Miracle of the Rosary – The Rosary Stops a Serial Killer

Miracle of the Rosary The Rosary Stops a Serial Killer

Much has been written about the notorious serial killer, Ted Bundy. But here is a story that is only now gaining wide attention. And it gives powerful witness to the miraculous power of the rosary.

On January 15, 1978, after taking the lives of two college students living in the Chi Omega sorority house of Florida State University, Bundy began combing the house for more victims. Carrying a bat, Bundy entered the room of his intended next victim, but suddenly stopped where he stood. Then he suddenly dropped the bat and left.

The police wanted to know why this girl had survived the attack—why had Bundy stopped just inside her room and fled? The girl agreed to speak with the police, but only if there was a priest in the room. So,the officers called a nearby parish. Though he was not the priest on call that night, the phone rang in the room of Fr. William Kerr (later Msgr. Kerr) and he quickly rushed to the scene.

The traumatized girl told the priest of a promise she had made to her grandmother when she had left home to start college. Each night, no matter how late she went to bed, she would pray the Rosary, to invoke the protection of the Blessed Mother. Yes, every might, even if she fell asleep after just a few decades. And in fact, that’s what had happened the night of the killings. Though sound asleep, she still clutched the rosary in her hands when Bundy entered her room. She stirred and saw a bat-wielding man standing over her. Without thinking, she opened her hands, exposing the rosary. Bundy saw the beads and immediately left.

Weeks later, Fr. Kerr received another late-night call, though again he was not the priest on duty. This time, the caller was the warden of the nearby prison. Bundy had just been apprehended and requested to speak with a priest. Fr. Kerr met with Bundy that night and continued to receive regular calls from him up to and including the night before Bundy’s execution, when he thanked Fr. Kerr for the help he had given him.

Bundy confessed to having committed over thirty murders in his lifetime. But one life, the life of a young girl who had made a promise to her grandmother, that life he didn’t take. Was that life spared because rosary beads fell from her hands? Bundy never said. But we can be sure that there is power in the Rosary, that there is safety under the mantle of Mary’s protection, and that there is spiritual growth and sustenance that comes from praying the mysteries of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection

Does God Love Me?

God loves you more in a moment than anyone could in a lifetime…

I couldn’t possibly count all the times I’ve told others that God loved them, and challenged them to believe it. God’s unconditional love for us has been a dominant theme in every retreat, parish mission and reflection day I led over many years. I have been eloquently persuasive in convincing a plethora of people to stake their lives on the reality of God’s love for them.

But when it came to my own life, getting hold of that truth in a way that penetrated to my core was always an elusive goal. I desperately wanted that conviction to become as automatic as my breathing, but believing that God loved me was something I understood in my head, but seldom felt in my heart.

And then I met Maya Angelou. Already nationally known for her writing and poetry, for being a singer, dancer, actress and good friend of Oprah Winfrey, she became a household name when she wrote and recited a poem at President Bill Clinton’s first inauguration. The following year, she was the keynote speaker at the annual Los Angeles Religious Education Congress—the biggest Catholic event in the USA drawing twenty-five thousand adults and teens over the course of a long weekend. My wife, Nancy and I were also scheduled to speak and, at the conclusion of Maya’s keynote speech, Nancy was invited to dance while Maya recited her poem.

The keynote was astounding. She spoke with great eloquence. She recited poetry. She sang. And she inspired everyone in the room—all six thousand of us. While she was being introduced, I was struck by this anecdote. When a reporter asked her, “What moment in your life changed you most?” Maya instantly replied, “Why, that’s easy. It was the moment I realized that God truly loves me.” When the speech and dance were over, I congratulated Nancy and suggested we go to the speaker’s lounge. “And if Maya is there, I’m going to ask for her autograph.” To my delight we found the usually crowded room empty, except for the Sister who had introduced her speech and Maya Angelou herself. We sat down and chatted, but soon the Sister had to leave. “Before I go,” she said, pulling a notebook and pen from her bag and handing them to Maya, “Would you mind giving me your autograph?” With a dismissive gesture, Maya replied, “Oh honey, I don’t do autographs.” That left only the three of us at the table.

I immediately turned to Maya and confessed that I’d also planned to ask for an autograph. “But I realize now that I don’t really want your autograph,” I said. “There is something else I’d like,” I said. “What’s that?” she asked. “I’d like to hold your hand,” I said. “Why, I would love that,” she replied. I placed my right hand palm-up on the table. She place her left hand in mine. I put my left hand on top of hers, and she put her right hand on top of mine. As we sat there with this “hand sandwich” I looked directly into her eyes and told her, “I was deeply moved by the story Sister shared in her introduction, when you were asked to name the moment that changed your life.” Maya didn’t hesitate. Returning my gaze, she said, “Oh yes, oh yes,” she said. “Why even now, even now just to think of it… just to think of how much God loves me…”

As she spoke her enormous eyes welled up with giant tears that rolled down her cheeks. As I watched her awareness of God’s love for her turn into those precious tears, I thought to myself, “I want that. I want that! I want to know God’s love for me as fully as she does.” That remained my hope and prayer for many years. Yes, I knew God loved me, but not to the depths of my being like Maya did. Not with a conviction that would move me to tears. That came years later when I received an email from an editor thanking me for an article I had written. She told me I was a “real blessing” to their media organization, then she added, “God loves you very much.” That did it. After all those years of seeking a bedrock conviction that God truly loved me, that one sentence did it! I had never met the editor in person, yet her words sent from across the ocean pierced my heart. It was as if God spoke those words Himself: “I love you very much, Graziano!” I knew it was true. It was a tremendous and unexpected gift. And what a difference it makes! God loves me whether I am good or bad. God loves me when I’m praying and when I’m not praying. I don’t have to deserve it because God gives it freely. And I can’t do anything to make God stop loving me. Not even sin.

I have the freedom to break God’s heart and reject his love. But even then, God would keep on loving me. And of course, God had been loving me all along. He didn’t start loving me that day, and that day wasn’t the first time I knew He loved me. But previously I had known it in my “head.” That day, God penetrated my heart with a different kind of knowing…a calm and peaceful assurance that transcends all of life’s circumstances. It took me a long time to come to that point of clarity and certainty, to that serenity that wraps itself around you like a blanket. And what God did for me, He can do for you. Do you want God’s assurance of His love? Just ask. And then wait. It may be a surprise who God chooses to reveal His love. After it happens, you may also find yourself saying, “Oh yes, oh yes… Why even now, even now just to think of it… just to think of how much God loves me…”

Book shelf – Ferdinand

The story of Ferdinand is one of the best known works by the American author-Munro Leaf. It was originally published in 1936. The book tells the story of a bull who would rather smell flowers than fight in bullfights. He sits in the middle of the bull ring failing to take heed of any of the provocations of the matador and others to fight.

The book was banned by both Adolf Hitler and Francisco Franco. Gandhi, Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt admired it. The book’s publication — just months after the start of the Spanish Civil War — proved a boon to the sales of the book.

Published in 1936, the story of the peaceful, flower-sniffing bull written by Munro Leaf and illustrated by Robert Lawson is considered a classic of American children’s literature and has never been out of print.

The story of Ferdinand was made into a movie called Ferdinand in 2017, as an American computer-animated comedy-drama adventure film produced by Blue Sky Studios and distributed by 20th Century Fox.

The book is available on amazon kindle.

Portrait of God

Portrait of God

There is something intimate about drawing someone’s portrait, about studying his or her facial features, discovering subtle details, and sensitively capturing an expression that is one of a kind. Modern facial recognition technology testifies to how utterly unique each individual’s face is. Like DNA or a fingerprint, your image is yours and yours alone. And yet, while each person’s image is altogether unique, we are all patterned after one exemplar. The book of Genesis says that God made man and woman in His image. God is an artist. This is one of the first things we learn about Him in Scripture. God makes portraits. He makes self-portraits.

If every person is made in God’s image, why do we all look and act so different? God is boundless. No single individual can ever capture the entirety of who God is. That is why He made so many of us. Picasso painted at least 14 self-portraits over the course of his lifetime. Each self-portrait is undeniably distinct. However, there is some measure of truth about Pablo expressed in all of his pieces. Likewise, each person is a unique yet truthful representation of God’s eclectic character. Sin is iconoclasm. When Adam and Eve defied God in the garden, something happened to their God-given image. Likewise, something happens to our image whenever we wrong God or others.

Sin is the smudging of wet paint on canvas. It is the disfigurement of God’s beautiful artwork. Sin makes God less recognizable in us, and therefore less recognizable to ourselves. But thankfully, God, like a typical artist, is stubbornly devoted to His artwork. This is why the Son, the perfect Image of God, took on the medium of flesh.

Christ came to renew, to repaint our disfigured image. By modeling a life of love, wisdom, and forgiveness, Christ reminds us what God looks like. With His blood Christ begins scrubbing away our defects, smoothing out smears, and filling in the gaps. Through the interior design of the Holy Spirit, the original masterpiece regains clarity once again. The life of a Christian is one of ongoing art restoration. Every artist knows how tedious the creative process can be, but the outcome is always worth it.

When passing through Washington DC, it is essential to visit the National Gallery of Art. There you will find appreciators from around the globe crowding around one piece in particular. It is a modestly sized portrait of a mysterious young lady painted by Leonardo da Vinci. With such few of his originals remaining, it is among the most precious works of art today. On the reverse side of the portrait reads the inscription, “Virtutem Forma Decorat” (beauty adorns virtue). The image of God is a spiritual reality. It is made visible by the conduct of our character. When we allow our lives to conform with God’s brushstrokes, beauty follows in its most genuine and lasting splendor. God is the painter par excellence. His eye is keener than da Vinci’s, and his hands softer than Caravaggio’s. Your beauty surpasses anything in the Louvre, because you are His original artwork. Next time you make the sign of the cross, remember that you trace God’s signature on you.

CATHOLIC MOVIE SHELF

SONG OF BERNADETTE

The Song of Bernadette is a 1943 American biographical drama film based on the 1941 novel of the same name by Franz Werfel. It stars Jennifer Jones in the title role, which portrays the story of Bernadette Soubirous, who reportedly experienced eighteen visions of the Blessed Virgin Mary from February to July 1858 and was later canonized in 1933. The film was directed by Henry King, from a screenplay written by George Seaton.

Fourteen-year-old Bernadette Soubirous lives in relative poverty with her family in Lourdes. At her Catholic school, Bernadette is shamed by her teacher, Sister Vauzou, for falling behind in her studies because of her asthma.

Later that afternoon, while she is fetching firewood with her sister Marie and school friend Jeanne outside town, Bernadette is left behind at the Massabielle grotto when her companions warn her not to wade through the cold river for fear of taking ill. About to cross it anyway, Bernadette is distracted by a strange breeze and a change in the light. Investigating the grotto, she sees a beautiful lady dressed in white, holding a pearl rosary. She tells her companions, who promise not to tell anyone else. However, Marie tells their mother when they return home, and the story soon spreads all over Lourdes.

Many, including Bernadette’s Aunt Bernarde, are convinced of her sincerity and stand up for her against her disbelieving parents, but Bernadette faces civil and church authorities alone, including Abbé Dominique Peyramale. Repeatedly questioned, she stands solidly behind her seemingly-unbelievable story and continues to return to the grotto, as the lady asked. She faces ridicule since the lady tells her to drink and wash at a spring that does not yet exist, but Bernadette digs a hole in the ground and uses the wet sand and mud. Water later begins to flow and exhibits miraculous healing properties. On Bernadette’s last visit to the grotto, the lady finally identifies herself as “the Immaculate Conception.” When civil authorities try to have Bernadette declared insane, Peyramale, who once doubted her, now becomes her staunchest ally and asks for a formal church investigation to verify if Bernadette is a fraud, insane, or genuine.

The grotto is fenced off and the Bishop of Tarbes declares that unless the Emperor orders the grotto to be opened, there will be no investigation. When the Emperor’s infant son drinks the water and is cured of his illness, the Empress believes his recovery to be miraculous and, at her insistence, the grotto is reopened. The Bishop of Tarbes then directs the commission to convene. The investigation takes many years, and Bernadette is questioned again and again, but the commission eventually determines that Bernadette truly experienced the visions and was visited by the Virgin Mary.

Afterwards, Bernadette intends to live an ordinary life, but Peyramale does not think that it is appropriate to turn Bernadette loose in the world and persuades her to become a nun with the Sisters of Charity of Nevers. Bernadette undergoes rigorous spiritual training and works hard at the convent, but she is also subjected to emotional abuse from Sister Vauzou, now the mistress of novices at the convent. Vauzou reveals to Bernadette that she is skeptically jealous of the attention that Bernadette has been receiving as a result of the visions and says she is angry that God would choose Bernadette instead of her, when she has spent her life in suffering in his service. She asserts that Bernadette has not suffered enough and wants a “sign” to prove that Bernadette really was chosen by Heaven.

Bernadette makes a revelation to Sister Vauzou that is later diagnosed as tuberculosis of the bone; the condition causes intense pain, yet Bernadette has never complained or so much as mentioned it. Vauzou, realizing her error and Bernadette’s saintliness, prays for forgiveness and vows to serve Bernadette for the rest of her life. Despite the severity of her illness, Bernadette adamantly declines partaking of the grotto’s healing waters. Knowing that she is dying, Bernadette sends for Abbé Peyramale and confesses to him her feelings of unworthiness while she sorrowfully maintains that she will never see the lady again. However, the lady appears in the room, smiles, and gestures to Bernadette warmly. Bernadette joyfully cries out to the apparition before finally dying. Upon her death, Peyramale remarks, “You are now in Heaven and on earth. Your life begins, O Bernadette.”

BOOK SHELF

A MAN CALLED OVE

A Man Called Ove (original title in Swedish: En man som heter Ove) is a novel by Swedish writer Fredrik Backman published by Forum in 2012. The novel was published in English in 2014 and reached the New York Times Best Seller list 18 months after its publication and stayed on the list for 42 weeks.

“Ove is a curmudgeon—the kind of man who points at people he dislikes as if they were burglars caught outside his bedroom window. He has staunch principles, strict routines, and a short fuse. People call him ‘the bitter neighbour from hell.’ However, behind the cranky exterior there is a story and a sadness. So when one November morning a chatty young couple with two chatty young daughters move in next door and accidentally flatten Ove’s mailbox, it is the lead-in to a comical and heart-warming tale of unkempt cats, unexpected friendship, and the ancient art of backing up a U-Haul. All of which will change one cranky old man and a local residents’ association to their very foundations.”

CATHOLIC MOVIE SHELF

The Miracle of Our Lady of Fatima is a Warner Color feature film made in 1952. It was promoted as a fact-based treatment of the events surrounding the apparitions of Our Lady of Fátima, in Portugal, in 1917.

It is 1917. Portugal is feeling the after-effects of a storm of anti-religious sentiment and the violent overthrow of the monarchy and the government in the 5 October 1910 revolution. Churches in Lisbon and the rest of Portugal are boarded up. Many priests, nuns, monks and friars are shown being fingerprinted, photographed and registered as possible criminals before being jailed. The rural town of Fátima is small enough to have escaped much of this persecution; their church remains open, and most of the people are reasonably devout.

Watching their flocks and playing in a field outside town on May 15 (the actual date of the first apparition was May 13), Lúcia Santos (Susan Whitney) and her cousins, Jacinta Marto (Sherry Jackson) and Francisco Marto (Sammy Ogg) decide to pray their version of the Rosary by yelling out, “Hail Mary!” but not finishing the prayer. In the midst of this activity, they hear a clap of thunder and see a flash of lightning from a distance. Thinking it is about to rain, the children gather their sheep and head for their homes. Another flash of lightning causes them to run straight into an unusual “cloud of light” surrounding a little tree on which a mysterious Lady stands. Speaking slowly and gently, the Lady asks them to return on the 13th of each month, and to offer their sufferings to God for the salvation of sinners. She entreats them to say the Rosary for world peace. Later, they encounter their agnostic friend Hugo da Silva (Gilbert Roland), who tells them it is best not to reveal the vision to anyone else, but of course on returning home, Jacinta immediately divulges her sightings.

Jacinta and Francisco’s parents quickly believe the story, but Lúcia’s mother reacts with disgust and subjects her daughter to emotional and physical abuse. She forbids Lúcia to return to the Cova da Iria, but Lúcia does so anyway on the next month’s appearance (June 13), and is told by the Lady that her cousins will die and go to heaven “soon”, while she will live a long life in holy service. The parish priest, Father Ferreira (Richard Hale), suggests the visions might be from Satan. The local authorities close the Fátima church until the priest can convince the parishioners that no visions have or will happen. The next month, on July 13, the Lady appears again, predicting “another and worse war” (World War II) will happen if the world doesn’t stop sinning. She also predicts evil will come from Russia if that nation is unconverted. Kidnapped by provincial administrator Artur Santos (Frank Silvera; unrelated to Lúcia Santos), the children are first offered bribes, then threatened with death if they do not change their story. Trying to frighten them, he has first Jacinta, then Francisco dragged into another room. Jacinta’s terrified screams convince Lúcia that her cousins are dead, but she refuses to deny what she has seen. Warning her that she is about to experience “the full treatment”, Artur Santos reunites her with her cousins, who are alive, then throws them all in jail. There they find Hugo, who stands by them as they convince all the prisoners to join in praying the Rosary.

Unable to find any prosecutable evidence, Artur Santos frees the children, who find that the entire population of Fátima has been standing outside, praying and waiting for them.

On October 13, when the Lady promised “a sign that will make them believe”, about forty thousand people arrive, waiting through a torrential downpour. The Lady appears and says that the war (World War I) will be over soon and the soldiers will be returning to their homes. At precisely noon, as the Lady raises her hand, the clouds part and sunlight shines brightly upon all the people — then the Sun shifts through a rainbow of colours and appears to move closer, in what many have described as the Miracle of the Sun. Many people panic, some pray or watch calmly, and a few sick and disabled people are healed. As the Sun returns to normal, Hugo stands in the middle of the kneeling crowd, his hat still on. Removing it, he says “Only the fool sayeth there is no God.”

A short epilogue, circa 1951, shows the huge basilica where the tree once stood, and a million people outside paying homage to Our Lady of Fátima. At the end of the film, inside the new basilica (where the Cova da Iria once was), Lúcia is now a nun praying before the tomb of her cousins, the converted Hugo at her side.

Book Shelf – Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is a 1964 children’s novel by British author Roald Dahl. The story features the adventures of young Charlie Bucket inside the chocolate factory of eccentric chocolatier Willy Wonka.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was first published in the United States by Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. in 1964 and in the United Kingdom by George Allen & Unwin 11 months later. The book has been adapted into two major motion pictures: Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory in 1971, and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory in 2005. The book’s sequel, Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator, was written by Roald Dahl in 1971 and published in 1972. Dahl had also planned to write a third book in the series but never finished it.

The story was originally inspired by Roald Dahl’s experience of chocolate companies during his schooldays. Cadbury would often send test packages to the schoolchildren in exchange for their opinions on the new products. At that time (around the 1920s), Cadbury and Rowntree’s were England’s two largest chocolate makers and they each often tried to steal trade secrets by sending spies, posing as employees, into the other’s factory. Because of this, both companies became highly protective of their chocolate-making processes. It was a combination of this secrecy and the elaborate, often gigantic, machines in the factory that inspired Dahl to write the story.

Young Charlie Bucket is very poor and lives in a small house with his parents and four grandparents. One day, Charlie’s Grandpa Joe tells him about the legendary and eccentric chocolatier Willy Wonka and all the wonderful sweets and chocolates he made. However, the other chocolatiers sent in spies to steal his secret recipes, leading Wonka to close the factory to outsiders. The next day, the newspaper announces that Wonka is re-opening the factory and has invited five lucky children to come on a tour, if they find a Golden Ticket inside a Wonka Bar. The first four golden tickets are found by four unpleasant children: the gluttonous Augustus Gloop, the spoiled and petulant Veruca Salt, the chewing gum-addicted Violet Beauregarde, and the television-obsessed Mike Teavee.

One day, Charlie sees a 50 pence piece buried in the snow. He buys a Wonka Bar and miraculously finds the last golden ticket. The ticket says he can bring one or two family members with him and Charlie’s parents decide to allow Grandpa Joe to go with him.

On the day of the tour, Wonka takes the five children and their parents inside the factory, which is a wonderland of confectionery creations that defy logic. They also meet the Oompa-Loompas, a race of small people who help him operate the factory.

During the tour, the four “bad” children give in to their individual vices and are ejected from the tour in darkly comical ways. Augustus gets sucked up the pipe to the Fudge Room after drinking from the Chocolate River,

With only Charlie remaining in the end, Wonka congratulates him for “winning” the factory. Wonka explains that the whole tour was designed to help him secure a good person to serve as an heir to his business, and Charlie was the only child whose inherent goodness allowed him to pass the test. Wonka then invites Charlie’s family to come and live with him in the factory.

SAINT OF THE DAY – NOV 8

BLESSED JOHN DUNS SCOTUS

A humble man, John Duns Scotus has been one of the most influential Franciscans through the centuries. Born at Duns in the county of Berwick, Scotland, John was descended from a wealthy farming family. In later years, he was identified as John Duns Scotus to indicate the land of his birth; Scotia is the Latin name for Scotland.

John received the habit of the Friars Minor at Dumfries, where his uncle Elias Duns was superior. After novitiate, John studied at Oxford and Paris and was ordained in 1291. More studies in Paris followed until 1297, when he returned to lecture at Oxford and Cambridge. Four years later, he returned to Paris to teach and complete the requirements for the doctorate.

In an age when many people adopted whole systems of thought without qualification, John pointed out the richness of the Augustinian-Franciscan tradition, appreciated the wisdom of Aquinas, Aristotle, and the Muslim philosophers—and still managed to be an independent thinker. That quality was proven in 1303, when King Philip the Fair tried to enlist the University of Paris on his side in a dispute with Pope Boniface VIII. John Duns Scotus dissented, and was given three days to leave France.

In Scotus’s time, some philosophers held that people are basically determined by forces outside themselves. Free will is an illusion, they argued. An ever-practical man, Scotus said that if he started beating someone who denied free will, the person would immediately tell him to stop. But if Scotus didn’t really have a free will, how could he stop? John had a knack for finding illustrations his students could remember!

After a short stay in Oxford, Scotus returned to Paris, where he received the doctorate in 1305. He continued teaching there and in 1307 so ably defended the Immaculate Conception of Mary that the university officially adopted his position. That same year the minister general assigned him to the Franciscan school in Cologne where John died in 1308. He is buried in the Franciscan church near the famous Cologne cathedral.

Drawing on the work of John Duns Scotus, Pope Pius IX solemnly defined the Immaculate Conception of Mary in 1854. John Duns Scotus, the “Subtle Doctor,” was beatified in 1993.


Saint of the Day – Nov 7

ST DIDACUS

Didacus is living proof that God “chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong.”

As a young man in Spain, Didacus joined the Secular Franciscan Order and lived for some time as a hermit. After Didacus became a Franciscan brother, he developed a reputation for great insight into God’s ways. His penances were heroic. He was so generous with the poor that the friars sometimes grew uneasy about his charity.

Didacus volunteered for the missions in the Canary Islands and labored there energetically and profitably. He was also the superior of a friary there.

In 1450, he was sent to Rome to attend the canonization of Saint Bernardine of Siena. When many of the friars gathered for that celebration fell ill, Didacus stayed in Rome for three months to nurse them. After he returned to Spain, he pursued a life of contemplation full-time. He showed the friars the wisdom of God’s ways.

As he was dying, Didacus looked at a crucifix and said: “O faithful wood, O precious nails! You have borne an exceedingly sweet burden, for you have been judged worthy to bear the Lord and King of heaven” (Marion A. Habig, OFM, The Franciscan Book of Saints, p. 834).

San Diego, California, is named for this Franciscan, who was canonized in 1588.


CATHOLIC MOVIE SHELF

BROTHER SUN, SISTER MOON

Brother Sun, Sister Moon (Italian: Fratello Sole, Sorella Luna) is a 1972 film directed by Franco Zeffirelli and starring Graham Faulkner and Judi Bowker. The film is an examination of the life of Saint Francis of Assisi.

Francesco, the spoiled son of Pietro Bernardone, a wealthy textile merchant, returns from fighting in the war between Assisi and Perugia a changed man. Struck by a feverish illness that has forced him to leave the war, Francesco lies on his bed tormented by visions of his past when he was a boisterous, arrogant youth. During a long recovery process, he slowly finds God in poverty, chastity and obedience, experiencing a physical and spiritual renewal.

Healthy again, Francesco returns to his normal life as a rich young man. However, to the consternation of his parents, he begins to spend most of his time surrounded by nature, flowers, trees, animals and poetry as he becomes more and more reluctant to resume his prior lifestyle. Pietro’s obsession with gold now fills Francesco with revulsion, creating an open confrontation between Francesco and Pietro.

Francesco wanders into the basement where the family business is located. He feels the heat and humidity of the dye vats, passing through colorful lots of drying cloth, to see the workers with their families laboring in the heat without much rest. Rejecting his father’s offer to take over the family business, he instead pulls the laborers out of the building to enjoy the daylight. Then he throws the costly textiles out of the window to the poor gathered below. When his father sees the loss, Francesco invites him to join in throwing the cloth out the window so he can know the joy of being free of worldly possessions.

Pietro, completely frustrated, beats Francesco, drags him to the bishop’s palace and humiliates his son in front of Assisi’s bishop and the rest of the population. Lovingly, Francesco renounces all worldly possessions and his middle-class family including the name “Bernardone”, removes his brilliant clothing and leaves Assisi, naked and free from his past, to live in the beauties of nature as an ascetic to enjoy a simple life as a man of God.

Francesco comes upon the ruins of the chapel of San Damiano, where he hears God’s voice asking him to “restore My Church.” Believing the Voice means San Damiano, Francesco begins to beg for rocks to rebuild that church. Much to the dismay of his family, some of Francesco’s friends join him. He gradually gains a following from the sons of the wealthy, who begin to minister among the poor and the suffering.

The bishop supports Francesco, since he is rebuilding a church without pay and performing the works of mercy Christ demands of His followers. Francesco’s friend Bernardo happily joins him after returning from the Fourth Crusade, a venture that left him in sorrow and emptiness. Two other friends, Silvestro and Giocondo, admiring Francesco’s new vocation, help to rebuild San Damiano.

During a rainy afternoon, Francesco and his friends separate to beg food from the families of Assisi. Francesco comes to his family’s home. Seeking forgiveness, he begins to recite the Beatitudes, causing his mother much anguish while Pietro pretends not to hear, refusing to be reconciled with their son.

Clare, a beautiful young woman also from a wealthy family, serves and cares for lepers of the community. She joins the brothers in their life of poverty. Meanwhile, in Assisi, the city’s nobility and wealthy merchandising families protest against Francesco and his group, worried about them “corrupting” the whole of Assisi’s youth, and they command Francesco’s friend Paolo to hinder and stop the so-called “minor brothers.”

One day the rebuilt chapel is set on fire, and one of Francesco’s followers is killed. That people can hate so much causes Francesco much sorrow. He blames himself but cannot understand what he has done wrong. He then decides to walk to Rome and to seek out the answers from Pope Innocent III.

In Rome, Francesco is stunned by the enormous wealth and power shown in the clothing of the papal court surrounding the throne of St. Peter. When granted an audience with the Pope, Francesco breaks from reciting Paolo’s carefully prepared script and calmly protests against pomp and worldliness, reciting some of Jesus’ words from the Sermon on the Mount praising humility to protest that Christ’s teachings are totally opposite to Rome’s obsession with wealth. The cardinals, bishops and abbots of the papal court are insulted at having the words of Jesus thrown in their faces. Francesco and his friends are expelled. Finally accepting his admiration toward Francesco, Paolo decides to join them. Francesco tries to protect Paolo, saying that he is not one of them, but his friend insists on joining the friars, convincing Francesco of the sincerity of his conversion, and they are put out with the others.

On his throne Pope Innocent, seemingly waking from a dream, orders Francesco and his friends to be brought back. The Pope addresses Francesco: “In our obsession with original sin we have forgotten original innocence.” In language from one of the Psalms, Innocent prays that Francesco’s order “flourish like the palm.”

Then to everyone’s astonishment, Pope Innocent kneels, kisses Francesco’s feet and blesses him and his companions, wishing for them a long worldwide society of men and women willing to serve God in humility. One of the final lines places the sincerity of the Pope’s response in question when an unnamed cardinal, observing what the Pope has done, comments to a bishop: “Don’t be alarmed, His Holiness knows what he is doing. This is the man who will speak to the poor, and bring them back to us.”

The film finishes with the sight of Francesco slowly walking alone into the distance in the countryside as Donovan sings “Brother Sun and Sister Moon.”

Saint of the Day – Nov 6

Saint Nicholas Tavelic and Companions

Nicholas and his three companions are among the 158 Franciscans who have been martyred in the Holy Land since the friars became custodians of the shrines in 1335.

Nicholas was born in 1340 to a wealthy and noble family in Croatia. He joined the Franciscans, and was sent with Deodat of Rodez to preach in Bosnia. In 1384, they volunteered for the Holy Land missions and were sent there. They looked after the holy places, cared for the Christian pilgrims, and studied Arabic.

In 1391, Nicholas, Deodat, Peter of Narbonne, and Stephen of Cuneo decided to take a direct approach to converting the Muslims. On November 11, they went to the huge Mosque of Omar in Jerusalem and asked to see the Qadix—Muslim official. Reading from a prepared statement, they said that all people must accept the gospel of Jesus. When they were ordered to retract their statement, they refused. After beatings and imprisonment, they were beheaded before a large crowd.

Nicholas and his companions were canonized in 1970. They are the only Franciscans martyred in the Holy Land to be canonized. Their liturgical feast is celebrated on November 14.

Saint of the Day – Nov 5

St. Peter Chrysologus

The Catholic Church celebrates Saint Peter Chrysologus, a fifth-century Italian bishop known for testifying courageously to Christ’s full humanity and divinity during a period of doctrinal confusion in the Church.

The saint’s title, Chrysologus, signifies “golden speech” in Greek. Named as a Doctor of the Church in 1729, he is distinguished as the “Doctor of Homilies” for the concise but theologically rich reflections he delivered during his time as the Bishop of Ravenna.

His surviving works offer eloquent testimony to the Church’s traditional beliefs about Mary’s perpetual virginity, the penitential value of Lent, Christ’s Eucharistic presence, and the primacy of St. Peter and his successors in the Church.

Few details of St. Peter Chrysologus’ biography are known. He was born in the Italian town of Imola in either the late fourth or early fifth century, but sources differ as to whether this occurred around 380 or as late as 406.

Following his study of theology, Peter was ordained to the diaconate by Imola’s local bishop Cornelius, whom he greatly admired and regarded as his spiritual father. Cornelius not only ordained Peter, but taught him the value of humility and self-denial.

The lessons of his mentor inspired Peter to live as a monk for many years, embracing a lifestyle of asceticism, simplicity, and prayer. His simple monastic life came to an end, however, after the death of Archbishop John of Ravenna in 430.

After John’s death, the clergy and people of Ravenna chose a successor and asked Cornelius, still the Bishop of Imola, to journey to Rome and obtain papal approval for the candidate. Cornelius brought Peter, then still a deacon, along with him on the visit to Pope Sixtus III.

Tradition relates that the Pope had experienced a vision from God on the night before the meeting, commanding him to overrule Ravenna’s choice of a new archbishop. The Pope declared that Peter, instead, was to be ordained as John’s successor.

In Ravenna, Peter was received warmly by the Western Roman Emperor Valentinian III, and his mother Galla Placidia. She is said to have given him the title of “Chrysologus” because of his preaching skills.

Throughout the archdiocese, however, he encountered the surviving remnants of paganism along with various abuses and distortions of the Catholic faith. Peter exercised zeal and pastoral care in curbing abuses and evangelizing non-Christians during his leadership of the Church in Ravenna.

One of the major heresies of his age, monophysitism, held that Christ did not possess a distinct human nature in union with his eternal divine nature. Peter laboured to prevent the westward spread of this error, promoted from Constantinople by the monk Eutyches.

The Archbishop of Ravenna also made improvements to the city’s cathedral and built several new churches. Near the end of his life he addressed a significant letter to Eutyches, stressing the Pope’s authority in the monophysite controversy.

Having returned to Imola in anticipation of his death, St. Peter Chrysologus died in 450, one year before the Church’s official condemnation of monophysitism. He is credited as the author of around 176 surviving homilies, which contributed to his later proclamation as a Doctor of the Church.

Book Shelf – Christmas Carol

Book Shelf – Christmas Carol

The novel, Christmas Carol captured the zeitgeist of the mid-Victorian revival of the Christmas holiday. Dickens had acknowledged the influence of the modern Western observance of Christmas and later inspired several aspects of Christmas, including family gatherings, seasonal food and drink, dancing, games and a festive generosity of spirit.

A Christmas Carol opens on a bleak, cold Christmas Eve in London, seven years after the death of Ebenezer Scrooge’s business partner, Jacob Marley. Scrooge, an ageing miser, dislikes Christmas and refuses a dinner invitation from his nephew Fred—the son of Fan, Scrooge’s dead sister. He turns away two men who seek a donation from him to provide food and heating for the poor and only grudgingly allows his overworked, underpaid clerk, Bob Cratchit, Christmas Day off with pay to conform to the social custom.

That night Scrooge is visited at home by Marley’s ghost, who wanders the Earth entwined by heavy chains and money boxes forged during a lifetime of greed and selfishness. Marley tells Scrooge that he has a single chance to avoid the same fate: he will be visited by three spirits and must listen or be cursed to carry much heavier chains of his own.

The first spirit, the Ghost of Christmas Past, takes Scrooge to Christmas scenes of Scrooge’s boyhood, reminding him of a time when he was more innocent. The scenes reveal Scrooge’s lonely childhood at boarding school, his relationship with his beloved sister Fan, and a Christmas party hosted by his first employer, Mr Fezziwig, who treated him like a son. Scrooge’s neglected fiancée Belle is shown ending their relationship, as she realises that he will never love her as much as he loves money. Finally, they visit a now-married Belle with her large, happy family on the Christmas Eve that Marley died. Scrooge, upset by hearing Belle’s description of the man that he has become, demands that the ghost remove him from the house.

The second spirit, the Ghost of Christmas Present, takes Scrooge to a joyous market with people buying the makings of Christmas dinner and to celebrations of Christmas in a miner’s cottage and in a lighthouse. Scrooge and the ghost also visit Fred’s Christmas party. A major part of this stave is taken up with Bob Cratchit’s family feast and introduces his youngest son, Tiny Tim, a happy boy who is seriously ill. The spirit informs Scrooge that Tiny Tim will die unless the course of events changes. Before disappearing, the spirit shows Scrooge two hideous, emaciated children named Ignorance and Want. He tells Scrooge to beware the former above all and mocks Scrooge’s concern for their welfare.

The third spirit, the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, shows Scrooge a Christmas Day in the future. The silent ghost reveals scenes involving the death of a disliked man whose funeral is attended by local businessmen only on condition that lunch is provided. His charwoman, laundress and the local undertaker steal his possessions to sell to a fence. When he asks the spirit to show a single person who feels emotion over his death, he is only given the pleasure of a poor couple who rejoice that his death gives them more time to put their finances in order. When Scrooge asks to see tenderness connected with any death, the ghost shows him Bob Cratchit and his family mourning the death of Tiny Tim. The ghost then allows Scrooge to see a neglected grave, with a tombstone bearing Scrooge’s name. Sobbing, Scrooge pledges to change his ways.

Scrooge awakens on Christmas morning a changed man. He makes a large donation to the charity he rejected the previous day, anonymously sends a large turkey to the Cratchit home for Christmas dinner and spends the afternoon with Fred’s family. The following day he gives Cratchit an increase in pay, and begins to become a father figure to Tiny Tim. From then on Scrooge treats everyone with kindness, generosity and compassion, embodying the spirit of Christmas.

Saint of the Day – Nov 4

St Charles Borromeo

No age of the Catholic Church’s history is without its share of confusion and corruption. Still, even in moments when disorder may seem overwhelming, individuals and movements eventually arise to propose the faith with clarity and demonstrate it in action. St. Charles Borromeo, a central figure in the Council of Trent, is remembered on November 4, as a model of such leadership in difficult times.

The circumstances of Charles’ birth, in 1538, could have easily allowed him to join the ranks of corrupt Renaissance-era clergy. He was born into luxury, the son of noble parents, with a guaranteed income comparable to modern “trust funds.” Early on, however, the young man signaled his intention to go against the cultural grain. He announced his desire to serve the Church with sincerity, asking his father to give away the majority of the fund’s money to the poor.

Charles could not escape a certain degree of wealth and prestige, which were expected due to his social class, but he insisted on using these forms of leverage to benefit the Church, rather than himself. When he was 22, his opportunity came: the young lawyer and canonist’s uncle was elected as Pope Pius IV. Charles soon assumed staggering responsibilities, serving as a papal diplomat and supervisor of major religious orders.

The young man relaxed from these tasks through literature and music, taking no interest in the temptations abounding in Rome during the late Renaissance. He considered renouncing even this temperate lifestyle, for the strict observance of a monastery– but found himself more urgently needed in the work of concluding the Council of Trent.

The Church’s nineteenth Ecumenical Council had begun in late 1545, but experienced many delays. Its twofold mission was to clarify Catholic doctrine against Protestant objections, and reform the Church internally against many longstanding problems. As a papal representative, Charles participated in the council’s conclusion in 1563, when he was only 25. He also played a leading role in assembling its comprehensive summary, the Roman Catechism (or Catechism of the Council of Trent).

In reward for his labors, Charles received even greater responsibilities. Ordained a priest during the Council, he was named as archbishop and cardinal only months later. He found his diocese of Milan in a state of disintegration, after two generations of virtually no local administration or leadership. The new bishop got straight to work establishing schools, seminaries, and centers for religious life.

His reforms of the diocese, in accordance with the decrees of the council, were dramatic and effective, so much so that a group of disgruntled monks attempted to kill him. His survival was called miraculous.

The new archbishop’s efforts for catechesis and the instruction of youth were especially fruitful, initiating the work of the Confraternity for Christian Doctrine and the first “Sunday School” classes. He also gave important pastoral attention to English Catholics who fled to Italy to escape new laws against the Catholic faith.

St. Charles Borromeo’s amazing diligence, frequent travel and ascetic living eventually took their toll. The once young prodigy of the Papal Court also died young at the age of 46 on November 3, 1584. He was canonized 26 years later, in 1610.

He is the patron of catechists and catechumens.

MOVIE SHELF

NAMESAKE

The Namesake is a 2006 English language drama film directed by Mira Nair and written by Sooni Taraporevala based on the novel The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri.

The Namesake depicts the struggles of Ashoke and Ashima Ganguli (Irrfan Khan and Tabu), first-generation immigrants from the East Indian state of West Bengal to the United States, and their American-born children Gogol (Kal Penn) and Sonia (Sahira Nair). The film takes place primarily in Kolkata, New York City, and suburbs of New York City.

The story begins as Ashoke and Ashima leave Calcutta and settle in New York City. Through a series of miscues, their son’s nickname, Gogol (named after Russian author Nikolai Gogol), becomes his official birth name, an event which will shape many aspects of his life. The story chronicles Gogol’s cross-cultural experiences  and his exploration of his Indian heritage, as the story shifts between the United States and India.

Gogol becomes a lazy, pot-smoking teenager indifferent to his cultural background. He resents many of the customs and traditions his family upholds and doesn’t understand his parents. After a summer trip to India before starting college at Yale, Gogol starts opening up to his culture and becomes more accepting of it.

After college, Gogol uses his “good name” Nikhil (later shortened to Nick). He works as an architect and dates Maxine (Jacinda Barrett), a white American woman from a wealthy background, who is clueless about their cultural differences. Gogol falls in love with Maxine and introduces her to his parents, who struggle to understand his modern, American perspectives on dating, marriage and love. They are hesitant and guarded when meeting her. Gogol gets along with Maxine’s family and feels closer to them than he does his own family.

Before he goes to Ohio for a teaching apprenticeship, Ashoke tells Gogol the story of how he came up with his name. Shortly after, while Gogol is on vacation with Maxine’s family, Ashoke dies. Grieving, Gogol tries to be more like what he thinks his parents want him to be and begins following cultural customs more closely. He grows distant from Maxine and eventually breaks up with her.

Gogol rekindles a friendship with Moushumi (Zuleikha Robinson), the daughter of family friends. They begin dating and soon after get married. However, the marriage is short-lived as Moushumi, bored with being a wife, starts having an affair with an old boyfriend from Paris. Gogol divorces her, while Ashima blames herself for pressuring Gogol to marry a fellow Bengali. Gogol returns home to help Ashima pack the house when he finds the book Ashoke gave him as a graduation present. Searching for comfort, and accepting his new life alone, Gogol finally reads the stories written by his namesake on the train home.

As well as depicting Gogol/Nikhil’s experiences, the film describes the courtship and marriage of Ashima and Ashoke, and the effect on the family from Ashoke’s early death from a massive heart attack. Through experiencing his father’s funeral rites on the banks of the Ganges, Gogol begins to appreciate Indian culture.