Bishop David Ricken, of Green Bay, announced today that he officially approves the Marian apparitions at the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help at Champion, Wisconsin.
The announcement was made during a special Mass for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception at the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help at Champion.
Reading from his decree, the Bishop stated, "I declare with moral certainty and in accord with the norms of the Church that the events, apparitions and locutions given to Adele Brise in October of 1859 do exhibit the substance of supernatural character, and I do hereby approve these apparitions as worthy of belief (although not obligatory) by the Christian faithful."
In October 1859, the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared on three occasions to Adele Brise, a young Belgian immigrant. Brise stated that a lady dressed in dazzling white appeared to her and claimed to be the "Queen of Heaven who prays for the conversion of sinners."
The Lady asked Brise to pray for sinners, as well as to gather the children and teach them what they should know for salvation. The Blessed Virgin followed the commands with these words of assurance to Adele Brise, "Go and fear nothing, I will help you."
Since 1859, countless faithful have made the pilgrimage to Champion, Wisconsin to offer prayers of thanksgiving and petition to Jesus and to ask for intercession from Our Lady of Good Help.
As part of her commitment to the Blessed Virgin, Brise set up a Catholic school and began a community of Third Order Franciscan women. Eventually, a school and convent were built on the grounds to further the mission entrusted to Brise.
The 151-year history of the Shrine is rich with written and oral accounts of prayers that have been answered at the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help. The sources document physical healings and conversions that have taken place as a result of pilgrimages to the Shrine.
In addition, as the Peshtigo fire of 1871 engulfed the surrounding area, the entire five acres of land consecrated to the Blessed Virgin remained unscathed after Brise organized a prayer vigil that circled the area.
Taken from the Diocese of Green Bay website.
I had a dream Joseph. I don't understand it, not really, but I think it was about a birthday celebration for our Son. I think that was what it was all about. The people had been preparing for it for about six weeks. They had decorated the house and bought elaborate gifts. It was peculiar, though because the presents weren't for our Son. They wrapped them in beautiful paper and tied them with lovely bows and stacked them under a tree. Yes, a tree Joseph, right in their house. They'd decorated the tree also. The branches were full of glowing balls and sparkling ornaments. There was a figure on top of the tree. It looked like an Angel might look. Oh it was beautiful. Everyone was laughing and happy. They were all excited about the gifts. They gave the gifts to each other, Joseph, not to our Son. I don't think they even knew Him. They never mentioned His name. Doesn't it seem odd for people to go to all that trouble to celebrate someone's birthday if they don't know Him. I had the strangest feeling that if our Son had gone to this celebration, He would have been intruding. Everything was so beautiful, Joseph, and everyone so full of cheer, but it made me want to cry. How sad for Jesus not to be wanted at His own birthday celebration. I'm glad it was only a dream. How terrible, Joseph, if it had been real!
In the weeks leading up to the canonization of St. Mary MacKillop by Pope Benedict XVI, the proposal was made by some that she be honored not only for being a Catholic pioneer and a model for Australians but also as the patron saint of abuse survivors or whistleblowers of sexual abuse by the clergy.
St. Mary endured a sort of persecution by Bishop Lawrence Shiel of Adelaide and was even excommunicated for five months in 1871 for “disobedience and defiance.” The decree, which has been described as a sham and a farce without force of law, was rescinded by the repentant bishop on his deathbed, but the claim is now being made that the oppression of St. Mary and her community of sisters was motivated by their complaint against a sexually abusive priest. The bishop supposedly gave in to a vengeful campaign by several priests against the nuns for exposing the predator cleric. Media outlets have gone so far as to assert that St. Mary was excommunicated for personally asking to have the abuser punished. The priest in question was removed and sent back to Ireland.
The claim was refuted by the long-time diocesan postulator, Father Paul Gardiner, who worked for 25 years to advance her cause for canonization on the local level. He argued that at the time the incident happened in 1870 St. Mary was away and played no part. Fr. Gardiner added in an interview with the newspaper, The Australian, that he never made the assertion and that it is “just false - it's the ill will of people who are anxious to see something negative about the Catholic Church. There's already enough mud to throw, though.”
The Sisters of St. Joseph did confirm, however, that the reporting of abuse by the members of the community was one of the reasons for the bishop’s ill-advised actions. Father Gardiner noted that Bishop Shiel realized at the end he had been misled by several of his priests.
Last year, Archbishop Philip Wilson made a formal apology to the Sisters of St. Joseph for the failings of his predecessor.
Regardless of the role of St. Mary in the actual effort to report an abusive priest, the incident was a reflection of her extraordinary life. The bravery of her community even in her absence points to the willingness of the sisters to protect the victims and to help the Church deal with the terrible deeds of an abusive priest.
This places her and her sisters squarely in the tradition of the Church in confronting the sin and crime of abuse even when there are those unwilling to recognize it. She accepted the brief excommunication with obedience and serenity knowing that justice would ultimately prevail. And it did.
During his visit to Sydney for World Youth Day in July 2008, Pope Benedict XVI proclaimed, “I know that her perseverance in the face of adversity, her plea for justice on behalf of those unfairly treated and her practical example of holiness have become a source of inspiration for all Australians.”
Article taken from Our Sunday Visitor.
"The priest is not the leader of a sort of association whose membership he tries to maintain and expand. He is God's messenger to his people. He wants to lead them to God and in this way to foster authentic communion between all men and women. That is why it is so important, dear friends, that you learn to live in constant intimacy with God. When the Lord tells us to 'pray constantly,' he is obviously not asking us to recite endless prayers, but urging us never to lose our inner closeness to God.
"Praying means growing in this intimacy. So it is important that our day should begin and end with prayer; that we listen to God as the Scriptures are read; that we share with him our desires and our hopes, our joys and our troubles, our failures and our thanks for all his blessings, and thus keep him ever before us as the point of reference for our lives. In this way we grow aware of our failings and learn to improve, but we also come to appreciate all the beauty and goodness, which we daily take for granted and so we grow in gratitude. With gratitude comes joy for the fact that God is close to us and that we can serve him."
May the Lord make us better servants who do what we ought, never focusing on being better than or above others, but recognizing our obligation to be greater servants to others, precisely because we have been given so much, forgiven so much, and blessed so much. May God grant us generous hearts as we serve Him and love him in others! To him be glory forever and ever.
Full text is here.
Denver's Archbishop Chaput delivered the following remarks on repentance and renewal in the mission of catechesis during a tri-diocesan catechetical congress in Victoria, British Columbia on Friday and Saturday, Oct. 15 and 16, 2010.
"Some of you may know the short story, “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson. If you don’t, I need to spoil the ending to make my point. But I promise the story will still be worth reading.
“The Lottery” is set on a summer day in a small town in 1940s America. The people are assembling for a very old annual ritual. The ritual has something to do with imploring a good corn harvest -- but there’s no mention of any God, and no clergy anywhere in the picture.
Each person in the village lines up to draw a slip of paper from an old wooden box. Tessie Hutchinson, a young wife and mother, draws a slip with a black mark.
From that moment, the story moves quickly to its conclusion. The lottery official gives the word, and the villagers move in on Tessie. And they stone her to death.
“The Lottery” is one of the most widely read stories ever published in my country. And for good reason. It’s well told. The ending leaves you breathless. Teachers like it because it provokes sharp classroom discussions.
Or at least it used to.
A few years ago, a college writing professor, Kay Haugaard, wrote an essay about her experiences teaching “The Lottery” over a period of about two decades.
She said that in the early 1970s, students who read the story voiced shock and indignation. The tale led to vivid conversations on big topics -- the meaning of sacrifice and tradition; the dangers of group-think and blind allegiance to leaders; the demands of conscience and the consequences of cowardice.
Sometime in the mid-1990s, however, reactions began to change.
Haugaard described one classroom discussion that -- to me -- was more disturbing than the story itself. The students had nothing to say except that the story bored them. So Haugaard asked them what they thought about the villagers ritually sacrificing one of their own for the sake of the harvest.
One student, speaking in quite rational tones, argued that many cultures have traditions of human sacrifice. Another said that the stoning might have been part of “a religion of long standing,” and therefore acceptable and understandable.
An older student who worked as a nurse, also weighed in. She said that her hospital had made her take training in multicultural sensitivity. The lesson she learned was this: “If it’s a part of a person’s culture, we are taught not to judge.”
I thought of Haugaard’s experience with “The Lottery” as I got ready for this brief talk. Here’s where my thinking led me:
Our culture is doing catechesis every day. It works like water dripping on a stone, eroding people’s moral and religious sensibilities, and leaving a hole where their convictions used to be.
Haugaard’s experience teaches us that it took less than a generation for this catechesis to produce a group of young adults who were unable to take a moral stand against the ritual murder of a young woman. Not because they were cowards. But because they lost their moral vocabulary.
Haugaard’s students seemingly grew up in a culture shaped by practical atheism and moral relativism. In other words, they grew up in an environment that teaches, in many different ways, that God is irrelevant, and that good and evil, right and wrong, truth and falsehood can’t exist in any absolute sense.
This is the culture we live in, and the catechesis is on-going. But I don’t think this new kind of barbarism – because that’s what it is; a form of barbarism -- is an inevitable process.
It’s not easy to de-moralize and strip a society of its religious sense. Accomplishing the task requires two key factors: First, it takes the aggressive, organized efforts of individuals and groups committed to undermining faith and historic Christian values. Second, it takes the indifference of persons like you and me, Christian believers.
I want to focus on the second factor, because it involves us.
Christians in my country and yours -- and throughout the West, generally -- have done a terrible job of transmitting our faith to our own children and to the culture at large.
Evidence can be found anecdotally in stories like Kay Haugaard’s. We can also see it in polls showing that religious identity and affiliation are softening. More people are claiming that they’re “spiritual,” but they have no religion.
Religion is fading as a formative influence in developed countries. Religious faith is declining in Western culture, especially among Canadian and American young people. This suggests that the Church is actually much smaller than her official numbers would indicate. And this, in turn, has implications for the future of Catholic life and the direction of our societies.
What’s happening today in the Church is not a “new” story. We find it repeated throughout the Old Testament. It took very little time for the Hebrews to start worshipping a golden calf. Whenever the people of God grew too prosperous or comfortable, they forgot where they came from. They forgot their God, because they no longer thought it was important to teach about him.
Because they failed to catechize, they failed to inoculate themselves against the idolatries in their surrounding cultures. And eventually, they began praying to the same alien gods as the pagans among whom they lived.
We have the same struggles today. Instead of changing the culture around us, we Christians have allowed ourselves to be changed by the culture. We’ve compromised too cheaply. We’ve hungered after assimilating and fitting in. And in the process, we’ve been bleached out and absorbed by the culture we were sent to make holy.
If our people no longer know their faith, or its obligations of discipleship, or its call to mission -- then we leaders, clergy, parents and teachers have no one to blame but ourselves. We need to confess that, and we need to fix it. For too many of us, Christianity is not a filial relationship with the living God, but a habit and an inheritance. We’ve become tepid in our beliefs and naive about the world. We’ve lost our evangelical zeal. And we’ve failed in passing on our faith to the next generation.
The practical unbelief we now face in our societies is, in large measure, the fruit of our own flawed choices in teaching, parenting, religious practice and personal witness. But these choices can be unmade. We can repent. We can renew what our vanity and indifference have diminished. It’s still possible to “redeem the time,” as St. Paul once put it. But we don’t have a lot of time. Nor should we make alibis for mistakes of the past.
Sixty years ago, when Shirley Jackson wrote “The Lottery,” she could count on her readers knowing what right and wrong were. She lived in a culture that reflected a broadly Christian consensus about virtue and moral integrity. That’s no longer the case.
The culture we live in today proselytizes for a very different consensus -- one based on political and moral agendas vigorously hostile to Christian beliefs.
A recent article in the New York Times went directly to this point. It was about a new ad campaign launched by supporters of homosexual “marriage” in New York. The campaign features politicians and Hollywood celebrities making a series of reasonable-sounding arguments.
One example is from the actress, Julianne Moore. Her ad begins, “Hi, I’m Julianne Moore, and I’m a New Yorker. We all deserve the right to marry the person we love.”
The New York campaign is misleading and ultimately ruinous to real marriages and families. But when Christians don’t understand the content or the reasons for their own faith, they have no compelling alternative to offer.
The points I’ve been making are these:
First, either we form our culture, or the culture will form us. Second, right now, the culture does a better job of shaping us than we do in shaping the culture. And third, we need to admit our failures, and we need to turn ourselves onto a path of repentance and change, and unselfish witness to others.
The central issue in renewing Catholic catechesis has little to do with techniques, or theories, or programs, or resources. The central issue is whether we ourselves really do believe. Catechesis is not a profession. It’s a dimension of discipleship. If we’re Christians, we’re each of us called to be teachers and missionaries.
But we can’t share what we don’t have. If we’re embarrassed about Church teachings, or if we disagree with them, or if we’ve decided that they’re just too hard to live by, or too hard to explain, then we’ve already defeated ourselves.
We need to really believe what we claim to believe. We need to stop calling ourselves “Catholic” if we don’t stand with the Church in her teachings – all of them. But if we really are Catholic, or at least if we want to be, then we need to act like it with obedience and zeal and a fire for Jesus Christ in our hearts. God gave us the faith in order to share it. This takes courage. It takes a deliberate dismantling of our own vanity. When we do that, the Church is strong. When we don’t, she grows weak. It’s that simple.
In a culture of confusion, the Church is our only reliable guide. So let’s preach and teach our Catholic beliefs with passion. And let’s ask God to make us brave enough and humble enough to follow our faith to its radical conclusions.
Thanks for your attention. God bless you."
The pope spoke at length about Blessed Angela of Foligno, Italy, who experienced a conversion in the late 13th century. A worldly woman who looked down on those who observed strict poverty in religious life, she experienced a series of tragic events and suffering that changed her way of thinking, he said. After the deaths of her mother, her husband and her children, she sold all she had and joined the Third Order of St. Francis. The pope said her conversion began with a good confession and was aided by penance, humility and tribulations, as well as a fear of eternal punishment.
Part of her difficulty was that outsiders found her hard to understand, he said. But she persevered, and came to identify her own sufferings with those of Jesus -- a key phase of spiritual growth, he said. "The life of Blessed Angela began with a worldly life rather far from God," the pope said. "Today we're all in danger of living as if God does not exist, because he seems so distant from our daily lives." Her feast day is considered January 4.
Recalling that October is traditionally the month dedicated to the Rosary, Benedict XVI added: "The daily meditation on the mysteries of Christ in union with Mary, the Virgin at prayer, strengthens us all in faith, hope and charity."
"To the Virgin Mary - the pope observed - I wish to commend all the people of God living in this beloved land. May She support families in love and education; make fruitful the seeds of vocation that God amply sows among young people, instill courage in the face of trials, hope amidst difficulties, renewed energy in doing good. The Madonna comforts the sick and all the suffering, and helps the Christian communities so that no one in them is marginalized or needy, but everyone, especially the smallest and weakest, feels welcomed and valued. "
Benedict XVI has also devoted part of his homily during the mass to the theme of "walking expediently and joyfully on the path of holiness in the footsteps of many shining examples of Christ".
"Your beautiful island - he said - was among the first regions of Italy to accept the faith of the Apostles to receive the proclamation of the Word of God, to adhere to the faith so generously that even in the midst of difficulties and persecution, it has always seen the flourishing of the flower of holiness. Sicily was and is a land of saints, belonging to every walk of life, who lived the Gospel with simplicity and integrity. "
Also in the homily, the pope urged Sicilian Catholics to "witness the faith in the various sectors of society, in many situations of human existence, especially in those that are difficult".
Benedict XVI did not mention the word "mafia", but made indirect references when he asked Catholics not to be ashamed to be Christian witnesses: "One should be ashamed of that evil - he added - which offends God, that offends man, one should be ashamed of the evil that is inflicted on civil and religious communities with actions that loath the light of day”.
"The temptation to discouragement, resignation, comes to those who are weak in faith, to those who confuse evil with good, to those who believe that there is nothing to be done before evil, often of the deepest kind. Instead, those who are firmly founded in faith, who have full confidence in God and live in the Church are able to bring the uncontainable power of the Gospel. This is how the saints behaved, who flowered, over the centuries, in Palermo and in Sicily, as well as lay people and priests of today who are well-known to you all, such as, for example, Don Pino Puglisi. May they always watch over you and keep you united and nurture in everyone the desire to proclaim, in word and deed, the presence and love of Christ. People of Sicily, look with hope to your future”.
1992-1994 Associate Pastor, Notre Dame, Bethlehem
1994-1998 Associate Pastor, St. Ignatius Loyola, Sinking Spring
1998-1999 Professor & Director of Spiritual Activities, Pius X High School, Bangor, Residence at St. Elizabeth, Pen Argyl
1999-2000 Professor & Director of Spirtual Activities, Marian Catholic High School, Tamaqua, Residence at St. Jerome, Tamaqua
2000-2001 Professor & Director of Spiritual Activites, Marian Catholic High School, Tamaqua,Residence at St. Patrick, McAdoo
2001-2002 Associate Pastor, Sacred Heart, West Reading
2002-2002 Associate Pastor, St. Ignatius Loyola, Sinking Spring
2002-2003 Associate Pastor, St. Patrick, Pottsville
2003-2005 Pastor, Annunciation BVM, Shenandoah, St. Mary, Ringtown, St. Mary Magdelan, Lost Creek
2004-2005 Pastor, Annunciation BVM, Shenandoah, St. George, Shenandoah, Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Shenandoah & St. Mary Magdelan, Lost Creek
2005-2005 Sabbatical, Trinity Retreat, Larchmont, NY
2005-2006 Associate Pastor, St. Ignatius Loyola, Sinking Spring
2006-2008 Associate Pastor, St. Ann, Emmaus
2008-2009 Pastor, All Saints, McAdoo (consolidation of: St. Patrick, St. Kunegunda, St. Mary, McAdoo; St. Michael, St. Bartholomew, Tresckow: Immaculate Conception, Kelayres)
2009-2010 Associate Pastor, Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Bethlehem
2010- ????? Administrator, St. Mary, Ringtown & St. Joseph, Sheppton
The Church’s documents on the liturgy, however, do not support the practice of reciting (in a group or privately) the rosary during the celebration of the Eucharist.
The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy (#30) states: "To promote active participation, the people should be encouraged to take part by means of acclamations, responses, psalms, antiphons, hymns, as well as by actions, gestures and bodily attitudes. And at the proper time a reverent silence should be observed."
The Instruction on Music in the Liturgy says: "The faithful fulfill their liturgical role by making that full, conscious and active participation, which is demanded by the nature of the liturgy itself and which is by reason of Baptism, the right and duty of the Christian people. This participation a) should be above all internal, in the sense that by it the faithful join their mind to what they pronounce or hear, and cooperate with heavenly grace, b) must be, on the other hand, external also, that is, such as to show the internal participation by gestures and bodily attitudes, by the acclamations, responses and singing."
In other words, the Church expects us to take part as much as we can in the prayers and ceremonies of the Mass. That is rather difficult to do while continuing to say the rosary or some other unrelated prayers. Remember, we come together as a community for communal prayer.
Benedict is willing to say what he thinks are hard truths, or unpopular truths. The question still remains whether those hard truths - on sexuality, on the proper celebration of Mass, on proper manner and disposition for receiving Holy Communion - will scare off Catholics who disagree.
From the early days in the Church, sects and schisms, and later with the Reformation, plagued and challenged the Church. In modern times, it has been torn by scores of local interests, sex scandals, and dissent on contraception and the role of women in the church. Over and over again, Pope Benedict mentions that the church continues to be bombarded by a secular culture that he believes offers no fixed values.
At times, or should I say many times, I have met the challenge of the lack of receptivity on the Church's Magisterium. The future suggests that this will undoubtedly increase unless we as members of the Body of Christ put aside our selfish interests and replace them with faithful discipleship.
Dr. Cal Lightman, played by Tim Roth is the world's leading deception expert. Lies do not make it past the good doctor. He'll see it in your face and your posture, or hear it in your voice. If you shrug your shoulder, rotate your hand, or even just slightly raise your lower lip, Lightman will spot the lie.
Here is a show that makes one think if it is better to always tell the truth, rather that deal with the repercussions of falsehoods. To watch the good doctor and his team at work, should give everyone pause. We might try to lie to others, but the real trouble comes when we try to lie to ourselves. Of course, we cannot ever lie to God.
Who do we Love?
Who do we Honor?
Who do we Respect?
Who do we Support?
When we go to the Theater, a Concert, Sporting even, or Lecture - we strive to get the Closest and Best seats. We want to be close to the action or speaker as possible - so we can see and appreciate the entire event.
When we go to church to celebrate the Eucharist
- to hear the Word of God
- to Listen to our Priest explain the Words of Scripture we just heard
- to see the Miracle of the Transubstantiation
....Where do we sit?
Do we Honor our Priest and our God
- by sitting as far back as we can,
or mingle in with the crowd that came in before us
- or do we strive to get the Closest and Best seat
to show our presence and attention
- our Love
- our Honor
- our Respect,
- and support of our Priest
- And Jesus whom he represents?
President of Serra Club
On Saturday, June 5, 2010, His Excellency John O. Barres, Bishop of Allentown ordained Reverend Brian Miller. Father Miller is assigned as Parochial Vicar of the Cathedral of Saint Catharine of Siena in Allentown.
Even thouch I am not a priest of the Archdiocese of Chicago, I plan on writing a letter today to the Cardinal asking him to consider sanctions against this wayward priest. I have posted Cardinal George's contact information should you feel inclined to do the same.
His Eminence Francis Cardinal George
Archdiocese of Chicago
835 N. Rush St.
Chicago, IL 60611-2030
Several years ago, a friend of mine and her husband were invited to spend the weekend at the husband's employer's home. My friend, Arlene, was nervous about the weekend. The boss was very wealthy, with a fine home on the waterway, and cars costing more than her house.
The first day and evening went well, and Arlene was delighted to have this rare glimpse into how the very wealthy live. The husband's employer was quite generous as a host, and took them to the finest restaurants. Arlene knew she would never have the opportunity to indulge in this kind of extravagance again, so was enjoying herself immensely. As the three of them were about to enter an exclusive restaurant that evening, the boss was walking slightly ahead of Arlene and her husband. He stopped suddenly, looking down on the pavement for a long, silent moment. Arlene wondered if she was supposed to pass him. There was nothing on the ground except a single darkened penny that someone had dropped, and a few cigarette butts Still silent, the man reached down and picked up the penny. He held it up and smiled, then put it in his pocket as if he had found a great treasure. How absurd! What need did this man have for a single penny?
Why would he even take the time to stop and pick it up? Throughout dinner, the entire scene nagged at her. Finally, she could stand it no longer. She casually mentioned that her daughter once had a coin collection, and asked if the penny he had found had been of some value. A smile crept across the man's face as he reached into his pocket for the penny and held it out for her to see. She had seen many pennies before! What was the point of this? "Look at it," he said. "Read what it says." She read the words 'United States of America ' "No, not that; read further."
"One cent?" "No, keep reading." "In God We Trust?" "Yes!" "And?" "And if I trust in God, the name of God is holy, even on a coin. Whenever I find a coin I see that inscription. It is written on every single United States coin, but we never seem to notice it!
God drops a message right in front of me telling me to trust Him? Who am I to pass it by? When I see a coin, I pray, I stop to see if my trust IS in God at that moment. I pick the coin up as a response to God; that I do trust in Him. For a short time, at least, I cherish it as if it were gold. I think it is God's way of starting a conversation with me. Lucky for me, God is patient and pennies are plentiful!"
Rejoice, heavenly powers! Sing choirs of angels!
Exult, all creation around God's throne!
Jesus Christ, our King is risen!
Sound the trumpet of salvation!
Rejoice, O earth, in shining splendor,
radiant in the brightness of your King!
Christ has conquered! Glory fills you!
Darkness vanishes for ever!
Rejoice, O Mother Church! Exult in glory!
The risen Savior shines upon you!
Let this place resound with joy,
echoing the mighty song of all God's people!
My dearest friends,
standing with me in this holy light,
join me in asking God for mercy,
that he may give his unworthy minister
grace to sing his Easter praises.
- The Lord be with you.
- And also with you.
- Lift up your hearts.
- We lift them up to the Lord.
- Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
- It is right to give him thanks and praise.
we should praise the unseen God, the all-powerful Father,
and his only Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.
For Christ has ransomed us with his blood,
and paid for us the price of Adam's sin to our eternal Father!
This is our passover feast,
When Christ, the true Lamb, is slain,
whose blood consecrates the homes of all believers.
This is the night,
when first you saved our fathers:
you freed the people of Israel from their slav'ry,
and led them dry-shod through the sea.
This is the night,
when the pillar of fire destroyed the darkness of sin.
This is night,
when Christians ev'rywhere,
washed clean of sin and freed from all defilement,
are restored to grace and grow together in holiness.
This is the night,
when Jesus broke the chains of death
and rose triumphant from the grave.
What good would life have been to us,
had Christ not come as our Redeemer?
Father, how wonderful your care for us!
How boundless your merciful love!
To ransom a slave you gave away your Son.
O happy fault, O necessary sin of Adam,
which gained for us so great a Redeemer!
Most blessed of all nights,
chosen by God to see Christ rising from the dead!
Of this night scripture says:
"The night will be as clear as day:
it will become my light, my joy."
The power of this holy night dispels all evil,
washes guilt away, restores lost innocence,
brings mourners joy;
it casts out hatred, brings us peace,
and humbles earthly pride.
Night truly blessed,
when heaven is wedded to earth
and we are reconciled to God!
Therefore, heavenly Father, in the joy of this night,
receive our evening sacrifice of praise,
your Church's solemn offering.
Accept this Easter candle,
a flame divided but undimmed,
a pillar of fire that glows to the honor of God.
Let it mingle with the lights of heaven
and continue bravely burning
to dispel the darkness of this night!
May the Morning Star which never sets
find this flame still burning:
Christ, that Morning Star,
who came back from the dead,
and shed his peaceful light on all mankind,
your Son, who lives and reigns for ever and ever. Amen.
I didn’t really understand the strength of their feelings on this. My mother would try to explain: “these are holy men of God,” she would remind me. God has done the choosing, and these men have bravely and sacrificially done the responding. Besides, she would say, it’s just not charitable to assume the general posture that our job as parishioners is to take and to criticize. A better posture would be to thank God for what the priests do and bring to us.
True to my parents’ words, they invited a string of very diverse priests into our house and our life. There were the exceedingly pastoral priests, whose kindness and gentleness my parents just couldn’t bid goodbye after they had moved on to another parish. There was the priest who had stuck by my parents and one of my siblings after the latter had gone through some tough times in high school. There was our former pastor who we used to visit in the retirement home for priests long after he could no longer make it over for dinner. At some point during our visit, he would start glancing around his room, determined to find gifts he could present to me and to my sister – out of the few possessions he owned – so that we never went home empty-handed. There were also the priests who elicited respect, if not the warm fuzzies. They came to dinner too. There was the pastor whom I feared to meet in confession when I was a little girl, and the priest-essayist whose opinions on defense spending did not mesh with my father’s at all, but who was welcome to dinner at our house anyway, not only for the childhood memories he shared with my parents, but also due to my parents’ steady respect for his holiness, his erudition, and the courage of his convictions. No matter the variety of priests I met, the “takeaway” message I got over time was that we were privileged as a family to have the friendship and the instruction they never failed to give. They were kindness and intelligence wrapped up into a very nice package.
What a perfect preparation this proved to be for my work as an adult! When I attended graduate school in Theology, there were four women and about twenty seminarians and priests in my class. Together, we crammed for our comprehensive exams, celebrated our passage, ate many meals, and attended Mass. When I traveled the United States on behalf of the American Catholic bishops for more than ten years, I met an endless variety of holy, ordained men. I met priests who had emerged from families where there had been divorce, or disabilities – and who had become uniquely gifted bearers of Christ’s message of healing and bearing with suffering. I met quiet contemplatives, loquacious professors, and monks who operated tractors and movie cameras…all in the same day. I met priests who had prayed outside abortion clinics until the personnel inside quit because the Spirit had changed them, and priests living side by side with the homeless. I met priests whose prayer lives were so rich that they could see lucidly, what I was doing and what I ought to be doing, better than I could see while on the treadmill that was my life. The more time I spent with them (and the older I got), I could actually see how their particular gifts served the particular needs surrounding them.
In short, I came to see – and won’t my parents be happy when I tell them – that my parents’ instincts were right on. God has called a great variety of men to live, work, and speak to this infinitely variable world.
Helen Alvaré is the mother of three children and resides with her husband in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area. She is presently a professor of family law and law and religion at George Mason University in Arlington, Virginia, and previously worked in the pro-life office of the USCCB for ten years. Professor Alvaré is also a consultor for the Pontifical Council for the Laity.
Throughout my life, God has sent an abundance of faithful priests to guide me in unexpected ways. Each played a distinct role in my spiritual growth. Just like me, each possessed unique gifts and struggled with daily challenges and human failings. Yet these men worked together seamlessly for the betterment of my soul. In most cases they were unaware of guidance others had given. Yet, they were remarkably consistent in their teaching. How can this be?
I believe the Holy Spirit inspires God’s faithful priests through prayer. If a priest is to transform lives through his example of holiness and celebrate Mass worthily, he must regularly place himself in God’s presence for spiritual nourishment. In order to touch people’s souls in the Sacrament of Confession, he must have one ear open to the penitent, and one to the Holy Spirit.
I am a physician who returned to the faith 13 years ago and later joined the Tepeyac Family Center, a completely pro-life obstetrics and gynecology practice in Fairfax, Virginia. I have come to consider working in this holy place as my vocation, and I have learned much about how to practice there…from priests.
It amazes me to see the similarities between faithful doctors and priests. We both care for the whole person, but the emphasis varies. I often refer patients to priests. One particular priest sends patients to me when their spiritual difficulties seem to stem from medical illness; he had studied pre-med before he entered the seminary. That is continuity of care at its best!
On a personal level, priests were present at my baptism and throughout my life. They helped me as I grew in my faith and later when I questioned it. When I stepped away from the Church for a while, they continued to treat me with the love and compassion Christ has for his children. When I was ready to return, a priest was there to lead me back home.
At the time, I was practicing medicine in a way which was not in keeping with Church teaching. A faithful priest guided me through the difficult period of spiritual growth which followed. With each passing day, I felt God stretching my heart to fill it with grace. It was painful, but it was a good pain. I hungered to receive the sacraments, but I couldn’t until I eliminated my objectionable practices. The priest and many other people prayed for me in earnest. What a blessing it was to experience the relief of having the burden of sin lifted from my shoulders in the confessional where Christ was waiting for me, veiled as the priest. All I had to do was come to him in humility.
After joining the Tepeyac Family Center, I learned that obstetrics is one of God’s best classrooms. We cannot control the challenges of pregnancy, labor, and delivery, but priests can help us respond to these challenges in persona Christi.
In 2004, our 25 year old daughter died suddenly in a motor vehicle accident. Needless to say, I was devastated. Numerous priests came forward to help me. Eight of them literally dropped everything to concelebrate her funeral Mass. Together, they transformed my crushing pain and suffering into an incredible opportunity for holiness. Throughout my life, and particularly on this occasion, I have truly experienced the “love of the Heart of Jesus” through God’s faithful priests.
Marie Anderson, M.D., F.A.C.O.G. is Medical Director of the Tepeyac Family Center in Fairfax, Virginia. Marie and her husband Dave have three children.
In the 25 years since I founded Project Rachel, the post-abortion healing ministry of the Church, I have witnessed firsthand the gift that priests are to the world. I have seen the heart of the priest repeatedly. It is generous, compassionate, willing to sacrifice for others.
At the inception of Project Rachel, when some thought post-abortion ministry was a hare-brained idea, the priests here in Milwaukee supported it as did my bishop. As I was planning the training, one priest told me not to be disappointed because he didn’t think any priests were going to come, but 60 priests came and generously embraced this new ministry of mercy. And 25 years later, those priests are still involved in the work. If there is anything I need, they are immediately willing to help.
Across the country many priests actively keep me and the ministry in prayer, recognizing that prayer is powerful and protective.
Several times I have received calls on our referral line from elderly women somewhere in the U.S. looking to reconcile an abortion loss from 40 or 50 years ago. They have said to me “I can’t ask my children to take me to confession because they will say “Ma, you are old. What could you possibly need to confess?” And in every case, I was able to find a priest who would make a house call to ease the fears of an old woman preparing to die.
A priest who was preparing to leave the priesthood received a Project Rachel call the night before submitting his resignation to the bishop. But as he spoke with the woman, he knew he couldn’t leave the priesthood until he had seen this process through with her. When he finished it, he tore up the letter because, he said, he had rediscovered the meaning of his priesthood in this sacramental encounter that set the woman free.
A delayed vocation seminarian I met through a God appointment asked me what the most difficult part of my ministry was and I responded “raising money.” This former businessman supported my ministry for several years while divesting himself of his earthly riches before ordination. How many lives were touched because of his incredible generosity?
It was the pastoral awareness of the bishops of this country, who, as confessors, recognized the pain of women who had had abortions, and called for a ministry of post-abortion healing in the first Pastoral Plan for Pro-Life Activities, issued shortly after abortion became the law of the land. And it is this pastoral heart that motivated bishops to personally call me after the founding of the ministry to ask how they could make it happen in their diocese.
A woman who had been convinced by her doctor to abort a child with severe anomalies called me after the hospital had released her dead baby to her, as she and her husband were grieving profoundly over this loss. The hospital had referred her to a chaplain, but he had been of little use, refusing to help them bury their child. I called an experienced Project Rachel priest and explained the circumstances to him. He was a canon lawyer with years of post-abortion experience. He went to the family, held them as they wept, gave their child a proper burial and soothed the wounds left by the insensitive chaplain, keeping them in the Church. She called to tell me what a gift he had been to them as he came into my office to thank me for the opportunity to minister to them.
A woman will often call after speaking to a priest she has been referred to, to tell me of her profound experience of God’s love and mercy brought to her through the priest. She will say “Please tell the priests how grateful we are to them for what they have said and been … the mercy and love of God made manifest, the wisdom of the Spirit speaking to our souls, indeed Father was Jesus with skin for me! Alter Christus made manifest!”
To the many Project Rachel priests in the this country and to the multitudes of confessors who soothe a woman’s terror, confront her despair, set her free of her sin and bring her home to the Lord and her lost children: Thank you from the depths of my heart. Without you, this ministry of Project Rachel would not exist! And on behalf of the multitudes of people who have touched: THANK YOU! You change the world, one heart and soul at a time.
Written by Vicki Thorn, the founder of Project Rachel Post-Abortion Ministry. She is also the founder and ongoing director of the National Office of Post-Abortion Reconciliation and Healing based in Milwaukee. Mrs. Thorn is an internationally renowned author and speaker on healing and reconciliation in the aftermath of abortion.
For the last several months, priests around the Diocese of Allentown have been getting post cards in the mail from people indicating their appreciation of the answer to God's call. I have received several so far, and each time I do, the emotions take over. To know that there are people out there that take the time to offer their Masses, spend Holy Hours of Adoration, pray Rosaries, offer Divine Mercy Chaplets and other things for me can be over-whelming. But what is even more incredulous is the fact that I do not know most of them. What a true gift for a priest! Thanks to all who offer prayers for us, your servants. May we live up to the vocation.
We need them in life's early morning,
we need them again at its close;
We feel their warm clasp of friendship,
we seek them when tasting life's woes.
At the altar each day we behold them,
and the hands of a king on his throne
Are not equal to them in their
greatness; their dignity stands all alone;
And when we are tempted and wander
to pathways of shame and sin,
It's the hand of a priest that will absolve
us----not once, but again and again;
And when we are taking life's partner,
other hands may prepare us a feast,
But the hand that will bless and unite
us is the beautiful hand of a priest.
God bless them and keep them all holy
For the Host which their fingers caress;
When can a poor sinner do better than
to ask Him to guide thee and bless?
When the hour of death comes upon us
may our courage and strength be increased.
By seeing raised over us in anointing the
beautiful hands of a priest!