Fatima 100 (July)

On 13 July 1917, the children shepherds yet again were visited by the beautiful lady. This time around the children had a vision in which they saw three things, the Fatima Secrets and these weren’t nice things. The first two secrets were first written by Sister Lucia in 1941 in her third memior, the final one was kept a secret until 1944 when she wrote it down and it was eventually sent to the Vatican, which finally revealed it in 2000. The lady told them to continue praying the Rosary adding the Fatima prayer, to come back next month and the next until October when the Lady said she will tell them who she it.

The first secret that they saw was a vision of Hell “…we saw as it were a sea of fire. Plunged in this fire were demons and souls in human form, like transparent burning embers, all blackened or burnished bronze, floating about in the conflagration, now raised into the air by the flames that issued from within themselves together with great clouds of smoke, now following back on every side like sparks in huge fires, without weight or equilibrium, amid shrieks and groans of pain and despair, which horrified us and made us tremble with fear. (it must have been this sight which caused me to cry out, as people say they heard me do). The demons could be distinguished by their terrifying and repellent likeness to frightful and unknown animals, black and transparent like burning coals….”

The second secret comes from the first the Lady continued “You have seen hell where the souls of poor sinners go. To save them, God wishes to establish in the world devotion to my Immaculate Heart. If what I say to you is done, many souls will be saved and there will be peace. The war is going to end: but if people do not cease offending God, a worse one will break out during the Pontificate of Pope Pius XI. When you see a night (28 January 1938) illumined by an unknown light, know that this is the great sign given you by God that he is about to punish the world for its crimes, by means of war, famine, and persecutions of the Church and of the Holy Father.” To prevent this, she asks for the Consecration of Russia to my Immaculate Heart, and the Communion of reparation on the First Saturdays. If these suggestions are heeded Russia will be converted and there will be peace if not Russia will spread “her errors throughout the world” yet in the end “My Immaculate Heart will triumph. Now this secret has some problems with it as there is the mention of Pius XI who wasn’t Pope until 1922.

The final secret is different as it starts with an Angel with a flaming sword, it cried out “Penance, Penance, Penance!” while pointing toward the earth. “Then they saw a bishop dressed in white (the Holy Father) along with a crowd of other bishops, priest, as well as men and women religious going up a steep mountain, at the top of which there was a big Cross of rough-hewn trunks…before reaching the cross the Holy Father went through a big city half in ruins and half trembling with halting step, afflicted with pain and sorrow, he prayed for the souls of the corpses he met on his way; having reached the top of the mountain, on his knees at the foot of the big Cross he was killed by a group of soldiers who fired bullets and arrows at him, and in the same way there died one after another the other Bishops, Priests, men and women Religious, and various lay people of different ranks and positions.” Now the Vatican has implied that this is about the assassination attempt on Pope John Paul II on 13 May 1981, however added to this reveal was a commentary by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (Benedict XVI) which he says “the vision is not to show a film of an irrevocably fixed future. Its meaning is exactly the opposite: it is meant to mobilize the forces of change in the right direction.”

Wedding Feast at Cana

As we continue our way through John Paul II’s additional mysteries to the Rosary. The second Luminous Mystery we hear about the first miracle and the beginning of the public ministry of Jesus. Here we have Mary and Jesus at some wedding, and they have run out of wine, which is a small problem. As the story goes Mary informs Jesus that the wine is running out he snaps back with “What concern is that to me, my time has not yet come.” Then Mary tells the servants to do as Jesus tells them. Jesus tells them to fill the empty purification jars with water and take it to the chief steward. The remarkable thing here is that Jesus doesn’t touch the water or really do anything to it yet it turns into the finest wine of the evening.

Now, Pope Benedict offers a unique observation of this miracle in his book, Jesus of Nazareth, saying that the miracle of producing  a lot of wine for a wedding can be seen as a sign of the greatness of the love we find at the core of salvation history: “God lavishly spends himself for the lowly creature, man. (…) The superabundance of Cana is therefore a sign that God’s feast with humanity, his self-giving for man, has begun”. This in a way points toward the heavenly banquet where all are welcome. We also have an interesting role for Mary as it is where she always is pointing us towards Jesus. She is our signpost in life on our path toward heaven. I hope that we all can take Mary’s advice and do whatever he (Jesus) says.

Verbum Domini

Verbum Domini is a Post Synodal Apostolic Exhortation from Pope Benedict XVI on  how the Church should approach the Bible, it is like a synthesis of the thoughts from Dei Verbum. It looks at what Dei Verbum said from Vatican II and how we have implemented it in our lives. If you want a real quick overview take a look at the “Table of Contents” before the exhortation begins.

The exhortation itself is broken down into three main parts with an introduction and conclusion. The introduction says that this come from the 12th Ordinary General Synod of Bishops, which focused on The Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church. Benedict uses the Prologue of the Gospel of John (1:1-18) as a guide. The Word was with God in the beginning and took on flesh to become one of us so that we all might live. This is as Benedict XVI says “a synthesis of the entire Christian faith.”

The first part is titled Verbum Dei, The Word of God. It begins with an analysis of the prologue of John’s Gospel ” In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…” This idea goes into the Incarnation (The Word become flesh) where Jesus is the condensation of God. Since the Incarnation took place within time and space it happened at one point and the writings are “The word of God is thus expressed in human words thanks to the working of the Holy Spirit”  but reflect both the human and divine. Once again Mary is offered as a model for us. This next part we shift our focus on the book itself. Here Benedict gets into hermeneutics and how to exegete scripture.  Benedict directs our attention to opening up the Bible and reading it however he notes that we enter it with a faith-filled approach as this way has been, “practiced from antiquity within Tradition, seeks saving truth for the life of the individual Christian and for the Church. It recognizes the historical value of the biblical tradition. Precisely because of the tradition’s value as an historical witness, this reading seeks to discover the living meaning of the sacred Scriptures for the lives of believers today”, while not ignoring the human mediation of the inspired text and its literary genres. Scriptures can be used as an Ecumenical building block as well, like with bible study, we can get into the nuts and bolts of religion through discussion of common scripture.  We can look at the lives of the Saints as they have lived truly lived the Word of God.

The second part is entitled Verbum in Ecclesia, The Word in Church. It begins by calling us back to the beginning of John’s Gospel as Augustine puts it “you were created through the word, but now through the word you must be recreated.” How are we recreated? Through the scripture notably by the sacraments and the liturgy. Significance is put on the Liturgy as for many people this is the only place they will hear from the Bible. Benedict notes that Lectors need to be trained since they need to understand what they are reading before they can read it to the congregation. Then the focus turns to the Homily. The quality of homilies need to improve as the faithful need to be able to understand what the priest is talking about and understand that Christ is at the center of it.  We move on to the Sacraments of Healing saying that Scripture is a major aspect of both Reconciliation and Anointing of the Sick. Next we are given The Liturgy of the Hours, the prayer of the Church as a way for us to get closer to the Scripture. Once again Benedict urges us all to read the Bible using Lectio Divina or even just praying the Rosary.

The third part is Verbum Mundo, The Word to the World. This section begins talk of Evangelization and mission. We are called to be not only hearers of the Word but heralds of the world, at the end of Mass we are told to go out into the world and bring what we have heard out into the world. This is has been our mission since baptism, bearing witness to the Gospel in our daily lives. We need to not only evangelize the world but re evangelize it. Next the focus is turned to special interest and how the youth, the migrants, the suffering, the poor and creation are all integral parts that need to be protected and nurtured by all of us but they are also a part of the evangelization. Even within the secular world the Bible is still a source of inspiration as so much of the world can follow the code of rules. We can also learn about the Bible through secular institutions as long as they are properly educated, the Bible can be used as inspiration for artists of all types and we should use all methods available to spread the word of God even this Internet thingy.

At the end Pope Benedict urges us all to read the Bible. One of the great lines in the Conclusion “Let us be silent in order to hear the Lord’s word and to meditate upon it, so that by the working of the Holy Spirit it may remain in our hearts and speak to us all the days of our lives.” As for many of us listening is something that is difficult for us to do.  Let us find quiet moments in our lives where we can listen and explore the word of the Lord.

Amoris Laetitia: Part 2

In the first part I sort of went over the first five chapters.  Now it’s on to chapters six through nine of Amoris Laetitia.

Chapter six offers some Pastoral Perspective, as we can tell Pope Francis goes through some perspective on the family from that of bishops using the final reports from the synod. It emphasizes that families need to be evangelized and go out and evangelize as well. Sure the training of religious is lacking in understanding the complexities of families face today but training could be better and there is a wealth of knowledge in the oriental tradition (Coptic, Marionite, Ruthenian, Melkite) where there are married clergy. Pope Francis turn to divorce and calls it a evil and hopes that by focusing on the family the Church can prevent the spread of the evil of our times.

The focus of chapter seven is about the education of children. It starts off by saying that parents shouldn’t be that concerned where their children are and how they are doing at all times but rather who they are with. As Pope Francis puts it “obsession is not education.” It goes on talking about how parents are the first teachers of their children. Surprisingly, there is a section focusing on sexual education it needs to be more encompassing then just the biological with an emphasis on ‘safe sex’ it need to be a education for love or mutual self-giving.

Chapter eight is the most talked about section of this exhortation. It begins echoing what Pope Francis said “Let us not forget that the Church’s task is often like that of a field hospital.” This section covers some controversial subjects and the word guiding, discerning and integrating are key. It is best summarized by a paragraph  where the faithful in complicated situation should talk with pastors or other lay people “They may not always encounter in them a confirmation of their own ideas or desires, but they will surely receive some light to help them better understand their situation and discover a path to personal growth. I also encourage the Church’s pastors to listen to them with sensitivity and serenity, with a sincere desire to understand their plight and their point of view, in order to help them live better lives and to recognize their proper place in the Church.” (312)

Chapter Nine turns back to marriage and the family. Here we talk about gifts of love small but real gestures that not only lead us closer to each other but also closer to our Father in heaven for as Pope Benedict XVI said blinding ourselves of the world and those around us blinds us to God as well. The final paragraph is necessary reading material for all families “no family drops down from heaven perfectly formed; families need constantly to grow and mature in the ability to love.” This is our never-ending vocation.  Pope Francis then concludes with a prayer to the Holy Family.

Fifth Sunday of Easter

This week the readings come from Acts 14:21-27, Psalm 145, Revelation 21:1-5a, and John’s Gospel 13:31-33a, 34-35.

The big focus this week is what Jesus says in the Gospel, where he issues a New Commandment. It isn’t that ground breaking it is to love one another, as in the Golden rule.  “Just as I have loved you, you should also love one another.”  It’s a simple idea but so hard in practice since this is talking about everyone and there are some people that we hate in the world. However, Jesus is here telling us to love one another. If we just followed this advice just imagine what the world would be like.  Pope Benedict XVI reminded us that the foundation of the world is love and in a homily that “Love is the only force capable of changing the heart of the human person and of all humanity, by making fruitful the relations between men and women, between rich and poor, between cultures and civilizations.” Let us go out and try to live this “New Commandment” loving one another as the Lord has loved us.

The Ascension

The fruit of this mystery is Hope and Desire for Ascension to heaven.

Hope is one of the three Theological Virtues along with Faith and Love and Pope Benedict wrote an Encyclical about Hope. Benedict also nicely summarized the idea in a homily saying “Whoever believes in Christ has a future. For God has no desire for what is withered, dead, ersatz, and finally discarded: he wants what is fruitful and alive, he wants life in its fullness and he gives us life in its fullness.” This is the Hope that we all have it was used by Barack Obama when he ran for President in 2008 notably in Shepard Fairley’s poster. We all have hopes for the future but we can be instrumental in making our hopes reality.

The Resurrection

The fruit of this mystery is Faith.

This ties in nicely with the readings this past Sunday, where we heard about Thomas and how he needed to see the nail marks in his hands and put his hands in the side of Jesus, so he would know it was truly Jesus. I read some other commentaries/reflections on the readings and it notes that the other apostles needed to see the hand and side of Jesus before they believed that it was truly the Christ resurrected, so they all needed proof that it was Jesus. So we are truly blessed since we cannot see but still believe. Pope Francis’s encyclical Lumen fidei the conclusion of Benedict XVI’s encyclicals on the theological virtues (Faith, Hope, Love) is a the most recent church document about faith. In general terms our faith is based on love, we have utmost faith in something we love. Let us grow closer to the Lord during this season of Easter and come to love our heavenly family.

All Saints’ Day

Since Sunday falls on the first of November this year we all celebrate All Saints’ Day, it’s one of those Holy Days of Obligation so the readings don’t change year to year. All Saints’ Day is a day in which we honor all those named and unknown saints throughout the ages. All Souls’ Day follows and we remember all those faithful who have died but have not been attained heaven yet.

As we turn to the readings we first encounter Revelation. John is revealing to us what he saw in his vision. This is a unique sight as we have some vague idea of the Church universal as it exists of those on earth (Church militant) and those in heaven (the Church triumphant) all of these individuals are bowing down before the Throne of Lord. The Church Universal also includes those in Purgatory (Church penitent). Those bowing before the Lord are those who know the Lord and have washed their garments in his blood.

Turning to the second reading we hear one of the Epistles of John. In this first letter John writes that we should not be frustrated with the world if it does not recognize us for the world simply does not know the Lord, but as Christian we are the hope for the world. As Benedict XVI said “In times like these,… there is the great risk of reducing Christian hope to an ideology…Nothing is more contrary to Jesus’ message! He does not want his disciples to “recite” a part, even that of hope. He wants them “to be” hope and they can only be hope if they remain united to him! He wishes each one of you, dear young friends, to be a small source of hope for your neighbor and, all together, to become an oasis of hope for the society in which you are integrated.”

Finally we reach the Gospel where we hear the Beatitudes. Those Blessed are…, for they will… this is the guide to sainthood. Pope Francis has said this many times and he has written up reflections on the three of the Beatitudes, as the themes of the past two and the next World Youth Day. Let us all try to make something of these messages and try to make the beatitudes a part of our lives. You can look through some of the many post I have about Saints to be inspired on how to live your life.