Friday, March 16, 2012

Love is like a mountain,
hard to climb,
but once you get to the top
the view is beautiful.

Love is not blind -
It sees more and not less,
but because it sees more
it is willing to see less.

When you love someone,
all your saved-up wishes start coming out.

Love is strong yet delicate.
It can be broken.
To truly love is to understand this.
To be in love is to respect this.
Stephen Packer

You know you are in love
when you see the world in his eyes,
and his eyes everywhere in the world

There is only one happiness in life,
to love and be loved.

Love is like a mustard seed;
planted by God
and watered by men

Saint Patrick

Lorica of Saint Patrick
I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through a belief in the Threeness,
Through confession of the Oneness
Of the Creator of creation.

I arise today
Through the strength of Christ's birth and His baptism,
Through the strength of His crucifixion and His burial,
Through the strength of His resurrection and His ascension,
Through the strength of His descent for the judgment of doom.

I arise today
Through the strength of the love of cherubim,
In obedience of angels,
In service of archangels,
In the hope of resurrection to meet with reward,
In the prayers of patriarchs,
In preachings of the apostles,
In faiths of confessors,
In innocence of virgins,
In deeds of righteous men.

I arise today
Through the strength of heaven;
Light of the sun,
Splendor of fire,
Speed of lightning,
Swiftness of the wind,
Depth of the sea,
Stability of the earth,
Firmness of the rock.

I arise today
Through God's strength to pilot me;
God's might to uphold me,
God's wisdom to guide me,
God's eye to look before me,
God's ear to hear me,
God's word to speak for me,
God's hand to guard me,
God's way to lie before me,
God's shield to protect me,
God's hosts to save me
From snares of the devil,
From temptations of vices,
From every one who desires me ill,
Afar and anear,
Alone or in a mulitude.

I summon today all these powers between me and evil,
Against every cruel merciless power that opposes my body and soul,
Against incantations of false prophets,
Against black laws of pagandom,
Against false laws of heretics,
Against craft of idolatry,
Against spells of women and smiths and wizards,
Against every knowledge that corrupts man's body and soul.
Christ shield me today
Against poison, against burning,
Against drowning, against wounding,
So that reward may come to me in abundance.

Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of every man who speaks of me,
Christ in the eye that sees me,
Christ in the ear that hears me.

I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through a belief in the Threeness,
Through a confession of the Oneness
Of the Creator of creation

St. Patrick (ca. 377)

Devotion to St. Joseph

To you, O blessed Joseph,
do we come in our tribulation,
and having implored the help of your most holy spouse,
we confidently invoke your patronage also.

Through that charity which bound you to the 
Immaculate Virgin Mother of God and through the
paternal love with which you embraced the Child Jesus,
we humbly beg you graciously to regard the inheritance

which Jesus Christ has purchased by his Blood,
and with your power and strength to aid us in our necessities.

O most watchful Guardian of the Holy Family, defend the
chosen children of Jesus Christ;
O most loving father,
ward off from us every contagion of error and

corrupting influence;
O our most mighty protector,
be propitious to us and from heaven assist us in our

 struggle with the power of darkness;
and, as once you rescued the Child Jesus from deadly peril,

so now protect God?s Holy Church from the snares of the
 enemy and from all adversity;
shield, too, each one of us by your constant protection,
so that, supported by your example and your aid, we may be

able to live piously, to die holily,
and to obtain eternal happiness in heaven. Amen.

The purpose of Pope Leo XIII's encyclical [Quamquam Pluries]
was to implore divine help by means of prayer, joining to the intercession
of Mary that of St. Joseph, that God might be more willing to grant our
 petitions and that he might aid his Church more promptly and generously.
Leo XIII therefore attached to his encyclical a special Prayer to St. Joseph
ordering that it be added to the recitation of the rosary every year in perpetuity,
during the month of October. To this prayer he attached an indulgence,
which is fittingly preserved in the Enchiridion Indulgentiarum.
He also recommends dedicating to the holy Patriarch the month of March,
with daily exercises of piety in his honor, and to observe at lest a triduum
of prayers preceding the Feast of St. Joseph.


Thirty Days' Prayer to Saint Joseph

Ever blessed and glorious Joseph, kind and loving father, and helpful friend of all in sorrow! You are the good father and protector of orphans, the defender of the defenseless, the patron of those in need and sorrow. Look kindly on my request. My sins have drawn down on me the just displeasure of my God, and so I am surrounded with unhappiness. To you, loving guardian of the Family of Nazareth, do I go for help and protection. Listen, then, I beg you, with fatherly concern, to my earnest prayers, and obtain for me the favors I ask.
I ask it by the infinite mercy of the eternal Son of God, which moved Him to take our nature and to be born into this world of sorrow.
I ask it by the weariness and suffering you endured when you found no shelter at the inn of Bethlehem for the holy Virgin, nor a house where the Son of God could be born. Then, being everywhere refused, you had to allow the Queen of Heaven to give birth to the world's Redeemer in a cave.
I ask it by that painful torture you felt at the prophecy of holy Simeon, which declared the Child Jesus and His holy Mother future victims of our sins and of their great love for us.
I ask it through your sorrow and pain of soul when the angel declared to you that the life of the Child Jesus was sought by His enemies. From their evil plan you had to flee with Him and His Blessed Mother to Egypt. I ask it by all the suffering, weariness, and labors of that long and dangerous journey.
I ask it by all your care to protect the Sacred Child and His Immaculate Mother during your second journey, when you were ordered to return to your own country. I ask it by your peaceful life in Nazareth where you met with so many joys and sorrows.
I ask it by your great distress when the adorable Child was lost to you and His Mother for three days. I ask it by your joy at finding Him in the Temple, and by the comfort you found at Nazareth, while living in the company of the Child Jesus. I ask it by the wonderful submission He showed in His obedience to you.
I ask it by the perfect love and conformity you showed in accepting the Divine order to depart from this life, and from the company of Jesus and Mary. I ask it by the joy which filled your soul, when the Redeemer of the world, triumphant over death and hell, entered into the possession of His kingdom and led you into it with special honors.
I ask it through Mary's glorious Assumption, and through that endless happiness you have with her in the presence of God.
O good father! I beg you, by all your sufferings, sorrows, and joys, to hear me and obtain for me what I ask.

(make your request)
Obtain for all those who have asked my prayers everything that is useful to them in the plan of God. Finally, my dear patron and father, be with me and all who are dear to me in our last moments, that we may eternally sing the praises of Jesus, Mary and Joseph.

Prayer While Visiting The Most Blessed Sacrament. By St. Alphonsus Liguori

My Lord Jesus Christ, for the love which You bear to men, You remain night and day in this Sacrament full of compassion and of love, awaiting, calling, and welcoming all who come to visit You. I believe that You are present in the Sacrament of the Altar: I adore You from the abyss of my nothingness, and I thank You for all the graces which You have bestowed upon me and in particular for having given me Yourself in this Sacrament, for having given me your holy Mother Mary for my advocate, and for having called me to visit You in this chapel. I now salute
Your most loving Heart: and this for three ends:
1. In thanksgiving for this great gift;
2. To make amends to You for all the outrages which You receive in this Sacrament from all Your enemies;
3. I intend by this visit to adore You in all the places on earth in which You are the least revered and the most abandoned.

My Jesus, I love You with all my heart. I grieve for having so many times offended Your infinite goodness. I promise with Your grace never more to offend You in the future.
Now, miserable and unworthy though I be, I consecrate myself to You without reserve;
I give You my entire will, my affections, my desires, and all that I possess. From now on dispose of me and of all that I have as You please. All that I ask of You and desire is Your holy love, final perseverance, and the perfect accomplishment of Your will. I recommend to You the souls in purgatory; but especially those who had the greatest devotion to the most Blessed Sacrament and to the Blessed Virgin Mary. I also recommend to You all poor sinners.

My dear Saviour, I unite all my affections with the affections of Your most loving Heart; and I offer them, thus united, to Your eternal Father, and beseech Him in Your name to vouchsafe, for Your love, to accept them.

Five ways to stay awake at Mass. by Kevin H. Axe

The most important activity in the parish is Sunday Mass. Cardinal Roger Mahony of Los Angeles has written a lengthy pastoral letter on liturgical renewal to prepare the people of his archdiocese for the Jubilee Year 2000. He stresses in the letter that the Second Vatican Council held the renewal of the liturgy to be central to the life of the church, and the Sunday liturgy is, indeed, the "very center" of the church's life. He also stresses the point that, unlike days of old, the liturgy has to be the work of the whole assembly, not just the priest, the choir, and the liturgy committee.
His letter is timely, and the issue is serious. Poll after poll reports that only about one out of three self-described Catholics goes to Mass weekly, roughly the same attendance as the Protestant church down the street.
Since Catholics simply don't show up for Mass the way they used to, liturgists are faced with the weekly prospect of working to attract worshipers.
For all concerned, it seems crucial that the liturgy of the Mass be all that it can be. But what makes a good Mass? Should Mass have to compete with Sunday-morning golf, fishing, and trendy brunches? Why don't Catholics flock without question to this most important encounter with their God? Will Mass attendance shrink to a faithful few in near-empty pews?
At a minimum, the drawing power needs to come from within, from the power of the liturgy and the faith of the worshipers.
It's good for Catholics to know more about the Mass. What does the word Mass mean, for instance? Well, Mass comes from missa, Latin for "sent," which is what the bishop would say at the end of the eucharistic liturgy in the early church, as he sent ministers forth with the consecrated bread to the sick and to other churches. "The Eucharist has been sent forth." We're done.
The structure of the Mass is twofold: the Liturgy of the Word, which copies the Jewish synagogue service of the first century, with scripture readings and responses from the people; and the Liturgy of the Eucharist, which is a reenactment of the Last Supper of Jesus Christ.
Father Richard Fragomeni of the Catholic Theological Union in Chicago has written Come to the Feast: An Invitation to Eucharistic Transformation (Continuum, 1997). He offers a helpful image when he describes the Eucharist and the Mass as a gift-an extraordinary, overwhelming gift that is God's self.
Early on he offers a crucial insight. "In the presence of any gift we face the urge to take it, not have it given to us. We can do this by taking it for granted; quid pro quo, which we can freely translate as tit for tat. It feels so, well, settled. Gifts are unsettling.
"When we try to take the gift, we destroy its nature. We only can receive this as gift....The real reason we repeat the liturgy each week is to learn to receive."
He then poetically describes a process of surrender to the gift, transformation by the gift, and a "staying awake to the gift that is within us." Catholics who may have become bored with weekly Mass might well recharge their liturgical batteries with Fragomeni's book.
How does one "stay awake to the gift," when some weeks it's a challenge to stay awake at all? Where does one begin to recharge the batteries? The main areas can be counted on one hand: ritual, music, silence, preaching, and atmosphere.

1. Ritual
Just what is the purpose of ritual? Week after week, the same motions, similar words, often the same priest. Who is it for? Are all these repeated actions and prayers somehow pleasing to God? Should they engage the worshipers? Is there something wrong with me if I'm bored?
Most liturgical experts are united on the issue: We're not doing all this for God.
Sister Kathleen Hughes, R.S.C.J., professor of liturgy at Catholic Theological Union, says Saint Thomas Aquinas believed ritual is for the worshipers, to bring us to reverence. Also right in the prayers of the Mass, Preface IV for Weekdays puts it very clearly: "You have no need of our praise; yet our desire to thank you is itself your gift. Our prayer of thanksgiving adds nothing to your greatness but makes us grow in your grace, through Jesus Christ Our Lord."
So God really doesn't need us to show up, doesn't need to hear our prayers or praise or songs. If we don't show up, we don't hurt God. Do we hurt ourselves? Well, says Hughes, "Do this in memory of me, is the only thing Jesus ever asked directly of his followers. It rather makes the whole discussion of attendance rules moot."
Kayreen and Joe Burns of Plantation, Florida refer to Belgian theologian Father Edward Schillebeeckx's insight that all sacraments are encounters with Christ. "So it is God who initiates the encounter, not the person who is falling asleep in Mass. The sacrament is a sacrament no matter what deficits there are in the people; otherwise grace would not be a gift from God. It would depend on the integrity of the human person."
Fragomeni supports this view. "It is not true that if I don't feel something, nothing is happening. We want sensational because we can't believe that God can meet us in the ordinary. We're looking for celebrity, the paparazzi, the Dianas, and the Arnold Schwarzeneggers. God meets humans in the ordinary-bread and wine."
Nonetheless, people in the pews tend to argue that ritual should engage the worshipers. A San Juan Capistrano, California couple stresses the need for a community of faith to set the context for a meaningful Mass. "It's not like watching a play, a movie, a sporting event, etc. It's the celebration of the life of faith."
Ann Wiseman, of Powell, Ohio, says rituals are to be expected at Mass. "However, they need to be kept short. I feel they lose too many people when liturgical words and actions are too long." She also thinks you need to "pay attention, concentrate, and participate at Mass, or you might as well stay home."
Well, then, is there something wrong with me if I'm bored?
Gabe Huck, director of Liturgy Training Publications in Chicago, gets almost angry when asked about ritual boredom at Mass. "Boredom means I'm doing something for you. That's not what's going on. I come because I'm obliged to come, not by external rules or commandments, but because I'm a baptized person needed by my community. Even if I don't feel like it-makes no difference."
Bob Hurd, a California hymn writer and liturgist, speaks of the "transcendent God and God as immanent in the community's celebration of the Eucharist. These two modalities of God's presence go hand in hand. God is present in the gathered people as the body of Christ, the local church. God is simultaneously a transcendent mystery of compassion, mercy, and justice, which calls us beyond ourselves." So we help our fellow worshipers worship God just by our presence.
Balance is the key. Hurd says, "Some traditionalists want to throw out the horizontal dimension because it seems too 'us'-centered and irreverent. Some progressives overlook the transcendent aspect and reduce the liturgy to a sort of informal coffeehouse get-together."
Part of the pain and the pleasure of ritual is that it operates almost subconsciously. Denyse Kline, a Catholic youth minister in Falls Church, Virginia, has helped plan liturgies for a local Methodist congregation, a sincere community of "happy Christians." But those liturgies did not replace and even "left me hungry for the familiar ritual of the Mass, a custom that still tells me who I am, where I've been, where I am, and where I'm going." Even though her Catholic community no longer "celebrates" the Mass the way she would like, she finds comfort in the ritual.
Perhaps, like Kline, Catholics need to be more aware of the way rituals organize and support their home lives in order to be more comfortable with rituals in church. The good-bye and good-night kiss, the same birthday song year after year, the family myths and stories retold at nearly every holiday gathering, the formula prayers at the dinner table and at bedtime all provide an invisible bond for family unity and strength. It's different, but not all that different, from the songs, the actions, and the words in church on Sunday.

2. Music
Legendary golfer Jack Nicklaus says of the young long-ball hitters in the game, like John Daley and Tiger Woods, "they play a game with which I'm not familiar." Tune in your TV some Sunday night to the double-digit channels and watch the fundamentalist liturgies taking place. When those folks sing, they engage in a liturgical action with which most Catholics are not familiar. It's not Catholic to be loud and emotional in church; Catholics save that for home.
So it can be a bit like tooth-pulling to get Catholics to belt out the praises of the Lord. No matter how many times the folks in the pews hear such nuggets as "they who sing, pray twice," the average Sunday-morning noise from Catholic churches is pretty restrained.
"People don't sing because sometimes they have nothing to sing about," says Fragomeni, "and those who can sing support those who can't." He also says singing is not necessarily better than talking. "Either can be perfunctory, inattentive, nonengaging." But, done well, singing unites people. "It's not even the words or the meaning. It's the unity of people in the act of praise that's instilled by the singing."
Fragomeni says no language or musical form is holy, as such. "What's holy is that holy people sing it-with the explicit purpose of giving thanks and praise to God."
Musician Bob Hurd says the true purpose of music is to serve the ritual so that we do not "merely sing songs here and there in the Mass but rather sing the Mass. The ancient church knew this. For the first seven centuries everything that was publicly vocalized in liturgy-not just songs, but readings and prayers-was sung or chanted. Think of the sound of Martin Luther King's voice when he preached, the musicality of his speech." It's not the same when one reads sermons in a book.
To make all this work well, however, takes a lot of work. It requires a regular, disciplined collaboration and preparation on the part of musicians, the presider, and all other participants in the liturgy. Otherwise the liturgy "limps along with slots for the musicians and slots for the priest and little evocation of the whole assembly's role as co-performer of the liturgy," says Hurd.
Most commentators urge parishes to pay a qualified music director. But they also stress the need for the music director to be pastorally attuned to the culture and needs of the parish. They need to be trained liturgists as well as musicians. "I have seen music directors who do all of the solos and cantoring instead of trying to find other parishioners who would like to contribute their talents," says Ann Wiseman.
Sometimes music directors seem too keen on trying new music. Just when the congregation starts to master a few songs and the volume of the singing begins to show it, everything seems to go back to square one with all new songs. Folks in the pew are better served by a mix of the new with the tried and true.
As with ritual, even folks who say they can't sing usually join in on "Happy Birthday." And, yes, it's probably better to sing badly than not at all.

3. Silence
If there's anything that discomforts some Catholics at Mass more than music, it's silence. "Whatsamatter? They lose their place? Forget the words? Let's get moving!"
Kayreen and Joe Burns say the liturgy was developed as a cyclic process of singing, listening, praying, etc.-all the modes of human interaction. There's a time and place for every element, and some elements will always appeal more to some worshipers than others.
Wiseman suggests five minutes of silence after the people have gathered but before the Mass begins, just to "get into the spirit of the Mass." Fragomeni urges at least two minutes of total silence after Communion, no talking, no meditation song. "We shun silence because it seems like a waste of time."
Hurd speaks eloquently of silence. "Silence at the right places is a sign that we are taking the assembled people seriously as partners in the enactment of the liturgy." The Prayer of the Faithful, for instance, becomes a more obviously communal act if the announcement of each intention is followed by silence before the assembly responds.
"We pray for all who are unemployed..."
(Now a moment of silence as everyone thinks of those they know who are unemployed.)
"For them, we pray to the Lord: Lord, hear our prayer."
But youth minister Kline says silence can be a tough sell to teens. "They love to hear themselves and each other talk and noise is always a part of their life." With them she'll use guided meditation followed by a period of silence. "Even if they fall asleep, they have learned to quiet themselves in the presence of the Lord."
Many worshipers have trouble praying or concentrating during quiet times at Mass and then blame themselves for not being attentive enough. It might be helpful for them to realize that liturgical silence has no set agenda and there's no right or wrong way to be quiet. Others can witness to the reality that only in silence can they feel the presence and love of God. Earthly lovers can easily spend hours together in silence, perhaps a reflection and promise of one's eternal love affair with God.
4. Preaching
Everyone gets his or her 15 minutes of fame, promised Andy Warhol. In the homily or sermon the celebrant gets around 15 minutes every week. And, like it or not, right or wrong, for good or ill, that 15 minutes is crucial for many folks. Few people will tolerate week after week of bad preaching, and some Catholics simply stop going to Mass because of bad sermons.
Fragomeni says that's very evangelical Protestant: "As an evangelical you go to church to get something out of the scriptures. Sermons are long and intended to give you something to take home with you. Catholic liturgy is not there to give you something to take home with you as a commodity. Its purpose is to give praise and thanksgiving for the gift of God. The homily is not to instruct or explain scripture or to give people something to think about for the rest of the week."
Liturgist Hurd has a different spin: "The homily is terribly important-the knitting together of the gospel and its biblical context with the here and now of our lives."
Pity the poor homilist. With so many different agendas on the table, how can you please everyone?
There does seem to be wide agreement on an outer limit of 10-12 minutes as maximum length. Hurd quotes a homiletics teacher: "If you can't say it in seven minutes, you won't say it in 15!" Fragomeni harks back to the homily as a rather minor part of the celebration and says the time given to it ought to show that.
But the California couple argues that a five-minute boring, blaming, authoritative homily is too long. And "a half-hour inspired, spiritually nurturing sharing of the Word will not seem long enough."
Hurd's "here and now of our lives" seems to get at the heart of the matter. Homilies often start out fine, with an interesting anecdote or story, but before long the faces of the congregation have retreated to the MEGO zone: my eyes glaze over. Sometimes the speaker is uninspired; sometimes the message is uninspiring.
Quite often the best preachers don't even seem to be preaching. They're just talking, almost person-to-person, and they have an indefinable way of speaking from the heart. The preacher's faith speaks to the faith of the assembly in a way that shows on people's faces and carries them from week to week. They also line up after Mass to give the celebrant feedback: good preaching is a two-way street.
If a homily feeds the faith of the congregation, week in and week out, the church won't be large enough to hold the congregation. Good homilies or sermons will keep folks coming back; bad ones will drive them away.

5. Atmosphere What's the proper balance between a friendly, talkative gathering of folks for the memorial meal and the thoughtful, serious memory of Christ who died on the cross for us? The issue is reverence, liturgical atmosphere, respect for God, for oneself, for one's fellow worshipers.
Some people think jeans and T-shirts don't belong in church. Others are happy to see such folks in church, no matter what they're wearing. Certainly, there is no dress code anymore. And the overall atmosphere seems to vary, parish by parish.
The Burnses say the choice of atmosphere should be left to someone or a group with "extremely good taste. Otherwise people can be disheartened by doing things just for the sake of novelty." But they also argue for flexibility for various groups, be they ethnic, racial, liberal, conservative. "The Mass is not the Mass, but a Mass, and shouldn't be 'said' but 'celebrated.'"
St. Sabina's Parish in Chicago is 90 percent African American. Far from splitting hairs about a 10- or 12-minute sermon, parishioners there spend more than three hours every Sunday in an all-involving liturgy. They actually have an earlier, shorter Mass that lasts only two hours, but the main Sunday liturgy goes from around 11:15 to 2:30.
Starting with spirited songs of praise and thanks, they move to worship of "God's face, not his hands," with dancing and singing and often prostrations. The sermon is actually a form of Bible study; people bring their Bibles and take notes. After the sermon there are often altar calls and healings, then the Offertory, eucharistic prayer, and an all-encompassing kiss of peace throughout the church. After Communion a final song can last as long as the Spirit moves.
Father Michael Pfleger, the pastor who has been presiding over this parish for 10 years now, says the whole idea is to involve people's minds, hearts, and emotions in true worship and praise, with very heavy reliance on truly "catholic" prayer and Bible study.
The California couple says all props should be fair game at eucharistic liturgies "when this is a natural human response, culturally fitting to the celebration coming from the people. Would that we could all stand up and dance as King David did in celebration of God."
A real question for the near future in the United States is the whole question of "melting pot" liturgies. Fifty years ago even small cities had ethnic parishes that served the Irish, the Germans, the Poles, and other ethnic groups, but they all spoke versions of English at least some of the time. Gradually, those ethnic conclaves dispersed, parishes closed down, and the remaining parishes began to try to be all things to all people-in English.
But today some pastors struggle with a reasserted need to simultaneously serve whites, Hispanics, African Americans, Vietnamese, and other groups in various languages. While Fragomeni says the ideal is to celebrate the gift of God in the same language in which people make love, some beleaguered liturgists fantasize about a return to a Latin Mass just to solve the language problem. "Let's get back to where nobody understood it!" In the end, thank God, the common bond that transcends language, music, and preaching is the repeated action that unites all Catholics. In the sharing of the Body and Blood of Christ in the Eucharist, worshipers partake in the mystery that calls them forth weekly to answer Christ's sole request: "Do this in memory of me."

What's an extraordinary minister of communion?

What's an extraordinary minister of communion?

In most places, especially when Communion is offered under the forms of both bread and wine, there are rarely enough "ordinary" ministers for the timely distribution of Communion.
Through the local diocese and often at the parish level, Communion ministers receive spiritual, theological, and practical preparation to fulfill their role with knowledge and reverence. Such preparation addresses appropriate attire, demeanor, and the manner in which to handle the consecrated bread and wine. For example, should there be any mishaps with the consecrated wine, the area should be washed with water, which then is poured into the sacrarium, a special sink that drains into the ground.
A complete description of the regulations may be found in the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops' Norms for the Distribution and Reception of Holy Communion Under Both Kinds for the Dioceses of the United States of America (USCCB Publishing).
By Joseph Walsh, a professor of social work a deacon at Ascension Church in Oak Park, Illinois.
This article appeared in the August 2009 issue of U.S. Catholic (Vol. 76, No. 8, pages 37-38).

What are novenas? by Santiago Cortés-Sjöberg

The word novena derives from the Latin word for nine (novem), and it refers to nine days of private or public devotion and prayer; the days can be consecutive—as the nine days of mourning following the death of an individual—or not—as in nine first Fridays of every month for nine months, as in the Novena to the Sacred Heart. Novenas usually consist of a brief scripture passage, a novena-specific prayer that is repeated every day, some type of litany or petition/response prayer, and often a hymn or canticle.
There are different types of novenas, traditionally identified as of mourning, of preparation, of prayer or petition, and of penance, arranged in order according to their historical development. The origin of setting aside nine days is not found in the Judaic tradition, but in Greco-Roman pagan celebrations. The Romans dedicated nine days of prayers to influence the gods, and both the Greeks and the Romans had periods of mourning that lasted nine days. Christians adopted this mourning practice certainly as early as the fifth century, and later it was particularly adopted by the Anglo-Saxons and the Franks.
Novenas of preparation for Christmas developed in seventh-century Spain, in which the nine days reflected the nine months of Mary’s pregnancy, and the joyful expectation of Jesus’ birth. By the 17th century, novenas were celebrated in preparation for the feast of religious founders in Italy, nine days perhaps in reference to the nine days the apostles spent in prayer between Jesus’ ascension and Pentecost. Around the same time, in northwestern Europe, novenas for healing through the intercession of Mary and the saints developed, often followed by a novena of thanksgiving if the prayers had been answered. It was not until the 19th century that the church bestowed indulgences to specific novenas.
Whether it is to pray for the repose of the soul of a deceased person, to consciously prepare for a religious feast day, to ask for the intercession of the Virgin Mary or of St. Jude when facing a difficulty or illness, or in order to benefit from the promise of complete remission of sins, novenas can be for us “Holy Saturdays” of mourning, “Advent” times of anticipation, and “Lenten” periods of healing and transformation. Novenas offer us an opportunity to purposely dedicate some time each day to prayer, communally or individually, to remember that we are called to be consistent and persistent in prayer.
This article appeared in the January 2011 issue of U.S. Catholic (Vol. 76, No. 1, pages 44-46). Santiago Cortes-Sjoberg, a speaker, writer, and supervising editor at Loyola Press in Chicago.

The Circle of Love -By Fr. Antonio Elfeghali

The story of an American doctor who turned his back on Mary. On an unexpected day,
he found her back into his life. Through Mary, he came back to Christ.

In one of Michigan Jails, many inmates, are experiencing a personal or a communal encounter with the Living Jesus Christ. Many inmates are able to say at one point “We have found the Messiah.” (Jn 1:41) Based on my experience in jail ministry during the last three years, I have found that most of these encounters happened:
1- through the Eucharist after an hour in His Presence;
2- through the Holy Scriptures after meditating on a gospel passage;
3- through Mary by her motherly and merciful figure after reciting the Rosary.
Although most of the inmates are non-Catholics, we try to teach them, in a gentle way, to pray the Rosary, to ask for the intercession of the Saints, and to pray for the souls in Purgatory. These forms of popular piety were an opportunity for them to encounter the living Lord.

And here is another story of a 45-year-old doctor who converted in Jail thanks to Mary.

It was on December 7th, 2003, when we (the Catholic Volunteers & the inmates) had an “Evangelical
Evening”, where we gathered to read a passage from the Bible and discuss it together. We usually start with a prayer to the Holy Spirit. Then, we read a passage from the New Testament. We meditate on the Word of God. We raise questions and try to find answers related to each one’s experience in life. We conclude with spontaneous prayers and a blessing. Now it happened that day that two nuns traveled to jail for the first time and carried with them a six-foot long Rosary- I have never seen like this Rosary before. They sat down in circle with the inmates. One of the nuns handed the six-foot Rosary to three inmates and they started praying.

One of these inmates, a 45-year-old doctor, with beads in hand, began to cry and sob. Most of the eyes in the room were focused on him and people wondered what was his story.

He said, “Twenty years ago, I was on a boat in Pearl Harbor. It was the commemoration of the Pearl Harbor Attacks. I stood up, took the Rosary in my hand, threw it into the ocean, and turned my back on God. It was December 7th, 1983 when I decided to reject Mary and God. Now today, December 7th, 2003, here is the Rosary back in my hand! It was given to me unexpectedly. I see that even if I had turned my back on Mary & God, which led me to a spiritual bankruptcy, Mary & God would never turn their back on me!”

When the people in the Jail heard this story, they praised God. On that Sunday, the doctor/inmate turned
his heart back to Jesus thanks to Mary. A week later, he was released from Jail. He spent one week in Jail
for the first time in his life. But it was a special week where his love for Mary came back into his life.

The Catholic Volunteers are eyewitnesses of these special encounters between the inmates and the living
Lord. Day by day, they believe in the call to be heralds of the Good News and to carry out a special mission of building up broken members of his Mystical Body.

She will like it now - by Fr. Antonio

It was Wednesday June 5, 2002, when I received a call on my pager.
- “Father Antonio, there is a woman who is dying here at the hospital in Ann Arbor. Her family is asking for a Catholic priest to come and give her the last sacrament. Can you please come?”

Sure. It would be the first experience to anoint someone after 10 months of priesthood. My ministry as a priest was more focused on giving Jesus Christ to His people through the Eucharist (saying Masses) and the Sacrament of Reconciliation (hearing confessions). I was also offering spiritual direction to a good number of people. I drove 15 minutes from home. I arrived at the hospital and entered the room.
There was a woman lying in her bed, dying. Her eyes were closed. Her family was gathered around her: the husband, the sons & their wives. They were comforting each other. I opened the book of prayers and prepared the oil. We prayed. I anointed the woman. After the sacrament of Anointing of the Sick, I asked the family to pray with me the rosary. I believe that the presence of Mary can give great comfort for the woman’s soul.
The husband approached me as if he was embarrassed. He whispered saying:
- “Father, my wife never believed in rosaries. She never prayed the rosary. She never liked it.”
- “She will like it now,” I said it, with my Lebanese accent and a Maronite spirit.
We started praying the rosary. When we reached the 4th sorrowful mystery, the woman opened her eyes. The sons approached their mother to see what was going on. They were crying, amazed.
At the end of the Rosary, I asked the sons:
- “What did you see?”
- “Her eyes were filled with peace,” one of her sons answered.
I knew that Mary was present. I knew that she comforted that woman. It didn’t matter whether that woman prayed the rosary in her life or not, whether she liked it or not. It doesn’t matter for Mary for she is a mother not a judge. Mary, who was present under the cross at the moment of Christ’s death, is also present at the moment of our death. This is why we pray: Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

The Angel "Birdies" - A True Story

Throughout our lives we are blessed with spiritual experiences, some of which are very sacred and confidential, and others, although sacred, are meant to be shared.

Last summer my family had a spiritual experience that had a lasting and profound impact on us, one we feel must be shared. It's a message of love.

It's a message of regaining perspective, and restoring proper balance and renewing priorities. In humility, I pray that I might, in relating this story, give you a gift my little son, Brian, gave our family one summer day last year.

On July 22nd, I was enroute to Washington, DC for a business trip. It was all so very ordinary, until we landed in Denver for a plane change. As I collected my belongings from the overhead bin, an announcement was made for Mr. Lloyd Glenn to see the United Customer Service Representative immediately.

I thought nothing of it until I reached the door to leave the plane and I heard a gentleman asking every male if they were Mr. Glenn. At this point I knew something was wrong and my heart sunk. When I got off the plane a solemn-faced young man came toward me ands aid, "Mr. Glenn, there is an emergency at your home. I do not know what the emergency is or who is involved, but I will take you to the phone so you can call the hospital."

My heart was now pounding, but the will to be calm took over. Woodenly, I followed this stranger to the distant telephone where I called the number he gave me for the Mission Hospital.

My call was put through to the trauma center where I learned that my three-year-old son had been trapped underneath the automatic garage door for several minutes, and that when my wife had found him he was dead. CPR had been performed by a neighbor, who is a doctor, and the paramedics had continued the treatment as Brian was transported to the hospital. By the time of my call, Brian was revived and they believed he would live, but they did not know how much damage had been done to his brain or to his heart.

They explained that the door had completely closed on his little sternum right over his heart. He had been severely crushed. After speaking with the medical staff, my wife sounded worried but not hysterical, and I took comfort in her calmness.

The return flight seemed to last forever, but finally I arrived at the hospital six hours after the garage door had come down. When I walked into the intensive care unit, nothing could have prepared me to see my little son laying so still on a great big bed with tubes and monitors everywhere.

He was on a respirator. I glanced at my wife who stood and tried to give me a reassuring smile. It all seemed like a terrible dream.

I was filled-in with the details and given a guarded prognosis. Brian was going to live, and the preliminary tests indicated that his heart was ok, two miracles in and of themselves. But only time would tell if his brain received any damage Throughout the seemingly endless hours, my wife was calm. She felt that Brian would eventually be all right. I hung on to her words and faith like a lifeline.

All that night and the next day Brian remained unconscious. It seemed like forever since I had left for my business trip the day before. Finally at two o'clock that afternoon, our son regained consciousness and sat up uttering the most beautiful words I have ever heard spoken. He said, "Daddy hold me" and he reached for me with his little arms.

By the next day he was pronounced as having no neurological or physical deficits, and the story of his miraculous survival spread throughout the hospital. You cannot imagine our gratitude and joy.

As we took Brian home we felt a unique reverence for the life and love of our Heavenly Father that comes to those who brush death so closely. In the days that followed there was a special spirit about our home. Our two older children were much closer to their little brother. My wife and I were much closer to each other, andall of us were very close as a whole family. Life took on a less stressful pace. Perspective seemed to be more focused, and balance much easier to gain and maintain. We felt deeply blessed. Our gratitude was truly profound.

The story is not over. Almost a month later to the day of the accident, Brian awoke from his afternoon nap and said, "Sit down, Mommy. I have something to tell you." At this time in his life, Brian usually spoke in small phrases, so to say a large sentence surprised my wife. She sat down with him on his bed and he began his sacred and remarkable story.

"Do you remember when I got stuck under the garage door? Well, it was so heavy and it hurt really bad. I called to you, but you couldn't hear me. I started to cry, but then it hurt too bad. And then the 'birdies' came."

"The birdies?" my wife asked puzzled.

"Yes," he replied. "The birdies made a whooshing sound and flew into the garage. They took care of me."

"They did?"

"Yes," he said. "One of the birdies came and got you. She came to tell you I got stuck under the door."

A sweet reverent feeling filled the room. The spirit was so strong and yet lighter than air. My wife realized that a three-year-old had no concept of death and spirits, so he was referring to the beings who came to him from beyond as "birdies" because they were up in the air like birds that fly.

"What did the birdies look like?" she asked.

Brian answered, "They were so beautiful. They were dressed in white, all white. Some of them had green and white. But some of them had on just white."

"Did they say anything?"

"Yes," he answered. "They told me the baby would be all right."

"The baby?" my wife asked confused.

Brian answered, "The baby laying on the garage floor."

He went on, "You came out and opened the garage door and ran to the baby. You told the baby to stay and not leave. "

My wife nearly collapsed upon hearing this, for she had indeed gone and knelt beside Brian's body and seeing his crushed chest and recognizable features, knowing he was already dead, she looked up around her and whispered, "Don't leave us Brian, please stay if you can." As she listened to Brian telling her the words she had spoken, she realized that the spirit had left his body and was looking down from above on his little lifeless form.

"Then what happened?" she asked.

"We went on a trip," he said, "far, far away." He grew agitated trying to say the things he didn't seem to have the words for. My wife tried to calm and comfort him, and let him know it would be okay. He struggled with wanting to tell something that obviously was very important to him, but finding the words was difficult.

"We flew so fast up in the air. They're so pretty Mommy," he added. "And there is lots and lots of birdies."

My wife was stunned. Into her mind the sweet comforting spirit enveloped Her more soundly, but with an urgency she had never before known. Brian went on to tell her that the "birdies" had told him that he had to come back and tell everyone about the "birdies".

He said they brought him back to the house and that a big fire truck, and an ambulance were there. A man was bringing the baby out on a white bed and he tried to tell the man that the baby would be okay, but the man couldn't hear him. He said the birdies told him he had to go with the ambulance, but they would be near him. He said they were so pretty and so peaceful, and he didn't want to come back.

Then the bright light came. He said that the light was so bright and so warm, and he loved the bright light so much. Someone was in the bright light and put their arms around him, and told him, "I love you but you have to go back. You have to play baseball, and tell everyone about the birdies." Then the person in the bright light kissed him and waved bye-bye. Then woosh, the big sound came and they went into the clouds.

The story went on for an hour. He taught us that "birdies" were always with us, but we don't see them because we look with our eyes and we don't hear them because we listen with our ears. But they are always there, you can only see them in here (he put his hand over his heart). They whisper the things to help us to do what is right because they love us so much.

Brian continued, stating, "I have a plan, Mommy. You have a plan. Daddy has a plan. Everyone has a plan. We must all live our plan and keep our promises. The birdies help us to do that cause they love us so much."

In the weeks that followed, he often came to us and told all, or part of it again and again. Always the story remained the same. The details were never changed or out of order. A few times he added further bits of information and clarified the message he had already delivered. It never ceased to amaze us how he could tell such detail and speak beyond his ability when he talked about his birdies. Everywhere he went, he told strangers about the "birdies."

Surprisingly, no one ever looked at him strangely when he did this. Rather, they always got a softened look on their face and smiled.

Needless to say, we have not been the same ever since that day, and I pray we never will be.

This is a true story provided by Mr.Lloyd Glenn, the father of little Brian.

Don't Leave It On the Desk

"There was a certain professor of religion named Dr. Christianson, a studious man who taught at a small college in the western United States.

Dr. Christianson taught the required survey course in Christianity at this particular institution. Every student was required to take this course his freshman year, regardless of his or her major.

Although Dr. Christianson tried hard to communicate the essence of the Gospel in his class, he found that most of his students looked upon the course as nothing but required drudgery.

Despite his best efforts, most students refused to take Christianity seriously.

This year, Dr. Christianson had a special student named Steve. Steve was only a freshman, but was studying with the intent of going on to seminary for the ministry. Steve was popular, he was well liked, and he was an imposing physical specimen. He was now the starting center on the school football team, and was the best student in the professor's class.

One day, Dr. Christianson asked Steve to stay after class so he could talk with him. 'How many push-ups can you do?'

Steve said, 'I do about 200 every night.'

'200? That's pretty good, Steve, ' Dr. Christianson said.
'Do you think you could do 300?'

Steve replied, 'I don't know.... I've never done 300 at a time.'

'Do you think you could?' again asked Dr. Christianson.

'Well, I can try,' said Steve.

'Can you do 300 in sets of 10? I have a class project in mind and I need you to do about 300 push-ups in sets of ten for this to work. Can you do it? I need you to tell me you can do it,' said the professor.

Steve said, 'Well... I think I can...yeah, I can do it.'

Dr. Christianson said, 'Good! I need you to do this on Friday. Let me explain what I have in mind.'

Friday came and Steve got to class early and sat in the front of the room. When class started, the professor pulled out a big box of donuts. No, these weren't the normal kinds of donuts, they were the extra fancy BIG kind, with cream centers and frosting swirls. Everyone was pretty excited it was Friday, the last class of the day, and they were going to get an early start on the weekend with a party in Dr. Christianson's class.

Dr. Christianson went to the first girl in the first row and asked, 'Cynthia, do you want to have one of these donuts?'

Cynthia said, 'Yes.'

Dr. Christianson then turned to Steve and asked, 'Steve, would you do ten push-ups so that Cynthia can have a donut?'

'Sure!' Steve jumped down from his desk to do a quick ten. Then Steve again sat in his desk. Dr. Christianson put a donut on Cynthia's desk.

Dr. Christianson then went to Joe, the next person, and asked, 'Joe, do you want a donut?'

Joe said, 'Yes.'

Dr. Christianson asked, 'Steve would you do ten push-ups so Joe can have a donut?'

Steve did ten push-ups, Joe got a donut. And so it went, down the first aisle, Steve did ten push-ups for every person before they got their donut.

Walking down the second aisle, Dr. Christianson came to Scott. Scott was on the basketball team, and in as good condition as Steve. He was very popular and never lacking for female companionship.

When the professor asked, 'Scott do you want a donut?'

Scott's reply was, 'Well, can I do my own push-ups?'

Dr. Christianson said, 'No, Steve has to do them.'

Then Scott said, 'Well, I don't want one then.'

Dr. Christianson shrugged and then turned to Steve and asked, 'Steve, would you do ten push-ups so Scott can have a donut he doesn't want?'

With perfect obedience Steve started to do ten push-ups.

Scott said, 'HEY! I said I didn't want one!'

Dr. Christianson said, 'Look!, this is my classroom, my class, my desks, and these are my donuts. Just leave it on the desk if you don't want it.' And he put a donut on Scott's desk.

Now by this time, Steve had begun to slow down a little. He just stayed on the floor between sets because it took too much effort to be getting up and down. You could start to see a little perspiration coming out around his brow.

Dr. Christianson started down the third row. Now the students were beginning to get a little angry.

Dr. Christianson asked Jenny, 'Jenny, do you want a donut?'

Sternly, Jenny said, 'No.'

Then Dr. Christianson asked Steve, 'Steve, would you do ten more push-ups so Jenny can have a donut that she doesn't want?'

Steve did ten....Jenny got a donut.

By now, a growing sense of uneasiness filled the room. The students were beginning to say, 'No!' and there were all these uneaten donuts on the desks.

Steve also had to really put forth a lot of extra effort to get these push-ups done for each donut. There began to be a small pool of sweat on the floor beneath his face, his arms and brow were beginning to get red because of the physical effort involved.

Dr. Christianson asked Robert, who was the most vocal unbeliever in the class, to watch Steve do each push up to make sure he did the full ten push-ups in a set because he couldn't bear to watch all of Steve's work for all of those uneaten donuts. He sent Robert over to where Steve was so Robert could count the set and watch Steve closely.

Dr. Christianson started down the fourth row. During his class, however, some students from other classes had wandered in and sat down on the steps along the radiators that ran down the sides of the room. When the professor realized this, he did a quick count and saw that now there were 34 students in the room. He started to worry if Steve would be able to make it.

Dr. Christianson went on to the next person and the next and the next. Near the end of that row, Steve was really having a rough time. He was taking a lot more time to complete each set.

Steve asked Dr. Christianson, 'Do I have to make my nose touch on each one?'

Dr. Christianson thought for a moment, 'Well, they're your pushups. You are in charge now. You can do them any way that you want.' And Dr. Christianson went on.

A few moments later, Jason, a recent transfer student, came to the room and was about to come in when all the students yelled in one voice, 'NO! Don't come in! Stay out!' Jason didn't know what was going on.

Steve picked up his head and said, 'No, let him come.'

Professor Christianson said, 'You realize that if Jason comes in you will have to do ten push-ups for him?'

Steve said, 'Yes, let him come in. Give him a donut.'

Dr. Christianson said, 'Okay, Steve, I'll let you get Jason's out of the way right now. Jason, do you want a donut?'

Jason, new to the room, hardly knew what was going on. 'Yes,' he said, 'give me a donut.'

'Steve, will you do ten push-ups so that Jason can have a donut?'

Steve did ten push-ups very slowly and with great effort. Jason, bewildered, was handed a donut and sat down.

Dr. Christianson finished the fourth row, and then started on those visitors seated by the heaters. Steve's arms were now shaking with each push-up in a struggle to lift himself against the force of gravity. By this time sweat was profusely dropping off of his face, there was no sound except his heavy breathing; there was not a dry eye in the room.

The very last two students in the room were two young women, both cheerleaders, and very popular.

Dr. Christianson went to Linda, the second to last, and asked, 'Linda, do you want a donut?'

Linda said, very sadly, 'No, thank you.'

Professor Christianson quietly asked, 'Steve, would you do ten push-ups so that Linda can have a donut she doesn't want?'

Grunting from the effort, Steve did ten very slow push-ups for Linda.

Then Dr. Christianson turned to the last girl, Susan. 'Susan, do you want a donut?'

Susan, with tears flowing down her face, began to cry. 'Dr. Christianson, why can't I help him?'

Dr. Christianson, with tears of his own, said, 'No, Steve has to do it alone; I have given him this task and he is in charge of seeing that everyone has an opportunity for a donut whether they want it or not. When I decided to have a party this last day of class, I looked at my grade book. Steve here is the only student with a perfect grade. Everyone else has failed a test, skipped class, or offered me inferior work. Steve told me that in football practice, when a player messes up he must do push-ups. I told Steve that none of you could come to my party unless he paid the price by doing your push ups. He and I made a deal for your sakes.'

'Steve, would you do ten push-ups so Susan can have a donut?'

As Steve very slowly finished his last push-up, with the understanding that he had accomplished all that was required of him, having done 350 push-ups, his arms buckled beneath him and he fell to the floor.

Dr. Christianson turned to the room and said, 'And so it was, that our Savior, Jesus Christ, on the cross, plead to the Father, 'Into thy hands I commend my spirit.' With the understanding that He had done everything that was required of Him, He yielded up His life. And like some of those in this room, many of us leave the gift on the desk, uneaten.'

Two students helped Steve up off the floor and to a seat, physically exhausted, but wearing a thin smile.

'Well done, good and faithful servant,' said the professor, adding, 'Not all sermons are preached in words.'

Turning to his class, the professor said, 'My wish is that you might understand and fully comprehend all the riches of grace and mercy that have been given to you through the sacrifice of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. He spared not His only Begotten Son, but gave Him up for us all, for the whole Church, now and forever. Whether or not we choose to accept His gift to us, the price has been paid.'

'Wouldn't you be foolish and ungrateful to leave it lying on the desk?' "

The "Hail Mary" of a Protestant is powerful! (A True Story)

A little six-year-old Protestant boy had often heard his Catholic companion reciting the prayer 'Hail Mary.' He liked it so much that he copied it, memorized it and would recite it every day. 'Look, Mummy, what a beautiful prayer,' he said to his mother one day.

'Never again say it,' answered the mother.' it is a superstitious prayer of Catholics who adore idols and think Mary a goddess. After all, she is a woman like any other. Come on, take this Bible and read it. It contains everything that we are bound to do and have to do.' From that day on the little boy discontinued his daily 'Hail Mary' and gave himself more time to reading the Bible instead.

One day, while reading the Gospel, he came across the passage about the Annunciation of the Angel to Our Lady. Full of joy, the little boy ran to his mother and said: 'Mummy, I have found the 'Hail Mary' in the Bible which says: 'Hail Mary full of grace, the Lord is with thee, blessed art thou amongst women. ' Why do you call it a superstitious prayer?'

On another occasion he found that beautiful Salutation of St. Elizabeth to The Virgin Mary and the wonderful canticle. MAGNIFICAT in which Mary foretold that 'the generations would call her blessed.'
He said no more about it to his mother but started to recite the 'Hail Mary' every day as before. He felt pleasure in addressing those charming words to the Mother of Jesus, our Savior.

When he was fourteen, he one day heard a discussion on Our Lady among the members of his family. Every one said that Mary was a common woman like any other woman. The boy, after listening to their erroneous reasoning, could not bear it any longer, and full of indignation, he interrupted them, saying: 'Mary is not like any other children of Adam, stained with sin. No! The Angel called her FULL OF GRACE AND BLESSED AMONGST WOMEN. Mary is the Mother of Jesus Christ and consequently Mother of God. There is no higher dignity to which a creature can be raised. The Gospel says that the generations will proclaim her blessed and you are trying to despise her and look down on her. Your spirit is not the Spirit Of the Gospel or of the Bible which you proclaim to be the foundation of the Christian religion.'

So deep was the impression which the boy's talk had made that his mother many times cried out sorrowfully: 'Oh my God! I fear that this son of mine will one day join the Catholic religion, the religion of Popes!' And indeed, not very long afterwards, having made a serious study of both Protestantism and Catholicism, the boy found the latter to be the only true religion and embraced it and became one of its most ardent apostles.

Some time after his conversion, he met his married sister who rebuked his and said indignantly: 'You little know how much I love my children. Should any one of them desire to become a Catholic, I would sooner pierce his heart with a dagger than allow him to embrace the religion of the Popes!'
Her anger and temper were as furious as those of St. Paul before his conversion. However, she would change her ways, just as St. Paul did on his way to Damascus. It so happened that one of her sons fell dangerously ill and the doctors gave up hope of recovery. Her brother then approached, her and spoke to her affectionately, saying:

'My dear sister, you naturally wish to have your child cured. Very well, then, do what I ask you to do. Follow me, let us pray one 'Hail Mary' and promise God that, if your son recovers his health, you would seriously study the Catholic doctrine, and should you come to the conclusion that Catholicism is the only true religion, you would embrace it no matter what the sacrifices may be.'
His sister was somewhat reluctant at the beginning but as she wished for her son's recovery. She accepted her brother's proposal and recited the 'Hail Mary' together with him. The next day her son was completely cured! The mother fulfilled her promise and she studied the Catholic doctrine. After long preparation she received Baptism together with her family, thanking her brother for being an apostle to her.

The story was related during a sermon given by the Rev. Father Tuckwell. 'Brethren, he went on and said, 'The boy who became a Catholic and converted his sister to Catholicism dedicated his whole life to the service of God. He is the priest who is speaking to you now! What I am I owe to Our Lady. You, too, my dear brethren, be entirely dedicated also to Our Lady and never let a day pass without saying the beautiful prayer, 'Hail Mary', and your Rosary. Ask her to enlighten the minds of Protestants who are separated from the true Church of Christ founded on the Rock (Peter) and 'against whom the gates of hell shall never prevail.'

It Happened in Dublin many Years Ago

From The Irish Catholic Marist Messenger and March '59, Our Lady's Digest)
--Story Source

A winter's night had already thrown its black pall over the quays of Dublin when an urgent ringing of the presbytery door bell of one of the city parishes brought its aging pastor quickly to his feet.
It was so dark that he could scarcely distinguish the form of a woman on the doorstep. She spoke rapidly, as if anxious to be gone.
"A poor man," she said, "was dying very far down, beyond the great jetty of the North Wall. A priest was needed. There was no time to lose." And, having delivered her message, she sped away into the night.
"I will go myself," murmured the old priest, peering after the retreating figure.
There were no buses in those days, and the tram cars did not go along the quays, so he set out on foot.
It was very dark and he seemed to be walking a long time but he was heedless of fatigue as he clasped the Blessed Sacrament to his heart with one hand and carried the Holy Oils in the other.
His sole guide was the lighthouse flashing every two seconds across the bay.
The tide rose high on either side of the jetty on which he walked, and it was the sound of the waves rather than anything he could see which led him at last to a group of fishermen's cottages.
Instinctively, he stopped at one of them and pushed open the little door. There was no light and no sound broke the silence.
He entered but could see no one.
"Who will lead me to the sick man?" he asked himself anxiously.
He paused to listen. All was quiet.
Then his eyes, grown accustomed to the gloom, perceived a little staircase.
As he placed his foot on the first rickety step, a feeble voice fell upon his ear. But what was he saying so plaintively?
Holy Mary . . . Mother of God . . . pray for us . . . poor sinners … now . . . and at the hour of death… "Holy Mary . . . "
And ceaselessly the weak voice repeated again and again always the second part of the Hail Mary.
Gently the priest opened the door of the little room.
On a miserable pallet lay a poor man dying. He was all alone. "My friend, you sent for me?" began the priest.
"No, Father, I sent for no one!"
"I see that you love the Blessed Virgin. You are praying to her."
"I do not know who the Blessed Virgin is."
"Well, at least you pray to God."
"Never heard of Him."
The priest was puzzled. Who had come for him?
The man before him was obviously not hostile towards priests, but of God he knew nothing!
"My friend," he asked, "why do you repeat unceasingly 'Holy Mary Mother
of God . . .?"
"Ah!' replied the sick man, "when I am in great pain I say those words and they bring me relief."
And then he told the priest this touching story:
"I was a sailor, and oftentimes our ship was anchored off the west coast of Ireland. Those of us who wished got leave to spend the nights ashore in lodgings with the natives. I am not Irish but I liked those
"In the cottage where I used to stay, the family gathered every night for prayers. The Mother said some words alone which I cannot recall, and all the others answered:
" 'Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us, poor sinners, now and at the hour of our death.'
"I have never forgotten those words and it does me good to say them."
The priest was deeply moved.
He remained all night with the sick man, talking to him of God, of the Blessed Virgin and of that other life which he was so soon to enter.
Here was a soul in all its freshness eager to drink in the eternal truths, a laborer of the eleventh hour indeed, and that Our Lady herself had gone out to seek . . .
At dawn the priest baptized him. He then gave him his first Holy Communion and the Sacrament of Extreme Unction.
When morning had come the priest had to leave.
"My friend," he said, "I must leave you.
. . . I am going to say Mass for you. . . . and I will return.
As he left the house he was deep in thought. Who, but who had come for him? He was certain someone had come, but who?
As if in answer to his thought a poorly clad woman appeared at the door
of one of the cottages. He spoke to her.
"That poor man up there is very ill," he said. "He will not last much longer." She shook her head, then added suddenly:"It was I who went for you. I do not belong to your religion. I am a Protestant, but when I heard Mr. . . . . . .always saying the Catholic prayer, I said to myself, 'I really must go and fetch
one of his ministers to him before he dies," so I went for you."
Trying to hide his emotion the priest thanked her for her charitable action and hastened away to offer the Holy Sacrifice.
"Here," he pondered, "is a poor unfortunate who repeated the Ave Maria without even knowing what he was saying, yet the Blessed Virgin heard his request!" 'Pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death!' . . .
She came, most certainly, at the hour of his death, this good and holy Mother!
"How far-reaching can be the effects of the Family Rosary said at nightfall in a Connemara cottage!"

3 Hail Mary’s and the monkey under the bed

In the city of Naples in the early fifteenth century, a certain distinguished gentleman began to entertain the modern notions of the day critical of the Catholic Church. Soon he had abandoned the practice of the Faith and was causing great scandal among the faithful for his open ridicule of those who frequented the Sacraments and practiced popular pious devotions.
It was the talk of the city, and many the ladies who pleaded with their husbands to accept the invitations to a feast put on by the avowed agnostic so that they might witness the marvelous sight! Before too long, the gossip about the strange steward reached the ears of a parish priest renowned for his holiness and virtue. But instead of dismissing the talk or issuing warning about attending the parties of one so opposed to the Holy Church, the priest asked to receive an invitation to the next gala event to see for himself the truth of this talk.

The host at first desisted – none of those foolish, sour-faced clerics would set foot on his premises! But in the end, his spirit of pride conquered: he wanted to flaunt the feats and antics of his devoted little four-footed servant to the credulous priest. The invitation was issued. The evening arrived, and the priest rang at the bronze gates of the palace some time after the festivities had begun.
“A priest begging leave to enter my hall,” his jovial host remarked at his entrance. “Will wonders never cease! But, indeed, this is a house of wonders.”

“Yes, so I have heard,” the priest calmly replied. “And truly I must say I am interested to see this amazing sight of a monkey who serves a man.”
The host immediately rang his special silver bell that called his peculiar steward to his presence. But the monkey, who only moments before had been charming a group of ladies with his antics, did not appear. The baffled host shook his head in amazement. This was the first time it had failed to respond to his call. The priest insisted: he had come expressly to see this strange sight and would not be deprived of the pleasure. The host called again. No reply. The monkey seemed to have disappeared. A search of the house was made, and finally the creature was discovered, shaking in his velvet suit under the bed of the host. It was dragged out from under the bed, the little creature trembling and struggling to escape the presence of the priest.

“Now,”the priest demanded, “I command you in the name of the Almighty God, Three in One, to tell your master who you are and what is your purpose in this house.” Forced to obey, the furious, still trembling monkey spat out these words to his shocked master: “I am no ordinary beast. I am a demon from hell who has taken on the form of a monkey who attends to your every bid and call. And so I do, but I await under your bed every night for the first night that you might leave off that abominable custom taught to you by your mother of saying three Hail Marys before you retire. For then, and only then, do I have permission to strangle you in your sleep and drag your soul to the eternal fires.”

With these words spoken, the writhing monkey disappeared. The arrogance and mocking manner of the host faded with the wretched creature. Ashen faced and shaken, he turned to the priest. “Ah, my fortunate man,” the holy man said. “For fortunate indeed you have been to have retained this small devotion to the Mother of Mercies, who never abandons even the most wretched who have recourse to her.” He heard the confession of the man, who became a model of faith in the city and was especially renowned for his tender devotion to the Virgin Mary.

How many of us in our journey through life have felt the presence of a monkey under our beds? And how many of us have experienced the goodness and mercy of Mary, who until the end of the world will never cease relieving the miseries of man and flying to their aid to return them to the path of truth, the Holy Catholic Church? The Mother of Mercy, she stays the hand of justice of her divine Son for all who invoke her, even for three Hail Marys.

This story is proof of the words of St. Bernardine de Bustis: “This great Lady is more desirous to grant us graces than we are desirous to receive them.”

Story of the Prisoner and his cellmates

The True Account
of Prisoner Claude Newman (1944)

by John Vennari, from the March 2001 issue of “Catholic Family News.” Story Source

The following true story of Claude Newman took place in Mississippi in 1944. The account was told by Father O'Leary, a priest from Mississippi, who was directly involved with the events. He has left for posterity an audio recording it.

Claude Newman was a negro man who worked the fields for a landowner. He had married when he was 17 years old to a woman of the same age. One day, two years later, he was out ploughing the fields. Another worker ran to tell Claude that his wife was screaming from the house. Immediately Claude ran into his house and found a man attacking his wife. Claude saw red, grabbed an axe and split the man's head open. When they rolled the man over, they discovered that it was the favorite employee of the landowner for whom Claude worked. Claude was arrested. He was later sentenced for murder and condemned to die in the electric chair.

While he was in jail awaiting execution, he shared a cell-block of some sort with four other prisoners. One night, the five men were sitting around talking and they ran out of conversation. Claude noticed a medal on a string around another prisoner's neck. He asked what it was, and the Catholic boy told him that it was a medal. Claude said, "What is a medal?" The Catholic boy could not explain what a medal was or what its purpose was. At that point, and in anger, the Catholic boy snatched the medal from his own neck and threw it on the floor at Claude's feet with a curse and a cuss, telling him to take the thing.

Claude picked up the medal, and with permission from the prison attendants, placed it on a string around his own neck. To him it was simply a trinket, but he wanted to wear it.

During the night, sleeping on top of his cot, he was awakened with a touch on his wrist. And there stood, as Claude told the priest later, the most beautiful woman that God ever created. At first he was very frightened. The Lady calmed down Claude, and then said to him, "If you would like Me to be your Mother, and you would like to be My child, send for a priest of the Catholic Church." With that She disappeared.

Claude immediately became terrified, and started to scream, "a ghost, a ghost", and fled to the cell of one of the other prisoners. He then started screaming that he wanted a Catholic priest.

Father O'Leary , the priest who tells the story, was called first thing the next morning. He arrived and found Claude who told him of what had happened the night before. Then Claude, along with the other four men in his cell-block, asked for religious instruction, for catechism.

Initially, Father O'Leary had difficulty believing the story .The other prisoners told the priest that everything in the story was true; but of course, they neither saw nor heard the vision of the Lady.

Father O'Leary promised to teach them catechism, as they had requested. He went back to his parish, told the rector what had happened, and returned to the prison the next day to give instruction.

It was then that the priest learned that Claude Newman could neither read nor write at all. The only way he could tell if a book was right-side-up was if the book contained a picture. Claude had never been to school. And his ignorance of religion was even more profound. He knew nothing at all about religion. He did not know who Jesus was. He did not know anything except that there was a God.

Claude began receiving instructions, and the other prisoners helped him with his studies. After a few days, two of the religious Sisters from Father O'Leary's parish-school obtained permission from the warden to come to the prison. They wanted to meet Claude, and they also wanted to visit the women in the prison. On another floor of the prison, the Sisters then started to teach some of the women-prisoners catechism as well.

Several weeks passed, and it came time when Father O'Leary was going to give instructions about the Sacrament of Confession. The Sisters too sat in on the class. The priest said to the prisoners, "Okay, boys, today I'm going to teach you about the Sacrament of Confession."

Claude said, "Oh, I know about that!"

"The Lady told me," said Claude, "that when we go to confession we are kneeling down not before a priest, but we're kneeling down by the Cross of Her Son. And that when we are truly sorry for our sins, and we confess our sins, the Blood He shed flows down over us and washes us free from all sins."

Father O'Leary and the Sisters sat stunned with their mouths wide open. Claude thought they were angry and said, "Oh don't be angry, don't be angry, I didn't mean to blurt it out."

The priest said, "We're not angry. We're just amazed. You have seen Her again?"

Claude said, "Come around the cell-block away from the others."

When they were alone, Claude said to the priest, "She told me that if you doubted me or showed hesitancy, I was to remind you that lying in a ditch in Holland, in 1940, you made a vow to Her which She's still waiting for you to keep." And, Father O'Leary recalls, "Claude told me exactly what the vow was."

This convinced Father O'Leary that Claude was telling the truth about his visions of Our Lady.

They then returned to the catechism class on Confession. And Claude kept telling the other prisoners, "You should not be afraid to go to confession. You're really telling God your sins, not this priest, or any priest. We're telling God our sins." Then Claude said, "You know, the Lady said [that Confession is] something like a telephone. We talk through the priest to God and God talks back to us through the priest."

About a week later, Father O'Leary was preparing to teach the class about the Blessed Sacrament. The Sisters were present for this too. Claude indicated that the Lady had also taught him about Holy Communion, and he asked if he could tell the priest what She said. The priest agreed immediately. Claude related, "The Lady told me that in Communion, I will only see what looks like a piece of bread. But She told me that THAT is really and truly Her Son. And that He will be with me just for a few moments as He was with Her before He was born in Bethlehem. And that I should spend my time like She did, in all Her time with Him, in loving Him, adoring Him, thanking Him, praising Him and asking Him for blessings. I shouldn't be bothered by anybody else or anything else. But I should spend those few minutes with Him."

Eventually they finished the instructions, Claude was received into the Catholic Church, and the time came for Claude to be executed. He was to be executed at five minutes after twelve, midnight.

The sheriff asked him, "Claude, you have the privilege of a last request. What do you want?"

"Well," said Claude, "you're all shook up. The jailer is all shook up. But you don't understand. I'm not going to die. Just this body. I'm going to be with Her. So, can I have a party?"

"What do you mean?", asked the sheriff.

"A Party!" said Claude. "Will you give Father permission to bring in some cakes and ice cream and will you allow the prisoners on the second floor to be turned loose in the main room so that we can all be together and have a party?"

"Somebody might attack Father," cautioned the warden.

Claude turned to the men who were standing by and said, "Oh no, they won't. Will you fellas?"

So, the priest visited a wealthy patron of the parish, and she supplied the ice cream and cake. They had their party.

Afterwards, because Claude had requested it, they made a Holy Hour. The priest had brought prayer books from the Church and they all said together the Stations of the Cross, and a had a Holy Hour, without the Blessed Sacrament.

Afterwards, the men were put back in their cells. The priest went to the chapel to get the Blessed Sacrament so that he could give Claude Holy Communion.

Father O'Leary returned to Claude's cell. Claude knelt on one side of the bars, the priest knelt on the other, and they prayer together as the clock ticked toward Claude's execution.

Fifteen minutes before the execution, the sheriff came running up the stairs shouting, "Reprieve, Reprieve, the Governor has given a two-week reprieve!" Claude had not been aware that the sheriff and the District Attorney were trying to get a stay of execution for Claude to save his life. When Claude found out, he started to cry. The priest and the sheriff thought it was a reaction of joy because he was not going to be executed. But Claude said, "Oh you men don't know. And Father, you don't know. If you ever looked into Her face, and looked into Her eyes, you wouldn't want to live another day."

Claude then said, "What have I done wrong these past weeks that God would refuse me my going home?" And the priest said that Claude sobbed as one who was broken hearted.

The sheriff left the room. The priest remained and gave Claude Holy Communion. Claude eventually quieted down. Then Claude said, "Why? Why must I still remain here for two weeks?"

The priest had a sudden idea.

He reminded Claude about a prisoner in the jail who hated Claude intensely. This prisoner had led a horribly immoral life, and he too was sent to be executed.

The priest said, "Maybe Our Blessed Mother wants you to offer this denial of being with Her for his conversion." The priest continued, "Why don't you offer to God every moment you are separated from Her for this prisoner so that he will not be separated from God for all eternity."

Claude agreed, and asked the priest to teach him the words to make the offering. The priest complied. At the time, the only two people who knew about this offering were Claude and Father O'Leary.

The next day, Claude said to the priest, "That prisoner hated me before, but Oh! Father, how he hates me now!" The priest said, "Well, that's a good sign."

Two weeks later, Claude was executed.

Father O'Leary remarked, "I've never seen anyone go to his death as joyfully and happily. Even the official witnesses and the newspaper reporters were amazed. They said they couldn't understand how anyone could go and sit in the electric chair actually beaming with happiness."

His last words to Father O'Leary were, "Father, I will remember you. And whenever you have a request, ask me, and I will ask Her."

Two months later, the white man, who had hated Claude, was to be executed. Father O'Leary said, "This man was the filthiest, most immoral person I had ever come across." His hatred for God, for everything spiritual," said the priest, "defied description."

Just before his execution, the county doctor pleaded with this man to at least kneel down and say the Our Father before the sheriff would come for him.

The prisoner spat in the doctor's face.

When he was strapped into the electric chair, the sheriff said to him, "If you have something to say, say it now."

The condemned man started to blaspheme.

All of a sudden the condemned man stopped, and his eyes became fixed on the corner of the room, and his face turned to one of absolute horror.

He screamed.

Turning to the sheriff, he then said, "Sheriff, get me a priest!"

Now, Father O'Leary had been in the room because the law required a clergyman to be present at executions. The priest, however, had hidden himself behind some reporters because the condemned man had threatened to curse God if he saw a clergyman at all.

Father O'Leary immediately went to the condemned man. The room was cleared of everyone else, and the priest heard the man's confession. The man said he had been a Catholic, but turned away from his religion when he was 18 because of his immoral life.

When everyone returned to the room, the sheriff asked the priest, "What made him change his mind?"

"I don't know " said Father O'Leary, "I didn't ask him."

The sheriff said, "Well, I'll never sleep if I don't."

The Sheriff turned to the condemned man and asked, "Son, what changed your mind?"

The prisoner responded, "Remember that black man Claude - who I hated so much? Well he's standing there [he pointed], over in that corner. And behind him with one hand on each shoulder is the Blessed Mother. And Claude said to me, 'I offered my death in union with Christ on the Cross for your salvation. She has obtained for you this gift, to see your place in Hell if you do not repent.' I was shown my place in Hell, and that's when I screamed."

This, then, is the power of Our Lady.

We see many parallels between these facts of Claude Newman story and the Message of Fatima in 1917. There is the emphasis on:

· Sacramental Confession,
· Holy Communion,
· Making sacrifices for Sinners,
· the vision of Hell.

"Many souls go to Hell" said Our Lady of Fatima, "because they have no one to pray and make sacrifices for them."