Welcome family to our e-Newsletter.
Dear precious brothers and sisters,
When time came to write our column, From our Pew, there was so much we wanted to say, but what? I must say our hearts feel like someone stabbed us and left us bleeding. The Lord has commissioned us to spread the Good News that He is alive and will never leave us. As Bob always writes, “The times were bad but we walked through it, not around it; not ignoring it, not avoiding it; we walked through it.” We have been doing a great deal of praying. We, at Journeys of Faith® were commissioned to spread the Faith, to share all the Lord has given us. But the United States of America is our country, our land blessed by the Lord and His precious Mother. My brother and many other brothers and sisters laid it on the line, risking their lives and in many instances losing them. If this land of ours is worth fighting for on the battlefield, it is worth fighting for at home - to preserve our way of life. If our column will bring back memories of a time of innocence for you, then we praise Our Lord! Brothers and sisters, OUR GOD LIVES AND HE IS IN CHARGE! LAY YOUR CARES DOWN BEFORE HIM! HE WILL NEVER LET YOU DOWN! GO TO CHURCH; HE IS WAITING FOR YOU. ASK AND YOU WILL RECEIVE! OUR LOVING GOD IS WITH US!
The following is an excerpt from our book, Beyond Sodom and Gomorrah, written in 1999. Ask yourselves why we are bringing this to you now! You know, We love you!
Requiem for the Age of Innocence
“While the crowds pressed around Jesus, He began to speak to them in these words:
`This is an evil age. It seeks a sign. But no sign will be given it except the sign of Jonah. Just as Jonah was a sign to the Ninevites, so will the Son of Man be a sign for the present age. The queen of the south will rise at the judgment along with the men of this generation, and she will condemn them. She came from the farthest part of the world to listen to the wisdom of Solomon, but you have a greater than Solomon here. At the judgment, the citizens of Nineveh will rise along with the present generation, and they will condemn it. For at the preaching of Jonah they reformed, but you have a greater than Jonah here.’”_
How did it happen? How did we go from faith and fidelity to deception and betrayal?
“Those were the days, my friend; we thought they’d never end...”_ I still remember those days, the good old days, days filled with innocence, love and caring for one’s family, friends and neighbors, days where children revered their parents and grandparents, where the family stuck together, days of trust, days of honor, days of patriotism. Yes, we thought they would never end.
My childhood was a simple one, a life filled with awe and wonder, where with other neighborhood children, we would take hours to determine which candies we should buy for the precious penny we had to spend. They were days of dressing up as Mommys and Daddys, the Mommy serving the Daddy make-believe tea and fresh bread my Nana had made.
In the heart of Brooklyn, what would be called a ghetto or barrio today, was a neighborhood, more like a small village, where everyone knew everyone else, with many aunts and uncles (some really only friends whom we respectfully called Aunt and Uncle). You were never alone; at least one mother or grandmother was hanging out the window, at any hour of the day or night, watching your every move and reporting any mischief you got into, to your parents. We felt safe! It was a world of innocence, with coal stoves and wood-burning stoves warming our bodies and cooking our food. I can still see the dust particles floating up to heaven on the rays of the sun; I can feel the warmth of the sun streaming into our kitchen on the third floor of the apartment house we lived in. I can still feel the warm tears flowing down my cheeks when we moved away from that neighborhood as I waved good-by to everyone and everything I had ever known, and to the Age of Innocence.
We believed in our country! We placed our hand over our hearts when we pledged allegiance to the flag of the United States of America. Tears came to our eyes, and our voices choked up a little as we sang the National Anthem of our country. We were Americans! When it was time to vote, an electricity filled the air, an excitement, with Daddy explaining the electoral system to us, the importance of casting our vote, and the merits and shortcomings of the different candidates. We were all involved, even those of us who were too young to vote. At four years old, I campaigned clandestinely, while my mother was on duty as one of the inspectors at the Polling Place. Franklin D. Roosevelt badges covering every inch of my favorite red coat, I would find myself being lifted bodily and carted to the other side of the Polling signs, when I wandered too close to the Barber Shop where the voting took place.
Franklin D. Roosevelt was our hero! We would have done anything he asked of us, even die; and many of our loved ones did! It was a time of patriotism and pride—We were Americans! Oh those were days of flags waving and speeches on the street corners, everyone crowding around the speakers or hanging out their windows to hear their platform. We believed in our country! We believed we had a personal interest in the destiny of our nation. What we said or did made a difference. We were important; we counted!
When did my world start to fall apart?
I grew up quickly when at ten years of age, we moved out of the beloved neighborhood. My family moved uptown (socially), from an eight-family, four-level apartment house into a four-family apartment house with only two levels in a neighborhood of two-level houses. The smells were different; the familiar fragrance of Italian sauce cooking, wafting through the halls into our apartment was missing. The language was different. No more Italian music accompanied by amateur opera singers emanated from open doors of the apartments across from us. There were no open doors; our new neighbors stayed to themselves. They didn’t sing. I missed the tinkling of banjos and accordions, neighbors sitting on their stoops, singing along, sometimes to the wee hours of the morning. In my new neighborhood, people sat on their stoops, to beat the sweltering heat of the summer; but no singing rose to the heavens. No sounds filled the halls of our new four family house. There were no future Carusos or Lanzas, or Sinatras or Vic Damones. The laughing, crying sounds of a passionate people were absent. I longed for even a tiny touch of the familiar.
There were no more Feast Day celebrations, with people wearing huge aprons (to match their abundant size), cooking sausages and peppers, hot chestnuts and other Italian goodies, their push carts lining the streets. No more processions of statues of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the Blessed Mother, Saint Anthony or St. Lucy, or some other important patron Saint being proudly carried high in the air on a litter by the men of our neighborhood, proud to be given the honor of being part of the honor guard.
My friends and cousins were still in the old neighborhood, and although they and my old haunts were just six blocks away, it was like a dream world, long ago and far away. And so I buried myself in practicing my piano and excelling in school. My birthday fell on a Tuesday in 1941. I was thirteen years old, finally a teen-ager. I felt as if I had shed my childhood, and was well on my way to adulthood. But I was not interested in boys. I vacillated between wanting to be a lawyer, defending the poor and downtrodden, or being a missionary in Africa.
Then the war broke out. December was extremely cold in 1941. We were planning for Christmas as best we could, considering we had not fully pulled ourselves out of the Depression financially. But we looked forward to giving some small gift to each member of the family, to show how much we loved one another. My family had the radio on that Monday, December 8, 1941. We had heard about the bombing of Pearl Harbor the day before. We turned the radio to the evening news, when we heard our President, Franklin D. Roosevelt declaring war on Japan. I’ll never forget that speech he gave to us on that occasion. “Yesterday, December 7, is a day which will live in infamy.” My big brother, along with many other fine young men immediately went down to the recruiting office on Tuesday morning and volunteered for service in the military!
Rationing was never really a problem for us; we had learned early to stretch what little we had. Coming out of the Depression, we made everything go a long way. Dainty suppers became the patriotic cry. We ate lots of bread to fill us up, and pasta prevailed. The war news got worse and worse, with the listing of those who had lost their lives for flag and country becoming longer and longer. We resumed going to processions, now supplicating the Lord through His Mother and all the Angels and Saints to bring our brother back home from the war in Europe.
They were hard days; but we survived, because we had a common cause which united us; we were no longer Italians and Jews, Germans and Irish, Blacks and Whites, Browns and Yellows; we were Americans. Rosie the Riveter became a badge of honor as our patriotic ladies donned dungarees (called jeans today) and men’s shirts, rolled up at the sleeve, put their hair in a net, and took up the slack in the defense plants, doing the jobs the men had done before they went overseas to fight the war to keep our homeland safe. Even our movie stars got into the battle. Clark Gable and Jimmy Stewart joined up; Bob Hope and Betty Grable entertained the troops overseas, and the Andrews Sisters became a household name. USO was a haven for our homesick boys, where the average guy and gal could do their part for the war effort to give our fighting boys a little taste of home while they were away from their own home towns.
The war finally came to an end; we were victorious as we knew we had to be; we had God on our side. Our loved ones began to come home; many came back wounded, some physically and some mentally; the common denominator was they were never to be the same. The war had taken its toll on them, and on us. We were proud, but we were tired.
The triumphant G.I.s returned to streets lined with cheering crowds and banners welcoming them. Our boys and girls were home. They had held back the enemy and saved our country and preserved our way of life. They were heroes. As our fighting men and women shared some of the horror stories of war, a little more of our innocence was taken away from us. President Roosevelt was our president; he was our leader! We recall the opening of his first Inaugural Speech: “We have nothing to fear but fear itself.” Then he brought us through the Depression. In 1941, he brought us through our worst hour of darkness; we almost made him king of America. If he hadn’t died in April of 1945, just before the end of the war, we would have made him king.
After the war, there were rumors that President Roosevelt knew about the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor a week before it happened, but no one believed any of that. We blamed the Navy for having all those ships so close to each other in port at Pearl Harbor, making them such an easy target for the Japanese. President Roosevelt would never have allowed our soldiers and sailors to be put in such jeopardy and die the way they did during that horrendous attack.
Then, in 1947, as the Cold War accelerated, we became aware of just what had been given away to the Russians at the Potsdam and Yalta conferences. Russia had been given carte-blanche in eastern Europe! They didn’t declare war on Japan until the day after the Atomic bomb was dropped over Hiroshima, and yet they were given territories as a reward, for what? Certainly not for having participated in that war. Most of the spoils of war were given at the Yalta Conference, which dictated pretty much the terms of the Potsdam Conference; the Soviet Union receiving a good chunk of China, as well as great parts of Europe.
By this time, Roosevelt was dead, but the decisions he made at Yalta lived on for decades. However, no one pointed a finger. We speculated that our Allies, mostly the USSR, did not act as ethically as we did. Josef Stalin took advantage of the fact that our President was on death’s door and on heavy medication at the Yalta Conference (he died within two months on April 12, 1945) and Harry Truman was just no match for Stalin. The USSR broke the agreements they had made at the conferences. Our friend, the one we were taught in school was our ally, became a dangerous enemy. And we let it happen! Feeling helpless and more than a little impotent, we resumed our lives; but somehow, we lost some of that strong feeling of patriotism. It was the end of the age of innocence!
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When we begin the Fifth Glorious Mystery, we use the title: “The Coronation of Our Lady as Queen of Heaven and Earth, of all the Angels and the Saints.” As far as we can recall, we have always prayed this mystery under the title, “Queen of all the Angels and the Saints.” But now that we think of it, we didn’t really pray the Rosary much until we came back to the Church in 1975, and by that time, we were so in love with the Angels, and with their roles in our Church and our lives, we just naturally included them in this mystery.
This mystery is many things to us. It is Mary’s reward for a life of humility, of submission and obedience, of Fiat. It’s a definition of her role as Mother of the Church, and mediator between God and humanity. We don’t really know how happy Mary’s life on earth was. True, she was given a gift that no one in the history of mankind was given, that of bearing the Son of God in her womb, and living with Him for thirty three years. We don’t know much about the years from twelve to thirty; it can be speculation or inspiration. And while the early days of His public ministry were glorious, full of excitement and achievement, miracles and healings, crusades and conversions, there was also the other side of the coin. There is always the other side of the coin.
There were those who hated Jesus, who called Him a fraud, a maniac, a devil. They were most likely more vehement in their condemnation of Jesus than those who were praising Him. There were the Pharisees and the Saducees, most of whom were against Jesus. Their protests against Him must have hurt Mary very deeply. We’re sure these negatives didn’t outweigh the positives, how God was being glorified through His Son on earth, but they were always there.
Possibly the worst, of the sorrows our Lady had to suffer, was the Passion and Death of our Lord Jesus. A beautiful man who had been a pall-bearer at our son’s funeral, rushed away after the coffin was lowered into the ground. He called us at home. He apologized: “There is only one thing I can say and then I must hang up. There is an old Jewish expression, “Parents should never have to bury their children.” We witnessed the death of our son, who fell victim to an overdose of drugs. It was an outrage to watch this boy’s life self-destruct before our very eyes. Our son died because he was a victim of the world and its false promises, its lies that we do not need to carry the Cross. With Mother Mary’s Son Jesus it was different. Satan and his lies had no effect on Him.
He knew why He was born, and He said yes. He came to love us and to show us the love of God the Father. He came to show us the Face of God, to dispel the fear the Jews had always had of God, that to see the Face of God was to die. No longer would we fear to look upon Him. He came to bring us a touchable God, One Who laughed with us, cried with us, listened to us, walked with us. Jesus only wanted to love us. “I have come to bring you life, and life more abundantly!” He opened up His arms to us, vulnerably, and we hung Him on a Cross. We killed Him. We killed her Son. Mary had to watch this, helplessly.
She may have known; she may have realized this was the Triumph of the Cross, not the Scandal of the Cross. She may have known; but she may not. And even if she did, this was her own Flesh and Blood who was being tortured and murdered before her eyes. He was God! But He chose not to do anything, but let it happen. He wouldn’t even allow His Angels to defend Him. Mary understood. But understanding is one thing, it’s cerebral; feelings are something else, they are from the very depth of our being. We have to believe that although Mary may have intellectually known how her Son was fulfilling the Will of the Father, in her heart, in the pit of her stomach, she had to want to scream out for them to stop torturing her Son, stop hurting her little Baby.
Then there were the years after Jesus ascended into Heaven. She was here; He was there. Why did she have to stay on earth? Her work was over, wasn’t it? Or was it? Did she have to continue to be Mother to all the Apostles and Disciples? Was she the living sign of Jesus in their midst, for the almost twenty years, she stayed here on earth? Was this really necessary? Hadn’t they received enough strength from the Holy Spirit, and the Angels who would be at their sides during the rest of their lives? No, they needed her presence here. She was the Mother. She had to continue to be Mother to the Apostles, to the disciples, to the entire Church for as long as Jesus wanted it.
We know Mary never made demands, and most probably she didn’t expect any more than the honor which she was given to understand during her Magnificat. “All generations shall call me blessed, for He who is mighty, has done great things for me, and Holy is His name.” But considering all that she had suffered, plus the fact that she had been chosen to be the bearer of Jesus, the instrument, the Tabernacle, from which God would come forth, this final, ongoing tribute to her, was well deserved. It was as if God the Father was saying to Mary and the whole world, “This is My daughter, in whom I am well pleased. Mary, thank you for your Yes! Take your proper place in the Kingdom.”
It’s hard not to let your imagination run away with you, when you try to visualize in your mind’s eye the pomp and ceremony, the great celebration of the Coronation of Mary as Queen of Heaven and earth, of all the Angels and the Saints. We know all the Angels had to be there. How many does that constitute? Scripture tells us “myriads upon myriads, thousands upon thousands.”
Consider, if you will, a great room. That great room was a galaxy. The lineup of guests spread out as far as the horizon, in any direction. In addition to the Angels, there were all the Saints, not just the ones we read about in the Lives of the Saints, but all those we don’t read about, those we honor on November 1st, Feast of All Saints, those who were “ransomed as the first fruits of mankind for God and the Lamb. On their lips no deceit has been found; they are indeed without flaw.” To our way of thinking, for as far as the eye could see, were Angels and Saints prostrated before the Throne of God, adoring Our Lord and praising and venerating His most holy Mother Mary. Remember, these men and women had been waiting for the Messiah to come, some for many centuries, or even thousands of years. It wasn’t until Mary’s Fiat, her Yes, that the process of their redemption began. It had always been promised, but it was not until she said, “I am the handmaiden of the Lord; let it be done unto me according to His will.” that it came to pass.
All the paintings we’ve ever seen of the Coronation, show Mary, breathtakingly beautiful, seated in the center, with Jesus on one side, God the Father on the other, and the Holy Spirit hovering above them. Jesus and the Father hold the crown above the head of our Lady. At that instant, Heaven and earth wait in silent anticipation. When the crown is placed on her head, brilliant lights shoot out to every part of the Heavens, with the message that the Queen has been crowned; her reign begins. Mary is in queenship; we are her subjects. She is our Queen, our Mother, our confidante, our friend. She is the mediatrix between us and our Lord Jesus. She is our voice in Heaven.
How many times have you heard “I have a problem with the role Mary has in the Church?” We have no problem with the place our Lord, right from the beginning gave Mother Mary. It was not the Church who called Mary the Mother of God, but Jesus himself. It was Jesus Who set up the pattern we were to follow, that of turning to Mother Mary for help. At Cana, we do not hear of the wedding party going directly to Jesus for help in their dilemma. They could have; He was there, amongst them. No, they must have gone to Mother Mary, or as with us, maybe Mother Mary, the involved Mother noticed her children had problems and she turned to her Son. And how did the Son react to His Mother’s request? Although, initially He did not want to handle the problem at that time, it was His Mother’s gentle persuasion that moved Jesus’ Heart, and He did as she had asked of Him. Was she puffed up because her Son had showed His favor upon her by saying yes? No; she turned to the servants and said the words she repeats over and over again, “Do whatever He tells you.” Not, “Do whatever I tell you, for I am important.” No, in her perfect imitation of her Son Who always deferred to His Father, she humbly deferred to her Son.
Don’t turn away from the Lord’s Mother. She is there, beside her Son, listening to you, waiting to plead with her Son on your behalf. If you have no problem asking sinners on earth to intercede for you, why hesitate to ask our Blessed Mother who is in Heaven and is “highly favored by the Lord” and blessed by all generations?
The events we study in this mystery are most important to us, as children of God. Lucifer had a great deal of trouble consenting to Jesus, God in the second Person, becoming man, and still having to be adored as God. Lucifer knew he had to adore God, but not in the form of a human. After all, he pridefully insisted, the human species were created far below the Angels. Worshiping the God-Man Jesus was a tough one to swallow, but the final straw, which pushed him over the edge, was having a human, and a woman at that, to have dominion over him, to be his Queen. He couldn’t handle that. It was this mandate that Lucifer would not accept. He screeched out his battle cry, “I will not serve!” And so he was able to incite a band of proud angels and would do battle with God. But one of the lesser Angels rose and with his battle cry: “Mica-el - Who is like God!”, he, accompanied by the Angels loyal to God, did battle with Lucifer and the fallen angels. Because they were duped by Lucifer and made the final decision for him against God, they broke away from their Creator. And can you imagine how sorrowful God the Father was when 1/3 of the angels left Him. Among Franciscans it is said, that when the angels left, their places (1/3 of all the Angels) in the Kingdom were to be replaced by Franciscans. Since St. Francis lived the true Gospel life, I really believe, the Lord’s message of hope is that all those who authentically try to live the Gospel will take those empty seats vacated by the fallen angels.
Keep in mind that Lucifer was a favored Angel of God. The coronation of Mary had to be an important step in God’s eyes, knowing that Lucifer would break away, as a result. Mary has always had a major role in the Kingdom, in the Church. She was given a special title for her Fiat. Why? Why should she be given this singular honor? What did she do that was so spectacular? A wise Franciscan priest once told us, “Mary didn’t do anything. She just stood there.” She emptied herself of all that was Mary, and allowed God to fill her with Jesus. Is there a powerful message here for us, a way to become beloved in the eyes of the Lord? Is Jesus saying to us through Mary, “Don’t just do something; stand there! Empty yourself of all that is not of Me and My Father! I’ll do the rest.”
“Now a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman, adorned with the sun, standing on a moon, and with the twelve stars on her head for a crown.
“With jewels set in gold...
“Dressed in brocades, the King’s daughter is led into the King’s palace (Heaven) with bridesmaids in her train.
“Her ladies-in-waiting follow
and enter the King’s Palace to general rejoicing.
“Your ancestors will be replaced by sons
whom you will make lords of the whole world.
“I shall immortalize your name,
nations will sing your praises forever.”
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The writings of St. Louis Marie de Montfort have left such a mighty impact on those who follow, that in this, the first decade of the Third Millenium, thousands upon thousands of the Faithful have been making a “Total Consecration to Mary” through his “True Devotion to Mary.” Come with us now, as we share the life of one of Mary’s heroes, one of our Powerful men in the Church.
Mary’s sends a light to shine in the Darkness
We can just envision the blustery night of January 31, 1673, when the midwife scurried around the little cottage of Jeanne de la Vizeule and Jean-Baptiste Grignion, making ready for the coming of the new child. It had been a tempestuous day, with gusts of harsh cold winds blowing off the Atlantic Ocean, sweeping east towards the little village of Montfort, some twenty four kilometers from the nearest big city of Rennes. Did St. Michael leave his perch atop the abbey at his most commanding shrine, Mont St. Michel, to the north off the English Channel? Did our Lady give him instructions to take a legion of Angels to this little hamlet of no account, deep in the province of Brittany, to surround the house of this future Saint, this prophet of a time that St. Paul speaks about in Romans 8:28? Did Jeanne or her dear husband, or any of the people gathered around, have the slightest idea what God had predestined this child to be, and the works He would do for the Kingdom?
Do we know, do we have a tiny clue as to how important that child we may be bearing, is in the great scheme of God? If the people of the world had even a minute inkling of the mammoth effect their opposing the plan of the Creator would have on the history of the world, Abortion would be wiped off the face of the earth.
Jean-Baptiste Grignion was particularly concerned about his wife Jeanne. Their first child had caused her much suffering and had died in infancy. Was this one also going to cause her great distress? Would the child or the mother survive the hard winter of Montfort and radiate the sun’s bright rays in the warmth of the Spring, or would the child waste away to nothing and blow away as so much dust? Jean-Baptiste prayed, as did all in the household that evening.
We can see with the eyes of faith, the Angels standing guard as the curtain opened in Heaven, and a great light emerged. It formed a solid ray to the little cottage on the street of the Lawyers, Rue de la Saulnerie in Montfort, where the residents of the house were breathlessly waiting with their Guardian Angels for the miracle of birth to take place. Envision Our Lady descending on that beam from Heaven to earth, to a baby, the child who would be christened the following day, Louis Grignion. Is Our Lady entering the cottage and placing her precious hands on the baby inside the womb of the expectant mother? Within a moment, is the child fighting his way past all obstacles, and out of the womb of the mother into the world, screaming and yelling for all he is worth? St. Louis Marie Grignion de Montfort was born. The Angels rejoiced; all Heaven sang praises to God. An era was beginning, the era of Our Lady. [Did it happen this way, or is this just the musing of another “slave” of Mary (Bob Lord), another man helplessly in love with Mary? What do you think?]
The following day, the baby was wrapped securely in woolen blankets and brought to the Parish Church of St. Jean where he was formally baptized and welcomed into the Church. Then he was brought back to his home, that solid building where he would spend the next few years of his life. We visited that house in 1977. We stood among the solid beams which held up the structure, strong as the man who was brought forth from there, he who would make this town famous throughout all the world with his love for Our Lord Jesus and His Mother Mary. We could feel the presence of the Saint in that house, as much as we could in St. Laurent-sur-Sèvre, where he took his last breath in 1716.
Louis came from a very pious, very Catholic family. He acquired some of his father’s traits which would be considered shortcomings in his ministry. The father had an explosive temper; which Louis had also. He inherited his father’s big build. Louis was a big man, solid, strong. He never backed down from a brawl, and there are those who say he may even have started one or two when his adversaries were saying or doing something which offended God, or His beautiful Mother Mary. It is believed his piety came from his very devout mother, and thanks be to God, more piety was given to him than billowing temper. Our Lady worked with his piety; our Lord Jesus turned his anger to zeal for his Mother and the Church.
From the time he was a youth, Louis had a great devotion to Our Lady. He was fascinated by pictures and statues of her. He would spend hours on his knees in church, praying to her, his eyes fixed on images of her. All his life she was his ideal. He prayed for her intercession before every major move in his life. We have to believe that she was very instrumental in his bold move to enroll in the Jesuit College in Rennes at 11 years old! That time was excellent training for Louis, especially for the work ahead of him. It was at this college that he was enrolled in the Sodality of the Blessed Virgin. We’re sure he was not aware of the importance of it at the time, but Our Lady was. Because of his membership in the Sodality, he was given access to all the services in the Sodality - such as lectures, sermons and instructions which were prepared especially for its members. We very often think these are coincidences, but they are not, unless they are holy coincidences. Our Lady is here; she’s with us. She guides us through life and helps us when we need her. She also orchestrates our lives, if we allow her to, so that we are directed to areas where she can influence our walk towards the Kingdom.
St. Rita of Cascia is one of the most powerful women in the Church we will write about. She is a role model for women of our generation. There is nothing that any woman has experienced that Rita has not known. She was an obedient daughter, a faithful wife, a battered wife, wife of an alcoholic and woman-chaser, a widow, a single parent who lost her children when they were young. She was a Nun who was unwanted by her Community. She was given the gift of the Stigmata1, a thorn in her head. Her body is incorrupt, never having decomposed after 600 years. She is considered the Saint of the Impossible.
We never knew very much about St. Rita, but as we discovered, one by one, the multitude of Saints in Italy, her name kept coming up over and over again. Every time we went to Assisi, land of St. Francis, which was at least once or twice a year, we always felt drawn to the village of St. Rita, Cascia. Although it was only 40 miles away, it was all mountain road. Each time we inquired about going to Cascia, the villagers of Assisi would laugh a little nervously, make motions with their hands and say, “corvo, corvo”, which means “curvy”. That was enough to make us stay that day in Assisi, and leave Cascia for another time. Whenever we determined we were going, the sign on the highway, pictorially describing the curvy, winding mountainous road to Cascia, would further dissuade us and we would firmly, if not weakly, promise “We’ll do it next year.”
Finally, the time came. We made sure we were in a state of grace, having gone to confession and received Holy Communion, left a copy of our Last Will and Testament in the hotel room in Assisi and started the perilous journey to Cascia! However, all the Good Lord wanted was our “yes.” The death-defying, hairpin roads depicted on the road-sign to be all one-car, hugging, sheer drop, cliffside roads, turned out to be fairly good mountain roads, curvy but not hairpin curvy, with a few uncomfortable stretches of road. Upon reaching Cascia, we found that we had deprived ourselves of a most meaningful Shrine to a very special Saint for too many years. We also found, in the same Church, a Miracle of the Eucharist!1
Italy is most decidedly the land of Saints. For example, as you are driving along simply beautiful countryside on the way to Cascia, you will see a sign to Norcia, the birthplace of St. Benedict. And so it goes, all over the country. As you venture toward one Saint you pass villages with multitudes of other Saints who have had an impact on our Church. One day as Penny, more than a little proudly (being of Italian descent) boasted to a Franciscan Priest from Assisi, “Do you realize Father, that we have more than 20,000 Saints in the Umbrian valley alone!” he jokingly countered, “That’s because we have so many sinners!”
As you ascend this summit of the Umbria, you feel a breathlessness, an awe of the majesty of God’s creative artistry, the setting He so generously fashioned for this humble Saint. Just as you breathe a sigh of relief at having arrived, with “Now, that wasn’t so bad,” the custodian of the Shrine tells you that after you visit Cascia, you must go another six or seven kilometers farther up the mountain to the town of Roccaporena, where Rita was born. And you wouldn’t want to miss that!
God never leaves us alone. When He feels it’s time to bring one Saint home, He raises up another to take her place. Rita was born in the year 1381, the year after St. Catherine of Siena died. She began her life in a time of war, earthquakes, conquests and rebellion. Countries invaded countries, towns attacked nearby towns, neighbor fought neighbor, brother against brother. The problems of the world, at large, seemed greater than even politics and governments could resolve. If there ever was a time for reform of men’s lives, for fasting, prayer and penance, it was in the 14th and 15th centuries.
The Church under the shepherding of a holy and righteous Pope, Urban VI, was being crucified again by schism. The Church was under attack from within and without. This new Pope was a very stern man, who managed within the first year of his Papacy, to alienate most of the Cardinals of France, and many of the Crown Princes of Europe. As a result of his unbending nature, a false pope was elected by the French cardinals and heads of countries he had offended. This anti-pope took up residence in Avignon, France. Thus began the Great Western Schism.
The Muslims, taking advantage of the dissension and resulting weakness of the Christian leaders, were systematically crushing all of Europe, with a goal of destroying all Christianity.
In other times of doubts and heresy, when the belief in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist was under attack, Jesus gave us Miracles of the Eucharist. So at this time our generous and loving God gave us an army of Saints to keep His promise that Hell would not prevail against His Church. Rita was to become such a Saint!
Born of a very devout mother and father who, in times when families were feuding amongst themselves, were called by some, “Jesus Christ’s peacemakers,” it would appear from the very moment of her birth, God had special designs on Rita. There is a tradition in Roccaporena that as an infant, while she slept in a basket, in the fields where her parents were working, white bees swarmed around Rita’s open mouth. Not only did the bees not sting her, but it is said that they dropped honey into her mouth without her uttering a cry of warning to her parents. One of the farmers, seeing the swarm of bees, tried to disperse them with his arm that had been deeply wounded by a scythe. His arm stopped bleeding and he was immediately healed.
Almost two hundred years after she died, a strange thing began to happen. At the Monastery in Cascia, white bees came out of the walls of the Monastery during Holy Week of each year and remained until the feast day of St. Rita, May 22nd, when they returned to hibernation until Holy Week of the following year. Pope Urban VIII, learning of the mysterious bees which buzzed about the walls of the Monastery where St. Rita had lived, requested that one of the them be brought to him in Rome. After a careful examination of the bee, he tied a silk thread around it; then set it free, only to have it later discovered in its hive at the Monastery in Cascia, 138 kilometers away. And so the tradition of the bees began. The holes in the wall where the bees traditionally remain until the following year, are plainly in view for pilgrims journeying till today to the Monastery. Coincidence or miracle?
We are believers in Miracles! Saint Rita of Cascia link
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We asked ourselves why St. Gerard was so popular. We had heard briefly of this Saint. But we didn’t know much about him, or why he was so well known in certain quarters. But this last year, as part of our research in making a television program on St. Alphonsus Liguori, we found that St. Gerard was a member of St. Alphonsus’ community, the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer, or better known as the Redemptorists. We went to the area of Italy, south of Naples, where St. Alphonsus lived and died, and found, in learning about St. Alphonsus, we were given the gift of this most unusual, but precious young man, St. Gerard Majella. He is unique in every way, and we thank Our Lord Jesus for leading us to him. He’s always been there, waiting for us to meet him. It took this trip to St. Alphonsus for it to happen.
In exploring his life, we find that each author who has written about him has been fascinated by one or another of the great gifts this Saint was given by the Lord. One of the gifts for which he is most famous, called the “Handkerchief of St. Gerard Majella” is the one which most expectant mothers ask for, when they are anticipating the birth of a child. We will share that with you. For many in his order, or any religious order, another gift which they wish to emulate is the gift he was given of not defending himself against the worst false accusation of sexual impropriety. This almost destroyed the young brother’s career, but he would not speak one word in his own defense. He left his fate completely in the hands of the Lord. We will share that one with you also, as well as tell you why he chose that path. During this time of great trial, it was said of him, “Either he is a fool or a great Saint.” History has proven the latter to be true.
Then there are those who feel drawn to the great powers given to him by God, those of Bilocation, Infused Knowledge, Prophecy, Discernment of Spirits, healing and raising people from the dead, and the ability to read men’s hearts. He was also gifted with ecstasies and apparitions by Our Lord Jesus and His Mother Mary. His was a situation similar to Padre Pio’s. Both had been given the gift of apparitions by our Heavenly Family at an early age, so much so that they believed these visits by Jesus and Mary, the Angels and Saints were just normal occurrences, and didn’t everybody see Jesus and Mary? For us, in light of all of the above and so much more we haven’t shared with you yet, we are so excited to be able to relive with you the life of this special Super Saint, Gerard Majella. So come with us now as we begin this great journey.
Our Saint was born in the 18th century. There is a Scripture reading which goes: “The virtuous man, though he die before his time, will find rest.” The world would have him a short time, only twenty-nine years, but in that short time he would touch not only the lives of all those of his era, but for centuries to come, the lives of all who asked for his help. I must admit, we knew little about St. Gerard, except that pregnant women prayed for his intercession they have a healthy delivery. How did a young man, a lay brother, get the distinct privilege to be summoned to aid in the process of motherhood? If we were to use the world’s mentality, a woman, preferably a Saint who had been a mother, would be the logical choice for an intercessor. Then why St.Gerard? Although in life he was not a doctor or an assistant in a hospital, St. Gerard began to help mothers and their children while he was alive, and he never stopped even after death. The answers to prayers began to flow immediately and now millions of mothers have prayed to him for his intercession.
In our mad world, where mothers are induced to bring about the demise of their unborn babies, St. Gerard’s intercession is needed more than ever. Pray to him to intercede with the Lord, Who alone can melt the hearts of mothers to not still the lives of their beloved unborn babies. Pray to St. Gerard!
To us, a Saint is born
St. Gerard Majella was born in the southern part of Italy in Muro, fifty miles south of Naples, in the year 1726. He was the baby of the family, the youngest of five children. On April 6th, his mother Benedetta and father Dominic rejoiced at the birth of this their newest child, but alas the joy was mixed with fear - fear he wouldn’t survive. He was so frail and sickly at birth, they immediately brought the baby to the Cathedral to be baptized. The stigma of being frail and sickly followed him all the days of his life. He had to fight harder to be able to become a member of a religious community because of his frailty.
He felt drawn to the Church from his earliest days. He spent as much time there as possible. His mother said of him, “My child’s only happiness was in church, on his knees before the Blessed Sacrament. He would stop there till he forgot it was dinner-time. In the house he prayed all day. He was born for Heaven.”
At about age 5, unusual blessings were showered on the family through Gerard’s time in church. He began to come home with a loaf of bread under his arms. Now this was a very welcome gift to the family, who never had enough to eat with five hungry children, plus the mother and father. So they were happy to see the loaf of bread, but concerned about where it came from. They knew their child would not steal, but his defense when asked where it came from was always the same. When questioned where he got the bread, he would invariably answer, “A most beautiful boy gave it to me.” This did not make any sense to the parents, but they didn’t know how to approach the matter. His sister, Elizabeth, was more of a no-nonsense person. She found it hard to accept his explanation. She decided she would get to the bottom of it, and so she followed him to the church one day. She watched him kneeling and praying before a statue of the Blessed Mother and the Child Jesus in Her arms. As she continued to spy on her brother, an astounding thing happened. An ordinary act became extraordinary. The Child Jesus came down from His Mother’s arms and began to play with little Gerard. Elizabeth thought her heart would burst, when after a little time passed, the Child Jesus gave Gerard a loaf of bread and returned to the loving arms of His Mother. When the sister shared with their mother what had happened, she was stunned, but relieved that her child had not stolen the bread. From that time on, however, the entire family looked upon Gerard differently. They paid attention to him when he said he saw and spoke to Our Lady and Our Lord Jesus.
Even his parish priest realized how special a boy he had in his midst, so much so that he allowed Gerard to receive Communion every other day. Today, we don’t think anything special about that, but at the time of St. Gerard, the Church was plagued by Jansenism, which was totally against anyone receiving the Lord that often. Actually, there is a tradition that at age seven, Gerard hungered for the Eucharist, and went up to the altar rail to receive. It is said that the priest, upon looking at him, and realizing how young he was, passed him by, which crushed him completely. But the story goes that the following night, St. Michael the Archangel came to him and gave him his First Holy Communion.
His whole life was filled with Heavenly experiences, but he also felt the strong presence of the evil one. His father, Dominic, died when he was very young, only twelve years old, and his mother sent him to learn his father’s trade of tailoring. The man he was sent to, Martin Pannuto, was a good man, who realized the need the family had of Gerard being able to provide for them, and so he treated him with great respect. However, the journeyman, with whom Gerard worked every day, was a completely different story. He treated him miserably. Gerard never questioned his behavior or why he had such disdain for him. Instead, believing all was under the control of God and His Divine Will, Gerard would smile when he was beaten. Completely perplexed, and a little more than annoyed, one day the journeyman asked him why it was that he was smiling when being beaten. To which, he replied: “I was smiling because I saw the Hand of God striking me.” Needless to say, the journeyman did not appreciate his attitude and the totally Christian manner with which Gerard handled the abusive behavior. If anything, it made him all the more furious.
The Handkerchief Saint - Patron of Expectant Mothers
The tradition of the handkerchief as told by the Redemptorists goes like this. One time, after having visited with a particular family, he dropped his handkerchief as he was leaving. One of the daughters called out to him as she picked it up. He looked at her with a very kind but knowing look. “Keep it,” he said. “One day it will be of service to you.”
The young girl kept it, not because she thought it would come in handy later on in life, but because Gerard was considered a living Saint by most of the people in that southern part of Italy. She just wanted it as a souvenir or relic of a saint. However, a time would come for her later in life, most likely after the death of our Saint, but before he was beatified or canonized, when she drew on that relic of the Saint for help. She was in the throes of childbirth, which is always a dangerous situation, but at that time, it was much more dangerous than it is today. She was in danger of dying, and her child with her. It came to her, or did St. Gerard whisper in her ear from Heaven, to take that handkerchief and pray for the intercession of Gerard to save her and her baby. No sooner had she made the petition than the gift was granted. Her baby was delivered in perfect health, and both mother and child were well.
Thus began the devotion to the Saint for expectant mothers. The handkerchief was passed from pregnant mother to pregnant mother in that area of Oliveto Citra, near Salerno in southern Italy. Over the centuries, pieces were torn off it, and by the time our Saint was canonized in 1904, we’re told by the Redemptorists that it was nothing more than shredded cloth. But that did not stop the people in that area, or all over the world for that matter. The story of St. Gerard and the Handkerchief for expectant mothers has traveled to distant shores and prayers have been offered up to the Saint. Miraculous cures and accounts of expectant mothers in danger of losing their lives or their babies, have been healed. St. Gerard was beatified in 1893 by Pope Leo XIII, and canonized by Pope St. Pius X in 1904. We would like to close this chapter on St. Gerard Majella with a quote from a letter he wrote.
“I wish to love God.I wish always to be with God, and to do everything for the love of God.
The center of all love for God consists in giving ourselves entirely to God
by being in all things conformable to the Divine Will, and remaining in this conformity for all eternity.”
Time continues to march and we have been extremely busy this year simply trying to keep up with all the changes and new opportunities.
And remember the words from Sirach chapter 2.
"My son, when you come to serve the Lord, prepare yourself for many trials..."
However, if continue reading...
"Has anyone ever trusted in the Lord and been forsaken?"
And we could write books about those two sentences.
As this issue goes to press we are on our way to Louisiana more specifically Cajun country where Bob and Penny will be giving presentations plus gathering information for a new video on Blessed Seelos.
We are looking forward to our visit to Louisiana since we have so many friends and supporters there.
Louisiana and especially Cajun Country is one of those places where the faith has been kept alive. This is most likely due to the history of the area and the persecution of the Acadians before they came to Louisiana.
Unfortunately, most other areas of our beloved do have the Faith of the Cajuns.
Holy Family Mission can be like living a cloistered life, which is good, however, we need to get out and interact with you also.
We really feel it is important to get out there and visit with you to get a sense of what is happening in your lives.
What will our Lord and His Mother have to do to get the rest of us on our knees?
Maybe we are beginning to see the results of a permissive society that places God in the background and in some cases even tries to ignore Him.
We feel called to continue, now more than ever, the work we have been doing.
We will continue to produce television and radio programs and send out this newsletter plus add a lot of video to the online sites like Gloria.tv.
We do see some signs of hope here and there. For example, we have seen young people, boldly stepping out and proclaiming the Faith in very secular places. They have expressed themselves with courage and confidence. We are proud of them.
We pray that more of them will step up.
We have to do what Saints Peter and John did at the beautiful gate as they said to the cripple, "Gold and silver we do not have but we give you what we have. In the name the of the Lord Jesus Christ get up and walk."
Yes like Saint Peter and Saint John, we also do not have gold and silver to give you but what we do have we give. We give back what the Lord has been giving us. The accounts of the living Faith of our Church through the lives of the Saints and the Miracles of the Eucharist, the Apparitions of Our Lady.
Please pray for us and we will continue to pray for you and your family.
We thank God for the opportunity to continue doing what we do. If you live in Louisiana come and visit with us.
You might want to read this article about Evangelization on the www and how you can be part of it.
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