for exactly 50 years and 3 days---longer than any known stigmatic in the history of the Catholic church. The miracles God wrought through this holy Capuchin friar are also well known. But surely what is less known about him are the many demonic battles he was forced to undergo to snatch souls from the demons. 
 Padre Pio spent countless hours each day hearing the confessions of sinners, and the devil was to make him pay for bringing souls to Jesus. Father Joseph Martin, O.F.M. Cap. who was Padre Pio's close companion the last three years of his life tells the story of how one night the devil beat Padre Pio so severely that he fell on the floor of his cell and cut his head quite badly. The next morning, when Father Martin came to his aid and asked what had happened, Padre had told him how the devil had beat him. Furthermore, a blood-stained pillow, which is kept to this day in his cell at Our Lady of Grace Friary had been found underneath the Padre's head. When asked where all the blood on it came from, he claimed that the Blessed Virgin Mary had placed it under his head during the night, while She consoled and comforted him.
 But there were many other times where Padre Pio was beaten by the demons, as stated in his letters to his spiritual director:
  "The ogre [devil] won't admit defeat. He has appeared in almost every form. For the past few days he has paid me visits along with some of his satellites armed with clubs and iron weapons and, what is worse, in their own form as devils. I cannot tell you how many times he has thrown me out of bed, and dragged me around the room. But never mind! Jesus, our dear Mother, my little Angel, St. Joseph and our father St. Francis are almost always with me .... (Letter to Padre Agostino, Jan. 18, 1912.)
 The devil does not cease to appear to me in his horrible forms and to beat me in the most terrible manner .... (Letter to Padre Agostino, March 21, 1912.)
 I had a very bad time the night before last; from about 10pm, when I was in bed, until five o'clock in the morning, that wretch did nothing but beat me continually. At five in the morning, when that wretch left me, my whole body became so cold that I trembled from head to foot like a reed exposed to a violent wind. This lasted for a couple of hours. I spat blood .... (Letter to Padre Agostino, June 28, 1912.)
 The beloved Mystic & Stigmatic, St Padre Pio
 Listen to what I had to endure a few evenings ago from those impure apostates. The night was already well advanced when they began their attack with  the most hellish noises, and although I saw nothing in the beginning, I understood who was making the strange noise. Instead of being frightened, I got ready to fight them with a scornful smile on my lips. Then they appeared to me in the most abominable forms and to make me act dishonorably they began to present themselves to me all dressed up [as a woman], but, thank heaven, I scolded them severely and treated them as they deserve. 
 Then, when they saw all their efforts going up in smoke, they hurled themselves on me, threw me to the ground and proceeded to beat me very severely, throwing pillows, books and chairs around the room, with desperate shrieks and most obscene lan­guage .... (Letter to Padre Agostino, Jan. 18, 1913.)
 They flung themselves upon me like so many hungry tigers, curs­ing me and threatening to make me pay for it. My dear Father, they kept their word! From that day onward they have beaten me every day .... (Letter to Padre Agostino, Feb. 1,1913.)
 Jesus never stops loving me in spite of all my shortcomings, for he allows those ugly-faced creatures to afflict me incessantly. For the past twenty-two days Jesus has allowed them to vent their anger on me continually. My body, dear Father, is bruised all over, from all the blows it has received at the hands of our ene­mies. More than once they even went so far as to pull off my nightshirt and beat me in that state .... (Letter to Padre Agostino, Feb. 13, 1913.)
 Satan with his malignant ways never tires of waging war on me and attacking my little citadel, besieging it on all sides. In a word, Satan is for me like a powerful foe who, when he resolves to capture a fortress is not content to attack one wall or one ram­part, but surrounds it entirely, attacks and torments it on every side .... (Letter to Padre Benedetto, Aug. 4,1917.)
 So far we have seen how Lucifer is a frightening adversary, most especially for the victim souls who are called to suffer for the conversion of sinners. The devil is in fact very powerful and should be taken seriously. In closing with St Padre Pio, let us read his words which tells us just how powerful a enemy we have in the devil:
 "We must have no illusions about the enemy who is exceedingly strong, if we do not intend to surrender. In the light infused by God the soul understands the great danger to which it is exposed, if it is not continually on its guard". -Letter to Padre Agostino, St Padre Pio,  May 9,1915. 
 "The tempter, ever on the watch, wages war most violently against those whom he sees most careful to avoid sin"  -St. Leo the Great, died, 461


Monday, 20 July 2020

How can we know if something comes from the Holy Spirit or evil spirit: DISCERNMENT

 The Christian life is a big battle. We need strength and courage to withstand the temptations of the devil and to proclaim the Gospel. How can we know if something comes from the Holy Spirit or if it stems from the spirit of the world or the spirit of the devil?

  The only way is through the gift of discernment. This is something more than intelligence or common sense. It is a gift which we must implore. If we ask with confidence that the Holy Spirit grant us this gift, and then seek to develop it through prayer, reflection, reading and good counsel, then surely we will grow in this spiritual endowment.

  The gift of discernment has become all the more necessary since contemporary life offers immense possibilities for action and distraction, and the world presents all of them as valid and good. “All of us, but especially the young, are immersed in a culture of zapping. We can navigate simultaneously on two or more screens and interact at the same time with two or three virtual scenarios. Without the wisdom of discernment, we can easily become prey to every passing trend,” says GAUDETE ET EXSULTATE, Apostolic Exhortation from Pope Francis.

 Discernment is necessary not only at extraordinary times, when we need to resolve grave problems and make crucial decisions. It is a means of spiritual combat for helping us to follow the Lord more faithfully. We need it at all times, to help us recognize God’s timetable, lest we fail to heed the promptings of his grace and disregard his invitation to grow.

 Often discernment is exercised in small and apparently irrelevant things, since greatness of spirit is manifested in simple everyday realities. It involves striving untrammelled for all that is great, better and more beautiful, while at the same time being concerned for the little things, for each day’s responsibilities and commitments. “Discernment also enables us to recognize the concrete means that the Lord provides in his mysterious and loving plan, to make us move beyond mere good intentions,” says GAUDETE ET EXSULTATE.

 Spiritual discernment does not exclude existential, psychological, sociological or moral insights drawn from the human sciences. At the same time, it transcends them. Nor are the Church’s sound norms sufficient. We should always remember that discernment is a grace. Even though it includes reason and prudence, it goes beyond them, for it seeks a glimpse of that unique and mysterious plan that God has for each of us, which takes shape amid so many varied situations and limitations.

 “It involves more than my temporal well-being, my satisfaction at having accomplished something useful, or even my desire for peace of mind. It has to do with the meaning of my life before the Father who knows and loves me, with the real purpose of my life, which nobody knows better than he,” Pope says. Ultimately, discernment leads to the wellspring of undying life: to know the Father, the only true God, and the one whom he has sent, Jesus Christ. It requires no special abilities, nor is it only for the more intelligent or better educated. The Father readily reveals himself to the lowly.

 We must remember that prayerful discernment must be born of a readiness to listen: to the Lord and to others, and to reality itself, which always challenges us in new ways. Only if we are prepared to listen, do we have the freedom to set aside our own partial or insufficient ideas, our usual habits and ways of seeing things. In this way, we become truly open to accepting a call that can shatter our security, but lead us to a better life.

  It is not a matter of applying rules or repeating what was done in the past, since the same solutions are not valid in all circumstances and what was useful in one context may not prove so in another. The discernment of spirits liberates us from rigidity, which has no place before the perennial “today” of the risen Lord. The Spirit alone can penetrate what is obscure and hidden in every situation, and grasp its every nuance, so that the newness of the Gospel can emerge in another light.


Saturday, 18 July 2020


 Devil is a reality. He roams around corrupting people and destroying their lives and soul.

 There’s a belief even among some Catholics that devil is just symbolic representation. No, that’s not true. Devil is not a myth or a representation or a symbol or a figure of speech or an idea. This mistake would lead us to let down our guard, to grow careless and end up more vulnerable.

 The devil does not need to possess us. He poisons us with the venom of hatred, desolation, envy and vice. When we let down our guard, he takes advantage of it to destroy our lives, our families and our communities. As 1 Peter 5:8 says, “Like a roaring lion, he prowls around, looking for someone to devour.”

 “We will not admit the existence of the devil if we insist on regarding life by empirical standards alone, without a supernatural understanding. It is precisely the conviction that this malign power is present in our midst that enables us to understand how evil can at times have so much destructive force,” says GAUDETE ET EXSULTATE, Apostolic Exhortation from Pope Francis.

  True enough, the biblical authors had limited conceptual resources for expressing certain realities, and in Jesus’ time epilepsy, for example, could easily be confused with demonic possession. Yet this should not lead us to an oversimplification that would conclude that all the cases related in the Gospel had to do with psychological disorders and hence that the devil does not exist or is not at work. Devil is present in the very first pages of the Scriptures, which end with God’s victory over the devil.

 Indeed, in leaving us the Our Father, Jesus wanted us to conclude by asking the Father to “deliver us from evil”. That final word does not refer to evil in the abstract; a more exact translation would be “the evil one”. It indicates a personal being who assails us. Jesus taught us to ask daily for deliverance from him, lest his power prevail over us, GAUDETE ET EXSULTATE says.

  Our life is a constant struggle against the devil, the prince of evil. Jesus himself celebrates our victories. He rejoiced when his disciples made progress in preaching the Gospel and overcoming the opposition of the evil one: “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven” (Luke 10:18).

 For this spiritual combat, we can count on the powerful weapons that the Lord has given us: faith-filled prayer, meditation on the word of God, the celebration of Mass, Eucharistic adoration, sacramental Reconciliation, works of charity, community life, missionary outreach. If we become careless, the false promises of evil will easily seduce us. As the sainted Cura Brochero observed: “What good is it when Lucifer promises you freedom and showers you with all his benefits, if those benefits are false, deceptive and poisonous?”

 Pope Francis says God’s word invites us clearly to “stand against the wiles of the devil” (Eph 6:11) and to “quench all the flaming darts of the evil one” (Eph 6:16). These expressions are not melodramatic, precisely because our path towards holiness is a constant battle. Those who do not realize this will be prey to failure or mediocrity.

 We are not dealing merely with a battle against the world and a worldly mentality that would deceive us and leave us dull and mediocre, lacking in enthusiasm and joy. Nor can this battle be reduced to the struggle against our human weaknesses and proclivities (be they laziness, lust, envy, jealousy or any others).

 “Those who think they commit no grievous sins against God’s law can fall into a state of dull lethargy. Since they see nothing serious to reproach themselves with, they fail to realize that their spiritual life has gradually turned lukewarm. They end up weakened and corrupted,” Pope’s Apostolic Exhortation says.

 Spiritual corruption is worse than the fall of a sinner, for it is a comfortable and self-satisfied form of blindness. Everything then appears acceptable: deception, slander, egotism and other subtle forms of self-centredness, for “even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light” (2 Corinthians 11:14).

 Be on your guard. Let Holy Spirit guide us. Not the evil spirit.

 n GAUDETE ET EXSULTATE, Apostolic Exhortation of Pope Francis.