Welcome family to our e-Newsletter.
Fall 2013 Online Issue #16
This is the last printed Good Newsletter that we will issue.
This is the hardest article we have ever written. We began the Good Newsletter in 1989 with the hopes that we could just give you good news. Over these last 24 years, we have lived up to that mandate, at least we hope we have. The Good Newsletter has never paid for itself. We have never received enough subscriptions to cover the cost of each issue. Between the printing, handling and postage, each issue costs about $5000. We have absorbed it because this has been our way of bringing you the Good News of the Church, and also articles on the Miracles of the Eucharist, Apparitions by Mother Mary, the Angels and the Saints. Our Ministry was doing well, and we could afford the loss that we encountered on each issue, all the while praying that the subscriptions would go up. The subscriptions have not gone up. In an effort to cut costs, in the last two years we have taken to making what we call Double Issues. We got that from the people at TV Guide. So we would issue a larger issue to cover two quarters. That worked for a while, but this year our financial situation has become such that we have only printed one issue of the Good Newsletter, the Spring Issue. This issue, the Christmas issue, will be a double issue.
We can’t say that this is a permanent situation. We’re praying that the economy will turn around, and the moral fiber of our country will turn around to the Christian nation we had always been, and people will care about the Miracles of the Eucharist, Apparitions by Mother Mary, the Angels and the Saints. When the Lord blesses us with enough excess that we can begin again to send you the Good Newsletter, we will. For us it’s a very important evangelization tool, especially for many who will never get to visit the pilgrimage shrines. At least they can read about them, and see the few photos we put in each article.
We think we have had a pretty good record of printing the Good Newsletter every quarter, year after year for these 24 years. We apologize to those who have only received one issue so far this year. Brother Joseph tells us that there is an upside to this situation, if that’s possible. We will continue to issue the Good Newsletter on a quarterly basis on-line. So for those of you who can access our website on the Internet, you can continue to read the Good Newsletter as you have always done. And you don’t have to wait for it to come in the mail. It will be there every 3 months. It just won’t be on paper. But for those of you who do not have Internet access, and don’t have a child or grandchild or nephew or niece to access our website, you will have to wait until the Lord makes it possible for us to start up the printing of the Good Newsletter again.
You are our family. All of this has been done for you. While we have advertised our books and dvds in our Good Newsletter, it was just a way to make our product available to you, and to help cover the cost of printing and postage. The catalog portion of the Good Newsletter will always be available online, so keep in mind that these are great Christmas presents for your children and their children. And right now, Brother Joseph and Luz Elena are coming up with some great specials. You are always in our prayers. God bless you. May you and your families have a Blessed Christmas.
We love you.
Our Last Printed Issue?
For over 25 years I have been writing this column in our Good Newsletter and it is hard to think about not doing it in the future.
One thing I have learned through all those years is that change is constant and this Good Newsletter has seen lot of changes.
We began with 8 pages in black and white only and grew to 24 pages with up to 6 pages in color. We sent it out in Faith learning from Saint Maxmilian Kolbe that it was a great form of evangelization.
But in the final analysis we have to pay the bills and the burden of printing it became too heavy. Now let us pray the economy of our country improves and more importantly many more folks would be able to pay to have it printed sometime in the future.
That being said we are very much involved in the digital media that is spawning out of the internet.
We have converted the chapters from Bob and Penny Lord's book available at Amazon and Smashwords. You can download them in any format you want.
We have a mobile applications available for placing on any mobile device like iphone, ipad android etc. Simple go to BobAndPennyLord.com and the simple instructions on the home page.
You can find us at facebook at facebook.com/bobandpennylord
You can find us on twitter at twitter.com/bobandpennylord
We will continue to expand our presence online including our blogs and websites.
Through the centuries many have proposed what would Saint Paul be doing if he were alive during their times.
I suppose if Saint Paul were alive in our times he would be using the internet just like we are doing along with television and radio. We believe that God allows devices to be invented primarily to spread the Gospel News of Jesus Christ. Of course Satan jumps in right away and uses the same tools for spreading sin.
Even though I have all the digital media devices that I can handle like iphone and ipad if I wanted a permanent copy of one of Bob and Penny Lord's books I would purchase a book because you cannot delete a book and the same for one of their programs - I would buy a dvd version.
I do believe that people will use what is convenient as time goes on however, I also believe that books and dvds will be in demand for many many years and we will have them available.
In closing I invite you all to subscribe to our Good Newsletter online version by going to our homepage and scroll down to see the enewsletter option form.
Just enter your name and email and you are done.
We will stay in touch via email and inform you of the next online version.
May you have a Blessed Christmas and remember the reason for the season.
As Blessed Pier Giorgio would say at this time
"Onward and upward!"
The Child Jesus has been a powerful part of Catholic devotion by the Church at large and the Saints in particular, for as far back as we can remember. Our dear Lord Jesus comes to us, in this stage of His life, as do all infants, innocent, vulnerable, untouched by the world. Although we realize that Jesus never ceased being innocent, eternally untouched by the world, it is through His touching vulnerability as a Child that He comes to us most intimately. We find the same feelings welling up, as when we look upon the innocence of a baby or little child.
Although Jesus appears as a Child, He becomes infinitely involved with our every care, whether trivial or traumatic. He is always there, ready to implore His Father on our behalf. On the Cross, Jesus implored the Father, offering His Wounds and suffering up to Him for our sins and the sins of the world. As a Child, He pleads with His Father, crying Abba, or Daddy, presenting us to Him as little children who have need of their Father and His Mercy. In our lifetime, there will always be times and situations when we have to cry out for help to our Lord Jesus. As adults, believing we are in control, we have tried everything physically possible to remedy a disturbing problem, to no avail. Then if we look toward the Holy Infant and turn to Him, His Heart brimming over with love, He will come to us. He is there for us, ever present and ever available, simply because we need Him, simply because He loves us, was born for us and died for us. And then if our hearts and minds are open and we have closed out the world these very special times, He may very possibly come to us as the beautiful Infant Jesus or as the Child Jesus - maybe twelve years old. The particular Miraculous Child Jesus, the Santo Niño we want to share with you now has been there for the people, for centuries, in different countries, in different parts of the world, but especially in those of the Hispanic culture.
A Church and a country under siege
Our first report of this particular Child Jesus, miraculously coming to the attention of the world, was at a time when Catholics were being crushed under Moorish suppression and occupation in Spain. The Moors, as they were called at that time, because of their dark skin (moreno, Spanish for dark) conquered Granada in 711, and proceeded to work their way north until all of Spain was under the Moorish heel. As the Spaniards turned more and more to their Faith, for strength and hope, the Moors, in retribution, waged a campaign to crush Christianity wherever they could.
In the 13th Century, the plight of Catholics was one of endless misery, hopelessness and helplessness. But the Moors could not break their spirit. The more they were tortured and killed for their Faith, the more the Spaniards turned to their Lord, their Mother Mary, the Angels and the Saints. And in response to their endless fidelity, their Father in Heaven showered down Signal Grace, the Grace He has bestowed upon the Martyrs, throughout the centuries, to bear all forms of cruelty, torture and ultimate death for their Faith. He did not leave the Spaniards orphans, abandoned. The Lord gave them the courage and strength to withstand inhumane living conditions in prison; He gave them endless fortitude to remain hopeful and of good spirit amidst the squalor and stench that emanated from their cell and that of their fellow Catholic prisoners. Catholics lost everything but their strong faith in Jesus and His promise to be with them till the end of the world.
History finds us in a village near Madrid. The town of Atocha was overrun by Moors. The Moorish jailers were particularly cruel to their prisoners. The villagers of Atocha bore witness to the deplorable living conditions in the prisons, as their men - their sons, husbands, brothers and fathers - were imprisoned in the dungeons. As one cruelty after the other failed to break the spirit of the villagers, the Moorish lord came up with another plan. They would not succumb. New restrictions were imposed on the prisoners and their loved ones: Only members of families of those in jail were allowed to bring food or provisions of any kind to their intimate families inside. Without the meager food they were allowed to bring in, the prisoners would have starved to death, as the Moors did not feed their prisoners. But sadly even that was to come to an end. The Moorish lord, in charge, issued another order: Only children under twelve years of age were allowed to visit those prisoners, who were close members of their families, and bring them food. That was all well and good for those prisoners who had children under twelve; they survived; but what of the other prisoners?
The women of Atocha turn to Their Heavenly Mother
The women of Atocha appealed to their Mother. They went down on their knees in front of the statue of Our Lady of Atocha. They pleaded with Our Lady and the Divine Son She held in Her arms to help their loved ones in prison, who had no one to bring them food and water. It was the eleventh hour. It did not look as if help was on its way. Their men were on the verge of starvation! Then a very strange and truly miraculous thing happened. Word began to leak out from the prison that even the inmates, without children to bring them food, were being fed, life returning to their faces, their pallor changing from ashen gray to a rosy healthiness!
The children, who were allowed to bring food to their families in jail, reported they saw a young Child, dressed in pilgrim’s clothing, come to the prisons at night. This little Boy, they said, somewhat under twelve years of age, brought food and water to those who didn’t have children under twelve to bring them food. His small gourd of water seemed bottomless and his tiny basket never ran out of food. He talked to the prisoners, consoled them, prayed with them and gave them hope. By the time He left, they had been filled physically and spiritually. They all knew, without asking, that He was the Child Jesus. After all, He only came at night. How had He managed to slip by the Moorish jailers sleeping, without being detected! And when perchance, a jailer managed to spot Him, how was it that all He had to do was simply smile and be about His appointed tasks?
When the mothers and wives of the prisoners heard of this miracle they went down on their knees and offered thanksgiving to the Blessed Mother - Our Lady of Atocha - for sending Her Beloved Son to their loved ones in prison. After all, it had to be Him, for when they looked at the slippers on Her Son’s tiny Feet, in the Chapel, were they not worn and dusty! And then, when they were replaced with new slippers, did they not become soiled and tattered, once again?
The Moorish jailers finally caught wind of what was happening, and put on additional prison guards at night to try to catch the Child, who was bringing food to the Catholic prisoners. But they could never find Him. They would stealthily comb the corridors. They would hear prisoners talking quietly, lovingly to someone. But when they broke into the cells, there was never anyone there but the prisoner, who would smile at his captors, then turn over on his straw mat, and return to a peaceful sleep.
The Little Pilgrim appears to travelers in danger
If it was bad for the Catholics locked up in the jails, it was no picnic for those on the outside. Their lives were constantly in jeopardy. Villagers had to be afraid to leave their homes. There were stories of townspeople who, out of dire necessity, had to go to visit relatives in far distant villages or cities. On their way, they could count on being accosted on the roads, robbed, beaten and often killed. Although no one could prove that this happened at the hands of their Moorish captors, all visible evidence pointed to them. Because the travelers were Catholics, they were not welcome in the local inns, as the innkeepers feared the wrath of the Moors. Consequently, many had no recourse but to sleep in the forests or on the side of the road.
They, too, reported that a little Boy, dressed as a Pilgrim, would come to them with food and water, and whatever else they needed. Not only that but the Little Pilgrim would suddenly appear, when all seemed lost, and help them out of dangerous situations. If to avert wayside perpetrators, they should get lost, a Pilgrim around twelve years of age appeared. He would not only guide them, but often accompanied them on their journey. When He was confident they could continue without Him, He would warn them which roads were safe and which were not safe to travel, and would end up laying out a plan how they could get to their destination safely. Their description of Him was always the same. He had on a pilgrim’s garb, with a brimmed hat sporting a plume and a cape or a robe about His Shoulders. The Child carried in His left Hand a pilgrim’s staff, with a gourd of water attached to it. In later years, an ornate shell pattern (or St. James Shell), was pictured on the cape of His outfit, a symbol of the Pilgrim’s cape worn by pilgrims to the Shrine of Santiago de Compostela in northwestern Spain.
Because this miraculous event began in Atocha, the Child received the title: the Holy Infant of Our Lady of Atocha. Stories of miracles spreading, The Shrine of Our Lady of Atocha began being a well-visited Shrine in Spain, as early as the 13th Century. It is recorded that Our Lady of Atocha was even venerated there by the Spanish King Alphonse, at that time.
In the Shrine, there are pictures of the Santo Niño being held in the arms of His Mother - Our Lady of Atocha. During the time of the miracles in the 13th Century in Spain, the Santo Niño de Atocha was connected to the statue of Our Lady of Atocha.
Devotion to Santo Niño continues
Devotion to Santo Niño continued, even after Spain was liberated from the Moors in 1492. The Spaniards continued to turn to Santo Niño de Atocha for help in releasing prisoners. It mattered not whether they were guilty or innocent, justly or unjustly incarcerated. For this reason, He earned the title Patron Saint of prisoners. As prayers after prayers were answered, no longer limiting the Holy Infant to aiding prisoners, the faithful expanded their petitions. They turned to the Santo Niño if there was an accident in a mining shaft and miners were trapped in the tunnel of the mine. As the Holy Child had gone into the dungeons and helped those trapped there, why not their loved ones now in the mine?
With calm assurance that Santo Niño would answer their pleadings, men and women continued to turn to the Infant, presenting their petitions, supplicating Him to intercede on their behalf with His Heavenly Father and He answered them. As the need continued, and the prayers rang up to the Santo Niño, the little shoes continued to become soiled and worn, as the Beloved Child of God set out to answer the pleas of the people of Spain.
Santo Niño de Atocha goes to Mexico
Wherever we go, we can bring the Food of Life - Our Lord Jesus, or the harbinger of evil - His enemy Lucifer. A new world and with it a new opportunity emerged, to bring Jesus to a people who knew Him not. The Conquistadors and the Franciscans set out for the New World, and with them tools to evangelize the natives of this new land. Statues of Jesus and Mother Mary, the Saints and the Angels accompanied them. The tradition of Santo Niño de Atocha would not stay confined to Spain, but joined the expedition to the New World across the sea, initially to Mexico.
After Our Lady appeared to Juan Diego on Tepeyac Hill in Mexico City in 1531, great conversions came about, 8,000,000 in seven years, and with them a need for missionaries to share the Good News. In 1554, during this great explosion of the Holy Spirit, the statue of Our Lady with the Santo Niño was brought by Franciscan Missionaries from Atocha, Spain, to the state of Zacatecas, Mexico, to the little village of Fresnillo. Immediately, miracles abounded in this land. Everyone spoke of the compassionate little Person, so young, so innocent and beautiful, who appeared to those needing His help. As He had done in Spain, so He did now. He traveled among the lost, and sometimes forgotten, usually at night. After all, had He not chosen to do that during the Moorish occupation in Spain, go among the prisoners and those stranded and in need of help, in the evening?
St. Thèréses Last Christmas as a Child
“…God had to perform a miracle on a small scale to make me group up’ grow up all in a moment. And the occasion He chose for it was Christmas, that night of illumination which somehow lights up for us the inner life of the Blessed Trinity. Our Lord, newly born, turned this darkness of mine into a flood of light; born to share my human weakness. He brought me the strength and courage I needed. He armed me so well, that holy night that I never looked back.”
St. Thèrése, the Little Flower, God’s bundle of love and energy and joy, had to go through her dark night of the soul at a very early age, four to be exact. Her mother, whom she loved dearly, and who was so close to her, died after a long illness.
Almost immediately, the loving, outgoing, beautiful child became introverted, frightened, closed from the whole world except her family. She spent the next nine years in deep depression. The slightest look, or cross word, could send her running off to her room, in tears. She feared being separated from her family. She was traumatized by going to school at the local Benedictine Convent in Lisieux. She refused to grow up.
“Yes, it was on December the twenty-fifth, 1886, that I was given the grace to leave my childhood days behind; call it, if you will, the grace to complete conversion. We’d just got back from Midnight Mass, in which Our Lord had come to me with all His strength and vigor. On such occasions, there was a treat in store for me at Les Buissonnets (Thèréses home). I would go off to find my Christmas boot (Lace or button boots which were set out in a row in front of the empty grate and filled by the parents with sweets made in a variety of shapes – pipes, mice, pigs, etc.) in the chimney corner; we’d loved this so much in our childhood that Celine went on treating me as if I ere a baby, being the youngest. Papa was always so fond of seeing my happiness, and listening to my cries a delight as the magic boot revealed, one after another, my surprise presents, and part of my enjoyment was the pleasure he took in it. But this time, Our Lord meant to show me that I ought to be getting rid of my childish defects; so this innocent joy was denied me and he allowed Papa to be the means of my disappointment. He, Papa, was tired after the Midnight Mass, and the sight of my boots in the chimney corner annoyed him. Imagine my distress when I overheard him saying: ‘Well, thank goodness it’s the last year this is going to happen!’
“Our Lord meant to show me that I ought To be getting rid of my childish defects.”
I was going upstairs at the moment, to take off my hat. Celine, who know how touchy I was, saw my eyes shining with tears, and was ready to cry herself; in her loving sympathy, she knew exactly what I was feeling. ‘Oh Thèrése, don’t go down just yet; it’ll only make you miserable looking inside your boots now!’ But she didn’t know the Thèrése she was dealing with; Our Lord had changed me into a different person. I dries my tears and went down at once; my heart was beating fast, but I managed to get hold of my boots and put them down in front of Papa, and as I took out my presents you would have thought that I was as happy as a queen. Papa smiled, his good humor restored, and Celine thought she must be dreaming. But no, it was a sublime reality; little Thèrése had recovered the strength of mind which she’d lost at four and half, and recovered it for good.”
Thèrése was a suffering servant of Jesus all her life. She was not aware of it while she was experiencing it, but He was preparing her for the Kingdom, and for the work He would have her do, from her very earliest age.
Her mother died when she was four years old. Thèrése didn’t want to give her mother up. The Lord asked her for self-abandonment from the very beginning. Thèrése began to develop her “Little Way” from that early age. But it wasn’t until that Christmas of 1886, in that one instant, that she realized Jesus was asking her to give up her mother and her childhood together. None of her family, with possible exception of Celine, had any idea what a high place she had reached with that one act of self-abandonment. No one was aware, not even she, that this would give her the courage she would need to go back down into the valley, and accept all the valleys in her life.
“If you would be perfect…”
There’s a strong message in this, which comes across loud and clear. The Lord had a reason for asking this act of abandonment from Thèrése. And Thèrése said “Yes” to the Lord. The reason was most likely us, you and me. The walk towards Jesus is full of boulders to climb, big obstacles which we have to overcome. Strangely enough, these are the easiest to surmount. It’s after we’ve given up the obvious things that Jesus wants, that we find ourselves walking on small rocks and pebbles, twisting our ankles as we go along. It becomes the small things, which we never thought of as being obstacles to our relationship with Jesus. It becomes attitudes, prejudices, and judgments that Jesus asks us to give Him. These little things are sometimes the most difficult to turn over to Him. “If you would be perfect…”
Thèrése fought her natural instincts all her life to walk the road to perfection. She invites us to do the same. We never really get there, until we meet Jesus in the Kingdom. But the Journey is what He asks from us. Thèrése gave these two important things, her mother and her childhood, to Jesus as a Christmas present.
Do you have a Christmas present to give
Jesus this year for His Birthday?
Padre Pio and the Santo Bambino
Saint Padre Pio had an overwhelming devotion to the Child Jesus. Throughout his life, we see photos of the Saintly Franciscan and images of the Child Jesus. In all these photos, it is very obvious from the way he holds these little statues, how much he loves the One Whom they represent. On a pilgrimage, we brought to San Giovanni Rotondo, in July 2002, two weeks after his Canonization, as we walked through the exhibit hall, which showed photos of his life, we noticed more and more photos of Padre Pio with the Child Jesus. There is also in that exhibit hall, right near his cell, a statue of the Santo Bambino, enclosed in glass, and a large blowup of the photo of Padre Pio holding the statue, which is right beside the statue.
So on our last trip there, we asked Fr. Ermelindo, who has taken over as the chaplain for English-speaking groups, about an apparition of the Baby Jesus to Padre Pio, which took place at Christmas time. We had heard of it, but have never been able to track it down. So, while we led this pilgrimage to France and Italy, this last summer, we decided to see if dear Fr. Ermelindo knew anything about it. We were in the English-speaking office at the Church of Our Lady of Grace in San Giovanni Rotondo, and we posed the question of the Santo Bambino appearing to Padre Pio, to Father. To our surprise, he called out to Robert, the American volunteer, whom we have known for more years than we would like to say. Robert opened the desk drawer and pulled out a little printed card. On one side was a drawing of Padre Pio holding the Baby Jesus, depicting the apparition Padre Pio had of the Santo Bambino, and on the other side were the details of the account.
The only eyewitness to the apparition we’re about to share with you was Lucia Ladanza, who was truly a spiritual child of Padre Pio. She knew him from the time she was a child in Pietrelcina. He taught her and other spiritual children there. He instructed her in the catechism, hymns and pious practices. Padre Pio loved her dearly, but she did manage to upset him. She had to be around him all the time. While he understood that her reasoning was that she wanted to absorb his spirituality, and the more she could be with him, the closer she felt to Our Lord, it could become a bit much at times.
However, when Padre Pio was transferred to San Giovanni Rotondo, he told Lucia he would not return home again. She would have to come to San Giovanni Rotondo for her spiritual direction. It was a great struggle for her, and she had to sacrifice much to go to San Giovanni Rotondo, but she often came to this little town on the Gargano to ask for and receive advice and direction from Padre Pio for her spiritual life. It may have been because of her great devotion to Padre Pio that she was given the gift we are about to share with you now.
She was even willing to sacrifice not being with her family at Christmas, to be with Padre Pio. On 24 December 1922, Lucia felt an inner calling to spend the vigil of Christmas close to Padre Pio. She made the trip from Pietrelcina to San Giovanni Rotondo in the bitter cold. Remember, San Giovanni Rotondo is way up in the mountains, and it gets very cold there in the winter. But Lucia wanted to be there, and so she made the trip. There were not many people there that night, but it was still early. We’re sure that the church filled up for Midnight Mass. Add to the fact that it was so cold, the friars brought a brazier into the sacristy. Next to the brazier with three other women, Lucia waited for midnight to come so they could attend the Mass that Padre Pio would celebrate. They were praying the Rosary. Either the heat from the brazier or Divine Intervention, caused the three women to doze off, while Lucia continued to recite the Rosary.
She heard a noise and looked in the direction from which it came. From the internal stairway of the sacristy, she saw Padre Pio come down and stop near the window. All of a sudden, the entire room lit up. In a burst of heavenly light, there appeared the Child Jesus, resting in the arms of Padre Pio, whose face turned radiant. The scene reminded her of the biblical account of Moses when he came down from the mountain of God. If you recall Moses’ face was glowing from having been in the presence of God. Padre Pio was having the same experience. He looked at the Child Jesus, Who returned his look with great love, and great intensity. This lasted only a few moments. But those few moments seemed to Lucia to last an eternity. She was so excited she thought her heart would burst. Padre Pio seemed to her to be in ecstasy with his Lord, this Child Jesus.
As quickly as it had appeared, the light dimmed until finally, it went out. Padre Pio was standing there alone. It seemed, in the aftermath of the brilliant light which had filled the room, as if he was standing in the dark, when actually there was the dim light of one bulb lighting the stairway. He came out of his reverie. He glanced over at Lucia. She had a look of astonishment on her face. Padre Pio realized that Lucia had seen what had happened. He asked her, “Lucia, what did you see?”
Lucia hesitated in answering, for fear of upsetting Padre Pio. In her mind’s eye, she could see him making her leave his presence. She didn’t want to do that. However, she answered truthfully, “Padre I saw everything.” He knew what her answer was going to be before she said it. He looked at her very sternly. Then he admonished her severely: “Don’t say anything to anyone or else I will wring your neck like a chicken.”
She was shocked and more than a little frightened, until she saw the glint of humor in his eyes. He was being firm, but the two of them were able to enjoy a little joke. We would like to say that she kept the secret that she had with Padre Pio all her life, and brought it with her to her grave. But then, we would not have heard the story.
While we don’t know for sure; the truth is probably that she didn’t even keep it a secret until even New Year’s Day. She may have been out on the street the very next day telling the whole of San Giovanni Rotondo, and then all of Pietrelcina about the special apparition she shared with Padre Pio on the night before Christmas. However, we’re pretty sure that from that time on, she stayed at least a little more than arm’s length away from Padre Pio, for fear he might truly “wring her neck like a chicken.”
The painting reproduced here representing Padre Pio receiving the Child Jesus in his arms is not the fruit of a fervid fantasy of the artist, but a faithful transcription, in pictorial language, of the extraordinary event that really happened.
Read more about Padre Pio in
Bob and Penny Lord’s book,
St. Clare’s Last Christmas on Earth
We would like to share one of Clare’s experiences, which is recounted in the Fioretti, the Little Flowers of St. Clare. It is the foundation for the title she was given, Patron Saint of the Airwaves. It took place on Christmas Eve, 1252, the year before she died.
Clare was too ill to go to Midnight Mass services with her Sisters. She was too feeble to get out of bed. She lay there, her heart breaking as she was to be deprived of our Lord Jesus in the Eucharist on this special night. Her thoughts brought her back to the time in Greccio, when Francis made the first Nativity Scene, after which all Nativity scenes in the future would be fashioned. Christmas had always been a joyous time for both Clare and Francis. She missed not having him with her on earth, but especially at this, so important a time.
She looked about the bare room that served as the sleeping quarters for the Sisters. Suddenly, there was a great light in the room. She could hear the sounds of Christmas hymns being sung at the great Basilica of St. Francis in Assisi. She felt herself being lifted out of her bed. The cool breeze of the December night brushed across her face; she was transported to the church amidst what sounded to her like the voices of angels. She could smell the sweet fragrance of burning candles, and altar incense. She was taking part in the Midnight Mass at the Basilica.
Then she was whisked off to the east, to the Bethlehem of 1200 years before. She was brought down to the cave where the Infant Jesus was born. St. Joseph and Mary were there, in the company of the animals whose cave the Holy Family shared. Our Lord Jesus came to her as a grown man, and placed the Sacred Host in her mouth.
Then she was transported back to the convent of San Damiano in Assisi. When her daughters in Christ came back upstairs from the Church, their joy was overshadowed by the great sorrow they felt because their Mother had missed the beautiful service. She smiled weakly. Her face was flushed, but not from the illness. She told them of her experience, and how the Lord Himself had given her Communion. They sat by her bed listening and smiling. As they all fell off into a peaceful Christmas slumber, the soft, distant sound of angels singing Gloria in Excelsis Deo could be heard.
St. Francis made a Crèche at Christmas
Family, the traditional Nativity Scene put up with great joy in anticipation of the coming of the Savior is something we do, but we don’t really think about where it came from. We want to tell you the story of St. Francis of Assisi at Greccio one Christmas eve in 1223. We are quoting from Celano’s First Life of St. Francis, as put forth in the Omnibus of Sources.
“Francis’ highest intention, his chief desire, his uppermost purpose was to observe the Holy Gospel in all things and, with perfect vigilance, with all zeal, with all the longing of his mind and his heart, ‘to follow the teaching and footsteps of Our Lord Jesus Christ.’ He would recall Christ’s words through persistent meditation and bring to mind his deeds through the most penetrating consideration. The humility of the Incarnation and the charity of the Passion occupied his memory particularly, to the extent that he wanted to think of hardly anything else.
What he did on the birthday of Our Lord Jesus Christ near the little town called Greccio in the third year before his glorious death should especially be noted and recalled with reverent memory. In that place there was a certain man by the name of John, of good reputation and an even better life, whom blessed Francis loved with a special love, for in the place where he lived he held a noble and honorable position in as much as he had trampled upon the nobility of his birth and pursued nobility of soul.
Blessed Francis sent for this man, as he often did, about fifteen days before the birth of the Lord, and he said to him: ‘If you want us to celebrate the present feast of Our Lord at Greccio, go with haste and diligently prepare what I tell you. For I wish to do something that will recall to memory the little Child who was born in Bethlehem and set before our bodily eyes in some way the inconveniences of His infant needs, how He lay in a manger, how with an ox and an ass standing by, He lay upon the hay where He had been placed.’ When the good and faithful man heard these things, he ran with haste and prepared in that place all the things the saint had told him.
But the day of joy drew near, the time of great rejoicing came. The brothers were called from their various places. Men and women of that neighborhood prepared with glad hearts, according to their means, candles and torches to light up that night that was lighted up all the days and years with its gleaming star. At length the Saint of God came, and finding all things prepared, he saw it and was glad. The manger was prepared, the hay had been brought, the ox and ass were led in. There simplicity was honored, poverty was exalted, humility was commended, and Greccio was made, as it were, a new Bethlehem. The night was lighted up like the day, and it delighted men and beasts. The people came and were filled with new joy over the new mystery. The woods rang with the voices of the crowd and the rocks made answer to their jubilation. The brothers sang, paying their debt of praise to the Lord, and the whole night resounded with their rejoicing. The Saint of God stood before the manger, uttering sighs, overcome with live, and filled with a wonderful happiness. The solemnities of the Mass were celebrated over the manger and the priest experienced a new consolation.
The Saint of God was clothed with the vestments of the deacon, for he was a deacon, and he sang the holy Gospel in a sonorous voice. And his voice was a strong voice, a sweet voice, a clear voice, a sonorous voice, inviting all to the highest rewards. Then he preached to the people standing about, and he spoke charming words concerning the nativity of the poor King and the little town of Bethlehem. Frequently too, when he wished to call Christ Jesus, he would call him simply the Child of Bethlehem, aglow with overflowing love for Him; and speaking the word Bethlehem, his voice was more like the bleating of a sheep. His mouth was filled more with sweet affection that with words. Besides, when he spoke the name Child of Bethlehem, or Jesus, his tongue licked his lips, as it were, relishing and savoring with pleased plate the sweetness of the words.
The gifts of the Almighty were multiplied there, and a wonderful vision was seen by a certain virtuous man. For he saw a little child lying in the manger lifeless, and he saw the holy man of God go up to it and rouse the child as from a deep sleep. This vision was not unfitting, for the Child Jesus had been forgotten in the hearts of many; but by the working of His grace, He was brought to life again through His servant St. Francis and stamped upon their fervent memory. At length the solemn night celebration was brought to a close, and each one returned to his home with holy joy.
The hay that had been placed in the manger was kept, so that the Lord might save the beasts of burden and other animals through it as He multiplied His Holy Mercy. And in truth it so happened that many animals throughout the surrounding region that had various illnesses were freed from their illnesses after eating of this hay. Indeed, even women laboring for a long time in a difficult birth, were delivered safely when some of this hay was placed upon them; and a large number of persons of both sexes of that place, suffering from various illnesses, obtained the health they sought. Later, the place on which the manger had stood was made sacred by a Temple of the Lord, and an altar was built in honor of the most blessed Father Francis over the manger and a church was built, so that where once the animals had eaten the hay, there in the future men would eat unto health of soul and body the flesh of the Lamb without blemish and without spot, Our Lord Jesus Christ, who in highest and ineffable love gave Himself to us, who lives and reigns with the Father and the Holy Spirit, God, eternally glorious, forever and ever. Amen. Alleluia, Alleluia.” Omnibus of Sources – First Life Celano
Family, I think we have lost a great deal of the reverence and love that was exhibited first by St. Francis in Greccio that Christmas Eve, and then magnified by the presence of Jesus in the form of the living baby, as testified by John of Greccio. Miracles abounded after that night when anyone touched the hay of the Holy Manger. Just a little hay from the Manger would bring about cures, help with difficult pregnancies, and heal hearts and souls. But the real miracle was the love which poured out from the people in the neighborhood of Greccio, where there had been no love before, and “overcome with love, and filled with a wonderful happiness.”
How would you like to have that experience this Christmas Eve? Do what St. Francis did. Set up a Crèche in your home, a Nativity Scene if you will. Put it in your front window, where people outside can see it. Make it a Christmas Eve celebration. Get your neighbors to take part in your Christmas Eve celebration. Keep the image of the Baby Jesus out of it until after midnight on that Holy Night. Sing hymns to the Newborn Child, the Savior of Israel, the Savior of the world. We need a Savior, boys and girls. The world is moving in a tailspin, not in a good direction. We need a Hero who will stop the downward momentum and bring us up from the black hole we are descending into, and save us from a world without God. You can do it. Just call on Him. Call on Our Lady, the Angels and the Saints, especially St. Francis. Have a Blessed Christmas. We love you!
There is a Helicopter Concept of God. He is compared to a pilot, flying way above the Earth. From His vantage point, He can see great distances, and occurrences that are about to happen and have already happened. Using this helicopter concept, we can see a pattern of clusters that the Lord creates. We see clusters of Holy Places and events that seem to have no connection with others, except that they were all instituted by the Lord. The chronological sequence may be centuries apart. But time is a limitation put on us by man, not by God. In Yugoslavia, Medjugorje (where Blessed Mother has reportedly been appearing since 1981), is not that distant from Tersatto, where the Holy House of Nazareth rested before it was moved across the Adriatic to Loreto, Italy.
In Italy, San Giovanni Rotondo, where Padre Pio lived for the first half of the 20th Century, is only 20 miles away from Monte St. Angelo, where the Archangel Michael appeared towards the end of the 4th Century.
Portugal is also a place of clusters. It has always been a very special place in the hearts of Our Dear Lord Jesus and His Mother Mary. It has been consecrated to Our Blessed Mother for many centuries. In Fatima, she gave us the message of Penance and Prayer in 1917. In Batalha, about 20 miles from Fatima, a promise was made to Our Lady to build a great Church in her honor if she would help the Portuguese people in a battle against Spain, which took place on the day before the Feast of the Assumption in 1385. In Alcobaca, connected by cluster with Fatima and Batalha, there is a monastery which was built in thanksgiving to Our Lady for enabling the Portuguese to recapture the city of Santarem from the Moors in 1152.
Santarem is also a part of the cluster. It is located halfway between Fatima and Lisbon. The history of Santarem is laced with holy people. For our purposes, however, we will talk of only one important aspect of Santarem.
Either in 1225 or 1247, or somewhere in between, there was a woman living in Santarem, who was very unhappy. She was convinced that her husband did not love her, and was unfaithful to her. She tried all the wiles known to women from the days of Eve, but to no avail. As a desperate last attempt, she went to a sorceress. The sorceress promised the wife that her husband would return to his loving ways, if the wife would bring her a Consecrated Host.
This greatly frightened the woman. She knew it was Sacrilege. She was also convinced that the sorceress was up to no good. The wife didn’t know what to do. She finally gave in. She went to Mass at the Church of St. Steven, and received Communion, but she did not consume the Host. Instead, she left the Church immediately, and took the Host out of her mouth, putting it into a kerchief. She then headed for the Sorceress.
Along the way, the Host began to bleed inside the kerchief. The wife was not aware of it until passersby brought it to her attention, thinking she was bleeding. Panic struck the heart of the woman. She went home, and put the kerchief and the Host in the bottom of a trunk. She waited all day and night in fear. When her husband came home late that night, she was sitting in the dark. They went to bed. We doubt whether she slept very much. The guilt of her sin plagued her. She also didn’t know if the Host had continued to bleed.
Sometime during the night, they were awakened by bright rays of light coming from the trunk, which lit up the entire room. The wife confessed her sin to her husband. The two of them spent the rest of the night on their knees in adoration before the Miraculous Host. The next day, people came to the house, attracted by the light. They witnessed the miracle for themselves. The Parish priest was told. He came to the house, and heard the story from the woman. He brought the Host back to the Church in solemn procession. Encasing It in a wax container, he placed the Host into the tabernacle.
Another miracle occurred. The next time the priest opened the tabernacle door, the wax container had broken into thousands of pieces. In its place was a crystal container, with the blood of the Host inside. It has been kept in that church until today. The Church has been renamed, “The Church Of The Miracle. The little house where the miracle occurred was on Via delle Stuoie, in Santarem. From the time of the miracle until now, every year, on the Second Sunday of April, the incident is re-enacted by local actors. The actual Eucharistic Miracle is processed from the house, which was converted into a Chapel in 1684, to the Church.
The Eucharistic Miracle of Santarem only left the city one time, during the invasion of Portugal by Napoleon’s troops in 1810. The people of the town were afraid of desecration at the hands of the French, and so it was taken out of the city. It wound up in the hands of the Bishop of Lisbon, who put It on display for the faithful of Lisbon to venerate. It seemed as if he were going to keep Our Dear Lord Jesus in the church of Pacao permanently. The citizens of Santarem were outraged, and put up a mass protest. It is possible that the Lord did not want the people of Santarem to take his presence in their midst for granted for even a minute.
The Eucharistic Miracle was sent back to Santarem in great secrecy, to prevent the people of Lisbon from knowing It was leaving their city. The people of Lisbon were not aware that the Physical Presence of their Savior was gone from their city until the day It was restored to Santarem, on December 2, 1811.
The Eucharistic Miracle of Santarem is not normally exposed. However, pilgrim groups with their own priest can usually behold and venerate the Sacred Blood. The Blood is still in liquid form, these 750 years after the Miracle occurred.
We ask ourselves why the Lord does the things He does? Why was there a miracle in Santarem? Why has it lasted all these years? Why does the Lord form clusters the way we’ve described? In order to come up with an answer that is acceptable to us, we have to bring God down to our level. That’s the only way we can understand Him. The same question might be asked, “Why does God continue to love us when we are so unfaithful to Him?”
The only answer I can think of is God, to remain God, must love us, because God is Love. God remains faithful because God is faithful.. We can turn our back on Him, but He is always there, waiting, arms outstretched, just as when He was on the cross. When we sin, we break relationship with Him. He remains unchanged. When we go to Confession, and are reconciled with Him, the change comes about in us, not in Him. He loves us as intensely as he did before we sinned. Praise You, Jesus, for being such a loving God..
This is a chapter from Bob and Penny Lord’s book
This Is My Body, This Is My Blood
Portugal is a very special place in the hearts of Our Dear Lord Jesus and His Mother Mary. It has been consecrated to Mary for as long as anyone can remember. The History of Portugal is filled with kings making petitions to Our Lady which were always answered and promises which were always kept.
The area in and surrounding Fatima has been particularly blessed by Our Lord Jesus through our loving Mary. In Bathala about 20 miles from Fatima a promise was made to Mary that a great Church would be built in her honor if she would help the Portugese people win a battle against Spain which took place on the day before the Feast of the Assumption in 1385. The splendid Basilica rises majestically towards her in Heaven as a tribute to and in thanksgiving for the victory granted. The Church is called appropriately OUR LADY OF THE VICTORIES.
In Alcobaca closely connected geographically and spiritually with Fatima a beautiful monastery was built in honor of and in thanksgiving to Mary for enabling the Portuguese to recapture the important city of Santarem from the Moors in 1152. Santarem is situated about halfway between Fatima and Lisbon.
A great plan was conceived in Heaven. It began to make itself known in a very emall way to three little shepherds in the remote little farming village of Aljustrel, in the Spring of 1916.
It was still early in the season, the rainy time, before the weather warmed up. That morning, Lucia dos Santos, and her cousins Jacinta and Francisco Marto, had led the sheep to the Cabeco to graze. The ground and the grass were wet from the morning rain. They could feel the moisture on their feet, through their little sandals.
Drizzle began to fall gently from the sky. The children ran up a hill to a cave where they could shelter themselves and their sheep until the rain stopped. They ate their lunch in the cave; and although the rain stopped, and the skies cleared, they stayed there, playing a game with pebbles.
The early afternoon was very calm, very still. The children became mesmerized
by the game they were playing. Suddenly, a powerful blast of wind ripped through the trees, bending the branches as it whipped around the little cabeco, breaking the still of the day. The children snapped out of their lethargy. They jumped up like a shot, looking around frantically to find out what was causing the abrupt change in weather.
All at once, their eyes zeroed in on a bright light off in the distance, approaching them. It drew closer to their little cave. As it moved closer, it became larger. They could make out the transparent figure of a person. Their hearts pounded. They were too frightened to speak. Closer and closer the vision came, until it was almost on top of them.
It was a beautiful young man. His long mane of blonde hair blew in the breeze. There was a sensitivity about him, almost contradicted by a forceful strength. His eyes were cobalt blue. When he looked at the children, they could feel his stare to the depths of their souls. While they were frightened of this majestic figure before them,
they couldn’t take their eyes off him. He spoke to them.
Do not be afraid. I am the Angel of Peace.
From this title by which the angel called himself, we can be fairly certain it was the beloved of Mary, St. Michael the Archangel. Although the angel never actually called himself by the name of the Prince of the Heavenly Hosts, scripture and the Litany of St. Michael gives him the title, Angel of Peace among many other equally important honors. It has also been handed down in Church tradition and Marian devotion that wherever Our Lady is, St. Michael is sure to be found close by.
The Angel continued: Pray with me . He prostrated himself on the ground, and said the following prayer. “My God, I believe, I adore, I hope, and I love You. I ask forgiveness for those who do not believe, nor adore, nor hope, nor love You”.
The children, in a state of shock, followed suit. They put their heads to the cold stone, and repeated what they heard the Angel say. He repeated the prayer three times. They did the same. Then he stood up again. He seemed to be nine feet tall. He looked at them. Pray in this way, he told them. The Hearts of Jesus and
Mary are ready to listen to you. Then he took his leave. A gust of wind followed him as he turned into a bright light again, becoming smaller and fainter as he drew away from them. Finally, he was gone.
Silence. The sound of silence was so strong, it completely overpowered them. They looked at each other. No one said anything. They were dumbfounded.
For the rest of the day, they thought of nothing else. They didn’t play anymore.
They stayed off by themselves, each separated from the other. Every now and then they would look at one another. They were incredulous. It was never even considered by any of the three that they tell anyone what had happened. It was too intimate. They quite honestly didn’t even know how to describe it. There were no words.
The plan was in motion. Ponder in your hearts for a moment the words of the Angel. I ask forgiveness for those who do not believe, nor adore, nor hope, nor love You. Who was he talking about? Was it the leaders of this country who had rejected Our Lord Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, His Mother Mary, and all things the people had always held dear? Were they trading Jesus in for something better, and if so, what? The words fit the pattern of what the official attitude of the country towards the Church had become. They certainly had stopped loving Jesus.
Adoring Him was out of the question, and they seemed to have lost hope in the ability of their God to provide for His children. But whatever they had hoped to receive in return for their betrayal was not forthcoming. The government of Portugal continued to be extremely poor, up until the present time. Judas got 30 pieces of silver for his treachery. These wretches did not even get that.
The second apparition of the Angel set the tone for what was to come a year later. We were in serious times. There was a great urgency for return to prayer, penance, sacrifice and mortification. It was the Summer of the same year, 1916.
Portugal, and especially the Sera, where the children lived, became unbearably hot. The flocks were brought out in the pre-dawn hours to graze while there was still a cool breeze in the air. Later, they would be kept out of the hot rays of the sun until evening, when the weather cooled off again.
During this time Lucia and her cousins tended sheep in back of Lucy s house, near the well. It was here that the Angel came to them a second time. It was the lunch hour. All the sheep had been put away to protect them from the hot sun.
The children were sitting under some trees near the well. The angel did not make an entrance the way he had the first time. One moment, they were alone; the next, he was there. His manner was one of impatience.
“What are you doing?” he said. “Pray! Pray! The hearts of Jesus and Mary have merciful designs for you. Offer your prayers and sacrifices to the Most High.”
Lucy asked him How are we to make sacrifices?
The Angel responded “In every way you can, offer a sacrifice to the Lord, in reparation for the sins by which He is offended and in supplication for sinners. Thus you will bring peace to our country. I am its Guardian Angel, the Angel of Portugal.
Above all, accept and bear with patience the sufferings which the Lord will send you.”
The Lord gave the children very important messages through the Angel. For one thing, it was determined that they would be sacrificial lambs. They were required to suffer and do penance for the sins of many others. When the Angel asked them to above all, accept and bear with patience the sufferings which the Lord will send you, the message was reminiscent of that given to Bernadette at Lourdes, when Our Lady told her I cannot promise you happiness in this world, but in the next .
It was after this second apparition by the Angel that we learn that Francisco
had never heard the words of the Heavenly visitor. As in the previous vision, the children were completely stunned by what had happened. They couldn’t talk about it. Francisco had a burning desire to know what had been said. First he asked Lucia.
She was not able to talk. She told him to wait until the next day, or ask his sister, Jacinta. Francisco went to his sister. She, too, was unable to put into words how the Lord had touched her in the deep recesses of her soul. She told him to wait until the next day.
The next day, Lucia told him what the Angel had said in both apparitions. He didn’t understand all the big words that were used. Lucia explained their meaning as best she could. His tiny heart was filled with love of Jesus and the Angel. He thought of nothing but the Angel and his visit.
From that time on, the children prayed all the time. They found themselves shying away from the other children of the village. They had been just like the others before the Angel s apparition. Now, their entire beings were taken up with matters of the spirit.
In the Autumn of 1916, the Angel of Peace, Blessed Michael the Archangel, visited the children once more, in a most dramatic way. They were at the Loca de Cabeco again, caring for their sheep. Suddenly, he appeared above them, holding a Host in one hand, and a Chalice in the other. Drops of Blood fell from the Host into the Chalice. He looked at them with an expression that was gentle, yet serious. This was a very important visit.
The Angel prostrated himself on the ground, leaving the Host and Chalice suspended in mid-air. He began to pray. “Most Holy Trinity, Father, Son And Holy Ghost, I Adore You Profoundly
And I Offer You The Most Precious Body, Blood, Soul And Divinity Of Jesus Christ, Present In All The Tabernacles Of The World, In Reparation For The Outrages, Sacrileges And Indifference By Which He Is Offended. And By The Infinite Merits Of His Most Sacred Heart And Through The Immaculate Heart Of Mary, I Beg The Conversion Of Poor Sinners”
He remained in the prostrate position for a time; then rising, he took the Host and Chalice into his hands. He gave the Host to the older of the three, Lucia, and the Blood of Our Lord Jesus to Francisco and Jacnta.
As they drank from the Chalice, he said “Take and drink the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, horribly outraged by ungrateful men. Repair their crimes and console your God” .
After this, the angel prostrated himself on the ground once more, and repeated the prayer he had said to the Trinity at the beginning of the apparition.
The children prostrated themselves, and prayed with him. Then the angel rose, and looked at the children. They could feel a tingling inside of them. They were not sure if it was because of the unwavering stare of the angel, or the burning of the Eucharist they had received inside their bodies.
After what seemed an eternity, but was actually a matter of seconds, the angel slowly disappeared. The wind whistled through the Loca de Cabeco. It was beginning to get cold, but the children could not feel it. They were flushed by the Eucharist inside them and the angel s presence. They stared for a long time into space. They could not speak.
This has been an excerpt from
Bob and Penny Lord’s book,
The Many Faces of Mary, a Love Story
St. Peter Julian Eymard, Eucharistic Adorer
Family, if there was ever a Saint who had complete focus in what the Lord was calling him to do, it was St. Peter Julian Eymard. He is called, among other things, “Champion of the Blessed Sacrament”. He had such an unbelievable singleness of purpose, in his great devotion to the Blessed Sacrament, and desire that Eucharist Adoration should be practiced worldwide, that he would Found an Order devoted solely to adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and the spread of that devotion. That Religious Order is called “Priests of the Blessed Sacrament.”
But we’re getting ahead of ourselves here. The life of this slave of Mary and servant of Jesus is fascinating. We have to track his life here in the area of the world where he spent most of it, the French Alps. He began his life in 1811, in the small village of La Mure, in between Gap and Laus, and the great shrine of Our Lady of Laus, which played an important part in his life, and was just recently approved by Mother Church in May 2008, as the longest apparition Our Lady has made. Peter came by his love of the Eucharist from his father, who belonged to a Eucharistic association. The father was a strong Catholic and a good father. Peter’s father was a hard worker. Things did not come easy for him. He lost his first wife and six children, as well as three children from his second wife, before Peter Julian was born. There was a daughter from the first marriage, Marianne, and an adopted daughter, Nanette. All these, plus the father and mother made up the family of the Eymards during Peter’s life.
If there was one phrase which would typify the life of Peter Julian Eymard, I believe it would “an uphill fight.” He felt that he had a vocation to the priesthood as a young man. He had to learn Latin to be eligible to study for the priesthood. Peter was taken out of school at thirteen, to work at his father’s business. The entire family was shocked by Mr. Eymard’s decision, but no one dared question it, not Peter’s mother, not the parish priest. Mr. Eymard’s word was final in all things. Peter always said that the Receiving of Holy Communion was a turning point in his life. After receiving First Holy Communion, he asked his father permission to follow his calling and study for the priesthood.. He thought for sure the father would understand his sincere desire to follow his vocation. Just the opposite happened. The father was absolute in his refusal to consider such a thing. Although he was a good Catholic, Mr. Eymard was adamant that Peter was to take his place beside him in their small business, which supported the family.
Peter was completely crushed. He couldn’t believe that this was happening to him. He walked a distance of thirty miles to the Shrine of Our Lady of Laus. He wanted to unload all his sorrow and disappointment at the feet of Our Lady, and quite honestly, ask her how he could follow his dream of being a priest. He actually spoke to Our Lady at her altar at the Shrine of Laus, and she answered him, through the words of a priest who was in the chapel at the time, a Fr. Touche, who became a lifelong friend and mentor for young Peter. He asked Peter to repeat his tale of grief and frustration and what he could do about it. The priest encouraged him to stay the course of his determination to become a priest. He recommended Peter begin receiving Communion every week, and insisted that he learn Latin.
More easily said than done, thought young Peter. But he had received such affirmation from Our Lady through the hands of this priest, that he went back to La Mure, more resolute in his unwavering commitment to follow his dream. He continued his work for his father, but in his free time, he bought a second-hand Latin grammar book, and learned Latin.
A priest from the Oblates of Mary came to La Mure to give a Lenten retreat. He must have observed Peter at the retreat, because he boldly went to the house of Peter’s father to ask permission for Peter to enter the Oblate novitiate. Although Mr. Eymard had fought this for years, Peter was now 18 years old, and determined to follow his vocation. Permission was given.
Peter made a visit to Our Lady of Laus to thank her for her part in softening his father’s heart. Then he headed for Marseilles, and the novitiate of the Oblates of Mary. It was June 1829. You remember we told you he had an uphill fight all his life to realize his dream to become a priest. Well, it didn’t end with his entering the novitiate. Within 5 months, he became so ill; he had to be sent back to La Mure. Actually, his superiors thought he was dying, and were sending him home to die comfortably. However, his sisters, with the help of Our Lady of Laus, no doubt, nursed him back to health. This was a good thing, but not so much a good thing. His sisters adopted a domineering hold on Peter, which took some time and a lot of determination to break.
During this time back at La Mure, his father, who had been very healthy, but grieving over the death of his wife, died. This was only two years after Peter’s mother had passed away. With the help and advice of his sisters, he decided to apply for permission to enter the diocesan seminary in Grenoble. It would be less taxing on his system, so thought the sisters. Actually, they had ulterior motives. As a diocesan priest, they could sweet-talk the bishop into letting him be stationed closer to home, so that they could take care of him. It actually worked for a while. But they could see that he was not necessarily content to be a diocesan priest. This was made manifest when, after his ordination in 1834, at the cathedral in Grenoble, he chose to celebrate his first mass at Notre Dame de l’Ossier, rather than his parish in La Mure, or at the shrine of Our Lady of Laus. The sisters thought this strange. But his reasoning was fairly simple. Notre Dame de l’Ossier, while not important to him during his lifetime, was under the direction of the Oblates of Mary, and so we see that he still wanted to keep the door open to join the Oblates. However, the Oblates were not sold on the idea of his joining their community, most likely because of his poor health. His next assignment was in a small village, Monteynard, about 15 kilometers from La Mure, more doable for the sisters to be able to help him.
During his time at Monteynard, he really took hold of his ministry. The little church was run-down. They had no priest living there for many years. Peter was actually the pastor for this small community. He did all he could to build up the church. He got new vestments. He bought statues. They replaced the altar, broken down from age, with a new one. He was well-loved by the parishioners. He worked day and night to accommodate their needs. Nothing was too much to ask for. He would give the working men special time at the rectory at night to go to confession. He restored a small chapel at a far end of town for special services, so that the people would not have to come into town. To the parishioners, the Lord had truly sent an angel.
But no sooner had he arrived at Monteynard than his old friend and mentor, Fr. Touché, from Our Lady of Laus shrine, came to visit him. He told Peter of a new religious community which was being formed in Lyons, the Society of Mary, the Marists. Peter went to speak to the founder and superior, Fr. Colin, who asked him to pray on whether the Lord was calling him to this new order, and if so, to ask his bishop permission to be released from the diocese. Peter wrote to his bishop, asking permission to join the Marists, to do missionary works. The bishop, who did not want to lose him, responded by telling him there was much missionary work to be done right there in the diocese. At the same time, the superior of the Marists wrote that he had accepted Fr. Peter. What to do? When he explained his predicament to the superior of the Marists, he was told to keep after his bishop to get permission to leave. The bishop finally realized that this was God who was directing Fr. Peter, and so he gave in and allowed him to leave the diocese.
It would seem like everything should be wonderful. He was given permission to leave. Now all he had to do was to overcome the hurdle of his sisters and his parishioners. He planned his departure in a way that no one would even know he was gone. He had all his bags packed. He had hired a musician to play at Church to distract the community after Sunday Mass, so that they would not notice him leaving with all his belongings. His sisters had gone to Grenoble to speak to the bishop, trying to talk him out of having Peter do missionary work in the diocese. When the bishop told them of Peter’s plans, to leave the diocese altogether, they rushed back in haste to Monteynard, to try to dissuade him. As luck would have it, they arrived at the church as he was carrying his bags to the coach which would take him to Lyons and his new life. His sister begged him to reconsider his decision. He was adamant. She implored him to spend just one more day with her. He said, “Sister, God calls me today. Tomorrow will be too late!” She collapsed in the arms of her friends who were with her. Peter just kept going. He knew that if he faltered, all would be lost. He could never get that image out of his mind.
For years, he talked about that difficult tearing away from his sisters and his community. But the Lord was calling him. He had to say yes. Fr. Peter found tremendous joy in being part of the newly formed community of Marists. Although he continued to suffer poor health, sometimes to the point of fearing death, he surged forward, becoming more and more a part of the order. He was promoted to high positions. He was given great responsibilities. He accepted all of these as a gift from the Lord and a responsibility to carry out the task the Lord had given him. He traveled all over France for the Marists. In 1849, he went to Paris for the first time on Marist business. While there, he met a man who would have a great impact on his life and future community. His name was Raymond de Cuers, who was involved in an organization promoting nocturnal prayer in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament. The Lord touched Peter’s heart at that time.
What you have read is an excerpt on the life
of St. Peter Julian Eymard. For the whole story,
get his DVD or mini-book or e-book.
Father of Medieval Christianity
Doctor of the Church
The First Monk to be elected Pope
One day, I called a brilliant, holy priest-friend, complaining about the attacks against the Church and our country. His advice to me was, “Don’t despair! The world and the Church have been under attack for generations and we are still here!”
One cannot study the history of the world, especially Europe, without finding yourself deeply entrenched in the history of the Church. For the Church has always played an integral part in the annals of history, as she continues to follow her Master Jesus Christ, who told the Apostles, “I will be with you till the end of the world.” For since the children of God are living in the world, then so must the happenings of the world be intertwined with Mother Church as her children are affected by the world they live in.
Rome and Italy under siege
Our story begins in the 5th Century. The world is in a turmoil! In this Century, we see the end of the Western emperors. It begins with Italy being taken over by one barbarian army placing Italy under the thumb of the Eastern emperors of Constantinople, only to be invaded and ravaged by another barbarian, the Ostrogoth Theodoric, placing her under the domination of the Goths. (A Germanic, warlike tribe that invaded Italy in the fourth century) Theodoric declared himself vice- emperor; and would rule Italy from Rome, from 493, until his death in 526 (33 years).
God’s children were suffering! Never leaving us alone, into this topsy-turvy world, God raised up a future Saint, whose voice would ring strong down through the ages, summoning God’s children to pray and believe in the One True Triune God,
Who is with us; Who loves us; Who we can trust.
This future Saint, God was raising up, would strengthen the Church He had founded, to guide His most precious lambs that they not wander and get devoured by wolves. But who would He use?
A light cuts through the darkness
A child was born, preordained to serve Mother Church with two Popes in the 6th Century already preceding him in his family’s history - a blessed, awesome ancestry, worthy of one who would be called to fill the Chair of Peter.
Not only that, but this special child would one day be declared Doctor of the Church, and go done in Church history as one of the most integral forces responsible for the implementation of the beliefs of our Catholic Faith, that which we have believed from the time of Christ, in this way guiding Mother Church in her pursuit to follow the directives of Our Lord, Who had commissioned her to bring the Truth to the world.
In his role as Pope, Gregory was responsible for framing the structure of the Church as we know it today. Without his powerful and faithful directives, the Church of Medieval times may never have grown into the ongoing, inextinguishable guiding light of the world, she is till today.
Saints beget Saints!
In the year 540, our future Pope Gregory was born into wealth and position, but more importantly he was born into a very pious Christian family. Although an important man of state, with extensive estates, a patrician of great wealth and holdings, his father Gordianus was a man of deep faith. He enjoyed all the homage due a senator, but soon after his son Gregory was born, he retired. Renouncing the world, he would die one of seven cardinal deacons in charge of the seven Ecclesiastical ( parochial) districts of Rome. Gregory’s mother, Silvia consecrated herself solely to God and would one day be honored as a Saint. His two aunts, his father Gordianus’ two sisters, Tarsilla and Æmiliana, would also be canonized. All this, once again, bringing to light our saying that Saints beget Saints!
Gregory was predestined from the very beginning to become a Saint. His name in Greek means “watchman” and that he would become - watchman of the Faith and the Church, which Jesus founded to uphold that Faith He left us. As a young student, Gregory diligently applied himself to his studies, digging deeply into such subjects as grammar, rhetoric and philosophy, excelling in all of them. Not only in them, but then in his studies in civil law and canon law.
Gregory feels the call to the Road of Sainthood
In the year 573, at the young age of thirty-three, Gregory was appointed by Emperor Justin the Younger, governor and chief magistrate of Rome. In this role, it was required he adopt the finery due his station; with all its velvets and jewels adorning his robes. But, as he confessed many times, he abhorred it, favoring the humble habits of the holy monks. He could not remember a day, from the time of his earliest childhood, he did not desire the gifts from Above, and detest the fading treasures of the world. His greatest delight was conversing with monks and spending quiet, contemplative time praying in church or in the quiet of his home studying Scripture.
From the time he was a young boy, he would listen to his elders, drinking in the Spiritual treasures they would impart. Now, he was a grown man and his arms were being pulled almost out of their sockets by the snares of the world on one side and the call to Sainthood on the other. After much prayer and soul-searching, for the life of prefect of Rome had its own source of glamour and awesome respectability, Gregory decided to give it all up and become a monk.
His father died in 574, leaving Gregory with the responsibility of caring and fulfilling his father’s wishes. Gregory built six monasteries in Sicily, where his and his father’s estates were located and consequently granted endowments for their upkeep. That accomplished, he founded a seventh monastery in his own home in Rome, on the Caelian hills, which became well-known as the monastery of St. Andrew. It was in this monastery, that at thirty-five years old, in the year 575, Gregory would don the cowl, or in other words, receive the habit of a monk.
For the next three years, Gregory immersed himself deeply in the quiet contemplative life of the monastery, digging once again into his studies, only now of Sacred Scripture. Desiring to live fully the life of a monk, he plowed full steam ahead, even surpassing the rigorous fasting of the other monks in his monastery. His extreme fasting caused such serious problems with his stomach, debilitating him so that, at times, if he failed to eat often, he was known to lose consciousness.
One of the heaviest crosses he had to carry was not being physically able to fast Holy Saturday. According to John the Deacon, Holy Saturday was a day where everyone was required to fast, with not even the exclusion of little children,. Gregory so desired to conform to the universal practice of that day, he turned to a very holy monk, well-known for his sanctity, Eleutherius. They prayed together, pleading with God to give him the strength to fast, at least on that holy day. Having done so, he was so completely restored to health, he was not only able to fast that holy day but was cured of his malady and able to fast from that time on.
The monks in the monastery were more than likely living the rule passed down by Saint Benedict, who had died in 547 A.D. Only thirty-three years after Saint Benedict went to the Father, and one hundred years after the date of Benedict’s birth in 580, the Lombards invaded the monastery of Monte Cassino, completely destroying every vestige of what Benedict and the early monks had built. Benedict’s monks fled Monte Cassino and settled in Rome, near the Basilica of the Lateran (or Laterano, as we know it). This is where, most likely, Saint Gregory met the followers of Saint Benedict and learned about the Rule of Saint Benedict.
Gregory spent three content-filled years in cloister, in the monastery. He believed with all his heart that this was where he was called to be and the life he was to lead. Then, to his dismay, this solitary life was to come to an end, when Pope Pelagius II ordained him a deacon of Rome (one of seven deacons of Rome). This plainly meant he had been summoned to live an active role in the Church, rather than the cloistered life he so revered.
Rome was once again under the heel of tyrants
The names change but the modus operandi is the same. Rome was once again under the heel of tyrants, pilfering and laying waste everything in their paths. His Holiness and all of Rome had to contend with new aggressors - the Lombards (who had originally taken part in Belisarius’ other conquests, and most of Italy). Pope Pelagius II summoned Gregory, gave him a new title, Papal Ambassador, and asked him to join the official mission he was sending to the Byzantine court of Constantinople. There he was to extend Pope Pelagius’ sincere good wishes and congratulations to Maurice I, the new Emperor, on his ascending the throne, and to plead with him to send an army to defend Rome against the Lombards. Gregory obeyed, and spent the next six years, miserable in Constantinople, which he found garishly opulent compared with the austerity of his poor beloved Rome.
To avoid all the petty gossip and little conspiracies inundating the court, and to safeguard his immortal soul from the worldly influences so prevalent there, Gregory spent most of his time, alone, practicing the monastic life he had known in St. Andrew’s, as best as he could. By the Grace of God, he was aided by several of his brother monks who had accompanied him to Constantinople. In the quiet of his quarters, he and his brother monks spent every waking moment, in addition to practicing the austerities of the Benedictines and praying, studying Holy Scripture. This would result in the writing of his well-known book: Morals and the series of lectures he wrote on The Book of Job, at the request of St. Leander of Seville, who he met during his stay at the court in Constantinople..
Gregory does battle over the attack on the Resurrection
Gregory locked horns with Eutychius I, Patriarch of Constantinople, who toward the end of his life, had written and published a book attacking the Church’s teachings on the Resurrection, passed down to us by not only the early Apostles, but by Jesus Himself. Eutychius’ principle thrust - a heresy which denied the Resurrection of the body, alleging that the risen bodies of the elect would be “impalpable, more light than air.” Now, let us pause and reflect on what the Patriarch was saying! What Eutychius was proposing was the elect, like Jesus, would be like ghosts, without bodies. If what he was writing is true, then did Jesus’ Body rise from the dead? He was denying the Resurrection and the very words of Jesus in Holy Scripture when he appeared to the eleven Disciples,
“’Why are you disturbed? Look at My hands and feet; it is really I. Touch Me and see that a ghost does not have flesh and bones as I do.’ As He said this, He showed them His hands and feet. As they appeared still incredulous, Jesus asked them, ‘Have you anything to eat?’ They gave Him a piece of cooked fish, which He ate in their presence.” (Luke 24:39)
Not only did Jesus show them His hands and feet, He ate the piece of fish they gave Him! Spirits cannot eat! And this was Gregory’s argument - “the palpability of Christ’s risen Body.”
Their differences turned into very heated endless arguments, with neither side willing to capitulate to the other. It became so long, and bitter, the Emperor had no recourse but to summon the two of them to appear before him and state their individual arguments concerning the issue at hand. Eutychius presented his arguments and Gregory his. The Emperor agreed with Gregory and ordered Eutychius’ book be burned. The battle had been so explosive, so tedious and wearing on their nerves, it thoroughly debilitated the both of them, causing them to fall seriously ill. Gregory regained his health, but Eutychius never recovered. He died, recanting his errors on his death bed with the statement,
“I confess that we shall all rise again in this flesh.”
This is an excerpt from a chapter in
Bob and Penny Lord’s new best-selling book
Jesus loves His Mother so much. He gives her great power.But why not? Mary, the perfect Mother, never asks anything for herself, not even recognition. Everything is for her Son. She, on the other hand, loves us so much, she always comes to us, to help us, to guide us, to plead with us, to plead for us.
We have one complaint, however. She picks the most out of the way places to visit us. If it’s not a high mountain place, like La Salette, where you take your life in your hands to get up there, it’s a village in the middle of nowhere, where there are no decent roads as in the instance of Fatima, and no directions, for our purposes in this apparition, Pontmain, France
Pontmain is a small village on the borderline between the Normandy and Brittany sections of France. It is very small, situated between Fougeres and Mont St. Michel, which is on the Normandy Coast. The first time we visited Our Lady of Hope, in the summer, offshore breezes from the English Channel provided refreshing cool air to the area, as a relief from the summer heat. But when we returned in the winter, the soft, cool breezes had turned to cold, howling winds, bringing icy weather to the entire area, and through our insulated jackets. The local inhabitants choose to stay indoors by the fireplace, during these times, to protect themselves from being chilled to the bone by the gusty winds.
The winter of 1871 was such a time. January was an especially brutal time for man and beast. Those who could avoid it, did not venture out into the weather. But unfortunately, not everybody could stay at home.
France was still going through its period of chastisement.
Those in high places in the government had not heeded the pleadings of Our Lady at the Rue du Bac in Paris, or La Salette, or more recently to the little shepherdess, Bernadette Soubirous in Lourdes. They were engaged in yet another war with the infamous Bismarck, and his mighty Prussian troops. The French had been soinvolved in killing their own, and attacking helpless nuns and priests, they didn’t know how to handle a real enemy. Prussia was able to march through France with ease. Paris had been captured, and enemy troops were working their way through Le Mans towards the coast. Bismarck had known all the strengths and weaknesses of his adversaries. He anticipated their every move, and countered with a shrewder one. There was only one force he had not counted on. How could he? This one enemy was beyond his comprehension. He had no way of knowing her power; he didn’t know her. He was taking on the Mother of God.
The little people, the common folk, flocked to their churches, to the shrines of the Rue du Bac, La Salette, and Lourdes. They prayed, fearful that it was too little too late, but hopeful, knowing that Our Lady was a merciful Mother, that their prayers would not fall on deaf ears. Rosaries, stations of the cross, confessions, fasting, communions, all were offered up to their Heavenly Mother in a desperate plea for help.
We can just picture in our mind’s eye, millions of angels carrying all these prayers and offerings up from the earth and laying them at the feet of their Queen. They had to run out of room in Heaven for all the prayers and petitions offered up. At one point, Mary’s beautiful eyes might have looked out over the land she had tried so hard to protect, that she had loved so much. We can imagine a sadness coming over her sparkling eyes. Perhaps a tear slipped down her velvety cheek, and descended to the
earth; when it landed, an explosion of energy lit up the entire sky. It happened on January 11, 1871. Scientists called it an Aurora Borealis. The faithful called it Mary to the rescue.
On earth, the residents of Pontmain were trying to continue their lives as if all were well. Normally, these villagers wouldn’t be affected by the goings on in the center of the country. After all, they were just farmers. But this war had hit everyone. Many of the young men of Pontmain had answered the call to duty. They were somewhere in the war zone, but no one knew where, or how they were. Stories of the massacres the French were suffering at the hands of their enemies, found their way back to the town. Wagons, filled with wounded, moved along the main roads in disaster proportions. In addition, the Prussian troops had gotten to Laval, a town extremely close to Pontmain.
On the evening of January 17, the men of the Barbedette family were working in their barn. Dinner would be ready soon, but they wanted to get finished with their chores before going inside. It had begun to snow lightly, not like the other days. The winds had died down. The pure white powder fell gently, as if it had come directly from Heaven. Monsieur Barbedette, known as Bierot, his sons Eugene 12 years old, and Joseph, aged 10, were all working side by side. It was about 6 in the evening. Supper would be ready soon. They wanted to get their work done before they were called in to eat. In the recesses of their minds was concern over the third Barbedette son, Auguste, who was away fighting the war. The father felt that by working, he could take his mind off his fears; but it was not happening. Not an especially religious man, he found himself praying his rosary under his breath. A neighbor woman, Jean Detais, came by with rumors about the war situation, and possible news about the son Auguste. Eugene could not get over how gently the snow had fallen outside. He couldn’t hear a sound. There was not the slightest breeze blowing, much less the gailstorm winds that had buffeted the area earlier that day. He walked to the door of the barn. He didn’t want to hear any bad news about Auguste. He thought that by walking away from it, by not listening to Jean Detais, he could prevent it from happening. The night cold air was refreshing. He looked outside. The snow had stopped. He remarked to himself how unusual it was that the sky was so full of stars, though there was no moon that night. He looked around him. He was immediately frozen to the spot.
Above neighbor Augustin Guidecog’s house, about twenty five feet in the air, A Beautiful Lady Was Suspended In the Air, her arms outstretched. She was looking at him, and smiling. He had never seen anything like her in his life. Her eyes gleamed like stars. Her teeth were pearl white. They sparkled as she smiled at him. To the 12 year old Eugene, she was a lady, but she appeared to be about 18 to 20 years old. She wore blue, but dark blue, darker than the sky. Her dress was long and loose; her sleeves flowed, and on her collar was a band of gold. There was a black veil on her head, topped by a gold cap which resembled a crown. A thin red band ran across the cap. She wore blue slippers tied with gold ribbons.
The neighbor woman noticed the boy standing in a daze at the door. He was staring up into the sky. She went over to him to see what was the matter. He asked her to look up in the sky and tell him what she saw. “I see nothing.” she answered. Eugene looked at her incredulously. How could she not see a lady suspended in air. It was the most unusual sight he had ever seen, and she couldn’t see it. He called his father and brother to look up at the sky. Bierot could not see anything, but young Joseph’s expression turned to joy as he looked up above Guidecoq’s barn. “I see a beautiful lady”. he exclaimed. He proceeded to describe the scene in detail, just as Eugene had seen it. The father, Bierot, ordered the boys back into the barn to finish their work. He told Jean Detais, the neighbor, not to mention what they had said to anyone. She promised that she would not. The boys returned to the barn. Bierot took one last look before he closed the barn door. What could it be that they had seen? There was nothing unusual in the sky. The stars were brighter than he remembered seeing them before, but that was probably because the wind had blown all the clouds away. The spark of a thought kept gnawing away at the back of his mind. He had been working with the boys all day. Their behavior had been normal. They hadn’t acted silly. As a matter of fact, there had been a serious tone to the day. They were all worried about the well-being of Auguste. It would have been out of character for them to take a sudden turn to silliness, as he had first attributed their claim about a lady in the sky. Then, he thought, they didn’t see the lady at the same time. First Eugene saw her, and then Joseph. They both described her in the same way. Bierot took one last look in the sky, shrugged his shoulder, and went back to work. The boys could not get the beautiful lady out of their minds. Her gaze warmed them, as if she had covered them with her mantle. The eyes, those cobalt blue eyes that pierced them, the sparkling teeth, the delicate features of her face, formed an indelible impression on their mind. They worked quickly, which was not like them at all. When they had finished their work, they raced each other to the barn door. They pushed it open, and looked out. She was still there. She was still smiling at them. She was radiant. Bierot called his wife; maybe she would see something. This was driving him crazy. Mrs. Barbedette came to the barn door. She looked up, but saw nothing. Her husband was somewhat relieved. However, as a precaution, just in case it was a vision from Heaven, they all knelt down to say five Pater Nosters and five Ave Marias. Then they went into the house for supper.
The boys wolfed their food down, so that they could run back outside to see if the Lady was still there. As soon as the last mouthful had been finished, they ran outside the door again. She was still there. The mother asked them to describe how tall she was. “She’s about the same size as Sister Vitaline.” This gave the mother an inspiration. She called the nun, asked her to look up into the sky, to see if she could see anything. Sr. Vitaline could not. The boys were becoming frustrated.
“How can you not see it?” Eugene cried out. “She is so brilliant. Can you see a triangle of bright stars?” Everyone agreed that they could see three bright stars, which they had never seen before, and never saw again, except for that night. “Well, the top of the triangle is where her head is, and the two stars at the bottom are at a level with her shoulders. Can you see that?” No one but Eugene and Joseph could see the lady. Mrs. Barbedette had heard the stories which had made their way up from the south of France about the two children from La Salette, and the little girl at Lourdes, who had claimed to have seen the Blessed Virgin. Perhaps this was the same, and only children could see the apparition. She took the nun with her, and together, they went back to Sr. Vitaline’s school.
There were three children there. The nun asked them to come along with her and Mrs. Barbedette, to see if they could make out anything unusual in the sky. As they walked towards the home of the Barbedette’s, one of the children, Francoise Richer, age 11, pointed up into the sky. “There’s something very bright above Monsieur Guidecoq’s barn”, she exclaimed. Mrs. Barbedette and the nun looked at each other. As they got closer, both Francoise and a younger girl, Jean Marie Lebosse, age 9, cried out, “Oh, the beautiful lady, with the blue dress and the golden stars”. No one had said anything to these two. They had no idea of what they were supposed to be looking for. They had not spoken to the Barbedette boys as yet. But they saw the same thing that Eugene and Joseph had seen.
This has been an excerpt from the chapter
from Bob and Penny Lord’s book,
We’d like to share with you some words of wisdom from Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI about Pilgrimages.
“To go on Pilgrimage, is not simply to visit a place to admire its treasures of nature, art or history. “
“To go on Pilgrimage really means to step
out of ourselves in order to encounter God where He has revealed
Himself, where His grace has shone with particular splendor and produced
rich fruits of conversion and holiness among those who
We could not have said it better although we have tried many times over the years to explain how important pilgrimages are to us. We began with just our family in 1976, discovering the Shrines of Miracles of the Eucharist and Our Lady. The first shrine we ever visited was Our Lady of Lourdes in France. We got in late at night and went to sleep. The next morning jet lag kicked in and we woke up at 5:00 am. We quickly dressed and ran down to the Grotto of Massabiele where Our Lady appeared to St. Bernadette. There were not many people there at 5:30. It was still dusk. It’s hard to describe the emotions we felt as we knelt where St. Bernadette knelt beneath the statue of Our Lady in the Grotto. That was the beginning. It was the first marvel we experienced. From that time on we went in search of all the miracles the Lord has given us to bolster our faith in times of trouble, to help us in our time of need.
The first time we went to the Shrine of the Miracle of the Eucharist in Lanciano, Italy was a powerful experience. We had read about it; we had actually seen photos of the Miraculous Host. But nothing compared to kneeling before Our Lord Jesus in this Miracle. The Lord teased us at this Shrine. We arrived at Lanciano during the dreaded Italian lunch hour. Nothing happens during that time. But it was 3:30. How much longer could it last. We waited at the front door of the church. We saw a hefty Italian woman and her children at the side door. She was banging on it for all she was worth. We decided to join her. Finally a man opened the door. He looked like a porter. He had an apron on and a broom in his hand. He told the woman in Italian that they had to have their lunch hour too. The woman insisted it was time to open the church. She had come a long distance to show here children the Miraculous Host. He told her to wait a few minutes and he would open the church. A few minutes passed, and the same man came to the door, vested in priestly garments to show us into the Shrine. He was a priest! That was a shocker. But the real experience, that which brought us to tears, was kneeling before the Miraculous Host. It is something we never forgot. And every time we go back, the feeling is the same. We are that close to the Body of Christ.
For us and our family, this became a lifelong quest to find and venerate all the Miracles of the Church, the many Miracles of the Eucharist in Italy, France, Spain and Portugal, and the apparitions of Our Lady all over Europe. We came to love the Saints, and regarded them as our family. Bob’s favorite has always been St. Bernadette and St. Thèrése, while Penny’s has always been St. Anthony, St. Francis and St. Peregrine. Just a few years ago we discovered St. Germaine de Pibrac in France, only about a hundred miles away from Lourdes. She is a very special little girl. But to be honest, we have fallen in love with all the Saints we meet along our journey to know more about our Church. That is what brought about the series on Super Saints on EWTN. We don’t think we will ever really run out of Saints. We will more likely run out of time.
We decided to share the Saints, the Apparitions and Miracles of the Eucharist with you, our family. In the early 1980s we began bringing pilgrims to the Shrines. One of our itineraries brings us to Lourdes and Fatima on the same pilgrimage, actually within a week of each other. It’s uplifting to see the difference between the two. The Shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes is one of joy, miracles, healings, the gift of the Immaculate Conception of Mary. The Candlelight procession each evening and the Healing of the Sick in the afternoon are miraculous to behold. Fatima, on the other hand, is completely different. It is a place of prayer and petition. The promenade is almost as big as St. Peter’s Square in Rome. There is a marble slab about 3 feet wide, which goes from the entrance to the Shrine down to the little chapel where Our Lady appeared to Lucia, Jacinta and Francesco in 1917. The marble slab goes all around the altar. Pilgrims, mostly women, go down on their knees from the entrance down to the chapel and all around the altar. Usually they will carry a wax image of the part of the body they are asking to be healed. It could be an arm or a leg, anything. After they have reached the chapel and gone all around the altar on their knees, they get up, walk out the back door and throw the wax image into a fire where candles are burning. Their Candlelight procession is somewhat different from Lourdes. But it is beautiful. It is very reverent, and prayers of petition never stop.
Over the years, we have developed different pilgrimages to the various Shrines. The most popular are two, which our Ministry will bring out again next year. One is France, Spain and Portugal. In that pilgrimage, we get to experience the Shrine of the Miraculous Medal in Paris, which was originally supposed to be the Medal of the Immaculate Conception, but because of all the miracles attributed to praying with the Medal, it officially became known as the Miraculous Medal. We go to the Basilica of Sacre Coeur, high on a hill in Montmarte, which was built in thanksgiving to Our Lord Jesus and Mother Mary for saving France in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870. It was all built with private money.
We go to the Shrine of the Little Flower, Bob’s favorite, in Lisieux, and venerate her in her magnificent Basilica as well as the Carmel where she lived as a nun and is buried. She is a very special Saint, whose statement “I will send down a shower of flowers” has been the case whenever we have prayed for her intercession. We always seem to get a rose somehow.
On the way to Lourdes we visit the Apparition of Our Lady at Pontmain, a small village, where She saved the villagers from the Germans during the Franco Prussian War. We visit the Shrine of St. Germaine du Pibrac, a very special little Saint. And then on to Our Lady of Lourdes. After Lourdes, we visit the Castle of St. Ignatius Loyola, where he was born, and converted. We go to the shrine of St. Teresa of Avila, Foundress of the discalced Carmelites, and then on to Fatima.
The other pilgrimage which has been very popular is the Shrines of Italy. We begin with Penny’s favorite, St. Anthony in Padua. We also visit the Shrine of St. Leopold during the same visit, as well as the incorrupt body of St. Lucy in Venice. We continue on to the Shrine of St. Catherine of Bologna, and St. Dominic in Bologna. On our way to the Shrine of Our Lady of Loreto, we stop and celebrate Mass at the tomb of St. Peregrine, the Cancer Saint in Forli. On the way down to the Shrine of Padre Pio in San Giovanni Rotondo, we visit the Shrine of St. Nicholas of Tolentino and the Miracle of the Eucharist of Lanciano. In San Giovanni, we venerate the Shrine of Padre Pio as well as going to the Cave of St. Michael the Archangel in the Gargano, where he appeared in the fourth century.
We go to Monte Cassino and on to Rome where we will attend the general audience with His Holiness, the Pope. We visit all the Basilicas in Rome, as well as the Vatican Museum.
Our pilgrimage brings us to Assisi, the town of St. Francis. We will visit the shrine of St. Francis as well as that of St. Clare. We will also go to Montefalco, the shrine of another St. Clare, whose body is incorrupt. We end our pilgrimage at the airport in Rome where we will return to the United States.
For us, our pilgrimage begins six months before we leave, preparing for the trip, getting to read up on or watch dvds on the places we will be visiting, and six months after we return home, going through the books and artifacts we have gotten on our pilgrimage. For us, it has been a lifetime experience. It can be for you too. We love you.
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