FEAST DAY – OCTOBER 2

“For he hath given his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways.” – Psalm 90:11

The truth that each and every human soul has a Guardian Angel who protects us from both spiritual and physical evil has been shown throughout the Old Testament, and is made very clear in the New.

It is written that the Lord Jesus was strengthened by an angel in the Garden of Gethsemane, and that an angel delivered St. Peter from prison in the Acts of the Apostles.

But Jesus makes the existence and function of guardian angels explicit when he says,  “See that you despise not one of these little ones: for I say to you, that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 18:10).

In saying this Jesus points out that all people, even little children, have a guardian angel, and that the angels are always in Heaven, always looking at the face of God throughout their mission on earth, which is to guide and protect us throughout our pilgrimage to the house of our Father. As St. Paul says, “Are they not all ministering spirits, sent to minister for them, who shall receive the inheritance of salvation?”  (Hebrews 1:14).

However, they guide us to Heaven only if we desire it. St. Thomas Aquinas wrote that angels cannot act directly upon our will or intellect, although they can do so on our senses and imaginations – thus encouraging us to make the right decisions. In Heaven our guardian angels, though no longer needing to guide us to salvation, will continually enlighten us.

Prayer to the guardian angels is encouraged, and the habit of remembering their presence and support leads to frienship with them. The prayer to the guardian angels has been present in the Church since at least the beginning of the 12th century:

Angel of God,
my Guardian dear,
to whom His love
commits me here,
ever this day
be at my side,
to light and guard,
to rule and guide.
Amen.

“Let us affectionately love His angels as counselors and defenders appointed by the Father and placed over us. They are faithful; they are prudent; they are powerful; Let us only follow them, let us remain close to them, and in the protection of the God of heaven let us abide.” St. Bernard of Clairvaux.

Saint of the Day – 30 September

Saint Jerome

Most of the saints are remembered for some outstanding virtue or devotion which they practiced, but Jerome is frequently remembered for his bad temper! It is true that he had a very bad temper and could use a vitriolic pen, but his love for God and his son Jesus Christ was extraordinarily intense; anyone who taught error was an enemy of God and truth, and Saint Jerome went after him or her with his mighty and sometimes sarcastic pen.

He was above all a Scripture scholar, translating most of the Old Testament from the Hebrew. Jerome also wrote commentaries which are a great source of scriptural inspiration for us today. He was an avid student, a thorough scholar, a prodigious letter-writer and a consultant to monk, bishop, and pope. Saint Augustine said of him, “What Jerome is ignorant of, no mortal has ever known.”

Saint Jerome is particularly important for having made a translation of the Bible which came to be called the Vulgate. It is not the most critical edition of the Bible, but its acceptance by the Church was fortunate. As a modern scholar says, “No man before Jerome or among his contemporaries and very few men for many centuries afterwards were so well qualified to do the work.” The Council of Trent called for a new and corrected edition of the Vulgate, and declared it the authentic text to be used in the Church.

In order to be able to do such work, Jerome prepared himself well. He was a master of Latin, Greek, Hebrew, and Chaldaic. He began his studies at his birthplace, Stridon in Dalmatia. After his preliminary education, he went to Rome, the center of learning at that time, and thence to Trier, Germany, where the scholar was very much in evidence. He spent several years in each place, always trying to find the very best teachers. He once served as private secretary to Pope Damasus.

After these preparatory studies, he traveled extensively in Palestine, marking each spot of Christ’s life with an outpouring of devotion. Mystic that he was, he spent five years in the desert of Chalcis so that he might give himself up to prayer, penance, and study. Finally, he settled in Bethlehem, where he lived in the cave believed to have been the birthplace of Christ. Jerome died in Bethlehem, and the remains of his body now lie buried in the Basilica of St. Mary Major in Rome.

Reflection

Jerome was a strong, outspoken man. He had the virtues and the unpleasant fruits of being a fearless critic and all the usual moral problems of a man. He was, as someone has said, no admirer of moderation whether in virtue or against evil. He was swift to anger, but also swift to feel remorse, even more severe on his own shortcomings than on those of others. A pope is said to have remarked, on seeing a picture of Jerome striking his breast with a stone, “You do well to carry that stone, for without it the Church would never have canonized you” (Butler’s Lives of the Saints).

Feast Day – 29 September

Feast Day – 29 September

The three Archangels Michael, Gabriel and Raphael are the only angels named in Sacred Scripture and all three have important roles in the history of salvation.

Saint Michael is the “Prince of the Heavenly Host,” the leader of all the angels. His name is Hebrew for “Who is like God?” and was the battle cry of the good angels against Lucifer and his followers when they rebelled against God. He is mentioned four times in the Bible, in Daniel 10 and 12, in the letter of Jude, and in Revelation.

Michael, whose forces cast down Lucifer and the evil spirits into Hell, is invoked for protection against Satan and all evil. Pope Leo XIII, in 1899, having had a prophetic vision of the evil that would be inflicted upon the Church and the world in the 20th century, instituted a prayer asking for Saint Michael’s protection to be said at the end of every Mass.

Christian tradition recognizes four offices of Saint Michael: (i) to fight against Satan (ii) to rescue the souls of the faithful from the power of the enemy, especially at the hour of death. (iii) to be the champion of God’s people, (iv) to call away from earth and bring men’s souls to judgment.

“I am Gabriel, who stand before God.” (Luke 1, 19)

Saint Gabriel, whose name means “God’s strength,” is mentioned four times in the Bible. Most significant are Gabriel’s two mentions in the New Testament: to announce the birth of John the Baptist to his father Zacharias, and the at Incarnation of the Word in the womb of Mary.

Christian tradition suggests that it is he who appeared to St. Joseph and to the shepherds, and also that it was he who “strengthened” Jesus during his agony in the garden of Gethsemane.

“I am the angel Raphael, one of the seven, who stand before the Lord” (Tob 12:15)

Saint Raphael, whose name means “God has healed” because of his healing of Tobias’ blindness in the Book of Tobit.  Tobit is the only book in which he is mentioned. His office is generally accepted by tradition to be that of healing and acts of mercy.

Raphael is also identified with the angel in John 5:1-4 who descended upon the pond and bestowed healing powers upon it so that the first to enter it after it moved would be healed of whatever infirmity he was suffering.

REFLECTION FOR THE DAY

I give you thanks, O Lord, with my whole heart; before the gods I sing your praise…Psalm 138:1

Angels are messengers of God. In the Scriptures, they appear in revelatory dreams, in astonishing announcements, in times of illness and at other times. They sometimes deliver news that upends a quiet day. They sometimes interrupt a night of restless sleep with clarity and direction. They sometimes act as agents of wholeness and healing. Often, their presence is accompanied by the words, Do not be afraid. Today, we celebrate the presence of the angels Michael (Who is like God?), Gabriel (Strength of God) and Raphael (Medicine of God). May we live with awareness of their nearness and imitate their faithful accompaniment. May we also act as messengers of the presence of God.

Saint of the Day – 25 September

Saints Louis Martin and Zélie Guerin’s Story

Born into a military family in Bordeaux, Louis trained to become a watchmaker. His desire to join a religious community went unfulfilled because he didn’t know Latin. Moving to Normandy, he met the highly-skilled lace maker, Zélie Guerin, who also had been disappointed in her attempts to enter religious life. They married in 1858, and over the years were blessed with nine children, though two sons and two daughters died in infancy.

Louis managed the lace-making business that Zélie continued at home while raising their children. She died from breast cancer in 1877.

Louis then moved the family to Lisieux to be near his brother and sister-in-law, who helped with the education of his five surviving girls. His health began to fail after his 15-year-old daughter entered the Monastery of Mount Carmel at Lisieux in 1888. Louis died in 1894, a few months after being committed to a sanitarium.

The home that Louis and Zélie created nurtured the sanctity of all their children, but especially their youngest, who is known to us as Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus. Louis and Zélie were beatified in 2008, and canonized by Pope Francis on October 18, 2015. The Liturgical Feast of Saints Louis Martin and Zélie Guerin is July 12.

Reflection

In life, Louis and Zélie knew great joy and excruciating sorrow. They firmly believed that God was with them throughout every challenge that married life, parenting, and their occupations presented.

SAINT OF THE DAY SEPTEMBER 24, 2021

Saint John Henry Newman

John Henry Newman, the 19th-century’s most important English-speaking Catholic theologian, spent the first half of his life as an Anglican and the second half as a Roman Catholic. He was a priest, popular preacher, writer, and eminent theologian in both churches.

Born in London, England, he studied at Oxford’s Trinity College, was a tutor at Oriel College, and for 17 years was vicar of the university church, St. Mary the Virgin. He eventually published eight volumes of Parochial and Plain Sermons as well as two novels. His poem, “Dream of Gerontius,” was set to music by Sir Edward Elgar.

After 1833, Newman was a prominent member of the Oxford Movement, which emphasized the Church’s debt to the Church Fathers and challenged any tendency to consider truth as completely subjective.

Historical research made Newman suspect that the Roman Catholic Church was in closest continuity with the Church that Jesus established. In 1845, he was received into full communion as a Catholic. Two years later he was ordained a Catholic priest in Rome and joined the Congregation of the Oratory, founded three centuries earlier by Saint Philip Neri. Returning to England, Newman founded Oratory houses in Birmingham and London and for seven years served as rector of the Catholic University of Ireland.

Before Newman, Catholic theology tended to ignore history, preferring instead to draw deductions from first principles—much as plane geometry does. After Newman, the lived experience of believers was recognized as a key part of theological reflection.

Newman eventually wrote 40 books and 21,000 letters that survive. Most famous are his book-length Essay on the Development of Christian DoctrineOn Consulting the Faithful in Matters of DoctrineApologia Pro Vita Sua—his spiritual autobiography up to 1864—and Essay on the Grammar of Assent. He accepted Vatican I’s teaching on papal infallibility while noting its limits, which many people who favored that definition were reluctant to do.

When Newman was named a cardinal in 1879, he took as his motto Cor ad cor loquitur”—“Heart speaks to heart.” He was buried in Rednal 11 years later. After his grave was exhumed in 2008, a new tomb was prepared at the Oratory church in Birmingham.

Three years after Newman died, a Newman Club for Catholic students began at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. In time, his name was linked to ministry centers at many public and private colleges and universities in the United States.

In 2010, Pope Benedict XVI beatified Newman in London. Benedict noted Newman’s emphasis on the vital place of revealed religion in civilized society, but also praised his pastoral zeal for the sick, the poor, the bereaved, and those in prison. Pope Francis canonized Newman in October 2019. Saint John Henry Newman’s liturgical feast is celebrated on October 9.

Saint of the Day – 23 September

Saint Pio of Pietrelcina’s Story

In one of the largest such ceremonies in history, Pope John Paul II canonized Padre Pio of Pietrelcina on June 16, 2002. It was the 45th canonization ceremony in Pope John Paul’s pontificate. More than 300,000 people braved blistering heat as they filled St. Peter’s Square and nearby streets. They heard the Holy Father praise the new saint for his prayer and charity. “This is the most concrete synthesis of Padre Pio’s teaching,” said the pope. He also stressed Padre Pio’s witness to the power of suffering. If accepted with love, the Holy Father stressed, such suffering can lead to “a privileged path of sanctity.”

Many people have turned to the Italian Capuchin Franciscan to intercede with God on their behalf; among them was the future Pope John Paul II. In 1962, when he was still an archbishop in Poland, he wrote to Padre Pio and asked him to pray for a Polish woman with throat cancer. Within two weeks, she had been cured of her life-threatening disease.

Born Francesco Forgione, Padre Pio grew up in a family of farmers in southern Italy. Twice his father worked in Jamaica, New York, to provide the family income.

At the age of 15, Francesco joined the Capuchins and took the name of Pio. He was ordained in 1910 and was drafted during World War I. After he was discovered to have tuberculosis, he was discharged. In 1917, he was assigned to the friary in San Giovanni Rotondo, 75 miles from the city of Bari on the Adriatic.

On September 20, 1918, as he was making his thanksgiving after Mass, Padre Pio had a vision of Jesus. When the vision ended, he had the stigmata in his hands, feet, and side.

Life became more complicated after that. Medical doctors, Church authorities, and curiosity seekers came to see Padre Pio. In 1924, and again in 1931, the authenticity of the stigmata was questioned; Padre Pio was not permitted to celebrate Mass publicly or to hear confessions. He did not complain of these decisions, which were soon reversed. However, he wrote no letters after 1924. His only other writing, a pamphlet on the agony of Jesus, was done before 1924.

Padre Pio rarely left the friary after he received the stigmata, but busloads of people soon began coming to see him. Each morning after a 5 a.m. Mass in a crowded church, he heard confessions until noon. He took a mid-morning break to bless the sick and all who came to see him. Every afternoon he also heard confessions. In time his confessional ministry would take 10 hours a day; penitents had to take a number so that the situation could be handled. Many of them have said that Padre Pio knew details of their lives that they had never mentioned.

Padre Pio saw Jesus in all the sick and suffering. At his urging, a fine hospital was built on nearby Mount Gargano. The idea arose in 1940; a committee began to collect money. Ground was broken in 1946. Building the hospital was a technical wonder because of the difficulty of getting water there and of hauling up the building supplies. This “House for the Alleviation of Suffering” has 350 beds.

A number of people have reported cures they believe were received through the intercession of Padre Pio. Those who assisted at his Masses came away edified; several curiosity seekers were deeply moved. Like Saint Francis, Padre Pio sometimes had his habit torn or cut by souvenir hunters.

One of Padre Pio’s sufferings was that unscrupulous people several times circulated prophecies that they claimed originated from him. He never made prophecies about world events and never gave an opinion on matters that he felt belonged to Church authorities to decide. He died on September 23, 1968, and was beatified in 1999.

Reflection

Referring to that day’s Gospel (Matthew 11:25-30) at Padre Pio’s canonization Mass in 2002, Saint John Paul II said: “The Gospel image of ‘yoke’ evokes the many trials that the humble Capuchin of San Giovanni Rotondo endured. Today we contemplate in him how sweet is the ‘yoke’ of Christ and indeed how light the burdens are whenever someone carries these with faithful love. The life and mission of Padre Pio testify that difficulties and sorrows, if accepted with love, transform themselves into a privileged journey of holiness, which opens the person toward a greater good, known only to the Lord.”

Saint of the Day – 22 September

Saint Lawrence Ruiz and companions​

Between 1633 and 1637, Saint Lorenzo Ruiz and 15 companions were martyred in Nagasaki, Japan. On 27 September 1637, Ruiz and his companions were taken to Nishizaka Hill, where they were tortured by being hung upside-down over a pit. This form of torture was known as tsurushi in Japanese or horca y hoya (“gallows and pit”) in Spanish. Most of the group were members or associates of the Dominicans. Lorenzo, a husband and father, was a native of the Philippines. The group spent several years working as missionaries in the Philippines, Formosa (Taiwan) and Japan. Lorenzo Ruiz and his companions were canonized in 1987.  Ruiz is the protomartyr of the Philippines.

REFLECTION FOR THE DAY

 My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it. Luke 8:21

What a privilege it is for us to be a part of Jesus’ family. What greater gift could he have ever given to us? Jesus tells us that belonging to his family is not a matter of sharing common physical characteristics. Rather, it is a matter of sharing common spiritual characteristics. That is what makes us fully one with him and with one another. When Jesus said to us, “Follow me,” he was inviting us to live as he lived, to love as he loved and to think as he thought. When we imitate him, we become more a part of his family. This is what our life was meant to be: a sharing in the joy of Christ. Jesus never forces us to love him. It has to come from our free choice because love can only be offered but never forced. Would this be a good time to ask ourselves how fully we have accepted this tremendous gift that Jesus has offered to us.

Saint of the Day – 20 September

Saints Andrew Kim Taegon, Paul Chong Hasang, and Companions

The first native Korean priest, Andrew Kim Taegon was the son of Christian converts. Following his baptism at the age of 15, Andrew travelled 1,300 miles to the seminary in Macao, China. After six years, he managed to return to his country through Manchuria. That same year he crossed the Yellow Sea to Shanghai and was ordained a priest. Back home again, he was assigned to arrange for more missionaries to enter by a water route that would elude the border patrol. He was arrested, tortured, and finally beheaded at the Han River near Seoul, the capital.

Andrew’s father Ignatius Kim, was martyred during the persecution of 1839, and was beatified in 1925. Paul Chong Hasang, a lay apostle and married man, also died in 1839 at age 45.

Among the other martyrs in 1839 was Columba Kim, an unmarried woman of 26. She was put in prison, pierced with hot tools and seared with burning coals. She and her sister Agnes were disrobed and kept for two days in a cell with condemned criminals, but were not molested. After Columba complained about the indignity, no more women were subjected to it. The two were beheaded. Peter Ryou, a boy of 13, had his flesh so badly torn that he could pull off pieces and throw them at the judges. He was killed by strangulation. Protase Chong, a 41-year-old nobleman, apostatized under torture and was freed. Later he came back, confessed his faith and was tortured to death.

Christianity came to Korea during the Japanese invasion in 1592 when some Koreans were baptized, probably by Christian Japanese soldiers. Evangelization was difficult because Korea refused all contact with the outside world except for taking taxes to Beijing annually. On one of these occasions, around 1777, Christian literature obtained from Jesuits in China led educated Korean Christians to study. A home Church began. When a Chinese priest managed to enter secretly a dozen years later, he found 4,000 Catholics, none of whom had ever seen a priest. Seven years later there were 10,000 Catholics. Religious freedom came to Korea in 1883.

Besides Andrew and Paul, Pope John Paul II canonized 98 Koreans and three French missionaries who had been martyred between 1839 and 1867, when he visited Korea in 1984. Among them were bishops and priests, but for the most part they were lay persons: 47 women and 45 men.

Reflection

We marvel at the fact that the Korean Church was strictly a lay Church for a dozen years after its birth. How did the people survive without the Eucharist? It is no belittling of this and other sacraments to realize that there must be a living faith before there can be a truly beneficial celebration of the Eucharist. The sacraments are signs of God’s initiative and response to faith already present. The sacraments increase grace and faith, but only if there is something ready to be increased.

Saint of the Day – September 17

On Sept. 17, the Catholic Church celebrates the Italian cardinal and theologian St. Robert Bellarmine. One of the great saints of the Jesuit order, St. Robert has also been declared a Doctor of the Church and the patron of catechists.

Robert Bellarmine was born on October 4, 1542 in the Tuscan town of Montepulciano. His uncle was a cardinal who later became Pope Marcellus II. As a young man, Robert received his education from the Jesuit order, which had received written papal approval only two years before his birth.

In September of 1560, Robert entered the Jesuit order himself. He studied philosophy for three years in Rome, then taught humanities until 1567, when he began a study of theology that lasted until 1569. The final stage of his training emphasized the refutation of Protestant errors.

Robert received ordination to the priesthood in Belgium, where his sermons drew crowds of both Catholics and Protestants. In 1576, he returned to Italy and took up an academic position addressing theological controversies. The resulting work, his “Disputations,” became a classic of Catholic apologetics.

Near the end of the 1580s, the esteemed theologian became “Spiritual Father” to the Roman College. He served as a guide to St. Aloysius Gonzaga near the end of the young Jesuit’s life, and helped produce the authoritative Latin text of the Bible called for by the recent Council of Trent.

Around the century’s end Robert became an advisor to Pope Clement VIII. The Pope named him a cardinal in 1599, declaring him to be the most educated man in the Church. Robert played a part in a debate between Dominicans and Jesuits regarding grace, though the Pope later decided to appoint and consecrate him as the Archbishop of Capua.

The cardinal archbishop’s three years in Capua stood out as an example of fidelity to the reforming spirit and decrees of the Council of Trent. He was considered as a possible Pope in two successive elections, but the thought of becoming Pope disturbed him and in the end he was never chosen.

In the early years of the 17th century, the cardinal took a public stand for the Church’s freedom when it came under attack in Venice and England. He also attempted, though not successfully, to negotiate peace between the Vatican and his personal friend Galileo Galilei, over the scientist’s insistence that not only the earth, but the entire universe, revolved around the sun.

Cardinal Bellarmine retired due to health problems in the summer of 1621. Two years before, he had set out his thoughts on the end of earthly life in a book titled “The Art of Dying Well.” In that work, the cardinal explained that preparing for death was life’s most important business, since the state of one’s soul at death would determine the person’s eternal destiny.

St. Robert Bellarmine died on September 17, 1621. Pope Pius XI canonized him in 1931, and declared him to be a Doctor of the Church.

SAINT OF THE DAY SEPTEMBER 16

SAINT CORNELIUS

There was no pope for 14 months after the martyrdom of Saint Fabian because of the intensity of the persecution of the Church. During the interval, the Church was governed by a college of priests. Saint Cyprian, a friend of Cornelius, writes that Cornelius was elected pope “by the judgment of God and of Christ, by the testimony of most of the clergy, by the vote of the people, with the consent of aged priests and of good men.”

The greatest problem of Cornelius’s two-year term as pope had to do with the Sacrament of Penance and centered on the readmission of Christians who had denied their faith during the time of persecution. Two extremes were finally both condemned. Cyprian, primate of North Africa, appealed to the pope to confirm his stand that the relapsed could be reconciled only by the decision of the bishop.

In Rome, however, Cornelius met with the opposite view. After his election, a priest named Novatian (one of those who had governed the Church) had himself consecrated a rival bishop of Rome—one of the first antipopes. He denied that the Church had any power to reconcile not only the apostates, but also those guilty of murder, adultery, fornication, or second marriage! Cornelius had the support of most of the Church (especially of Cyprian of Africa) in condemning Novatianism, though the sect persisted for several centuries. Cornelius held a synod at Rome in 251 and ordered the “relapsed” to be restored to the Church with the usual “medicines of repentance.”

The friendship of Cornelius and Cyprian was strained for a time when one of Cyprian’s rivals made accusations about him. But the problem was cleared up.

A document from Cornelius shows the extent of organization in the Church of Rome in the mid-third century: 46 priests, seven deacons, seven subdeacons. It is estimated that the number of Christians totaled about 50,000. He died as a result of the hardships of his exile in what is now Civitavecchia.

There was no pope for 14 months after the martyrdom of Saint Fabian because of the intensity of the persecution of the Church. During the interval, the Church was governed by a college of priests. Saint Cyprian, a friend of Cornelius, writes that Cornelius was elected pope “by the judgment of God and of Christ, by the testimony of most of the clergy, by the vote of the people, with the consent of aged priests and of good men.”

The greatest problem of Cornelius’s two-year term as pope had to do with the Sacrament of Penance and centered on the readmission of Christians who had denied their faith during the time of persecution. Two extremes were finally both condemned. Cyprian, primate of North Africa, appealed to the pope to confirm his stand that the relapsed could be reconciled only by the decision of the bishop.

In Rome, however, Cornelius met with the opposite view. After his election, a priest named Novatian (one of those who had governed the Church) had himself consecrated a rival bishop of Rome—one of the first antipopes. He denied that the Church had any power to reconcile not only the apostates, but also those guilty of murder, adultery, fornication, or second marriage! Cornelius had the support of most of the Church (especially of Cyprian of Africa) in condemning Novatianism, though the sect persisted for several centuries. Cornelius held a synod at Rome in 251 and ordered the “relapsed” to be restored to the Church with the usual “medicines of repentance.”

The friendship of Cornelius and Cyprian was strained for a time when one of Cyprian’s rivals made accusations about him. But the problem was cleared up.

A document from Cornelius shows the extent of organization in the Church of Rome in the mid-third century: 46 priests, seven deacons, seven subdeacons. It is estimated that the number of Christians totaled about 50,000. He died as a result of the hardships of his exile in what is now Civitavecchia.


The Seven Sorrows of Mary

Let us enter into the mind and heart of Mary and reflect on the seven major sorrows in her life. Our Sorrowful Mother can teach us much about the sanctity of suffering and be a source of consolation to all who suffer.

The Church celebrates the feast of Our Lady of Sorrows on September 15.

First Sorrow: The Prophecy of Simeon

“And you yourself a sword will pierce” (Lk 2:35).

When Mary’s 40-day period of purification has almost ended, she goes to Jerusalem to fulfill the Mosaic Law and for the required offering to the Lord of every firstborn male. The law of purification does not bind Mary, always a virgin. Nor does Jesus, because of who he is, have to be redeemed. Yet Mary humbly obeys.

After the ceremony, imagine young Mary’s amazement when Simeon takes Jesus from her arms and acknowledges him as the Messiah! Only through divine inspiration can Simeon know this. Simeon blesses them and says to Mary, “And you yourself a sword will pierce” (Lk 2:35).

Mary shudders and holds Jesus close to her breast, as Joseph gently leads her out of the temple. Although Joseph is deeply shaken, his primary concern is for his wife and son. They return to Nazareth in silence, where Mary ponders these things in her heart.

Second Sorrow: The Flight into Egypt

“The angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, ‘Rise, take the child and his mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you. Herod is going to search for the child to destroy him’” (Mt 2:13).

Joseph hastily awakens Mary and relates his dream. She feels the sword’s sharpness as Simeon’s prophecy echoes in her heart. There is no time to worry—only time to pack a few essentials—as they prepare to flee to Egypt under cover of darkness.

The lengthy journey across the desert wilderness frightens Mary, but she never voices her fears to Joseph. However, she can’t help but think, Will there be enough food and water? How will we weather the excessive heat? What if the donkey stumbles? What if . . . ? The “what-ifs” could have paralyzed a person of little faith. But Mary continues to trust that God will take care of her little family’s needs.

None of this is recorded, so we can only imagine the hardships that the Holy Family endured while in exile. One thing is certain: nothing can sway Mary’s trust in God. She never questions. She ponders, letting the things she doesn’t understand simply be there in her heart, in complete conformity to the divine plan. Mary is a model of cooperation with grace.

Third Sorrow: Search for the Child in Jerusalem

“After three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. When his parents saw him, they were astonished, and his mother said to him, ‘Son, why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety’” (Lk 2:46, 48).

Terror seizes Mary’s heart when she discovers that her son is missing. On the third day, while walking by the temple, the anxious mother hears the sweet sound of Jesus’ voice. “Joseph, look! There he is among the teachers!” They run to Jesus’ side, and Mary, with mingled joy and sorrow, speaks words of gentle reproach to her son.

Mary and Joseph realize they have a very special son—one who amazes even the teachers in the temple with his intelligence. Sometimes they whisper in Aramaic at night, sharing their innermost thoughts and concerns. Often, young Mary ponders these things in her heart while performing her daily tasks: grinding grain into flour to make bread, milking the goats, and spinning yarn and weaving it into clothing for her family.

Sometimes, in the cool of the evening, she sits on the flat roof of their home, the pain of Simeon’s prophecy and of Jesus’ disappearance merging and lingering—a pain as widespread as the profusion of flowers trickling down the hillsides of Nazareth in that April of Jesus’ 12th year.

Fourth Sorrow: Mary Meets Jesus on His Way to the Cross

“And carrying the cross himself . . .” (Jn 19:17). “A large crowd of people followed Jesus, including many women who mourned and lamented him” (Lk 23:27).

Mary’s life remains hidden—hidden in God. A widow now, she lives an inconspicuous life, pondering and accepting the mystery of her unique role and that of her son. When news of his miracles reaches her at Nazareth, she rejoices. But the disturbing news of the tension mounting in Jerusalem concerning an upstart named Jesus makes her apprehensive. She knows the sword is poised to pierce her heart more deeply. Yet she goes to Jerusalem for the Passover feast, hoping Jesus will be there.

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Mary helps prepare the Passover meal. Quickly she dishes out the bitter herbs and vinegar and carries them to the Upper Room. Here, Mary participates in the first Eucharist. She comprehends all too well the full meaning of his words. We can only guess at the sequence of events. Perhaps one of the holy women finds Mary and tells her that Jesus has been arrested. “I must go to him!” she cries.

Mary pushes her way through the shouting, cursing mob. At last, she sees her son carrying his cross. Mary’s heart breaks in unspeakable sorrow at the outrage committed against his precious body. She is powerless to minister to him, except by her presence. Their eyes meet and speak volumes of love in a frozen moment of anguished silence. “Trust, trust,” Jesus’ heart speaks to hers. His unspoken words echo in her hearing heart. With renewed strength, she walks the Way of her son.

Fifth Sorrow: Standing at the Foot of the Cross

Standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary of Magdala. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple there whom he loved, he said to his mother, ‘Woman, behold, your son.’ Then he said to the disciple, ‘Behold, your mother.’ And from that hour the disciple took her into his home” (Jn 19:25–27).

Finally they reach the hill of execution. The cruel soldiers stretch Jesus’ battered body upon the cross and, with heavy hammer blows, drive the sharp spikes into his hands and feet. Mary’s head pounds with each cruel blow. No one hears the silent scream that shatters her broken heart and echoes in the heart of God.

What now takes place is all according to God’s plan. Her son, the Son of God, has to suffer and die. John, the beloved disciple, puts his arm around Mary, steadying her. “My precious child,” she weeps, “heralded at Bethlehem, now suffering an ignominious and painful death!”

And then, through swollen, purple lips, Jesus speaks. Mary strains to hear his words. He looks tenderly upon his mother and, with great effort, says, “He is your son.” He looks at the disciple and emphasizes, “She is your mother.”

Sixth Sorrow: The Crucifixion and Descent from the Cross

After this, Joseph of Arimathea, secretly a disciple of Jesus for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate if he could remove the body of Jesus. And Pilate permitted it. So he came and took his body” (Jn 19:38).

Saying, “It is finished,” Jesus bows his head and dies. Mary remembers his words at the Passover meal: “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which will be shed for you” (Lk 22:20). The dreaded time is now: the precious blood of her son is poured out for all humankind. The covenant is sealed.

Jesus, her son, the Son of God, is dead. In her heart, Mary dies with him. Two broken hearts—one pierced with a spear, one pierced with sorrow—become one: Jesus and Mary, forever united for the whole human family.

Mary’s sorrow is all the greater because of the greatness of her love.

Jesus’ body is taken down from the cross and placed in her arms. Mary embraces her son with a love beyond words, beyond grief itself. For now, it is the grief of a consummate sorrow. She, who had given birth to divinity, now presses the bloodied and battered remains of his humanity close to her sorrowful and shattered heart. “Let it be done according to thy will, Lord,” she prays.

Seventh Sorrow: Assisting at the Burial of Christ

“The women who had come from Galilee with him followed behind, and when they had seen the tomb and the way in which his body was laid in it, they returned and prepared spices and perfumed oils” (Lk 23:55–56).

The holy women quietly prepare the spices and ointments, and gather the winding sheet and the grave cloth, according to Jewish custom. Mary, the faithful disciple, insists on helping and returns to the tomb with the women. They go about their task of washing the body with great reverence and wrap it in long strips of linen, taking great care to pack the fragrant spices (including the myrrh and aloes Nicodemus had brought) between the cloth and the body, in order to reduce the stench of death.

Mary hesitates before placing the grave cloth over Jesus’ face. Tenderly, she kisses him one last, lingering time. John steps forward to take her hand and lead her to his home. Behind them, they hear the heavy round stone rolled forward to seal the cave. Mary’s pierced heart remains united to the stilled heart of the one they had pierced—the most Sacred Heart that was formed in her immaculate womb. With one languishing wail, she proclaims what others are just now beginning to believe, what she already knew: “My Lord and my God.”

Feast -Our Lady of Sorrows – September 15

Feast Day – Our Lady of Sorrows

For a while there were two feasts in honour of the Sorrowful Mother: one going back to the 15th century, the other to the 17th century. For a while both were celebrated by the universal Church: one on the Friday before Palm Sunday, the other in September.

The principal biblical references to Mary’s sorrows are in Luke 2:35 and John 19:26-27. The Lucan passage is Simeon’s prediction about a sword piercing Mary’s soul; the Johannine passage relates Jesus’ words from the cross to Mary and to the beloved disciple.

Many early Church writers interpret the sword as Mary’s sorrows, especially as she saw Jesus die on the cross. Thus, the two passages are brought together as prediction and fulfillment.

Saint Ambrose in particular sees Mary as a sorrowful yet powerful figure at the cross. Mary stood fearlessly at the cross while others fled. Mary looked on her Son’s wounds with pity, but saw in them the salvation of the world. As Jesus hung on the cross, Mary did not fear to be killed, but offered herself to her persecutors.


Reflection

Meanwhile, standing near the cross of Jesus were his mother…. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, “Woman, here is your son.” Then he said to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” John 19:25-27

John’s account of Jesus’ death is highly symbolic. When Jesus gives the beloved disciple to Mary, we are invited to appreciate Mary’s role in the Church: She symbolizes the Church; the beloved disciple represents all believers. As Mary mothered Jesus, she is now mother to all his followers. Furthermore, as Jesus died, he handed over his Spirit. Mary and the Spirit cooperate in begetting new children of God—almost an echo of Luke’s account of Jesus’ conception. Christians can trust that they will continue to experience the caring presence of Mary and Jesus’ Spirit throughout their lives and throughout history.

When Joseph and Mary presented their newborn Jesus in the Temple, Simeon predicted that a sword would pierce Mary’s heart (Luke 2:35).

There could be no more agonizing piercing for Mary than to watch her son be crucified. As she stood below, silently pouring out her love to him, he looked down and saw her. In that wrenching moment, he entrusted her to John’s care. In anguish she watched him die and be taken to the tomb. On Easter morning, perhaps Mary was the first-person Jesus appeared to when he rose from the dead, holding with wordless tenderness the one who held him in her womb, transforming her piercing sorrow into joy. Beloved Mary, help us feel your son’s love with us in our sorrows.

MARIAN APPARITIONS : OUR LADY OF KIBEHO

Kibeho is a small site located in the southern part of Rwanda, in the administrative district of Nyaruguru.  It is 36 km from the Bishop of Gikongoro’s residence and 30 km from the Bishop of Butare’s residence. Kibeho is also the name given to one of the parishes of the diocese of Gikongoro, founded in 1934 and dedicated to Mary, Mother of God.

Today, Kibeho is best known as a place of apparitions and pilgrimages. The first apparition of Mary was on November 28, 1981, when Alphonsine Mumureke, a young student of the Kibeho High School, saw a lady of incomparable beauty who presented herself under the name of “Nyina Wa Jambo,” which means “Mother of the Word.” Alphonsine immediately recognized her as the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of Our Savior Jesus. The phenomenon occurred subsequently and several times in succession, at long or short intervals. The Virgin asked everybody to convert, to keep faith and to pray without hypocrisy.

Alphonsine was born on March 21, 1965, in Cyizihira, in the parish of Zaza, Diocese of Kibungo. Her parents were Thaddée Gakwaya and Mary Immaculate Mukagasana. She was baptized when she was 12 years old, on July 27 1977. At the time of the apparitions, she had just been admitted to the Kibeho High School in October, 1981, immediately after her primary studies. The Kibeho High School, founded in 1967 by a parish priest, Father Grégoire Kamugisha, has changed its name several times in order to conform to the programs of the National Education Ministry. When Alphonsine was admitted in 1981, it was called Kibeho High school; and later, since 1984, “Ecole des Lettres de Kibeho” (Kibeho School of the Letters), and nowadays, since 1998, “Groupe Scolaire Mère du Verbe” (Mother of the Word High school).

The first reactions caused by these unusual events within the community of the Kibeho High School as well as outside of the high school were not temperate. There were a lot of points of view that ranged from skepticism that feared trickery to unswaying belief and intolerance of any skepticism.  At the beginning, Alphonsine was viewed as a mad girl, or an unhappy girl possessed by evil; or, according to some, as a mediocre student wanting to play a prank to make her more accepted in the school conducted by the Congregation of Benebikira Sisters (i.e., Daughters of the Virgin Mary).

Many people begged for signs of credibility. At the time of the ecstasies, students and teachers were free to apply tests on the body of Alphonsine in order to check and to verify her sincerity. It was even suggested that if it was really the Blessed Virgin Mary who had visited the school, they would take it seriously, if she at least appeared to other students instead of just that poor Alphonsine from Gisaka, a region which had a reputation for the practice of magic. Alphonsine asked the Virgin to respond to the challenge by appearing to others and exhorted her schoolmates also to ask her for themselves to receive necessary enlightenment.

A short time later, two new alleged seers appeared in the high school, one after the other, and in close proximity to Alphonsine: notably Nathalie Mukamazimpaka on January 12, 1982, and Marie Claire Mukangango on March 2, 1982.

Nathalie Mukamazimpaka was born in 1964 in Munini in the present district of Nyaruguru, parish of Muganza, Diocese of Gikongoro. Her father was Laurent Ngango and her mother, Gaudence Mukabaziga. She was baptized on February 2, 1968, when she was 4 years old. During the time of the apparitions, she was registered in the Kibeho High school in the 4th class of the Teaching school. As a seer of the Virgin Mary, Mother of God, Nathalie is especially known for the message of redemptive suffering and unceasing prayer for a world that is very bad and at risk of falling into an abyss.

Since March 2, 1982, Marie Claire Mukangango, schoolmate of Nathalie, declared herself as a seer of the Virgin Mary. Her case was like a bomb exploding inside the high school community, because until then Marie Claire was characterized by her fierce opposition to the “so-called” apparitions claimed by Alphonsine.

Marie Claire was born in 1961 in Rusekera, in the present district of Nyamagabe, parish of Mushubi, diocese of Gikongoro. Her father was Baseka and her mother Véronique Nyiratuza. She was baptized when she was 5 years old, on August 12, 1966. During the apparitions, she studied at the Kibeho High school, in 4th class of the Teaching school. As a seer, she is especially known for the message of the Rosary of the Seven Sorrows of the Virgin Mary, associated with an urgent call to repentance: “Repent, repent, repent!” the Virgin said to the world through the lips by Marie Claire.

If, for some, the increased number of the seers complicated the disconcerting situation created by Alphonsine, for others, the two new cases, especially the one of Marie Claire, were interpreted as a good sign coming from heaven to show that the prayer of Alphonsine had been accepted and to sustain the faith of all those that were still hesitating to take her apparitions seriously. Different witnesses interrogated in the Kibeho High School in 1982, declared that they began to believe in the apparitions after the extraordinary experience of Marie Claire. In short, the public opinion tried to find a natural explanation for the phenomenon, but without success, considering a great number of astonishing facts that were confirmed as the days passed that defied simple human understanding.

In spite of the critics and objections of all sorts against the apparitions, a movement of belief began to develop quickly enough inside and outside of Kibeho High School. Before the Christmas holidays of 1981, a group of “converted” students and teachers appeared at a regular prayer meeting with Alphonsine, where they recited the rosary accompanied by hymns in the honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

But, after May 1982, the phenomenon of the apparitions took on a new dimension when is was spreading like a brush fire outside the Kibeho High school to reach the primary school and the surrounding hills, and even the more remote locations.

Another fact to be emphasized is that on the days of public apparitions, the seers experienced practically no ecstasies.  The seers experienced the apparitions individually, one at a time, while the others seers were watching along with everyone else in the crowd. These apparitions varied in duration, depending on the occurrence, and they were usually marked by heavy falls at the end of the apparition.

The apparitions were also characterized by an abundance of words, the length of the ecstasies, songs, prayers of intercession, blessings (especially by means of water), repeated falls during the same apparition on certain days (from August 15, 1982 until the end of Lent in 1983), and other mortifications. Lent of 1983 was in particular characterized by extraordinary fasting that was closely monitored by a team of physicians from the National University of Rwanda.

Alphonsine Mumureke is said to have taken, on March 20, 1982, a “mystical journey” of several hours with the Virgin in another “world” throughout “places” that she describes in symbolic language that makes one think of realities such as Hell, Purgatory, and Heaven, but with a vocabulary very different from the one of the Catechism. Nathalie Mukamazimpaka had a similar experience on October 30, 1982, which was closely observed by a team from the Bishop’s theological commission.

The apparitions of Kibeho had very early on attracted crowds of people. On certain days, like May 30, 1982 for example, the crowd could be estimated at more than 10,000 people of all ages and all social classes.

The apparitions of Kibeho officially ended on November 28, 1989, a date on which Alphonsine, who was at the beginning of these events, experienced the Virgin’s last apparition in public. She specified that she would not have any more apparitions publicly. This meaningful fact, which was introduced 8 years after the Virgin’s first apparition at Kibeho, is recognized as an important historical reference for anybody who would like to know what happened and form a judgment on it.